Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Ex-Drama Queen
GENRE: Middle Grade Contemporary

Wednesday, September 6th is the day my life will change.

My entire future will be decided. I'll either land the lead role in The Sound of Music, get into Holland Performing Arts High School, and end up on Broadway before I graduate college. Or, I'll bomb the audition, go to boring South County High where I'll have no friends, and end up waiting tables at some roadside diner in Nowheresville, Kansas.

So, I've decided tomemorize the entire play before I even audition. No drama teacher – not even Ms. Sharp – can possibly deny my dedication to theater.

“Casey, aren't you going to eat?” Amanda pushes my lunch bag toward me.

“I can't marry him!” I recite with my eyes closed. My voice carries across the lunchroom, drowning out the chatter and shouts and clattering trays.

“Nice projection,” Amanda says as I bow to the table of wide-eyed sixth graders next to us. “The auditions aren't for two days. I really doubt Ms. Sharp expects you to have anything memorized.”

“I have to be perfect. My entire life depends on this role.” I ripopen my lunch bag and pull out the salad and veggie burger I packed last night. Every great actor must perfect her skills, so I like to take on the role of different characters. Since Mom bought a boatload of bagged salad on sale, I decided to be a vegetarian this week.


  1. The voice is very strong. It reaches up from the page and grabs the reader by the lapels (or the fins in my case). It manages to be full of resolution yet doesn't cross the line into annoying or overly self-absorbed. If you can continue to walk that line in what comes later then you have achieved something difficult. I assume Mrs' Sharp will become significant so it is good how you deftly introduce her in this opening. The end of the excerpt manages to be amusing while also hinting at the MC's personality so that is also well done. I wonder if opening with a date is the strongest it could be. I think you could play with it and make it even stronger so that the date is not the first thing the reader sees. Something like "My entire future will be decided on Wednesday, September 6th. It's the day my life will change." Anyway, I think you have a great start. My only initial caution would be that it reads a little more YA to me than MG - just from the voice, vocabulary, etc. Nicely done and I would look forward to reading more.

  2. I love the voice in this. I have to confess bias because I write similar MG commercial (mine is entry 29), but I was instantly grabbed by the scene. I liked the droll comment by her friend, suggesting she is usually a drama queen and her friends have learned to accept it and not react. I also loved the line about "this week I'm a vegetarian"- I would definitely read on!

  3. Great voice, and I love the way you set up the stakes at the very beginning so we immediately know what's happening. This looks very promising, and I'd read on!

  4. I planned to skip this one since I don't read or write middle grade, but you pulled me in! I enjoyed this, the story flows well.

    The only aspect that tripped me up was: "My voice carries across the lunchroom, drowning out the chatter and shouts and clattering trays." I would choose one of those last sounds; either chatter OR shouts OR clattering trays. It will keep the pace lively.

  5. This is hooking and that's good.

    "Wednesday, September 6th, my entire future will be decided." is a stronger lead, imo. Cut out the repetition as "my entire future will be decided" is stronger and shouldn't be diluted.

    Also, if that's the day her entire future will be decided, should that not be where the novel starts? Only the author can answer that one, but give it some thought.

  6. I love this so much, especially that last line about being a vegetarian for a week. This voice definitely grabs you.

  7. I agree--the voice is strong, the MC is truly a character, and we get a very strong sense of who she is in this opening piece. I loved the vegetarian for a week part as well!

  8. Great opening. I like the voice. The drama of everything hinging on this one moment feels very middle grade (who am I kidding, I'm grown up and I can still relate). Showing her practicing in the lunch room is a great touch.

  9. Great voice, and opening line! i believe your MC, and am interested in her. would read more for sure!!

  10. Just personal taste, but I don't like an opening line that tells about something to happen in the future. It's almost like giving too much away too soon.

    However, I literally laughed out loud at the last sentence about deciding to be vegetarian that week. OMG that's sooo funny and there's so much potential in just these first 250 words. I'd absolutely want to read more.

  11. When I read the line about her future being decided I thought it was another dystopian, literally-my-life-will-be-decided-for-me. When I read the line about the auditions I nearly spurted the chocolate milk out of my nose.

    Love, love, love the drama and voice.Casey oozes with personality, and I love the way you set up her stakes, and gave us a deadline for them. Love this. Last line, as mentioned, is brilliant.

    It might be funny if she adds a little inflection or blacking instead of just reciting the line with her eyes closed in a loud voice. Maybe flinging her arm across her head like a drama queen. It would give her bow a little more

  12. I like this although the opening line had me frowning. I'd rather jump into the scene and learn about the character and her predicament that way than be told something life-changing is ahead.

  13. I'm definitely sensing the drama queen in the MC. The voice is great. I'm a little worried about the concept. I don't know here the book is going, but what this first passage shows me is a very overused topic. Make sure you make it unique and fresh. Because you definitely have the voice and skills to write a successful MG.