Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #47

TITLE: Oliver and the Underlings
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Oliver Bradshaw stared wide-eyed at the blood-red colonial house hunched over the parking lot. The top floor overshot the bottom floor in the front, making the building look like it had an overbite. A sign reading "Fred's Variety" dangled like a broken tooth from the overhang. The entire house looked ready to gobble them up as they sat in their little rental car.

"Why are we here?" Oliver asked.

"To see about an apartment."

Oliver looked at the second floor again. "I was afraid you were going to say that. Mom, don't you find this house creepy?"

"It's not the greatest looking building, but fully furnished apartments are hard to come by."

His mother had a point. They didn't have any furniture. How could they when they'd moved three times in the last five years?

"Besides," his mother continued, "it's just a house. Houses can't hurt people. Only people hurt people."

Oliver wasn't sure this particular house shared her point of view.

As much as his mother claimed the house didn't bother her, she still looked plenty nervous as she exited the car and walked toward the front door of Fred's Variety. She looked back over her shoulder at least ten times between the car and the store's front door, probably assuring herself Oliver was still walking behind her and hadn't suddenly disappeared.

The landlord, a tall, wiry man with silver hair growing in a half circle around the back of his head, met them under the sign.


  1. This is very strong with a great voice coming through. The only thing that I would suggest is to tighten it up by taking out the "Why are we here?" Wouldn't he know that already? Maybe he could ask instead, "You want us to live in this creepy place?" or something. Also, if they need a furnished place it stands to reason that they don't have any furniture. You might want to leave that out or work it into the next line like, The way we'd moved around in the past few years, it wasn't easy to hang on to much.

    Otherwise, it's very good. I wish we had pitches too, so I'd know where the fantasy comes in. It seems more paranormal from this first page with the creepy, possibly haunted house, but maybe it's not haunted but a portal to another world.

    Good luck with it!

  2. I absolutely love the description of the house. I'm not sure why moving three times over that span would deprive them of furniture. Did something happen?

  3. For MG (unless it's upper MG, I guess) this seems like a lot of description in the first line. I love the thing about the over-bite, though!

  4. Although I like the house description, it isn't a strong enough opening for me. And the repeated 'over' weakens both of them.

    I'd delete 'from the overhang' and (later) 'I was afraid you were going to say that' and 'It's not the great looking building, but'

    Reader want to get into the meat of the story faster.

    I didn't like the 'Only people hurt people' line. I'm sure it refers to backstory, but it bothered me. Sorry.

    I think you really find your voice in the last couple paragraphs.

  5. I love the humor and personification of the house. I enjoyed the line about the house having an overbite. I agree that you could cut overhang because of the echo. I'd also cut out the gobble line --only because it's too much of a good thing.

    I also was confused why Oliver wouldn't know why Mom was looking at an apartment.

    I just love your humor and your strong voice. I want to see where you are going!

  6. Good voice. Excellent descriptive words for building; overbite, broken tooth, gobble them up. Wonderful sentence adding to the mystery "Oliver wasn't sure this particular house shared her point of view."

  7. Great description of the house--it not only describes the house but gives me a glimpse into the intelligence and humor of the main character.

    I don't know why he doesn't know already why they are there.

    I like the reference to moving three times--it lets me know this kid is having a bit of a troubled life and I want to know more.

    I would keep reading for a bit to see where this was going because I already really like the main character.

  8. I liked this opening a lot. I like the character's voice, his description of the house and the continued personification of it a little later ("Oliver wasn't sure this particular house shared her point of view.") I thought there was enough suggestion of problems to come to create tension.

    I'd be interested in reading further.

  9. I love the personification of the house -- fun! It disconcerted me a bit to have the vague "them" in the first paragraph. Maybe you could say "him and his mother"? I too think he should know why they're there. I know you want to get in the info that they've moved three times in the past five years -- but the connection with not having any furniture doesn't quite work for me. I like that her mother was nervous even though she said she wasn't worried. Fun, intriguing beginning!

  10. Your description of the house is great, very evocative, but Oliver's dialogue didn't ring true. Your description of him paints him younger, but what he says to his mother sounds too old. He'd be more likely to say his own opinion than to ask his mother's:
    "It's creepy."
    "We take what we can get. Furnished apartments are hard to come by."