Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Wilson the Dalmatian: Victorian Carriage Dog
GENRE: Historical Fiction / MG

Wilson can't wait to leave.

A trip is in the air. He can sense it. He knew as soon as John began grooming the team of horses. The dark bay mare with two white socks stands gleaming. John works quickly. The gelding will soon be ready. Then they will go.

The team's harnesses hang on hooks. Wilson smells the leather, heavy with the scent of oil and sweat. Anne always says the smell reminds her of browned butter. Wilson thinks the harnesses smell better than butter. Butter is a treat, but the harnesses mean a trip. Wilson zooms around in circles at the thought.


Wilson stops in his tracks and snaps his attention toward Robert. Anne's brother is the best fetch-a-stick-thrower Wilson knows. Though John may throw farther, Robert never tires of the game.

A stick slices through the air over his head. Wilson dashes after it. He loves to play. Any game that involves running and jumping puts a wag in his tail.

Fetching is one of his favorite things to do, but even as he returns the stick and drops it at Robert's feet, he keeps a watchful eye on the horses. He cannot play all day. Like the horses, he has an important job to do. While the horses pull the family's carriage, Wilson is responsible for keeping his people safe.

Thank you for this opportunity,


  1. I'm not hooked.

    I found it a little boring, BUT that might be because I don't read MG.

    Good luck with SA!

  2. Ah, Dalmatians, dogs of my heart. How can I not love a story about this noble critter.

    Beginnings can be so difficult, can't they? You've set the scene well, and I can almost smell that leather! And I'm sure we're going to learn all about why the Dalmatian was chosen as carriage dogs. The last sentence lets us know they are fiercely protective.

    Two concerns for me. I don't know Wilson, but I'm surprised he was distracted by a stick - no matter how much he loves the game. He knows he's going on a jog with the carriage, and Dalmatians can be very single-minded. So I think you could easily ditch this for now. You can always come back to it later. And that will allow you some room to get into the conflict of the story.

    Good luck with this!Can't wait to read the rest of it.

  3. I'm a sucker for animal stories, and this reminds me of BLACK BEAUTY or BEAUTIFUL JOE. You have lots of nice sensory images and I'm starting to get the personality of Wilson. But it feels a little detached to me, and I kept waiting for someone else to be introduced as the narrator. Have you considered writing this in first person, from Wilson's pov? It's just a thought, but I think it might work well.
    Nice writing!

  4. I like the writing and the story idea. But there isn't enough of a hook to get me to turn the page. It seems like a regular day for the dog. If his job is to keep the people safe, I would start with a scene where he's saving the people, which will let the character of the dog come out. Just a suggestion.

  5. The subject is intriguing, but this opening feels more like explanation than story. Is there a way to weave this description into more of an active scene? You mention the upcoming trip about which Wilson is excited. Maybe you could drop another detail or two about why the trip is important -- and then get them started on the trip, which will give us readers a chance to see Wilson's protective duties in the context of a scene.

    The writing is very smooth, and I like the details you've given about the human characters so far. I love dog stories, too, so I'd read on for at least a few more pages to see what happens.

  6. I liked this one. It initially hooked me when I realized it was from Wilson's POV. I find that interesting.

    The writing is excellent. The description (especially the browned butter/leather similarity) was perfect.

    I agree with Michelle that it might add even more interest if it's in first person, i.e., Wilson telling the story. There's a fact-based book about a rather famous dog who lived in Marshall, Missouri. It might be difficult to find a copy, but it's called "Jim the Wonder Dog." Jim tells the story.

    Good luck!

  7. I wasn't hooked enough to read more. I'd also like it better if it were told in past tense. The present tense made it awkward for me.

  8. I'm wishy-washy on this one. On the plus side, I felt like this was a dog speaking. You made me feel like I was in the head of an eager dog.

    On the other hand, it didn't go anywhere. He's excited about going out on a trip. It might help if he was already out on the trip. Start in the middle of the action just shortly before your problem occurs.

    I disagree about telling it in first person. You do a great job here of being the dog in third person, and he's a dog, with dog qualities. A lot of times, doing animals in first person tends to make them more human and they become more anthropomorphized - not fully human or animal.

    Whatever you do with it, good luck!

  9. agree with bfav; give the dog some conflict, a wound, going blind, something to challenge him...and then it's a winner.

  10. At first it seems as though Wilson is the narrator and I loved that. The short sentences in the first paragraph really seemed very dog-like. It starts to change in the next paragraph though, and I begin to wonder if someone else is narrating. The sentences grow longer and more complex, and start to sound like an outside observer is discussing Wilson and what he's doing.

    I guess try to really nail down who is narrating. Is it the dog? Another member of the family? (Not Anne or Robert or John, obviously. Is the person speaking another brother or sister or someone else?) Once there's no narrator confusion, I'd really be able to focus on the story here.

  11. Like the Sherlock Bones entry, I'm not sure if a dog MC is right/old enough for middle grade. Perhaps a chapter book? But I'm most familiar with YA, so who knows.

  12. The sentences are quite short. They're also simple for an MG. This reads much younger than it probably should. In MG and YA, several short sentences can be distracting. It can make reading quite choppy. It can deter the reader from the flow of the story.

    Kind of like the comment :) (was trying to show my point while explaining it).

    Cute concept, though. I love animal stories.

  13. I suppose this story is one that some will like or not like. Seeing that its historical fiction, I'm instantly intrigued. But you'll have to work hard for me to be able to identify with a dog as your MC and that's just a personal choice on my half. I did love the mood you've created with the smells. There is a sense of anticipation in the air too when you start off knowing that a trip is going to happen. I think if the dog was that excited about a trip, even a stick would be hard to distract him though.

  14. I thought this was nicely written. I could picture the scene and the dog well. Good details with the description of the leather.

  15. I would read on, but I've always been a sucker for animal stories. Someone suggested you cut the fetch scene for now, and I agree lets get to the mission, or whatever it is that's going to happen. Best of luck!

  16. I love the title! I could see my kids liking this one. It reads like young MG to me. But I expected the dog to think of the people by smells, too. I found this number of names so early too hard to remember.

  17. Wonderful details and descriptions, but I'm afraid I'm not hooked. Nothing really grabbed me and I'm a bit picky in what I like in animal stories, so it could be personal taste.

  18. I just found that this dog thinks too much. Especially a Dalmation. They are bite first think later type dogs. I wonder if what you are attempting is really not in the age group that would be interesting because they are out of the talking animal is such baby stuff stage and going to teenage pimples and you know...
    unless you are going to make this funny. One of my favorite dogs is Farley in For Better or For Worse. Subtle use of dog for grownups.