Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #17

TITLE: The Unusual Odyssey of Michael Pacer
GENRE: MG Fantasy (Mythology Redux)

Michael stared, with a growing sense of dread, at the sheet of thin pink paper that was stuck in the zipper of his backpack. His stomach sunk as he removed it, trying not to tear the fragile page. Sure enough, as he turned it over, the word “DELINQUENT” appeared across the top. His mother had forgotten to pay the bills again.Hopefully it wasn’t too late for her to call them and take care of it. If the electricity got shut off again he’d never get his history report done. He dragged his fingers through his tangled hair. He had just another minute before the last class of the day. Then he’d go home again for another night of mediocre spaghetti that he cooked himself. Mom wouldn’t eat it, as usual.

The heavy steel and glass front doors of the school crashed open, crumpling like soda cans. A stranger stood there with her hands on her hips like she owned the place.

She was unforgettable - wiry, with almond colored skin and tiny red braids sticking out all over her head. Her dark eyes sparkled in the school’s fluorescent lighting. Despite her size, she strode down the hall like a lion tamer, anticipating a possible attack at every turn. Her thin black t-shirt asked, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Other kids stood, slack-jawed and staring as she passed. Michael glanced over his shoulder. He should warn her. If Principal Tester spotted her there was bound to be trouble.


  1. I want more. definitely have a great voice going, attitude oozes. I was confused by the delinquent on the paper and then immediately speaking about the mother not paying the bills. What does that have his delinquency?

  2. I feel like the first paragraph doesn't flow well to the second paragraph. Do we really need to know this upfront to get to the inciting event?

    Also, the line "the heavy stell and glass front doors of the school crashed open, crumpling like soda cans," didn't work for me. Glass would shatter. Is this literal? Did she actually crack the doors? If so, the t-shirt would probably not even register with the Principal.

    It wasn't clear to me if this was an adult or a kid the MC's age. I think that matters here to understand where we're going.

    I would suggest ditching the first para. Also, if he said that thing about the Principal to the girl instead of thinking it, he'd come off much stronger.

  3. I really liked your first paragraph. I liked the attitude and the weariness. I thought it was a great jump-in. However, I didn't like the flow into the next paragraph as much. It felt a little choppy to me and like you lost 'something' - it was suddenly not as gritty or tense as before.

    It seems like you have an interesting story here, and that is something that definitely comes across. You can totally see that it's gonna 'get good'. ;)

    Good luck!

  4. The whole thing seems a little disjointed, like we're jumping from one idea to the next. Maybe slow things down a little, deal with the mother who forgets to pay the bills first, and the impact that has first, then find a smooth way to segue into the next part with the girl.

  5. I agree. There are two stories here, both well written, but the story with drama that grabs me is the stranger crashing into the school. It should be first. Mom's delinquent bills are tedious, everyday background. However, I definitely want to read on and find out what trouble is brewing.

  6. I enjoyed this and particularly liked the ending, where he thinks this big, bad amazon woman has to worry about the principal.

    A few things -- trying not to tear the fragile page. Perhaps say paper or sheet instead of page. I tend to think of pages as being in books, and this clearly isn't. I also wonder why the overdue bill is in his book bag, and if he put it there, wouldn't he have already seen it, so there would be no need for that feeling of dread. I do think the notice works in building characterization, but perhaps explain, or have him wonder, how it got in his bag. ANd you could cut 'that was' in the first sentence. You might also place him. I imagined him in a classroom, which didn't make sense when she-ra broke down the doors.

    If there's glass in the doors, it needs to shatter. And instead of saying a stranger stood there, be more specific - a strange girl? A strange woman?

    Despite her size - you haven't mentioned her size yet, so we don't know what this means. Is she really short? Extremely tall. Maybe instead of saying 'despite her size' you could give an indication of it.

    And I do hope the principal is a woman, too!

    I'd read more.

  7. I really like this entry, despite it feeling disjointed, as mentioned above. I think the advice above to slow down enough to explore one problem, then the other, is sound, or at the very least, have a segue from the first paragraph to the second. He crumples the paper and shoves it back in his backpack, then he's startled and looks up to see the stranger. Something simple like that. :)

    A little more clarity on the new girl would help, but I love her and her red hair and sassy t-shirt already.

    I'm intrigued. Good luck with this!

  8. This one did not flow well for me.

    o The very first sentence needs restructuring and simplification. Why would he feel a sense of dread since he obviously knows what the pink paper says. I also question why the note would appear suddenly at the end of the day in his backpack. And why to him, why not to his house and his mother?

    o Not sure what the spaghetti dinner has to do with anything.

    o 'Despite her size', which was what? Big, small?

    o Strode like a lion tamer? Sorry, but I picture lion tamers holding a chair in front of them, backing slowly away, keeping the lion always in sight.

    o The heavy doors crumpled, perhaps sending the glass in all directions?

    o The t-shirt asked? I think you mean the writing on her shirt. But since this is fantasy, I suppose her t-shirt could actually ask.

    I think you've got a good start, but this needs to be smoothed out for a better flow and more clarity.

  9. As I read your opening I'm intrigued by what appears to be the story of a young boy who's embarrassed because he comes from a family without enough money to pay the bills. The topic strikes a chord with me, especially with what has been going on as of late in our economy. But as far as I'm concerned, you leave us hanging and switch to quickly to what could be a subplot, the girl who comes into school with attitude enough to challenge the principle. I'd like you to slow down the opening and give us more about why this young man's family is in the predicament they are in etc. etc. before you switch us over to the girl. For me, this would help me get closer to the main character, and in turn, your story.

  10. Great voice, lovely introduction of the girl. Just one nitpick:
    "Despite her size," doesn't tell us whether she's tall or short. And I don't think the requirements for lion tamers include body height measures. ;-)

  11. Interesting set-up. I feel for your MC here, as he is clearly in over his head. However, I didn’t quite see the connection between your opening paragraph and the rest of the text. I would consider leading with the introduction of the new girl, or delaying that and opening with a more detailed explanation of Michael’s relationship with his mom.

    Some of your comparisons here also didn’t quite land with me – particularly the new girl walking like a “lion tamer.” I’m not sure what this means. Perhaps if we can instead see how Michael reacts to her, her entrance would make much more of an impact. Is he scared, intrigued or nervous? We know he is worried about her getting in trouble, but what is he actually thinking when she first barges in?