Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Kingdom of the Orbs: City of Mountains
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Thirteen-year-old, Olivia was well-known at school for her weird tales and visions. Though her stories seemed unbelievable, the creatures were weirder than anyone dared imagine. Olivia couldn't stop the Uglies . . . no mortal could. So most days she dressed in plain clothes and hid behind sunglasses.

In the bottom drawer of her night stand. Buried beneath a notebook and an ordinary- looking shoe box filled with personal treasures, she snatched out her diary. Her hand quivered as she unlocked it with a golden key.

Dear Diary,

Misery. I should be used to the teasing but, hello . . . I'm not! I hate it. My face turns red and highlights my spaghetti hair. And I just want to run away and hide. Why do they laugh at me? It's not funny. It hurts. Having no boyfriend hurts. All I can do is run home and lock myself in here. I can think here. I have a lot to think about. Sheesh. My life's a disaster. Why can't I be like other girls? Have pajama parties . . . dates . . . and a father. What's worst of all -- is the monsters. They won't leave me alone. They appear in my room every night! It's not fair. Or normal. This isn't, MONSTER CENTRAL!



  1. I'm not a big fan of diary entries.

    It didn't hook me, but I'm not an MG reader.

    Good luck with SA!

  2. Maybe I'm reverting to my middle school self, but the title makes me think of the type of B-movie that a middle school boy would smuggle into his home and hide in the cut-out hole under the lowest drawer of his dresser. I imagine my seventh-grade lunch table having some fun chuckling over a title like: "Kingdom of the Orbs: City of the Mountains."

    Also, it's interesting to me how many of these 37 submissions so far mention hair color, hair types, hair styles, loose strands of hair, spaghetti hair, or auburn hair in the mirror. Maybe that's a big difference between male readers and female readers. I'm not sure most guys really car that much about someone's hairstyle, at least not in the first 250 words.

  3. I liked the first paragraph, but thought that there was no real smooth transistion between that and the second. The diary entry threw me off. I think you're trying to introduce the character and her life by using the entry, and it doesn't really work. I couldn't really feel sympathetic for the MC, even though she's a young girl being bullied.
    You had me with the first paragraph, but lost me at the second.
    Good luck!

  4. Not hooked. It seems like a bit of a clichéd beginning with the nerdy, unattractive, and misunderstood girl. Not that books with those types of main characters are bad, it’s just not a very new or interesting way to start a book. I realize that your reference to monsters is supposed to be the hook, but for some reason it isn’t working. I think the focus should be more on the trouble the monsters are causing her rather than her insecurities. A couple of grammar items: delete the comma after ‘thirteen-year-old’, replace the ellipses after ‘Uglies’ with a hyphen, replace the ellipses after ‘hello’ with a comma, delete the comma between ‘isn’t’ and ‘monster central’. The second paragraph needs to be rephrased. I would suggest, ‘She pulled her diary out of the bottom drawer of her nightstand, where she had hidden it beneath a shoebox filled with personal treasures.’ or something like that.
    Good luck!

  5. There were several punctuation errors here, but a previous commentor pointed them all out nicely.

    The diary entry reads the way a thirteen year old girl would write, so it rings true, but I'm not sure about jumping right into a diary entry in the first 250 words. Seems like a way to get out of "showing." And I don't think people usually sign their diary entries with their names, unless they're writing for an audience. Do the monsters read her diary? That would be interesting!

  6. I love traditional YA and MG fantasy, so the title didn't put me off here.

    I think maybe this opening needs a
    little more tension. The first sentence sort of reads like a "once upon a time" opening, but I want a reason to like Olivia right away, and I didn't get that here.

    I think maybe when you call them "stories" then we assume she is making it up, whereas at the end of the intro we see that she isn't making it up. Maybe bring that into focus--that would hook me in the first sentence.

    Also, "the Uglies" made me think of Scott Westerfeld's "The Uglies" series of books.

    You have interesting ideas here, so good luck!

  7. Yeah, I'm not hooked, either. The first paragraph turned me off, as it was all basically telling and featured a misplaced comma (after "thirteen-year-old").

    I did like the voice of the diary entry, so I wonder how possible it would be to write the whole thing in first-person (a major revision, I know, but just something to think about). I also wonder how this first page would read if it started with an active scene.

    Best of luck to you.

  8. I liked the first half much better than the second. The POV shift didn't flow right. Also, I think I'd take the first two sentences and move them down further. The third sentenced grabbed me and I'd start with it instead.

  9. Not hooked. The first parg. didn't make much sense to me. The second started with an incomplete sentence.

    I thought the diary entry was the most interesting part, but still, I'd rather see it than have you tell me about it.

    Perhaps start with a scene showing that - a really rotten day at school? Or better yet, a scene where the monsters come to visit.

  10. I thought the voice in the diary section made for a considerably more compelling narrator than what was presented in the first two paragraphs. If the rest of your novel is like this, I agree with the commenter who suggested telling the story in the first person.

    There isn't any action occurring in this section. There is a considerable amount of telling rather than showing. Also, the punctuation errors threw me off.

    I think there are some good ideas here, but I wasn't hooked.

  11. This could do with some specifics. What kind of monsters? What kind of weird tales and visions? I can't picture someone being known at school for visions; I'd have to be shown that in a scene rather than told about it.

    The emotions in the diary entry are authentic, and the diary description itself is specific. That might be the real start of your story.

  12. The first paragraph is in omniscient POV, and an unknown narrator is telling us about Olivia. Instead, why not show us a scene in which she's teased and jeered at, when she tells a story or however she divulges her monster information to others.

    Then the following paragraphs are in third person and closer in Olivia's POV. But she doesn't quite sound like a 13-year-old girl. To my ear, she sounds like an adult trying to sound like a young teen.

    What she writes in the diary again tells us about her life. She includes stuff that she would already know, so it wouldn't be important to write it again since this is her thoughts, etc.

    There's an interesting story here but it's hidden among the slush. Keep working at it.

  13. With the comment about many people using hair in their first 250 words, I do, to a certain extent agree with the sentiment.
    I think you should forget reference to spag hair because they'd already hate themself and hardly write that if there's something more hideous in their lives.
    Children don't waste words in their diary - if something is bothering them they'd write it down something like


    Yes there is an interesting story but it is hidden inside the slush as danceluvr says.
    Voice is okay. I did feel that my this is for kids alarm was on and ringing a warning to sound more like a kid.
    and with good luck wishes

  14. I'm not a fan of diary/journal entries, especially since I think they take quite a bit to write. Most kids aren't so eloquent when they're angry.

    And ever since Scott Westerfeld's books, UGLIES, I can't see "Uglies" without thinking about it. But in this case, since this is an MG and his is a YA, it might be ok and the kid reading won't notice.