Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Nitpicky Corners: The Doppelgangers
GENRE: MG fiction

The class went wild. Girls squealed, boys did chest bumps right in the bleachers, and impromptu homework confetti filled the gym. It was, after all, the best thing that ever happened to the sixth grade in the history of Westside Elementary. One girl fainted. Reed jumped up to scream with the others, but while still mid-jump with his fist in the air, reality smacked him back down to the bench. This would change his life.

Weeks earlier, when Mrs. Baker divided the class into two teams for the all-school Quiz Bowl, nobody took it seriously. Nobody ever did.

‘I mean, who cares,’ said Bri, checking her fingernails, each painted a different color. Still, she was glad when she was placed on the same team as Reeder Rabbit. Having Reed, the class brain, meant that her team could sit back and enjoy the win. “No work – all glory,” she shrugged. But that was before Gretchen Goodwin visited the school.

Suddenly, everybody was taking the Quiz Bowl seriously. This year everybody cared.

The caring started when Principal Grant called for an assembly in the gym. Climbing the metal bleachers, Reed could tell something was up. Mr. Grant looked typical: like a bundle of dirty laundry. His pants were buckled under his ample middle, his shirt not ironed, and his wide necktie had a mustard stain, even though it was only eight in the morning. But Mr. Grant was standing straighter than usual and was smoothing his hair with his hand.


  1. This is great. I like how you get us right into the action. The voice is great and easily relateable, something you can read for hours. And I absolutely love the description of Principal Grant. Very vivid, yet so telling when his appearance changes. A wonderful example of showing and not telling.

  2. I feel this story...and hear it, and experience it from the first words. You do have a very nice voice. One thing - instead of 'Mr. Grant looked typical', how about 'Mr. Grant looked as he always did'? It would be a joy to continue reading this story?

  3. You do a nice job of setting the scene in this (though "impromptu homework confetti" is a confusing phrase) and creating interest. Also, I am able to follow where the story is going without any difficulty. I question though whether these kids are 6th graders, as they don't strike me as such. Perhaps they are in 7th grade?

  4. Good establishment of setting & action in your 2nd sentence! Your first sentence is telling instead of showing. You show the wildness in the 2nd sentence so you don't need the first sentence. If Reed is your MC, then you need to also establish a problem or conflict for him. I need to hear his inner voice. Have you thought of writing this in 1st person so the reader can hear Reed's voice better?

    Your 3rd paragraph is a realistic description of Bri & dialogue! I like the intrigue of Gretchen, but I'm not sure how she fits into the story. Is she part of Reed's conflict?
    Good description of Principal!

  5. The first paragraph doesn't belong, it is an exciting bit but it isn't when the story starts because the next paragraph immediately back pedals in time. Nice job writing action which some people have a really hard time with.

  6. I really like this piece. I think you've done a great job at setting the scene. My only concern is that I can't tell who the MC is because of the insight we get into both Bri and Reed's head.
    The scene of Bri checking out her manicure also struck me as being a bit older than 7th grade.

  7. I agree with Sarah - there are inner thoughts from both Bree and Reed, so I wasn't sure who the main character was and thus didn't connect with either. I also found it jarring to have the opening paragraph build excitement and then immediately go back two weeks with backstory. Maybe start with the exciting announcement that causes the kids to go wild. Then have the current opening paragraph, which does a great job of showing the kids' excitment.

  8. I like the detail you used to set the scene. I got a clear visual of the gym and of Mr. Grant, especially with the mustard stain and it was only eight in the morning. The premise sounds interesting as well. My only comment at this point is that I'm not sure who the main character is. Thanks!

  9. Love the tone, and how aptly it matches the title and I'm a sucker for scenes showing classroom antics. I do think it could be stronger if we get the build-up to the Quiz Bowl announcement. What does Reed think is about to be announced? Can you hint at what and why it means so much to him?

  10. I think you should start your story here:

    Mrs. Baker divided into two teams...

    Then move chronologically to the celebration in the gym. Also, who is the narrater of the story, Bri or Reed? I'm assuming Reed.

    Great job of describing Mr. Grant and the gym.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  11. I agree with what the others said. I think you need to narrow your POV to either Bri or Reed (whoever the MC is) - omniscient narration isn't done a lot in middle grade, unless there's an actual narrator character.

    I also think you could re-structure this first page to eliminate the flashback. Start with the assembly. Something like, "Nobody cared about Quiz Bowl until the day Principal Grant called an assembly."

    Good luck with this!