Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Butterfly Moon
GENRE: MG Magical Realism

It was a night of the Butterfly Moon. The sharp buzz of the cicadas had given way to the soft chirping of crickets, and the butterflies that gave the summer moon its name had retreated into the trees. Moon Watcher lay in the soft grass, left hand behind her head, studying the patterns of the stars.

She found the shape of an eagle first, high in the eastern sky, diving into the southern horizon. She traced the eagle’s shape with her finger, following the triangle of stars that formed the bird’s western wing to… a snake, she decided. Still using her finger, she traced the snake west until—

“What are you doing?”

Moon Watcher jumped at the sound of her mother’s voice.

“You’re supposed to be helping your sister. Spirits help me! Can you do nothing right? We have a hundred things to do before her wedding tonight, and you’re out here gazing at the sky.”

Moon Watcher stood up and brushed the grass off the back of her shift. At ten summers of age, she knew better than to say anything when her mother’s voice was all sharp edges. Tonight, thanks to Rain Dancer’s wedding, it was sharper than an obsidian blade.

“Now, get back home and help your sister. She’s almost dressed and needs you to do her hair and paint. The moon is nearly at its peak. We don’t have much time before the ceremony.”

Moon Watcher trudged up the hill toward the family’s homestead.


  1. I like how you quickly establish character and some basic family conflict here, with Moon Watcher gazing up at the stars.

    I'd love to get more of a grounding in the setting — I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be a fantasy world or a Native American real world setting, and if the latter, whether it's contemporary or historical. (If it's not real world contemporary, you might want a different genre than Magical Realism?) It might be good to ground us in where and when we are.

    The voice also feels a bit more YA than MG... I was surprised to see Moon Watcher was 10; I'd expected a younger teen based on the first 250. It might help to make sure we're getting the description through her lens — for instance, she wouldn't need to think about how the moon is named after butterflies because she already knows; a 10-year-old might not think of someone's voice as being like an obsidian blade; etc. The more we can get inside her head, the more we'll connect with the character and her world.

    Good luck!

  2. This is rich in imagery and visuals--the constellations, the insects, the names--the words in this excerpt are pleasing to the ear.
    At first, though, I thought Moon Watcher was an adult, so that threw me a little. Could partially be that I'm used to reading first-person, so I assumed the narrator was the MC watching an older woman.
    That said, I would keep going to find out more about Moon Watcher and her surroundings and the way her world is organized.

  3. I love the imagery here - felt like I was out on the grass with Moon Watcher! I'm having a difficult time placing the time/place of the story. Seems like an alternate universe with some Native American elements.
    I'm wondering what is the significance of the wedding ceremony during the butterfly moon, but maybe you explain that after these 250 words.
    Nicely written. Best of luck!

  4. I felt a little ungrounded not knowing what a butterfly moon is, what this setting is, or even what kind of creature the mc is.

    at first I thought high fantasy until you said the wedding and the mom's tone. then I thought native american. so as beautiful as the opening is, rich in imagery, I'm still left wondering where we are.

  5. Although it sounds lovely, I also don't know what a butterfly moon is and thought an explanation would follow. I love the idea of your MC laying outside and tracing the stars, however, I thought she was in her front or backyard until her mom told her to go home. Your descriptions helped me visualize the stars and moon, as well as hear the crickets. Good job and best of luck!

  6. The imagery is beautiful and I instantly felt a connection with the outdoor setting. The names of the characters are also very visual, which is nice. There are a few words which make me think this historical or perhaps a Native American setting: shift, homestead, ten summers of age.
    My curiosity is peaked. :) Again love the vivid imagery.

  7. I too was wrenched away from contemplation of the stars, just as Butterfly Moon was – so I’m definitely connecting with your character. I think the mother’s dialogue goes on a bit too long; see if you can cut it and get us moving into the scene even sooner. I don’t have a sense of what time and place we’re in. I see that this is magical realism – but I’d like to know sooner if we’re on another world or in another time, etc.