Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #3

Genre: MG Fantasy

Everyone knows bulldogs don’t speak. I mean, they hardly even bark. So why’d that hefty old Zelda say “car” just as I was about to get in it? Our neighbor liked to brag that his dog once lived with a circus, but all she’d ever learned to do was balance a ball on her nose. Or so I thought.

Before the sun could fry my skin, I jumped into the back of our Cadillac Escalade MegaXXX—a wimp of a car compared to all the self-driving land yachts cruising around the oxygen-sucking town of Sparkplug. Still, it had saved me from my fears a million times before. I slammed the door and squashed my nose against the window to see if Zelda looked like she was actually forming words. Kinda hard to tell on a creature with such a horrible underbite that her incisors didn’t fit in her mouth. But yeah. Her droopy jowls tightened and her lower jaw thrust forward every time she finished her disturbing howl. The “r” in “car.”

Don’t be a wuss, Leo. You’re imagining it. That’s what Omar would say. Best buds forever, despite my frequent freakouts. I could probably crack him up—and definitely everyone else in seventh grade—blathering on about a talking dog. Of course Zelda couldn’t really speak. Maybe this was the first stage of cynophobia. Fear of dogs. One of the few things I’d thought was totally harmless. Had a lifetime spent battling phobias made me totally lose it?


  1. First of all, I love the title and the concept of starting with a talking dog!

    I'm a little confused by the opening paragraph. It might help if the commentary and background info on Zelda (bulldogs don't speak, neighbor brags that she lived with the circus) was separated from the action that's happening (she speaks as Leo gets in the car). Putting the speaking at the end of the paragraph might pack a nice emotional punch, too.

    I really like the last line of this excerpt! I want to know why he's spent a lifetime battling phobias, and what those phobias are.

  2. I like the voice of the mc, but I wasn't sure where Zelda was in the first paragraph and first thought she was inside the car. Perhaps add a couple of words to show the setting, i.e. show Zelda dropping the ball in the neighbor's driveway and then she says, "car." I agree with Triona about the phobias, though perhaps clarify if Leo began having phobias after an incident when he was 5 or something. "a lifetime" doesn't seem realistic, even though this is fantasy.

  3. OMG. The title. It is everything! I love your MC's voice, and I'm an absolute sucker for snarky MG fantasies. I did find the thread of the story slightly confusing, for example the abrupt switch from Zelda howling the "r" to his berating himself for being a wuss. However, it seems like you have a delightful story on your hands and an amazing MC to boot! Good luck!

  4. This seems like a big thing to just drop in the middle of a paragraph. "Still, it had saved me from my fears a million times before." I'd give it more context or pull it out and figure out where to put it for a bigger bang.

  5. I like the title and the stage you've set here. I'm interested in the setting from the small hints you've worked in. The mention of self driving cars (loved that you called them land yachts) makes me think that it might be better classified as science fiction than fantasy. I did find that jump from the first paragraph the second very confusing. The first paragraph is all hypotheticals and backstory, and the second paragraph suddenly has the main character jumping into a car without knowing why. We don't find out it has anything to do with the aforementioned bulldog until the middle of the paragraph, which threw me off. Also, I'm not really sure why thinking the dog spoke would make him hide in the car. If he's not afraid of dogs it seems like he would go closer to see if he'll do it again. Good premise and some good descriptions, but I would rework this passage for clarity.

  6. I like Leo’s voice here, but I’m a bit disoriented! I think I need a couple more scene-establishing details to better follow the action (is he leaving for somewhere?). The hot sun doesn't feel like a realistic reason for him to jump into the car if he thinks he’s just seen a talking dog. Is it an instinctively fearful reaction instead?

    Overall, I'd like to see the momentum pick up faster. The strange dog and hints about his past aren't quite specific enough to pull me in just yet.