Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Little Things
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantastical

She was on her bike but floating. Riding always cleared Ellie's head. Her foot slipped off the pedal and she knocked her shin on it—hard. She grimaced. Her dad was in a "mood" and it felt good to zip through the alley with a little extra speed. She veered between the telephone pole and gray corner bricks with an inch to spare on either side of her knuckles. She took a right turn onto Douglas Street. Then she heard the familiar, "Mornin', Ellie."

It was Junior. He and The Signing Man sat across the street sipping from their tall paper cups. Junior always brought Signing Man a coffee. The crisp fall morning air enhanced the swirl of steam rising from the top of Junior’s cup. Ellie waved as she rode past.

Ellie always sought the feeling of gravity tugging at her jaw at the end of each swerve back and forth through the middle of the street. But today she snapped out of a turn just shy of a curb. What was going on? She pulled on the brake for the upcoming intersection. There wasn't a car in sight so she prepared to roll through. But as she slowed to the stop sign (as her father had instructed her to do countless times), she noticed a toy amidst the gum wrappers and cigarette stubs at the base of the sign. It appeared to be a little animal. Normally she would chalk up a toy on the ground to a careless child. This was different.


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  2. I'm afraid the line "Ellie always sought the feeling of gravity tugging..." pulled me out of the story. I'm not sure I understand what that means. In places I think the voice seems too stiff or formal. Would a kid think of another kid as a "careless child?" Maybe so, but I think this needs a few tweaks for voice and clarity.

    If the finding the toy/animal is the inciting event, maybe you should start there instead of telling us about the coffee and He and the Signing Man - (which also confused me - is he deaf? And why the caps?).

    The overall concept of a kid finding an odd toy is very intriguing, and if the story started there, I would definitely read on.

  3. Ellie riding a bike is a good action beginning for a story. And the possibilities because this found toy is different make this piece interesting. Otherwise, I was confused by the setting, the action and the magical 'floating.' Maybe first person would work better.

  4. The first paragraph seemed to have a few different starts to it. The floating, the riding clearing her head, her smacking her shin. I had a hard time following it, though I like the idea of her riding her bike in this opening scene a lot.

    I feel like the entry should start with her spotting the toy, as everything before that was a little hard to follow and to see how it all fit together. (Like jillibeans, I love the idea of a mysterious toy as an inciting event!)

    Good luck with this!

  5. I could see the coffee steam and feel Ellie taking the sharp turns! Only part that confused me was "chalk up a toy." Honestly, I have never heard that phrase before and had to google it! :) So, if I've been living under a rock and that's something a young girl would say, then keep it! But it threw me!

    Your opening line is enticing. I love paragraph 2 and wouldn't change a thing! Nice job! :)

  6. I am immediately intrigued by this toy and why Ellie would instantly recognize that it was different. I would definitely keep reading. The first line threw me. When you are writing fantasy, anything goes. Is she really floating or does it just feel like she's floating as she's riding her bike. I would tweak that for clarity. The most interesting part of this piece, in my opinion, is the second paragraph. I would like to have more a feel that Ellie is riding a route that she rides regularly and have her see more people and more detail about the people/animals/sights she sees when she rides this route. The third paragraph didn't feel like a kid talking. Words like "amidst" and "appeared" and "careless" make the MC feel a lot older. What kind of an animal did she originally think it was? A kid would identify that. And the second-to-last sentence is confusing.

  7. I've seen this a couple of times now, and I always wondered if she was really floating. I think this time it's clear she is, what with the mention of gravity, but perhaps you might move that word a bit closer to the word floating?

    Parg 1 - maybe cut - Her foot slipped off the pedal and she knocked her shin on it—hard. She grimaced. Her dad was in a "mood" and it felt good to zip through the alley with a little extra speed. -- Right now, I think that may be too much info. It seems what's important here is the floating and the toy, and maybe Junior and Signing Man.

    I agree that parg 2 is the best of the three.

    Perhaps in parg 3, let her spot the toy first, then snap out of the turn. You're telling us what happens and it'll read stronger if you show it. Perhaps --

    Ellie sought the feeling of gravity tugging at her jaw as she swerved back and forth through the middle of the street, and noticed a toy amidst the gum wrappers and cigarette stubs. She snapped out of a turn just shy of a curb. It was a little animal.

  8. If you tighten your paragraphs, the reason why the toy is different might fit on the first page which might up the tension a lot. The beginning is interesting but I don't think it has a MG voice.

  9. Interesting title, and I very much like that we meet your MC as she is on her bike. It’s great to get a sense of her life and her neighborhood through her ride (though I would love a little more about how she has to escape her dad’s “mood.”) The voice here didn’t feel young enough to be MG, though – there were some sophisticated turns of phrase (“the crisp morning air enhanced the swirl of steam”) that felt out of place, and didn’t sound like observations a kid would make. It was also difficult to get a handle on some of your other descriptive phrases; while it’s clear Ellie loves to bike, saying that she “sought the feeling of gravity tugging at her jaw” doesn’t quite make sense. Consider using some more fun, action-packed language to show us how bike riding is a real escape for her from whatever is going on at home.