Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #46

TITLE: Crash and Ride
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I really, really don’t want to steal anything today.

But I have to.

The Shopper Mart is silent as I walk in. I’ve arrived stupidly early this Sunday morning, and the store has only been open for five minutes. There are zero customers. I don’t count as one, obviously.
My anxiety is high, heart hammering against my Grateful Dead T-shirt. I tap a drum beat on my thighs to help me groove with the rapid rhythm in my chest. Boom tappa tap boom.

The pattern soothes me and gives cadence to my footsteps. Packages of Halloween cookies fill a table near the front. A black ghost cut from a garbage bag is strung behind the display. Its open mouth is a silent scream.

The only human I can see is a tired teenager leaning against her register at a checkout lane. I recognize her from the high school.

At first this panics me out of my drum beat. But then I think, this is good. I can chit-chat if I need to divert her attention from what I’ve stashed. I just have to be brave.

My steps are the bass, thump thump thump. My hands are the snare, filling in the spaces. I let the rhythm carry me into the aisles. I am a marcher. I am the drum. My path is set, like a formation on a football field.

I glance up at the two-way mirror that hides the offices. Security cameras perch in the corners.


  1. Yes! Opening line kills it :D You might bring the second line up next to it. I don't think it needs to stand alone to stand out. Voice and a hint of premise delivered. Personification of cameras...nice! I might cut "The only human I see" and just begin with "A tired teenager leans..." Good luck with this!

  2. Amazing! You’ve set up so much in so few words. I agree about bringing the 2nd line up behind 1st sentence. Gives you slightly more real estate on the page for when you send 1st pages to agents.

  3. Agreed - nice set-up! But can you give us some clues to gender? Is this a boy or girl? And maybe a hint of why he/she is stealing - is she being forced for a stupid reason, like a gang initiation, or is she desperate and starving? The music references, and how you use them to temper what's happening internally, are great! Watch word choice for a YA story. He probably wouldn't say 'teenager,' just 'a tired girl leans.'

  4. Great opening! I'm super curious why the MC has to steal. I would like to know pretty soon after this why they do, and what they're after, but would keep reading to find out. The only thing I might change is "I recognize her from school," assuming the MC goes to the same high school as the girl working.

  5. Great opening! Instantly raises so many questions. I love the reluctance of his/her stealing. Also love that it's early in the morning and MC is the only customer, which presents a challenge. I agree with sunbeam313 that all you need to do is say "school" if they go to school together.

  6. The first two sentences are fantastic. Pulls the reason in immediately. I wonder what it means when the narrator says he/she doesn't count as a customer. I'm also unclear whether the protagonist is a male or female. I recognize her from the high school sounds a little stiff. what if you mention a particular class (freshman biology or something) to ground it more?
    I love the next to the last paragraph with the band imagery! Great stuff!
    I would definitely read more.

  7. I heard the voice right away and the setting was really well thought out. The only thing that pulled me out of the moment is the snare and marching references. I'm thinking of a band not her. At that point I'm asking too many questions in my head. But I still wanted to know what was going to happen! I would've overlooked it and kept reading. Great job!

  8. Excellent beginning, but I'd like to know why the MC feels he/she must steal something. Is the family broke and hungry? Is the MC addicted to opioids (because the school doctor got him hooked) and in need of money to feed the habit? Clearly there's a problem here, and having a clue about the problem might make me care about the MC. Can you give the reader a clue without making it into a spoiler?

  9. For me this is the perfect opening that uses the most subtle inner thought to introduce both the character and the conflict AND it masterfully hints at a genre and piques my curiosity. All in 9 words.

    I so enjoyed the musical elements in this scene, it brought it to life and pulled me in. I wanted to know if the MC was a musician, a band geek, or simply a Grateful Dead fan. I'm certainly a fan of a good tap tappa. More importantly, this completely hooked me. I love the voice.

    There's great imagery here too, with the ghost garbage bag setting both the scene and the mood.

    There's tension for sure and the lingering question that draws me in: Why did the POV need to steal? It certainly sounded like they had done it before, and I'd definitely read on to find out.

    I'm not sure why she'd look UP at the security cameras though. I hope it comes back to bite her!

    Well done. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Oh, this is really nice. In contrast to some of the other comments, I think the first and second line work better separately, because they need to be quite prominent. Those lines make the difference between just the description of a shoplifting scene (why should I care?) and the beginning of the answer to my burning question: why does the narrator HAVE TO steal something?

    The musical metaphor is great and keeps everything together, but I don't quite understand the snare part; what are the hands doing? I thought they are the drumbeat tapping against the thighs?

    Some more information about the protagonist would be helpful, the setting is great as is, I can picture everything vividly.

    I would definitely continue reading.