Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #23

GENRE: MG, coming-of-age

San Angelo, Texas, 1952

Today, me and Raymond were going to ride the dam. I’d been waiting for this day for three solid years. This wasn’t just any dam, but the biggest dam in the world. If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

We both owned bicycles, but I decided early on that it was a lot of work to pedal around looking for adventure, so I convinced Raymond to let me ride on his handlebars while he did the pedaling. I told him riding this way allowed for easier conversation. This arrangement came with some risks. Kids were known to get their toes cut off in the spokes of a bike riding like this, so I learned to wrap my toes around the front axle like an eagle wrapped his talons around a branch during a windstorm and hold on for dear life.

It took us thirty minutes to get to the far end of the dam and there, we began our slow ride to the highest point. It was straight uphill and Raymond was pedaling, almost standing straight up. This was going to be harder than we thought.

Raymond was trying to catch his breath and in rhythm with each down pedal, asked, “Why. Am I. The one. Always. Doing. The pedaling?”

I said, “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes. Just because we ain’t never seen any doesn’t mean we won’t!”

Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes.


  1. I really like this! My only hesitation is, riding on the handlebars of a bike is seriously uncomfortable, terrifying, and a lot more work than riding your own bike, especially for any distance. It's also difficult to see around the person on the bars and to pedal that extra weight, so it doesn't ring true for me that the MC wouldn't ride their own bike.

  2. This was a lot of fun. I loved the last sentences best, and I actually like the visual of the MC on the handlebars. I do think you could somehow indicate the gender of the MC. I pictured a girl riding with a boy, but I wasn't sure. Also, does the dam have a name? I think it might be stronger if it did. Like, "This wasn't just any dam; it was the ______." Even if it's not technically the biggest and the MC is exaggerating/has just built it up in his/her head as the biggest, I still think a name might give it something. Love the description likening the MC to an eagle and the toes wrapped around the axel. The ending was where it really took off for me. Sounds like an interesting read!
    Ninja Girl

  3. Engaging voice, but the writing could be tighter. For instance: "This wasn’t just any dam. It was in Texas, so it had to be the biggest dam in the world."

    I also like the eagle simile. I can believe that Raymond would pedal the narrator around if it's a girl (although I was picturing a boy), given his fear of rattlesnakes.

    I don't think you need to say, "Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes," because it's already been shown. But since Ninja Girl liked that sentence, I don't think it does any harm to leave it in.

  4. I agree, I'm not sure why they would ride around the whole dam with one kid on the other's handlebars, instead of both riding their own bikes. Unless the one pedaling is a lot bigger than the other, it seems like he would just get tired and give out!

    Also, if you want your first sentence to be grammatically correct, it's "Raymond and I" not "me and Raymond". I know that's how I talked at your characters' age (and how many times my dad corrected me on it LOL). I'm not familiar enough with MG to know if you're supposed to use proper grammar or more how a child that age might speak.

    Good luck!

  5. I liked how you conveyed the rhythm of the speech while Raymond was pedalling. That's not easy but by breaking it up the way you did with periods it actually was quite effective. The voice to me is borderline at this point - wavering between almost authentic and trying too hard. I think the problem is with the set up - boy or girl (and it's a weakness that we don't know which yet) it is unbelievable that Raymond would ride him/her around all the time on his handlebars - expecially not based on "conversation" - MG boys are not known for their high valuation of this and girl, boy or not - MG boys are also not known for their chivalry so I think you need to rethink that whole set-up. Also, a dam is basically a sheer wall so it is again unrealistic that they coudl.would even attempt to pedal to the top of best they would get 5 feet. All that took me out of the story.

  6. I'd read more of this after finding out the answers to two questions (both of which could probably be answered in a query letter): First, why is the book set in 1952 and second, what is the age and sex of the main character? I rather like the way the MC is manipulative, and the breathless anticipation of seeing the big dam.

  7. I loved seeing all the curiosity.

    The MC is indeed a boy. And it is set in 1952 because I am basing this novel on the stories my father told me about growing up in San Angelo.

    And he REALLY did ride on Raymond's handlebars (all around town) and down the dam. :)

  8. I like this. Seems like I've seen this before though, and for some reason the MC came off as more manipulative in that version, which I liked.

    This was pretty well written, but for me, it had trouble getting into the real scene. I think you can work a lot of that backstory/setup into the action (for example, describe the way Allen wraps his toes like an eagle while they're actually riding on the dam.)

  9. I'm curious about the agent's comment on why the book is set in 1952. How would that be shown in the story? Or is the agent saying nothing yet in the opening points to a historical novel?