Wednesday, March 10, 2010

47 Secret Agent

TITLE: Sisternapped
GENRE: MG adventure

We have your sister.

Give us what we want, and you’ll get her back unharmed.

Tell anyone or go to the police, and Electra dies!

* * *

I have a mind-blowing secret that I have to keep under wraps till Dad’s birthday in four days time. It's not quite ready for the big reveal yet.

Bond, my Old English Sheep Dog lies across my feet while I work.

‘We’re on the home stretch, old boy.’

‘Wumph!’ Bond opens a shaggy eye and winks.

‘We’re a slug’s nose from the finish. What can go wrong now?’

Hunger grabs me. I gently peel Bond’s head off my shoes and wander inside.

Mum’s in the kitchen, microwaving watermelon muffins.

‘Like one, Halogen?’

I stiffen, shake my head. Mum only ever calls me Halogen when she’s got something serious to say. Why would you call a kid Halogen at all? Mum was a science teacher before she turned watermelon farmer. Unluckily for us, her particular interest was electricity. And to make things worse, our last name is Watts? My sister, Electra and I can’t agree on who got the worst deal.

I’m about to Frisbee a crumpet into the toaster, when Aunt Fiona walks in.

The crumpet falls at my feet! I’m sunk! Aunt Fi’s a journalist with a longer nose than Pinocchio. She’d sniff out a story buried 100 feet underground. How will I keep her out of the shed for the next few days? How will I stop her discovering my secret?


  1. Cute! Love love, love the names! It was so cute I almost missed the first person present tense. If it was first person I'd read on, but present tense thows me off totally. Of course this is only my opinion, FPPT could be the next vampires.

  2. What threw me were the shifts in tone. First, the implied thriller desperation of a ransom note. Then ... a sheep dog at your feet ... then ... complaining about your name?

    If the narrator's sister has been kidnapped, that seems like the BIG DEAL. Not the unfortunate name, and not Aunt Fiona's meddling.

    This might work better if you explain WHY you can't say anything before dad's birthday. Then the Fiona business would make more sense.

  3. This excerpt confused me. I can't tell what the story is going to be about. The kidnapping of the sister? The secret hidden in the shed? I suspect reading a longer excerpt would help me put things in better context, but for now I find all the questions I'm left with too distracting.

  4. I figure the MC wrote the note, and the secret in the shed is the girl.

  5. I was also confused by the shift from threatening note to the nonchalance of the MC.
    I did like the names and the family background revealed in the section.

  6. I LOVE the voice and the quirky details. Fun, fun, fun. The writing is very original.

    I do agree with the others, that things are a bit foggy right now (some fog is good, keeps us reading, but right now it's too much). The ransome note at the beginning is what caught my attention, but the shift to the Sheep Dog was jarring.

    I think we need to be more grounded in what's going on immediately. As it is now, things are all over the place.

  7. I think this opening jumps around a bit too much for my taste. There's the serious note, then the MC mentions his/her secret. And then you set the scene with the dog. You drop the line - "while I work" but you don't tell us what he's doing. And did the dog really wink at him?

    But I'm intrigued by the set-up and I like the tone - the funny names, Aunt Fi with a nose longer than Pinocchio. Is Halogen a girl? I pictured a boy, not sure why, until the line about their last name being Watts - having a question mark after Watts made me think Halogen was a girl, because I don't hear boys talking like that.

    Good luck!

  8. I couldn't quite follow what was going on. Was the ransom note something he just read? If so, I would imagine he'd be more concerned with figuring out who to tell. And there were some fun things going on - watermelon muffins and Frisbee a crumpet, but maybe too a little to silly. Of course, this is MG and I tend to read more YA so perhaps my comment is off the mark.

  9. Why can't you leave off the ransom note, especially if the sister is the big secret? To answer above, yes, dogs do wink--or at least mine does. This feels like it is all over the place. If I knew where you were going I might offer a nugget of advice, but I'm really not sure. Good luck!

