Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #38

GENRE: MG Sci-fi/Adventure

Mike Adams crept toward the swings, one eye on Brutus, the keeper of The List of Chumps to Be Pounded After School. Brutus and his two cohorts leapt and hollered on the cement court, absorbed in the bloodiest game of basketball ever. For now, they focused on bruising themselves instead of their usual targets at Grover Cleveland Middle School.

The List wasn’t on paper, of course. It lived in Brutus’ head, the biggest kid in sixth grade. Failing to call Brutus by his self-chosen nickname guaranteed an entry on The List. Even the teachers found it easier to comply, just to maintain peace. Mike landed on The List the first day of fifth grade when he stumbled into a sixth grade classroom and fell onto Brutus’ lap, to the snorting glee of the rest of the class. Other kids rotated on and off The List, but unless someone else grabbed the spotlight, Mike’s name was carved in stone.

Mike peeked through the monkey bars, wishing fifth and sixth graders had different recess times. It wasn’t fair he never escaped The List. He wasn’t ugly, poor, or stupid. It couldn’t be his skin color: Brutus didn’t say a word when Jordan, a scrawny kid with the same dark skin as Mike’s, spewed milk from his nose. Instead of calling Jordan booger-breath, Brutus tagged Mike with a humongous, drippy spit wad.

No one picked on Mike’s best friend Carlos either. But then Carlos was always chosen first for team sports and had two older brothers.


  1. Your voice is very MG--great job with that!

    It's hard to tell from such a small sample, but I wonder if this is really the best place to start. A bully on the playground is a bit of a cliché, and Mike is hiding and feeling sorry for himself. It doesn't give me a reason to care. Is there a way you can show strength, or the potential for strength in that opening page?

  2. Okay--I laughed out loud with the name of the List and I love how even the teachers call him "Brutus". I went to school with this kid and you steered clear.
    Would definitely read more. This stuff is alive and well in Middle School so very pertinent. Hopefully the pez dispenser equips him with super powers and he takes that Brutus DOWN!
    Good Luck to you!

  3. Love the list's name, and the details about Brutus' nickname are so funny!

    You don't need the character's last name, I made this mistake on my first page too.

    Was it actually a bloody game of basketball? Maybe not the bloodiest ever, this took me out of it.

    Do we need to know the name of the middle school? We have plenty of hints of what age he is later, and just leaving us with "usual targets" flows better.

    Your second sentence in the second paragraph makes it seem like Brutus' head is the biggest kid in sixth grade. Miiight want to reword that!

    I'm not sure we need to know why Mike is on the list in such detail, you can maybe skip the back story or tighten it, for example, "Mike landed on the list when he tripped and fell onto Brutus" or something.

    I guess fifth and sixth grade are together in this middle school? Where I live it's 6-8 in middle school.

    I'm confused about the spit wad and Jordan, what was Mike doing in spit wad tagging range while Jordan was spewing milk? I wonder if we can get some action to show us some of these situations, maybe just launch into a scene where Brutus is spit-wad tagging instead of telling us about one.

    I really enjoy hearing about Brutus' antics, but I want to see them! It also seems like Mike really cares about what Brutus thinks of him, will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    Also, looking forward to how the sci-fi thing comes in here!

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  5. "It wasn’t fair he never escaped The List. He wasn’t ugly, poor, or stupid."

    Sounds like Mike thinks putting ugly, poor &stupid kids on the list is fair. This could alienate any kid reading who feels ugly, poor or stupid. Is there another way to convey that the List isn't based on skin color?

  6. I love the humor in this piece. The name of The List, Brutus' "self-chosen nickname"--both great details.

    The sample does seem a bit heavy with exposition. Showing Brutus in action is a great fix. Perhaps we could see him pick on Mike--from Mike's POV--even though it's Jordan who makes the mistake.

    Can't wait for the aliens to come and bring out the Mighty in Mike!

  7. Me? Loved it! Loved the title, the humor, the character. You had me from the beginning.

  8. Good voice and pace, and the concept of the List is great!

    However, I second IMHO's remark about Mike seeming to think that ugly, poor or stupid kids deserved to be on The List, (wheras he didn't... kind of self-congratulatory, dont you think?)

    There are many MG pieces starting with the Bullied Child protagonist, so unless something dramatic happens very soon, it might be seen to be a cliche.

  9. The voice here is good, but the opening is a bit heavy on exposition and light on action. Show us a bit more of Brutus's vicious behavior, and you won't have to spell out his reputation--we'll instinctively know it.

    The details of the List are good, but they feel a bit broken up, as you give Brutus's title but then focus on other details before coming back to explain it.

    Lastly, Mike does not come across as sympathetic at all, but instead self-pitying. He seems to believe that ugly, poor, or stupid kids should be picked on, rather than him, and it's not fair that the other dark-skinned kids don't get picked on either. Focus on Mike's attempts to stay unnoticed, rather than his desire for someone else to be the target of Brutus's wrath, and he'll be a lot more likable.

  10. great title, that alone would make me pick it up.

    I like the description of Brutus, but I'm learning much more about him than I am your protagonist, Mike.

    You seem to be setting up Mike as the 'bullied'. I'm not that well versed in MG, but it seems like a popular choice for the protagonist. Could you put an unexpected twist on it?