Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Saving Andromeda
GENRE: YA mystery

I think I knew long before discovering the letters that my real name wasn’t actually Emma Hudson.
There were the repeat dreams of answering to a different name, of looking in a mirror and seeing someone else’s face. For years, I’d dreamt of drowning, struggling to breathe in a body that wasn’t mine, of wandering through my house to find room after room hidden under floor boards or in closets that unfolded like paper dolls.

I just figured they were the normal dreams of a teenager. If you’d asked me who I was in the weeks leading up to high school graduation, my answer would’ve been a list: basketball player, high school senior, daughter of Jud and Claire, resident of Resurrection, Alaska and Sam’s girlfriend.

The problem was, only some of that was true.

The mystery note came in the mail the week of final exams, along with a pile of late college brochures and other junk I’d been getting since my junior year. Mom put it all on my desk but it wasn’t until graduation day that I had time to sort through it.

The envelope looked like the others with my name written in neat handwriting across the front. I opened the flap and a piece of folded paper slipped out.

Ask your mother about Andromeda. Open the green chest in the basement. It’s yours.

It wasn’t signed. There was no return address.


  1. Intriguing. I'm definitely hooked and want to know what's in that chest.

    Two quibbles: You need a comma after "Alaska." And that simile about paper dolls didn't jive with me. I can't put my finger on it, but it pulled me out of the story, trying to figure it out. Usually, when you see a string of cutout paper dolls, it's like 10 or 12, so I was trying to picture a closet like that. That may *totally* just be me, though.

    Good job!

  2. As a teenager, I'm baffled by this line: "I just figured they were the normal dreams of a teenager." Do we have different dreams from other people? o_O

    My advice: Start at "If you'd asked me who I was...". Your current first line is a zinger, but the paragraph after it doesn't follow up satisfactorily. Then, by the time you get to "The mystery note came in the mail..." I'm already feeling like the narrator has Talking Heads syndrome - and the fact that there are two one-liners seems to diminish the latter's importance.

    Alternatively, I'd cut everything from "I just figured..." to "...only some of that was true." See, I feel like there are two really good openings in there, but I only want one.

    But for the record, I like "If you'd asked me who I was..." better.

    Ditto Karen's comment - the paper dolls weren't working for me either.

    Just my opinion, naturally. Best of luck!

  3. (I feel like I should clarify: When I say "the paragraph after it doesn't follow up satisfactorily," I mean I don't understand the relevance of the drowning, struggling to breathe, hidden rooms, etc. - only the first sentence seems directly related to the zinger.)

  4. I'm intrigued!

    I agree with the other commenters about starting around "If you'd asked me," then maybe working in the dreams part.

  5. Okay, I am intrigued--no one can resist a chest in the basement--but I was confused in a few places.

    The first sentence is jumbled. How about: Long before discovering the letters, I knew my real name was not Emma. Or something to that effect.

    The sentence which begins "For years" confused the snot out of me. I love the paper dolls idea but the imagery is not clear to me. Cut the sentence in two and then rework it.

    Aside from all that, I would read on!

  6. I thought this would be much more inriguing if you told it in real time. I'd suggest cutting all the talking to the reader (she knows all that stuff. WHy is she telling it to herself?) You're writing it for the reader, but this is first person and the reader doesn't exist in your MC's world, unless she's telling it all after the fact.

    I'd suggest starting with "The mystery note came in the mail . . ."

  7. I thought that the first line was great, it really drew me in, but I agree with the other commenters above in their suggestions to tighten up the following paragraphs. Also, in the first line you can lose the word "actually."

    I'm confused as to how the mystery note envelope looks like all the others if it's handwritten. Most college brochures and "other junk" mail would be machine-printed, so actually, I'd think that a handwritten envelope would stand out.

    I think that could be very strong with a few edits--good luck!

  8. Okay, I loved this and definitely would read more... The paper dolls kind of tripped me up as well... mostly because I don't think of paper dolls as folding or unfolding... maybe try another simile there? I really like the descriptions of her dreams... the hints her subconscious mind has been giving her. The note is very mysterious and makes me want to read on. Who or what is Andromeda? And what is in the green chest? I definitely want to know.

    Great job! Good luck!

  9. Hmm, nice set up. I think the third and fourth sentences put the story off track, though. If you cut them and begin the following one with 'But if you'd asked me...' it may stay more on focus.

    I assumed the mystery note was yet another graduation card piled up with the others that came in the mail.

    I'd keep reading.

  10. You do a great job of setting the mystery up front and center, and there’s a nice ease of narration in not!Emma’s voice. I felt, though, that the setting is a bit shoved in. I just want to cut away paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 and jump straight to “The mystery note,” getting a look at the paragraphs that follow “no return address” instead.