Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #23

TITLE: The Bridge Maker
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Linh had a bad hunch.

Her heart seemed to clatter in time with the thunder cracking outside. Rain streamed in a single roaring sheet over the tiled roof and in white foam from the overburdened drainpipes. Linh heard it trickling in the thin, old walls.

Her mother had not yet come home. She paced the rooms, her jaw tight. She stopped before the living room window, peering into the rain-roaring night. The dark outline of her anguished face reflected back at her in the glass. The world seemed to have stopped.

With trembling hands, she punched the digits of her mother’s work number at the restaurant into the phone for the fifth time. No answer. Wildly, crazily, the vision reappeared; she could not push it away. Might her mother have also met the fate of her father? A car accident had killed him; she had been a small child. The word orphan echoed under the storm's noise, and she shook her head to stop it. She was eleven now.

She paced the hallway, hugging herself. At last she could bear it no longer. She stalked to the closet, found her raincoat and boots. She pulled the white umbrella, like some ghostly mushroom, from its stand. She would walk to the restaurant to find her mother.

But when she clicked on the outside light, she beheld something astonishing.

Five short, meaty creatures with white beards scampered all over the yard—they were her friends, the gnomes!

“Our hats, our hats,” they screamed


  1. i was a little taken aback by the this:

    "...she beheld something astonishing." and then "...they were her friends, the gnomes!"

    if the gnomes are her friends, she's obviously met them before and is familiar with them. That would not strike me as astonishing. Maybe she was suprised to see them there, but again- that's not astonishing. Also- i don't like the exclamation at the end of that sentence- it just does not work for me (sorry- i'm having trouble verbalizing why).

    before that point i liked it ok- the drama was building nicely.
    also- i'm intrigued why the gnomes are screaming for their hats :-)

  2. On the fence about this.

    I feel your story really starts at the second half of your 250 words. Also, your first line doesn't really grab me. And at times, I feel your description drags down her building anxiety.

    I do agree with the above comment that if the gnomes are already her friends she wouldn't be astonished to see them moving--unless she talks to inanimate gnomes. I do like the funny image I get from gnomes running around hatless though.

  3. The first sentence put me directly in the Star Wars mode (I have a bad feeling about this.) I really like the imagery in the second para, though, and had a real feeling for the slowly mounting dread your protag felt.
    However, I was also thrown by the astonishing gnomes. I may be spoiled by too much Terry Pratchett, but I would expect the heroine to be completely unphased at the sight of her friends.

    That said, I would definitely read on.

  4. I'm having a hard time being drawn in here. The voice is too formal for a middle-grade, and too bogged down by heavy descriptions. Relax your words - use friendlier ones. Use contractions. Instead of "Her mother had not yet come home." try something like "Her mom still wasn't home." Instead of "At last she could bear it no longer." try "She couldn't take it anymore." There's a huge difference in the tone you convey. MG is more than just an appropriately aged MC, it's about voice and feel, and I just don't see it here.

    Hope that helps. Good luck!

  5. You had me at gnome ;)

    Perhaps start with the "With trembling hands..." sentence? (Wow, I read the sample all the way through originally thinking it said, "Linh had a bad LUNCH." And I was trying to figure out what on Earth gnomes had to do with lunch, haha.)

    I agree that if the gnomes are her friends, she wouldn't be astonished to see them. I LOVE the image of gnomes running around in front of her house in the pelting rain, frantic and hatless.

    So I would want to read on a bit more, for I figure any girl with gnomes for friends is probably fun to spend some time with.

    Good luck!

  6. Deep pov. Meaning when you're so firmly entrenched in the protags head you don't have to say stuff like he/she heard...saw...thought...etc. There's a couple spots where I think you could benefit from going a little deeper. I also felt the emotions were at times a little too forced, not real. I just wasn't feeling her fear.

    That said..initially I wasn't hooked. Not until those happy little gnomes showed Was not expecting that. I agree though it just came so out of left field, this seemed so serious and then from that to boom..pure fantasy. Also if they're friends she wouldn't be shocked, unless of course they were her play toys and she's now discovering they live. But the gnomes saved you. ;) I'd read on.

  7. I really got into it until the gnome bit. I've read that opening scenes with lashing rain and the like is a no-no but you've pulled it off, I think. I really felt her sense of dread and could picture the scene well. (You do use the verb 'paced' twice, though - maybe change one of them to another word?)

    I won't repeat what others have said about the being astonished/friend aspect. But it really pulled me out of the building up of tension that I'd had up until then. It suddenly seemed silly and funny rather than 'oh my goodness, is her mum going to be okay?' Interesting, though! I'd read on too.

  8. I felt like the voice was a bit formal, but I liked some of the description - the umbrella like a ghostly mushroom.

    I think what is astonishing is that they are scampering around shouting for their hats, not that they are there. But as other commentors have shown, maybe splitting it into two sentences would clarify.

    Maybe something like, 'Her five gnome friends, short meaty creatures with white beards, scampered all over her yard screaming for their hats!

    Or, you know. Something better than that haha.

    I'd read on though - the ending made me laugh.

  9. Hehe. I read the first sentence as "Linh had a bad lunch" too. Weird.

    I felt like the anxiety was a false build of tension.

    The voice was way formal for MG and descriptions were overwritten.

    And I agree- being astonished and familiar with the gnomes seemed a contradiction.

  10. I agree w/Melissa in that I misread the 1st line as having to do with a bad LUNCH and thought the MC was going to be sick.

    I feel for Linh and how scary it can be for an 11 y.o. to be home alone in a storm, and her worries about her mom's safety, but then the gnomes threw me.

    Maybe MG readers wouldn't notice the lurch and would read it just fine.

  11. I think this is a lot of telling. I didn't get a real sense of the peril Linh is in (home alone!) and the fear that something is wrong.

    And then the gnomes want their hats and I wondered why she was astonished to see her friends there. I thought she was alone?

    I think there's a better place to start this too.