Wednesday, March 10, 2010

16 Secret Agent

TITLE: Building a Tree House (and Other Life Projects)
GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade Novel

As the screen door fwapped shut behind me, I could still hear Daryl’s words rattling around inside the house. I leapt off the back porch. I ran.

I heard Daryl’s hollerin’. But I didn’t stop. Not when the yard turned to woods. Not when the waffled ground made my ankles turn crooked one way, then the other, in my flip flops. Not when branches and thorns grabbed at my bare legs. And even though the heat and the humidity tried to stop me too, I didn’t. As Daryl always said, I may have been a worthless girl, but at least I could run.

I ran until I couldn’t hear Daryl’s hollerin’. Until I could no longer feel his grip squashing my arm. And until I couldn’t feel the wallop he gave me on the back.

I slowed down deep in the woods, on a path by the creek. I stood among the hickory and oak trees, trying to find my breath, listening for footsteps. Finally I stepped off the path. I leaned against a trunk as thick as a pot-bellied stove. As I tilted my head back to let the air to fall into my lungs, I saw the gnarled arms of the oak stretched out in all directions. And I don’t know how much trees know about escapes and the safety of girls running from their stepfathers. But that tree was reaching out to me. I climbed.


  1. Oooh! This was neat! I love the down-home voice of the main character! And I'm nervous for her! And the way the tree was reaching out for her so she climbed it... I'd definitely want to read more!

  2. I like this. I held my breath through that last paragraph, wondering if Daryl catches her. There were a few words that threw me though...fwapped was one. I don't think I would have noticed it later on, but right off the bat, it was distracting. The other was waffled felt forced. But nice work...I'd keep reading.

  3. Really nice! All that happens is that a girl runs into the woods, but you gave her a voice, you gave her a purpose, you gave us back story in one sentence, and you made me feel for this girl who I don't even know.

    I loved the waffled ground and the oak with its arms outstretched. It reminded me of Bridge to Terabithia. It has that same simple elegance to it. Hooked.

  4. I love the title and the last 3 sentences.

    Overall I like this, but the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs feel a little repetitive. You use the same literary device, involving starting consecutive sentences with the same word(s), in each of those paragraphs.

  5. Loved the tree reaching out to her. But a couple of things gave me pause. I didn't like the beats in the first paragraph. "I leapt off the back porch. I ran." I think that would sound better strung together with an and. But that's just my personal taste. Same with the repetition of words/phrases like "Daryl's hollerin'" In the third paragraph so many sentences start with "I." I think it would flow better if you mixed it up some.

    But I loved the vivid descriptions and the conflict here and would read on.

  6. This is really good. Just a few comments: is fwapped a word? There is also a typo in the last paragraph: "As I tilted my head back to let the air (to) fall into my lungs..." I don't think you meant to have the word "to" in there. Other than these things, this is very good. Love the images, especially the waffled ground. This is a good example of using an adjective that really packs a punch, but not overdoing the adjectives. Great job!

  7. Wow! Strong beginning, and strong finish. I was hooked after the first sentence, and even more so after the last. It brings to mind all the right questions: who, what, why?
    And the descriptions were great, I felt like I was running along in the woods behind her.

  8. I like this a lot. The voice is great, and the emotions ring true. My only problems are with the words fwapped and waffled. I had the read the first word aloud to get the sound, and no matter how I envisioned a waffled ground, nothing came to mind. Good job.

  9. I loved this.

    The fwapp of the screen door was fine with me -- that's what a screen door sounds like when you let it bang behind you. Other than the little typo of the missing word, this is quite good. Lyrical and creative.

  10. I loved this.

    The fwapp of the screen door is fine with me -- that's exactly what a light wood screen door sounds like when you let it bang behind you.

    Other than the little typo of the missing word, this is quite good. It's nice to see someone embrace language, be creative and lyrical.

  11. Sorry for the double post -- it wouldn't post at all, and then posted twice.

  12. Love this! Right from the use of the word "fwapped", the voice of the character started to become real. I was drawn in by the title. Then the tempo matched her sprint away from what lies behind. Great piece!

  13. Fwapped was a great word! I knew as soon as I read fwapped, this was gonna be great. Fantastic job.

  14. This one is so totally awesome! I loved the voice, loved the introduction to the character and backstory all beautifully blended without telling one bit.
    I would keep reading on. I AM HOOKED.
    So far, my fave!

  15. I liked the voice but there were some parts in here that read awkwardly to me:

    I liked Daryl's hollerin' but I wouldn't use it twice in two paragraphs.

    The part "made my ankles turn crooked one way, then the other, in my flip flops.' didn't read well to me. I would cut the mention of one way then the other and just say 'made my ankles turn crooked in my flip flops.' Or have the ankles turning but cut the flip flops mention.

    'Even though the heat and humidity tried to stop me, I didn't' - for me this would read better as 'Even though the heat and humidity tried to stop me, it didn't.' In the first verions, the heat and humidity seems to be the subject of the sentence but then in the second part it switches back to the girl, which jarred a little with me.

  16. I'm in. This voice is fantastic. It pulls me right in and even though we don't know her name yet, I feel like I know HER. A couple of lines felt a little clipped, but I would keep reading this one in a heartbeat.

    I love the last three lines of this sample the most.


  17. I can hear your voice. You have done something I do, and am weaning myself off if I can resist but don't always want to -

    That door fwapped shut.

    It's a nice sound I know. But for the first sentence page 1 chapter 1 it's jarring. It reads like a missed edit or a mistake.

    But the voice is nice. You get a sense of the character. And you don't write DOWN to the age group which is important in a children's book. They have antennae at 100 feet and know a fake. Your piece isn't one of them.