Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #36

TITLE: A Prince for Denniwig County
GENRE: MG Fantasy

A brown, gooey substance sat on the plate in front of Timothy. He poked it with his spoon. The entire pile quivered. He scooped the tiniest of bites onto his spoon and inched it towards his mouth. His stomach knotted as the disgusting stuff got closer.

A bug wriggled out of the goo and a fit of nausea shook Timothy. He dropped his spoon. It clanged against his plate, an enormous racket in the otherwise silent dining hall. The collision sent his dinner spraying across the table.

Everyone in the room stopped eating and waited for disaster to unfold.

The click-clack of shoes smacking against the rickety wood floor let Timothy know the noise had been noticed by the worst of the worst, the awful headmistress, Ms. Pritchard. She stopped right behind his chair and Timothy felt her hot breath on his neck.

"Apparently, Timothy thinks he's too good to eat his turnip stew like everyone else. He'd rather sling it all over the table like a messy little baby," Ms. Pritchard said. Her voice sent shivers up Timothy's spine.

A smattering of nervous laughter flittered through the dining hall. Everyone laughed when Ms. Pritchard ridiculed one of the orphans. That was one of the rules for surviving at The Reformatory Home for Unwanted Boys.

"There was..." Timothy started to defend himself. Ms. Pritchard flicked his ear to silence him.

"I don't want to hear your excuses," she snapped.


  1. Oh, I like this! The picture you've painted is priceless. Sorry about all the "p's".

    I didn't really find anything to criticize here. You've set the scene well and we know that everyone is intimidated (sp?) by the awful headmistress.

    The title intriques me, and I'm assuming it's going to be Timothy. Hurray.

    Good job and good luck.

  2. Sounds like fun!

    Good luck with SA!

  3. Bwahaha. I wish I hadn't been eating my lunch while reading this, but I did enjoy it a whole lot. I already like Timothy, and your voice is strong and promises a humorous story. Nice work!

  4. Oh poor Timothy! I instantly feel for him and am drawn into the story. You've got great description and voice. Can't find anything critical. I'm hooked!
    Good luck!

  5. Turnip stew is brown?

    This is of course Oliver Twist revisited, but who cares? I think a kid would keep turning the pages.

  6. Watch for word repetition. You use "spoon" 3 times in the first 2 paragraphs. You use forms of the word laughter twice in the paragraph that begins with "A smattering"

    Easy to fix. Use utensil in place of one of the spoons, and find a synonym for laughter.

    I like your start, but I think going over your MS with an eye for repetition and a thesaurus nearby would be a great exercise! :)

  7. I really like Timothy, and I like this opening. It felt a teeny bit cliche, but then I guess kids at a boarding school is a common theme.

    One thing is that "a fit of nausea shook Timothy" sounded a bit odd to me. Maybe "Timothy shook with disgust (or nausea) and dropped his spoon" or something like that.

    This is nit-picky, but usually if a character is interupted you'd use an em dash and not an ellipsis (three periods). An ellipsis usually means his voice trailed off and he didn't finish his sentence.

    I know it's picky, but for me it changes the whole feel of the dialogue.

    Anyway, really enjoyed this! Has an Oliver Twist feel :)

  8. I thought modern day Oliver Twist. Good description.

  9. Great setting of scene (I think MG readers would be hooked on the first line) and nice voice. I do think the fit of nausea and the shivers up the back could be done a little more in MG voice. But overall, well done!

    As several others have mentioned, the sounds like Oliver Twist meets . . . you might want to really point out your novel's original elements in a query so an agent is sure to read your great writing! Best of luck!

  10. I really liked this! I'd read on for sure.

  11. I liked this. Right away we know who your MC is, where he is, and what his problem is.

    You might want to go through it though and spruce up the writing a bit. Some things to look at - would a room full of people eating be silent? Would there be slurping, clinking of utensils etc. When he drops the spoon, perhaps have the food splatter in the same sentence, because that would happen immediately. As is, the spoon clatters first, so it seems like there's a pause before the food splatters. Cut some of the telling sentences and add more showing.

  12. Yes, sounds MG to me. Good feel so far, but I really can "hear" this from 1st person. Honestly, take your first 5-10 pages and try it from Tim's POV and let your "voice" go. I betcha it clicks a lot more. You might hate it, but you might love it much more. Good luck.

  13. The first two paragraphs are full of short, choppy sentences, which made it jarring to read. I was more focused on the 'stop' 'go' 'stop' 'go' that I lost track of the story and had to start over. Middle grade is a great age where while the voice should still be a little young, you can also have more complex sentences.

    Everything after the first two paragraphs is great. Just the first two are very jarring.

  14. I liked this. I'd cut the 'shivers up spine' line because that feels a little cliche to me and I don't think you need it.