  10. My dog winks too.

    I was confused by the note at the beginning, but I liked the rest. Like a few other mentioned, I was confused as to the sex of Halogen, but I assumed it's a boy. I don't know if it's the writing, or if I automatically think "Hal" for short.

  11. I enjoyed your writing and clever details. I found myself making several unwarranted assumptions, so I thought it might be helpful to share them. I assumed Halogen was a girl, that money is tight, that the setting is Australia (something about the combination of the slug's nose phrase and the crumpet). I would suggest moving the info about the shed up to the first line about keeping the secret under wraps, so you don't have as many questions in the Aunt Fiona paragraph. I would also move the ransom note, if possible, to later. Catchy voice.

  12. I’m hooked. I want to know what the mind-blowing secret is, and what that has to do with his sister getting kidnapped. I’m thinking Halogen has something to do with that. I loved the voice and I’m thinking Halogen is probably a boy, but nowt sure.

    I‘d read on for sure.

  13. This felt rushed to me. Not crazy about the tense.

    (I thought Halogen was a boy.)

    I liked the humor -- it felt genuine.

  14. If this was submitted to me I'd say no. It's not the writing. Though I don't like the bumpy voice. It's not pulling me because simply, it's got no hook. By the time the Protag. reveals he's got a secret, I'm yawning and craving a crumpet.
    Start with action.
    At the moment I say I wouldn't be enthusiastic for it in my slush file.

    Judged based on assumption that this is opening 1st chapt.

  15. What does this mean, Zara Penney?>> Quote by Zara Penney>> [At the moment I say I wouldn't be enthusiastic for it in my slush file.]Quote

    Do you even have a slush file? I found that comment quite rude. I'm not the author, but if you want to be so mean, be nice as well. Why don't you leave the slush file decision to the agents? You're not one, thank goodness.

  16. Ms Penney, last time I checked YOU were querying agents, not authors querying you. Please don't go around, pretending you're an agent slash publisher slash literary goddess. One published book with an indie and no advance doesn't make you a NY Times bestselling author.

    Moving on to the sub, I suggest cutting the ransom note and starting with 'I have a secret'. That's a great line to make me wonder what the MC's secret is. In my humble opinion, the focus should stay on dropping hints about the secret rather than move onto everything else. Just a hint or two to keep the reader hooked because right now it reads a little rushed.
    I love the names, by the way. Very original. I would keep on reading.

  17. I assumed the first section was a Prologue, but it could easily be taken out and the note pulled in later. This would also then take away JohnO's concerns about the kidnapping being the BIG DEAL - which probably is the main part of what appears to be an adventure for mid-graders.
    EmilyR notes the sentence about the shed could easily be switched to the first para to add more info straight away - I agree.
    I like the humour, which, btw, does strike me as boy-humour. The author has captured the sense of what sort of boy Halogen, is.
    I also like the author's style of writing from the viewpoint of a young boy.

  18. @ Zara Penney...

    Spend more time on your own writing.and less telling everyone else THEY SUCK.

    I checked your blog, and your musing aren't anything profound, my dear.

  19. I thought you had some great lines in here - a nose longer than Pinocchio's, sniffing out a story 100 feet underground.

    But I did think you should tell us what the secret is. We should know what your MC knows, and your MC knows the secret. Keeping it secret from the reader isn't playing fair.

    In the end, it seemed too gimmicky for me.

  20. I like quirky and there are some great one-liners in here. But this felt disjointed to me. I almost wish, that for the purposes of this contest, the author did include the prologue-type ransom letter because since I don't know what the story is about, it became hard to connect with Halogen in the way that I should. I keep thinking that she's a kidnapper and has someone else's sister?

    That aside, while it has some great one-liners and quirky details, I also felt that it become a little overdone at by the end. The last name being Watts is hilarious, but the "Frisbee a crumpet into the toaster" was where I started to scratch my head.

  21. Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment on my post. I've found your suggestions really useful.

    This has all been a great learning experience for me.

    Thanks Joanne for your feedback. You have given me plenty of things to think about.