Wednesday, March 18, 2009

32 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Red Crab Treasure
GENRE: MG adventure

A man stood on the deck of a Spanish galleon, flanked by pirates. Behind him, the plank extended out over the angry water, twenty feet below. Blood flowed from above his right eye, down to the collar of his shirt. Dirt and grime stained his three piece suit. Thick ropes bound his ankles and wrists, biting into his flesh

Despite his obvious predicament, the man smiled.

The autumn wind picked up, and he turned from his captors to shield his eyes. The dark grey sky and darker blue water stretched out before him with no land in sight. Movement on the deck drew his attention. The pirates split in two groups, making a wide aisle. A hulking man with a flowing blonde beard, dressed in tattered clothes, filled the space.

“They call me Blondebeard,” the pirate bellowed as he stepped toward him. A gust of wind blew off his hat, exposing a long mane of red hair. “This is my ship and these are my men. We have sailed across oceans looking for you, and now it is finally time for you to tell us where your treasure is.”

The man did not answer, but the smile remained on his face.

“Of course, if you don’t tell me where it is, you walk the plank, and no one will be able to find it before I can,” Blondebeard growled.

The prisoner chuckled with the slightest shake of his head.


  1. This seems like a fun piece - loving mg as I do, I am a sucker for pirate adventures. I would like to feel more connected to the characters, however. There is a lot happening, but somehow I feel a bit of distance. It is so hard w/ only 250 words...I'd read on to see if the characters came more alive on the next page. Good luck!

  2. This is a great scene to open with, but this needs some editing. For example, the three piece suit is a nice detail, but it would have more impact in the first line. "A man in a grimy three piece suit stood on the deck of a Spanish galleon, flanked by pirates."

    I would cut "Despite his obvious predicament". It is obvious to the reader, too, so there's no need to say it.

    A lot of potential here!

  3. Minor nitpick: there are many planks on a galleon, even just limited to ones you can walk. Even though "walk the plank" is a common expression, "the plank extended" still stuck out at me -- I'd go with "a plank extended".

    The comma splice in the third paragraph makes it seem like the beard was dressed in tattered clothes.

    I also have to wonder how big of a hat the guy was wearing such that it was enough to cover a "long mane" of red hair that was only exposed when it was blown off.

    Maybe it makes more sense later, but if the protag is bound on the pirate's ship, would there really be all that introductory exposition about who he is and how the people are his crew?

  4. I love pirate stories, too. I agree that this seems distant, and there's some unnecessary exposition, e.g., Blondebeard saying this is his ship and these are his men. That's implied by their deference to him. But of course I was interested by the end of the first sentence. Pirates!

    (It's difficult to judge just from 250 words, but what if this scene was from Blondebeard's POV? The exposition could be delivered more naturally, and having an angry, frustrated pirate tell us about this guy would feel less distant.)

    Is this a prologue? I was wondering where the MG characters were.

    I disagree with H.L. Dyer, though. The detail of the three-piece suit dropped casually into the fourth sentence brought me up short, and I love that this is suddenly not a conventional pirate story.

    One question, though: if the man doesn't tell Blondebeard where the treasure is, how does Blondebeard expect to find it at all, much less before anyone else?

  5. Nitpic that could just be me.

    Blonde = female
    Blond = male

  6. My first thought was, where's the kid? If this is middle grade. Also, the three piece suit made me think it was contemporary but a pirate named Blondebeard made me think it wasn't.

    It's such a familiar scene, prisoner being made to walk the plank by a pirate named ____beard. If you've got something that makes this story really unique, I'd start there.

  7. I am a little confused about the time period. With the pirates, I figured this took place--well back in pirate times but the man is wearing a three piece suit and I don't think they wore those back then. If it's middle grade, I am assuming that a younger hero will take over after this scene--that this is some sort of prologue. On the whole though I am hooked--this seems like it will be a great adventure story.

