Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #35

GENRE: Middle Grade

The night my life changed I was eating leftovers and finishing my homework, just like any other night. Scratch that. The night my life changed sounds too dramatic, like something from one of the soap operas Grandma always watches. And come to think of it, that very night Grandma
was watching soap operas. But her eyes kept darting to the door, like she knew what was about to happen.

You always knew when someone was about to enter our house because they had to undo about five locks. I didn't understand why we put so many locks on our door. What was anyone going to steal from us? Mom said it was because the neighborhood was bad, which was true, but c'mon. Was someone really going to steal Grandma and make her their grandma? I sure didn't think so.

This particular night, I didn't hear Mom fumbling to find her keys, and then the locks being opened, one by one. Instead, I heard the sound of a loud engine. On my street, you sometimes heard the spluttering of an engine and you usually heard honking and cussing, but you never heard a healthy engine. Healthy engines didn't live on Walnut Street.

I turned my head to peer out the window, but Grandma smacked me on the leg. "Don't be nosy, boy!" Her eyes scanned the room, and she quickly muttered, "How's the homework?"

"I already told you. I finished everything." I craned my neck, trying to sneak a peek.


  1. Love the fact that he noticed the sound of the engine. Love the 'healthy engines didn't live on Walnut street.' Maybe it's just my car obsession, but that drew me right in. I really like the voice too. Spot on. Great job.

  2. 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.

    There is a good voice here, with some comic touches (like the stuff about the cars and the grandma watching soap operas.)

    I would read on to see what changed his life--but not so soap-operatically!

  3. I kept waiting for the MC to get to the point. The locks thing went on a little long for me.

    And maybe it was just me, but I was surprised when the MC turned out to be a boy. Caught me totally off guard.

    I did like the engine bit. It gave a good sense of what kind of neighborhood he was in without having to say anything else.

    Good luck!

  4. I agree with Janet, I thought the MC was a girl. The voice is very chatty and that seems more girl-like than boy. Then again, I only know sullen teenage boys. :-)

    Good voice, but some concepts were a little too overdone--locks for one. Really liked the grandma stealing bit.

    Overall, hooked. I'd read on to see how things progressed.

    Good luck!

  5. Yeah, I also wanted him to get to the point. I like a lot of the lines about the neighborhood, but they could be woven into more action.

    Maybe if it started with the sound of the engine, Grandma smacking his leg--build the mystery--and then weave back in some of the thoughts about the neighborhood, but not so many back-to-back. When it takes so long to get around to what is outside the door, it takes away the sense of danger. Obviously, his life wasn't totally messed up, because he has all the time in the world to tell us about it...

  6. Like the comments above, I really enjoyed how we were given a sense of the neighborhood through the car noise commentary.

    I did start to get a little bogged down with all of the lock business, but then again a preteen boy would tend to overanalyze the situation--only if there wasn't a sense of immediate danger. From this snippet I can't tell if there is impending danger or not.

    Also, I wasn't quite as surprised that the MC was a boy (granted, it might be because I'm trying to put myself in his shoes.)

    Overall, I'd say I'm hooked. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I liked this, except for the first line. It probably wouldn't matter to the average reader, but after going through a lot of beginnings in this competition, the whole 'night/day/event that changed/ruined my life' seems to be quite common. But then, as I said, it probably doesn't matter unless you've read a bunch of beginnings at once :-) But I really liked the rest of it.

  8. I'd suggest starting with him hearing the engine, because that's the thing that's different about that day. Everything that comes before is isn't really needed. First, it's the day his life changed, then, not really, and you can tell us Grammy is watching soap operas when he tries to look out the window.

    Concentrate on what is happening in the story, rather than explaining things to the reader.

  9. This must be the third entry that starts with "the day my life changed" or a version of it. Jeez!

    It might've been funny if Grandma smacked him for peeking, then she, herself, peeks through the window.

    I got too much background and not enough of what's going on.

    But good writing. Keep at it.

  10. I think there is quite a bit of background and describing the locks was a little drawn out, but I like the voice so much I found myself wanting to read on. It's well written. Might be a little chatty for a boy, but I liked it. Especially the line about stealing grandma, and the healthy engine. Very nice.

  11. Sort of long but the writing is nice, this is a really good voice. I loved the Stealing Grandma and Healthy Engines. I am, as they say, "hooked."

    If I were your agent I might suggest cut this whole bit in half and get to the freakin thing that is going to change his life, already... but at least I was interested enough to continue to read the first time.