Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Darcy Towers
GENRE: Middle Grade, Contemporary Mystery

I wanted to win it for more than just the giant bag of Red Vines, but to feel like I was part of something again; beyond being the new kid, even. It was a scavenger hunt, only on the library website. Some kids were having problems finding things, but not me. I was­­­­­­ a clicking and scrolling queen and libraries were my specialty.

“Red Coyotes for the win,” I yelled, shooting my answer sheet up in the air. Several counselors shushed me. We were in the library after all. When the librarian came to check my answers the entire room froze, waiting for the verdict. My head lit up with tingles.

“Snap, Lauren. How’d you do that so fast?” Shahad whispered.

“My mom worked at the library. We’d go all the time,” I whispered back. “It was this thing we did: Find a book on the computer, get it from the stacks, and flip to page thirty-three.”

“What’s on paging thirty-three?” Shahad asked, jabbing Claire so she could hear me too.

“The answer to a question.” It made me giggle thinking of the good old days.

“What question?” Claire wanted to know.

I giggled again, “Who would win in a fight: The Headless Horseman or the Easter Bunny? The answer is the first full sentence on that page. It’s really funny.” We were all laughing now and it got even rowdier as the librarian declared us, the Red Coyotes, the winners. Six boys, plus Claire and Shahad, all piled in on me, shrieking.


  1. I loved this. I thought your voice was great. I would suggest shortening up that first sentence. I think you could get more of a hook if you started with "I wanted to win it for more than just the giant bag of Red Vines." And then turn the rest of that sentence into sentence #2.

    "What's on paging--" should be page, not paging.

    I was a little thrown by her saying at first that she was the new kid. She seems pretty chummy with her classmates so far. If there's uncertainty on her part about not fitting in or belonging I'd make that a little more clear...maybe she's nervous as to how they will respond to her telling them her family's page 33 joke.

    All in all, I liked it and wanted to read more. Well done!

  2. I agree with that first line idea. It would strengthen that sentence and be a nice intro into the scene--confidence with a little tension. Your dialogue does sound chummy for a new kid, but is realistic and feels right for the character. Not sure they would pile on her if she was that new. Maybe they could offer her hesitant but excited congrats like they were feeling her out?

    It would be nice to know if the stakes are higher pretty quickly too. Being the new kid might not be enough to keep me going for too long. (as long as you introduce something more intense soon)

    Shahad whispering at her feels like a real interaction between this age kids.

    Good work.

  3. This entry has great voice, and I like the idea of a riddle being solved with a certain page in a book. Very clever!

    When I started reading, I felt a little disembodied. I think you would have a much stronger start if you cut the whole first paragraph and started with, "Red Coyotes for the win." Then weaved the part about the Red Vines into the narrative.

    Good luck!

  4. I like the voice here. Seems authentic. And likeable. However, I'm not sure I'm totally hooked. Yet. I have a feeling there's more to come, but I kind of feel like if I don't know more about Lauren soon (or what the conflict is) I might stop reading.

  5. I love the voice here and I love, love, love that you've made the library-geek (for lack of a better description) the hero right away and not the outcast who finds acceptance later in the story.

    I'm just not sure where the conflict is, as everything seems tied up so neatly at the end of the scene.

  6. This is a great start - I love the idea of a library girl being the hero. I didn't feel her need to be accepted as the new girl, though. Seemed she was pretty tight with the group already? Especially since they all jumped on her shrieking...also, not sure how winning the scavenger hunt would solve her problem of being accepted. Loved the mom / library competition!

  7. I liked the opening here, but was a little confused when I thought she was doing this alone -- as the new kid. It was jarring to find out she's so chummy with the other girls.

    Even as kids, I wasn't sure they'd really pile on her at the win since they were in the library. Cheer, sure, but not sure about the piling on bit.

    otherwise, I like the character and the voice. I'd read on.

  8. I love this. I might rearrange it so the "Who would win in a fight?" question comes first. But that's subjective. As is, I would say, "I wanted to win the scavenger hunt," instead of "it."

    I really would read this. It made me think of Mr. Lemoncello. :)

  9. I thought this worked on all levels. It's written well, the content is interesting, the dialogue felt real, and the characters act and sound like middle graders. And you've shown us she's good at finding things and solving puzzles which sets her up nicely to solve a mystery.

    The first sentence is the only thing that doesn't work. She wants to win for more than the Red Vines, but you don't tell us what the 'more' is. You say she wants to feel a part of something again, (which I thought was a telling sentence, since it lets us know she isn't, or doesn't feel, a part of anything now. Something has happened in her past,) but it doesn't say anything about winning, since she could feel a part of the team even if they didn't win. And then the 'beyond being the new kid' just doesn't read right. Give us a concrete reason for why she wants to win, and state it in a direct manner. But don't lose the being part of something bit. Just find a different place to put it.

    Nicely done!

  10. Thank you all so much for your very kind comments. I've been struggling with my first page myself. AURGH!! I'm sure you all know how that is. ;)

    Anyway, I guess the answer to the question of her wanting to win it to feel like part of something again refers to the fact that she's still grieving over the loss of her mother, which we find out on page two/three and then she discovers even MORE!

    I won't give away anymore ;) but I personally felt that if I put my BIG thing on page one, or even the revelation of the death of her mother on page one, the reader would not care enough... as it seemed kind of gimmicky.

    Anyway, thank you all kindly. While I'm done with my MS I'm in a constant state of sword-smithing myself and at some point here will need to just stop itching at it like a mosquito bite gone bad, and get on with sending it out.

  11. I love the idea of finding the answer to a question (especially this question) on page 33 of a random book from the library. This specific, detailed info about the character is great. But, the first paragraph starts off with a tell, and then jumps right into the hunt, which felt choppy. I think if you’re going to open with this line, you need to go ahead and give the reader even more, i.e: I’d only lived here for three weeks (or whatever it is). It feels somewhat confusing that the character says she wants to feel a part of things, but then is very quickly chatting and giggling with what seem like friends. I don’t really feel her sense of isolation, or what’s motivating her.