Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #25

TITLE: Stray Dog in the Manger
GENRE: Middle Grade

“Scram, mutt!”

“Beat it, cur!”

The hollering got louder. A stone clipped Kelev’s back leg but he didn’t drop the bone. He dashed past the food vendors and scrambled into a narrow alley. Crouched there, panting hard.

The dog had been pelted with rocks before. When he was sure he wasn’t being chased, he sat down to lick his cuts. All he had to show for his trouble was a gristly bone the butcher had left lying around. Not much, but as a stray, he'd learned early that any scrap is better than nothing.

Kelev backed into the shadows, bone gripped tight in his jaws, not wanting to have to fend off other hungry animals while he ate. He flashed on a memory of Chief, the pack leader who taught him everything he knew.

“A full stomach,” Chief preached. “That’s what a dog needs in this world to be happy.” Kelev wasn’t sure what happy meant, but he did know it was good to be full. He started crunching on the bone.

Kelev was a feisty street dog. He could navigate the back alleys of town and come out on top in a fight. He had never been whistled for or petted. He’d bite a human hand in a heartbeat if he felt danger.

As Kelev sat chewing on his bone, his nose sniffed the sharp, mingled scents of the streets of Beth-lehem. Hard, dusty earth. Rat-smell. Dog-pack. Bread baking. Salt tang of humans. Rotten vegetable peels. Fish-heads. Wine. Garlic and cinnamon.


  1. Awww, I'm a sucker for mistreated animals. I like that the dog isn't feeling sorry for itself - even though he has reason to. It does make me want the dog to find someone to whistle for, and pet him.

    I'd read on, rooting for the street wise little guy:)

  2. I love that this is a story in the POV of an animal. I loved books like this when I was younger (there was one I read from the POV of a lizard, but I forgot what it was called).

    Anyway, you have great details here, such as the smells and the way Kelev backed into the shadows so he wouldn't have to fend off hungry animals.

    The only thing I see that could be changed is the second to last paragraph. Saying "Kelev was a feisty street dog" and so on is telling the reader something about the main character that could be mentioned later on. The paragraph is like an info-dump that you plopped right into the middle of the scene, and I don't think it's needed in the beginning.

    Seems like you have a great novel here!

  3. I agree with the "info dump" comment. Show us his feistiness rather than tell us. Is his fur missing in places or does one ear have a notch from a recent dog fight? You could use the opportunity to show us his size and scrappiness against larger dogs in this way.

    Some agents don't think animal MCs but maybe for young readers, this technique is okay.

    I like his developed sense of smell. :) Maybe he could comment on it being one of the pluses of being a dog.

  4. I'm a sucker for an underdog, and I wonder what scraps little Kelev is in for, and what he'll learn.

    I felt like the last part of this slipped out of Kelev's voice and into your author's voice. That's easily remedied. Show us how Kevlev knows these things, rather that telling us from your perspective. In other words, BE Kevlev as you write the story.

    Good Luck!

  5. I feel there's spots where the writer intrudes, and it snaps me out of Kelev's pov. Where you mention him being a feisty street dog..also, yeah, that paragraph is info dumping. Telling vs. showing.

    That said I think your writing is clearly strong, however I'm just not a fan of writing from an animal's pov. So for me it would be a pass, but that's a taste thing, not a writing chops thing.

    Good luck!

  6. Your first sentence starts solidly in Kelev's point of view, but for the rest of this piece you keep falling out of it.

    For example, "The dog had been pelted with rocks before." could read "He'd been pelted with rocks before," You don't have to tell us he's a dog because you show us that.

    When you have him call himself a stray- that pops us out of his POV and you've already shown us he's a stray.

    "Kelev was a fiesty street dog" - again this is a narrator's voice and it would be better to stay in Kelev's POV.

    I see potential for a solid story about an underdog if the writing is tightened.

  7. I'm a sucker for a dog story, too, however, the POV shifts and there's too much info dump/description.

  8. This dog has a great start to a voice, but it wavers. Sometimes I hear the dog, sometimes I hear the author/storyteller.

    That made this really difficult for me to stay all in the story.

    But the parts that worked are the dog's keen sense of smell, the great dog-focused descriptions of his world, and more of both of those would make this first page stronger.