Wednesday, January 13, 2010

22 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle grade/tween

It was a Thursday. I remember the day because Mom baked scones every Wednesday to take to the Plinkton Rotary meeting the next morning and I couldn’t study for my test on the Magna Carta because the kitchen table was covered with a mountain of blueberry scones that would have avalanched if I’d tried to move a single one.

Luckily my Magna Carta test angels were watching out for me, because Mr. Samuel ended up being absent and instead of giving us the test the substitute showed us an I’m-not-prepared-to-teach-you-anything DVD.

Documentaries are usually as boring as dust balls and I expected to be yawning and doodling pictures of Hugo Arkley (the cuter of the Arkley Brother’s band brothers) in the margins of WORLD HISTORY TODAY, but from the opening scene I was hooked.

This woman filmmaker rode on horseback up and down scrubby hills and over plains following a herd of wild mustangs across Nevada. There was a white horse in particular she’d kept track of practically since he was born.

It was surprisingly dramatic how those horses got along or didn’t, depending on their personalities. For instance you could tell right off that the young white horse would be a leader, the way he tossed his head and swished his tail, like, “I am amazingly great! I am the king of horses!”
Sure enough, when he got older he ended up bossing a lot of other horses around. But the documentary also showed tender moments between the boss horse and his wife and child horse (called a “mare” and a “foal,” in case you didn’t know).


  1. Sorry, not hooked. There are too many long, long sentences in a row. Then the documentary explanation didn't intrigue me.

  2. This section feels a little unfocused. It starts with a specific statement but takes too long building toward the reveal of what happened on that Thursday. Prose feels long and somewhat dry--too many details that I don't care about yet because I don't have a connection with the character.

  3. I like aspects of the voice, but you have too many long sentences (the second one especially). Also, I don't know that we need such a long description of the documentary and the horses unless this is somehow what the rest of the story is going to be about. Cut this down, try to vary your sentence lengths, and only focus on the most important details.

  4. Nice prose and great writing. It just needs to be tightened up and not so chatty. Also, the story loses the wonderful suspense you build up in the first two sentences. Keep that up. We want to hear why the day stuck out in her/his mind! Good luck!

  5. The long sentences didn't bother me, since some people talk that way and this is first person.

    You started off with 'it happened Thursday,' then you go into the documentary. I'm assuming that's what 'it' is?

    What's missing is why this is important to her. Why does it matter? That's what the reader will care about, not the documentary itself. How does this film change her life? Or what problems does it cause?

    Action and reaction is what makes an interesting story. Create some tension and conflict and let her do something besides talk.

  6. I don't think this needs tightening, I think it needs expanding. Like Barbara said, action and reaction. If you skip the scones and show her wanting to watch the DVD and the other kids making it hard for her to do it, then you'll get the reader more into the scene and have a chance to increase the tenstion, show character and her love of horses. I feel like you gave an overview intead of a full scene.

    As a middle grader this story would have sucked me right in--horses and girls a sure hit.
    I didn't notice the sentence length.

  7. I went from scones to Magna Carta test to Hugo Arkley to filmmakers to horses. I felt like I needed to catch my breath! While I can imagine an excited kid talking like this, it is hard to digest as a reader. You could slow it down a little by shortening the sentences.

  8. I like this a bunch, but it feels like it belongs in the middle of a book...or at least the beginning of chapter one. The MC voice is fun and sounds like a tween girl to me. Again, you may be beginning in the wrong spot. Keep trying!

  9. I do think the first sentence is too long. I ended up rereading it, which you don't want your audience to have to do. You might do better just to start with the class and the DVD. The documentary description felt like a little too much telling, especially right off the start.

  10. Yep, those long sentences are too much work. I don't mind working if something exciting is happening, but watching a kid watch a documentary... There's got to be a more engaging way to draw us into whatever gets her excited about that movie.

  11. I liked this and didn't even notice the long sentences. Personally, the voice was great, and although it does skip around a bit, it was engaging.