Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #5

TITLE: The Floaters
GENRE: Contemporary YA

When I slip the miniature, green Croc on his left foot he knots a small fist in my shirt and screams. The high-pitched shriek sends a little girl cowering between her mother’s dark jeans. Another boy covers his ears, a small, plush monkey dangling from his fingers. Max’s teacher rushes to the door, slamming it shut, caging us in.

I am braced for this moment, as always, but today it hurts. Today, of all days, it wrecks me. I look around for help, shaken, but I realize it’s just the two of us here. He’s counting on me.

Taking a deep breath, I fold him into my arms. His body stiffens at my touch and he fights me with strong convulsions. I squeeze tighter and speak softly into his ear.

“It’s okay Max. It’s gonna be okay, buddy.”

He screams, louder this time. The sound slices through me. My heart races and hundreds of tiny needles stab at the soft flesh under my arms. His hand claws at the back of my neck, his eyes wild, chaotic. The urge to reach in and grab him nearly overcomes me.

“Max,” I say evenly. “Max, you’ve got to calm down.”

He frees his arms, swinging them wildly. Teachers and parents quietly herd the children away from the large, wooden cubbies and into the preschool classroom. One of the Hungarian moms looks at me with pity as she rounds the corner, her perfectly painted eyebrows arched sympathetically.

She knows this shouldn’t be my problem. We all do.


  1. There's a lot of suspense here, but I haven't yet connected with the speaker. I don't have enough information to visualize who's head I'm inside of. Why shouldn't this be his/her problem? Since this is YA, I assume the speaker is a teen.

  2. Sounds like we have a teen mom with an autistic child. This could be a hard-sell for your average YA reader, unless a hook comes in soon.
    The "hundreds of tiny needles" seems a little contrived and doesn't fit the scene.
    Is Max in a cage? Why does she want to reach in, but at the same time, he is clawing at her? I am not following or picturing the scene correctly.

  3. Hello Entry #5,

    I like a story that starts with action, but I'm having trouble following the series of events. Maybe if you added some scene and character description it can help ground the reader. Tell us, are we in an adult's head or a child, is this a man, woman. These little hints, slipped in with the action, could help establish a connection that will carry the reader through. Also, since this is told in the 1st and is YA be careful with your word choices. YA's tend to read more playful then adult novels, with a more loose narrative and choppier dialog.

    Good luck!

  4. In response to another commenter, I didn't read this as MC being the Mom. I read it as if she were the boy's big sister. But if we're all reading it a bit differently, perhaps some clarification would help here. I think you could cut the references to the other boys and girls in the first paragraph (which were a bit confusing) and focus in on the MC and Max. Their relationship. How she feels about coming to pick him up. How she feels about his outbursts. I like the bit about his scream slicing through her, but since we know nothing about the two of them, it doesn't have as much impact as if you could give us just a bit more up-front, leading to your great line at the end.

    I'm also a little confused about the layout of this place. It seems like she's locked in a room with Max, but then she can observe what the teachers are doing with the children, the Hungarian Mom can walk by and give her a pitying look, etc. A few more details would really help clarify Max & the MC's relationship and their position in time/space, which I think will make this beginning even more compelling. Best of luck!

  5. Since your MC knows who this 'he' is, you should refer to him by it straight away. I agree that it's the sister, especially with the "She knows this shouldn't be my problem," with the 'she' being the mother, but you should clarify that. Aside from that, I agree with the other comments.

  6. Beware of too many adverbs (words ending with ly). The descriptions are powerful here, and could be toned down a bit--e.g. "hundreds of tiny needles stab at the soft flesh under my arms." I think if you toned down half of them, the remaining strong images and sensations would shine stronger. The first sentence is a little disorienting. I wonder if you could start with "I am braced for this moment, but today it hurts" and then unfold the actions and reactions that are taking place.

  7. I am confused as to how this is YA, she deals very calmly with a screaming child. I would read on but I wish I could see her as a young person before she's thrown into an adult situation.

  8. I really like this. I think the MC is Max's sister and they're shut into the classroom but probably can see people pass by the windows. Possibly some small changes would make the scene a little clearer, but it's a compelling opening (imo).
    Best of luck with it!

  9. Nice work. You do a good job of setting up the discomfort your protagonist is feeling, along with the tension.

    I had to reread this a few times to really grasp the action. You might look for an unnecessary details you can remove. For instance, "a small, plush monkey dangling from his fingers". I think editing out small details like this will help your reader stay focused on the protagonist and Max.

    Overall, good work.