Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Butterfly Girl
GENRE: Upper Middle Grade

Madison rolled onto her side and shoved her hand against…

Ouch! What she was lying on was part of her! She sat up and whipped her nightgown over her head.

Wings! The spell worked!

She threw off the covers and ran to look in the mirror above her dresser. Leather-like wings jutted out from between her shoulder blades and hung almost flat against her back, golden brown, with green dots and swirls along the edges.

Gently she unfurled them, first together, then one at a time. Each wing opened and closed in sections, folding together like a fan.

She pinched herself hard. No, not dreaming.

# # #

3 weeks Pre-Wings…

Madison drew a sharp breath and didn’t let it out for a long moment. She picked up the postcard, half-buried in the mail on the kitchen counter.

To Miss Madison Michaela McCoy-Lee. Each M oversized and curving high, like the hills of a roller coaster. Happy Birthday!!! I hope your 12th is the best year ever! Hugs and kisses… Love, Mimi. P.S. We’re performing in Oregon this year – I’ll come for a nice long visit.

Sure you will.

She flipped the postcard over. In big gold letters along the top of the card: Ringman Brothers' Traveling Circus, with a picture of her mother, Mimi, waiting to be shot out of a cannon. A wide swath of green covered each eyelid – stage make-up. Usually her mom didn’t wear much make-up. Or maybe she did, now.

Madison folded the postcard in half, then shoved it into her back pocket.


  1. i have to admit- i struggled a lot with the very beginning. I was just so very confused as to what was happening when she was waking up and had wings. i just needed a little more background information to help my understanding come more quickly. Honestly- i think you could just start the whole thing 3 weeks pre-wings- cut the whole first chunk. The stuff below that i liked ok.

    Also- this probably just is a problem of having only 250 words, but i was a confused (well- not confused, but it made me stop and think) that the book is called Butterfly Girl but she has leather wings- didn't seem to match up in my mind. Leather wings are dragon or bat wings in my experience, but it sounds like you are describing that she has insect wings

    good luck! i like the idea of wings bestowed by a spell so keep on plugging

  2. Yeah i'm really not sure about the beginning chunk. It seems to be working as some sort of prologue, I guess? But it's just showing us a flashforward about something exciting that will happen later in the book. I think, and this is just me guessing, is that it's there to hook the reader faster, but i think it kind of does the opposite. Because it's pretty short, we don't really have a chance to get to know the MC or understand the situation before it's changed on us.
    I think you'd do better to just cut it and start at the three weeks before.
    But otherwise, MC with wings sounds like a lot of fun!
    Good luck!

  3. The transition from one scene to the next in such a short amount of space was jarring.

    I would save the discovery of the wings for later. I know you want to hook your readers, but I don't think showing them this accomplishes that. from your title we'll assume she's going to get some sort of wings eventually.

    I'm actually more interested in her circus performer mother. Who she obviously feels has abandoned her. Show us more of this. Let us become emotionally invested in your character. I think that will work better than tossing in the wings and jerking us out of the scene.

  4. I agree. I really like the second bit, pre wings, and feel like this might be a better place to start the story. I'd read more:)

  5. I like both the openings.

    The beginning opens with enough action to hold a preteen's interest, and in the second opening we get to know a lot about the MC in a short amount of time. . . without any bogging down. Excellent!

    I would NOT omit the beginning (about the wings). I highly suggest you keep that. It doesn't confuse me, however, it may be a good idea to add a few hundred more words to that scene to ground the reader. Just add extra sentences to make it clear where she's at, what's happening, how she's reacting to the situation, and how the wings got on her. You have it there already; just describe it more.

    I hope this helps.

  6. I also didn't like the first opening. It feels like that would be a big ta da moment later on after she works the spell and suddenly rolls over to discover her wings. Also, the description of the wings threw me considering butterfly wings are extremely delicate.

    That said, I enjoyed the second half infinitely more. I'd read on because of that. :)

  7. I'm not in the majority here. I really liked the opening, until I got to the not dreaming, 3 weeks earlier part. Then I was angry I couldn't find out what happened to this girl that woke up after a spell that caused her to have wings. So cool!

    So I would keep the first, but only if there's where the story starts. If you really need the back story, start there. That opening was good as well. I didn't like it as much, but it was still good. Nothing bugs me more as a reader to think I'm getting into something and then having to start over and not get there until the middle or end of the book.

    Great ideas though! You shouldn't have a problem getting this to work for you.

  8. I start off not knowing who has spoken that first sentence.

    It feels a little like they are having a conversation so the reader can be informed of back story.

    How does someone seem asleep if their eyes are open and they are glaring at you?

    This didn't compel me.

  9. The above comment was meant for #19 and mysteriously showed up here.

    Sorry for the confusion. I must have lost my place in my reading and ticked the wrong button.

  10. Now for my actual comments on Butterfly Girl:)

    I vote for the first beginning with no jumping backward in the story line.
    You gave me a girl with wings and I want to stick with her.

    You have me hooked if you stay with that.

  11. Thanks for the comments and suggestions! I've flipped back and forth on whether to build to the wings, or open with a quick glimpse of her waking up with them. I went with a leather-like substance because the wings need to be thin yet sturdy, and there's a butterfly connection in the actual spell, so it makes sense in the context of the whole story. By the end, the mc has an internal transformation too, and becomes a stronger, more self aware young woman.

    I appreciate the feedback! :)

  12. I have to agree - the 2 time frames was jarring. As much as I'd like to read about the Madison and her wings, I'd rather start w/the 3 weeks prior/postcard/circus mother. The book blurb will refer to the wings aspect, so that'll get the reader's interest. Good luck with this.

  13. This didn't work for me as a beginning. I've already seen so many of these types of openings. I'd like something very different. Something that has this going on while her regular life is happening. Because obviously growing wings will be a major distraction from being a twelve-year-old.

    I would start with the spell. Why did she want the spell to work? Where did she find the spell? I think that's a much more interesting place to begin. Plus, it will show the reader much more about this character and what is pushing her to this decision.