Wednesday, March 18, 2009

25 Secret Agent

TITLE: Fat Chance's Magical Map
GENRE: Middle Grade fiction

Tony made a bet with the entire fifth grade class. If he didn’t nab Mr. Chance’s magical map by his eleventh birthday, he was going to scrub the kindergarten toilets every day for the rest of the school year.

Some kids said that was crazy. Zany. Cockamamie!

But Tony was a risk taker.

Nevertheless, he couldn’t ignore the Legend of Mr. Chance. This top-secret notebook lay hidden on the back shelf of the Watson Elementary School library. The Legend of Mr. Chance filled every page. Except the last one. Tony planned on writing the ending himself.

He stood in the library, skipping his dreaded math class, and quietly re-read the infamous legend:

The Legend of Mr. Chance

Mr. Chance had only one purpose in life-to make miserable little kids even more miserable.

Kids who laughed at his shiny bald head and big bulging belly.

Kids who hid his glass eye under his wig collection.

Kids who barged into his magic shop and messed up the fake vomit display.

In short, kids who farted and burped and sneezed and coughed and did all sorts of gross things. Kids who wanted a little more freedom from their parents and a little more sugar in their lunchboxes.


  1. I loved this! I definitely want to read on and find out exactly who Mr. Chance is (was?) and why the notebook is so coveted.

    I love your use of language, from words like cockamamie to talking about farting and burping in the same sentence :) For the MG-age boys I know, that's right up their alley. Really, really well done!

  2. I'd definitely read on. Knew what it was about right away. Got a sense of the character right away. And you stayed focused. Good job.

  3. I would read on. I liked your voice and you left me wanting more.

  4. A couple of nits:

    I would cut "But Tony was a risk taker." You're already showing that, so you don't need to also tell us.

    I'd also like the "skipping his dreaded math class" sentence to be more personal and active. Like something in his own voice about how he didn't mind skipping, cuz he hated math anyway, or more active in the moment (like have him sneak into the library, afraid of being caught ditching Math).

    But this has potential, and I would read on.

  5. *Grins* This cracks me up. Nice job<:

  6. Ha. Loved this beginning. I was a little lost on what the magical map was (since nothing here told us what the map showed or could be used for) but I totally loved the Legend.

    I'm hooked.

  7. I was a little confused. Why does only Tony want this magical map? Wouldn't all the kids want it? And what prompted him to up and decide now was the time to get it? That's a chapter I'd be interested in reading. In the first paragraph you mention this map, but then later on you talk about a notebook. Are they the same? Why does Tony want to write the ending? How can it be top secret and hidden if everyone knows it's on the back shelf of the school library? I didn't really get the Legend of Mr. Chance, either. Someone usually becomes legendary for what they've done. I didn't get that from your list.

    I think you have a great bunch of ideas that just need a bit more flesh.

  8. Ooh, great title. I love the tone, particularly in that last para, and the setting up of the character of Mr Chance. My 8-year old son would love, love, love that.

    I'll admit to being a bit confused by map/notebook - does the notebook contain the clues to where the map is?

    I'm guessing that there's a reason why that last page is blank and I'm guessing it's going to be good...

    Liking this one.

  9. I got a bit confused--if the notebook is kept in the library, where anyone could access it, then what was Tony's problem?

    The voice is good for an MG novel. I'm not quite hooked yet, but this seems to have an interesting premise. Good luck!

  10. Thank you so much for the comments!! The first chapter is devoted to the notebook and map.....

    Thank You!!!

  11. Nitpick: doesn't Magical Map suggest its fantasy?

    I love the description of Mr. Chance hidden in the legend and I like the boy who wants to steal the map. I'm sure my nephews would love this story.

    I'd read more.

  12. I think you're onto something here. I like the terse use of language and the voice, although not sure "zany" and "cockamamie" will resound with today's kids. I also wonder why this Mr. Chance--who isn't a teacher or even affiliated with the school--has a notebook in the school library. Also, right now I don't really read the "legend" as a "legend," but more of a description OF Mr. Chance--or even a setup. Lastly, why couldn't Tony ignore the legend? I don't see why he's so drawn to this in the first place. It's hard to nail all this stuff in the first 250 words, but good luck!

  13. Great voice here--perfect for the middle grade mentality. Excellent job.

  14. Last paragraph was hysterical! Strong voice and love the title.

  15. The tone of voice is good and appropriate for the age group. I am trying to figure out how--and why--a kid would make that kind of bet with his ENTIRE CLASS. I have a 9 year old son, and he might talk to his best friends about something like that, but there are enough different kinds of kids in any class that it's unlikely one of them would simply make a blanket promise to all of them. I'd kind of like for this to start with the scene of the class discussing it and Tony being somehow dared into doing this.

    Also, why does a misanthrope own a magic shop if he wants to make kids miserable...?

    There's potential here, but I don't think it's quite ready for prime time yet.


  16. I think this is going to be a funny MG story. A little far fetched in spots...hiding his glass eye under his wig collection? How are they going to get hold of his glass eye?

    I loved, "making miserable little kids miserable." There's a fine line between zany and implausible, is all I'm saying.

    I wasn't quite clear on the map and the book. The man has the map and the kids have the book in the library? That's the trouble with 250 words. We have to edit it to death.

    I would go on with this book to see how it progressed. I love funny MG's and this is off and running.

  17. I'm among the confused. Lots that didn't make sense to me. I can't see a kid promising to clean toilets - it just doesn't fit. But the whole class ice cream? Fart loudly in class? Lots of things but not scrubbing toilets. And this must be some school district if the kindergarteners get their own toilets! I think the humor comes through nicely but the confusion needs to be cleared up. Potential, nice style, but I'm too lost to keep going.

  18. Hi everyone,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment!!! This is interesting, reading all the viewpoints. It seems the comments fall into two camps: those who like the humor, and those who are confused by it.

    This story is humorous fantasy. If you like Roald Dahl, I think you will like this. If not, you won't.

    All of the questions about the notebook, the legend...everything brought up here is answered in the first chapter.

    This exercise got me thinking about the first 250 words. To me, it's all about voice and craft. If there are no writing craft errors, and if you like the voice, then I think the first 250 did the job.

    I don't think that unanswered questions should be a criteria for the first 250. Though this is just my opinion, I think that's what the story is for! I read through several of these, and have many unanswered questions I wouldn't expect to be answered in the opening. But the voices of many of these are so strong and compelling, I'd keep reading.

    But this is a fun and enjoyable exercise, and I appreciat the opportunity for being part of this. Especially today, given the hectic nature of everyone's jobs, it's more than kind and generous of the Authoress to organize this event, and the secret agent to spend time critiquing all of the entries. Many many thanks!!!!

    This story is currently being read. Who know what will happen, but it's already been edited based on one agent's feedback, and tweaked based on critique group feedback. Dare I say I like where it is? It was pure joy to write.

    I can't see how long this comment is because the comment box is so short, but I feel I'm beginning to ramble....

    Many thanks again!!!!