Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #38

TITLE: The Brewer

Tyler Higgins slanted his eyes at his friend, Ethan Montour, seated next to him at the lunch table.

With shaky hands, Ethan unwrapped a sandwich and absently stared at his food through smudged glasses. Then his eyelid started twitching.

Tyler stopped munching his PB&J. Dang it. Here we go again. But what could he do? He swallowed down his mouthful. “So, Ethan. Tuna, eh?”

“What? Oh.” Ethan peeled the bread back. “Yeah. Tuna fish and tomato.” He poked a tomato slice with his index finger, pushing it off the tuna.

“Thought it was your favorite?”

“Um, sure.” Beads of perspiration formed on Ethan’s brow, and his skin looked pasty. “Except for the tomatoes.”

“What’s the point of tuna and tomato without tomatoes?” Tyler tried to keep his tone light, but this was too weird. Up until a month ago, the old Ethan would have wolfed down any sandwich, tomatoes and all.

“Yeah, pointless.” Ethan flicked the other tomato off.

Seated across the table, fellow eighth-graders Audrey Harding and Maddy Hollenback chattered and giggled, oblivious. He wasn’t sure why the girls lunched with him, maybe pressure from the youth group leaders. Though he’d been here three months, he still felt like an outsider—except with Ethan.

Frowning, he set down his sandwich. These days, he’d rather avoid the seventh-grader whose crazy mood swings and weird stupors didn’t help them blend into the crowd. Definitely no fun. But Ethan had been nice to him when everyone else acted like he had snot smeared on his face.


  1. I really like this. Your mc seems real, and I appreciate his loyalty to his odd friend. You've done a great job "showing," but a small "tell" right up front would orient the scene. Maybe like this: Tyler stopped munching his PB&J. Dang it. Here we go again -- Ethan acting weird again/like a whack job/some kind of short description of his friend's recent odd-ball behavior. It's almost too subtle without a little hint up front, and readers will pay closer attention to the details, if they know they reveal something larger. I would read more.

  2. I was a little bewildered by "slanted his eyes". I've heard of slanted eyes, but am unsure how one goes about slanting their eyes. However, I have not read nor seen everything, so perhaps I'm in the minority.

    I'm really interested to know why Ethan is acting weird. And also curious about this tuna and tomatoes thing...

    Good job!

  3. Aw, I really like Tyler.

    Those first descriptors of Ethan with his smudged glasses and eyelid twitching are so endearing.

    Honestly though, those girls would totally not sit with boys in eighth grade, youth group leaders' peer pressure or no.

    I don't think you need that sentence explaining Ethan's "crazy mood swings and weird stupors". I was shown that when Ethan perspired. I was told that when Tyler said that Ethan had been okay up until a month ago. Don't need to hear it again in a blatant "tell" way when your showing is so great.

  4. This would benefit from getting his frustration up front as skywriter suggested, but overall, it's a good scene. Your characters are sympathetic and endearing and I'm wondering about the change in the friend. I would keep reading. :)

  5. I like this and think your characters are believeable. I came away from this with the understanding that MC was an 8th grader and his friend a 7th grader? In Junior High, that alone would be a social set back.
    Nicely done, I would keep reading! Good Luck.

  6. I like this, but I don't think you need the first sentence. I especially don't think you need to give both characters' full names right at the start. I think you would have a stronger start with "Tyler watched as Ethan unwrapped a sandwich with shaky hands and absently stared at his food through smudged glasses. Then Ethan's eyelid started twitching..."

    Otherwise I think this was really well done.

  7. I like K Callard's suggestion (above)for the first sentence. I think it reads really well with that change. I like the specific details about the sandwich and how Ethan eats it. So easy to visualize, and Tyler's reactions make it clear that something strange is happening. The only other criticism I have is in the last paragraph. Referring to Ethan as "the seventh-grader" seemed a little off to me. Maybe there's another way to get that information across.
    But overall, well done. This left me curious about what is going on with Ethan!

  8. I thought there was a nice little mystery going on with Ethan, and I wondered where they were, and why Tyler didn’t fit in. The title made me immediately think of beer, but from there I went to potions. The dialogue came off as natural. It’s enough to keep me reading.

  9. I love the MG voice of this! Very believable and great dialog, too. Makes me very curious as to what happened to Ethan to change him & his behavior so dramatically. And what's wrong with the tomatoes? I would've had issue with the tuna more than the tomatoes if I had that as my lunch. :)

    I think the 3rd sentence would be a much better 1st sentence and would just delete the existing first one.

    I questioned the title, too, thinking of beer first. That being said, unless the cover depicted something child-like, I probably wouldn't have picked the book up for my MG kids just based on the title. After opening it though, I would read on.

    Thanks for sharing & good luck!

  10. I'm not feeling any spark here, but as other glowing comments show, this might well be a case of personal preference.