Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #21

TITLE: My Life to the Tune of Taylor Swift
GENRE: Upper Middle Grade

Summer Sutter introduced me as Darcy Fartsy in the middle of lunch, and all my dreams of starting over, or at least of having a whole year free from humiliating nicknames, disappeared. At this rate, I was bound to exceed my all-time record by year end, but oh well! Not that I cared what Summer “the SSSSSSnake” Sutter said about me anyway…well, as long as it wasn’t in front of Carter.

Sometimes I wish I had the nerve to say the Pro Wrestler name I gave her out loud and to make her feel as small as she makes me feel, but I just can’t do it. I’ve even practiced in front of the mirror, but I’m too weak or too nice to actually go through with it, depending on who you ask. So instead, I just drift away in my mind as the loud deep voice of an announcer and the roaring cheers of the crowd fill my head while "The SSSSSSnake" runs out into the ring, pumping her arms up and down like she's lifting some hundred-pound weights. Only Summer is so tiny that she looks more like an action figure than a wrestler.

Somehow that imaginario always cheered me up after one of her cracks, and in some cases, like today, gave me a surge of confidence which I felt the need to capitalize on. So I picked up my tray, cocked my head to the side, flashed a genuine fake smile, and said, “Thanks for ruining my appetite.”


  1. Has she discussed the Pro Wrestler name with others? If so, she's not particularly nice. If not, others wouldn't have an opinion on whether she's "too weak or too nice."

    Your writing flows well, and you've created a sympathetic MC. I'd probably keep reading.

  2. The MC's voice is easy to relate to, especially at that age. We come to care for the character's weakness and timid personality.

    The beginning line has a story that I feel needed more depth to it. There was something going on here with her dreams being shattered about not being nicknamed and her concern about not being humiliated from Carter. I feel like we needed to know a little bit more about that, because Carter sounded like just an afterthought, something that could have been learned about now or not have been mentioned at all until later.
    Otherwise, I'm getting that Taylor Swift feel to this character which is good. That song 'Mean' comes to mind as I read this.

  3. To me, the opening is too slow. It took 250 words for her to react to Summer's name calling by saying Thanks for ruining my appetite.

    Perhaps show the scene. Show Summer actually say that to her, then show us Darcy's reaction. SHow us the reactions of the kids around them. Maybe stick Carter in the scene and show us his reaction. We never do learn if he heard it or not, as is.

    If bullying is your plot, show us some bullying. If it isn't your plot, open with something that relates to whatever the plot is.

  4. I like the first line, but I think perhaps you spend too much time in her head after that. It would be nice for us to be present with her right then -- tell us how others react, how Summer looks, what's going on around them, etc. A few brief lines about what she is thinking would be enough.

  5. I think you need to consider the tension in this bit.

    You start with Summer doing something to humiliate her, but you immediately lose the tension by saying that you don't care what Summer says.

    And then instead of gaining tension back by showing Carter laughing at her or something, you go into a paragraph of internal monologue, because you don't have the nerve to say anything out loud.

    And then you do say something out loud, but it's not all that witty so you still haven't gotten back the tension you had in the first line.

    For a beginning of a chapter or novel, you need to start with less tension and make the tension build. You need to drag the forward by making him think he will either find out the answer to some intriguing question if he will just keep reading, or by making him think he's going to see some exciting thing that's coming.

    You write well, and you have a good voice and I think you can make this opening work if you will paint a scene rather than spending so much time in her head.