Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #43

TITLE: Melvin C. Daniels and the Great Ratscapade
GENRE: Contemporary Humorous Middle Grade

At 2:37, on a Thursday in September, Mrs. Waddle marched into our classroom carrying a stiff dead rat by the tail.

I knew the exact time because Ryan had just nudged me and said, “Melvin, check out the clock.” It was covered in spit wads because that’s what happens when you leave a room full of seventh graders alone for five minutes.

I also knew this was not going to be a normal class. Mrs. Waddle was never late, and we weren’t supposed to dissect rats until the end of the year.

Two tables away Maggie Pepper’s long dark hair caught my eye. It rippled like a curtain of dark chocolate when she followed Mrs. Waddle’s progress up the aisle.

I could stare at Maggie all day…but I didn’t because that would be creepy.

Instead, I looked at Mrs. Waddle. Even with a dead rat in her hand, she wasn’t nearly as interesting as Maggie.

“All your work through our entire year should lead to this.” Mrs. Waddle held the rat high so even from the back row I could see its bulging dead eyes and swollen tongue.

“The precise and deliberate dissection of this revolting specimen should be your crowning glory.” Talk about crowning glory! I couldn’t believe my eyes when she dangled that rat straight above her head.

Bad idea.

Thick yellow liquid oozed from the rat’s mouth and formed a drop that hung inches above Mrs. Waddle’s hair.

13 comments:

  1. Jacqueline YeagerMay 14, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    This opening feels like age appropriate Middle Grade. Nicely done. However, there are a few places that you could cut to give it the impact I think you’re trying to achieve

    Ex. I would cut: Talk about crowning glory. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
    Instead: “The precise and deliberate dissection of this revolting specimen should be your crowning glory.” She dangled the rat straight above her head. Bad idea.

    That way you’re not telling the reader what’s going to happen before it actually does.
    I also feel that your main character is a little too introspective. I’m not sure a seventh grader would think “because that’s what happens when you leave a room full of seventh graders alone for five minutes.” This statement is true, but it seems too old for the voice. Maybe instead you could try something like, “Melvin, check out the clock.” It was covered in spit wads. What did she think was going to happen? Leaving our whole class alone for five minutes was all the time we needed. (Or something like that.)
    I love your descriptions and the section about Maggie. You capture the emotion of a girl- preoccupied 7th grade boy very well!
    I hope this helps! Good job and good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  2. inimitableballerinaMay 14, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    Love your voice. I skimmed down the submissions until a first line hooked me, and yours was it.

    While it caught me, I think there are some vocabulary chooses that a middle grade reader/character wouldn't choose with such a conversational tone, same with the teacher's dialogue.

    Also, maybe you can think of something more creative to describe Maggie's hair - chocolate's a little cliche.

    Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm laughing. The voice works for me. Not sure a stiff rat would ooze, but I think kids (and I) would keep reading. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is very nicely paced and vivid. The first sentence is certainly a grabber. I agree re: crowning glory above.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice pacing. The voice works well for MG.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really like the voice in this and you caught my attention from the beginning. I love his preoccupation with Maggie and his comment about it being creepy.

    I'm not sure the rat would be oozing, though. It's been a while since I partook of such sport, but I believe the specimens were usually preserved in better shape than this one appears to be. Perhaps the teacher found him out in the parking lot, though, so I would keep reading to figure it out.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Loved this! I so remember torturing substitutes with spit wads in 7th grade.

    Crowing glory didn't quite work for me and I'm not sure about carrying in a dead rat, not in preservative, nor it dripping goo.

    But otherwise, great entry, sounds like a ton of fun. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have to add "EEEEEEeeewwwwwww----" this had me at dead rat and spit wad.

    Great job. I'd read on!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Loved the title and the teacher's name. I, too, had a few reservations about word choices, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the piece. Suggest revising the 4th paragraph to trim out one of the uses of 'dark' in reference to Maggie's hair.

    This story looks like a lot of fun.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My son would be all over this. Perfect voice for MG and great mix of descriptions, characters, dialogue, and action.

    Overall, this was awesome. A little nitpicky thing in one of those last paragraphs: “The precise and deliberate dissection of this revolting specimen should be your crowning glory.” Talk about crowning glory! I couldn’t believe my eyes when she dangled that rat straight above her head. I think you could lose the "Talk about crowning glory! I couldn't believe my eyes when". Just start the sentence with "She dangled..." and then show us his reaction.

    Nicely done! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes! Wonderfully written. Great MG voice that seems so difficult to nail. Love the title - keep up the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is lots of fun, and a great opening line that really grabs me. A few thoughts...

    Are we interested in Maggie, or are we interested in Mrs. Waddle? Focusing on Maggie distracts from Mrs. Waddle and vice versa. The Maggie passages seem to suggest we should find the rat boring by comparison...but it's just...not boring! Perhaps focus on Mrs. Waddle and the rat first, then move on to Maggie later in the scene?

    Small note: the line "that’s what happens when you leave a room full of seventh graders alone" sounds very adult, as if from Mrs. Waddle's point of view, rather than Melvin's. Melvin almost seems to be scolding his fellow students here- would he really?

    Anyway, a really fun passage. I'd like to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fun voice and scene! Love the title and the teacher's name.

    I agree that you could word the spitwad paragraph a little more MG-ly.

    "It rippled like a curtain of dark chocolate" didn't quite sound like an MG boy, either, but if you said "rippled like the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral" it might.

    I also agree to delete "Talk about crowning glory!" and "I couldn't believe my eyes" and get straight to the dangling.

    I SO wanted you to describe Mrs. Waddle’s hair in the last line. "...hung inches above Mrs. Waddle’s
    sprayed and lacquered helmet hair/wild and springy gray frizz/never-a-hair-out-of-place head/etc. Whatever an MG boy could come up with. (Delete "head" in the previous paragraph.)

    ReplyDelete