Thursday, July 17, 2008

#35 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Family Treasure
GENRE: Middle Grade

Attic – a large, often forgotten room nestled snuggly at the top of a house. A vast storage area, filled with boxes of memories and mysteries!

Tick Tock, Tick Tock. The minutes ticked away on the old mantle clock. Jan McMillion watched the pendulum swing back and forth as she waited for the arrival of her dad and Sarah.

Beeeeep! Beeeeep!

She jumped up from the couch. “Mom, they’re here!” Jan’s long legs took her out the living room door and onto the front porch. She stood at the top of the steps and waved. A cool puff of wind laced with the scent of honeysuckle swished through her long blond hair and she heard a spooky whisper emanate from the attic. “Who’s there?” said Jan as she stepped down and looked up toward the roof of the house. “Who called my name?” I must be hearing things, she thought. There’s nobody in the attic. She scratched her head and then continued down the porch steps.

Mr. McMillion’s battered red pickup truck, which he affectionately called Betsy, bounced up

the old dirt road toward their house. The truck’s rattle was a familiar sound to Jan and her

mother. Their dog King jumped up from his favorite spot under the weeping willow tree and ran

to greet them. Her Cousin Sarah’s hand clung to the open window as her body bounced up and

down in the truck seat.


  1. I probably wouldn't read on because I thought the sense of suspense due to the whisper got a bit lost in what was around it. It felt like there were too many things going on in the first page and I couldn't get a clear sense of what was important.

  2. The writing seemed smooth and confident, I bet this is a good book. I also bet the author could draw me in better by getting me interested in the main character before springing the spooky voice on me. A lot of information is compressed into this page, which is good. The author uses good sensory images and some good verbs.

    On the other hand, we're briefly introduced to Jan, Mr. McMillion, Sarah, King and the spooky voice, plus the narrator yells at "Mom." Six characters is a lot to assemble on stage within the first page and that busyness somehow diffuses my interest in the main character.

    I'd keep reading, but another red flag or two and I'd stop.

  3. Yes. Spooky voice = scary, potentially too much for me :) It's definitely a hook for this piece.

  4. I wasn't hooked. I thought it was confusing. Especially the definition of attic at the beginning was off-putting for me. And long blond hair was ho-hum. I agree that a spooky voice in the attic might have promise, but it didn't stand out. That needs to be the absolute center of this selection. It's kind of buried under a lot of adjectives and adverbs and other action.

  5. I think this has potential and would be something I'd normally read, but it's a bit busy. The definition of the attic, is that meant as an intro or the actual first line of the story?
    I think you can start with the "Beeeep! Beeeep!" It's obvious Jan's been waiting on someone when she jumps up...the clock paragraph isn't necessary.

    I like the spooky whisper...though the whisper doesn't actually say Jan's name, so it seems odd that she'd ask that question.

    A little pruning and you might have it:)

  6. No. I thought you started out strong in the story and I was into it, but then it didn't continue that way. Also, since I live in the Midwest and we mainly have 2 story houses, that threw my off because I thought there's no way I'd hear my attic from my living room.

  7. The funny formatting aside I think this is probably right for mid-grade but it didn't hook me.

  8. No, didn't hook me. Felt confusing in places and I don't really feel anything about the MC or her problems. Sorry, wouldn't read on.

    Good luck,


  9. Yes, I would read on, but I think there needs to be smoother transitions between Jan stepping outside, hearing the voice, and the truck pulling up. Plus, I agree that the voice being audible from the attic while Jan is standing on the front porch doesn't seem very plausible to me.

  10. Alas, no. The attic/front porch thing also threw me (the voice came through the walls to outside?), as did Jan's reaction dialog, as did some of the details later ("which he...Betsy," "The truck's rattle...greet them"). I don't think the first page is the best foot forward just yet.

  11. No, I'm afraid not.

    The definition of the word attic at the beginning feels contrived. The whisper emanating from the attic also feels contrived and gets lost in the big paragraph. Would Jan even hear a whisper from the attic while standing on the porch? I think the wind would drown it out. There was no creepiness to the whisper at all, and I want to feel spooked when strange voices are involved.

    When Jan heard the car horn, I assumed her dad would be waiting right outside. To find him still bouncing down the road jarred me from the scene.

    Lots of characters for one page -- Jan, Sarah, the car, King, mom, dad, and a weird voice. I'd suggesting trimming and tightening quite a bit, otherwise the impact of the strange whisper is lost.

  12. It feels a bit drafty, still. And rushed, like too much is cramming into the first page.

    Some good suggestions above - don't be afraid to ease us into your world a little more slowly to give us time to digest it.

    I can see this having potential, but as I said, it currently reads more like an edited draft than a final polish.

  13. Sorry, not hooked. Like someone else said the "spooky whisper" kind of gets lost. Also, it feels like telling. Maybe just a whisper would do. Spooky is implied by the fact no one is in the attic. Also, I'm not so keen on the opening... unless it was immediately followed by the whisper. Make sense? Sorry, rambling :~

  14. Not hooked.

    There was alot going on that went by so fast. I was confused.

    The definition of attic, the clock ticking, the beeping (didn't get that it was supposed to be a car horn), then spooky voice, Jan, cousin sarah, truck betsy, mr. mcmillion, king, and mom. That's alot to take down.

    I always like the family element in stories but this doesn't seem too special. I would pace it; let each idea digest enough before moving through the scene in a hurry. I also didn't really get much from Jan's POV; her excitement, why she was thinking about the attic (was she thinking about the attic?), etc.

  15. Something about this feels like it was written in 1973.
    And an attic whisper in the middle of a breezy summer day is just not spooky.
    Basements are much, much creepier. Especially old farmhouse root cellars with cold dirt floors.

  16. No, I'm sorry.

    I think you got somewhat victimized by the formatting, but I think this could be tighter, and we need to know a little more about the protagonist. She's hard to focus on right now.

  17. I think the ticking clock is ok for a start but I'd like to skip the doorbell and Mom they're here, and get right to the spookier part.
    The sentences were the right length for a middle grade.
    With a little tightening this could work though.