Wednesday, July 15, 2009

28 Secret Agent

TITLE: Guardian
GENRE: YA Suspense

Alone in the kitchen at two a.m., six hours before his first day at
Harding High, Sam Newman dropped a jar of grape jelly and let out a
muffled scream.

He whirled around, every muscle taut. His eyes darted from the
partially open pantry door to the shadowed area under the table.
The jar rolled to a stop. He breathed.

Had he really caught movement from the corner of his eye? Couldn't
be. Who else would be walking around the house at this hour?
Abandoning his half-made sandwich on the counter, he eased his way
around the center island. He nudged the pantry door open with one
foot. Empty.

A faint rustling sound issued from the next room.
Heart hammering in his chest, Sam stepped into the doorway and
surveyed the living room. Darkness pooled in the corners out of reach
of the lone reading lamp on the end table. The curtain danced in
front of an open window.

Was that all I heard? he wondered.

Sam crossed the living room, skin prickling on the back of his
neck, and shut the window. He noticed he still carried his spoon,
thick with jelly, a mockery of a weapon. Great. If attacked, he
could slather the intruder's shirt to leave a clue for the police. He
imagined them finding his body sprawled out on the carpet next to a
big purple stain. What a pathetic way to go. And if there were some
spark of life left in his body, his mom would finish him off for
ruining the carpet.


  1. I like the definite allusions to this being a teenage boy. The grape Jelly, being hungry enough to need to eat at 2 a.m.,and the worry over his mom being upset about ruined carpet. You did a good job showing us his age without telling us.

  2. This one didn't grab my attention like the others

  3. Laughed at the spoon for a weapon part. I liked the possibilities presented right away, who was there? Was there anyone at all? Questions I would want answered.

  4. I liked it (the whole spoon jelly part too)-I'd read on!

  5. Really liked this opening. Nice teenage voice. I was momentarily thrown by the idea of using a spoon to spread jelly, but otherwise this felt very real and funny. I'd read on.

  6. I like the jelly stuff - funny<:

    I kinda think that this could be tighter, but I'd read on.

  7. This one came alive in the last paragraph to me. Infuse that into the rest and you've got a real winner I think.

  8. I liked this. The only thing that bothered me was the muffled scream. It made me think someone was holding a hand over his mouth or something to make it muffled. In a moment of real fear, would the character muffle himself?

  9. I am intrigued... I really am.

    I like the last line... it made me LOL!

    I think I would definitely read on!

  10. Hooked, assuming that this whole setup isn't going to turn out to be some false alarm. I love how Sam is thinking about his jellied spoon as "a mockery of a weapon." It seems like just the sort of thing a teenage boy would be thinking about - and his mother's hypothetical reaction to a hypothetical stain is very authentic, too:)

  11. I enjoyed this, but I think it could be tightened up quite a bit. I thought "scream" out of character for a male teen - sounded a bit girly - unless that's your aim :)

    Nice voice, but I'd like to see it move more quickly.

    Hope that helps.

  12. I liked this.

    I would play with the first graf, b/c there's a lot of information to digest (kitchen, 2 am, 6 hrs, first day at HS, grape jelly, scream).

    The "muffled scream" and "every muscle taut" descriptions felt a little too much too soon.

    But then it settled in, and I liked the descriptions (darkness pooling, curtains dancing, a mockery of a weapon), and the light, humorous tone worked better for me than the alarm early on.

    I would have liked a hint as to WHY someone might be up at 2 a.m., but I wouldn't mind reading more to find out.

  13. I liked the light humor. I think you could have played up the suspense a bit by having him wake at 2 am because of a sound he heard then go about the story the way it is.

  14. I agree with a lot of what's been said already. I would definitely read more. I do think that first paragraph could be tightened up- lots of details as John said. I don't think you need to say, "Alone in the kitchen..." We get that he's alone once he starts looking around. I also agree with "muffled scream." Maybe add in dialogue, like, "Uh... Mom?" or something like that. I don't think I would scream if I *thought* I saw something, but rather, question if someone was there, or remain still and silent until I figured out the situation. Just a thought. I think there is some good writing here and you do a lot of showing instead of telling, which is great. Sam's personality comes through. I think just think some more attention to the opening sentence would help.. maybe take out first day and name of school... Oh- did the jar break? Maybe make it a bottle instead to avoid the reaction, "Come on. That jar would have busted."

  15. He seems a little worked up over a movement viewed from the corner of his eye. On the other hand, it's 2am, so maybe the dark got to him.

    Funny, though. I liked the parts about the jelly and the carpet. Also, the spoon as a weapon.

    Personally, I figured the scream meant that the jelly jar had landed on his foot. If so, then the scream makes sense. If he screamed because he saw something move, then he spooks too easy.

    Overall, I'd keep going. It looks good.

  16. I agree with Dominique- I did at first think he screamed because of the jar falling. Maybe even "gulped" or "gasped" would be a better word.

  17. I thought screeamed was too girly, and I wanted it to move a bit quicker. Hope it's not a false alarm..

  18. I don't know about everyone else, but I LOVED it! It had tension and humor.

    One thing to consider, "Was that all I heard? he wondered."
    Consider putting "Was that all I heard?" In italics.

    I do this in my novels and it helps the reader.

    Good luck, I hope the secret agent like it!

  19. I definitely thought the jar had hit his foot too, then I had to make the mental switch to him being scared. His reaction seemed to be a bit over the top too quickly. What had him so jumpy at the first sound he hears? Presumeably there are other people in the house. Wouldn't his first thought be that it was one of them? And I don't think you need the mention of "6 hours before his first day" in the first sentence.

    I genuinely loved the last paragraph. Great voice and humor and I would keep reading for more of that.

  20. I'm hooked--I like Sam and I want to know who or what he thinks might be there.

    Muffled scream didn't really make sense and heart hammering in his chest is overused, but for the most part this felt nicely quirky to me.

    Beware: Lately agents have seen lots of YA that use Guardian or The Guardians to describe "the good guys" in fantasy and paranormal projects. Might be worth thinking of a new title to separate yourself a bit.

  21. This flows really well. It kept my attention from the frist word and I love the way you injected humor into a scary situation. Definitely hooked.

  22. I liked the humor. I liked the whole ending paragraph.

    For some reason, it bugged me that the 'jar' didn't break.

    But I found myself rewriting this in my head as I read, and if the writing bothers me that much, I probably wouldn't read on.

  23. I would keep reading. I agree with the more experienced commentators in the string about re-working the first paragraph.

    @Nora - always use a spoon for jams and jellies. A knife will make them bleed.

  24. Hey! Congrats on winning! Good luck! I really enjoyed your beginning.

  25. This does the right stuff. The hook sweeps you into the story. Who'd dare put it down before they found out 'what's there?'