Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Waking the Sleeping Giant
GENRE: MG Dystopian/Magic Realism

It was always the hardest time of the day - those last few lingering moments before sleep arrived. Those moments when thoughts and memories ricocheted randomly around inside her head and Casey Maye could do nothing to stop them.

“A good night’s sleep is all I need,” Casey Maye murmured as she lay in the darkness. She carefully placed her hands atop chest and forced her eyes to stay closed. “Tomorrow, I will wake up and it will all be gone.”

All the memories. All the troubles. All the thoughts.


“Sleep, sleep, sleep,” she willed it to take over.

There’s something not right about you.

Stacey’s words from earlier that day echoed within Casey Maye’s head.

Casey Maye never knew how to respond to Stacey’s taunts. It wasn’t her taunting that bothered Casey Maye so much, as she feared Stacey could be right.

One of these days, you’ll Disappear.


There’s something not right with you.

Casey Maye slid one of her bandaged hands under the straw mattress of her cot. She winced, but kept her eyes shut tight. Her hands were still sore even after her mother had applied the soothing balm. The tips of her fingers grazed the edge of her book, a loosely bound collection of her pictures. Drawing was not necessarily against the Rules, but she had to be safe. And she always made sure to burn the ones…the ones that weren’t quite…right. She wasn’t sure what would happen if…


  1. A great start.

    I'd keep reading to find out what had happened. Why are her hands bandaged? What does she think is wrong with her? Who is Stacey? I love an intro that has me hungry for more.

    I like the small detail of the straw mattress and her cot. It's the only thing placing me in the scene and giving me a clue that this might not be present day.

    A few changes I'd recommend: The phrase "ricocheted randomly" pulled me out of the story. I'd cut randomly, since "ricocheted" already implies a chaotic nature.

    I think you're missing a "her" in the phrase "She placed her hands atop [her?] chest".

    And I wouldn't repeat the phrase "There's something not right with/about you." Or the word "disappear".

    Good luck!

  2. Although I thought the events of this opening were interesting, the voice threw me out of the story. This doesn't, to me at least, sound like a MG novel. Words like "lingering," "ricocheted," and "taunting" just don't sound like they're coming from the mouth of a kid. In fact, if you hadn't labeled the genre, I would have assumed this was adult high fantasy. The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas is a great example of a MG fantasy that is written in a kid's voice while still getting the whole 'fantasy' style voice in there. You should check it out.

    Good luck!

  3. Intriguing beginning. I felt drawn in more by the second paragraph than the first, and in re-reading them, I think you could actually start with the second paragraph and dispense with the first. The first paragraph is kind of generic -- we can all feel that way. But the second paragraph is specific with details that put us there and make it interesting. I'm totally intrigued by the line "it will all be gone."Minor point of punctuation: I'm put a period after "Sleep, sleep, sleep."I'd love to hear a bit more details about "she had to be safe."Another minor point: this sentence seemed a tad awkward to me, and it's an important sentence, so you might want to rework it: "It wasn’t her taunting that bothered Casey Maye so much, as she feared Stacey could be right." Sounds like a super interesting story!

  4. This would definitely keep me reading.

    To clarify on the previous commenter's point, I'd tweak this sentence:

    "It wasn’t her taunting that bothered Casey Maye so much, but that she feared Stacey could be right."

  5. This has an eerie intimacy that I find appealing. I would definitely read to find out what happens next. I'd give some thought to starting with your last paragraph - i.e., "Casey Maye slid one of her bandaged hands . . ." and add the interiority after. I think it's grounding and sets the scene/mood well. It wasn't until I reached that paragraph that I felt hooked. Also - a nit-pick - I'd limit how many times you repeat her name.

  6. The most compelling portions for me were the italicized memories. They are packed with tension and mystery and really make me want to read more.

    The direct quotes, on the other hand, I found distracting. Is the MC really saying these things out loud to herself? Probably not. In fact, when I reread, mentally omitting the quotes, the whole thing seems tighter and more evocative. I think you've gotten your message across without them.

  7. The interesting thing here for me is her drawing. Those pictures that aren’t quite right. The ones she has to burn. That’s what I’m most curious about. Perhaps instead of starting with her trying to sleep (not all that interesting) start with a scene of her drawing one of those not quite right pictures, and then having to burn it. Show us why she has to burn it, why it’s not quite right. Why is it threatening? Who does it threaten? What will happen if she’s caught drawing them? All those questions are much more compelling than tossing and turning in bed.

  8. I agree with Barbara. I’m intrigued by the second paragraph. I’d like to find out about the drawings and why they are burned if something isn’t “right”. I would omit the first paragraph, or start with something more exciting, like a scene of drawing and burning. Flashing back to someone’s taunts isn’t an interesting way to start a book. Dystopian is a tough sell these days, so it really needs to stand out. I’m hooked by the concept , and the voice, although it seems old for MG and very nice.

  9. I like the writing and the questions raised, but I agree that it sounds more YA than MG. Still, I want to know what's going on and would keep reading.