Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #37

TITLE: No Use for a Name
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Now serving…ticket number…one…five…two…at window number…nine.

I looked at the scrap of paper in my hand for about the thousandth time, but my heart still leapt when I saw the 152 in bold black font. I jumped up and hurried over to the last stall on the right. I grinned when I saw who it was.

My next door neighbor refused to even look at me, just tapped away with her long green fingernails on her keyboard, chewing her gum about as fast as her fingers flew.

Finally she swiveled her head to face me, and her look of mild annoyance melted away into a smile.

"Baby Anderson! I wondered when I'd see you here."

"Hi Mrs. Dutton."

She blinked her eyes rapidly. So much mascara coated her lashes I was surprised they didn't make a clicking noise when they beat together. "Any other member of the Anderson clan walks in here, I'm taking out extra insurance, but you behind the wheel? Now that doesn't scare me at all. You have your social security card?"

"Right here," I said, digging around in my bag. Mom and dad have, I'm not kidding, like fifty storage tubs full of unopened mail in a shed behind our trailer. I found the one from the year I was born, and I found my card – fifteen and a half years old – and brand-spanking-new.

I handed it to Mrs. Dutton and her brow wrinkled.

"Is something wrong?" I asked.

"It says your name is Baby Girl Anderson."


  1. First things first, I love the title because one of my favorite punk bands in high school was called No Use for a Name.

    It's an interesting beginning. I think we all remember getting our license and the excitement that goes along with it, and you exhibit that through her feelings when her number's finally called.

    Still, I think this needs a little more tweaking. Do a Word search for the word "look". You used it three times in the first three paragraphs. How else could you describe this? What other words could you use? (And believe me, I do the same thing with every manuscript. I know my buzz words and before I send something out I search for them and change them.)

    Also, the part about the unopened mail confused me. It's backstory and description of her parents, but in this place, it really pulls me out of the story. And it would be Mom and Dad. Unless she says my mom and dad they would both be capitalized.

    Don't give up on it and good luck!

  2. It took me about half of this entry to figure out where the MC was... I reread the beginning several times to see if I missed something. Is there a way you could say in one of the opening sentences about her being at the DMV?

    Also, the very first line is very confusing. I understood eventually that someone was announcing the number being called, but in order to make that clear right away I would suggest putting quotation marks around it.

    That said, I would keep reading for another page or two, depending on what happened next. The name on her social security card is unexpected and I want to know why her parents never gave her an official name. My advice is to keep working on it... polish it a bit more and work out the kinks because I think you have something here :) Good luck to you!

  3. I agree with the above poster in regards to the first line - quotation marks seem necessary there. I like this entry - the excitement of the narrator, the good imagery, and the intrigue surrounding the Social Security card make me want to read on.

  4. Now why do I have a feeling Girl is her middle name? :)

    The first line. Was that dialogue? It confused me and threw me out of the story while I tried to figure out what was going on. I couldn't visualize the scene because I didn't know where this info was coming from.

    Every sentence in your second paragraph begins with "I". Try to mix it up a bit.

    I don't think 'refuse' is the right word. She didn't look up. Period. Refuse to me means someone is trying to convince her to look up. In reality she was preoccupied and too bored with her job to bother.

    The part about her parents isn't important right here. It's info dumping and not necessary. Save it for a little later if it's really important. And instead of telling us this, show us. ;)

    I might read further, but only to find out if Girl is her middle name.

  5. I personally read the first line as internal dialogue. I know from personal experience that italics don't always carry over on the posts, I assume that's what happened here. I also didn't think the unopened mail was backstory. I liked the way it showed/not told that she had unusual parents. Per Tiffany's comment above, you can put DMV as your first word to clarify location right off the bat ("DMV now serving ticket number..."). Overall, this was one of my favorite entries. In 250 words, we already know the teenage MC is the only normal one in what sounds like a strange and dysfunctional family. I'd definitely read on.

  6. I think if you revised it a bit, it would change the flow of this page by a great margin. I think most of us are stopping or getting stuck on some of the repetitions (words). I would read on. Good job.

  7. Great voice! I flew through these words, totally sucked into the story. I wasn't expecting her neighbor to be an older woman. Don't know why. That threw me for a second. In my head, I was thinking she lived next door to a mean girl who wouldn't look at her. If you put, "My next door neighbor, Mrs. Dutton, refused to even look at me," that would clear up the age/my questions.

    The line about her mascara and the clicking noise? Win!

    I very much want to know this girl whose crazy parents have fifty tubs of mail in the back yard and who may be about to have a huge disappointment at the DMV. I'd *definitely* keep reading.

    Good luck!

  8. "Baby Girl Anderson" - cute. :)

    Once I got into it I was fine, but I was really confused by the first line and struggled to work out the setup. Maybe consider revising so it's easier for the reader to jump into the scene.

    I'm interested to see where this is going - but there's a bit of editing needed before I would say I was fully hooked. eg every sentence in para 2 begins with "I" - distracting for me. And I would be inclined to leave the info about her parents until later. Doesn't have to be much later, but it slows the action in this first scene and I think it would fit better in an introspective scene where she's trying to work out what's going on (I assume you've got one of those coming up!)

