Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On The Block Concession Crit #8

TITLE: Garrett Gordon vs. The Cyberians
GENRE: MG Contemporary

When technology genius and middle school dropout Garrett Gordon accidentally sells an unbeatable encryption program to the Russian mafia, he becomes ensnared in a dangerous game – one that he must win, or everyone he cares about will be lost.

Garrett plodded in from fourth grade, slammed the door behind him, and dropped his book bag on the floor with a thud before he spotted his dad, Phillip Gordon, typing at his desk across the room.

“Bad day, kiddo?”

The rickety old chair creaked as his dad stood up and started toward the foyer.

This close up, he was sure his father could see and smell the pudding matting his hair to his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling more embarrassed even than the moment it first happened.

“Want to talk about it?”

 Garrett shook his head.

“Well, how ‘bout you go jump in the shower then.”

Garrett nodded.

They both headed down the hall, Garrett to his room and his dad straight to the bathroom to get the water to exactly the right temperature. From inside his room, Garrett could barely hear his dad’s voice over the crashing water. “Do you know some people in India believe that water can actually wash away bad stuff? Evil spirits and bad luck? They say you can start fresh again, without any of the old stuff on you.”

Garrett rounded the corner holding a handful of clean clothes and a towel he’d found wadded up on the floor of his room. “Really?” He buried his nose in the towel and sniffed. Not too gross.
“I kind of think that it could work that way. Don’t you?” His dad took the clothes from Garrett, folded and stacked them on the toilet and hung the towel on the rack in the shower.


  1. I really like this start but I sort of wish it dealt with the technology aspect a bit, right from the start, since that seems to be an important part of the story and our main character.

  2. Ooh man, that opening sentence is a doozy. I think it would serve your beginning much better if it was broken into 2 or three sentences. I was also a little confused by "plodded in from fourth grade." It wasn't clear to me what that meant, so I assumed he was in a school, and was entering a classroom, and I wasn't sure that wasn't the case until his dad starts talking. It's also just a lot of simultaneous actions, which I doubt is what you meant. I think you meant that he walks in through the door to his house and drops his bag on the floor, but this comes off that he's walking, dropping his bag, spotting his dad all at the same time. Which is another reason to break that sentence up, some.

    Otherwise, I like the conversation his dad is starting about showering and I like the idea, though the logline makes it seem like it will be this very serious, kind of darker series, and the opening is pretty light-hearted so there seems a bit of a disconnect there, for me.

  3. I like this concept but raise the stakes - instead of just losing everyone he loves, have him needing to save all of humanity. As for the opening lines I was hoping to know right up front about the technology element. Is that what happened at school? The dad seemed more interesting to me than your mc at this point - great characterization for the dad, but I should be rooting more for your mc. Ground us in the scene more for what is at stake.

  4. I was a little confused: the logline mentions Garrett is a middle school dropout, but the excerpt has him in fourth grade. Is the beginning of the novel a flashback to fourth grade? If so, you might consider starting with present action and interspersing flashbacks through the rest of the book. I don't think you need the dad's full name in there at all (not something an MG reader would care about). Once the excerpt moves into dialogue, the relationship between Garrett and his father sparkles, and makes me want to read on. And the concept sounds awesome - no quibbles with the logline other than the confusion about Garrett's age there vs. the excerpt.

  5. In the pitch, I think you need to be more specific as to what lost means.

    I have the same issue with the first sentence as Sarah (Hi Sarah, long time no see). I liked the rest, but would have like a little more of Garrett personality showing through.

  6. This is a little too bland and too cluttered with extraneous details (for an opening) to let us see what kind of book it would be - or really anything about Garrett, other than the fact that kids bully him, he's in the fourth grade, and his dad still adjusts the shower water for him. Cut some of this and get into your story faster.

  7. I really like the pitch, but it's confusing that Garrett is billed as a middle school dropout yet is getting home from the fourth grade.

  8. I agree with what a few other people have already mentioned--the logline calls Garrett a middle school dropout, but in the opening line, he's a 4th grader. That coupled with the serious, high-stakes tone of the logline and the lighter tone of this opening scene was a bit off-putting. I really, really liked Garrett's dad, though, and felt sorry for/worried about Garrett.

  9. The pitch is good right up until the end ... make the stakes more personal. I was confused by the mention of 8th grade in the pitch but 4th grade in the story ... it made me feel like the opening paragraphs are 'back story' to what happens once Garrett is in the 8th grade.

  10. I really like the pitch, but would like to have a hint about the connection to the dangerous game and losing everyone he loves. Or tell us about the nature of the dangerous game. First sentence was a lot to digest. I don't think the play by play narration of plodding in, slamming the door, dropping the book bag and spotting his dad add to the story. Garrett could just walk in and see his dad typing across the room. You've peeked my curiosity about what Garrett's dad is up to. It's a little confusing as to what's happening when Garrett goes to his room and his dad goes to warm up the water. I would think a 4th grader could start his own shower. And I'm not sure how this adds to the story. It seems like you have a good concept, but I would try to leave out details that don't add to the story and may confuse or distract (e.g. warming up the water, burying his nose in the towel)

  11. Encryption, Russian mafia...I was jazzed to read this, but quite disappointed that what followed mentioned none of that. I think the opening needs more of a hook. Plus, who puts clothes on a toilet :)

  12. The log line was very interesting. The first page not so much. I had the same issues as everyone else. To me, middle school is grades 6-8. And a dropout doesn't go to school. Garrett attends 4th grade. The log line has him up against the Russian Mafia. The page has him with a head full of pudding, and unable to fix his own shower. It's hard to believe this kid will take on the Russian Mafia. Perhaps this isn't the place to start.

    And be sure the words you write are saying what you mean. That first sentence has fourth grade outside his front door, and has him dropping a thud with his book bag. He also walks into a room that turns into a foyer. The reader may get what you really mean, but an editor will expect you to write what you really mean.