Wednesday, September 9, 2009

40 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

In 1800, when I turned 13, Daisy and Daniel Doane's adventurous childhood in the Oblong was already the stuff of half-remembered family tales, almost fifty years in the past. I was distantly related to their mother, being a Paddock, and often wondered about the story.

Did it really happen as they say?

Was there anyone left to tell about it, for that matter?

And, was the berry-juice imprint still there?

Out of curiosity, one day I rode to Doanesburg, to ask about the story and write it down. I was fortunate to meet two of the people involved, and I recorded it all in a journal, with more than a few corrections to the way I had always heard it.

Now this tale has reached its centennial mark. Like any verbal history, it's been burdened again with "elaborations" pasted onto it by other storytellers over the years. Perhaps that is why Mr. Blake's recent history of the county avoids the tale, telling only about the Oblong Tea Party and none of the rest. Since my written notes of the happenings best the memory of anyone still living, I am answering the family's call to take up my pen and record it all correctly.

Here is what happened a century ago when Daniel thought he saw a tiger, and a farmboy followed the sea, and an honest man wore the name of a dishonest one, and Daisy starred the sod.


  1. I am trying my absolute best to follow this, as I have now read it six times and interpret something different in my reading each time. I love these contest she offers, but do believe this is not set up for a 250 word entry.
    First, I understand the build up, we all need that as writers, but are you writing this as a 13 year old, or a 63 year old? If you are 63, are you going to tell the story in a style that MG would understand and want to read or continue the way it is written now? Again, need to read more.
    Second, your MC rode to Doanesburg one day and met two people involved. My math gets me here again, how long ago was "one day" and if it was yesterday; wouldn't they be over a 100 years old each?
    I think ultimately to draw in your crowd, this needs to be reworded and more provided besides the blind sentences relating to something I am sure you will mention further in to the novel.
    The last paragraph is great, would just rework the text all before.

  2. The first paragraph is a bit like a maths puzzle. And the rest is a riddle.
    In England the word 'sod' is a bit rude. Just saying..

  3. Not feeling a middle grade "voice" here. But I am interested in hearing more about the berry-juice imprint.

  4. Well, I loved it. I agree that you could clarify whether you're writing as the 13-year-old or as the older man, but I thought it read well as a prelude to the actual story.

    And I like "starred the sod." It seems very American--very western--to me.

    I would read on.

  5. After two Tylenol I am still lost with this one and still have a headache. Your wording does not reflect MG at all, hope the story gets better or easier to follow even for an adult.

  6. I agree that this needs some reworking to be clearer, but I like the idea of a young person setting out to put a family story into the history books.

  7. The first paragraph loses me. I can't keep this information straight, especially this early in the story.

    The question after don't keep me engaged.

    I'd suggest a more active beginning. Nothing happens until the fifth paragraph, but even that...I'm looking for more out of this.

  8. The whole thing reads like an information dump to me. And the last two paragraphs are just confusing. No hook for me.

  9. I have no idea what's going on, totally lost. Where I live, a paddock is a field, although I guess it's meant to be a name here.

    I would have stopped reading at the rhetorical questions, nothing drives me battier.

    I'm really sorry, I feel like I'm being mean to say those things but I'm just totally unsure of what's going on or who I'm reading about.

  10. I'm sorry... this needs to be focused more, I think.

  11. Your last paragraph is your beginning.

  12. I totally agree with Anonymous (above). Start with that last paragraph and I feel a voice, a mystery and a story. All the other stuff is excess. Like a prologue. I don't know why people write prologues. I never read them. But maybe that just makes me a bad reader.

    Anyway, I simply adore that last paragraph and would read on for that sentence alone. So (after all that) hooked.

  13. We don't need to know any of the things you mentioned before the last paragraph. Go straight to the tales...particularly the one with the berry-juice imprint.

  14. I like the Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-esque voice here, but I think I'm too confused to be hooked. I think. As I go back and reread it, I keep changing my mind. Either way, though, that's probably not the reaction you want an agent to have. And yet I wouldn't be surprised if you found an agent that absolutely adored it.

    Hmm. I guess that's not very helpful. But if you ever do find that agent and this ends up becoming a bestseller, I'm definitely taking the credit for spotting it early:)

  15. This was baffling, but I'd read further, if only to figure out who was talking, and are they immortal, or what?

  16. I liked the last paragraph too, but I think some of your earlier ones are good as well. I'd either cut the second-last paragraph, or cut them all and start with the last one.

  17. I'm curious to read Secret Agent's take on this. It sounds like a prologue to me, and an unnecessary one.

    The story should start with Daniel and Daisy, or the narrator's adventures while recording their story, whichever one the novel is going to be about.

    I do this myself, quite a bit, actually. It helps a person learn about their characters.

  18. Well, I disagree with just about everybody. I see this as a frame story. Your MC is old now and is going to tell a story she/he recorded as a teen.

    I think the prologue style beginning works because it sets up the frame and the storytelling style. It could be less wordy, I think, and I'd suggest making it a little less reporter style and more writer-style (like the last paragraph. More color, more imagery.)

    The last paragraph was great! I'm hooked.

  19. I'm not afraid to be in the minority on this one. I loved it. Loved the voice of the entire 250. This is one of only a few entries here that was a pleasant read for me.
    I understood what you were saying. Yes, some clarification on the age of the MC would help.
    I loved the last paragraph too. But I liked the whole thing. Great Job!

  20. Well, I'm sorry to be so ignorant, but I have no idea what "starred the sod" means.

    But, I absolutely fell in love with this one! Love your voice, love the pace, love the idea that a wonderful story is about to unfold. And when I read a book, I do it for pure enjoyment of moving into another world and seeing it from someone else's viewpoint.

    I would buy this one in a split second. Great job!

  21. Ansha must be the 100 and something year old from Doanesburg.

  22. Melody Colleen - I am with you, so I did a dictionary check and here is what I found:

    Starred-–adjective 1. set or studded with or as with stars.
    2. decorated with a star, as of an order.
    3. marked with a starlike figure or spot, esp. an asterisk.
    4. Linguistics. (of a form or construction) ungrammatical or otherwise unacceptable: so called because of the convention of placing an asterisk before such a form. Compare asterisk (def. 2).

    So I do not think 4. applies so I guess she marked or decorated the Sod? Wait...that still doesn't make sense.
    I will move on to another submission.

  23. I'm not keen on the voice here, which feels old fashioned, and unnecessarily so. I would not keep reading.