Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #28

TITLE: The Unbelievable Misadventures of Avery Mann
GENRE: MG Contemporary Fantasy

Number one on my summer-to-do list was avoid trouble, especially my arch-nemesis Max "The Wild Thing" Lovell and my older brothers (a.k.a. the Sinister Six).

Of course, when bad luck follows you around like a herd of black cats with long claws and sharp teeth, this becomes easier said than done, which is why I'm in the middle of Kensington Park. Its walled garden might not be as remote as Superman's Fortress of Solitude or concealed as the Batcave, but it made the perfect hideout. Neither Max nor my brothers would be caught dead here, which meant I could read comics and practice magic tricks in peace.

Chip! Chip! Chip!


Three baby chipmunks poked their heads out of a rose bush.

"Again?" I tossed them the last few peanuts from my lunch bag.

They dashed out, stuffed their chubby cheeks, and raced back home. Not even a thanks. Oh well, what could I say? I was a sucker for animals.

A breeze blew through the gazebo, bringing with it the scent of white and purple roses. I breathed in. Mmmm. The garden smelled so much better than the bushes behind Ms. Crabtree's compost heap—which had made a great hiding spot last year, but required nose-plugs and deodorant sprays.

I glanced at my watch. It was almost noon on the first full day of summer vacation and nobody had bothered me here. Not my six older brothers. Not Max. Not—


A piece of paper flew into my face.


  1. I found this excerpt engaging. The opening line immediately drew me in and I liked the voice and touches of humor. One picky point -- I suggest shortening the simile to 'like a heard of black cats' and trimming out 'with long claws and sharp teeth' to keep the focus on the narrator.

    I would read on.

  2. Hi, I found this easy to read and age appropriate for MG. It has a S S appeal to it, and I would read on to find out what is going to happen. Good luck!

  3. I was pulled in from the first lines. I wanted to know what else would be on his to-do list. I enjoy the voice as it sounds age-appropriate. However, when you change verb tenses after Chip!, I was pulled out and it took me a moment to get back into the story. I would stick with the immediacy of present tense.
    I hope this helps. Good luck :)

  4. I loved the opening. It really pulled me in right from the beginning. I would really like to find out what's going to happen next.

  5. Jacqueline YeagerMay 14, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    I like the voice here. I get a good feel for the MC right away. I also like the description of the walled setting.

    The description of the roses threw me off a little bit. It didn't sound like something a middle school aged boy would say.

    I'd read on to find out why he wants to stay away from Max and his brothers for a whole summer. Good luck!

  6. I agree with Michelle on the verb tense. I also really liked the first paragraph but right after the chipmunks it kind of changed gears bit.

    The paragraph with the gazebo can be tightened a bit more to flow with story better.

    But overall very age appropriate and I like the voice of the MC.

  7. I really liked this, but for whatever reason, I thought the MC was a girl, most likely a tom-boy. The story was engaging right from the beginning and I'd like to read more.

  8. Thanks a ton for all your feedback! I can't believe a missed slipping into present tense in that one sentence. The rest of the story is past tense. However, maybe I'll have to experiment with a present tense version of the story just to see what happens.

    As for being confused about Avery being a girl, I do have a tiny bit before this that makes clear Avery is a boy, but it isn't technically part of the story. It is more of a short-paragraph excerpt from an the Great Book of Records (of Oz fame) and I didn't think it fit into what would be considered the first 250.

    Here's what the excerpt says:

    Mann, Avery Isaac is in Kensington Park laying low, while avoiding atomic wedgies (See Lovell, Max). He has less than a minute before the sinister plans of the Wicked Witch of the Midwest (See Grimshaw, Mortissa) throw a flying monkey wrench into his summer plans.
    —from the Great Book of Records, whereabouts unknown.


    I'll also work on that gazebo paragraph. I felt like something was off and your comments helped me figure it out.

    Thanks agains for all your comments.

  9. From reading the posted 250 words, my take on this was that it was another overcome the bullies story. After reading the above except it seems so much more, and I would definitely read more. The excerpt above has me totally interested.

    On the original 250 --

    If there's going to be a list, I think we need to know what the other items on it are. If you just want to get across that he wants to avoid Max and his brothers, then just say that and don't include the list.

    Commenting on the scent of roses didn't seem like something a MG boy would do.

    Parg 2was in present tense, the rest was past tense.

    I'd also suggest that if you sub this anywhere else, you include the above except. It makes a world of difference IMO.

  10. This is an engaging opening with a fun, snarky m.g. voice. You can see how Avery's love of comic books colors his view of the world. I'd only suggest nixing the narrative interjections like "Chip! Chip! Chip!" and "Swat!" It's almost as if these sounds are not part of Avery's narration, but interrupting it- ironically, interjections like these pull us out of the moment, remind us we're reading a story, rather than allowing us to experience the world through Avery's eyes.

  11. I like this kid. I identify with the loner/dreamer/reader who just wants to be left in peace.

    I liked "like a herd of black cats" image, but thought "with long claws and sharp teeth" was too banal. If you want more description, add more bad luck: "like a herd of black cats knocking mirrors and salt shakers over as they race under ladders." (You get the idea.) Or leave it just with the cats.

    Need an "as" in: ...or AS concealed as the Batcave"

    "A breeze" and "I breathed" sound too much alike. Could just delete "I breathed in."

    I wanna know what the paper is!!!

  12. Sorry, that last comment was from MM Chandler.

  13. Thanks a bunch everyone! You've really helped me understand what is working and not working in this opening. I'll get to work on revising this to make it even stronger.

    Also, next time, I'll include the excerpt b/c Barbara makes a good point that it helps set the stage in a way that Avery's POV can't do on its own... at least not with what he knows as a character.