Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Read At Your Own Risk
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Sixth grade should’ve been a fresh start for Simon. A new year, a new him. But six months after September, March rolled around and he knew each trashcan by brandname.

Pulling a banana peel from his hair, Simon climbed out of the cafeteria garbage. He was an average twelve-year-old, not too short, not too tall. His brown eyes matched his dirty hair, and his bony shoulders made him narrow enough to fit inside lockers. But, he could lick his elbow, and that was pretty cool.

“Next time stay out of my way, Thriftstore!” Kyle Davis warned. His flock of friends snorted with laughter, all round and large like their leader. With a kick of Kyle’s foot, the cafeteria door flew open and they waddled into the hallway.

Simon shook candy wrappers from his shirt. “If I left Massachusetts, I’d still be in your way.”

The late bell tolled and Simon slipped. Stumbling out of the cafeteria, he yanked a sandwich bag from the bottom of his shoe and skidded toward his English class. To his dismay, tuna fish had coated his sneakers and he fell no less than four times in fifty feet.

“Nice of you to join us, Mr. Tanner,” Mr. Holland commented over his shoulder. Simon plopped into his front-row desk and copied the list his teacher was scrawling across the board. It contained all of the mythological beasts from their reading assignment— Mystical Wonders of the World’s Legends by Margaret Egan, chapter two, pages seven to thirty-six.

19 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. i don't care for the line about six months after September... you say this as if March coming along is a surprise. i think you can reword this opening to make it punchier and less wordy. More like: By March of my sixth grade year, I knew every trash can-from the inside looking up. something along those lines. i love stories about middle grade but i didn't really connect with this mc. he feels very passive even at this point. he's not even angry with the bullies, and that seems strange to me.

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  3. I felt like the writing flowed really nicely and I really like the specificity of the things you describe. :-D

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  4. There's some humor in here that I really like--knowing each trashcan by brand name, and "If I left Massachusetts, I'd still be in your way." Those bits of dark humor catch my interest as a reader.

    I agree that the line about March coming 6 months after September is a bit awkward, and I like Dottie's suggestion of rewording it to emphasis your first line hook--the thing about the trashcans.

    I'm not fond of long descriptions of characters' appearances (just personal taste, maybe), but I do like the way you used yours to tell us more about the character than just what he looks like (narrow enough to fit in lockers--nice).

    Overall, I like how you introduce the character, but I wonder if you could show the stakes a little more at the beginning. We want to see the bullying stop, of course, but the character doesn't seem too shaken up about it, which makes me think it's not the main conflict of the book. If it is, I'd have him be more like, "I can't take this anymore," maybe fighting back tears or showing signs of long-term anxiety. If the bullying is incidental to the main conflict, I'd suggest hinting at that main conflict sooner (I'm guessing it has something to do with the fantastical creatures from the book). If you trimmed up the bullying incident, you could get to that more quickly, and we'd still understand that he's being bullied.

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  5. The voice in this is great! I think you did a good job getting the descriptions in there without weighing the page down. It's a little cliche, but I really like it.

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  6. I also like the voice. I think it flowed well and kept my interest. I'm not totally hooked on your title. The book of mytholocical beasts has me interested in what is to come. 29 pages to read as homework seems like a lot for middle grade. Overall, Good Job.

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  7. I need more stakes. I like the trashcan line and the bits of food stuck to him but I agree he doesn't seem too upset by it. What is the main conflict? Great voice though!

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  8. I like this. You set up the conflict and I have a feeling we learn more about it in the next few paragraphs. I don 't like the physical description in the second paragraph. It's a little too much and feels kind of forced, though I do like the line about the narrow shoulders

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  9. Love the voice! And the humor, like being able to fit into lockers, lick his own elbow and the Massachusetts line. And I like that even though he's being bullied, he hasn't given up. He does sound passive, but sometimes, passive is a smart form of defense. Fighting back can get you hurt even worse, especially when the bullies are big and round, as you stated. When you are the scrawny little guy, you need to find a way to fight back that doesn't involve physical one-on-one.

    You do a nice job of introducing us to the MC and his enemies that keeps us interested, so good job!

    But I have a feeling Simon's plotting, or trying to think of a way to save himself, and the book is going to have something to do with it, right? Oh yeah, cue the ominous music! I like how you lead us to it without hitting us over the head with it, if that's what it truly is (betting the cat on it. Okay, my neighbor's cat.)

    The six months line didn't work for me either, but I'd just change it to: "But six months into the school year, he knew each trash can by brand name."

    Love the title- I'd pick it up just on that! I'm an MG fan/writer, so this is right up my reading alley!

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  10. I'd like to know more about Simon's feelings towards his bullies, his coping mechanism, what makes him tick. He seems very passive for someone that has been dealing with bullying for so long.
    Overall, I like your introduction and I would read on.

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  11. I agree that the first sentence seems a bit forced, but I really like this. I don't mind that he seems passive - he's a bully target so I would expect that. I don't need to see right away that he suffers inwardly. Most victims hide that, even from themselves when they can.

    I love that he can lick his elbow and thinks that's cool. I love that he's an underdog and is probably going to accomplish amazing things. I just hope they are hilarious at the same time.

    Would love to read on. Great job in my opinion. Thanks for posting and good luck.

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  12. I actually like the line about September. Or, I like the "six months after September," but don't think you need to say March as well. Perhaps it's the poet in me that likes the alliteration. The humor is great.

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  13. Love your title and your specific details. There's plenty of physical conflict between Simon and the bullies in this opening, but not much internal conflict. It's tough to get much more into a 250-word snippet, but I would like to know to know what Simon wants. He seems resigned. He's dismayed by tuna salad on his shoe. Will spring break be his salvation? Does he want revenge? I expect something to happen soon--most likely related to the mythological beasts. I'd like to read more to find out!

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  14. I too like the humor in this story and would read more. But I agree Simon is too passive. Good luck.

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  15. I love the first couple of sentences. That was exactly how I felt every new year in school! Great voice too!

    I had a problem with the line where you say Simon has tuna fish on his does and fell four times in 50 feet. I wasn't sure if it was related (the fish making his shoes slippery) or if he was just clumsy.

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  16. Love, “But he could lick his elbow, and that was pretty cool.” Great voice. Nice humor. Poor Simon. I already feel for him. You are setting up a lot of things here that seem to shed light on Simon coming into his own. Maybe just add more of a reaction to the bullying.

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  17. Awesome voice. I usually prefer 1st person, as 3rd feels too 'removed' for me, but you nailed it.

    My only quibble would be that the first line could maybe have a little more 'oomph'. I feel like that line may be a common one...

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  18. I like the writing here; it opens with a clever turn of phrase -- knowing the trashcans by brandname -- and moves along nicely after that. Falling five more times in fifty feet felt like a bit much to me though, and even though the writing is sharp, this is a very familiar opening. Perhaps there’s another place to begin this story?

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