Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #13

TITLE: Brothers Bears and Bad Guys
GENRE: Young Adult

Thomas crawled behind the rose bush. He pushed deep into the thorns, ignoring the painful scratches and leaching blood. Spiders dropped onto his head and caressed his hair. He let them, more terrified by what lay ahead. He froze.

Michael and his gang circled in front.

Thomas hated Michael and feared him more. At twelve years old, Michael's Hulk-like frame supported almost fifty five kilograms of rippling muscle. Shaggy, blond hair played against his tanned skin and green eyes. Coupled with a dimple in his chin and a splattering of freckles on his cheeks, he conveyed a comical and carefree look. Michael suckered people with his face. Not me,
Thomas thought.

"Where is that runt?" Michael growled.

"Ran to his mommy," Carson replied.

"Pipsqueak," Thomas whispered. Carson annoyed him.

Michael kicked a rock. It popped into the curb and leapt at the rose brush.

Please don't see me, Thomas prayed.

"Let's go," Michael ordered. "This is boring."

Michael broke away, leading his gang towards the arcade. Thomas stared into the alley across the street. His heart pounded. A spider crawled down his left ear lobe. He brushed it away.
He reached into his pocket and grabbed his house keys. He squeezed them like a child would grip a teddy bear upon waking from a nightmare.

"Just get to the alley Thomas," he whispered while practicing the next steps in
his mind's eye.

He plunged through the bushes, sprinted, and skittered across a patch of gravel. He gasped as his feet flipped from under him.


  1. Great beginning! A few minor things that caught my attention:

    I can't really see spiders as caressing. I'm sure you can find a better way to say that.

    If you are writing for American teens, Kilograms isn't something they'll be familiar with. Best to use pounds.

    When we get to the dialog, the speech tags are slowing it down. "Said" almost always works best because your eyes skim right over it and it doesn't make you pause to figure out how it was said. Here we have growled, replied, and whispered all in one and it slows it down for me.

    Aside from that, I think you have very strong writing and I like where it seems to be going.

  2. I LOATHE spiders, so keep in mind, you turned me off in the first paragraph.

    I agree about the dialogue tags, simple is better, especially this close together.

    I wasn't really hooked by this. A little intrigued, but not hooked. Part of it was that it's labeled as YA, it's not. With a 12 year-old protagonist, this is solid MG territory (and the title sounds MG too).

    The thing is there's nothing WRONG with this. It's just that a story about a kid who gets bullied wouldn't really appeal to me or (probably) to my son.

  3. I like your opening, especially the line about the teddy bear. Just a few little things:

    1. You did a great job of showing Thomas's fear/hatred of Michael and annoyance with Carson, so you might consider getting rid of some of the telling lines, like: "Thomas hated Michael and feared him more." and "Carson annoyed him."
    2. You might consider switching the order of "He froze." and "Michael and his gang circled in front." The way it's written right now, it seemed to me that the response came before the stimulus.

    And, I agree with Selestial that this read more like middle grade than YA.

  4. This is definitely in MG territory, toward the tween end of the spectrum.

    This was okay. Some of the word choices could be improved upon (caressing his hair, leaching blood, rippling muscle) --they simply didn't sound like they were coming from a 12-yo male protagonist.

    I'm with everyone on the dialogue tags, less is more.

    Good luck!

  5. Perhaps remove the third paragraph. If you were hiding from bullies, would you be thinking about what the bully looked like, or how am I going to get out of here, I hope he doesn't find me - stuff like that.

    You might also indicate why Michael is after him, even if it's for no reason at all.

    I agree it seems more MG than YA. I'm not really hooked because I've simply read my share of bully stories. Knowing why he's being bullied could make a difference.

  6. Thanks for posting your work on such a public form. That takes guts.

    I would agree that this runs more MG than YA, particularly with the image of the keys being squeezed like a teddy bear.

    I also thought that spiders "caressing" his hair detracted from the tension of the incident. As does his description of the bully. If you need that, put it in later. We need to stay with Thomas being terrified and hiding from his pursuers.

  7. This sounds like MG.

    Things that take away from the action:

    Spiders don't caress... and as for "dropping on his head" how many spiders are we talking about? Two? A bucketful?

    The description of the bully took away from the action.

    "Runt" and "pipsqueak" sound like very old-fashioned words. Is this historical?

    The "Teddy Bear" sentence is clumsy and makes him sound even younger.

    If you want to publish this in America, don't put kilograms, then we have to start brain-calculations and it is hard to read at the same time.

    I would keep reading to see what happens, but I would be on guard.