  8. I like it. It sounds middle grade to me. Is the man held captive the protagonists father? My daughters would read this (middle grades). I don't like the name 'blondebeard' for a pirate, however. I think it sounds corny. But I haven't met a lot of pirates, so take that with a grain of salt...

  9. Interesting. A man in a three piece suit on a pirate ship. Smiling, although he's about to walk the plank. A situation that is going to need some explaining. And a pirate called 'Blondebeard' - (nb isn't 'blonde' the female spelling). There are some conventions being spun around here and to me that would demand further reading.

    I'm confused by the POV, though. This seems to start omniscient, then the pirates 'drew his attention' - if we were still in omniscient then I'd expect something like 'turned back from the deck'? And identifying the wind by seeing it ruffle his hair etc. Just some thoughts.

    An adult in a precarious position at the start of a MG - prologue? Just wondering.

  10. I'm lucky that I've read the first two chapters of the book, so I know where it's headed. Kinda.

    I never read the whole book, but I wonder if your first chapter should have been the prologue. If it doesn't bounce back to this dude, then you might want to consider that.

    Glad to see you did some research. Spanish galleon is much more descriptive than 'a large wooden ship'. This beginning is much stronger than before. Way to go!

    I do find the dialogue to be a little bit corny, though. But I'm not a big reader of MG stuff or pirate novels, so this might be okay.

    Good luck with it!

  11. Ditto that this piece feels disconnected from the MC. Also ditto that you could trim out a lot of the extraneous words.

    Also, why is the pirate named Blondebeard when he has red hair? That didn't make sense to me as a reader.

  12. The thing with red haired men is that they usually have blond hair and red beards. The other way round is more than rare.

    Also I am not hooked because of the perspective. There is no emotion in this scene. Why would I care about a stranger in a suit about to walk the plank just because you mention pirates? If this is really some sort of prologue you might want to move it further into the story (maybe something your true MC will find out some time later) and start with the person who will be the MC of your novel.

    If I'd be an agent I'd pass on this.

  13. Good hook with the bound-but-smiling man. It actually even gives us a hint of character right of the bat, which I love. I also love, love, love pirate books (and wrote one myself a few years ago, which is in rewrites right now). I think there's a lack of fun pirate adventure fiction in the MG market, and I really hope yours goes far!

    So first you get a giant GOOD LUCK from one pirate writer to another.

    Unfortunately, the rest of this opening section kind of falls into pirate cliché really fast.

    The Blondebeard (which should be Blondbeard for a man), is such an obvious rip off of Blackbeard, that it just reads awkwardly to me. But that's easily remedied.

    The "walk the plank" thing, which is so prevalent in pirate movies and television shows was actually really, really rare in real life, which makes me think you haven't done your research.

    And despite what some people think, you can't get away with that in MG... especially with pirates. The PotC movies made pirates so popular that the non-fiction MG market has been flooded with "the truth about pirates" books. Young kids into pirates know the truth, and that's your audience, so you have to know it as well.

    Buried treasure was also really, really rare. Another pirate cliché that's more Hollywood than reality.

  14. This probably wouldn't make it through the slush pile, I'm afraid, if all I saw were the first 250 words. It was pretty obvious imagery, with the exception of the smile (which I did like). I was taken aback by the blond(e)beard, as he's a redhead. There just isn't enough that is unusual here to grab me. Sorry.


  15. Not much for pirate stories... seems like so many out there, but aside from the missing MG character, I did find the three-piece suit and a pirate setting unusual enough to want ot read a bit more.

  16. I love pirates and mystery. This could be good, esp with the poor fellow on the plank wearing a three piece suit. What's going on here, I wonder? And that strange smile in the face of death...hmm...must read on.

    When you get to revision, though, it needs tightening. You can say it with fewer words.

    Unless this is a fantasy, I've never seen anyone with blonde beard and red hair. Let us know right away if it's adventure or fantasy.

  17. The smile and the suit got my interest, but only enough for another page or two. Didn't care for the name "Blondebeard" (no matter how you want to spell it!). It sounds like there might be a good plot in here if you can work on the points mentioned by others. Good luck!