Wednesday, March 10, 2010

14 Secret Agent

TITLE: Jacob Underwater
GENRE: Upper Middle Grade Speculative

Blake didn't know how much longer Jacob could take being out of the water. He looked so dry, his eyes sunken. He'd stopped shaking the bamboo bars of his cage and lay in a heap, barely breathing. That, at least, was normal. Jacob didn't need air like most people.

And then he screamed. Not a typical, ten year-old boy scream; this was more throaty. Primal. Blake's neck hairs prickled and when he looked at the other boys sitting by the cottonwood tree, he could tell they were nervous, too. Everyone except Will. A smile twitched the edge of Will's mouth as he watched Jacob.

"It's working," Will whispered to Blake.

"No. It's wrong," Blake said. He stepped forward, but a hand on his arm pulled him back.

"I know it's hard," Will said. "But this will work. It'll fix him."

"How do you know?"

Will spun Blake around and death-stared him. "I know. Okay? We're doing this for you. You should be more grateful. Or do you like living in the swamp?"

No. God no. Blake hated the swamp, but his brother needed to be near water.

"Blake, please," Jacob begged.

"He's addicted to being in the water," Will said. "Just like Jumpy Mac was addicted to the drink. You have to dry them out, then they're fixed."

Blake had believed that at first. Not anymore. But he'd never challenged Will on anything. None of them dared.

Blake's insides felt more tangled than Old Kipling's fishing net.


  1. I love this.

    The opening paragraph did make me question Blake when he said that Jacob was barely breathing. It seemed like such an odd thing to notice.

    The idea that drying out a man just like they would do with booze is interesting. I love the phrasing of it.

    Would definitely read on.

  2. You have a way with description and dialogue! Holy cow! I would like to see a little more emotion from Blake. As it stands, I'm not seeing him as hero material. Shouldn't he be worried or afraid or thinking of a way to help his brother? Tangled doesn't strike a chord in me to pull for him. I need more emotion invested in Blake.
    Your writing is totally beautiful!

  3. I liked this, too. But I do have to say I'm not liking Blake. So he never stood up to Will before. This is his brother's life on the line. He should do something. And maybe he does in the next bit. I'm just mentioning it in case you want us to like Blake.

    But regardless of whether he's likeable or not, I'd keep reading. I love the premise and I can see so many opportunities to do so many things with this. I'd read more just to see where you took it.

  4. I like this too. I had a little alliteration problem with the names "Blake" and "Jacob." Probably just me. I would like to see Blake a little more stressed out about his brother's predicament, but I'd keep reading. Good job.

  5. 1.) Beginning with a rather desperate situation is pulling your readers in...

    2.) This has a great balance of narrative and dialogue...

    3.) Blake being conflicted at the end

    4.) I love the concept of Jacob being "dried out" like an old drunk...your use of figurative lang. is superb...I could see my upper graders really digging this...

  6. I loved it. I wanted to know a little more about Jacob and wished for a snapshot description of the boys, because I was a little confused as to how human or non-human they were (especially Jacob). But it was well-written and exciting, and I'd read on.

  7. Interesting but was a little lost. Would like some pithy discription of boys, place to get my bearings.

    First paragraph's word order bothered me. He's worried about him but then we're told barely breathing is ok. I think it was a set up for the scream but it didn't work for me.

    Found Blake too passive.

  8. I so loved this. There is something at stake, good conflict. I like the metaphors. The dialogue and pacing were excellent for me.
    Blake not standing up for his brother. I can see that going either way. Sometimes peer pressure is strong even though they say blood is thicker than water. I'd definitely keep reading.

  9. This pulled me in from the very beginning. The down-homey voice is quite engaging, which is something I see often with 1st person but not so much with 3rd. And the quirky names (Jumpy Mac and Old Kipling) are really fitting for a piece taking place back in the swamps. The set-up really intrigues me. I definitely want to see where this is going. Nice job!

  10. Wow. First off, great title. And second--why isn't this person querying yet and if they are, how come it hasn't reached my Inbox?!

    This is fantastic, the voice feels authentic, and the back-and-forth between the boys just feels...real.

    Love. This.

    Please tell me it's finished?

  11. I can see the pimples here. Things like:

    Things like 'not a typical ten year old boy scream' sits awfully close to omniescence and very much the opinion of somebody writing DOWN to a ten year old difficult reader. Usually a he - he won't know why but his ten year old radar will see 'phony' all over this.
    This is a bit like 'she ran her hand through her blonde hair' - nobody ever does that. Their hair is their hair. IF they bite their nails they don't bite their long shapely nails. Nails are nails and some people bit them.

    In this small piece the POV is not very clear.

    YOu really need to get the black pen out here and re-work this 1st introduction to your story to capture the reader's imgination. You only get one tiny chance -

  12. Wow, this was amazing. Your dialogue felt real, there was tension and the descriptions felt fresh. I would definitely read on (and it has been years since I've read middle grade :) ). Good job! :)

    p.s. Good job catching the Secret Agent's eye too! Congrats!

  13. This captured my interest straight away and I would definitely read on. One of my favourites in this round.

  14. Yowsa! Who wouldn't be immediately turning the page?!?