Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #ALT-4

GENRE: Middle Grade

The last day of school arrived on what should have been the perfect summer day. You remember that kind of day, don’t you? When the sun rises in a spectacle of hot pink and day-glow orange and floats in a pale blue sky, with wispy, ribbon-candy clouds; the sweet tanginess of dew-covered grass tickles your nose, and you have the whole, perfect day to explore the world.

Well, today is not that day. Nope. Not even close. Not if you’re Jack Wilkes.

It was bad enough having History as the last class of day, on the last day of school, at the beginning of summer, but to make matters even worse, this was a summer Jack had been dreaming of, and now, dreading it at the same time.

Doc Walsh was late for class – again –so Jack, Tyler and Matt, in their usual back-of-the-room huddle, had time to discuss Jack’s dilemma – the Fresh Air Kid.

“Mom says he’s twelve, same as me, and that he needs to stay with us,” Jack explained. “Says he’s from a broken family and could really use a friend – whatever that means. Oh yeah – his name is Calvin.”

“Wow! That sucks! You have to share your room with a complete stranger . . . all summer?” Tyler snorted. “Sticking a city kid in Vermont for the summer is like throwing a river trout into Archer’s Pond! HA!” Tyler roared, winking at a small pod of girls in the front. They blushed and giggled.


  1. I like the writing here (nice imagery) but there's something about the POV that seems "wonky" to me. The reader is addressed directly in the first paragraph ("...don't you?"), but the following paragraphs give the impression of 3rd person POV.

    Otherwise, I like it and would read on!

  2. I agree that the writing is vivid and well done in the first paragraph, but I think you should cut everything but the first line and then move right to second paragraph. You could add something about last days being goof-off days or something more consistent with the voice of Jack.

    You get right to the heart of the conflict, and that's good. It sounds like Jack's about to have a very interesting summer! Great premise.

  3. I really liked the voice. I think there was perhaps too much description right at the get go and I would have much rather been thrown into the scene with his friends as they discused the dilema at hand.

  4. The first paragraph sounds like first person to me. Then all of sudden we are in third person. I personally like the first person feel of the opening paragraph better.

  5. I agree with Query Girl, there was a lot of description to start out with...I think that would be great in a book for an older audience, but for MG, I think it's too much. I thought that the "It was bad enough having History..." line was too redundant and could be trimmed down a bit. Overall, I think you have a good concept. I would give it a chance.
    Good luck!

  6. Not hooked. The strange PoV shiftyness caught me off balance from the start, and I'm not sure a 12-year-old boy would have such a beautifully poetic descriptive talent. Also, the lack of "said" is driving me a little crazy "explained" "snorted" "roared" (actually, it was really just the "roared" that knocked me out of the narrative. Did he really roar at them or was the writer trying to say he was loud? Do 12-year-old girls these days blush and giggle at boys? I remember thinking they were pretty icky through junior high, though that might have changed in today's schools.

    The description at the front was very pretty, but I'm having a hard time connecting it to the person I assume to be the narrator - the 12-year-old. Though if I imagine those first two paragraphs being read by an adult voice over (movie-style) it works better.

  7. I really enjoyed the voice, and it looks like you have a fun premise here. I do agree, though, that the description seemed a tad overdone for your MC. Also, I was a little overwhelmed with all the names introduced in one sentence. I wonder if there's a way to feed us some of that info more naturally?

    Good luck to you! :)

  8. I have to agree with what others have said with regards to the pov, the direct address in the first paragraph etc. I think you handle the interaction between the boys ok, but I want a little more with regards to what's going to be the inciting incident/main conflict for this piece.

  9. The shift from talking to the reader to Jack's POV was a little jarring for me. I also thought the line, "You remember that kind of day, don't you?" seemed aimed at an adult audience looking back on their childhood rather than someone currently going through it.

    It sounds like a good story but I think the beginning would be stronger if you started at the third paragraph.

  10. The first paragraph sounds as if it's written by an adult, female, looking back at life - but the rest of it is from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old boy. It's jolting. And the Says he's from a broken family and could really use a friend dialogue, even though he's ostensibly quoting his mother, doesn't ring true to me as something a kid would tell his friends (or that a wise mother would tell her 12-year-old, for that matter).

    It may be more intriguing to start with the arrival of Calvin ...

  11. I'm not hooked, there was too much telling instead of showing going on. To much wordiness.

    I think you have a good story to tell, but this first page isn't doing it justice.

    Good luck with SA!

  12. I really loved the voice and I was brought right into this characters world. The description didn't bother me. I think it was the shift of POV- from a chatty narator to 3rd person- which could be an easy fix.

  13. I like the premise, but agree with the other comments. I think it needs some polishing. I actually like that the girls' blush and giggle - it says a lot about Tyler - my impression is that he's probably the 6th grade crush - if that's your intention.

  14. I didn't care for the boys' dialogue. It didn't feel natural to me. I'm also not sure why we're starting in school. If you want to show how different Vermont is from "the city", why not have the boys fishing or climbing trees? They're cramming too much exposition into their dialogue that would work better either in Jack's thoughts or as answers to questions his friends ask him. But I guess I'd have to see more to understand the rationale of the first scene being a school scene.

  15. I think the set-up of the last day of school and what would usually be discussions of summer plans centering around a possible kink is a good one. I like the voice here, too.

    But I think the first paragraph slows you down considerably. Since your story is probably NOT about the last day of school - of course I could be wrong - or the weather - why not get past that and begin with the real conflict.

    good luck with this.

  16. Remember the joke about "A dark and stormy night?" Yep, pretty much rings true for any weather opening. As said, you have a good story line. I have 2 sons, 3 nephews, and one niece. Girls do blush and giggle. Boys do say "That sucks" (A LOT). I would recommend thinking more like a 12-year-old even during the narrative, if that's your target audience. Possibly even skip the first three paragraphs and go right to the dialogue.

  17. "It was bad enough having History as the last class of day, on the last day of school, at the beginning of summer, but to make matters even worse, this was a summer Jack had been dreaming of, and now, dreading it at the same time.", this could be just my opinion but that sentence is a bit too long. It's so long it actually gives the apearence of being overly convulated.

    "Tyler roared, winking at a small pod of girls in the front. They blushed and giggled.", hmmmmmmm i've never seen something like that actually happen. Maybe blush and smile. It depends what age they are. Again this is just my opinion.

    Nice. i liked the start, how it was highlighting what would be a perfect summers day. Then the it's not partXD
    What the other commenters said. Viewpoint.
    Btw this is my first time doing this so if i'm not meant to mention sentence structure and stuff, sorry

  18. You have an interesting idea, but you didn't pull me in. Perhaps start with the conversation, and try to make it more natural. How they speak works, I think. But what they say, doesn't. It came across as the writer trying to get info out, rather than as conversation. I think overall, it probably needs another revision or two.

  19. The POV sounds like it flip-flopped from first to third. I'm not a fan of bringing the reader into the story by asking them questions (i.e. "You remember that day right?") because what if the reader DOESN'T know what you're talking about? In my case I'm from somewhere where the weather is HORRIBLE in the summer. There's no way I know what a 'perfect summer day' is like. So I wouldn't relate. I rather you show the reader.

    I'm also a little confused why the MC would call it a 'pod' of girls...