Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #22

TITLE: Phenonmena, Nebraska
GENRE: Magical Realism MG

"Winifred O'Neil! Winifred O'Neil!" barked the camp director with his southern drawl in full effect.

Winifred began shaking her head back and forth even before turning around to see what Hale MacDougal's shouts of her name were all about. And all the while shaking her head in denial, she tried to maintain the full concentration necessary to launch the arrow straight into the center of the colored target that lay 70 feet ahead of her. Slowly retracting her right elbow and closing one of her eyes for better focus, she just about -

"Win-i-fred O-Neilllll," came Hale's amplified call from behind a bullhorn. And with that, Winifred knew she'd rather forfeit than try for a shot which was now sullied by her summoning. Archery hadn't been her first choice in sport, or even her third, but nevertheless not only had she taken to the practice, but she embraced the solitary sport for exactly that very reason. Far way from the city of Seattle, hidden at a camp deep in the Ozark mountain range in Arkansas, Winifred had finally escaped. Or so she had thought, because with every yelp of her name, it became clear that she hadn't. She knew why Hale was so insistent even before she turned around to face him to see the phone he held in his hand yards away. She knew who was on the other end of the line. Her parents always had to ruin everything.


  1. This is an interesting premise. I'm interested to know why her parents called and why she was at the camp.

    My big concern is that the language and many of the sentence structures are way to old/long for a middle grade reader. For example the language in these passages are too adult:

    "which was now sullied by her summoning"

    "but nevertheless not only had she taken to the practice, but she embraced the solitary sport"

    "tried to maintain the full concentration necessary to"

    Plus, this sentence is an example of one that is too long and hard to follow: "She knew why Hale was so insistent even before she turned around to face him to see the phone he held in his hand yards away."

    I think this submission could be much improved if you used much shorter sentences and if you used the kind of language in your narrative that most 9 - 12 year-olds use when they speak.

  2. I thought this was good - I don't think it needs to be dumbed down for MG. Credit to the kids - this is all clear and well-described. :)

    I'm not sure it has much of a hook, though. Maybe some suggestion of what her parents might be calling about? I feel like I need a question to be answered.

    ( And if the call isn't an important one, then why are we starting here?)

  3. The writing is clear and the scene pretty well described, but I'm not sure it has the focus and action an MG story needs. The first page spends a lot of time talking about an archery shot she never even takes, and I'm not sure I know what her motivations are (e.g., I'm not sure why having her name called sullies the shot or why that would matter). I take it the MC is a perfectionist with overbearing parents, but I think that needs to be brought closer to the front by showing more how it affects her actions rather than having us spend so much time in her head.

  4. I like your beginning. It should catch the attention of your target audience.

    Some suggestions: Paragraph one - "full Southern drawl." Paragraph two: Delete "And all the while shaking her head in denial." It repeats. Paragraph three: "amplified" is redundant. Last line change: "Her parents ruined everything."

    Just some nitpicks. Good luck.

  5. I thought you set up the situation nicely. You start with a problem, and there's enough here to get a sense of who the MC is.

    I did think your sentences could be shortened for three reasons. You can say the same thing in a simpler, clearer way, you just don't need a lot of what you have, and if your audience can't understand what words mean (how many of them are going to jump for a dictionary vs those that will just give up.)you're going to lose them.

  6. I think that using a camp in your openign scene is always a risk as there are so many books set in summer camps and you risk a reader not going further. I would take a look at how you convey information. For example 'she tried to maintain the full concentration' might be better shown in description of how her face looks. i did like the final sentence about her parents always ruining things as the reader will want to know more. Best of luck!

  7. I like the setting of the story and your MC sounds interesting. I agree with the others though that your sentences are to long. Shorter and simpler. The overall idea though is excellent.