Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #23

TITLE: Playing With Fire
GENRE: Apocalyptic Young Adult

Shouts echoed from around the corner. Bri paused on her way down the hallway. She had stayed late to print an essay in the library, and the hallways were empty. Most of the kids were outside, jostling into busses. Bri could take the back staircase. She’d gotten into enough fights, and her head was pounding because of her damn cold. But she'd have to trek all the way around the school if she went the back way. She might as well see what was going on.

She rounded the corner to see Joe Merrick and two of his friends standing around a kid on the ground. Bri couldn’t make out the victim’s face. She’d fought Joe last year, when he’d set on her while she was walking home, just, you know, for kicks. After one good punch from Bri, Joe had run off, and he’d left her alone after that. But he wouldn’t walk away without a fight in front of his friends. Today, though, the worst she could do would be to give these guys her cold. Plus, a teacher could come by at any moment. She turned and walked away.

"Bri! Help!"

Oh no. It was Phil. Bri turned and walked back down the hallway. Phil had done her a favor. She couldn’t abandon him.

"Hey!" Bri shouted. "Why don’t you leave him alone?"

"But we’re having so much fun," said Joe, lodging his booted toe into Phil’s side.


  1. Oh wow. I'm already loving Bri's tough girl thing. Interested in what this 'favor' Phil did for her though. Let her cheat on a test or something? Share his lunch? Is it weird that it bothers me that I don't know what kind of favor he gave that would make Bri jump into a fight she knows she'll probably lose?
    Either way, I'd read on. I really like Bri's voice so far, and can already tell what kind of tough cookie girl she is.

  2. Need more description of where we are and this sounds like a typical school. Needs more apocalypse feeling to make this stand out.

    What did the echoing shouts say?

    This is mostly telling; maybe show this more?

    Suggest doing a spell check, e.g., buses, not busses.

    Need more of Bri's reactions and voice.

    There is a lot of back story about what happened last year that doesn't need to be here. I'd like to hear more about Bri's conflicts and what makes this different from another bully story.

  3. Ah, this is mine! Thanks for the comments already! I did run spellcheck, but busses is an alternative form that's gone out of usage so it didn't catch it: I'll definitely change that to keep up with convention, and keep the alternative in mind for historical fiction projects, ha.

  4. I love a good tough girl, and you clearly make her that! I agree with some of the other comments. Show don't tell. And we need a little more info about the day and age this takes place, but don't "tell" the reader. Give some descriptions of things so that we know. Good luck!

  5. Sentences seem a little jerky in the first paragraph.

    I would delete the phrase "on her way down the hallway."

    The shift from hearing the shouts to discussing her fighting history feels a little non sequitur because the shouts aren't obviously threatening (though that may just be a result of the lack of context in an excerpt). If it isn't clear to your reader before the paragraph starts, I would do something to indicate that Bri considers the shouts threatening.

    May consider changing "Joe had run" to "Joe ran," but it's your voice that's important.

    Anyway, cool stuff. Good luck!

  6. Good tough girl image. I liked the way she is planning on giving Joe her cold.

  7. I like this a lot -- as others have said, Bri is a great strong girl character and I like the detail of giving him her cold, though it does make me wonder why is that the worst she could do? Is being sick going to make her too weak or is it his friends?

    But my bigger question is where the story starts. Is this really the place where you want your story to start? I know we only have the first 250 words, so that's hard, but I feel like it might need more drama straight from the start. Something that pulls the reader in and helps them see that this will be an Apocalyptic story. Though maybe that's the next paragraph... You might just want to play around with it for a while and see if you find other possibilities of places to start.

    Looking forward to reading it as a novel one day!

  8. I agree with Dreamy. Awesome potential but today's YA audience needs an early hook.

  9. I like the tough-girl image! I’d start with “Bri paused as shouts echoed…” Delete “down the hallway” since you say “hallway” in the next sentence. Also, I’d say: “She’d stayed late…” and “she’d thought the halls were empty” (because they weren’t actually empty). The next paragraph might start with her motivation: “Bri didn’t want to get mixed up in a fight. She’d gotten into enough of her own, and besides, her head throbbed (gets rid of an “ing” word) because of her damn cold.” Then put the back staircase part.

    Think the bullies would stand “over” not “around” if they’d put the kid on the ground. And you could add a little more explanation of her condition: “Today, though, THE WAY SHE FELT, the worst she could do as give these guys her cold.” Delete “She turned and walked away” as well as “Oh, no” and “Bri turned and walked back.”

    I didn’t get a sense of enough reason for her to come to Phil’s rescue. I, too, wondered about the favor. She’s feeling weak, and she has to face two bullies. Must’ve been a big favor. Maybe hint at that, or at a soft-heart-behind-the-tough-girl personality. Good luck!

  10. Your opening likely starts at least several minutes before this scene. Give us a chance to meet Bri and learn a little about her before you throw her into the action. Establish a bit more character and place, and then we'll be ready to see her take on Joe and his flunkies.