Wednesday, January 13, 2010

37 Secret Agent

TITLE: Beyond the Garden's Gate
GENRE: Middle Grade: Adventure/ Magical Realism

The meadow’s long bluegrass swayed in the breeze and lapped against the six-foot stone wall that defended it. Outside the field, white branches of an aspen forest scratched at the fortifying barrier.

Atop the wall, Heath stood by his father. “Well done, Heath. The wall won’t stop them, but they won’t be able to sneak in unnoticed this time—by exposing them, we’ll have an advantage.”

“Thanks. I hid a lookout just over there.” Heath pointed along the wall to the secret watchtower.

“They won’t know we’re watching; at least, not at first.”

“Good. You know you’ll need help protecting the field.”

“I know, I thought I would use the mountain lions.”

“Hmmph.” Heath’s father nodded. “They’re fast, loyal, and deadly, if necessary.” He sighed, “They’re an excellent choice. You put a lot of thought into this, and I can see you’ve grown. I’m proud of you.”

Heath smiled, but his father’s approval didn’t calm his fluttering nerves. What if it still isn’t enough?

“I think the only thing left to do is cut the grass.”

“Seriously?” Heath grumbled.

“If it’s shorter, they can’t hide once they’re inside the field.”

Heath winced at the new task. “Can it wait? I can barely move my arms.”

Heath’s father scanned the sky. Dark clouds gathered while daylight slipped behind the surrounding mountain peaks. “Just don’t procrastinate. Once the rainy season starts, it’ll be too dangerous.”

“I understand.” Heath peered into the forest. “Do you think they’re out there right now?”


  1. Interesting setup. I like the father/son interaction.

    Some of this dialog treads the "as you know, Bob" territory. Your actual beginning might wind up being chapter 2 or a little further into chapter 1.

    The lions are a nice touch, too.

  2. Oh and I love how after all that work on defense, he has to cut the grass - a mundane chore for the son.

  3. Very intriguing opener! There's character and action and mystery all rolled into one. I have just enough to keep me guessing, but am grounded in what I know. I did think that the story should open more in Heath's POV, though. As it is now it's more omniscient, and begins with Dad talking. If Heath's the MC, better to lead with him and incorporate his thoughts earlier on.

  4. I was a little confused at the get-go. There's a field of grass next to a wall. The aspen trees are outside the field, but scratching at the wall. That makes it seem like a very, very small field, because aspen tree branches aren't that long. Or did I misread?

    And how can you hide a tower? By definition it's taller than the rest of the structure. How can it be secret? That confused me, too.

    But I do like the intriguing elements of this - the mountain lions and the looming battle. I have a feeling that the answer to the last line is, "yes. Yes they are."

    Good luck!

  5. Oooh, I'm really curious about who "they" are. I like how you start with the quick description of the surroundings; it gave me a calm-before-the-storm kind of feel. Then you tease us with discussion of the coming action, and finally you make the situation relatable with the chore of cutting the grass.

    I'm not sure how I feel about the father telling Heath "I can see you've grown." It seemed too much like telling. I hope you will show as the story progresses how Heath has grown.

  6. Maybe you could start with "Heath stood atop the wall with his father." Then put the sentence in about the grass since it tells us that's its a fortification wall. And then the father's comment.

    But I will say that I had a hard time imagining what the first 2 sentences were showing. I got the field and the wall very well, but then the forest scratching at the fortification? How, if its after the field? It would have to be a small field. Aspen trees' limbs don't spread that wide.

    But beside that one thing, it was nicely done and intriguing.

  7. Good creating a mystery of who they are waiting for. The first time I read the dialogue it didn't seem as smooth as it could be. I wasn't sure abut his dad telling him how much he's grown to start the story.
    But I'm definitely wondering who is out there by the end.

  8. There's a whole lot of super heavey description right at the get-go, which kind of turned me off a little bit. I liked the dialogue between father and son, but I feel like I need to know what Heath is thinking when his dad is talking to him. I do like that he has to cut the grass after all that work, though...something very relatable. Good work!

  9. Though the writing is solid, and there's already a sense of world building at play here, I couldn't quite sink into this one. I think there might be a bit too much dialogue for an opening, at the sake of building Heath's POV with narrative at this juncture.

  10. Not really hooked. The back-and-forth dialogue was hard to follow, since we don't really know either character yet, and the voice seemed a bit older than middle grade.

    I think this definitely has potential, though, if you incorporate some of the ideas mentioned by previous commenters, especially about the point of view. Good luck with it.

  11. A good beginning but it doesn't quite grab me yet. The back and forth dialogue seems a little too abrupt. And his dad wants Heath to mow the lawn, but his comment about the rainy season makes it seem like Heath could possibly wait days--until the rain starts--when I thought the expected attack (if that's what it is) was more imminent, like they didn't have much time.

  12. to be honest, I was too confused to be intrigued. It felt like you were trying too hard to be intriguing. by that I mean, you have all these things that aren't explained--who's coming, why, how you hide a watchtower, who trained the lions, why does he have to cut the grass--it's too many questions unanswered.

    for me to keep reading, I'd need more connection with the main character. Some sense of who he is or how he feels about what is going on.

  13. This is interesting, but maybe add some inner thoughts from Heath, then we can see what he's thinking.

    Also Heath's dialogue seemed more like Y/A to me, not MG. When Heath said, "Seriously?" Would a kid say that? Maybe if you added some body language to show that he's young.

    I'm intrigued to know who 'they' are though, so I would read on.