Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #13

TITLE: The Seventh Circle
GENRE: Middle Grade

Sophie flopped onto the couch, sighed, and glared at her father. “Why can’t it be the Dunes, like last year? Or at least somewhere that resembles a town? Why does it have to be the middle of nowhere?”

“I’ve already explained that,” her father said from behind the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s quiet, it’s cheap, and it’s available.”

“But it’s not fair!” Sophie protested. “What am I going to do all summer while you’re holed up in the library, or the conservatory, or the dining room with Colonel Mustard? Does the place even have cell-phone reception?”

“You’re the product of a PhD in art history and yours truly—former-lawyer hoping to be best-selling-mystery-writer,” said her father. “You have an I.Q. of 145. I’m sure you’ll find something to do.”

“I could stay with Nona and Pop.”

Her grandparents let her stay up late and sleep in and win at Monopoly and Clue. Well, she’d win anyway, but she let them think they let her win.

“You know you can’t.” Her father folded the paper with a snap. “Pop’s only been out of the hospital a couple days. Nona has her hands full just looking after him.”

Sophie could see he wasn’t about to budge, but if she was to be consigned to the Carolina boonies for the summer, she’d darn well work it for all it was worth. She’d gotten a horse out of the divorce last fall. She could probably score a Wii or an X-Box this time.


  1. This is nice. Gets right down to business. I like the early insertion of dialog but I wonder if there's almost too much? And is it masking info dump? I'm talking mostly about par 4 and 7 where the father's speaking. These are just random thoughts - overall it flows very, very nicely. Good job.

  2. Oooh. The spoiled brat is in for learning a lesson or two this summer isn't she?
    Nice delivery of info and even though she's rather manipulative and whiny, I still like her, and can realte to what she's saying. I'd stick with her. I have a feeling her summer will not dissapoint regardless what she thinks at this point.
    Good luck!

  3. Good job establishing character and cluing us in to what the story is about in just a few paragraphs.

    I agree with the first commenter above, though, that some of the dialogue could be trimmed. Sophie's Clue reference in para 3 was a little convoluted, even for a precocious tween, and her father's response in para 4 was an "as you know, Bob" line. Para 7 was also telling Sophie something she already knows, but in that case I could live with it, because I can imagine Dad having to remind her that the world doesn't revolve around her.

    Good luck with this!

  4. Sophie is believable - if not yet entirely likable. I think I'd read on to see how she copes (and if she gets an x-box ;))

    My only quibble is the paragraph, "You're a product of..." It felt like an info dump, not real dialogue. Does the reader need to know her IQ and her parents jobs right away?

    You don't say what kind of MG this is. The title makes me think fantasy??

  5. I agree with Kate. The dialogue feels forced and not likable but a lot of times kids with higher IQ's have social skill problems.

  6. I do feel this is a spoiled brat, so I hope she becomes more likeable later. Me, as a parent would be all over her bad behavior, maybe dad needs to be less of pushover, though he does show he doesn't care what she thinks, he's making the decision.

    I agree about the paragraph that feels like an info dump. I don't tell my middle schooler his IQ. I'm not sure what is at stake here. I don't feel very invested in this story. And because she seems like a spoiled brat, I'm not sure I care to read on whether she gets her one-up-ance or not.

  7. This was a good entry. The mc interested me and it held my attention. I didn't mind the info dumps so much as they were short.

    The only thing I can add, besides what's already been said, is the 'just' near the end. Usually I cut any just I find, but in this case it didn't feel natural in the dialogue.

  8. Thanks for all your comments! I've hung on to the Dad's "product of PhD" dialogue bit for a long time, but I see I'm going to have to let some of it go.

    I did forget to say it's paranormal. Her summer does get "interesting." And no, she doesn't get an X-box. :)

  9. I liked this. The voice, the conflict between the father and the MC. You've setup the book well--I can't wait to see what trouble she gets into while in the middle of nowhere.

    The "product of PhD... IQ..." etc. bit struck me as a both "Y'know, John" and pretentious, but that's an easy fix should you so choose. I'm also a little confused by the Clue references, but I'm assuming you'll play on those later.

  10. I feel like you're not starting in the right spot. You're either starting a few sentences too early or too late in this conversation--we're dropped in the middle, and as a result we have to work harder to catch up.

    Also, I instinctively dislike Sophie in these first 250 words. If our introduction to your MC is going to show her in the middle of a tantrum, try to show us another side of her that will make her sympathetic as well, to balance her out. We want to care about this character!