Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #3

GENRE: MG Science Fiction/Adventure

Mike sat on the park bleachers, glancing from his math book to the soccer field. Still clear.

According to The List of Chumps to be Pounded After School, today was hang-Mike-like-a-piñata-Wednesday. The List belonged to Brutus, the biggest kid in sixth grade. Failing to call the bully by his self-chosen nickname broke Chump Rule #1. Mike blew that the first day of school. On the second, he sat in Brutus’s swing. His name topped The List ever since.


Little League batting practice. Mike gritted his teeth and hoped no one saw his panic. He would not hide in his house like a friendless dork. His plan to escape The List had to work.

Step one: attend Space Camp Academy section two years ahead of his age group. Step two: become the youngest astronaut—

“C’mon Mike, we need another player.” Carlos bounced the soccer ball against the lowest bench.

Demonstrating his sorry soccer skills wasn’t Mike’s favorite after-school activity, but he never turned down his best—and only—friend. Besides, doing homework on the bleachers just encouraged the dork title. Maybe Brutus wouldn’t even show up. Just in case, Mike ran downfield. Way downfield.

He stretched, pretending to miss Carlos’s wave to move closer.

“Look, it’s Afro-Einstein.” Brutus’s screech carried across the field.

Mike froze. When his zero-gravity omelet-maker won the science fair, the judge called Mike the next Einstein. Brutus chanted “Afro-Einstein” until he was sent to the principal, never realizing Mike thought it a compliment having nothing to do with skin color.


  1. Good MG voice! Love The List and the ways the MC got on it, but just wondering how he knows what day it is. Maybe you could mention that Brutus announces what's on the list each day. A few tiny suggestions for an otherwise well-written opening:

    I'd put quotes around "Brutus" the first time you use it.

    There are swings at middle school?

    Neither the crack of the bat nor Little League seem to have anything to do with Mike gritting his teeth and panicking, or with soccer. If you said he startled at the crack of a bat from the Little League practice next to the soccer field, it would make more sense.

    If Brutus is screeching, I'd use an exclamation point.

  2. I really enjoyed this submission! I like Mike, and I feel like you've given us insight into his character without TELLING us things.
    Great show aspects.

    I would agree with MM Chandler about the Little League Baseball. It threw me off as I read it.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed the idea of Mike being unwilling to turn down his best - and only - friend.

    As for the swings at a Middle School - is it a Middle School? In my city, 6th grade was still elementary. We had swings!

  3. I like the voice (e.g. "hang-Make-like-a-pinata-Wednesday", "Chump Rule #1) but I was a bit confused by the setting. You mention little league batting practice, but then they're playing soccer. Is little league practice going on nearby?

    Also, the last line felt a bit disjointed from the rest -- "never realizing Mike thought it a compliment having nothing to do with skin color". Just a bit wordy, and doesn't feel consistent with the rest of it.

    Clarify the setting just a little bit and I think you'll have a great opening.

  4. A good read and intriguing idea. Can't wait to see how the Intergalactic Candy Dispenser works into this. My only comment is that Mike referred to himself as a friendless dork in one paragraph and in the next he is listening to his best and only friend. TO me this either felt inconsistent, or made Mike a bit petulant, which is not very attractive. Agree about the setting and having your last sentence be a little wordy.
    Great story. Nice job!

  5. I thought you captured a MG voice nicely, and have a great MG premise, too.

    I did feel like this was mostly set up, though. It seems you're telling us a lot of things you think we need to know, rather than just telling the story.

    I also wondered why they’re having Little League batting practice on the soccer field, and how can he and Carlos and the others play soccer there, if there are kids playing baseball there?

  6. Great premise here and I love the title! Just a couple of notes for you:

    I wasn't sure why Mike gritted his teeth or panicked at the sound of the bat? I'm assuming that you meant he was nervous while waiting for Brutus to show up. It would be a simple fix, by saying something like "Crack! Mike almost fell off the bleachers at the sound of the ball hitting the bat. He was a nervous wreck" (of course, just a suggestion, but you get the idea ;-)

    The other thing that I had to read twice and still didn't quite get it, was "Step one: attend Space Camp Academy section two years ahead of his age group." I read this aloud but still didn't really understand what it meant. It might be as simple as putting a comma in the sentence ie (attend Space Camp Academy section, two years ahead of his age group). Is section a division of the academy, the 'section' is whats throwing me.

    And as a final note, I actually liked the last line ;-)
    Great job and good luck!

  7. Good MG voice. I really like the last paragraph explaining "Afro-Einstein."
    I would change the swing detail unless you mention the swing was at a neighborhood playground, because a middle school wouldn't have them.
    My biggest question is why he's sitting on the bleachers if there is a possibility for Brutus to show up. Is there a reason that they both have to be there at the same time? Or, is Mike hanging out just to support his best friend? Is there a reason for Brutus to come by? Maybe emphasize these answers more. If you could have Mike's fear come across stronger in his voice, that would help. It seems almost nonchalant.
    I hope this helps. Good luck!

  8. Great comments everyone. Just a note regarding the swings - Middlegrade doesn't absolutely mean middle school. This is a 5/6th grade setting which still had recess. At least the ones in my area do. Although I know some places move 6th grade to middle school with 7/8th grade.
    Thanks for the feed back - working on changes!

  9. That title is really happy-making and I love the voice here. Lively, fun, and perfect for the age-group, I think.

    My one note, and this might be resolved or addressed later in the text, is about Mike's plan to escape the list, which seems illogical. Avoiding Brutus or maybe getting on his good side might save Mike from the List, but attending Space Camp Academy seems a lot dorkier than doing homework on the bleachers, to me. (Spoken as someone who would have loved to attend Space Camp Academy at this age.) Is there a relationship between Space Camp and Brutus?

  10. I really liked the voice here and it seemed like it has a lot of elements that would make up a fun, middle-grade story.

    My main critique was that it seemed a bit too disjointed and all over the place. You go from Mike's issue with the bully, to his desire to go to space camp, which really doesn't seem like it should have anything to do with the chump list, to soccer practice to the science fair. And the soccer practice thing confused me since you'd just mentioned little league batting practice before that. I suppose the two sports could happen in the same area, but it was just confusing.

    I think it would be better to start in scene instead of talking about the list... and stay in scene and put in the bits of back story when it comes up organically in the story. Right now, this page just feels like an alphabet soup of backstory tidbits.