Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #ALT-1

TITLE: Crystal Clear
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Crystal slid against the back wall of the shed. "Go away, you stupid dog," she whispered so the kids standing outside wouldn't hear. She peered through a space in a broken board and saw her old best friend with a tall, dark-haired boy she didn't recognize. Her heart pounded. Thank goodness she slipped inside before Fiona spotted her. The last thing she wanted was for Fiona to find her hungry, grubby, and hanging out near Nan's grave.

Fiona clapped her hands. "Come!" The dog ignored her. Crystal figured he knew she was inside the shed and he wanted Fiona and the cute boy to know it too. The boy walked to the dog and clipped a leash to his collar.

"You go, kid," Crystal whispered.

"We're outta here, Mutt," the boy said. This time the dog obeyed, whether it was because of the leash or because he was bored with the shed, Crystal didn't know. When the dog turned and the boy led him to the gate, Crystal let out a breath she didn't even know she was holding.

"That was creepy," Crystal heard Fiona say as she looked over her shoulder.

"It was probably a squirrel," the boy said. "Anyway, we don't have time to find out. Your mother will kill you if your duffel's not packed when she gets home from the hospital."

Hospital? Crystal thought. Now that was a place she knew well.


  1. This first page offers lots of hints regarding the big thing that happened to destroy Fiona and Crystal's friendship. Nan's grave and the hospital comment make me want more. There are moments, though, where I feel a bit lost. For example, I read the dog as Fiona's at first, yet Crystal whispers, "You go, kid," when the boy takes control of the dog. Also, Fiona comments that something was creepy, and I assume it is the dog's obsession with Crystal, but that is not clear. You could have Crystal make a noise or something to encourage this reponse from Fiona. The pieces are all there. I just think they could be related more clearly at times.

    Good Luck!

  2. I like this and it drew me in. I could feel the tension of Crystal waiting in the shed.

    I was expecting the boy's statement to be more sinister than "let's go, you need to pack."

    I like that you started with a scene and not a narrative. Is Fiona no longer her friend? Why "old best friend?"

  3. Nice start. I like the girl hiding in the shed, although the word "inside" confused me for a moment. Nan's grave is very intriguing added to Crystal is hungry and grubby. I want to know why any kid would hang out at a gravesite!
    Good luck!

  4. You have some nice tension and intrigue in this opening, but overall, I found it confusing, as I struggled to place my self in the scene. From the start, I thought Crystal was outside of the shed, looking in, so I was disoriented when I realized she was inside looking out. The following paragraphs with the focus on the dog's whereabouts confused me further, and I'm wondering how they are moving the story forward. Should there be this much focus on the dog and how his presence is impacting the three teens? Can you streamline in such a way as to make the children feel more front and center?

  5. This is a good opening, building curiosity on several fronts. In some circles, however, "letting out a breath she didn't even know she was holding" is reviled as a cliche. Try to find something as original as the rest of your writing: hungry and grubby stood out for me as much more evocative than tired and hungry or hungry and cold.

  6. The only problem I have is the cute boy, so it is more attitude than the writing. I guess I assume YA is more worried about relationships, dating, etc. than middle grade.

  7. The only problem I have is the cute boy, so it is more attitude than the writing. I guess I assume YA is more worried about relationships, dating, etc. than middle grade.

  8. This is an intriguing beginning that shows lots of information - her name, age, the direness of her situation (she must have a stunning reason to be hungry and grubby, hiding from a former friend in a shed in a cemetery) and hints of what's to come. The dog seems a natural way to connect up all of this without an iota of "telling." i woudl love to read more.

  9. I also struggled with where she was watching from and who the dog belonged to. I'm intrigued and want to know what would bring a hungry middle grader to the cemetery and what happened to Nan. But I also don't believe two other kids would happen to be on their own in the cemetery, too. It's not common for kids to be at a cemetery alone. Maybe start the scene sooner. Show Crystal having a moment at the grave when she spots Fiona and decides to hide in the shed, then she'd overhear Fiona and the boy talking and would know why they were at the cemetery, then the dog would freak out, and then get to the current opening scene. The reader might feel more grounded.

  10. I love when I write a review and it disappears 😭.

    Let me try this again!

    I liked the first paragraph and followed who, what and where things happened.
    I knew Crystal was looking at the kids from inside the shed because you wrote the kids were "outside".

    Didn't like the "so" in the first sentence.

    Maybe try, - she wishpered, hoping the kids outside wouldn't hear.

    I think you can introduce Fiona's name in the second sentence, like so:

    ...saw her former best friend Fiona with a tall, dark-haired boy she didn't recognize.

    The sexing paragraph on comfused me. You wrote Crystal figured "he" knew she was inside. Who is he? The dog? If so, why would the dog want to alert the, to her presence? If the dog ignores Fiona, wouldn't he still be in the shed when the boy leashes him?

    I agreed with it needing to be grounded and starting with Fiona at Nan's grave, then hiding in the shed.

    I like the plot and want to know more. No issues with the idea and storyline.

    Thank you for sharing. Good luck!

  11. Thank you for all the feedback!