Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #12

TITLE: Gwenyth and the Golden Spine
GENRE: MG Fantasy

“Gwenyth Shuster is a pig!” chanted the kids on the school bus. “A smelly, icky, poo-covered pig! Oink! Oink! Oink!” 

Before entering the open bus doors, Gwen rubbed her Star Trek Enterprise key-chain, hoping that Captain Kirk would save the day and beam her aboard his spaceship. But no such luck. Apparently, the transporter was broken, and Gwen remained earthbound. After chewing on her left braid and taking a deep breath, Gwen finally dragged heavy legs up the stairs amidst an increasingly loud chorus of “oinks.” When she got to the top, there sat Soda Pop Seth leering at her from the front seat bench. As usual, Sheila Oracell was by his side, smiling like a malevolent stepsister from some twisted fairytale.

After signaling the other kids to stop oinking, Seth downed the contents of a cola can in one gulp. He then burped so loudly, Gwen was certain the sound waves registered on the earthquake Richter scale. Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, Seth winked at Sheila, who giggled like she was in the presence of Justin Bieber himself.

Lowering her head, Gwen clutched her key chain hard, resulting in an imprint of the Star Ship Enterprise on her palm. “Dad, if you can hear me in heaven, save me from Soda Pop Seth. I am so sorry for the terrible thing I did to you, daddy. Punish me any way you want. I’ll even eat mom’s asparagus and cow’s tongue casserole. Just help me. PLEEEZE!


  1. I loved the second and third paragraphs. I love the idea of the main character as a young trekkie, and some of your lines really cracked me up (burped loud enough to register on the richter scale was one.)

    My only comment is that the first paragraph doesn't sound like kids today. Kids are usually pretty clever in their meanness and I think they would pick something more specific to her (fat, geek, etc...). It would hurt more, and would give the reader more insight to how others view her. The poo-piggy comments just seem too silly.

    The last paragraph feels like a little too much information given to me right away. I think you could be a little subtler with her guilt maybe? Just a thought.

    Other than that, loved it!

  2. Loved this! But to be fair, I'm a trekkie :) I connected right away. My only nit-pick is the restating of some objects, like Star Ship Enterprise. Trust your reader to remember what she was holding. You won't need to restate that entire phrase. Good luck!

  3. I agree that the insult didn't seem like one today's kids would say. Maybe it needs to be more specific to her, like a play on her name?

    I agree that you don't need to repeat what the key chain is. Resulting in an imprint of the starship on her palm or something like that.

    And don't use all caps with the Pleeze!

    I would read on.

  4. I like the hook of the terrible thing she did to her father, and I thought that was the strongest element here. It makes me think that she believes her father is dead because of her, and that's interesting enough to lure me in. I want to know how he died and her part in it.

    But I have to get there first, and I wouldn't have read that far in a store beause the opening is kind of cliche.

    I agree with scribbler about the insults. Seems they'd be much harsher in today's world. I also wondered about the bus driver who is sitting there patiently as she doesn't get on the bus, and then doesn't sit down, and who just listens to everything going on without reacting to it.

    Gwen really doesn't react either. She doesn't think Seth is a jerk, we don't see how the name-calling affects her. Is she crushed by it, mildly irritated, putting up a defiant front?

    Perhaps let us know what Gwen is thinking as she rubs her Star-Trek key chain. (Pleae, Scotty, beam me up and get me away from these idiots.) DOes she look to the bus driver for some help and he turns away? WHat does she feel when she sees Seth leering at her? Perhaps get us a bit more inside her head so it's not just a typical bullying scene.

  5. I enjoyed the Star Trek stuff, too. Very funny!

    I agreed with Swift Scribbler about all she said. The name calling felt too young. And the end was too much info dump at once. I love the information, but it was just too much at once.

    And I would have loved to see how Gwen reacted, too. I didn't understand what was so horrible about Seth burping, or how that fit in with the teasing.

    And cow's tongue casserole? Gross! :)

    Best of luck with this.

  6. The last paragraph did seemed a forced attempt at back story. I did feel bad for Gwen. Her attempt to use a favorite fictional character to get her out of a real-life situation is realistic for that age group.

  7. I liked this a lot and felt connected to the MC right away. With a little tightening this could become a really great story. There were a few things I noticed that need to be cleared up. First, why doesn't the driver do anything? Second, would todays kids know who Captain Kirk is, wouldn't they choose someone from the newer Star Trek episodes (my daughter's (9) favorite is Data)?

  8. I agree with a lot of the comments said here already, and don't have a lot to add. Some specific points/alternate POVs:

    1) As to the Kirk vs. Data argument, I feel like it'd make the MC more interesting if her dad was an original Star Trek freak, and that's why she's hooked on Kirk. It's just another way for even the other geeks to make fun of her.

    2) I would probably leave her guilt at her dad's death until later (it seems too much where it is) or foreground it so that it centers the plot for us.

    3) Alternatively, (though I've suggested differently to other entrants) I feel that you might want to open with some line that indicates the fantasy/conflict to come. Otherwise, as some have said, the situation seems very cliche.

  9. Things I agree with:

    1) Taunt is too juvenile, especially given that Soda Pop Seth (love the name, btw) winks at his gal.

    2) The bus driver, especially in today's bully-conscious culture, would be obligated to say something. Sure, maybe he can't calm them down at first, but something should happen.

    3) I loved the Star Trek references. And I like the new idea (or maybe you have it in there already) about her only loving it because her Dad watched it all the time (exact same thing with me, Trek, and my late mom). I do have doubts about the kids reading the story being able to relate to it, though. I have no idea if they're aware of it.

    4) The italicized confession was too blunt and right out there. Don't tell us he's in heaven--we'll get that because she's talking to him in her head. And the punish me part just felt really odd. I'd go with "Dad, I'm so sorry for the terrible thing I did to you. Just please save me from Soda Pop Seth!"

    I liked the voice though. Nice.

  10. I love the voice here, but I'm not sure of the age. That would help me picture the scene better.

    I'd keep reading.

  11. I have to say I disagree with the comments about the bus driver. I went to school on a bus every day and believe me the bus driver completely ignored any bullying, especially verbal stuff.

    Bus drivers aren't school employees as a general rule, they are employees of the bus company and don't always want to get involved.

    But that's a minor point.

    Here's what I LOVE: the idea that she's a trekkie. Fabulous, fabulous detail and way to create an interesting, sympathetic character. Particularly because she's a girl.

    I like the part at the end where she talks to her dead father.

    What I don't love: the vocabulary seems too advanced for a middle grade and the other characters are too cardboard. Bullying on the bus does seem a little cliche.

    Put her in a different situation, perhaps?

    Would I keep reading? Maybe a little further, but if it didn't start to feel like a more convincing world soon I would stop.