Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Of Madness and Folly
GENRE: Upper MG Contemporary

Before the woods and the blood and the police chase, we had a plan. Sort of.

The thing about plans is, well, they never turn out the way we plan. One surprise, one twist, one turn, and a plan becomes a pickle. Now, a pickle is a different matter. I don’t like pickles—the food or the conundrum. They’re slimy, sour, and they appear without warning, like on a cheeseburger or in a mystery.

Or the night before Halloween, when my friends and I felt like decorating the neighborhood, “to make it more festive,” we said.

Our target: The Oakwood Mansion (the biggest house in Wisconsin, and maybe the world).

“I think we have over two hundred rolls. Let’s let these rich peacocks know we don’t want them in our neighborhood anymore.” Milton Hansen, my friend who turned unimportant pranks into D-day, closed the minivan’s trunk and hopped into the passenger seat. My older brother Jamie pulled away from the Mini Mart and began the two-minute journey to the Oakwood Mansion.

“Why don’t we want them in our neighborhood?” I asked, poking my head between the front seats.

“Because they’re rich, and we don’t like stuck-up rich people,” Milton said.

“How do you know they’re stuck up?”

“Nevermind, Pete,” Jamie said. “Milt’s excited. That’s all.”

We parked in the neighborhood behind the mansion to avoid suspicion and unloaded the minivan. Our preparation for destroying Oakwood Mansion included walkie-talkies, black attire (better suited for robbing a bank), and a pre-vandalization scout of the intended target.


  1. A couple lines I really like in here are the "I don’t like pickles—the food or the conundrum. They’re slimy, sour, and they appear without warning," and the line describing Milton. ("Milton Hansen, my friend who turned unimportant pranks into D-day"). Both are strong, and in fact I think the pickle bit would make a strong first sentence. It introduces your story with a little fun observation which lends voice, and it tells me that there are some shenanigans coming my way.

    The rich as stuck up is a bit cliche'. Maybe there is a slightly different thing Milton hates to make it more unique.

    I like that they take this so seriously though. It feels like it all has the weight that true tween pranksters would give it in the heat of the moment.

  2. First off, I love the pickle analogy (even though I love pickles).

    The first line hooked me right away. I like that Pete has a better head on his shoulders than Milton. Both of their personalities are pretty clear in this opener. A good voice overall.

    Good luck. :)

  3. The writing here's good, but it doesn't sound MG at all. "Conundrum", "D-Day", the general syntax and amount of philosophizing, the voice, even the motivation struck me as more of a (immature) adult thing. I was so distracted by that that it was hard to get into the sample.

    It felt like reading about a college prank to me. Which, as a college prank in a non-MG book, this probably works very well.

  4. First off, love the voice of this. The narration really flows. I think there could be some tightening (like deleting "we said" after "to make it more festive", because the "we said" is implied). But seriously, awesome start.

    Because your narrator is an intelligent, clever kid, it makes sense that he'd have a higher vocabulary (i.e.: The Mysterious Benedict Society), as well as be able to make allusions to historical events or literature (i.e.: When You Reach Me).

    All in all, I think the voice definitely sounds MG, and I like it! I like Pete! I would stick around for his story.

  5. Great opening! And I know it's been said, but I love the pickle sentences.

    I also think this is definitely MG. Kids are smarter than people give them credit for. And there are a lot of smart kid stories. (i.e. Series of Unfortunate Events and more...)

    Great small details, like Pete sticking his head into the front of the car to be "part of the team" and know what is going on.

    As for the clichéd "stuck-up rich people," that is okay for now, as long as you develop Milton further on to have some kind of deeper emotion for wanting to vandalize this specific house. The story will fall flat without more emotion from the supporting characters.

    Great job and keep writing!

  6. This is the type of MG I enjoy reading - and I read a LOT of MG. The voice strikes the perfect notes for me.

    However, I do hope there is more motivation for teepeeing this house than the rich, stuck-up residents. I need more than that to keep me engaged.

    Really like the comparison between the MC and his sidekick. Great job you've done there. I can almost see the one bouncing with his enthusiasm.

    I'm just wondering how the three of them manage to carry over 200 rolls of toilet paper down the street without being a tad obvious.

    Good luck!

  7. Really great opening! I love the voice and especially your inquisitive MC. I found myself wishing for another reason as to why the boys are vandalizing the house and was a little let down. Maybe there is a unique way to show why Milton doesn't like rich people or why the boys shouldn't like that particular family? Good luck!

  8. I love the sense of fun and devilish behavior. They are definitely mg. But the actual language does not sound like any boy I know at that age. Not that they aren't smart enough to know the words, but that they just don't use them in normal conversation.

    otherwise, I love the idea of this story.

  9. I really, really love the voice! I got caught up in it right away.

    However, is this mansion located in a neighborhood that is middle or lower class? I would think a mansion would be around other rich houses? Maybe Milton doesn't like the kids that live there or something more personal?

    Also I was wondering about it being MG and having an older person driving them around. Can't say that when I was 16+ with a license I would be driving my MG siblings around to launch a prank...unless you describe the brother more as being super into pranks or owing her a favor, etc.

    Otherwise I totally want to keep reading because I love her voice (especially the "pickle" one, as others have commented :))

  10. Loved the first line. Immediately I was intrigued. Perhaps the voice may feel a little old, but I've only had 250 words with the kid. He may just know lots of big words that he likes to toss around. He does have an older brother. :) There were other gems of MG voice in the passage so it's not a problem for me. Especially how he went on about the pickle. I'd definitely read on. :)

  11. I love the pickle line! Funny. (and now I want a pickle). After that though, I lost connection with Pete, the MC. The “rich peacocks” feels like something MG kids would say in imitation of adults in their lives, but it’s not a deep, motivating concern for kids this age (at least not in my experience) – so, this doesn’t tell me a lot about what the character really wants. I’d figure out a way to stay closer to the character.