Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #10

TITLE: White Lies and Friendship Ties
GENRE: Middle Grade Contemporary

Connor Monroe tore through the park with his lungs on fire. He could make it to the lake in twelve, maybe thirteen minutes tops-if he ignored the cramp in his side. It screamed for him to slow down. Instead, he picked up the pace. He had to find out if the envelope was still there, or if it was gone too-like his dad.

As sunlight broke through the cloudy, September morning, he crossed the rickety footbridge, and stopped at the second wooden bench on the left-the one with the missing seat. Underneath it, he found the clump of rocks and tipped back the biggest one. Potato bugs scurried for cover. He brushed the stragglers away and picked up the envelope, wrapped in plastic-lying right where his dad said it would be.

He ripped it open and pulled out a piece of paper. "Pence Whitmore" was written in block letters, with a phone number scribbled beside it. Who the heck is Pence Whitmore?

Connor clutched the envelope, and sprinted back up the trail. There wasn't much time to get home before Caitlin rang the doorbell, all anxious for junior high. He tried to roll the highlight film from summer vacation. There was no highlight for him-unless you consider going to the cemetery a highlight. That day, Connor went numb as the terrible, brown box was lowered to the ground-with his dad inside. His mom crumbled to pieces and he knew. Team Monroe was gone.


  1. I love the title to this, would really grab my attention.
    I might of say break it up a little bit more, perhaps that would give it a clearer pace.
    Although overall I think the character was really strong, and a great scene has been set.

  2. I love the imagery and little details like this: Potato bugs scurried for cover. He brushed the stragglers away, etc. Love the urgency, love the mystery, love the last sentence. It's sad, but good job :)

  3. I thought this was an interesting opening. You get right into things and I'm wondering what's in that letter and where has dad gone, and why.

    I did think you could slow it down a bit to create some suspense. For instance, let him run over the bridge, but show us it's rickety instead of saying it is. Let it rock and squeak, and maybe spend more time on the pile of rocks. Build the description a bit more and show him moving the rocks and digging up the letter instead of letting him have it instantaneously. The same with opening it. Let him hesitate, have a thought or two, and after he reads it, maybe let him reflect a bit more on who Pence WHitmore might be. As is, it just happens really fast and there's no time to absorb it.

    You might also cut the second sentence. 12-15 minutes is a long time to run, and you don't show any passage of time. He gets there immediately, so maybe just cut that line.

    The last parg felt kind of clunky to me. Rolling the highlight film didn't work for me. Pehaps get to Dad's death some other way?

    I'd read more.

  4. I really liked this, too. And I loved the line "or if it was gone, too--like his dad." It said a lot in few words.

    I felt like the last paragraph was too much info all at once. After the running, I wanted him to slow down and contemplate for a minute. I really liked Barbara's suggestions above.

    But I'm definitely hooked. I'd love to read on.

  5. I am intrigued. The premise is interesting, and original.

    I agree with the others about building suspense as he runs, and showing more than telling. Use the five senses here. Also, how does he feel as he gets to the spot, and as he's opening the envelope? Be inside his head there, as well as after.

    One other thing, I would omit the phrase,"-like his dad." Just saying "if it was gone too" leaves us with a question. You can build on the theme of things being gone later. Finally, the last paragraph seems like too much backstory for that part of the story.

  6. I liked the first part. The descriptions were all well done. But the last part seems rushed and did confuse me.

  7. Hooked but I think it'll need some more work to polish it. Barbara's suggestions are spot on imho.

  8. I agree with a lot of the comments already said: I'm intrigued by the situation and the mystery inherent in it; the "highlight reel" seems too out of place an image; and I think cutting "like his dad" will make the opening stronger.

    In addition, I think you're using dashes way too much. Yes, they can be effective at creating tension, but in 250 words you've used five of them. The effectiveness is dulled because the trick becomes expected.

    All of that said, I'd read on.

  9. Loved it. I'm torn about the "--like his dad" line. It creates a story question for me... is his dad missing, did he leave, is he dead? Just talking about the envelop doesn't give me that. If you mentioned the dad in the same sentence, "He had to find out if Dad's envelope was still there, or if it was gone, too," I might get the connection again.

    Is there more in the envelop? If not then, "... a single sheet of paper..."

    You might even consider showing us the paper. "A single sheet of paper:


    Who the heck is Pence Whitmore?"

    The last paragraph completely lost me. Don't introduce Caitlin until you actually introduce Caitlin. I realize you're trying to work the friend, junior high starting, summer vacation ending, the funeral, his mom, etc. into the story here, but it's too much too soon. Aside from that, it's info dump on back story.

    He has to get home. Start there. Then bring in Caitlin when she actually matters. She can say something about summer vacation, and he can roll the highlight film and realize there's nothing on it but the terrible, brown box being lowered into the ground. (cut "with his dad inside"... your readers will remember Dad is missing). Show his mom still breaking down and have it remind him that Team Monroe is gone.

    Good job. I found this intriguing.

  10. The title is *almost* great. What about WHITE LIES AND FAMILY TIES? It scans better.

    I don't know about this one. I should love it, but I don't. I like the mysterious note but maybe you give away too much about his dad all at once? Maybe it's enough to know that he's not in the picture and wait until later to tell us he's dead. And why would he start running a highlight reel in his head--that part doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    I might keep reading because I like the hidden note and mysterious clue but I wouldn't go much further if this didn't start to grab me better.

  11. I think this is both well written and intriguing, but spoiled a bit because you try to cram too much in there. I'd suggest slowing down and introducing us to the MC, his dad, the envelope's significance etc etc in a more measured manner. There's definitely a good hook in there, but it gets lost a bit in the rush to tell us everything straight away.