Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September Secret Agent #28

GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure

The week before her grandfather decided, once and for all, to send Jocelyn to finishing school was an eventful one, even by her standards.

On Monday, Jocelyn’s newest tutor found his pupil unable to do her history lesson. It seemed as though someone had torn out most of the pages from her lesson book in order to make paper boats. This same unidentified person had apparently floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course. A spot of soot on Jocelyn’s nose, coupled with the faint smell of smoke still clinging to her rumpled dress, pointed an accusatory finger right at the girl, though she sat at her desk with eyes too wide and innocent looking.

If you ask me, her tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. True history is filled with burning fleets.

On Tuesday, Jocelyn startled the head cook, who rather foolishly was not expecting the girl to come flying down the front banister brandishing a wooden sword and singing a bawdy sea chantey at the top of her lungs. A tea-tray of French pastries dropped on Sir Charles’s finest Persian rug could clearly be no one’s fault but the cook’s own.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were much the same: Jocelyn tore her new silk stockings trying to climb a high iron fence surrounding the manor in order to see out and “scout for enemy ships approaching”.


  1. This didn't hook me, for several reasons. First, it's backstory infodump. If any of these incidents are important to the plot, it would be better to integrate them into the story itself.

    Second, this doesn't feel like MG voice. The narration is intrusive and very "let me tell you a story, kids" rather than an MG character's perspective.

    Third, many of the verbs are weak and passive:

    "was eventful"
    "found [her] unable"
    "seemed...had torn"
    "had apparently floated"
    "is filled"
    "was wrong
    "was not expecting"
    "could clearly be"

    Cut all the descriptions of Jocelyn's week and begin the story at the actual beginning (which I assume is her arrival at finishing school). I would also suggest that you look over your manuscript closely for passive verb constructions and intrusive adult voice. Jocelyn sounds like a fun character, but I think this needs some work.

  2. I wish I could see the query to this because I'd love to know where it's going. The title totally drew me in though. I'm hoping for a new take on Peter Pan :)

    Jocelyn sounds like an adorable MC. I love girls that get into "innocent" kind of trouble.

    You are a little heavy on the passive voice, but its an easy fix. Ex: This same unidentified person (had--> delete this) apparently floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course.

    I am curious who the narrator is. A friend of Jocelyn maybe? Only seeing the first 250 is always tough :)

    You just need a little polishing, but I am totally curious what the story is about.

  3. I disagree on the voice not feeling MG. I think it absolutely does. While I am curious as to the identity of the narrator--an actual character or an outright narrator--I've seen this work in published MG novels.

    Yes, you can work on revising the passive voice, but I'd read more. Good luck!

  4. I disagree with "princess sara" - I think she missed the point completely of what you're doing here regarding explaining the days of the week. Also, nitpicking subtle tenses is not helpful, but a waste of time.

    Overall, I think this is a great start. I agree with "Michelle" - I'm curious to know the identity of the narrator as well.

  5. I thought this beginning was lovely.It had me interested from the start. I liked the descriptions and the fact that a girl was getting into all sorts of rather 'boyish' trouble. And I also felt that the passive tense was fine in this instance since the story is 'being told' to us... As with everyone else, I'm curious to know who the narrator is... I'd defintiely read on! Good luck!

  6. I'm curious as to who's telling this story. It's an interesting build to Jocelyn going to finishing school. I think "Tuesday" made me like Jocelyn. Picturing her sliding down a banister with a wooden sword is a fun image. I think you could take "once and for all" out of the first sentence and it would read smoother and have more impact.

  7. I like this a lot. The character is really intriguing and the voice is very whimsical. Well done!

  8. I love the title. It's a hook (very bad pun) in and of itself. I felt the first sentence was a mouthful, and I had to read it twice. I got a chuckle out of the "burning fleets" line. I don't mind the take on this, as long as we get up close and personal with Jocelyn pretty soon. If you are doing some kind of alternate telling of Pan, it seems an appropriate way to begin. Just tighten and activate verbs. Good luck.

  9. I like Jocelyn. That story-teller voice you're looking for is hard to get exactly right, but I think you're on the right track. Just keep in mind, because it is a bit old-fashioned, not everyone is going to love it.
    I would read on.

  10. I was intrigued by this title - I hope this is a retelling of Peter Pan, a story I never get tired of because of such a wonderful villan :)

    The first sentence was very awkward for me as well. Consider simplifying it, perhpas into two sentences.

    I think the strongest part of this 250 is the third paragraph. Could you possibly start this story with this paragraph, making small changes like "If you ask me, Jocelyn's tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. (put in part about burning paper boats). True history is filled with burning fleets." That last part is the best line and made me laugh.

    I get the voice you're going for but since I don't read much MG I'm not sure if it's currently done or if not a welcome change.

    Good luck!

  11. The end of the first sentence needs something to qualify 'standards,' (such as "typically chaotic"), since otherwise this line is meaningless to the reader. We know nothing about Jocelyn's life and its level of activity.

    But I like the writing, overall, and Jocelyn seems like she's got the potential to be an entertaining character. I have no idea what the book will be about, but I'd read more.

  12. I am an avid reader of 'Secret Agent'. For the books I would never read in real life, I read the first pages just so I can read what the agent has to say about them. One thing I have noticed is how often commenters talk about passive construction, yet I rarely see that from the agents. This SA even said he liked the writing in this entry.

  13. Thank you all for your comments. It's a privilege to be a part of such a talented community.

    PS: For those of you who were wondering, this story is a twist on Peter Pan. Jocelyn is Captain Hook's daughter. She is tasked with hunting down the crocodile to avenge her father.