Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #10

TITLE:   Mouth of the South
GENRE:   MG Historical Fiction

Fingers of July sunlight snaked through the interlocking foliage overhead and scattered brown diamonds across the lazy waters of Sugar Creek. Patsy and Olivia waded barefoot, ankle-deep, down the main channel, stopping ever so often to turn over a rock or scoop up petals blown into the water from near-by mimosa trees. They tucked the feathery mimosa clusters into their hair and behind their ears. Sweat beads still sprinkled their foreheads from the bike ride down Arnold Drive to the creek.

“I’ll be leaving in a few days, you know,” Patsy said as she kicked a spray of water into the heavy air.

“Does it have to be for two weeks?” Olivia whined. “Why not just one?”

Eleven-year-old Patsy shrugged. “Dunno. Just is, I guess.”

“You’re NOT going to like it, you know.”

“That’s what you keep telling me—for a gazillion times now. But this is Girl Scout Camp, not church camp. It’s bound to be different.”

“ALL camp is the same: bad food, hot cabins—it’s JULY, for crying out loud--, and boring crafts.” Olivia bent over to scratch a chigger bite. “Not to mention the other obnoxious campers whose parents sent them to camp to get rid of them for two weeks. Tell your mom you feel sick and can’t go.”

Patsy turned over a large rock, watched a crawdad wiggle away, and swished her muddy hands in the creek water. Olivia isn’t usually such a sour-puss, she thought. I bet she’s worried about something.


  1. To start off, you set the scene extremely well. I'm actually nostalgic for creek-wading now. The only thing that's missing is the when. I don't see anything in this opening to differentiate it from a modern story.

    Although I love the setting, I'm not sure about this sequence of dialog. Some of it sounds a little expository.

  2. Your opening paragraph is beautiful. Breathtaking, in fact. I am immersed in the creek, with the girls and their flowers, and I'm feeling a bit romantic and nostalgic, like I'm reading the next Anne of Green Gables.

    Then Olivia whined and the spell was broken. From the dialogue, I got more of a Ramona and Beezus feel.

    These two halves of your beginning are both fine, but I think the tone is so different that I can't quite figure out what the story is going to be about. Personally, I'd vote for the first half, but that's just me. Either way, great potential for the story. I'd love to read more.

  3. You do really paint a nice picture of wading in the stream. I can see it vividly from your description.

    My one suggestion would be to sprinkle some of that description throughout the dialogue. This will tie everything together. I do want to read more as well.

  4. This is kind of like a tale of two openings. You start off with a beautiful, vivid image that gives us an immediate sense of place.

    Then the dialogue starts to drag. I agree, it seems a bit expository, but it just doesn't sparkle the way it should.

    I found myself wondering if perhaps you had started the story too early. Can you give us more of a hint about what the central conflict will be so that there's more tension and urgency?

    Finally, I'd like to hear more of the MC's voice. I noticed there's not really any internal monologue going on. We might be pulled in more if we could hear some of her thoughts.

    I am curious...what year is this set in? Judging by the dialogue, it's not too far in the past.

    Good luck!

  5. I really have nothing to add from the other comments, except to say "ditto." I loved the opening paragraph! Beautiful. But the dialogue felt routine and flat and whiny and ordinary. Not what I want to hear while during my magical creek walk.

    Is this really where the story starts? Where else might you begin this?

  6. I think most of the dialogue is fine, just the "I'll be leaving in a few days, you know," is very stilted and "telling". If you could figure out a way to lead into this conversation without that, I think it would clear up a lot of these issues.

    I'm not sure how I feel about the italicized internal dialogue. It just doesn't strike me as the sort of thought you would think that clearly. I think if you just had it "Olivia wasn't usually such a sour-puss, she must've been worried about something." we would still get that it's Patsy's thoughts and I think it reads a little smoother.

  7. I like the first line--nice imagery. Some of the dialogue feels a little too convenient though, like the characters are rehashing things they already know for the reader's information. Also, I had no idea whether the MC was Patsy or Olivia until the final paragraph. It would help if you led with a thought clearly from Patsy's POV right from the beginning. Perhaps stripping out all of this dialogue and reducing it to a few lines in Patsy's thoughts would help with both issues.

  8. I thought the first line was way overdone, and personally, I'd cut it. It seems forced and unnatural, jammed packed and long. Purple prose, in short. What follows it creates a strong, beautiful image in a much more natural way, and it creates a nice mood, as evidenced by the comments of others. Just add 'of Sugar Creek' after 'the main channel' to adjust for the cutting.

    Perhaps work in some of Patsy's feelings about camp. Does she want to go? Is she looking forward to it? A bit nervous or scared? We get Olivia's take on it, but not hers.

    And I thought the ending line didn't work. What could Olivia be worried about? It seems more likely that she'll simply miss Pasty when she's gone, or perhaps she's jealous Patsy is going and she isn't, but what would there be to worry about?

    Also, perhaps come up with a different ending line, one that involves Patsy, and that also hints at what kind of story this is. As is, it could be a friendship story as the soft opening implies, it could be a mystery, as Patsy's closing thought implies, it could be humorous, as the title implies. Work something in to give us a solid clue.

  9. You set the scene well and I can almost see the two girls wading in the stream. The central conflict is quickly established. The dialogue could use some work so that it it cimes alive. The sentences of dialogue are currently too long and detract from our understanding of the characters. For example I would simply say 'Tell your mom you can't go.' and delete everyting beginning 'All camp is the same...two weeks.' Less if often more in dialogue!