Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #16

Title: Fix Your Life!
Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy

April 17

Tonight was the W O R S T. I was sure we were going to win first prize with our Earth Day project but Taylor had a meltdown while Mom was holding her and kicked apart the windmill and Mom yelled at ME for being mad. “She didn’t do it on purpose. Blah, blah, blah.”

It’s so unfair. We worked super hard and now Grace and Zeke probably hate me because there’s no way we’ll win. If we did, our picture would be on the school website and it could go on the refrigerator instead of Matthew’s, which has been there for 1,000,000 years.

Dad didn’t even see what happened because he was busy admiring the competition. How come other people’s kids get more attention than me?

Honestly, they are the W O R S T family ever. I wish they would all disappear.

Chapter 1

,April vacation starts the second the bell rings. The whole sixth grade streams out the door whooping and laughing and high-fiving. Groups of kids peel off in different directions. At my corner, I wave goodbye to my friends and head down my street alone. I stop to tie a flapping shoelace and when I straighten up, there’s a strange little man right in front of my face.

Yikes! I jump back. Where did he come from? I look up. Did he fall out of a tree?

“Greetings!” he says. “I’m Dexter, the host of Fix Your Life!, the reality TV show.”


  1. I think you could be more clear what's going on in the opening paragraph--is this a diary entry? An internal monologue? Also, you introduce a lot of characters in the diary entry, so it's hard to keep track of all of them.

    When you say Dexter is a little man, how literally do you mean it? Is he short or some sort of miniature fairy?

    I'm intrigued by the name of the reality TV show. This sounds interesting and fun!

    Hope that helps. Good luck!

  2. Love the premise! As a reader, I can kinda see where this is going: the diary entry, labeled April 17, of the ruined science fair exhibit and her "wishing" her family would disappear. The pop-up appearance of a "strange little man" who -- I'm guessing -- is a Rumpelstiltskin-type come to grant her wish in return for....And there's the catch. You don't get to it in the first 250 words, but we kinda know where the story's headed. I did want to see a bit more description overall. Examples: the windmill was for what project, measuring efficiency of wind power generation? Of the "little man" -- what's he wearing, how does he appear? The MC would notice these things and reference them, as a matter of course. I also wondered if when she notices him, if he's followed by any sort of cameras, or is he a one-man band -- carrying his own? Not uncommon in some reality TV shows, unfortunately. A fun read!

  3. The title/name of the reality show is awesome and intriguing right off the bat. I'm a little confused by how the (journal? diary?) entry and the scene go together. Is it a flashback to before the entry was written? Is it the aftermath of that night?

    Usually I'm all for getting into the fun parts right away, but I think you might want to consider setting up the "normal life" part a little more before the little man appears. I'm not invested in the main character or their life yet.

  4. Intriguing set up. I would like to know a bit more about the protagonist, though. Maybe establish in the prologue that it is 6th grade, rather than wait to show that and whether it is a girl or boy. Also a bit more about why it's WORST family ever. It's not great, but so far, I'm sure other 6th graders would think they had a far worse family. Maybe add another line about "This morning this happened, then this afternoon this happened and now they ruined my project and they don't even care." Of course, it doesn't take much for 6th graders to think everything is the WORST ever, I guess! I would read more.

  5. Ditto to AMB's comments.
    There is so much to like about this piece, but I was immediately struck by the authentic voice. Interestingly, I hear the voice as a girl. But now, I want to know. Could put that into the Mother's line: "_______, she didn't do it on purpose." then the reader would know for sure.
    I love the combination of diary/journal and scenes, strong verbs, the angst of the middle child. Both the diary entry and the opening scene of spring break are relatable to the MG reader.
    Some sentences are very long. I would look to shorten when you can. MG readers get lost if the sentences are too long and stop reading or miss out on comprehension.
    In par 1 and 2, you reference "we". Who is we? can you clarify? Use Grace and Zeke's names earlier?
    Last line of diary: Honestly, I have the ...might be more clear and avoid using another pronoun.
    And wouldn't we ALL LOVE to meet the host of Fix Your Life! right now? Especially during the challenges of Covid times? So timely...I'm hooked.

  6. Everyone gave advice that echoes what I would suggest. So I'll add that this sounds like a cute story and I want to know more about that tiny little man and what Fix Your Life will end up doing for your MC. I predict she will find out that her life really doesn't suck as bad as she thought, kind of like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Good character arc.

  7. The appearance of Dexter feels too abrupt to me! I’d suggest building up to it more and grounding the MC in her world before you introduce the game show.

    The run-on, grumpy diary entry establishes the voice and humor really nicely. For me the complaints (“it’s so unfair,” “how come other peoples’ kids get more attention than me?”) are more effective when used sparingly. I’m connecting much more with the diary voice than the straight narration right now, but I’m intrigued enough by the premise to keep reading.

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