Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Ramble
GENRE: Middle Grade Adventure

I run. Flat-out, my legs stretching as far in front of me as they can. I twist my head to get a look and see that not only is his massive gray body keeping pace, but he’s closing the distance between us. I can’t outrun him.

The barb at the end of his tail glints in the sunlight, and I feel the sweat turn cold beneath my fur. I look around desperately, praying for a small hole or crevice to appear in the wall in front of me that I can duck into but that will be too small for the Squirrel. But the wall stretches hard and unbroken as far as I can see. And I’m too far from the den to cry for help.

Soon I am at the wall, and there is nowhere else to go. I turn to face the Squirrel, preparing to duck as he raises his barbed tail high, blocking out the sun . . .

“Jenny! I told you not to wake him up!”

I come to slowly, not quite sure where I am. My heart is still sprinting, the blood pounding through my head. I can feel the hand that shook me awake resting warm against my side.

“I know, but I never can tell if he’s having a happy dream or a sad dream. And he was whining and jerking really hard.”

I lift my head off the bed and gaze up. Even though she doesn’t know it, my female human probably just saved my life.


  1. Hmmm, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like this since it seemed like it was going to be a dragon fantasy.
    But you hooked me when the sister wakes him up. Now I am wondering, Is he an alien? Do his dreams transport him to a place where the dream becomes reality? Is an alien culture invading a normal kid?

    I like this, but I wish it started with a bit of dialog - more of a scene.
    I would keep reading this.

  2. The MC is something with fur that is smaller than a squirrel. A hamster maybe? I would enjoy this more if I wasn't trying to figure out who is telling the story. I have read in many places that dreams and being chased are over-done starts to stories so you may want to consider starting somewhere else. Good luck!

  3. I'm sure the MC is a dog! I always wonder what horrible nightmare my dog is having when he's twitching and whining in his sleep! And a giant squirrel would scare me!
    I love it.

  4. Definitely a dog. But it does seem like an alternate universe. Maybe when he sleeps he is in another world with huge squirrels with barbed tails? If we could only read fifty more words, I bet we'd know.

  5. Although I, too, have read that starting with a dream is bad, in this particular case, I feel like it works because we learn something about the world of the story from it (the dreams are real and his human just saved his life by waking him up before the giant barb-tailed squirrel killed him).

    That said, I think we need a little bit more detail to ground us in the MC's body from the first sentence. In the first paragraph, I was assuming a smaller MG-aged child was being chased by a larger, gray-clad person. Then in para 2, we get that it's something with a barbed tail chasing the MC and that the MC has fur, but you make us wait a few more lines before we find out the pursuer is a squirrel and we don't know for sure what the MC is (seems like a dog, but why is the squirrel bigger than him then). I think it's fine to have an alternate world with giant squirrels (or tiny dogs, or whatever), but we can't be confused in these opening lines.

    I like the second half of the scene, once Jenny wakes him up. I little bit of tweaking and I think you'll have a very effective opening. Best of luck!

  6. I don't know what to say without more story. These first bits are hard. I would keep reading.

  7. How curious! The protagonist is a dog! (Right?)

    Work on tightening your writing still.

    A small thing in the opening paragraph -- the "not only" (not only is his massive gray body...) doesn't feel organic. I'm not sure that in the tension of this moment, your protagonist would make an observation in this way. It would probably be:

    I run. Flat-out, my legs stretching as far in front of me as they can. I twist my head to get a look and see his massive gray body keeping pace. But he starts closing the distance between us. I can’t outrun him.

    I think this adds more immediacy.

    1. Revision made - thanks so much! And Ramble IS a dog. The book's premise is that dogs go to another realm when they sleep - a realm with giant squirrels intent on killing them. It explains why one human year equals seven dog years.

  8. You’ve set up such an imaginative beginning, it’s almost too imaginative in that it seems to be interpreted differently by each reader.

    So far readers thought it was about dragons and dogs, but it could also be a fantasy creature that is tiny. Why would a squirrel be so big it couldn’t fit in a hole in the wall? Either the creature is being called a squirrel, and he really isn’t, or the character dreaming is smaller than a squirrel. A mouse? A Yeti fairy? :)

    I guess a bit more information may be needed to fully understand this beginning, but I’d definitely keep reading to find out what it is.

  9. Thanks so much for all the feedback! This has been so helpful.