Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #46

TITLE: How to Lose a Fortune and Save a Useless Family
GENRE: Middle Grade

The good news was I’d bribed my mother to take me to the Ducksbridge Open Day. The bribe was a Fruit and Nut chocolate bar from the local In’N Out. I got it cheap because it was expired. It was expired because only crazy old people ate Fruit and Nut. Which is why it was perfect for my mother.

The bad news was we were stuck in a parking line snaking down the school driveway and my mother’s 1982 Ford Fiesta, Pretty Girl, was smoking out a herd of grazing deer. And a bunch of parents in fancy cars.

I ran a finger round my collar and de-fogged my sunglasses but unfortunately the scene before me was clear as day. The woman in the Range Rover up ahead was coughing and hacking and pretty much overdoing it. A black limousine out our rear window was flashing its lights and sounding its horn like this was a state of emergency. Incredible. All for a bit of muffler smoke, miniscule amounts of carbon monoxide and a few engine rattles.

I risked a glance at my mother. She was swiping on lipstick like she wanted to snap it off. Not good. I definitely needed to move on to Plan B.

“You know, it’s getting kind of stuffy in here,” I said. “I can walk if you want.”

“I’ll stuffy you and that maniac with the horn, “ she said. “You dragged me here Anthony, you will not put a foot outside this car without me.”


  1. What a fabulous openining line! It drew me in right away. I love the tension created by that smoking, old car. Right away, the scene is set, the bowsting is drawn back... and the characters are wonderful. I totally feel that young boy's pain and I want to have a cup of coffee with that mom. (Or a gin and tonic perhaps.) She's got moxie! Best of luck to you! I want to read more!

  2. Great imagery! I didn't quite get everything ("ran a finger round my collar and de-fogged my sunglasses", "swiping on lipstick like she wanted to snap it off") but that car totally cracked me up.

    What is the genre? Contemporary?

  3. I love this set up. You've got funny and tense in one package.
    I especially like the pithy lines and the voice is clear.
    Good work and Good luck.

  4. I love your details and voice! I think you can strengthen this by using active instead of passive verbs:coughed instead of 'was coughing', swiped instead of 'was swiping'. There's a lot of "WAS", and your piece would be stronger without most of them, IMO. Again, great details, and I would keep reading.

  5. I can feel the tension in the car. Great voice and details!

    I remember those old fruit and nut bars, too! They were awful!

  6. Great voice and a fun set-up. I would keep reading, too.

    It would be nice, though, to know what Ducksbridge is (a private school?) and why Anthony wants to go to the open day.

    I agree with Cristin about the passive phrasing. Also, the first association I had with "In 'n Out" was In-N-Out Burger, which doesn't sell chocolate bars, so that confused me for a moment.

  7. Sorry, I just reread and you did say "school" in the second paragraph. So ignore that part of my comment. (But I'd still like a hint as to why Anthony wants to go there.)

  8. Should this be opening day? Ducksbridge Open Day.

    Seems like too much time spent on describing the other cars and fruit and nut bars and not enough about Anthony or his age or goals/conflicts.

    Great voice, though! Keep working on this.

  9. We already see the reverse dynamic between child and mother here, which is interesting. You build a great voice with writing like "Incredible" as a one word sentence, and the use of "swiping" to describe the application of lipstick (though I do agree, cut out those gerunds!).

    That said, I'm not sure I understand the cause and effect in the first paragraph. Why would a fruit and nut bar be a bribe? Is he not giving it to her until after she takes him? Or maybe I'm just not crazy and old enough to understand the magical pull of a fruit and nut bar. You could probably just leave it with the first sentence, swap "bribed" with "convinced," and then move on to the juicy part: the bad news.

    Love that the car has a name.

    Same about wanting to know what "Ducksbridge Open Day" is, especially because it's in the very first sentence. Maybe you could use a shortcut like "Ducksbridge Open Day, the spring festival" or something like that.

    I'm okay with the descriptions because I learn a lot about Anthony from the way he's describing the world around him. This type of description could be really boring, but here, it's not. I do think the bribe thing could be tightened, even though I love the MC's voice in that first paragraph.

    Also, would the mother really use the word "Anthony" in that piece of dialogue or are you just trying to help us know the main character's name? "You dragged me here, and you will not put a foot outside this car without me" sounds a lot more natural.

  10. Cool start. I think the first sentence could be better. I love the set up with the mother. Makes me wonder why she's in the same camp as "crazy old people."
    I think my favorite part of the whole thing is the mother's voice once she opens her mouth. Makes me want to get to know her, or at least hear her story.

  11. Awesome voice! I love the line- "I'll stuffy you and the maniac with the horn."

    Great beginning to make the reader want to read more.

    Good luck!

  12. I absolutely LOVE Anthony's voice. I think you show so much about both characters in a short amount of time, both their individual personalities as well as their relationship. Maybe a little hint this takes place in England would clarify a couple of minor points, but all-in-all it is so funny and fresh I would definitely read on.

  13. Love the opening paragraph. Spunky, refreshing voice with huge potential, though I was a tad confused at some of the descriptions and what exactly is happening.

  14. This is great... despite the fact that I have always loved fruit 'n' nut choc (well, any chocolate, as it happens).

    Good voice, good pace. I'm only confused about why Anthony wants to go to the school Open Day. Wants it badly eough to bribe his mother. Open Days at private schools are to tempt prospective new students... it's usually the parents bribing the kids to come along. But I would read on to find out.

  15. The voice here is great! I get a strong sense of who Anthony is, and I have an inkling of his relationship/power dynamic with his mother. (Great dialogue!)

    Perhaps a bit more of a hint *why* Anthony wants so badly to go to the Ducksbridge Open Day, that he'll resort to bribery, would be helpful. Wouldn't have to be much, just a sentence or two.

    I'd certainly read on!

  16. Nice tension and setting and establishment of mother/son relationship. Congrats and best of luck!