Wednesday, March 10, 2010

41 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Magic Diary
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Magic may be good and magic may be bad. But wherever there is magic, witches are not far away. You may think you have never seen one, but I’m sure you have. At least one lives near all of us. She most certainly has a cat and tends the garden every day. She may be old and wise, or she may be young and pretty. She may be the neighbour that bakes you cookies, or the one who calls animal control on your dog. She may be good or evil, but you will never know. Because, even if you ask nicely, she won’t tell you.

Ten-year-old Emily Jones can tell you a thing or two about witches, for she has met one. And a very powerful and wicked one at that.

It all started one autumn day …

“Wake up! It’s time for school!”

Squinting against the bright sunlight seeping in through the thin curtains, Emily turned to her brother. “Leave me alone. I don’t want to go.” She buried her head under the pillow when he pulled at the sheets, almost throwing her out of the bed.

She scowled. Why did he always have to do that? “Stop it! Or I’ll tell Dad.”

“Feel free. He’s not here.” Sammy chuckled and pulled harder.

Emily sat upright and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “Where is he then? Did he go to see Mum?”

“Don’t be silly. He’s off to work. And he put me in charge. Now get up, squirt, or I’ll make you.”


  1. Oooh! I liked the two paragraphs as an intro! Without it, you wouldn't have any idea yet which direction the book was going to take, since the wake-up scene doesn't get to the part where Emily meets a witch.

    I also like the brother/sister relationship. Very realistic!

    I'd keep reading!

  2. Since I don't read MG, I don't know whether sounding like a fairy tale is good or not. Either way, the preamble is a bit of a tell, and just saying she's met a powerful and wicked witch isn't a big hook for me.

    I also see a lot of books begin with the protag waking up. Does it HAVE to start there, or can you go further in?

    That said, you do a good job if setting up conflict between brother and sister.

  3. I know you're not supposed to start by talking directly to your reader, in 2nd person, like that, but it worked for me. Until "It all started one autumn day..." A better transition would make this stronger.

    I agree with @JohnO about starting a story with the MC waking up. I'm sure you can come up with a better way to address the brother-sister relationship.

  4. I'm not generally a fan of fantasy, but the opening paragraph really hooked me.

    I almost feel like the POV should be from Emily. The transition from paragraph one to the next would flow well..."I can tell you a thing or two about wiches..."

    Rework the transition after the second paragraph.

    And the bit about waking up...maybe the two could be fighting over cereal? Or tripping each other on the way to school. THere are lots of possibilities to show a good brother/sister relationship.

    Another thought I just had: Perhaps, if you change the POV, after Emily says what she does about being able to tell you a thing or two about witches, maybe she says something like: "I didn't know anything about witches either. Until..."

  5. Tricky one. I'm hooked, but worried about the omniscient voice and how you are going to pull that off. It's a bit jarring to leave our narrator so soon because of course we will have questions about who he/she is, etc. Will you switch back and forth between omniscient and Emily or could the omni POV be an older Emily? As of now, I'm hooked but with the caveat the the POV must be expertly worked out and not jarring.

  6. Even though the start was all tell, the voice really worked for me. Once the action shifted to Emily, I didn't like the voice nearly so much, and I agree waking up in the morning is a cliched beginning. Can you start somewhere else and show her relationship with her brother in a different setting?

  7. Oh, I really liked this one. I love witch stories, and this one sounds intriguing. I loved the opening paragraph, and how it introduces the story straight away.

  8. I liked the opening.

    I'd leave out the "...she won't tell you sentence" because you just said you'd never know so why would you ask?

    The waking up scene slows the story although the relationship is cute. I'd rather see more of Emily in action then introduce the brother.

  9. The first paragraph doesn't give me a Hitchcockian moment. And the sentence 'It all started one autumn day' has a lot of 'it was a dark and stormy night'.

    if this is page 1 chapter one, I don't care about getting squirted because I probably have a little brother at home who is likely to do the same. Why would I want to read about that?

    Hook hasn't worked.

  10. Zara Penney. I think you misread this one. I think the writer said 'squinting', not 'squirting'.

    Also your 'if' should have a capital I.

    (I am not the author though.)

  11. I really like the tone in this one, and I like that I know what the story's going to be about. However, I'd start the story somewhere other than waking up, but I think that's an easy fix. But this is an interesting story and I'd read on.

  12. I love this story. As a mother and grandmother, I can attest to the fact that children love stories they can relate to. So I think you are off base Zara Penney. You need to think as a child, not an adult. It works for me.

  13. Zara Penney - Dreamer. Bookworm
    I got the above off your blog.

    Yeah, you're a dreamer! A dreamer you'll one day be a best selling author. Too bad you couldn't come up with a beginning as original as this author. I noticed you made many negative comments on other people's stories. Does this reflect your own disappointment and failure?

  14. I wouldn't read on, simply because of the first few paragraphs. I want a story, not someone talking to me.

    Two reasons not to start as you have. The voice and POV are different from Emily's, so the reader will wonder who this person is and why they're interrupting the story (if the narrator enters the story again. And if he doesn't, then what's the point of giving him your opening? What's the point of a narrator at all?)

    The second reason is that this opening gives it all away. There's no surprise. I know I'm getting a witch and a magic diary. If I were a kid reading this, I'd skip everything until I got to the witch and the diary.

    Perhaps eliminate the telling opening and start the story when Emily first meets the witch. We don't have to know it's the witch, but we can perhaps get the feeling that there's something different about her, something not quite right. Or when she first gets the diary. Either would create a stronger opening.

  15. I'd suggest eliminating the second person POV opening and also telling us that she meets a very powerful, wicked witch. Somehow, that reminded me too much of Wizard Of Oz.

    You have an interesting premise - magic diary? What can it do? And how did she battle the wicked witch? The Harry Potter fan in me is yearning for more. The conflict in her family is a nice side plot too.

  16. This seems lovely and something I might enjoy, but overall I'm just not a fan of switching POVs from omniscient to third person. It completely distances me from the characters, always. So for this reason, it wouldn't be right for me.