Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #26

TITLE: Bursting the Bubble

Beetle studied her face in the brown glass bottle, curved and distorted, her dark eyes stretched wide. The bottle caught the light from a fluorescent above and glinted in the reflection of one eye. She hesitated. She didn't like herself when she was in this sort of mood, but to pull out now after days of preparation? She tipped the bottle and smiled at the satisfying wuff sound of chemical igniting chemical. Heat rippled as the invisible flames raced down the purple road. A
small dog burst into flames, danced and collapsed, as the flames cavorted over square yellow lawns and up to perfect white houses. Beetle replaced the lid on the bottle of acetone and slipped it back under the lab bench.

It had taken days to make the model town. It wasn't easy to make a model of something shed only ever seen on screen or in books. That had been her excuse to make the roads from potassium permanganate and lawns from potassium dichromate. Purple and yellow, a psychedelic town. The crystals contrasted brightly but were equally flammable. Would Dr Rice would believe shed been trying to make a pond with the acetone? Probably not, given Beetles track record for sabotaging lessons.

The invisible flames engulfed a paper pedestrian. Beetle imitated its tiny screams as it writhed and twisted before it turned black and drifted away to the floor. Little cardboard houses popped into bright orange flames, one after the other down the street.


  1. Hi!

    My only suggestion here is to maybe bring in more of the MC's thoughts, to get into their head more. I liked the rest and the insight into her character, though.

  2. This is intriguing - in a creepy, mad-scientist sort of way. I'd read on for a bit.

  3. Thanks for sharing your work in such a public forum. That takes guts.

    My comments are just a quick impression, as if I were browsing in a bookstore.

    Beetle is a scary character, and I'd like to know how she got that way. Your visual images are good "little cardboard houses popping into bright orange flames..."

    I would read on, with a little trepidation, to see what Beetle was about.

    Caveat: a couple of apostrophe's missing: shed instead of she'd; and "Would Dr. Rice would.." With an agent's eyes on this, I would be very careful in my proofreading before sending out.

  4. I really like this. Beetle is kind of cool in an anti-hero kind of way. That said, I wonder how MG this is??? It feels a bit like YA. The voice may even out as the story goes on, it's tough to make a call like that after only one page. I would keep reading, though. Good work!

  5. As the mother of a mad scientist whose career goal is world domination, I have to love the premise. There is definitely an audience for this!!! Unfortunately... Because Beetle is creepy.

    The small dog bursting into flames really bothered me, especially because it isn't clear at first that it isn't a live dog. I know you want the shock effect, but it may also be a turn-off if you're not careful. It would work better if there was something likeable about Beetle to balance out the creepiness.

    Watch those typos. Shed for she'd was really confusing.

  6. I loved this and agree it's creepy. Kids so love creepy.

    At first I thought Beetle was actually a beetle, then realised it must be a nickname. I also thought the dog was real, and that really gave me the heeby geebies, but that might be what you were aiming for.

    Maybe add a giggle if that's how the child feels or a frown if the child’s angry. Try to give an idea how old the child is through thoughts.

    I would definitely read on. It had me intrigued and has a great hook.

  7. This hooked me in straight away. I was instantly intrigued with Beetle’s character and wanted to know about the paper town and what it represented.

    I thought the images were great and I loved the ‘wuff’ sound of the chemicals igniting.

    A couple of people commented on missing apostrophes, but I was wondering if they were in the original and the computer program got rid of them during the posting process. I have seen that happen before.

    The only suggestion I would make is that even if this is going to be a creepy kind of story, you still want the reader to engage with your main character, so you will need to establish a reason for the reader to feel sympathy for her.

    A great start. I would love to know what happens next and I want to know so much more about Beetle.

  8. Beetle seems to lean a bit to the dark side. I loved it! I especially liked the first paragraph where you make us think she's setting a real town on fire and then it turns out to be a paper one. I got this strong sense of horror, and then a sigh of relief as I realise what's really happening.

    I loved the line about her sabotaging lessons. It says a lot about her and how she's perceived by Dr. Rice.

    It did seem more YA than MG, and I wondered why a Dr. was teaching in an elementary school, rather than a college or university.

    On the down side, the writing could be stronger. As someone else suggested, get us more into her head. Maybe add an internal thought or two. Break up your paragraphs to make it more pleasing to the eye.

    All in all, hooked.

  9. Eww, a girl who likes to destroy things. Not my kind of MC that I want to follow around.


  10. I am definitely curious. And thank god for somebody writing sophisticated Middle Grade - so much of what little MG I get in slush skews babyish.

    I would definitely keep reading.

  11. I'd definitely want to read more. Great twist in the first paragraph...totally disagree with those who say it's YA. I think this is the sort of thing kids are going to keep reading. But not all kids. To be honest, I struggle finding a book for my eldest daughter. I grew up on sci fi and action books and she likes really girly stories. Go figure. I'd read this, she wouldn't...but my youngest daughter now that's a different kettle of fish. Nice to see a bit of science too.

    I really want to find out what/who Beetle is. That last paragraph is creepy, yes but in a way that makes me want to read more.