Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #40

GENRE: MG/Fantasy

WHACK! The wooden ruler slapped down hard on the edge of Ruby's desk, and split in half. The broken piece flipped up smacking her chin. "No sleeping in my class," her teacher said sternly.

"I wasn't sleeping. I was just resting my eyes for a moment." Ruby rubbed the stinging red mark on her chin.

"Don't argue with me, or you'll have detention."

It's the last five minutes of class. What difference does it make? Ruby wrinkled her nose when suddenly she got a a whiff of a strong disgusting smell. Jeremy turned his head around and chuckled at Ruby's expression. He had delivered one of his famous gas bombs again. She sat in the seat behind him so there was no escaping.

"Ewe. That is so gross?" Someone in the back of the class remarked when the smell finally drifted.

"It was Ruby. It's her natural fragrance," Lauren replied. The bell rang. Everyone raced for the door. On her way out Lauren purposely knocked the books off Ruby's desk and giggled. The classroom was empty except for Chad Kindle.

Ruby gathered her books, and kept her head down so he couldn't see her embarrassment. He's looking right at me. What's he doing?

"You missed one." He picked up the Literature book hiding behind her desk and handed it to her.

"Thanks." Ok now what? He's not going away. He's still standing there. Why doesn't he just leave?

"The ruler hit ya pretty hard, didn't it?" He touched the red welt on her chin.


  1. I like this, but so far the tone seems a little schizophrenic to me. It seems to be somewhere between MG and YA, and it can't seem to make up its mind. "Gas bomb" is very MG, but some of the other parts read older, and the interaction with the boy (with a subtle romantic feeling, whether intentional or not) definetely reads YA. So it leaves me confused. You may want to think about what sort of story you're really wanting to tell here.

    The writing is good though. I liked it!


  2. Good beginning. I'm there. Agree with Kyle about the boy encounter. Touching her chin? Hmm. It has a tone of romance but with the title I'm thinking it may be more creepy than flirty.

    Present tense nitpick: "It's the last five minutes."

  3. I loved the image of the ruler hitting Ruby's chin! That was really great. I thought the gas bomb stuff was appropriate to MG, but 9t still made me cringe. I'm not sure what Ruby's done to get such treatment from her classmates, so I'd read on to find out. Writing's pretty strong, but I would make sure your MG voice is indeed MG.

  4. The voice didn't really seem MG to me. I don't know a single 12-year-old studying literature.

    Right now, your MC seems really passive to me. Not hooked.

  5. This didn't come across as a strong opening to me. I don't know what Ruby wants, and what seems to be the problem is that she gets picked on and nobody likes her. But it's a generalized dislike. There's no ringleader, so there's no one to focus on as the bad guy. And there's no hint that this is fantasy. Maybe we need to know she was daydreaming about fairies or something. Right now, it's just a day at school. What is it that makes this day different? That's usually the best place to start.

    A few things you may want to revisit.

    If the ruler jumps up and hits her in the chin, she should have a reaction to that. And she wouldn't know that her chin was red, although she could assume it.

    I wanted to know if she really had dozed of, and if she had just closed her eyes for a bit, why?

    How does she know Jeremy is chuckling at her expression? He might be chuckling because he thinks farting is funny. She wouldn't know why he was chuckling.

    Ewe- is a female sheep. Should be Ew or eeeew or some variation. That is so gross is a statement, not a question.

    It did seem MG to me all the way through until that last line. The chin touching seems more YA.

  6. I agree with most of the other comments. One other thing that confused me was the question mark in:

    "That is so gross?" Someone in the back of the class remarked when the smell finally drifted.

    Maybe change it to:

    "That is so gross," someone remarked when the smell finally drifted to the back of class.

    The word "Ewe" caught my eye as well (see the above comment).

    Overall though, I sympathize with Ruby. That's a good thing, because it means you have a character worth caring about and I'd like to know more about her and how she deals with her problems.

  7. I agree with Jess and Barbara's comments.

    Also the line with "when suddenly" needs to be reworked.

    Seems you could use a good critique group.

    Sorry, Not hooked.

  8. I like this. It introduces conflict and Ruby’s world in a very interesting way. Two things seemed unrealistic to me, however. I’m not sure a ruler would break in half so easily; and, if it did, I think the teacher would have reacted to it at least to some degree. And, unless the boy’s supposed to be very forward in character, I’m not sure he would actually touch Ruby’s chin, since they didn't really seem to know each other. Good luck with this! I’m intrigued with the story.

  9. MG is not my thing.
    Watch the word EWE, thing you meant EW.

    The literature book threw me for a loop, that makes me think at least high school.

    The fart jokes are definitely MG sounding to me, though.

    Not sure on this one...

  10. This is a good start. I'd read on. I agree with the others that it's somewhere in between MG and YA.

  11. Sorry everyone. I was so nervous & in a hurry to enter, I should have check beter. The question mark was suppose to be me & the Ewe is a baaaa mistake, silly me. Thanks for all the feed back, and sorry again if I've hurt your eyes with the mistakes. ;-)

  12. Did it again..'better'

  13. This started out like an MG, but later read like Y/A. Maybe make the voice a little younger in the last paragraph. I did like the voice though.

    Also, I would Google titles too. There is already a published series of books titled Ruby the Red Fairy. Your title may be too similar. I know your MC isn't a fairy, but it has a fairy character in the story.

    I know about Ruby the Red Fairy because I had called the fairy in one of my stories Ruby Rose, but as soon as I saw a book for sale called Ruby the Red Fairy, I changed my fairy’s name to Roseberry.

    Maybe Google titles first. I know it’s hard to get a character’s name that hasn’t already been taken.

    Good luck.

  14. Tightening. Get rid of "WHACK!" Opening with the image of the ruler is more show and onomatopoeia really should stay in picture and chapter books. Also, you can cut "her teacher said sternly" (it's implied) and "I wasn't sleeping" (also implied). Dialogue works best when it's quick. Don't say anything the reader can imply.

    How old is the main character. Within the voice it seems conflicting. Some of the snarkiness in Ruby's thoughts make her seem older. The fart is very middle grade, but the mean girl Lauren and possible prospective romance with Chad seem older.

    As for character, we're not getting enough of Ruby. That first image of the ruler is great. We get an idea that she's defiant. Then Jeremy's gas bomb - if it's famous, why would Lauren bother to blame it on Ruby. And what does Ruby think when she does? And then what is she thinking with Lauren knocks her books over?

    Also, why does Chad have an accent? (Or was that a typo?) That caught me off guard.

    The voice is the biggest problem - you need to revise to keep it firmly MG. Not quite hooked.

  15. I think the reason it feels a bit schizophrenic is that you're not staying focused on action-reaction. Things happen to the character, but she doesn't react right away. And then you move on to the next piece of abuse without finishing the first. So to me it feels like half the scene is missing.

    For example: The rule breaks, hits Ruby. She doesn't seem to feel the pain until three sentences later, which makes it seem insignificant. And then we move right on the boy's fart, and never come back to the ruler until the cute kid touches her chin. Where's the broken ruler piece? Where's the teacher after threatening her with detention?

    Look at smoothing out the transitions from one action to the next.

  16. You guys are great. Thanks for all the advise. Ruby is 15, so I can't label it MG. I'll use your suggestions & revise. Not a typo, Chad does have an accent Again..thank you for the help. ;-)