Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #45

TITLE: Goodbye to Grandma
GENRE: Middle Grade Literary

For the fourth time that night, I heard the creak of my bedroom door being opened and the tiny footsteps of someone entering my room.

"Haiwey?" It was my little brother Barry. Again. "Haiwey? Are you awake?" Barry is only five and he has a way of mispronouncing my name that would be adorable if he wasn't so annoying.

I was lying on my side with my back to Barry, so he couldn't see that my eyes were open. I stayed very quiet and still, hoping Barry would think I was asleep and go away.

"Haiwey?" Barry poked in me the back with his finger.

"Haiwey?" He poked me again, harder.

"What?" I groaned and rolled over to face him. I had to squint to see because bright light from the hallway was flooding into my dark bedroom through the open door. Barry was wearing his Batman pajamas complete with the stupid cape and the dorky little footies made to look like boots. As usual, Ralph was clutched tightly to his side. Ralph is a stuffed-animal lizard that Barry carries everywhere he goes.

"What?" I repeated.

Barry frowned and clutched Ralph to his chest. "Haiwey?"

"What do you want, Barry?"

"Haiwey, are you awake?"

"No," I said, burying my face in my pillow to block out the light from the hall.


  1. The dialog was cute and made me laugh. Barry sounds like a typical little kid.


    Good luck with SA!

  2. I like the way he pronounces her name - very authentic.

    But I'm wondering, is there any way to build some tension into your first 250? I know this is a literary book - but something to make the reader feel compelled to keep reading. Donald Maass' book, The Fire in Fiction give tons of examples of what I'm suggesting.

    Good luck!!

  3. Aawww, Barry is so cute, I feel bad for him that his big sister doesn't want to at least make sure he's all right. So even though I'd like to see a little something about what the story is about, I would keep reading b/c I want to know why he keeps entering Haiwey's room.
    Good luck!

  4. I want a bit more in this beginning, a better sense of what the main conflict in this story is or at least a bit of foreshadowing. I think what you have here is clear, with good details. I would combine these two lines into one sentence though:

    "As usual, Ralph was clutched tightly to his side. Ralph is a stuffed-animal lizard that Barry carries everywhere he goes. "

    Try: As usual, Ralph, Barry's stuffed lizard, was clutched tightly to his side"

  5. I like the voice but I think it could be a little more intriguing right off the bat. A younger brother annoying his older brother is pretty common. I suspect more is going on here, and I want an indication of what that is to draw me in. Otherwise, I'd stop reading.

  6. I'm with the others. Great voice, and Barry is well painted, as is the irritation of the older sibling. But, I feel like the scene drags a little towards the end without giving us a hook, a reason to keep reading.

  7. A nice opening and voice. I agree with Bluestocking that some of the writing could be tightened. Perhaps one too many Haiweys toward the end. Made me chuckle, though. Well done.

  8. For the first 250, I think the little brother thing is drawn out a smidge too long. It was really cute though, and made me smile.

    My main concern is actually the title because of what it may indicate about the rest of the novel. If the book is about dealing with death, the title feels too didactic and would turn off MG readers. Titles are simple to change, but with a topic like this, be extra careful the text isn't too obvious in its lessons about grief.

    If I'm way off base about the plot, sorry! It's nearly impossible to gauge with this little to work on. For all I know, Grandma could be going on a cruise!

  9. Very authentic exchange (coming from the mom of a 4 year old who is woken up in the night way too often), but we don't yet know why we should care about Barry or Hailey. I'd probably read on for a bit to see what happens, but not completely hooked. Sorry.

  10. Not hooked. Little brother pestering big sister in the middle of the night. Nothing has happened.

    One suggestion: Too many words are used to describe Ralph, and you use clutched twice. I suggest saying "As usual, Ralph the stuffed lizard was clutched tightly to his side." Then for the second clutched you could use clasped or some other word.

    But big picture, I think you need more of a hook. Too many "Haiwey"s.

  11. I loved it. I have a clear sense of both these kids in my head already, and I'm not a believer that every opening has to be a "fire cracker".

    Good writing. I would definitely read more.

  12. The kids are totally believable, but you keep repeating the names until it get's on my nerves. You repeat Hailey's name 5 time, and Barry's EIGHT! It's OK to say, "he".

  13. Agree that the scene and repetition goes on too long, though Barry is definitely believable. Tightened up and getting to the point of the scene a bit quicker might help. I'd read on for a bit.

  14. Cute, but too slow. Easy to tighten this, and to get to whatever the conflict is going to be. I suspect in a few more lines we would all be hooked.

  15. I thought this needed more work. Barry's cute, but remember the rule of three - after the third Hailwey it starts to get annoying and slows the story.

    It's also written in a passive/telling voice. Look at your sentences. If someone 'was' doing something, try to rewrite the sentence without using 'was.'

    Example - it was my little brother Barry. Again. You could shorten it to - Barry. Again. We know he's little because of the way he talks, and we'll assume they're family because they're in the same house in the middle of the night.

    You also don't have to say things like "i heard,' 'I saw.' Since Hailey is your MC, it's assumed she's the one doing the seeing and hearing.

    Example - For the fourth time that night, I heard the creak of my bedroom door being opened and the tiny footsteps of someone entering my room.

    For the fourth time that night, my bedroom door creaked open and tiny footsteps pattered across the floor.

    Keep at it!

  16. I don't think MG Literary is a genre. If it is, how is this it? I'd suggest you don't query agents calling it MG Literary. That's like saying childrens picture book paranormal romance.

    Now that we have that out of the way, the name pronunciation thing is cute, but how many times is that kid gonna say it?! I'd cut the frequency in half and get to the story.

  17. I'm not sure if you're meaning "literary" in the sense that I am? Did you mean 'contemporary'? Because I don't get a 'literary' feel from this sample.

    However the writing is very good and the voice is excellent. I love the dialogue, too. Would certainly keep reading.