Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #38

TITLE: The Dolphin Nexus
GENRE: Upper MG Magical Realism

A streak of iridescent silver flickered past the port side of the tour boat. Waves of eager onlookers rushed to get a glimpse at the elusive shape. All except Irene. She shied starboard.

"Typical tourists," she muttered. Scanning the numerous sandals-with-socks feet, she estimated the majority had never seen an ocean let alone a member of the Delphinidae Family, so she humored their dolphin fervor.

"Well, folks," said the yellowtoothed tour guide. Locals called him Cap’n Crunch, but Irene only used Jimmy’s nickname when he annoyed her. "That there’s a sight we don’t see just ev’ry day.” His cheeks crinkled around his gray eyes as he aimed a wink her way.

I do, Irene thought, offering Jimmy a tiny smile. A dolphin pod used the cove behind her house as their own private vacation spot.

"Wow,” breathed a girl about Irene’s age. She dripped in giftshop jewelry: hoop earrings dangled from her ears, a silver dolphin jumping through each circle; a tail fluke pendant hung from a chain around her neck; and dolphin charms jingled around her wrist. The only thing unadorned were her sandals, which, at least, she wore with no socks.

Talk about overkill, Irene thought, clutching her own three-pronged coral pendant.

Sunlight reflected off the girl’s rhinsetone dolphin barrette. Irene shielded her eyes from the flare with a sigh. Dolphin Girl shifted her focus to glare at her. Irene had a knack for reading people like books, and this girl’s expressions were a graphic novel painted in vivid contrasting colors.


  1. I noticed this was upper MG but the language sounded older to me. Also, I thought there was too much explanation in the middle of dialogue, which slows down the dialogue. I'd rather see dialogue flow faster, closer to real life pacing.

    otherwise, very nice opening. Love the last bit about reading people like books.

  2. I got a good sense of character. Her observations of the tourists and Jimmy told me a lot about Irene, which I think is a great way to show the scene and show the character at the same time.

    I did find myself wondering if Irene is already a part of the magical world or if she will run into the magical world within the story of the book. However, that didn't detract from the passage, it was just a thought I had as I read.

    I think you did a good job of setting the world and character. If I had to give a critique it would be that I do wonder where the story is going. But that was a teeny blip in an otherwise good opening.

  3. The voice does not sound at all middle-grade to me. It sounds like an adult, or maybe a jaded teenager.

    "Typical tourists" sounds very jaded, and I just can't picture a kid describing someone as 'dripping' jewelry.

  4. I love the idea behind your world. It sounds like a fun water story (I'm a fan)

    I like all the set up, but I also sort of like to see something happen in the first page. I know it's hard, but you've done enough characterizing the people in the scene that unless the girl with too much jewelry is a major character, it's too much time spent on a throw away character. I only bring it up because we know more about the unnamed tourist than we know about Irene.

    But with that suggestion comes a difficult balance to strike. You don't want to cut out so much of the description that you make the scene seem too compact. It still needs room to breathe, but it would be great to get to something more happening.

    Good luck!

  5. I really like the description of Dolphin Girl. I can get a clear picture easily. The way your main character says it tells me a lot about her.

    In the last paragraph the sentence, "Dolphin Girl shifted her focus to glare at her." seemed off to me in that paragraph. I can't figure out why the girl would glare. She seemed more focused on the dolphins than anyone else.

    Otherwise, I thought it read smoothly and I would have kept reading.

  6. I loved this! You've done such a great job at describing a setting while giving the reader a sense of your main character. You have a lot of unique descriptions that I think are gems - "sandals with socks feet", "yellow-toothed tour guide" nicknamed Cap'n Crunch, "dripped in giftshop jewelry" and Dolphin Girls' graphic novel glare.

    I do think it could be tightened a bit for pacing. The jewelry description was a little long. Other examples in last paragraph: delete rhinestone. Delete vivid or contrasting. Shorten 3rd sentence to Dolphin Girl glared. Try reading your story aloud and it helps to hear where extra words are slowing the pace.

    A couple other things, if this is for middle grade, I'm not sure that the reader will know what starboard and port are. Also, the reference to the Delphinidae family - I googled it to see if it was a scientific name or something you had made up as part of a magical world (since the genre is magical realism). I would make reference to it being a scientific name. One other comment is the sentence about Jimmy's nickname - I had to re-read. Maybe restructure it or make it into two sentences.

    Otherwise, great job. Keep doing what you're doing with the unique descriptions. I want to read more!

  7. I started a MG read just last night about a summer camp for kids with special talents involving sea life, and this felt quite comfortable to me for that age range.

    I do think you went a little overboard (sorry) with your description of giftshop girl, but otherwise I really enjoy your MC's observations of the people around her. I like your humor in this.

    Others have already pointed out some good things to work on, but I just wanted you to know I enjoyed reading it and would read on.

  8. This is a great passage. Your use of verbs is great and I liked the description of the gift shop jewelry. It's such a vivid image I can picture it perfectly. You also do a good job setting Irene apart from the people around her. I get a good sense of her distain.

    I think you could improve this by changing some of your dialogue tags - muttered and breathed - to said. It's usually best if your dialogue itself can convey the emotion. Either that or the action.

    Also, these opening words are so precious, I think it'd be a good idea to trim your descriptions of Dolphin Girl and focus more on Irene, the setting and what she's doing there.

    I also agree that she seems older. Both because of her jaded observations as well as the fact that this opening makes me think that she's working there. If she's not actually an employee, you should give us a sense of why she's there.


  9. I like it, kind of. I think it has too much exposition for the opening of a MG. I'd like to see at least a hint of the problem to come. The only conflict I saw was Dolphin Girl glaring at Irene and I have no idea why she would glare.
    Also, I understand the description of all the dolphin jewelry, but Irene clutching a coral pendant seemed unnecessary to me. Unless it's part of the story. In which case, put in at least a hint that the coral necklace means something.
    I love dolphins, though, though and I would probably keep reading.

  10. I agree that tightening will make this better, but it is definitely already good. I want to keep reading. If you need a new CP anytime, contact me after the contest. LOL.

  11. I became interested in this when we meet the tourist girl, covered with dolphin jewelry. I could see this girl clearly, and I loved her obvious passion for dolphins, and the way she overdoes it with the touristy knick-knack charms and rings. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Irene very much – I understand that she’s just seen too much of this sort of thing, but her disdain for everyone else put me off. Be careful to make sure your character is likable (unless you’re going for an unlikeable character), in spite of her flaws. In addition, I’m not sure this voice sounds MG, it felt a bit older than that to me.