Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #43

TITLE: Olive Green and the Water Gun Witch Hunters
GENRE: MG Fantasy

They wait in the tallest towers, in candy houses, and on the wrong sides of yellow brick roads. They lure you in with words, by telling you you’re pretty, by telling you no one else understands, and by telling you they are your only offer of help in a world that’s lonely, cold and dark.

Witches tell lies.

I do not.

My name is Olive Green, and I know about witches.

Last Tuesday, I left the school bus, holding firmly to the hand of my little brother, Frank. He’s five. Frank’s feet and his mind tend to wander.

“Would you ever get in a fight with an octopus, and if so, who would win?”

I said, “No. I wouldn’t fight an octopus.”

“Well, what if an octopus jumped right out of that tree right now, and –”

“They don’t live in trees.”

“I know, but what if one was living in someone’s swimming pool, and it escaped and…”

“Not gonna happen.”

Frank shifted gears and said, “Race you home.”

With surprising dexterity, he twisted his hand down and out of mine. He sped down the sidewalk, his backpack bouncing on his shoulders. I didn’t bother catching up. Honestly, I wanted him out of my sight.

When I reached the house, the door was wide open.


I slammed it closed.


I wasn’t worried. He rarely answered, but after stepping inside and shrugging off my backpack, I was immediately overwhelmed by an awful stench, worse than burnt popcorn.


  1. I like this. I think the voice is great, it really sounds like MG to me (with maybe a few exceptions, like "dexterity" and "immediately overwhelmed"). I love the whole octopus conversation.

    I think you could make your first paragraph stronger by changing the second sentence to read "...telling you they're the only ones who can help you..." "offer of hope" sounds awkward to me.

    Aside from this, though, I would absolutely read on. Good luck.

  2. Very strong opening. I like the description of the stench. Nothing smells worse than burnt popcorn.

  3. I enjoyed this. My only thought was that the MC sounded a bit older based on the word choice. But then again, maybe that's who she is. Things like "tend to wander" and "surprising dexterity" don't sound like phrases from someone in middle school.

    Of course, if the MC is someone who is "older" than most kids her age then please disregard.

    The first paragraph would make a great book blurb!

    I would definitely read more.

    Nice job and good luck :)

  4. Well done all around. One quibble. Why would MC not be overwhelmed until after shrugging off the backpack? Or, for that matter, after slamming the door closed? It reads as though MC slammed the door closed and then stepped inside.
    How about this: I slammed it closed ad was immediately overwhelmed...

  5. This one drew me in immediately. I loved the banter. It had a very natural feel to it. Would definitely read more,.

  6. Great dialogue exchange. Both characters are well defined right away. Olive's internal dialogue is too old for MG. I loved the ominous door left open, awful stench. I wanted to read more. The first graph narrative is also too old. I'd like to know you're talking about witches before I read the first graph, plus you give away the surprise by letting us know we're going to encounter a witch, so maybe it should come later.

  7. I love this! My only comment is I wasn't clear why she "wanted him out of her sight". She comes across as very protective. Yes, he's a handful and that would be frustrating, but maybe think about rephrasing. I wonder what her first thought about the smell will be...

  8. I really like this. One thing... Did he want his brother out of his sight, or did he just need a break from his banter?

  9. I loved this and would read on. My only complaint is with the 5-yr-old's first sentence. It's very complex. I have 5 kids and I babysit...I'm around little guys all day long. I think he would more likely ask, "Do you think you'd win in a fight with an octopus?" I liked the rest of the dialogue.

  10. I like this and would read on. I was always curious/creeped out/wondering about witches when I was kid.

    The opening is captivating but I was a little disoriented by the first paragraph and felt it might be stronger if you started with "Witches tell lies." and then attach your first para right after the third para "and I know about witches."

    It seems she slams the door and then steps inside after. The sequencing is just off. good luck!

  11. This was pretty strong. There were a few awkward word choices as others stated, but the dialogue does a good job of establishing character and you develop tension quickly.

