Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #13

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Being a good guest is a lot easier when the host isn’t around. There’s no small talk or awkward pauses and no one feels obligated to observe social niceties. You can eat spaghetti and meatballs on a cream sofa, feet on the coffee table, Dr. Pepper in hand, without someone fidgeting beside you on the armchair. Not that I do that or anything. I am an excellent houseguest. I place every pot, remote, and throw pillow exactly where I found it. It’s not so hard; I have a pretty good memory where these things are concerned. Other things, not so much.

Every surface and door handle gets a good wipe down. I even go grocery shopping, replacing what I used. It’s more than leaving the space how I found it. It’s about erasing all evidence of my stay. The trick is not being seen or heard by the neighbors—or having the owner walk in on you ducking in through a window. Like Charlie did.

I spit a wad of toothpaste into the sink and open the faucet wide to blast away the suds.

Something gives them away like a thought too loud to conceal. This time: two pairs of footsteps, wheels on a tile floor, whispers. I cut the water off and freeze.

“Please, keep walking. Keep walking,” I chant as if the words have any power to keep the couple from entering my temporary living quarters. Their home. Deep in the apartment I wait, motionless, straining to follow the sounds emanating from the hall.


  1. I really enjoy the voice here, especially in the opening paragraph. My only comment is regarding the paragraph that starts "Something gives them away..." That sentence and the next read strange to me. Maybe re-word?
    A fun opening.

  2. This was an intriguing opening. The narrator sounds like an interesting character.

    Just some nitpicks:

    - The line "Other things, not so much," at the end of the first paragraph, doesn't get explained in this segment. I'd either explain it or take it out, because it raises a question that distracts from the story.

    - It wasn't clear how the MC knew that the footsteps in the hall belong to the apartment owners. You could make this clearer by saying the footsteps stop outside the door, or he hears them fumbling for keys, or something. I also wondered what the wheels belonged to. I think you could be more specific -- it sounds like a bicycle, or a suitcase, or whatever.

    I'm not seeing the sci-fi element in this yet, so that better become apparent soon.

  3. It's a very interesting premise, but I think it takes maybe a line or two too long to get to the hook.

    I don't understand the line "Something gives them away like a thought too loud to conceal." One minute the MC is brushing his/her teeth, and then something's giving someone away. It feels like it comes out of nowhere, and I'm not sure if it's a simile or you're saying the MC is telepathic.

    Does the MC have super hearing if he/she can hear couple out in the hall from deep inside the apartment?

    I'm interested enough to read more. The MC seems likeable, with his/her own sense of a moral code for borrowing living space. I want to know who Charlie is.

  4. I like this opening. I do agree that the "other things not so much" can be dropped, and this line puzzles me: "Something gives them away like a thought too loud to conceal." Who is them? I don't understand how this thought connects to the next line, so maybe consider what needs to be said here and show it a different way.

    A few minor notes: I suggest watching for repetition in words, even little ones like in within the same sentence: "or having the owner walk in on you ducking in through a window." The second in could be dropped, or maybe a different verb than ducking to lose the in.

  5. I like this. I like the character and would read on.

    This confused me and I think it's unnecessarily vague at a point when I'm still trying to get grounded in the story: *Something gives them away like a thought too loud to conceal. This time: two pairs of footsteps, wheels on a tile floor, whispers.* You could just state: Two pairs of footsteps cross the tile floor, wheels, whispers.

  6. Your voice is very well done in this submit - great job!

    I'd have to agree with some of the other comments - was a little confused on the first pass around "Something gives them away...". I wasn't quite sure what/who you were referring to at first, until I read it over again.

    Otherwise, I think you did a great job here - you've piqued my interest in wanting to know why the MC is sneaking into other people's homes and what has led him/her to do this? I'd read on for sure. Good job!

  7. You didn't get me until parg 4 when I realized he wasn't talking about being a guest in the homes of his friends, but as an uninvited guest in the homes of strangers. That made me sit up and take notice, but . . .

    . . . had I been reading for pleasure, I would have given up on this at parg 2. I wasn't interested in tips on being a good houseguest.

    So my suggestion would be to get that info into the opening parg if you can, maybe the second, so you don't lose your reader before the story even starts.

  8. I liked the opening sentence. I'd probably only pick a few examples of what you can do when the host is away rather than labor the point. I liked the way the expectations were quickly reversed when we discover that he's an uninvited house guest and the owners are at home. I'm intrigued by the concept and would read a little more.