Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #3

TITLE: Alien Invasion
GENRE: Middle Grade Science Fiction

I blamed it on my dad. It wasn’t cool to accuse a dead man, especially a hero. But I blamed my little bro’s obsession with aliens on him anyway. Dad’s old tribal bedtime stories about some ancient Indian chief and a space salamander flipped a switch in boy genius’s brain that couldn’t be turned off.
Every night the poor kid scrambled out on the roof with his homemade radio to broadcast an SOS to the stars. I felt for him, but man, it could get annoying. “SOS – ELE”. That was his message. Come and save us. From the “Extinction Level Event”.

As a little kid, I’d always pictured the ELE as this massive, slimy eel devouring the planet one bite at a time. Then my 2nd grade teacher explained how all the plants and animals were dying off in a monumental, unstoppable chain reaction. ELE meant death, but not “death by eel”.

I stuck my head into Jake’s bedroom. While I was in the shower, he’d banged on the door yelling about some video I had to see. The most stressful day of my life and I’d agreed to watch another one of his YouTube alien specials. One less thing to feel guilty about if I failed him today.

“You got that video ready?” I asked.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Jake said, bouncing up and down on his chair.

No kidding. “So watcha got this time? Alien autopsy? Abduction survivor?”

He shot me a look. “No. Sam, they answered me!”


  1. I think it is a very strong beginning - especially the payoff at the end of the 250. It makes you want to turn the page and read more. I rather liked how you mentioned the dead father - and threw in hero - then did not feel compelled to explain it at this point. I assume that will come later and I like how you avoided the temptation to info-dump some backstory here. I did find the words "tribal" "Indian Chief" and "salamander" to be confusing in a small way because I was uncertain if this was meant to indicate a native american myth or if it was something else. But, I liked the natural way you set up the fact that an older brother Sam cares and looks out for his younger brother Jake. I also like the fact that - although Sam does not see it here - it probably turns out that Jake is going to be the one running the show - at least propelling things forward. I am hoping soon I would get some idea of the relative ages (age difference) of the two. But, ends on a real high note and I am interested.

  2. This is a great, hooking opening. The payoff is surprising and fun.

    The writing feels a bit awkward in places, like the first sentence, where it juxtaposes the ideas in a weird way that makes my mind jump back and forth.

    It's a small matter; not bad writing by any stretch; just feels like the author is in there telling the narrator, "and get this in, too."

    Try some shorter, simpler sentences and a little organization of the narrator's obviously erratic thought patterns for us slower readers--see what you think.

    I'd read this.

  3. Love the first line, and "death by eel." I really like your premise, and I would keep reading. I did want to know a little more about the younger brother though, how old he is, how old the brothers were when their dad died, but I assume that comes later.

  4. I liked this, and I thought that last line was a great hook.

    My suggestion would be to work on the writing. It comes across almost as a monotone sounding voice. Once you get into the dialogue, it picks up. Perhaps work at shortening your sentences, saying the same thing in a more direct way, or perhaps use some sentence fragments that are closer to the way people actually talk. An example -

    I blamed it on my my dad- my brother's obsession with aliens.

    You might also consider another title. Alien Invasion is a bit cliche. But great premise!

  5. I really like this and I think MG readers would as well.

    You've got me wondering about several things - dad's death, why this is the MC's most stressful day, who answered? I'd definitely read on to find those answers.

    My only suggestion is to reconsider this part - "The most stressful day of my life and I’d agreed to watch another one of his YouTube alien specials. One less thing to feel guilty about if I failed him today." I'm not completely sure what you mean here.

    I'm sure you show more later to explain this.

    Good luck!

  6. This is a great opening. I feel prepared for the action to start and definitely ready to turn the page. The first paragraph is a bit awkward for me but the rest is really strong. I love the "Death by Eel" part.

  7. I agree with what everyone is saying. I like this. Parts where your voice shines through are great.

    'I blamed it on my dad. It wasn’t cool to accuse a dead man, especially a hero. But I blamed my little bro’s obsession with aliens on him anyway.'

    But the next sentence was a little long and confusing on the first read through. I also liked the death by eel part and where you've ended it leave us wanting to read more.

  8. Forgot to add, I also agree that you could come up with a stronger, more unique title.

  9. The fact that the answer to our question "is anyone else out there?" would come from YOUTUBE is great and instantly accessible to the target audience. Wonderful. I like that you have managed to give Jake a personality without actually involving him in the scene until the end - ie. all from Sam's eyes. I want to read more for sure. I get the sense for some reason that Sam is mature (a teenager 15 and up etc) and Jake is like 10 or 12....I would like that made more explicit so I can se what the brother relationship is. Sam I think sees himself as a pseudo dad which means he must be older. Anyway, you got me and I want to read on.

  10. great first line, and strong follow up with next lines. i love sam's voice and am smack dab in the middle of the story. and want more!

  11. I really loved this. The voice is great. I really liked the last sentence and was disappointed there wasn't more to read. Best of luck

  12. Ooh, I really like this. Sam's already a likable protagonist, and I'm hooked on what the aliens might've sent Jake in response. I'm also curious about why this is the most stressful day of Sam's life, but in the "I want to read more!" way, not the frustrated-with-unanswered-questions way.

    Nitpicks - 'whatcha' should probably have an h in there, even if it isn't a real word. I'd also link "especially a hero" to the next sentence with a comma or a dash. It seems a little jumpy as is. Also, I'd look for a title with a little more zing.

    Other than that, awesome job! Good luck.

  13. You tucked a lot in this excerpt that gives a complex setup. I like the MC for being nice to his pesky, genius little brother on the most stressful day of his life, and being worried about failing him.
    You have soooo much going on, though, that I'm not sure which details to pay attention to. I'd ask you to slow down and parse the info. a bit more. But, you might have fallen into the trap of cutting some stuff to get the "good" part (i.e., that last sentence) into the first 250 for this contest.
    Anyway, this is easily my favorite entry. Great voice, intriguing premise, likeable MC...I'm sure you'll get requests.
    Best of luck!

  14. This definitely excites me! I love sci-fi and aliens. This is going to sound a little harsh, but the writing is a tad sloppy. You can definitely tighten it up. I think if the writing is tightened up, and words like "bro" turn in to "brother"... this would be a very strong passage.

    One item of concern: how old is the narrator? If it's going to be a middle grade, make sure the narrator stays younger than 14. And that's pushing it. Who is the audience? Is it for the narrator or the brother? Things to think about...