Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Secret Agent #50

TITLE: A Wedgie With Words
GENRE: Middle-Grade

There was a rumor floating around Green Tree Elementary that Mr. Needleman made kids who were late to class copy pages from the dictionary for the entire school day. Tony Spumoni knew it probably wasn’t true, but that didn’t stop him from daydreaming about what it’d be like if it were.

As he walked the hallways of Green Tree, he imagined all of the new words he could learn if he showed up late. Tony couldn’t think of a better punishment than sitting with a good dictionary and drowning in words. He’d had a way with words ever since he was a toddler crawling around in his Pampers.
Unfortunately, Tony wanted to be a good student so he didn’t dare be tardy to class on only the second week of school. Still lost in his daydream, Tony felt a jarring thud.

“Watch where you’re going, Tony Rigatoni!” shouted Frank as he bumped Tony’s shoulder.

“Oh, sorry, Frank. I guess I was in my own little world,” answered Tony.

“Yeah, well maybe you should go to that little world of yours and leave Green Tree for good!” said Frank, and he bumped Tony one more time for good measure.

Tony thought of a clever comeback that would embarrass Frank, but kept it to himself because he happened to like the current arrangement of his facial features. Instead, he hung his head and walked past Frank, trying to ignore the snickering from a group of kids who had witnessed the ordeal.


  1. Adorable, especially the title! The line about having a way with words since Papers, however, I'd love to see an example of this. Also, what was the comeback he came up with for Frank. Don't tease us! ;)

  2. Love the title. Love that the character thinks copying words fromt the dictionary would be fun. Tony is interesting. There were some parts where I'd rather see than be told what was happening.

    For instance: "Still lost in his daydream, Tony felt a jarring thud." Show us the thud and interruption of his thoughts. This would make the impact stronger.

    or: "Tony thought of a clever comeback that would embarrass Frank" Don't tell us it's clever, have Tony think the words but restrain from saying them. Show us the wit, the restraint, following up with the comment about liking his facial arrangment.

    Two other things: I'm not sure Tony should use Frank's name in his dialogue. I think it would be stronger without. Also, not sure about middle-grade use of the word "ordeal."

    Nicely done. I'd read more.

  3. Love the title and the MC seems interesting. I agree with the other posters about telling us the clever comeback. From what we've seen of Tony, I imagine it was quite good!

  4. I love the voice and the opening lines. I agree with the other suggestions; I don't read much middle grade but I really like the voice here and wanted to comment to let you know. Good luck with writing!

  5. I also think this is adorable. It's a great opening, getting us into action and giving us the character's background all at once. I do concur with the "still lost in his daydream" sentence--that was the only spot I could quarrel with.

  6. Talk about a love for words. Tony sounds like an interesting kid!

  7. It's a nice start. It flows well, and I have a great sense of Tony though I find his name - Tony Spumoni - a bit much.

    I agree with the usage of Frank's name. Because Tony calls him by name, I get the sense that they're friends, when in reality, it seems like Frank's more of a bully.

    I'd definitey read on. Good luck!

  8. I love the voice and I'm definitely interested in the MC.

    You've let us know something about the power structure among the students at Green Tree Elementary
    but I would like a description of Frank to make him seem more menacing.

    What was the clever comeback?

    Ordeal seemed a little strong- confrontation maybe

  9. Seems interesting!

    However, in the last couple of paragraphs Frank and Tony's names were repeated too much. Try using a pronoun or some other descriptive words for them.

  10. Love the name Tony Spumoni! It made me lol!!! So cute! Great writing too. I agree about Frank and Tony's names being repeated too much, and I also think it would be great for him to think of the comeback, just not say it. Other than that, nice work! :D

  11. Loved everything about this except for the kid saying he was in his own little world. Seemed a little too old-fashioned (as opposed to "mature" which I sense this kid is) for today's youth.

    Otherwise, great voice, and a solid opening scene.

  12. This is absolutely awesom! Great work!

  13. A cute idea...but I have some suggestions.

    Maybe change most of the weak/passive was and were verbs to stronger, more active ones? For example, Sammy Jacobs told Isabelle Thomas, who told me, that...or just A rumor floated around...

    Although it's cute, I don't know any kids who would love to copy words out of a dictionary for hours.

    Some of the statements sound like adult words from the last century, e.g., I was in my own little world. I just don't think a MG boy would say something like that.

    Except for the dialogue, the rest of the excerpt is telling, which could be showing for a stronger effect.

    Good luck with your revisions.

  14. I love the title:).

    I'm not sure about some of the word choices. The voice seems too adult for middle grade. I agree with Carolyn also, try stronger verbs.

    Good luck with the revisions and you deserve cudos for posting your work.

  15. Love the conflict in the beginning. Aside from the comments listed above, I don't have anything to add. I would continue to read this one!

  16. Love this, and happen to disagree with the comment above regarding Tony's love for words and dictionaries. It's obviously an adorable character trait that sets him apart from the other kids. I loved your characterization!

  17. I like the voice and the premise. The only thing ii would consider changing is, as others have said, the verb. For instance the first sentence :

    The was a rumor floating around Green Tree Elementary.

    Maybe something like,

    Rumor has it or According to a rumor floating around school

    According to rumor, Mr Needleman made late students spend the day copying the dictionary word for word.

    I thinkit needs to be pared down and piece that first line of info. out.

    Good luck and tank you for sharing.

  18. I loved it.

    The first sentence has that dreaded "was" in it - why not consider:

    A rumor floated around Green Tree

    The voice is wonderful - I'd read on.

    Good luck and thanks for braving the comments.


  19. Let me preface this by saying that I don't read a lot of middle grade. But...the voice didn't strike me as middle grade. I get that he's probably advanced for his age, but, based on the words on the page, I pictured someone older--like thirty year old librarian older.
    Also,the repetition of the names was a bit jarring. I only know one person who constantly says the name of the person he's talking to and, trust me, it's annoying.
    I like the premise but I'm not quite hooked yet.

  20. I wasn't sure about the names Tony and Frank. Does this take place today? Maybe use one name or the other, because they are both very traditional (I don't even know anyone named Frank, or at least no one that isn't someone's grandpa). I thought it was funny though.

  21. I thought I'd posted before, but it got lost.
    I like this, especially the reading the dictionary part - I used to do that.
    I did feel that this didn't sound like MG. I understand that the MC will have a better vocabulary than most kids his age, but you are writing to "most kids" not just the odd dictionary reading ones!
    I'd certainly read on, but not sure about a 10yo!

  22. @Carolyn I was a middle grade child who read the dictionary and the encyclopedia just for fun, so no, we do exist. Or at least we did. I find Tony quite believable--and identifiable.

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  24. This is darn good writing right here. DARN GOOD!

    Not many people "get" the Middle Grade voice, but you did.

    My only gripe is that Tony seems like a wuss, and I know for a fact that most 6-12 yr old boys don't like weak characters. You'll hit and miss with Tony IMHO. Redeem the MC by letting him say what he wanted to say to Frank, at least we'll see early on he has balls!

    But this is a minor complaint compared to your amazing piece of work. WELL DONE!

  25. You had me in the beginning; I loved the surprise of Tony daydreaming about copying the dictionary. But Tony’s exchange with Frank didn’t stand out. Wouldn’t he be smart enough to insult Frank without Frank knowing it?

    I'd also love to see more details about Tony worked in. Rather than telling us he had a way with words when he was a toddler, show us an example that gives us a window into his personality.

    Overall you have a strong voice here and a good character.