Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Roger Mantis
GENRE: MG Fantasy

As young Roger McGillicutty awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Aw, geeze! he thought.

There was no mistake about it. The drapes in Roger’s bedroom were closed, but the Saturday morning sun was shining brightly outside and the drapes glowed, illuminating the whole room.

Roger stared at his hands, which had been replaced by vicious yellowish claws at the end of spiked, emerald-green arms. Clumsily, he kicked off the covers using a lot more legs than he used to have, and looked down at himself. It was worse than he thought. He was lying on his back. Below his shoulders his middle was a narrow, hard, green cylinder leading down to where four long, spindly jointed legs wiggled aimlessly toward the ceiling. The legs were green too, except the ends, which were more yellowish. Past his legs was a long, narrow, greenish-yellow wormy-looking thing that was apparently his butt. Roger remembered that this was called an “abdomen” on an insect, and his narrow middle part was called a “thorax.” That was all he could remember right now from that insect chapter last month in his hated seventh-grade biology class. Well, at least “abdomen” was a better word than “butt.” As he looked at his...abdomen, it squirmed and bent as though that end of him was waking up separately.

“Eww! Gross!” he said involuntarily. His own voice startled him. It was a little buzzy, like his art teacher Mrs. Clancy, who talked through her nose.


  1. Eeeww! So gross! I think Middle Grade boys would LOVE it! Of course I thought of Kafka...and Raid. Good Luck!

  2. This is very cute. I particularly liked "Aw geez." and "more legs than he used to have." and the last line about Mrs Clancy. I think the big middle chunk could be shortened (e.g. 'the legs were green too....'and 'that was all he could remember....') I'd really like to know where this is leading....or maybe I wouldn't :)

  3. This is so fun for MG boys!

    I was a little confused, and it is probably addressed later, but is the MC used to changing into bugs? Otherwise I think the Geez comment might be a little light. I would be freaking out!

  4. You hooked me with the paraphrase from The Metamorphosis. I love the idea of retelling Kafka for a middle grade audience (if that's what this is).

    The fourth paragraph might need to be broken up and/or pared down a little bit. I skimmed through a lot of the yellowish-green this and that. But the way Roger identifies his parts was funny.

    I thought the "Oh, geez" line was funny too, because it was such an understatement. It makes me wonder who Roger is that he reacts to waking up as an insect the way someone else might react to kicking the covers off the bed.

  5. I agree with some above comments. Great idea if it's Kafka-inspired.
    It might be more fun to have that first sentence come instead in little pieces of his new body. As in he looks down and sees a strange shape under the sheet (his hand/now claw) and feels weird (legs are spindly and he feels more than he did before)-something like that.
    All that instead of just coming out and saying he's a giant insect.

  6. The first sentence didn't work for me. The use of 'young' seemed odd and you are 'telling' us something you then describe anyway. I'd be inclined to just start with "Aw, geeze!" which is a great line.

    I'd also cut down the descriptions in the fourth paragraph as they read a little like a lecture. I don't think you need this much detail to give us an idea of what he looks like, and I'm sure a lot of it could be built into the next few pages as Roger deals with his new body.

  7. love this premise! An MG Metamorphosis! Great idea. I just wonder why he would say "aw geeze". I guess this happens all the time for this character?? I don't know. Either way, I would definitely keep reading because the premise is so unique!

  8. I'm there! I'm assuming this bug-transformation is a common occurrence, which makes his reaction to finding himself a bug -again- pretty dang funny.

  9. I was giggling, especially at the end with the teacher voice. I think some boys might like this. I agree somewhat about the first sentence, though I would just have him waking up from uneasy dreams and then have him say, "Aw geez." I like this reaction, it is surprising he's not terribly upset, but only slightly irritated, or so it seems.

    The paragraph after the Aw geez doesn't seem necessary, just go straight into the description. Saying "butt" is awesome, I love that. Tighten up the description somewhat, it gets a little technical and long. Or separate into two paragraphs. Good job, I want to know more.

  10. It's certainly original!

    I loved the understated reaction, sounds more like he discovered a pimple - and that it's just as inconvenient.

    Cut down on the lengthy description, and you'll have something that 10 year olds would devour.

  11. MG boys would probably love this premise, but I don’t care if it is Kafka—the first line is awkwardly phrased. Would MG readers even get that it’s Kafka? I like the “Aw, geeze” MG voice, but agree with Anne Taylor—I’d be freaking.

    The third paragraph takes us out of Roger’s POV. I’d suggest deleting all of it except the first line, which could be tightened to “No doubt about it.” (I almost always find a way to delete “There is/are/was/were.”)

    The fourth paragraph is way wordy. For instance “…hands, which had been replaced by vicious yellowish claws” could be “…hands, now vicious yellowish claws…” Being on his back is not the-worse-than-he-thought part. I’d delete. (Well, a bug being on its back IS pretty bad, but a kid could have just been sleeping on his back.) In my MG mind, I’m wondering how an abdomen can be a butt?

    I’d delete “involuntarily.” I do like the last bit about the buzzing voice.

  12. A middle grade Metamorphosis might be fun, but you're giving away all your cards with this opening line. Also, most middle grade readers likely haven't read Kafka, so the joke/reference won't land the way you likely intend it to.

    In the paragraph in which Roger explores his new body, avoid getting too technical with the insect anatomy; it runs the risk of sounding like the author giving us a biology lesson, rather than Roger coming to these realizations himself. He can look them up later, but for now, let's get to the action!

    Roger's reactions are comic gold, so focus on those... as well as the inevitable horrified reactions of his family.

  13. Thanks to everyone for the great comments on my entry!

    Ironically, I didn't win here but today I just made it into a different contest with this same MS. I only wish my entry over there had the edits I've already made after the valuable critiques I got here.

    I got the idea for this book when I was desperately looking through a list of Famous First Lines to get some kind of inspiration. I guess it's just luck that my MC's name isn't Ishmael.

    My second inspiration was Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Black and Blue Magic, a favorite of mine when I was a kid.