    Overall, though, good job. :)

  9. This is still a bit rough, but there is a lot of positives in your submission (her name alone is a unique hook, and the protagonist comes across as a 15 yr old in excitement and innocence). I'm okay with being kind of thrown into a scene and figuring out the setting, but sometimes the sights, sounds, and smells going on around the protagonist not only set the scene but pull the reader deeper into the world you are creating... But it is a great start to a fun story idea. Good luck.

  10. I don't think the info about her parents is a 'dumping' problem. That's the part that made me sit up. Without it, you've got a description of a girl getting a driving license - where's the hook in that? I loved this as an opener.

    Agree about the use of the word 'refuse' though - it's not the right choice. She's ignoring, not refusing.

    I didn't think the setting was in the least confusing. I think readers should have to think a little - not enough to be confused, but a little. I don't want to be spoon-fed all the details.

    This may well be my favourite so far, and I'm reading bottom to top.

  11. Liked the unusual family details and the mystery of her name. At first I was sure the main character was a boy and his next door neighbor was a hot girl, so I had to re-read. Just out of curiosity--can a minor get a license without a parent present?

  12. I'm hooked.
    I took the opening line as internal dialogue.
    I interpreted 'refuse to look at me' as the (sometimes skewed) perspective of a teenage girl. It worked for me.
    I didn't notice repetitive words—I was to into the story.
    I like the voice and the potential for humor.
    Would a couple who never get around to opening their mail, neglect to properly fill out a birth certificate? Probably.
    I want to know more.

  13. Love how you described the excitement of getting the license. (First line needs quotations, even if its on overhead speakers). The line about your parents having tons of storage bins I like a lot... except for "I'm not kidding, like"... get rid of those (it throws of the pacing). You can still get a sense of Baby Anderson's personality there. Seems to have a really interesting point of view there and I'd like to hear more.

  14. I loved this! Nothing tripped me up, I raced through it anxious to see what was next. I would definitely keep reading! The only thing I would change is to make that first line look like dialogue instead of internal thought.

  15. It's a cute/quirky beginning. It doesn't give a lot of info as to what the book is about, but I like the way she describes the eyelashes and I'm intriqued by the fact that she doesn't have a real name.

  16. I love the tone here. Sad that her parents when getting her an SS card call her baby girl. That alone hooks me into the family relationship.
    Good going. I'd read on.

    I think you can drop the the before 152.

  17. Just had to come back and say that your entry popped into my mind again today (when I most definitely should have been concentrating on the day job.) So...nice work :)

  18. Your character has a great voice and I can feel her excitement about getting her license. I didn't have any trouble with the first line, but it should be quotes rather than italics.

    The premise is what has me on the fence. I get the sense that she's going to find out that Baby is not the nickname she thought it was, and that she was never given a real name. And I'm thinking she has to know that already. She must have looked at that SS card. Not to mention she must have asked what her real name was at some point in her life. ANd what about when she went to school. Her parents would have had to have brought her birth certificate, and some kid would have asked her what her real name was. So, if that's the premise, I'm having a hard time buying it.

    On the other hand, if it's not, I don't have a clue as to what it might be. I'd read more to see what the premise is and where you're going and hope you surprised me.

  19. I liked the first line - I think it makes it immediately obvious the kind of setting she's in: I can picture a row of glass-fronted cubicles with the numbers above them, and a queue of people. I agree with the other people who said it needs speech marks.

    I think the comment about the mail depends where the story goes - at the moment, I feel like it tells the reader a bit about what her parents are like, along with the comment about Mrs Dutton being concerned about any of the rest of the family coming in.
    I really liked this excerpt, and I'd love to read more, and find out more about this girl, her family, and how she got the name is Baby Girl.

  20. I read through this all at once and instantly loved it. Not until I read the comments did I even realize there were some tweaky things that could be/needed to be fixed. Even then, I'm not sure it even mattered. I loved the storage tubs of unopened mail - even labeled so she could locate her birth year! - and the whole last line hooked me good. Best YA I've read so far in this contest, despite the nitpicks others have found, on voice alone.

  21. Really good voice here. I liked the information about her parents and their tubs of unopened mail; gave me a sense of what she's been dealing with her whole life.

    Not sure where this story is going. She surely knows that Baby Girl is really her name. I'm hoping it's not just a slice of life novel but rather something deeper. I'm interested enough to read on.

  22. I liked the voice on this too. A quick note on the birth certificate - if they hadn't come up with a name for her before the certificate was issued, she'd actually be Blank Blank Anderson (this is what my certificate said until they named me). Or is her name really Baby Girl?

  23. Author here, thanks so much everybody!! I appreciate you spotting the paragraph of nothing but I statements, that's totally fixable. Also, thank you for pointing out "look." I bet if I wordle my manuscript I'd find that my characters really enjoy looking. And probably turning too. This is great feedback and I can't wait to get to editing again!

    And thank you also to the people who were really enthusiastic about it! You totally made my week!