Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Harold-The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved The Day
GENRE: MG, contemporary

“Any kid would be lucky to have a friend like Harold,” is what Mom always said when I complained about something Harold had done. No matter how hard I’d tried, I couldn’t convince her that Harold was bad for my social life.

Whenever I’d meet a new kid, somehow Harold was there to ruin it. And every baseball game since T-ball, Harold had been there in the bleachers to witness and later remind me of each error and loss. But I’d finally found my answer—a way to put some distance between me and Harold—middle school.

On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I figured Harold’s mom would drive him to school on the first day.

I walked to the stop and from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Jake! Wait up, Jake! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will be here at 8:07.”

I kept walking and called over my shoulder, “Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole four minutes.”

Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:32, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”


“Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?”

“Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

I didn’t have a clue, but I hoped just once Harold wouldn’t go into his never-ending monologue about one more Major League ballplayer I’d never heard of.


  1. I can relate right off the bat- my mom was always trying to force friendship with our neighbor on me when we had nothing in common (I think mostly so she could get me out of her hair). The premise is very accessible for this age group! I think the baseball will grab boys too- I always see agents talking about how much they want MG for boys, so I think you could have something marketable. Jake's sarcasm is cute: "Tomorrow I'll sleep in a whole four minutes"...

  2. Yes, this is something everyone can relate to! I love the image of the MC peeking out the door to see if the coast is clear.

    Nitpick: I'd toy with the tense of the first paragraphs--past perfect isn't as immediate/gripping.

  3. This is great--clean writing; clear ideas; proper voice for the age.

    Since it's so well done I'd offer two challenges.

    Inject just a smidge (a sentence or two) of grounding details, some bit of setting to put this reader in the moment.

    I can't tell from this what kind of story this is: coming of age? mystery? are aliens on the way?

    I know it's for a younger audience, but I still feel that one carefully worded sentence can reveal to the readers: Yes, this is my type of story or okay, let's get in the mood for some spaceships.

    Advanced ideas and the story stands without them. Good luck in the secret agentery and query process!

  4. I think this is a relatable story for most kids. I'm wondering if Harold has some kind of disability or if he's a genius. I like that you've set up what the MC wants right away (new friends). I'm not sure what the stakes are yet, but that might be on the next page. Good luck!

  5. Yes, I'd keep reading. Like the title and the first line too. :)

  6. I found Harold annoying already, so great job there. But on the other hand, I'm not sure I could take him for a whole novel.

    You may also have a problem in that the solution to the MC's dilemna is easy and obvious. Tell Harold he doesn't want to be friends. While that may not be the solution you have, it is a solution, and the reader may wonder why he doesn't just do that? You may want to add a line or two about why he doesn't do that, to eliminate that issue.

    I also wondered how your MC thought middle school would help him get rid of Harold. Perhaps insert a sentence that gives his reasoning. What is it about middle school that will finally make Harold go away?

  7. I think the voice is authentic for the age group and that the dialogue is also appropriate. It flows very nicely from top to bottom. So, all the mechanics are present and handled well. The only trouble I have is that there does not seem to be a story readily apparent - a conflict, a goal, a frustration, a destination, etc. I think you could strengthen this by finding a way to incorporate that in the opening. But, apart from that, I certainly found this engaging.

  8. I think you've done a good job here. You've got a good voice and I'm already connecting with your characters. I agree with the commenter who said they wouldn't want to spend the whole book having to deal with Harold's annoying personality, but I'm also curious to see where you're going with it.

  9. Ooh well written and good work establishing the characters straight off the bat. I can immediately relate to the MC and understand his mom and the painful Harold. Don't we all have one know-it-all in our lives.

  10. I loved the voice. This is definitely something young readers will relate too. Only concern would be the 'telling' in the second paragraph. You could lose that, if you want, since the rest of the excerpt shows how annoying the kid is, and the ploy the MC had devised to avoid him.

  11. This is a great beginning if only we knew why MC is connected to Harold beyond his mother's influence. There must be a reason he does not simply dump him if he does not want him around. Perhaps a hint of that would work wonders here. Also, I would like to say that almost everyone here has read a few books on fiction writing, and of course we are all trying. But, some rules were meant to be taken with a rain of the proverbial showing not telling...well, sometimes the situation is that telling is fine..especially if itis a minoror secondary character. "I walked to the store and there was Jack. Waiting. Watching. Jack was mean."
    well Jack is not a main chracter I don;t want his family history. He is mean. You can TELL me that. Take whatyou hear HERE with a grain of salt. There are no absolute rules. Showing is better but sometimes telling is what moves the story. Every author tells.....sadly, here, you got a gunch of wannabes who see telling an think someone farted. No, it is not always the case. trust yourself.

  12. This is a very fun MG. I love the interaction between the two boys right away.

  13. Nice writing. This flows well. I would consider starting with your 3rd paragraph, however, since the first 2 are back story. The 3rd paragraph puts me in the middle of the action.

  14. Hm. Maybe it's just me - judging from above comments, looks likely - but I felt the start was too abrupt. Honestly, I'd suggest moving the paragraph where he cracks open the door up to the top. It gives a more solid feel of introduction, imo - and after that paragraph's over, it flows smoothly into the quote from Mom.

    I'd also suggest re-punctuating the last sentence of para 2: "But I'd finally found my answer, a way to put some distance between me and Harold: middle school." It feels strangely jerky as is.

    Also, if he's already reached the bus stop in para 4, where is he walking in para 5?

    Other than that, looks good. Solid voice, and relatable MC. Best of luck!

  15. Honestly, if it weren't for the title, I wouldn't have a ton of interest in this passage. Only because we only see this one conflict and the friction is not rough enough to pique my interest.

    I think it's funny, for sure. And you have a clear wit in your voice. Which is great! But what really makes me want to read more is the title. It's a great title. I get the feeling this is a clever manuscript from the wit in your voice and the title alone.