Wednesday, February 11, 2009

40 Secret Agent

TITLE: THE CATBIRD SPELL
GENRE: MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY


Ben and Kim watched the shed a good fifteen minutes before they broke in. Their cover was a sagging plank fence. Through the gaps they could also watch Torbin’s house, where it poked up behind trees at the end of a dusty lane.

“If he comes, we’ll see him long before he gets here,” Kim said. “No problem.” She swigged water from her red plastic bottle, then offered it to Ben. He took a swig too. He could feel the moisture wicking out of his body and up towards the sun.

Only bees moved over the baked late-August fields. Cicadas made their power-saw noise, but no sound came from the shed. Not a squeak.

“Maybe Lee was wrong.” Ben pushed sweaty hair out of his eyes. “I don’t hear any animals. Maybe this is the wrong place.”

“He said the noise came from behind the house. The shed is all there is.” Kim nodded around at the cornfields on two sides of them, the meadow of milkweed and thistles behind, and the woods behind that. “If they’re in there, we have to set them free.” The deep blue glow around Kim’s head told Ben that her mind was made up. When her colours got like that, nothing would move her.

That morning, in the park, Lee Rosenblum had told them how he’d gone to Torbin Edgebine to get his stuttering cured. It worked, too. Lee used to stutter like a jackhammer. Not any more. “It’s like a miracle!” he said.

17 comments:

Jeannie Lin said...

I like Ben and Kim already. I get a good sense of their dynamic from the opening and the fact that they're on a rescue mission evokes sympathy.

I also appreciated how the fantasy elements were introduced subtly and there's a good build-up of tension.

Sheila said...

From the first paragraph, I pictured the two looking down the dusty lane at Torbin's house. But later, I realize they are behind the house, next to the shed. So the POV was a little off there, I think.

Other than that little nit pick, I liked this opening. The two kids have a mission and I got the sense that they were in peril. I'm interested in that blue glow, how Lee got cured, and what's in that shed. All great story questions.

I'm hooked.

Tara Maya said...

Good beginning. I can see the magic that makes this fantasy. Cured stuttering? Intriguing. But something went wrong? What's in the hut? Who are they trying to set free? Can't wait to find out!

The setting is lovely. Minor nit: "baked August fields" is easier to say and sufficiently specific.

lilianamama said...

Beautiful "To Kill a Mockingbird" feel to the setting. "baked late-August fields" stopped me for several seconds. I'd agree with Tara on that one. I did think the stuttering paragraph comes out of the blue. I don't know how it relates, but I'd read a little more to find out.

Megs said...

"He could feel the moisture wicking out of his body and up towards the sun." <- This gave me the strangest mental image. And I was thinking that moisture doesn't elevate. It just evaporates - which isn't what's going on with his sweaty hair and all.

Might want to check you 'commas' through this sample. I notice a couple that you didn't need...

The part with the girl's glowing blue head... that did leave me a little confused, because with the sweaty hair and the setting, I didn't get any otherworldly or fairy (?) vibes.

Janet said...

I like this. Good writing, good setting, good pacing - and the little bit of back story is enough to make me want to read more.

Good luck.

Lori said...

Not quite hooked. This seems to jump around a lot with no transitions to smooth the passage between paragraphs or thoughts. Also, the last paragraph seems completely unrelated to the rest of the section, so I'm left feeling more confused than anything else. Sorry.

Trish said...

I liked it, but I agree with Lori, the last paragraph just popped up without any transition. It didn't seem to fit.

I like the idea of some sort of magic though and I liked the characters. With a little editing it would read a lot smoother.

I really loved the third paragraph.

ipgirl said...

I agree the last paragraph just confused me and also threw me off what had happened before. I'm confused why anyone who thinks a blue glow around a person's head is normal would think a stuttering cure is a miracle.

The setting descriptions are nicely done, however, and I am intrigued about the shed.

LMT said...

I like the kids with a mission opening and am interested to find more about the blue glow and what's in the shed. But the transition to the last paragraph threw me. I was expecting more about the blue glow or the shed. The last paragraph might be better after "Maybe Lee was wrong." Yes. I would read a bit more.

Anja said...

I laughed at the sentence: He could feel the moisture wicking out of his body and up towards the sun. What exactly does that feel like?

Nice writing but I wasn't hooked. Personal taste more than anything. Though I was slightly curious about the deep blue glow and what they're looking for. If I was MG, then I'm sure I'd be hooked.

Good luck!

jmd said...

Hooked. Nice writing, the details really breathe life into these characters.

Pat Bow said...

Thanks, everybody. Your comments will help me make this a better start to my story.

Sarah Jensen said...

Oh, I'm liking this!
Hooked.

Secret Agent said...

A few clumsy moments such as "He could feel the moisture wicking out of his body..." but on the whole, I was intrigued enough to keep reading.

This strikes me as atmospheric and the writer conveys a lot of info smoothly--without telling the reader.

I want to know what is in the shed.

Blodwyn said...

I like this - it hooks me and I would read more. I did find the last paragraph a bit jarring, like others have pointed out.

C.N. Curtin said...

You hooked me with this sentence:

"The deep blue glow around Kim’s head told Ben that her mind was made up. When her colours got like that, nothing would move her."

Good job!