Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Demon Invasion
GENRE: Middle Grade

Huff was missing.

I imagined the worst kind of snowboard accident; Huff smashed into a tree somewhere. He had taken the long path down a beginner run while Streak and I warmed up on the half-pipe. We were among the first ones to arrive on the hill this crisp morning at Mt. Shasta Ski Park on our eighth grade winter break.

Streak raced ahead of me toward a snowboard jump. He did a 180 front side grab and skidded to a stop on the landing. “Hey, Irish!” he yelled back up the hill, “Beat that, dude!”

“Hold up!” I cut around the jump, edged my board in and stopped next to him, pulling out my iPod ear buds. “We gotta find Huff.”

“We can’t babysit him. He's just slow.” Streak was wired, bouncing on his board. “Besides, I'm hot. You see me catch air?”

“Yeah, cool. But Huff was supposed to meet us at the lift line. This is our fifth run and it’s 10:30.” I scanned the half empty slopes and glanced at the lift chairs traveling overhead. “Nobody’s that slow.”

“He's probably still up on the beginners’ green run or waiting down in the lift line now, wearing that stupid yellow hat. C’mon! This is our winter break, man. Fun time.”

I punched him in the shoulder. “What’s with you? Huff spends all his time drawing cartoons and writing jokes. He’s totally out of shape and could be wrapped around a tree.”


  1. Nice feel to it, good real conversation. My only comment, would an eigth grader think the morning was crisp? Not sure he'd say exactly where they were either. Maybe just mt. Shasta?

  2. I agree about the "crisp morning" line. Maybe something about the breeze bringing up goosebumps on the arms, kinda cold, chilly?
    Cool names: Huff and Streak. Fun MG names I think my MGer would get into this. Great dialogue and great ending of the 250.

  3. There are few passive parts that could easily be switched to make this more active. Ex. He had taken the long path down..... to He took the long path down. And We were among the first ones to We arrived first on the hill. Try to strip out any passive voice (has/had, was/were etc). It takes away from what is a good opening scene.

    Great starting point. Based on the title alone I definitely want to know what happened to Huff.

    Nice job and good luck :)

  4. A nice opening line. You present us with a problem in the first three words, and the next parg. gives us the info to get what's going on. I'm immediately immersed in the story.

    After that, it gets just a bit - as you know, Bob. It's not quite there but, for me, you're hanging on the edge.

    I think the problem is maybe it's a bit too specific. Maybe cut some extra adjectives. 'Crisp' in parg 2. iPod in parg 4. (You might eliminate the iPod all together if it plays no part in the story.)

    parg 5 - maybe just say Streak bounced on his board, which shows he's wired, so you don't have to say he is.

    Beginners' green run - eliminate one of those words. And 'that stupid yellow hat' screams 'Pay attention to this. It's important.' Is there a more subtle way of introducing it?

    The last parg is kind of the same. Huff spends all his time drawing cartoons and writing jokes' comes off as forced, like you're trying to get that info in.

    You're doing the right thing, and it's not blatant info dumping, but it's not quite natural sounding, either. As I said above, it's just on the edge, and I'm noticing the writer at work, as opposed to getting lost in the story.

  5. As a skier, I appreciate the paranoia! My gut says that I want to know more about Huff to care if he's missing. Why are they worried about him? I think it needs to be clarified.

    Love the names too!

  6. The opening draws me in, I want to know why he is missing. I agree that the 3rd sentence needs work. You are giving the setting and age, but it's not seamless with the rest of the excerpt.

    Otherwise, I think the dialogue is natural and reveals a little of the characters. As far as the hat, cartoons,and jokes, if Huff is an important character and those things have relevance to the story, keep them.

  7. There are several elements that I like here - in particular the nicknames and the dialogue. However, in a few places you border on info dumping / telling instead of showing.
    For example, the sentence at the end of the first paragraph took me out of the narrative: ("We were among the first ones to arrive on the hill this crisp morning at Mt. Shasta Ski Park on our eighth grade winter break.")
    Think about how the narrator would speak to a peer. Would he need to say that he is both on a hill and at a ski park? Would he need to say that he's in eighth grade? Would he need to mention winter break when a character mentions it a few paragraphs later? I would keep reading. I think this is a good start and if you tweak a few things you'll have something great.

