Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Baywich and the Big Nothing
GENRE: MG Light Fantasy

I opened my bedroom window to the strangely clean smell of dirt from the freshly-turned fields. Yesterday my two best friends decided to wear skirts for our trip to Salem, out-voting me two to one. I laid out a frayed denim skirt and boots. As much as I loved my friends, I wouldn’t wear a ruffled sundress for anyone. I ran a brush through my blue-black hair cut in the newest face framing style, which according to Lizzie would make me look more mature. Of course, so would some cleavage, but apparently that would have to wait.

An annoyingly familiar sensation took over my core then reached out to my arms and legs like a powerful shock of electricity. Legtricity. I named it that when I was six and realized legtricity meant something weird was coming. Kind of like how a maple tree with leaves shivering silver side up means a storm’s on the way. My eyes teared over and I gulped air in painful, shallow breaths. My sight grew dark and blurry around the edges until all that was left was a tiny pinpoint of light. Gritting my teeth, I held onto that light.

The vision remained distant and fuzzy, but the meaning clear. I knew what I had to do. I had to talk to my mom. I saw it and I knew it, like I know the sky is blue. Of course, my mom is dead, but that didn’t change what I had to do.


  1. You packed a lot, successfully, into this opening. You have my attention.

  2. I like this opening-- you get right into the story and I can see the fantasy element early, which is good. I love the narrator's word: "legtricity." Sounds very middle grade.

    For me, there's a bit of a jump between the opening sentence--which is very vivid in its details-- and the second sentence. I'm not sure what the detail of the open window and the fresh turned earth have to do with the narrator and her friends' decision to wear skirts. It feels like we need another sentence there to connect those ideas.

    The details of her hair color and style also feel a little forced--since this is first person. We don't often think about our own hair color. Maybe find a way to weave that in through her comparing herself to her friend--like maybe her friends all have lighter hair and she wises hers wasn't so dark.

    I love, love the ending sentence and now I'm curious what she's going to do next. Good start!

  3. I'd edit out some of the clothing talk in the first paragraph. I'm not interested enough yet to risk losing me. Just a little tightening would help alot.

  4. A few things:
    -There's quite a bit of telling going on here. It doesn't make sense for her to tell herself how her hair looks or what her friends decided. She already knows these things and she's not talking to the reader; she's thinking to herself. Also, any time you say "my best friends" or "my mom" you are telling and breaking POV. Inside her head, they would be Julie, Linda and Mom.
    -This needs a lot more showing through introspection rather than narration. For example (and I'm not saying you have to do this), if you showed her take out some hideous ruffled dress, throw it back in the closet while saying, "I don't like you THAT much Linda" and grab the denim skirt instead, we would get that she hates ruffles and isn't willing to wear them just because Linda (her friend) wants her to. That is stronger than telling us because it lets the reader figure it out for him/herself. Readers LIKE to figure things out for themselves!
    -I find the voice a little mature for MG (esp the comment about cleavage).
    -As Stephen King said, "the road to hell is paved with adverbs" (which is my way of suggesting you delete all of yours!)

    Good luck!

  5. Was a bit startled by the reference to cleavage, but maybe that is normal for MG? I liked the part about wearing skirts because it reminded me of how me and my friends would indeed co-ordinate outfits sometimes lol. I liked the maple tree description. The dead mom seems kind of overdone, but I would be interested to see where that goes!

  6. I would agree to dump all the adverbs and the over-description of your MC. Let us get to know her as we go, if her appearance is important, or let us see her in our own imaginations.

    But I do like the idea of her preparing herself to see her dead mother. That intrigues me.

  7. A few things—first, I’m not clear why wearing a sundress is coming up at all. Her and her friends decided to wear skirts? Without seeing more of the pages, I do wonder if this is the most compelling way to start (and there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the first sentence and the rest of the sample). I’d love to see more purposeful movement in the scene (while she laid out a skirt and brushed her hair, I don’t fully visualize her anywhere doing anything specific—or trying to accomplish anything. This intro scene feels more like telling rather than showing and isn’t propelling the story forward). There is something about this voice that feels a bit too self-aware and not quite hitting the notes of MG that I like to see. Thinking about cleavage seems more like something adults assume young girls think about rather than what is really at the forefront of their minds (as does the comment about face framing style). That said, I love the third paragraph and the idea that she has to talk to her dead mom—I wonder if this is something she does often? This a very interesting idea with loads of potential, but I’d recommend really honing that voice (it’s nearly there!) and potentially starting later in the story.