Wednesday, April 15, 2009

47 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade

The minivan slowed to make the turn off the highway. “Only five more miles, kids.”

Michaela glanced up from her sketching. After two days of traveling, they had finally reached their destination. The mountain loomed ahead, filling the sky. This was her favorite part of the trip, the switchback curves winding tighter and tighter up to the top of the mountain and Granny and Grandpa’s house. She felt like she was returning home after a long absence.

“Can we go fishing when we get there, Dad?” asked Michaela’s older brother, Sean.

“May we go fishing,” corrected Mom. “And the answer is no. We’re going to visit with your grandparents this evening. You may fish tomorrow, as long as you promise to stay off that rotten dock.”

“We’ll get up extra early,” said Dad as his eyes found Sean’s in the rearview mirror.

The minivan skidded around a tight curve. Michaela’s sketchpad flew through the air, landing at Sean’s feet.

“Michael, watch the road,” cried Mom.


“Sweet!” said Sean. He retrieved the sketchbook from the floor, glancing at it before handing it back to Michaela. “Why don’t you ever draw anything cool, like super heroes? Castles are so lame.”

“They are so not,” said Michaela. “They’re full of mystery and magic. I’m going to live in one when I grow up.”

Sean sneered. “In your dreams. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a definite castle shortage here in the real world.”


  1. I like the brother's humor in the last sentence. I picked up some foreshadowing and assume this is fantasy with Michaela going onto some magical castle adventure.

    The fishing conversation is a little boring, but not bad, considering the adventure coming up. It does show her present world and what it's like.

    I really don't have too much to complain about. I'd keep reading to see where it went.

  2. This is nice. Starts off a little slow. Is the fishing stuff really necessary? I'm not sure of the ages of the kids. At first I thought Sean was a very young child, but with his last comment, he's older than I thought. But I love the foreshadowing of the castles and adventure to come. Excellent. I'd read on.

  3. The writing is nice, but I was not hooked. There was forshadowing but nothing that really grabbed me.

  4. Nice writing, but I wasn't hooked. I also thought it started off slow.

    Personally, slow is not a bad thing, but the industry (perhaps unfortunately) and readers seem to want an immediate immersion into the story.

  5. I love it! The writing is smooth, you introduce the characters with ease and create a tension with the rickety bridge and the girl's dream of living in a castel. I would think this would definitely appeal to the MG crowd of girls. Maybe boys, too, but it's too early to tell. Good luck.

  6. Not bad, I would read on to see what happens. It may sound picky, but I don't think I would name the girl Michaela, it's too much like her dad's name and could get confusing.

  7. I don't usually read MG, but I liked this a lot and I thought your MG voice was perfect!

    The only suggestion I have is watching the dialogue. When the mom spoke for the first time, I didn't think the last two sentences quite flowed together. The one about visiting with the grandparents was casual and then the one about fishing sounded formal. If you sub 'can' in for 'may', that might help. I also thought it stood out when Michaela said 'so'.

    But those are minor. Overall, great job!

  8. I can see where you are going with this story and feel as though I need to read more in order to make a proper 'am I hooked' judgement.


  9. I love this. I love the dialogue of the children and the description of the mountain. I'm hooked and I would definitely read on.

    Love the part about the castle shortage in the real world. Funny.

  10. I would start it later in the story, maybe when they've arrived. The beginning drags for me. Sean says sweet and retrieves the sketchbook, but then says her drawing is lame. I'm not sure why he said sweet unless he expected it to be a cool drawing.

    I'm thinking this may be a story where what she draws becomes real or a fantasy world she falls into. That can be done well and it's a good fit for MG books. Good luck!

  11. I really like where you're going with this. I would read on.

  12. I like the dialogue and think the writing is smooth. I'd keep reading. However it wasn't very intriguing until the foreshadowing at the end, so I wonder if it's the right place to start?

