Wednesday, January 13, 2010

6 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction

Sam Morien pretended to stare at the beach through his binoculars, humming
to himself so he wouldn't have to listen to Alice. She just talked
louder, drowning him out. She had a plan. Again. Which was sure to be
just as hair-brained as all her other plans. Or worse.

“It will work, if you’d just listen.” Alice stared at him, knawing on a
fingernail. Her nails were always raw and bit to the quick. It was a bad
habit that didn’t bother Sam but drove their mother crazy. What did
bother him was the way Alice stared bug-eyed at him without blinking, like
a skinny python sizing him up. And just like a python, Alice couldn’t
wait to suffocate him—with dull explanations, tedious arguments and boring
diagrams scratched in the sand.

“At least I’m trying!” Alice snapped. “You come up with something, then!”

Sam grinned to himself. Upsetting his twin sister almost always made him
feel better. And worse. Because now there was a strange buzzing noise
inside his head, and in a weird way it felt like he was mad at himself.

Sam focused the binoculars and scanned the ocean waves. He watched a
seagull plunge into the surf, then tilted up to view the cliffs. He found
the old stone mansion perched among the rocks—an ugly, gray gargoyle
turning green from the damp sea air. Everyone on Arbmu Island thought it
was an eyesore, except Alice.


  1. This has a nice rhythm and voice to it. The sibling tension is shown well. And the page ends with a creepy image that makes me wonder. So I like this, but a few things threw me off.

    One was the fact that Alice is chewing a fingernail raw one minute and then staring bug-eyed without blinking the next. Those don't go together in my mind, and there wasn't a transition from one image to the next, so I had trouble visualizing it. (I liked the "just like a python line," though; really nice!)

    I also was waiting to hear Alice's plan -- which the opening paragraph sets the reader up for IMO -- but it never came.

    The strange buzzing noise confused me -- and then his being mad at himself so soon after grinning and feeling better added to my confusion.

    You have a couple of misspellings early. It should be hare-brained and gnawing.

    I guess in a long-winded way I'm saying I had a mixed reaction to this one! Good luck!

  2. The writing here is good. I am not sure if I am hooked or not. I am interested in whatever it is they need to plan, but not exactly intrigued. I would normally suggest that you hint at "the problem" slightly, but I get the feeling you are getting to it at the end.

    It is a pet-peeve of mine when a character is named in full right away. I would just say "Sam" and let us figure out his surname another way. Others might not agree.

    Also, you use "just" 4 times in the first two paragraphs. I wanted to mention it because it jumped out at me.

  3. I liked the cadence of this. I really loved the python line. It was very visual and then came in with a funny that made me smile. Just watch the typos, and repetitive words. I must like the word "just" too, because I seem to find it popping up in my stuff like gremlins in a shower.

  4. There's some good writing here, but the voice feels way too old for MG. It feels like an adult's perspective more than a kid's. Also, I feel like nothing has really happened in this segment. What is there to pull me on to the next page? What are they doing and why? There's not enough hook so far to suck me in.

  5. I like the descriptions and the tension between the siblings. I'm having a hard time figuring out what the story is about - why is he at the beach, with the binoculars, staring at the mansion? A few hints in there would draw me more into the story.

    It seems odd that he would pretend to stare at the beach - why would he do that? This is MG, so he's not checking out the other bathers, presumably.

    I am intrigued about the buzzing noise inside his head.

    Good luck!

  6. I'm guessing from the set up and title that this will be a mystery/time travel, and that intrigues me. (although I could be wrong)

    I had a problem with her words drowning him out when he never says a word. And if she never stops talking, where does she find the time to bite her nails?

    You have some words choices that aren't exactly MG - dull explanations, tedious arguements.

    In the end, I was disappointed because it didn't live up to the promise. What was Alice's plan and what was it a plan for? What's the significance of that house on the cliff? These questions don't necessarily have to be answered here, but some hints or clues would be nice.

  7. I liked this. And my own mid- grader is a pro at finding ways to tune me out, so I think that bit is spot on. But the "tedious arguments and boring diagrams" does sound a little old."

  8. I too was intrigued by the title, I love time travel stories. I didn't get really interested until the last paragraph, the old stone mansion turning green from the damp sea air. Maybe you could start with that and then go into the fact that Alice had a plan. I liked the way you said, "She had a plan. Again." I wanted at least a hint about what they were up to before the whole paragraph describing his sister. I didn't understand the buzzing, but I liked how upsetting his sister made him feel better. That shows their rivalry well.

  9. I like your characters and writing style. I would want to read more.

    My only suggestion is about Sam. Alice is making plans and scheming but Sam doesn't I don't care. And if that's his character, I understand. But then I would want to know more on the first page about the island and its intrigue and less about their twin interaction that can be worked in later within the first chapter.

  10. It's hard to feel connected to her plan when we have no idea why they need a plan. He's so blasé about everything, they must not be in any danger. So...what's the reason to keep reading? You haven't hinted at a problem they need to solve, or a goal they're trying to reach. If there's something he wants that she's distracting him from, the interaction might make more sense. But if she's the only one who wants something, then we should be starting in her POV, not his.

  11. Hah! I like hair-brained. A much more interesting image even though it's a typo.

    I got that the buzzing in his head is the twin connection.

    Careful about antecedents like the seagull plunging into the surf. What's tilted up are the binoculars not the seagull.

    I might intro her as his twin right from the beginning. It's a small piece of grounding that carries a lot of weight.