Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #16

TITLE: The Ups and Downs of Bobby Lane
GENRE: Middle Grade Contemporary

Bobby glanced nervously around. All was quiet, for now. But who knew what was waiting beyond the fence? He quietly climbed the rope ladder. The green net and wooden supports hid his movements. Reaching the top, he slowly raised his head, just enough to see beyond the edge of his fort. He knew he could be seen. If the enemy was there, an attack would be swift and hard. He braced for battle. He held his breath. He stood perfectly still. He waited for the familiar battle cry. But it didn’t come.

Arrrrg. Why isn’t Danny home yet? He said he’d be home today. Bobby slid down his wooden slide and plopped into the swing. Another whole day with nothing to do.

“This has been the worst summer ever!” he yelled. A startled squirrel jumped into the air.

Bobby pushed a stone with his toe as he twisted back and forth on the swing. He tried not to feel sorry for himself but he couldn’t help it. Danny was on a great vacation in Disney World. All Bobby’s friends were on vacation now, the week before school started.

It’s not fair. Why did Dad’s bank have to fail? Why can’t he get another job? I can’t believe I actually want school to start.

Bobby leaned over and rested his head in his hands, almost tipping the swing out from under him.

Arf, arf, arf, arf!

“Fluffy!” Bobby screamed. If Fluffy was home, so was Danny.


  1. I know it might not be important but in looking at your characters names--Bobby and Danny. My son is a MGer and these aren't common names today. Just wanted to put that out there in case your setting is in present day.
    Good Luck!

  2. I agree with Ami. The names seem out of place for a contemporary MG.

    When he yell the first time, it makes me feel sorry for him, and that's great.

    Now this may sound crazy, but when he yells the second time, I start to like him less, because he starts to lean toward whining at that point. Also the second thought feels too much like, "As you know, Joe," dialog. Maybe you could work in the backstory another way.

    However, I do love that first paragraph. I don't know what kind of battle it's going to be -- it could be tomatoes or bullets, but it intrigues me to read on to the next paragraph. But maybe that para needs to move directly to seeing the dog and cutting out some of the backstory. Show me his dad lost his job, don't have him think it.

  3. After reading the first parg., I got the sense that this might be fantasy or paranormal. I was expecting some type of real battle. Then it seemed he was just imagining a battle he might have with Danny and that disappointed me. By the end, you lost me, because Bobby didn't find something else to do. He just sat there and moped.

    I wondered why he was nervous, as well as where he actually was. I wondered what type of fence he was behind. Was he in a compound? His back yard? And he climbs the rope to where? Perhaps say where. We learn the answers as we read on, but I think it would work better if we knew those answers right away.

    I also wondered how old Bobby was. This seems like it's meant for the younger end of MG and might even be a chapter book.

    You might reconsider the title. Everyone has ups and downs and we all get through them somehow. Is there something specific here that will become a major problem? Maybe you could make a title out of that?

    In the end, I wanted a bigger problem, (although this may be big enough for your intended audience) and a more active MC.

  4. I liked the beginning graph, although some of the physical scene is confusing, e.g. how were his movements hidden? The writing is smooth, and correct but feels dated. I like the mention of his dad's failed bank. These things effect kids. Also (a nit), our house is surrounded by trees and squirrels. They always jump toward something, never into the air.

  5. I really enjoyed the prep for pretend battle, and I felt like I got a feel for Bobby quickly. I agree with Grandkee that the first paragraph could benefit from a little more clarity in movements and setting. I'd also suggest ditching the adverbs and using stronger verbs to show us Bobby's actions.

    I agree with the above comments about the the names feeling dated and Bobby bordering on seeming whiny versus simply bored.

    Knowing that this is just the first page, I think you do a nice job giving us some key elements in a short period. I also think that Bobby's thoughts about his dad's job are very realistic, and that such a problem, if it turns out to be one throughout the story, is a legitimate one that a lot of kids could relate to.

    Good luck with this!

  6. I like this!

    One small suggestion would be to cut the speaker tag at the end, "Bobby screamed." It's not needed (we know he's the one who is speaking). Let the exclamation point convey the emotion, no need to scream:
    “Fluffy!” If Fluffy was home, so was Danny.

    Best wishes!

  7. This sets up the story pretty well. I must say though, I found it a little dull after the opening paragraph.

    Consider the following;

    o Cutting 'for now' in the second sentence would make it crisper.

    o Mention tree fort. I thought he was climbing the fence.

    o Re-order the last few sentences in the first paragraph and consider combining a couple of the actions into one sentence. For example, Braced for battle, he He stood perfectly still. Held his breath listening for the familiar battle cry.

    o Instead of waiting for the battle cry, have him listen for it.

    o Bobby 'screamed' at the sound of the dog seems a bit dramatic. Perhaps something a little less over-the-top.

  8. I think you capture the emotions of a boy without friends at the end of the summer holidays very well. Most MG readers will be able to relate. I'm not sure about the names though. They do seem rather old fashioned (I remember them from the Eving Clan TV series). I suggest cutting "Why did Dad's..." to "...another job?" Tha's too much like "You know Bob". Maybe there's a place later in the story where it fits more naturally.