Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Secret Agent #35

GENRE: MG Paranormal Mystery

Our house was rigged with 24/7 security, but not because of the ghost. I pressed the eight-digit code, jack0315—my name and birthday—into the keypad on the front door. After I slipped inside, I expected Rent-a-Cop’s usual frisking or a background check. I live here. It gets old. Seriously, who would steal a lock of some dead guy’s hair? Sick. I still had no idea who Kurt Cobain was.

            I searched the living room where the weird artifacts hid behind bulletproof glass. No sign of the security guard or my dad or the supernatural being haunting my house.

            I threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Without the annoying ghost around, this might be the best night ever. But as the seconds ticked down, yellow squares of paper popped onto every surface. They were a constant reminder he was present and to find his murderer. I’d never heard of the dead communicating with sticky notes. 

            You’re out of T.P.

            Did you locate the smoking gun?

            Try watching Law & Order or Matlock or CSI.

            My former neighbor had yet to convince me he was murdered. I wished he would leave me alone. Who was Matlock anyway? Franklin was such a drama ghost.

            As I ignored the notes and headed into the living room, the floor lurched beneath my bare feet. I stumbled, smacked my head into the stair railing, and dropped my bag of popcorn. A groan scraped the surface of the air.


  1. OK, I love that first sentence! Actually, I love the whole thing. Nice setup.

    I did stumble over a couple of sentences. I wasn't sure about the background check. I associate that will looking into someone's past, but the family guard would already have that information. I like the part about stealing the hair, but it made me think I misread the beginning and he was entering someone else's house.

  2. I love your voice! The line, "I don't even know who Kurt Cobain was" made me laugh out loud..and feel really old.

    I find it a bit hard to believe that he'd still be getting searched if he lived there.

    I had to reread the sticky note part a couple times to figure out the old neighbor was the ghost.

    Maybe you could elaborate a bit as to what his house actually is? I think it's a museum of some sort but i'm not 100% sure.

  3. I really love this. It is hilarious. I wonder, though, if this isn't reading older than MG and more like YA? I don't read much of either genre, so I'm not sure, but some of the sentences are pretty complex and the pop culture references are pretty far out for elementary schoolers. I am totally hooked, though. Great voice!

  4. I agree with HopefulAuthor, it sounds more YA than MG to me, and I do read a lot of YA and MG. Other than that it was enjoyable read.

  5. I love this, and I personally feel it could go either YA or MG. I like maturely written MG simply for the fact that there are 11 year olds who aren't ready for YA content but are capable of the reading level. Don't dumb it down. They can handle it!
    That being said, some of the sentences needed clarification. The Rent a Cop is the neighbor ghost? I immediately thought it was like, his step dad or something. It's a little confusing. The communication by post it notes as well as the references he doesn't get are great. Some MG aged kids will get that. I want to read more.

  6. First off, I love the opening line - not only does it immediately get across the idea that a ghost lives in the house and set the tone for the book, but the nonchalance of how the main character mentions it tells us a lot about the character.

    After that things start to get a bit confusing for me. There are some pop culture references I'm not sure an 11-year old would understand, such as Kurt Cobain and Matlock - and while the main character doesn't know what they are either, the fact that we as older readers are in on the joke makes it work. But I'm not sure it would have the same impact on an 11 year old who doesn't get the joke? I also think there are a LOT of different references to men in such a short excerpt and it's a lot to digest - the ghost, kurt cobain, the rent-a-cop, the step dad, matlock, the neighbor. It's a lot to keep up with and at first I confused "the dead guy" (Kurt Cobain) with the ghost at first, until you clarified later that the ghost is actually the neighbor Franklin.

    I think this reads fine for older MG level - as long as it's kept clean of sexuality, drugs, etc - I agree with the previous comment not to "dumb it down" at all. I think its clever tone is completely suitable for the older MG reader!

  7. I think the clever tone is just right for mg, too. A really fresh premise. Lots of fun!

    If the kid entered the correct code I don't know why he'd expect a rent-a-cop to show up at his house.

    I'm not sure what the author means by "surface" of the air.

    I love the details - great for an mg audience. I'd read more.

  8. An interesting opening with a nice hook. It could be stronger if you showed it happening rather than telling us what happened. One thing to keep in mind when writing in first person is that the MC should not be talking to the reader. The MC should not know a reader exists, which means cutting lines like your opening sentence. We should learn his house has 24/7 security by what you show us—punching in his code, searching for the security guard, the bullet proof glass. If you find your MC talking to the reader, cut it.

    Our house was rigged with 24/7 security, but not because of the ghost. Then because of what? Are you saying they have all this security because they have a lock of Kurt Cobain’s hair in the house and are afraid someone might steal it? If so, perhaps that needs to be clearer. If not, then perhaps you need to tell us why they have all the security, and why you’re mentioning Kurt Cobain.

    . . .where the weird artifacts hid . . . perhaps ‘were hidden’ unless the artifacts have the ability to hide on their own. And what are the weird artifacts? And does he give any thought to where his father and the security guard might be, or is it normal that they’re not around?

    They were a constant reminder he was present and to find his murderer. Rephrase this sentence. The first half is in past tense and the second half in present tense.

    We're told the post it notes popped on to every surface. Perhaps this is an overstatement, considering there are only three messages. The first two notes are funnier than the third, and his remark about ‘Who was Matlock anyway” is basically a repeat of “I still didn’t know who Kurt Cobain was.” Perhaps come up with a different third note.

    As I ignored the notes . . . He didn’t ignore them. He read three of them. Perhaps “I ignored the rest of the notes and etc.” which will legitimize the notes popping up on every surface.

    A groan scraped the surface of the air. Does air have a surface? Perhaps rephrase.

  9. Great first line - I'm intrigued! But by the end of the first paragraph I'm confused - who is "rent-a-cop" and why he would be suspected of stealing a lock of hair, and also what Kurt Cobain has to do with anything...

    But paragraph two I'm back on board and I'm intrigued and as I read more - I kind of love the idea of a ghost communicating via sticky notes!

    "Drama ghost" - funny!

    I'm not sure I like the last line "A groan scraped the surface of the air" - seems a bit much when you could just say "I groaned" - but I'm definitely curious to read more!

    Thanks for entering!