  13. I liked this, but wanted it to be leaner: for instance, the last paragraph doesn't really need 'Sean sneered' which, in addition to be a little alliterative (Sorry, couldn't resist that one) isn't needed since what he says shows us his attitude so you don't need to tell it to us as well.

    Other places that struck out, you could italicize 'May' so that her mother correcting her comes through more, and 'the answer is' isn't really needed as it scans oddly formal: 'And, no.' seems more mom-like; though that's just my own opinion.

    I do like the characters and the setup.

  14. I wondered if this is young for MG (9-12?) That was one little distraction for me as I read.

    The other thing was I felt that some of the wording could be nudged around a little bit and info edged in.

    Also where was Sean sitting? Way back bench? Or middle section with Michaela?

  15. The beginning started off rather slow. It really did pick up when the brother got ahold of the sketchbook, and I'd probably keep going for a little bit to see if it stayed good. However, honestly, in a bookstore, I might not have made it that far.

  16. The character voice feels totally appropriate for the MG genre, and the writing is also spot on. But ditto that not much is happening here. Even if the castle thing is foreshadowing, there still needs to be some kind of hook here--something at stake for the main character, or being forced to do something she doesn't want to do. Then that hook can lead into the main plot of the story and develop from there.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. No peeking at earlier comments

    I really liked the way you jumped straight into the action, and added the details of the characters seamlessly into the narrative.

    We already know a lot about the family here and I have a clear idea of the dynamics between them all. I especially liked your last line from brother Sean.

    A top job here. I'm really impressed with what you've achieved in so few words - and I would read on.

  18. I like this. I love how you introduced the characters and gave us a hint of what they want. I agree that you could hook us bit more with a sense of coming conflict. is the "rotten dock" dangerous? Did something bad happen there? Why does Granny and Grandpa's house make the MC feel she's coming home after a long absence? What is she hoping she'l expereince there, and does it have anything to do with the mystery and magic she longs for in her life? Good Start.

  19. This was a slow start for me, and I didn't get pulled in by the voice.

    Also, a small thing, but I was surprised that the brother could reach the sketch pad with his seatbelt on.

  20. I liked the opening--the sense of homecoming, the deftly-demonstrated different personalities of the parents. The part with the sketchbook jarred me a bit and made me wonder whether this was fantasy or mainstream; and "They are so not" and "They're full of mystery and magic" are differently toned enough to feel a bit jarring too. But I would definitely keep reading.

  21. I'm going to come down on the not-hooked side of the fence with this one. The writing is smooth, and contrary to a few other opinions, I don't think it's overly wordy. However, there's also nothing here that really grabs me.

    All this really needs is a great opening sentence and/or first paragraph. Give us something that's going to make us laugh--or gasp. If you've got that initial hook, you can get away with a few pages of introductory dialogue.

  22. Oh, those non believer's are such buzz killers! Love this! Can so reltate. (and BTW, Sean- some might say superheroes aren't real world either!)

  23. I'm hooked enough to read for a few more pages but I find the pace a little slow. The dialogue seems a little overdone in a few places. But overall I like the style.

    Can we go fishing when we get there, Dad? to Can we go fishing tonight, Dad?

    "They are so not,” said Michaela. "They’re full of mystery and magic. I’m going to live in one when I grow up. to "No they're not! They're cool and I'm going to live in one someday."

  24. I'm not terribly hooked at the moment, but the writing is capable and the whinging family relationships seem real.

  25. This may be a personal pet peeve, but "Mom" and "Dad" are not proper names. That is, your narrator is not Michaela, and so the parents are not the narrator's parents, therefore they're not just Mom and Dad.

    Also, if Sean thinks castles are so lame, why does he exclaim "Sweet!" when he looks at the sketchpad?

    Sorry, not hooked.

  26. Family vacations! Ah the memories, ah the agonies, ah the boredom, but where the heck is the brother sister fight? I think that would rev my engines faster, yanking me right into the family.