Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #2

TITLE: The Keeper
GENRE: Middle Grade/Adventure

The last day of school arrived on the perfect summer day. Well, sort of. For everyone else, maybe. But not for Jack Wilkes.

During last period, his classmates raised a ruckus when he told them about his dilemma – at least the part he could tell them – Calvin, the Fresh Air Kid.

“Wow! That sucks! Sharing your room with a complete stranger . . . all summer?” Tyler said. “Sticking a kid like that in the country for the summer is like throwing a river trout into Archer’s Pond!” He flashed the girls in front a devilish grin and a wink. They blushed, giggled, gawked and giggled more. Jack felt weird; having giggling girls suddenly staring at him made him really uncomfortable.

“What kind of kid?” Jack wondered, shying away from their stares.

“You know,” Matt added, elbowing Jack’s arm, “inner-city kids. They’re usually pretty messed up, aren’t they?”

“It’s always on the news – the problems. Gangs. Drugs. All that junk,” Tyler said. “Can’t trust city people.”

“Yeah, kinda scary, if you ask me,” Matt replied.

“Well,” Jack started, “when I met him in February, he seemed okay . . . kinda quiet – more interested in my Wii than anything else.”

“Just watch your back, that’s all,” Tyler warned.

“What about baseball?” Matt groaned. “You’re gonna play, right? You can’t NOT play –”

“Doubtful! Ugh! I really don’t need this – not this summer!” Jack snorted, leaning his chair back to stare at the ceiling. “This is gonna suck so bad!”


  1. So if the last day of school really 'didn't' come on a perfect summer day, why say it did and then say it didn't? Perhaps just say what the real situation is.

    And I didn't get why this was such a terrible thing for Jack? He met the kid and thought he was okay. He didn'y have any qualms about him until his friends started making comments.

    Perhaps show him okay with the situation at first, and have his mind slowly changed by his friends, or have him upset about it from the start, but give us a reason why he's upset. In his mind, how is this kid's being there going to ruin his summer?

    And on a technical note, how are these kids having this conversation in the middle of class? Wouldn't the teacher tell them be quiet? Perhaps they can talk before or after class?

  2. Rather than tell us it's a perfect summer day, show us. I think that phrase as a lead-in to "but not for Jack Wilkes," is fine. But before that, you have an opportunity to set the scene just a bit more for us.

    I think you want to start a new paragraph with "Jack felt weird." Up to that point, Tyler is the focus of the paragraph.

    Reading this, I assumed Calvin was not white. If this is true, my guess is the racial comments would be more open and obvious. I think the premise, if I have it right, is interesting. But I really wondered if Tyler, or anyone that age, would say "inner city kids" versus "black kids." Don't shy away from that.

  3. I don't get the phrase "Calvin, The Fresh Air Kid." I might just be clueless. Also, the conversation seems a little mature for a group of MG boys. "It's always on the news. . . " Are they really watching the news? I'm sorry but I'm not hooked.

  4. -"the perfect summer day" is a well-known phrase, but it stopped me in the very 1st sentence--I pulled back and felt like I should know which day you were referring to. Maybe "a perfect summer day"?
    -In the 3rd paragraph Tyler is saying something. Then when the next sentence starts with 'he flashed the girls in front....', the 'he' is referring to Jack. Confusing. New paragraph?
    -the tension here seems to be coming from a 'stranger in a strange land' scenario. You refer to this with the Archer's Pond statement, but it wouldn't hurt to bring it up again. How about following the "Gangs. Drugs...." statement with something like "Yeah, around here, the closest we get to gangs is the Jones brothers in the sandbox." You know....

  5. oh yeah, I agree with Anna. It was another stopper to hear a kid talking about the news. Probly better for him to say "I always hear my parents talking about it.."

  6. Overall, I really like this. Nice voice! Watch the 'age' of your dialogue - I doubt a kid would say you can't trust city people. That sounded old-timey to me. I also didn't get the 'Fresh Air Kid' reference, but I could be being dense :)

    Nice writing, and I would definitely read on. Good job!

  7. I think that the situation you're presenting here--kids from two different worlds, thrown together for the summer--has tons of potential and is a great fit for middle grade. But I agree with all of the comments above, and I think you're dumping a lot of info into the dialogue.

    Also, remember not to go crazy with the dialogue tags--in one page, you've got kids wondering, adding, replying, starting, warning, groaning, and snorting! Just a simple "said" is almost always the right choice. When Jack "wonders" what kind of kid Tyler is talking about, I actually thought he was wondering to himself, not asking out loud.

  8. I agree with the other comments about not understanding the "Fresh Air Kid" reference and the characters not sounding MG in terms of the way they view the world and some of the diction.

    I disagree though with what was said about your first paragraph - I liked this and the voice really came through for me here. The only issue is that I didnt see how it related to anything else which came next.

    Also, what I really wanted to hear about was the part of Jack's dilemma that he can't tell, haha. So I would probable end up skimming this dialogue to get to that part. Is the dialogue here important? Or could you hypothetically cut to the real issue?

    Good luck and thank you for sharing your work!

  9. I agree with others about the characters not feeling like MG, and that there's a lot of telling rather than showing. The fact that Jack isn't looking forward to the summer, and then defends this kid to his friends doesn't feel consistent. How would this scene work if Jack suggested that he take Calvin to Tyler or Matt's house and one of them worried about their Wii?

    But this is a great set up - lumping two people together who don't have much in common has loads of potential conflict. Good luck!

  10. I didn’t quite buy the voice. There were words and phrases that I felt weren’t in line with MG (“raised a ruckus,” “flashed a devilish grin,” “Doubtful!”). While I enjoy en media res as much as the next agent, I didn’t feel enough of a sense of the characters involved. We know Tyler’s a ladies man (although I don’t know what talking about trout would elicit a wink, much less the blushing and gawking response of the girls, although maybe I’m not up on my innuendo) but that’s it. Also, while I never say “said” is the only dialogue tag you can use, I don’t think the sheer variety here helps the work along. I was very intrigued by the “at least the part he could tell them” line, but that got overshadowed by the explanatory dialogue. Overall, not awful by any means, but I’m not really buying the characters and don’t yet see a reason to care about them.