Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#37 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Alli's playground
GENRE: YA dystopian

You were dead to us the moment they touched you. My mother's final words to me echo in my brain despite the years since they were so calmly spoken and it takes everything I have to push them aside. I can't afford to wallow.


I look up. Straight into Peter's eyes. They're more hazel than green today, the brown reflecting off his brand new school sweater. It's the same as mine. Almost. His sleeves are pushed up at the elbows. He grins. A confident curve of his mouth that flashes his dimples. "Good luck."

My stomach, already teetering on the edge, flips into a full roll. "You too," I mumble, and drag my gaze away. I could get lost in those eyes and I need my wits about me today.

We are not in this together.

It's me who Verity, Peter's mother and the woman I owe everything to, is so worried about. Alli needs to fit in. She didn't know I'd overheard her whispered conversation but fitting in is the least I can do for her. All I have to do is enter the classroom, get through the introductions and keep my head down.


At least I hope it will be as soon as my escorts move along. Every second I wait makes the ball of nerves in my stomach expand, filling my chest until it's hard to breathe.


  1. I love Alli's voice. I think you did a great job.

    I would love to give some awesome advice and maybe this or that, but I think you nailed it, great job!

  2. I REALLY like this start. It's very well done--the only thing I have to say is maybe make the first paragrapth more natrual. I feel like it's disconnected from the rest of the passage.
    I would love to read more of it though.

  3. I agree. The voice here sounds strong. But...

    I was a bit confused by the last two paragraphs.


    And this sentence:

    It's me who Verity, Peter's mother and the woman I owe everything to, is so worried about.

    I had to read that twice, carefully, to be sure that she was speaking about just one person (and not 3).

    (I would leave out "and the woman I owe everything to" - maybe put this in later)

  4. Bit too confusing - I need a bit more of a hint as to what's going on and why Alli is a reject and who "they" are who touched her. Plus the leap from dead to us to a boy's grin and dimples is disconcerting. But I'd turn the page.

  5. The first line sure drew me in!

    Alli is a person who is flesh and blood and emotion. You've selected really good details to create her person.

    I get that she is nervous about going to school (for the first time? A different school for outcasts?) and feel for her. I don't actually need to know at this moment why that is so; the suspense would be very good.

    The escorts are confusing at this point. So I would suggest that either don't mention them till later, when you can show them in context or make it clearer who they are.

    Nice job.

  6. Awesome! I know a lot about the character already, and you've made my heart ache for her in one page. I want to know more about the escorts. Nice work.

  7. I like this additional mystery that the mention of escorts creates.

    In the first paragraph I would split the following sentence in two: My mother's final words to me echo in my brain despite the years since they were so calmly spoken and it takes everything I have to push them aside." And I would cut: "I can't afford to wallow."

    I also stumbled over the sentence with Peter's mom.

    Overall, though, I really liked this. I'm intrigued and I want to find out more about what's going on! Great job!

  8. I liked this and thought it was very good as is. The questions I have are all questions that make me want to read more. Who are the escorts? Why does she have/need them. Who are the 'they' who touched her? Why did that make her dead to Mom?

    You might make your opening sentence its own paragraph, just for effect.

    And perhaps say where she is in the third parg. And the Verity sentence would be clearer in two sentences. It's me who Verity, Peter's mother is worried about. I owe her eveything.

    The title seems too light for dystopian. Maybe play around with something a bit edgier.

    Nicely done!

  9. Of all the openings I've read so far, I think this one's the strongest. I get an immediate sense of who Alli is in only a few lines and I'm instantly anxious for her. I want to know what happens next. The mysteries of the world are important, but what really got me was that you made me immediately identify with the character. The only thing I would change is line involving Verity because, as others have pointed out, it's worded somewhat confusingly.

  10. I think your opening is very strong, although that second sentence could use some trimming. The first was strong enough that I kept going.

    Those above me addressed the somewhat confusing "Verity sentence" so I'll leave that one alone. Otherwise - great tone setter!

  11. I'm curious to see where this is going, but in my opinion, there's a bit here that doesn't need to be. For example, the tags surrounding her exchange with Peter were a bit much for me.

    However, I would read on because I'm curious about her mother's words and why she has escorts. Plus I like dystopian. :)

  12. This is very well written, and I like the voice. I didn't feel fully hooked, though, because the opening seems to really bounce around. First Alli's remembering the past, then she's talking to Peter, then she's thinking about Peter's mom, then she's walking to the classroom. All the leaps confused me. I felt like Alli was withholding information about what was happening at that moment while simultaneously giving us a little too much backstory.

    Like others, I love the first sentence, but I don't see yet how it fits into the scene. Why is she thinking about this now? Also, this is a pet peeve, but the shifting color of eyes seems to be overused in kid's lit.

  13. I'm definitely interested. You've raised a lot of questions I need to know the answers to. I stumbled over the second sentence. I would definitely rework that. Your first is so strong and sucked me in. I was pulled right back out with the second.

  14. I agree with making the first sentence its own paragraph. As for the second, I would separate it into two, removing "and" and starting the new sentence with "It takes everything..."

    The paragraph with her reaction to Peter takes too much space, in my opinion. It slows the narrative and most of it could be moved elsewhere. It's sort of a character-based info dump, assuming such a thing exists.

    Though the opening line is arresting, I don't feel a connection here to Alli or to the world. What is going on? I don't know, and I'm not compelled to find out. Obviously not the majority opinion, but if the opening was more condensed, and the location/situation was detailed and immediate, then this would work better for me.

    As it is, I would not read on.

  15. Hey, Secret Agent here! The first line is crazy enough to stick in MY mind for years! Good work. I’m with you until you start talking about Verity. Too much mom talk throws me for a loop, especially since we don’t know who Peter is to her yet. So I think I got the gist of it but have no idea, really. I want to know where s/he is and what they’re doing there and I think you try to tell us but I can’t repeat it back to you. Strong writing, though.