  8. I love the first line. I love the 2nd paragraph but I don't think we need the 8th grade winter break bit or the word crisp or the word among. I like their dialogue but would shorten it a bit. Maybe he cuts Streak off and just says, "He was supposed to meet us at 10:30." If he is stressed out, he would speak quickly. I'd shorten the last line a bit too. Overall this voice is strong and you've got tension and I would totally keep reading!!!!

  9. I've never read a story set on the slopes, so I'd be interested just based on that. That there may have been an accident would also keep me reading.

    Some of the dialogue felt less like dialogue and more like the author trying to convey the story through it. An avid skier/boarder wouldn't refer to a green as beginner's green. He'd say beginner's or green, but not both. Also if he is pulling out his ear buds I'm not sure he would think of them as "iPod" ear buds. That seemed like the author butting in. The last bit about Huff spending all his time writing jokes and being out of shape may be pertinent information, but it doesn't come off as realistic dialogue.

    Keep writing,

  10. The opening line is great. I wanted to read more to find out why that character was missing. The current time 10:30 is mentioned, but completing five runs by that time didn't indicate how long Huff has actually been missing.

  11. I like it. The dialogue and the action beats work well together. I believe that the characters are typical boarders out for a good time. The MC is concerned about his friend, and so am I.

    Two speed bumps: (1) explanation: this crisp morning at Mt. Shasta Ski Park on our eighth grade winter break. I've already got snowboarding; you give us winter break in dialogue; the mountain name isn't one I know, so it doesn't tell me anything.
    (2) the geographical layout: Streak and I warmed up on the half-pipe. Streak raced ahead of me toward a snowboard jump. This is our fifth run. But Huff was supposed to meet us at the lift line--So why does Irish start to worry in the middle of the fifth run? Wouldn't he mention Huff's absence when they reached the lift line?

    Hope that is useful and makes sense! This is a nice blend of action/adventure. I would enjoy reading more.

  12. I like it, but there is a flashback feeling to the beginning due to the first line. I think it would be stronger if you started chronologically (or if you want to keep the first line, cut the second paragraph and move the info some place later)

  13. The contrast between seriousness and flippancy is jarring. The first line opens with a very dramatic statement. But the rest of the narrative doesn't support it.

    o Irish imagines his friend, Huff, wrapped around a tree but still has his ear buds in. Pretty casual. And what made him think Huff was missing?

    o It was 10:30 and their fifth run after the appointed meeting. That is pretty specific. Would a kid really be so precise? It feels forced.

    This might be a better follow-up to the opening statement than the background about the time they arrived.

    o The last paragraph about Huff is blatant back story. Better to say he's no jock, and bring up his background later. Possibly Irish promised to help Huff learn to snowboard and now feels guilty?

    It also makes me wonder who is the MC. Irish is the narrator, but Huff is getting all the description.

    I like this premise. The voices of the two boys is good. Consider putting in a little more reason at the beginning to support the intriguing opening statement. And maybe something to say why Irish feels responsible for Huff.

  14. Good opening—I’m already concerned about Huff. I love the way you describe the action and the snowboarding, which puts your reader right in the moment. The dialogue feels formal and a tad composed for MG; would Irish say out loud that Huff spends all his time drawing, or would he just think that to himself as he tries to find his friend? If you can convey your main character’s concerns in some way other than expository dialogue, it could increase the suspense here.

  15. Thanks everyone who commented. I've already tweaked my MS.

  16. I really like the opening like many others here. I agree that I felt that there are too many details being conveyed through the dialog which makes it feel unnatural. And I also agree that there might be too much background info coming in these early pages.

    Overall, I think the concept sounds intriguing and I like the characters. Fun!