Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Dear Opl
GENRE: Middle Grade Humorous

The dark enveloped me, squishing my lungs. A black so tarry and thick, it felt as if I were breathing syrup and forced my heart to thud in my chest. I wanted to run and sprint for the comfort of my bed, to hide beneath my quilt where no one else was allowed. But I needed this. I couldn’t leave because I had to get rid of the awful ache that wouldn’t let me sleep.

My hands fluttered blindly in front of me. They bumped against something with a pointed edge. I jerked back, thinking I’d been bit, but I took a breath and crept forward again until I touched the object once more. I traced my skittish fingers along its form until I was sure whatever I touched wouldn’t strike at me with sharpened fangs and light up with red demonic eyes. Of course it wouldn’t. It was a box of cereal. Froot Loops actually. The lip-smacking scents of tangy lemon, zingy orange, electric lime and mouth-watering cherry rose to my nose. This meant somebody left the bag open inside and Mom would be mad because it’ll have gone stale by morning.

I left the box behind and moved my hands higher up. I knocked another smaller carton to the floor where it bounced off my sock covered foot. I squatted, sweeping my hands across the floorboards until I found it. Bringing the package to my nose, I sniffed its edges. It smelled of happiness.


  1. Nice start, I'd take out a lot of the descriptive language as it's drawing me out of the story and not sucking me in

  2. Interesting contrast with the dark/terror of the opening paragraph, then finding out your protagonist is actually in the pantry, fingering Froot Loops. I liked that!

    I'm a little confused about what's going on, why he or she is so scared and what he's trying to do. The terror of the first line seems out of place with "It smelled of happiness" at the end. I wasn't sure what caused the change in mood?

    Good luck!

  3. I like the voice and the incongruity of being so afraid in the pantry.

    'it felt' should be 'it made me feel'.

    In para 2 'blindly,' 'something with' and 'of course it wouldn't' should go.

    'Mom will' not 'Mom would'

  4. I am also very interested in finding out why the MG is searching in the dark for Fruit Loops.

    I wonder if you can change your first paragraph. It sounds so ominous, but perhaps that is what you want. Is the ache hunger?

    I loved "It smelled like happiness."

  5. I did giggle at the reveal of the cereal. It reminds me of that "dark dark jellybean" joke, the one that starts "in a dark, dark, universe..."

    Despite this, I think I would pass on the submission as a whole. I love humor, but it is so subjective, and this particular passage is not doing it for me. I like my humor a little sarcastic, and I think the introduction is too long and not suspenseful enough to make the Fruit Loops reveal funny. It's one of those, "Not right for me, but I think there might be an audience" submissions.

  6. I love this for two reasons-- one, the "syrup" comment, and two...the ceral reveal.

  7. I don't read a lot of MG humor, so I'm not quite sure what the genre requirements are or what passes and fails. Keep that in mind when you read my comments.

    The idea of the kid making such a big deal out of going downstairs at night for a snack is, in itself, amusing, and I like the idea of the juxtaposition... but there's something about, I don't know, maybe the extremes of the juxtaposition and the black and white dichotomy of perceptions that feels like a cheat to me.

    I tend to be more amused if there's humor in a dark or scary situation--a sardonic, witty character shining through in dire circumstances. This page builds us up with a lot of fear (which should be genuine in a first-person POV) that suddenly gets turned around to a light and happy situation with cereal.

    Again, I like that idea of a kid braving the dark for Fruit Loops, but none of the tension from being afraid of the dark carries on after the kid finds the cereal (wouldn't he be afraid of what might be crawling along the floorboards in the dark?)... so it feels like the narrative misleads for shock value. Is he scared or is he just pretending to be scared for the sake of the juxtaposition? I could see this kind of switheroo in an omniscient third, but not with first.

  8. I liked it but wonder why you classify it as humor. I'd read more to find out. Humor is the hardest thing to write, especially for kids. Good luck.

  9. There's a lot to like in this. My one concern is that the voice doesn't feel like MG at all. The descriptions and especially the vocabulary seemed much older.

  10. @Abbe: I think it's the adverbs. Cutting them out/down will help streamline the writing.

    Nice idea for a start, and I agree with commenters that the adverbs draw the reader out of the story rather than in.