Wednesday, July 15, 2009

15 Secret Agent

TITLE: Not Too Much
GENRE: MG contemporary

The door of the bus folded open, and a shriek of wind rushed in. It drove the rain up the stairs, splattering Joseph’s feet.

He peered out into the downpour. She wasn’t there! Except for the wind and the water, the street was empty.

“Go on, kid!” the driver shouted.

“But my mom’s not here yet!”

“Guess you’ll have to walk, then. Sorry, kid, but I’ve got a schedule to keep.”

Still Joseph hesitated. His mother always met him at the bus stop. On warm afternoons they walked up the hill together, stopping under the redwoods to look for lizards and banana slugs. And when the weather was bad, Mom always drove down and picked him up.

Now along came the worst, most wettest day of the whole school year, but she wasn’t there. What was he supposed to do?

“Kid!” The driver nudged his back. “Get off the bus, already!”

Joseph took a deep breath. He tugged his hood low to cover his eyes and wrapped his fingers around the straps of his backpack. Then he jumped into the river that covered the asphalt.

The rain came down in buckets, in bathtubs, in waterfalls. There was nowhere to hide from it. Apple orchards stretched away on either side of the road, their branches bare and their roots covered in mud.

If only his mother would come! He squeezed his eyes shut. He’d count to a hundred, and when he opened them, her car would be there.


  1. Hmm I would read on just to see what's around the corner. It somehow made me feel melancholy, like she wasnt going to come.

  2. I'm not really hooked at the minute. I can't pick something in particular wrong with it, but something isn't pulling me in either. I think also when you say 'she wasn't there' you should be more clear who you're talking about.
    Good luck, though!

  3. I think it needs to be condensed a little more, so we get to the reason his mother isn't there, or what happen to him because she's not, more question.

    I'm not hooked, but I have no idea if a MG reader might be.

  4. I'm hooked. You touch on what is, I think, a nearly universal fear that children have - "what would happen if mommy didn't come?"

    You have me rooting for this little boy, and wondering what happened to mom. That's enough to keep me reading.

  5. Poor kiddo. I'd personally add the shock that you feel at the first splashdown of stepping out into the pouring rain (takes your breath away) and then the painful chill that comes from standing rainsoaked without any shelter or relief. That said, I like this and expect something very bad about the missing mom.

  6. Nice emotion and sense of anticipation, but this does feel a little young to me for MG. The action and description make me picture a kid of 6-8, rather than the ten- or eleven-year-old - or older - that usually features in MG (Kids like to read up, so they say).

  7. I like it. Immediately feel sympathy for the boy and curious to know where his mother is. Wondering how old he is - is he a timid 11 year old or a sad little seven year old? Knowing this would help one judge how uncaring the bus driver is being.

  8. I'm hooked. I'm scared for the boy. I'm guessing he's under ten, because any older, the other kids on the bus would be teasing him.

  9. I'm hooked. Agree about the age, that would be nice to know at this point -- especially since school bus drivers nowadays are overly protective of matching little kids with parents when dropping them off (unless it's a regional thing). Great voice, would definitely read on.

  10. I am SO worried something horrible happened to his mom that half of me wants to put it down and the other half of me is begging to read on....I am so torn right now... I don't know if I would finish it or not.

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  12. Nice descriptions, but I'd definitely like to see what's coming next. As a beginning, it feels a little long to me. He's nervous about his mom, but I'm waiting to see what's going to happen next - can you get there more quickly?

  13. I think there's too much talking between to characters here. Kristen's blog "Pub Rants" talked about this- called it karaoke paragraphs.

    show us what's happening more- less conversation so early.

    Good luck

  14. This is pretty good, but I think you could make it stronger.

    The mechanics are solid, but the bus driver's dialogue felt kind of old-fashioned to me, especially "Guess you’ll have to walk, then. Sorry, kid, but I’ve got a schedule to keep.”

    Maybe I've been around too many big-city bus drivers, but they aren't nearly that patient.

    Also, the stuff starting with "His mother always met him..." was a sort of odd micro-flashback, and it kind of killed the tension in the scene for me.

    That said, if you tighten the dialogue and dump him into the middle of an orchard in a downpour, you got yourself a sympathetic character in peril -- and that's a good hook!

  15. There was something about this I really liked. Your choice of words, I think. It seemed vivid to me. Hooked.

  16. If the next scene shows that something bad happened to his mom, it would be nice to have a shiver shimmy down his back, or his stomach churn, or something on this page to show he wasn't just waiting but NERVOUS and with a physical reaction. The writing is great, and I'd read more, especially with a hook similar to the above.

  17. I really like this and I don't agree that characters have to be older than the reader. If you have a strong character and a good story, older kids will keep reading. I have kids of all ages reading my chapter books, even fourteen year old boys and my character is only eight.

    I would read on. I like the boy already and want to find out why his mother hasn't turned up. I also love the description of the setting.

    Good luck.

  18. This seemed familiar, and I remembered where from...deleted comment so reposting shorter version (sorry for delete and repost)...

    I love the voice and tone of this, and the set up works very well.

    Clarifying his age would be good, so that the audience is clear.

    I do think the second to last paragraph shifted away and felt older and more feminine. And I too wanted to feel the cold wet of the rain...a little more visceral detail would cement the sensations of the scene.

    But overall, I'd read on to see what was coming. Nice job.

    good luck.

  19. Hooked, although I, too, am fearing the worst. There were two small things that pulled me out of the narrative - the exclamation point in the second paragraph and the double superlative in the seventh ("most wettest") - but they were small. You may be using those to communicate the main character's age, but like several other commenters have mentioned, they probably makes him seem too young for middle grade.

    My favorite sentence: "The rain came down in buckets, in bathtubs, in waterfalls."

  20. I'm somewhat interested by this. I can't point my finger on what's holding me back from saying I'm hooked (it might just be the fact that I like things with a little less contemporary writing and a little more fantasy, but that's not in this contest!). If something really crazy/different happened in the next few paragraphs, it would pull me in. Or, for that matter, ditch his endless worry about getting off the bus and get right to what happens when he's on his own. You can speed this beginning up a bit and improve the hook. Also, it might be enough to just say "his mom always picked him up" without worry about how she walked him home or drove him. Do we need that detail now? Or at all? The important thing is that the mother isn't where she's supposed to be.

    One thing: most wettest is redundant. I don't know if I like it (it does speak to his age) or if I hate it. Does your MC speak like that a lot? If so, keep it, if not, ditch it.

  21. I'm hooked. I want to know why the boy's mum isn't there.

  22. I am sort of hooked. The title is bland and doesn't give the reader much and the ! points seems unnecessary, but I think I would give it a few more pages to see why his mother isn't there.

    I agree with those who would like a better sense of the MC's age.

  23. I could go either way with this. I really liked the dialogue, but the narrative didn't thrill me.

    Rather than telling me the weather is bad, show me. Let your MC feel it on his skin, give us more sensory details. When he realizes mom isn't there, what is he thinking, feeling? That's the type of thing I thought was missing.

    And the kid did seem much younger than MG. I'd probably give it another page or two to see how it progressed.