Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #16

TITLE: Broken Rules

If Gabriela Allero hadn't seen the strange flash of silvery light inside the doorway, maybe she wouldn't have stopped. But she did see something deep inside the dark mausoleum, so she paused in her search to investigate. Why would there be a light inside a little house that was meant to be inhabited only by the dead?

Gabriela squared her glasses on her nose. She glanced left, then right, down the long row of marble mausoleums that flanked the cobbled walkway. Had anyone else seen the light? Except for a few cats scurrying about, the block was empty. The carved marble buildings, like miniature row houses with their shiny windows and polished doors, reflected the warm orange glow of the setting sun. Gabriela felt her usual fondness for the enclosed mini cityscape, its narrow lanes and intersecting alleys. The corner street signs—with letters in frilly script—reminded her of sentries standing guard, and the life-sized sculptures of angels and heroes posed in greeting as if they knew her.

A gust of wind rattled the bare-limbed jacaranda trees and sent a chill up Gabriela's spine. She shivered, and like a turtle tucked her chin into the neck of her hoodie. Staring back again into the darkened doorway, she recalled her father's words when he proposed moving their family to Argentina after her mother's death. "It's a place of magic."


  1. I really like the first two sentences of the 3rd paragraph. Perhaps the writer should consider starting with them.

    Much of the language is not kidlike. What kid has a "fondness" for something.

    I'd like to see more action mixed in with the description.

  2. I really like the description of her surroundings.
    'Fondness' stood out to me too. Maybe change it, but I don't read enough MG to say if it's okay to use it or not.

  3. Hooked!

    I really liked this, but I would find a different phrase for "sent a chill up Gabriela's spine" it's a bit cliche.

    Good luck with SA!

  4. I like your character, she's braver than most MGers to be hanging out in the graveyard. And I'm intrigued, I'd turn the page.

    Watch your tone. It seems a little jumbled. She's curious and likes being in the graveyard even after she saw a strange light. But then shivers and hides from the wind...or maybe she's just cold. Do you understand where I'm getting confused? I could be wrong, but either way I had to read it a couple of times.

  5. I really like the tone of this and I really like your voice. In fact, I don't know if I can find anything to criticize here.

    I can't help but wonder why she's in the graveyard, alone, late in the day. And what is she searching for? Good questions that require I continue to read in order to answer.

    I especially like the last line.

    good job and good luck.

  6. I really like the sentence, "...and the life-sized sculptures of angels and heroes posed in greeting as if they knew her." Great imagery here.
    I don't know about the voice, overall though. I'm unsure if I would keep reading. I agree with bfav, the tone is a bit jumbled and I had to read a few sentences over again.
    Good luck!

  7. I'm not sure this beginning would hook a middle school or upper elementary school kid. Sorry.

  8. I like the tone and mood you've created. If I might be so bold as to offer a couple of suggestion, they would be simply this:

    I would consider deleting the second paragraph. It starts out great, but then all that description kind of slows it down. If you jump from the first graph to the third, it keeps things moving much faster.

    Nice job!

  9. I almost wish it began with the third paragraph. It is so powerful and that's the paragraph that hooked me.

  10. I like your writing. It shows skill and polish. For example, "The corner street signs—with letters in frilly script—reminded her of sentries standing guard, and the life-sized sculptures of angels and heroes posed in greeting as if they knew her." Really like that metaphor.

    The thing is, I am not grabbed and yanked into the story. I know we're only talking about the first page here, but that very last line has the kind of intrigue you need at the outset. I'd move it to the first paragraph and work off of that. Good job overall.

  11. Perhaps instead of starting with - If G. hadn't seen the light - you just let her see it, because that's what happens - she sees it. And it allows you to start with your MC and the story, rather than a narrator with narration.

    And then, instead of all the description, allow her to investigate the light. The description is nice, but it kills the pacing.

    Think about what you would do in that same situation. You see the light, think - I wonder what that is, so you go in, or look in, but you don't just suddenly turn around and start admiring the statuary.

    You might also consider your audience. Again, the description is nice, but you describe things as an adult would. We should see this world through a 12 year old's eyes (or however old she is.) Use description someone her age age would come up with.

  12. The tone of the description varies from comforting (warm glow, sentries standing guard, greetings) to chills and rattles. Why does she get a chill when she's just been so comforted by her surroundings? I think you've got a great setting, though, and I'd keep reading this. (Also, a nitpick, but a few cats wouldn't scurry about. Maybe a kitten chasing a string might scurry. Cats slink.)

  13. I like some of the imagery, but I agree with a lot of the other critiquers. I feel like the descriptions slow down the pace, and it seems a bit old for MG. You could probably cut the first two paragraphs and start with paragraph three, which is where the action begins.

    Actually, thank goodness for the last paragraph because that's where the hook is. A young girl moving to Argentina is intriguing. Also, wondering why she's hanging out in the graveyard, and as someone else mentioned, what time of day is it?

    Good luck with the SA!

  14. I'd cut the entire second paragraph. You were losing me with all that description. I really liked your final two sentences though. The fact that this is set in Argentina has me curious enough to read more.

  15. I liked the writing and style here, but I think a bit less description and getting on with the scene quicker would help. I'd read on for a bit. :)

  16. I really like the writing but I think there are a few things you could improve. The narration at the start in particular - I felt like Gabriela was seeing the light at some point in the past, then the second paragraph establishes that she's seen it in the present, so I agree it would be better to start with her seeing the light and move from there.

    I did like the description, but I wonder if it would be better to cut it down a little and get her into the mausoleum a bit sooner.

  17. The first sentence is quite confusing; I know what you mean by it but on first read, it definitely threw me off.

    I think it would definitely hook the reader more if you were to begin with the third paragraph and add the first two paragraphs of descriptions in at a later time. Once I read that last paragraph, I was definitely hooked.