Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #25

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Mike’s insides swirled like the Tasmanian Devil on Dancing With The Stars. Not only would he see Teagan for the first time in a dress, hair combed and not under a baseball cap, but he might get to hold her hand alone in the dark later. She had decked out to visit her twin sister in chronic care, hoping it made the Sleeping Beauty happy. Well, she didn’t make Mike happy, arriving with her dress tucked into track pants. The ponytail draped outside her cap along with Rachel, whose new nickname for him MGM—middle-grade-Mike, completed the disappointment.

“Eating solid foods yet?” Rachel asked.

Mike ignored her, hoping she’d leave on a broom. He also ignored his throbbing chin to smile at Teagan. “You could’ve punched my shoulder.”

Her eyes sparkled. “You could’ve asked permission before kissing me.”

“I got excited seeing you strikeout twelve guys.”

Rachel smirked. “Doesn’t MGM striking out with you make it thirteen?”

“Play nice,” Teagan said.

The reason Teagan broke his heart and jaw. Simple as 1-2-3. One year, two months, and three days. Their age difference—his Kryptonite. Which sucked, cause Monday she started high school. His middle grade heart needed to hear her laugh. “Why we messing with this voodoo stuff?”

“I promised my sister and it’s not voodoo.”

“Good, because I forgot to bring a chicken.”

She grinned then warm fingers touched his hand. “Promise me something.”


“If Rachel and I pass out, you must protect us until we wake up . . . even if it means hiding our bodies.”


  1. I'm questioning your genre and target audience because the writing reads more YA than MG.

    I also don't get a sense of fantasy, especially since the opening line mentions "Dancing With The Stars." So far, it feels more like a contemporary story.

    Mostly teens and adults watch this show instead of middle graders.

  2. I'm very confused about the kiss and why he got hit and I think you tried to present too much information too fast.

    The dialogue is snappy, but I'm afraid I don't understand enough of the dynamic yet to truly follow everything. I would like it if you slowed down a bit, feed the info more slowly (and perhaps less), and let us get a feel for who the MC is before you introduce so many characters and so much info.

  3. I like that we've got a male protagonist who had a girl break his jaw here--ha, that's not very expected! I'm also very curious about why he has to hide the bodies, and the brooms. I'm guessing we'll find out more about that as it ties into the fantasy world soon, and I'm okay with not knowing at this point.

    I agree with the other commenters. I read this with somewhat furrowed brows, trying to figure out what was going on. Maybe if Rachel isn't completely necessary, she doesn't need to be in this scene?

    I wonder if the romantic beginning would really draw people into a MG with a male protagonist--just something to think about, I'm no expert in that.

    Also some small things:

    "Had decked out"--maybe "dressed up," just seems a tad awkward.

    "The ponytail draped outside her cap along with Rachel"--huh? Rachel draped outside her cap?

    MGM--I think it would be "middle school," not "middle grade." Kids don't call themselves "middle grade." The publishing industry does (:

    I was definitely confused when we get to Mike saying Teagan could have punched his shoulder. Maybe tell us his jaw hurts earlier? It gets a bit lost after "he also."

    Did her eyes really sparkle?

    I'm curious to find out what "strikeout" means, I'm guessing we're not talking about baseball? I'm okay with not knowing the meaning for now, but it did add to my confusion.

    The sentence starting "The reason" is a bit awkward, because it's separated from him being called MGM by another line of dialogue.

    Is one year really that big of a deal?

    Does he mean to say "Why are we messing"? If not, I'm confused because the other dialogue doesn't show that kind of grammar.

    What's going on with the chicken!? I don't know if I'm missing some key voodoo background here or what.

    Whose warm fingers touched his hand? Maybe "she took his hand."

    I'm still intrigued by this set up and the last line on the page, tighten it up and I'd read on!

  4. I got a bit confused in the first paragraph, because about four people were introduced in the space of one short paragraph. I think perhaps the Rachel character might not be needed. I think I would rather read the scene where he is socked in the jaw for kissing her. I was surprised suddenly by a dialogue about the kissing and the jaw socking.

    It does read like contemporary to start. I would like more magic right away than the hint at the end.

    I, too, am not sure this is a middle grade voice. Boys mature at different rates than girls. Some boys might be about the kissing, but even 8th graders, I think are still the majority are leery of girls. My son is 13 and he still thinks the idea of kissing a girl is disgusting.

  5. I have to agree with some of the comments above, I was very confused. There's a sister in chronic care? and the throbbing chin...he got punched? I think there is just too much information crammed into each sentence. Thin it out some and just tell us who this character is, and maybe hint at what he wants.

  6. I'm sorry to say, the first time I read this, I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I think the problem, in addition to having too many characters introduced all at once, is that there's no setting. You need to establish where they are and what they are doing before jumping into dialogue.

    If I understand this right, Mike, Teagan and Rachel are in a hospital room, visiting Teagan's sister, who is in a coma. What does the room look like? What does the girl in the bed look like? How does Mike feel about being there? Even if he's only there for Teagan, he must have some reaction to seeing a friend in a coma, hooked up to machines, etc. Teagan and Rachel completely ignore her, too. The scene might as well be taking place in a parking lot.

    I also think you need to establish that Mike's jaw is broken before Rachel tosses out the line about eating solid foods. On first read, I thought she was asking whether the girl in the hospital was eating solid foods yet. For that matter, could a teenage girl punch someone hard enough to break his jaw?
    As others have said, slow this down. Show where Mike is and show his aching jaw before Teagan and Rachel enter the room. You probably can't fit both the voodoo (whatever that is) and all the details about Mike's crush on Teagan into the first 250 words, so decide which of those things is most important and focus on that.

  7. Too much information too soon. Start slower. I understand you only have 250 words to make a first impression but you are jamming in too much stuff in those 250 words.

  8. I was confused about who's doing what to whom. I think this one needs to be tightened and focused. Rick's comment said it all, slow down and let the characters come out naturally.

  9. There's a lot that is really interesting in this beginning. You are clearly working with characters who are vivid and compelling -- though I do agree that they seem older (even Mike) than what you usually see in a middle grade book. I agree with a lot of the comments already posted and want to suggest you try (even as an exercise) to see if there's somewhere else you could start this book. It feels like too much has already happened that the reader isn't privy to. For instance, you might want to see what happens if you start with the punch. Or the moment before the punch when he kisses her. Or the moment before that when he has to decide whether to kiss her.
    Good luck -- it sounds like a great story.

  10. The dialogue here is good and snappy, but you've got character soup (too many characters introduced at once, which can be disorienting).

    Also, the voice and the subject material feel more young adult than middle grade. Mike is obsessed with making out from the opening lines--not to say that there can't be kissing in middle grade, but it's usually not the focus of the story.