Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #44

TITLE:  The Crimson 5 and the Golden Light Bulb
GENRE:  Middle Grade Contemporary

If wishing with my whole heart could make my wish come true, I’d win the Piedmont Challenge. I’d get my own Golden Light Bulb with my name chiseled on the front. But wishing won’t help me win, and I don’t have a genie to help me either. All I have is my brain with a trillion ideas swirling in it. I hope that’s enough. I need to whip these other kids, like a giant blender.

My sixth grade class has gathered in the amphitheater, outside Crimson Elementary School. All five hundred of us are squished shoulder to shoulder for the Opening Ceremony. These metal bleacher seats are burning my legs. The sun is scorching the back of my neck. My ponytail even feels hot. I’m trying hard to listen to Principal Bermuda’s speech, but he’s taking so long and I’m melting. Besides, pictures of the Golden Light Bulb keep popping into my head. They all say the same thing: Kia Krumpet, in giant, swirly letters.

The first notes of the Piedmont Challenge theme song thunder through the speakers. I bite my pinky nail. The signal should be coming next. Principal Bermuda waves a flag in the shape of the infinity symbol. We stand up and turn on our heels. I’m facing the back of a boy I’ve never talked to before. It doesn’t matter though. The Period of Silence has begun. There is to be no talking or laughing—not until we’ve solved our final task, seven days from today.


  1. You let us know from the very start what the narrator wants -- though we don't yet know what the Piedmont Challenge entails (and I'm suspecting something ominous). Though it's funny, I didn't think the 'like a giant blender' after 'I need to whip these other kids' worked.

    I would've liked a bit more sensory detail -- besides the heat. We know there are 500 other students, but are the kids around her fidgeting? Is there a low hum or chatter before the challenge begins -- or is everyone attentive? I felt deep in the narrator's POV, but not as grounded in the setting. But I do want to know more and would keep on reading.

  2. Intriguing story! You impart loads of useful clues without info dumping, and you did a great job of setting up the goal and conflict in a short passage.

    The blender simile makes me pause. I often feel like my brain is swirling in a blender, but can't carry it through to whipping kids in it.

    The only other thing that throws me is the idea of a contemporary with seven days of silence. But that's a genre quibble, not a writing complaint.

    Good luck! I hope I have the opportunity to read more soon!

  3. I think this is a perfect example of where some dialogue would go a very long well to brighten the piece. As sick as I am of hearing "show don't tell" and I firmly that some telling is just fine - even necessary - this is nothing but telling. It would have been great to hear some snippets of conversaton - and what those conversations would be about could certainly raise the curiousity of the reader - and then suddenly have the raucus noise shut down at the perios of silence begins. That could feel ominous. And please - yes, some sensory detail so I feel there.

  4. I'd cut the blender too! Does she have any friends there? Could she chat with some of them - or even ignore her friends talking because she's so focused on the competition?
    Otherwise, you've created a clear world and I'd love to read on.

  5. Is this like The Hunger Games, only for middle graders? I struggle too with telling, not showing, but there seems to be a lot of telling here. My understanding of the MG world is that you need A LOT of action, especially in the first few pages to keep them hooked. I know I've re-arranged my own first chapters more than once based on this. I agree that dialogue would add a whole lot more depth here. Good luck with your project. :)

  6. I'm very intrigued by your opening, but like some of the others, I didn't feel the blender line worked because it is very flip and the tone of the piece is more serious. You have great sensory detail with the heat, but five hundred sixth graders squeezed together in the sun are going to stink, so I think there is room for more sensory detail. I also want to know how you are going to keep five hundred kids quiet for seven days. An interesting intro! Best of luck.

  7. I like the first sentence - lets us know our MC is a competitor and goal oriented, even if we don't know specifics yet.

    The blender bit belongs with the swirling ideas.

    I feel like the bleacher seats/neck/ponytail can be combined into one sentence.

    It does seem like, based upon the lack of noise descriptions, that the period of silence began at the beginning of the book.

    I'm intrigued though, and interetsed in more.

  8. I love this. The writing is really sharp and clever. I love "My ponytail even feels hot." As someone mentioned above, the narrator is so motivated, so dedicated to her goal, I'm immediately rooting for her. Because*she* cares so much, I care too.

    My one note, and it's a small one: what if you reversed the order of the first two paragraphs? Generally, I find it more engaging when an author opens with a concrete scene or sensation, rather than a general statement or idea. "My sixth grade class has gathered in the amphitheater" is a great opening, as it sets the scene so precisely. Perhaps open with that 'graph, and let the passage starting "If wishing..." come second?

    Either way, I'd definitely like to read more.

  9. Ooh, challenge indeed. No talking at all? Or just about the Piedmont Challenge. I like this kid. She has ambition!

    I agree with others. Not sure the giant blender image works, especially after swirling brain.

    Also agree to add more sensory details. Like one commenter said, other kids talking, then hush, etc.

    Very picky: I'd say THE metal bleacher (delete seats) Also, wouldn't the pony tail protect her neck? Could use a different detail: "The metal bleacher is burning my legs. I'm starting to sweat. Even my ponytail feels hot." Then put "melting" in italics or capitalize it for MG emphasis.

    I'd delete "The signal should be coming next" or change it to something like "the challenge is about to start."

    Tighten the last sentences for dramatic impact: No talking until we’ve solved our final task. Seven days from today.