Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #48

TITLE: One of the Lucky Ones
GENRE: YA Contemporary/coming-of-age

"Okay, guys, you remember the rules." Dad was doing his best to look stern as we stood outside the door to the library on a warm Saturday afternoon. It was not a convincing performance. He sounded like he was talking to all three of us, but he was watching Millie and especially Owen. He uncrossed his arms and waved a hand in an "I'm-waiting" motion until we all answered.

Yes, even me. I might have been sixteen, but I knew if I didn't play along Owen would start yelling, "Annie's not saying it!" and the rest of the morning would be a lot less fun. At three, he had very strong ideas about what was "fair."

"No running, no fighting, no yelling," we chanted. "We don't pull all the books off the shelf,"—I muttered "Owen" under my breath—"we use our indoor voices, and if we want the same book we have to take turns."

Dad nodded and opened the door. The kids didn't quite run to the children's section. Ms. Davis smiled and waved as we came in, skinny gold bracelets clinking and glowing against her dark skin.

Oh good, I thought. That'll make it easier.

Ms. Davis was the new children's librarian, and already had my siblings wrapped around her perfectly manicured little finger. Owen acted much better when she was there, but Dad and I still made sure one of us stayed close by. Millie was five-going-on-twelve; I didn't worry about her unless Owen made her mad.


  1. Very strong! I like the opening and would definitely read on. Two suggestions: 1. Remove "It was not a convincing performance" (not needed). 2. Revise this sentence as follows: "Ms. Davis was the new children's librarian, and SHE already had my siblings wrapped around her perfectly manicured little finger."

    1. Also PS: the only time I had a slight hiccup reading through was at "Oh good."

  2. This is lovely character-building, but something about this scene made me wonder if the story was starting in the right place. Hear me out: we’re getting a lot about the younger siblings, the father, and even the librarian when who, I assume, is going to carry the story is Annie. Being dragged to the library with your family on a Saturday isn’t most 16 year-olds dream, so why is she doing it? Why isn’t she making a b-line to the YA section and leaving her dad to mind the littles? I get the sense that the scene is being set with all the characters when that isn’t necessary. What should hook us at this moment is the protagonist and she feels a little lost. I couldn’t tell you any more about her than her age, Millie and Owen’s personalities come across stronger than Annie’s. Think about ways to give the reader more of a sense of Annie’s character in these early moments.

  3. Details are definitely coming out about the siblings and the dad. We know immediately that all the kids like books, for them to have so many rules to recite about visiting the library. It does seem a bit childish for a 16 year old, which you explain: she is doing it to appease her younger sibling. However, I would like to learn more about the main character faster--why does she want to be at the library? Is she helping out her haggard father, or is there a book she's dying to get her hands on? We learn more about the kids and where they are going first--I expect a 16 year old has autonomy to be there for her own reasons, and want to know what those are sooner so I can connect with her.

  4. The writing is strong, but I don't know what's at stake. As William Goldman (Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy) wrote, Enter each scene as late as possible. Perhaps you might begin later in this scene, especially as a book opener.

  5. I think you did a great job of "showing" us these characters. Since this is a first person POV, I'd love to know more about Annie's internal monologue, as in how is she feeling emotionally and even physically (is she excited about being at the library, anxious about having to be with the little ones, put upon for having to spend her time at the library at the children's section?) Also, is there some way you can hint at the inciting incident or future stakes on this first page?

  6. There is some very good character building here. The two youngest children are well developed. I don't feel that we learn enough about Annie. We know she doesn't like being here, but what is going to propel her forward? The stakes need to be clear.

  7. Thanks, everyone! Good thoughts, I'll take them all into consideration.

    (For a bit of context, the librarian is an important character and (for LisaR :)) directly involved in the inciting incident.)