  12. I really enjoyed the dialogue between Olive and Frank in this, and I'm worried about Frank now. I need to know what happened.

    The only thing I'd suggest is that the second sentence was a little long. This may be part of the reason Olive sounds old for her age. You might consider breaking it up:

    They lure you in with words. They tell you you’re pretty. They tell you no one else understands. They tell you they're your only help in a world that’s lonely, cold and dark.

    And maybe you want to start the paragraph with "witches lie," because I was getting a very different kind of predator vibe from this.

  13. I loved the opening and the line 'Frank's feet, and his mind, tend to wander.' You might add the commas.

    I liked 'Witches tell lies,' right where it is. The candy houses and yellow brick road let the reader know she's talking about witches, I think, so you don't have to state it at the beginning.

    Maybe cut - and if so, who would win? It seems too old for a five year old, and she doesn't answer that part of the question anyway.

    Maybe cut - with surprising dexterity. It seems to come from the writer rather than Olive. ANd maybe cut 'Honestly,' too. I did wonder why she wanted Frank out of her sight. They seemed to be getting along well. Maybe tack on the reason, especially if it relates to witches, because it will carry the witch opening down the page.

    SHe has to go inside before slamming the door.

    The only story issue for me was the fact that you start with witches and then drop them completely. There has to be a reason why she's thinking of witches or believes them to be real, or how she knows they all lie. I think you drop the topic too quickly, and it needs to be carried through the entire opening, even if in a subtle way.

    But overall, I liked it and would read more.

  14. I like this right off. I immediately get into the mind of Olive Green and feel her personality. I love the line about the brother whose mind and feet wander and then the octopus...great dialog. There are a few things like "frank shifted gears and said" that you could just leave at "frank shifted gears. You don't need a lot of the he said/she said because you can tell by the dialog. Also, a few descriptions like shrugging off the backpack that I don't think are really necessary unless the back pack comes back and is important. But I liked it and would read more. A

  15. I liked this immediately. The first line is intriguing.

    o Consider stating who is speaking after the first line of dialogue. It wasn't until the second line that I understood. Better to identify speaker in the first line, and then reader can follow dialogue without any break in concentration.

    o In the last line, consider cutting the sentence after 'answered'. The final part of that sentence as a stand alone is much more powerful.

  16. Wow, the opening grabbed me in immediately with candy houses and yellow brick roads. I was like, "Awesome!" I enjoyed the conversation between Olive and her brother. Usually, first person present tense annoys me because it's so overly done now, but I felt it just fit perfectly with your story. I don't know why since I don't even know what the premise is, but first person present tense just fits. My only concrit is why would she want him out of her sight? She seems rather protective.

  17. Except for the first paragraph, I really enjoyed this. I loved the dialogue and you have shown both characters really well.

    I felt like the first paragraph was telling and this is all things that can be built into the story. For me (and a lot of people above like the first para, so this is just me) I think the story would have been stronger if you started with "Witches tell lies"

    Overall, I would definitely read on to see where this was going.

  18. Love a good witch story! I wanted you to jump right in with “witches tell lies” and perhaps a little bit more about Olive’s character and what makes her so knowledgeable about witches. The first paragraph felt over-explanatory and perhaps unnecessary, as it seems like we’ll see some witches in action very soon. I enjoyed the big sister/little brother relationship between Olive and Frank – very believable and funny.

  19. I commented on this earlier and I'm not for sure what happened to my comment? Anyway, what I said (I hope I can remember everything)

    I love the sibling relationship, but I didn't understand, "Honestly, I wanted him out of my sight."

    Slamming the door before entering the house and struggling with the backpack is going backwards in time.

    Nice voice and great dialogue!

  20. Really good. I love the go between of the bro and sister and how it really does start off immediately. Doesn't seem to lag but yeah watch certain vocab for MG like dexterity which was mentioned.

  21. I like this a lot. It would probably compare well to Roals Dahl's "Witches". Great voice too. Beware of some words that will be too sophisticated for MG readers. Other than that, perfect, imho.