Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #39

TITLE: Frog Burgers
GENRE: MG fiction

He's on me like stink on two-week old garbage. His hot breath prickles the back of my neck. I block with my right, dribble with my left. My eyes dart toward the hoop. I guard the ball and calculate my next move. My best option: keep his lanky body in my sight. With every move I make, his body twitches. He expects me to try for a jump shot. I can fake him out. Sweat rolls down the side of my face. The smell of hot blacktop stings my nostrils. With the back of my arm, I wipe wet brown curls out of my eyes. Easy Zach. Take slow, deep breaths. I bounce the ball in front of me with a controlled motion.

Can't stall any longer. I know I can make the shot, even from this far off to the left. I'm that confident. A fake right drive and then I dodge left. Not expecting my speed, he lunges in the wrong direction. I slip from under his guard and sprint toward the net. His team mates charge. I release the ball before the four of them collide.

My friend, Junior sucks in a breath and holds it. We all watch as the ball glides through the air. Thud! It hits the backboard, drops to the hoop and rolls around the rim three times. Plunk! It falls in. Junior exhales and the rest of my team exchanges a series of high-fives and chest-bumps. Only two more baskets and we win.


  1. The first line had me thinking something totally different! Love it! The only thing I thought felt off, was the mention of "brown curls". It's a moment of action, and the boy wouldn't be thinking about what color or texture his hair is. He would just wipe hair out of his eyes.

    I liked that he said "Easy Zack" to himself, because up until that, I was picturing a girl. No reason why, that's just what I pictured.

    Also, I'm not sure if "My friend, Junior" is working. Maybe just "Junior" and then after the action we find he's a friend to the narrator?

    Overall, I'm hooked. I like the writing, the voice, the narrator is already someone I care about and I want him to score. And great action!

  2. I thought it was a girl after the curls comment. I'd delete that.

    I like all the build-up, and the tension is good, but I was sure this was going to be the final shot of the game, and was hoping the spiraling ball was going to tilt into the net - but then I was disappointed to find they still weren't finished. Maybe that comes soon after these 250 words.

    I enjoyed this.

  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.

    Like: The title. Also the first line, though I wasn't expecting it to lead to a basketball game.

    Wonders: If you should shorten the basketball moves. I want to know more about the opponent (and why Zach hates his guts/wants to beat him/used to be his best friend or whatever the real conflict is) than about technique. that would also give me an idea what the stakes really are.

    Also; "my friend, Junior" sounds clunky. Try to find a way to suggest Junior is Zach's friend without naming it.

  4. Sorta hooked. I can see where this writing would appeal to boys, but if you're going for MG girls as well, some more inner dialogue (or more about the other characters) could be helpful. Right now, it reads more as a play-by-play, which is difficult to get into when I don't know anything about your characters. Who should I be rooting for? I'm not convinced it's this Zack guy, b/c I don't know anything about him.

    Also, there are a couple of typos in the 2nd paragraph. "A fake right and then I dodge left" should be either "a" in both spots or "I" in both. "Team mates" should be "teammates."

    Good luck!

  5. I'm not sure...

    I don't play basketball, so my eyes kind of glazed over about halfway through the first paragraph. But then, since I'm not a sports person, maybe the problem is me. It might be just fine for the target audience.

    To draw a non-player like me in, I'd need some dialogue to break up the action. Some sense of the conflict between the characters, so that by the end of it I know as much about who they are as I do about who scored the basket.

    Love the title!

  6. Love the opening lines and really loved when I realized he wasn't being chased but was playing basketball. Great kid voice. I'm hooked.

    Good tension. I'd be interested to read on and find out what's really going on with this kid.

  7. Well, you certainly started with an action scene. One that boys will relate to.

    So by the end of page one, we know the MC, Zach, is a basketball whiz and his team is down by two games. I guess.

    Do people really think this clearly while playing basketball?

    Good writing. Keep it up.

  8. The voice here is great for MG. I liked this and would read on.

    (In the first sentence of the third paragraph, you either have one too many commas or one too few. Make it either "My friend, Junior, sucks in a breath and holds it" or "My friend Junior sucks in a breath and holds it." I, personally, favor the latter, since it's just a first name.)

  9. I like the first sentence. You did a nice job of showing us it was a basketball game instead of telling us. I'm impressed with your sentence about the smell of hot blacktop- describing smell is something many writers neglect to do. It's hard to tell where this story is going based on the first 250 words, but I am interested enough to keep reading if I was able.

  10. There's something about this shot taking three paragraphs. We all know how quick basketball is. It's not slow like baseball, where you might notice all this stuff.

    I'm wondering, if you are going to describe it in detail, perhaps find a way to show it happening in slow motion? Or perhaps use shorter, zippier senetnces to make it seem like it's happening real fast?

    On the other hand, it might be fine as it is. It shows the shot, and the last paragraph does have that lingering feeling. I'm waiting and wondering to see if the ball will go in.

    It didn't bother me that it wasn't the winning shot. Throwing the winning shot is kind of cliche, and knowing the game isn't over keeps the tension up. You might mention a time though, that indicates the game is almost over. If they're three points behind and have another twenty minutes to play, then it's not so exciting.

  11. I tend to skim or skip sport scenes, chase scenes and fight scenes. I don't care about them and they inevitably leave me confused.

    So my advice to writers would be to skip them, too, unless they are more about revealing the character and forwarding the plot than the minutia of the game.

    Maybe thin out some of these paragraphs, pick up the pace, have them trash talk with a bit of snappy dialogue and then SWOOSH, rather than the play by play of the sweat, breathing, etc.