Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #9

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

If Coach says one more good word about me, I may scream. But it's inevitable. Coach thinks reading our top scores every week is motivating. I just want to crawl into a hole.

Every time she says my name, I wait for the team to glare at me with jealousy.

"Emily Mulligan, first place, ahead by a full second."

Instead, the girls whoop and clap for me, because my points are their points and we are winners. Their cheers bounce around the pool and I catch David grinning at me from the other side, not paying attention as the boys' coach does the same reading. When his score is announced the guys thump him on the back and chant, "Ecklestein! Ecklestein!"

We're a pair of winners, a matched set, the perfect couple.

So why don't I enjoy any of it?

I make myself smile for the other girls. I'm not competitive, but I don't want to hurt the team either.
I jump in for warm-ups, the water swallowing me. I rush downward, the bottom twelve feet below me. When I slow, I open my eyes and gaze up through the jelly-like water to the lights of the gym.
Emily, you don't belong here.

It starts as a prickle on my arms. Then I want to rub my eyes. They're gritty, like I haven't slept. Just as I'm thinking how weird that is, the pain kicks in. I gasp water.

I'm the best swimmer in the state and I'm drowning.


  1. Good job grabbing me at the end...hits home the point that she's not just dissatisfied with swim team, but that there's something other worldly going on. Coach...could he/she have a name? I like the introduction of the boyfriend, and their connection across the pool. As for the reading of points, it's not clear if this is practice or a meet. Is that why her team members, who are typically jealous, are happy for her high score?

  2. This starts out very much in the real world, so I do like that there is a hint of something other-worldly going on right at the end, though it felt more paranormal than fantasy to me. I also thought the coach should have a name. I know it's a short sample and maybe this comes in the next sentences, but I wanted to feel the panic of drowning more, like I was in the moment with her.

  3. I really love this. I'm hooked for sure. You achieve incredible clarity of emotion and the relationships between the characters, even though we've just been introduced.

    I was confused by one thing: she expects them to be jealous, but they cheer. Are they ever jealous? Or are they always rooting for her? If so, I'd add a small phrase so it reads "Every time she says my name, I think this will be the time they glare at me..." or something like that.

    But wowza. Loving it.

  4. I really like the idea of the matched pair of winners, the jelly-like water, and that last line. What if it were the first line, and what followed showed the metaphorical drowning, the suffocating comments from her coach and applause from her teammates? And then the totally unexpected change she feels once she enters the water, the panic of drowning for real? Just a thought.

    One thing that caught me, she's the best swimmer in the state, but not competitive? If I was her teammate and knew that, I would be major jealous and annoyed. I would wonder why she bothered at all, so that might be something important to clarify, like if she's compelled to be in the water or has a long line of swimming genealogy to live up to, or she's really a mermaid, or ... you get the idea.

    Just a technicality, wouldn't the lights over the water be in the pool area, as opposed to the gym?

    Wouldn't she think her eyes feel weird since she's probably wearing goggles?

    Good conflict here, though, between how the MC sees herself and how others do.

  5. I liked this. We have a character in a situation, with hints of otherworldliness and problems. And you stayed in the story. I not only have a reason to read on, as far as story goes, I'm also trusting your writing skill, in that you'll take me somewhere.

    I was a bit confused when she expects her teammates to be jealous, and then they're not. I wondered why she expected them to be. Perhaps she doesn't expect it, but fears it instead? And I found it difficult to believe she wasn't competitive. It seens to me anyone in sports would have to be competitive, otherwise, why do it. Even if she didn't feel the need to beat her competitors, wouldn't she want to beat her own times? If she just loves to swim, she could do that in her own pool. Why join a team? And if she was forced into it, how likeky is it she'd be the best in the state. What would be her motivation for even trying. Of course, there's always the possibility that she's been genetically modified so she doesn't have to try. It did seem incongruous to me.

    I also thought you could do more with that last sentence. She's drowning. Would she be thinking she's the best swimmer in the state and she's drowning, or would she be thinking 'I have to get out.' Don't tell us she's drowning. Show her drowning.

  6. You managed to incorporate Emily’s voice, her thoughts and worries while also setting the scene and her place in it. And that last sentence with the best swimmer in state drowning made me laugh and piqued my curiosity. It’s a perfect cliffhanger and will definitely generate interest and leave readers wanting more. Great job and thanks for entering!

    1. Not sure who the other Secret Agent who commented earlier is but I just finished posting this now so...

    2. Seriously? An imposter "Secret Agent"? In all these years, it's never happened. I'll go through and delete these.

  7. I liked it, but had the same issues already mentioned, Coach having no name, why would she expect her teammates to be jealous when clearly are supportive, also the drowning seems too matter of fact and blase. But, I do like the idea of the person who has it all in fact suffering inner angst.

  8. Thank you, all, for your excellent feedback! I'm keeping it in mind as I keep moving forward.

    Things like the coach's name being dropped were a way to save words. Now I know which ones didn't work so well!