Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #31

TITLE: Complex Solutions
GENRE: YA Contemporary

     Air whirs around me as I race out of the bathroom and shoulder my way through the crowd disbursing into classrooms. I keep my hand pressed to my sleeve and run down the hall. The bell sounds and panic clamps down on my chest. I can’t be late again.

    I stumble over my feet and catch myself before I somersault to the floor.

     “Walk much?” mumbles someone.


     Jess Martin’s flinty voice prickles my skin and sets my teeth on edge.

     Heat creeps up my face as I stand and jog the last few steps to my locker, my long hair concealing my embarrassment. I don’t have time for her taunts. I need to get to class. I can’t be late again.

     “Of course with those giant boat feet of yours, I’m not surprised you trip all over.”

     Go away. Find someone else to harass.

     She stalks off, laughing, mumbling the word ‘amazon’ under her breath. I slam my locker door, my hands in fists. Just once, could she leave me alone? What did I ever do to her, except set foot in this school?

     I push my hair over my shoulder, grip the strap on my bag and jog down the now-empty hallway to the last door on the right. Sweat trickles down my temples. I wasn’t going to be late today. So much for that.  

     I open the door to room 104 and shuffle into homeroom. Eighteen pairs of eyes turn toward me as I take my seat.


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  2. Such amazing opening words. You do a really nice job allowing the reader to feel what the main character is feeling. My one suggestion is letting the reader know what sex your main character is. It wasn't until you wrote, "I push my hair over my shoulder," that suggests the character is a girl... but it could still be a boy. I bring this up for two reasons: 1) knowing the sex of the main character as soon as possible helps the reader immediately picture the character and get a better sense of who the narrator is; and 2) a high school conflict between two girls creates a different dynamic than a conflict between a boy and a girl (at least in my opinion). So knowing the sex of the main character would help the reader know what dynamic of conflict you are trying to portray. I hope that makes sense! Other than that, great job! I want to read more!

  3. Be careful with word choice in YA - 'disbursing' doesn't sound like an internal teen thought. Jess's voice is flinty, but she's mumbling? Bullies don't usually mumble-make Jess's voice sound tougher and meaner as she laughs. Wish you had more space - I want to know why she can't be late!

  4. Well, you certainly have me hooked because she seems really, really worried about being late. Perhaps earlier you can mention a small hint as to why, so that we can see where the desperation is coming from. For your opening line, I would suggest changing it because your second line repeats how she's running. I would also suggest cutting down on the sentences revolving around how she's running around - either to her locker/room/class etc. - and jump right in to the inciting incident. Another suggestion would be to avoid writing Jess' full name because why would she think that? And, your writing can flow smoother if you avoid using rhetorical questions. Other than that, I'm curious to read on!

  5. This is a nice emotional opening that captures the MC’s self-consciousness and her annoyance/exasperation at being bullied by another female student. Also good job working in physical details without using standard descriptors! Two things need more clarity for me:

    1) why did the MC pause at her locker: did she retrieve an item from her locker, and if so, what? Otherwise, why is her locker mentioned?

    2) This opens with the MC’s hand pressed to her sleeve, but I have no idea why (injury? clothing malfunction?) and the story doesn't circle back to it as she enters homeroom. What’s happening with her sleeve and is it something that she would feel self-conscious about as she enters homeroom?

    Otherwise, I love the voice in this sample!

    Thank you for sharing!