Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Our Father who art in high school
GENRE: Quirky Young Adult

A middle-aged woman leans against the counter staring at a crossword puzzle. She taps her pencil against the empty squares as I let out a polite cough announcing my arrival. It does no good, she’s busy trying to find a ten-letter word meaning: to wish good health.

“Gesundheit,” I say hoping to speed things along.

“Well bless your little pea picking heart,” She fills in the letters in the squares of her crossword puzzle. “How may I help you?” She has such a pleasant voice.

“I’m new here, my name is Maurice Almighty.” Her smile quickly turns to a frown.

“We have been expecting you.” Her tone turns rude as if she turned a switch. It could only mean one thing; my permanent record beat me here.

The woman lifts horned rimmed glasses from her face and stares at me with the naked eye.

“Mr. Allen, He is here,” she speaks into the intercom. She doesn’t say my name, just He with a capital H and that says it all.

“Have a seat.” She points her pencil towards a wooden bench.

I wiggle on the uncomfortable bench, which makes my left butt cheek go numb. She does not take her eyes off me for a second and doesn’t attempt to conceal her distrust. Let off a few plagues in school and that s*** follows you, trust me.


  1. Really like the voice here, and I love your MC's name. I want to know what he's done to earn himself such a glowing reputation. I only have comments on a couple of punctuation things. First, in your first paragraph, I'd switch the comma after good to a semicolon and cut the colon after meaning. And second, the comma after heart in paragraph three should be a period the way it's written now.

  2. I have a few nitpicky things to mention. You miss all your compound modifiers: pea-picking heart and horned-rimmed glasses. Add in the hyphen and you're golden.

    You also need a semicolon in your first para between good and she's...It does no good; she's busy trying....I don't think you need the colon after meaning, and instead I would make to wish good health italics. In the third para, after the word heart in quotes, you need a period. But these are all really easy things to fix, so I wouldn't panic.

    Only other thing that stood out for me was "let off a few plagues in school" and I was wondering how exactly one does that and what kind of plagues they were. Locusts? Bubonic?

    That being said I think you started in a good place. I'm intrigued.

    Good luck!

  3. Follow the grammar points above. I like this too and find it interesting. I'd like to know what kind of plagues, and am hoping it's a zombie one, but that's just me. Great voice and great premise. I'd read more only if to find out if it's zombies or not. Good luck!

  4. Critiquing this from a reader's standpoint I can only say that this is a witty and enjoyable start to a story. Maybe a couple more descriptive words on the woman. Is she portly, petite, etc? I also agree with the plague line. It is a little confusing what you mean. When I think plague I think ebola or something of that nature. Not cherry bombs in the toilets or something of that nature. I do love the title and I think it's pretty funny.

  5. I wanted to be in your character's head from the beginning and felt this had a little too much dialogue upfront. Perhaps you could start with your last paragraph, which shows us his anxiety and raises the tension. Watch the use of the word "turn" (smile quickly turns to a frown, tone turns rude as if she turned a switch). The last sentence does a good job of making the reader want to know more, i.e. what plagues? Great MC name and Title. Good luck!

  6. Much of what the others have said, I agree with--especially the punctuation notes. When you told me how the woman's smile turned as soon as she heard his name, I loved that imagery. It was concise but vivid. It really showed me the MC. But the imagery in some area feels a little forced, like things I could visualize without the extra words. For example, "The woman lifts horned rimmed glasses from her face and stares at me with the naked eye" doesn't need the part about staring with the naked eye. If she's lifting her glasses, that's implied. Another, "She doesn’t say my name, just He with a capital H and that says it all" doesn't need the "and that says it all." As readers, we know what that means without needing the extra clause.

  7. I'm drawn into the story right away by Maurice's voice. You do a great job of setting up the scene and giving a little backstory but not too much. I want to know more and I'd keep reading.

    "Her tone turns rude as if she turned a switch". You use the same verb twice in this sentence. I'd change one to something else. "Flipped" a switch?

    "He with a capital H and that says it all." Nice.

    Good luck with this. Lots of potential.

  8. Just read the other comments. By plagues I assumed you just meant he was a troublemaker but with all the real-life plagues and zombie novels out there, maybe you should clarify!!

  9. I like this! I could use a few more carefully chosen words to set the scene. "Leans over the counter that separates school staff from students," or something better than that, that reflects this character's voice. The hint about the MC's supernatural powers--that he knows from a distance what has this woman's attention--is a gem. This reads like Urban Fantasy to me, and using an established genre to describe your work might help you get past gatekeepers. Good luck with the story!

  10. Right off, I love the humourous, title. And I love the voice of this boy. He’s been in trouble and he has an attitude, and he’s starting a new school.

    If I could offer a few suggestions:

    It would be helpful to establish that this is a school setting right off. At first, I didn’t know if he was at a post office or juvenile detention or a school.

    The POV makes a confusing shift in the beginning: “It does no good, she’s busy trying to find a ten-letter word meaning: to wish good health.” How does the narrator know what she’s thinking? It takes us from his POV to hers.

    “I’m new here” isn’t necessary. “My name is Maurice Almighty” says that. (Isn’t this awfully close to Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey’s character?)

    Little detail: It doesn’t make sense to me that he is wiggling and his butt goes numb right when he sits down. It would make more sense if he was wiggling because his butt is going numb, later in the scene.

    Lots of luck to you, my friend!

  11. This sounds like a really fun book! God in high school? How is that not awesome?? The opening for me was a little dry, but once you get into it I think the voice and humor start to shine through. Good luck!

  12. I like this a lot. Fix the hyphenated words and you've got it. The voice and tone is great. I'd totally keep reading. Good luck!

  13. I liked the God allusions. He with a capital H, Almighty, plagues, Gesundheit which is synonymous with God bless you in English. If this is a story about God being a trouble making high school boy a la Bruce Almighty for YA, well played. I agree with the above commenters on a little more grounding in setting (I thought the leaning on the counter was at a coffee shop or diner).

    I'd keep reading. Good luck!

  14. This felt a bit slow to start, but picked up once you mentioned letting plagues loose at school. Although it is unclear whether we’re talking literal plagues or the usual school pranks. This character seems like he’s got a good sense of humor and will be up to lots of mischief. Some phrases were a bit awkward, like “pea picking heart” for example. And just a note, “Quirky Young Adult” is not technically a category, even though your story might very well be quirky.

  15. I agree with most of the above. The "pea picking heart" caused me to stumble, as did the idea that she was looking for a word in a crossword puzzle - are we to assume that the MC is God and therefore knew her thoughts? How else could he offer an answer?
    Having said all that, I loved this and would definitely read more. I already like your main character and I like the instant conflict you created - the secretary knew he was coming. (at first I thought he had walked into a gas station or convenience store - might want to indicate earlier that it is a school - but good job!!)