Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #49

GENRE: MG (magical realism)

Mandy pulled a marigold out of the vase on the kitchen table and snapped the stem short. “You look handsome, Grandpa,” she said, and stuck the golden-orange blossom in his button hole.

“Thank you, darlin’. He grinned and bent at the waist in a courtly bow. “Got to make a good impression on the judges.”

Mandy rinsed her cereal bowl and left it in the sink, then followed Grandpa outside to the old white truck. She yanked hard to unstick the rusty passenger-side door. Grandpa was already revving the engine, the sound muffled in the fog that clung to the hills. They bumped down the gravel road, tires churning up a cloud of dust, then turned onto the blacktop that led to the highway.

The dewy fields and orchards sped by, row after row, mile after mile, the colors and patterns flowing together in a blur. The engine thrummed a steady, rumbling rhythm and the truck’s heater blasted stale warmth. Mandy rolled down the window and squinted her eyes against the rushing wind. Her hair whipped around – it almost felt like she was flying. She’d whoosh right out the window and up into the air, soaring high into the blue sky, the cool wind under her wings. She smiled to herself. Arms. The cool wind under her arms.

Loose papers began blowing around inside the truck. Mandy rolled the window closed.

Grandpa glanced at her. “You feelin’ sick? Want me to pull over?"

"I'm okay." Mandy rummaged in her backpack and pullled out a hairbrush.


  1. Great first 250 words! I was taken right away with the characters - especially the grandfather. I don't know where they're going or what will happen, but I'm intrigued. The writing is well done. Great work!

  2. The first paragraph starts off well. The second needs a quote after "darlin'."

    Then I get confused. I know they are going somewhere, but I would like to have a clue to whether it's a hearing or trial.

    I like the imagery: "yanked hard to unstick the rusty passenger-side door." They do create a feeling of euphoria in Mandy. Maybe you go a little overboard?

    Be careful with the "then's".

    This needs a little tweaking, but I would read on.

  3. I love the flying imagery, and also want to know where they're going. I'd read on-- and have nothing else to add to the previous commenters.

    Well done!

  4. I am interested and love the overall imagery but couldn't match the visual of grandpa's truck that's rusty, bumping along the road, heater blasting stale warmth to the speed that you indicate - flowers blurring, flying... I keep thinking that this truck isn't that fast. On the other hand, I love description of the whoosh and soaring...

  5. This entry is mine, thanks for the comments! A few paragraphs later the mc and her grandpa arrive at the county fair where they will try to win a blue ribbon, hence the "judges." : )

  6. I love the imagery and am not bothered at all by the rusty truck going fast. And in those first 250 words, you already supply a good sense of character for both Mandy and the Grandpa. Also, I just wanted to say, I love the title. Great for your genre.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I'm hooked! As others have said, you have beautiful imagery, and I love Grandpa's character. I want to know where they are headed. Overall, great job!

  8. Beautiful descriptions and imagery in this piece. I too would have liked to know a little more about where they are going. I think that would help shed light on why she rolled down the window and grabbed her hairbrush...because she wants her hair to look nice, right? But why?

  9. Strong, concise writing. And from what I read so far, realistic characters.

    The only sentence I would delete is this one: "The engine thrummed a steady, rumbling rhythm and the truck’s heater blasted stale warmth." It's not needed.

    Overall, smooth writing.

  10. I like the imagery and I'm taken with the characters. I'd keep reading.

  11. You do a great job with description. I can really picture myself there in the truck with them. I was a little confused by Grandpa asking if Mandy was okay--if she was going to be sick. I hadn't imagined that she was feeling ill or upset at all, so this made me pause.

    As others, I might like to hear more about where they're going or a little more dialogue or silent interaction (smiles, patting her arm, winks) from Grandpa and Mandy.

    Great title. Nice job.

  12. Great feedback. Not so sure you want to answer too many questions such as where they're going - as you mentioned, this will be answered soon and I like the tension of wondering. I vote to keep the "thrumming of the engine" - nice writing. Wishing you the best with this manuscript.

  13. If it were solely up to me I'd have Grandpa say something other than the comment about the judges...but other than that, I thought it was really, really nice!

  14. I like your writing and the characters here, but I feel like you need more of a hook for a first page - maybe tell us exactly where they're going? I also think you could look for a more gripping first line than just talking about a flower - the only hint of intrigue (to me) is her mention of wings,and that's kind of buried.

  15. Perhaps give us some emotion from Mandy. Is she excited to be going wherever? Is she scared? Nervous? Since we don’t know where she’s going, how she feels about it could give us a clue. To me, it seemed this trip was important to gramps and Mandy is just tagging along. If it matters to her, perhaps give us some emotion. The hairbrush at the end says it matters, but if all you have is this page, it comes too late.

    I thought there was some nice foreshadowing here, with how she reacted to the wind. I’m thinking she’ll probably end up being able to fly at some point, which will be the magical realism. Overall, very nicely done!

  16. I'm hooked and would keep reading because the writing is great. I understand getting to the point but I think you have set everything up nicely. Good luck!

  17. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    I added a snippet of dialog to
    imply that Mandy and Grandpa are on the way to somewhere fun/interesting. It keeps them better connected during their ride in the truck, and gives another small glimpse of their personalities.

    THANK YOU all for the kind words and helpful feedback!

  18. Nice visualization, but I did need a little more emotion from Mandy. Is she excited, nervous, scared? Just a little tweak and this would be awesome!

  19. Even though this opening is a bit on the slower side, the narrative and voice have a more sedate pace that works well with it. Obviously 250 words isn't enough to judge this manuscript as nothing has really happened yet, but I'd read on to see where things go.

  20. Well done! Something about this drew me in. I question the time period with the "courtly bow." It makes me wonder if this is contemporary or not.

    I would strike the part about rinsing the cereal bowl or make it something a little more interesting. It detracted from the rest for me.

    Wondering why he would ask if she felt sick? Carsick or does she have another illness? After the previous paragraph with her sticking her head out of the window, carsickness seemed unlikely.

    This makes me want to find out where the magic comes in. Your entry was one of the best for me.