Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Soulseed
GENRE: MG Adventure

Earphones in, Tyler Zoetemelk swept ground hominy into a pile of gold in the grain barn. That song about the end of the world played and Tyler bobbed his head in time with the song’s artillery drum pattern.

His body was marooned in nowhere central Texas, on a farm. But in his mind, he was a rock star. On a stage with fans screaming below, he towered over hot chicks dying to get a piece of T-dog (his awesome nickname he gave himself just now but would later re-think) and he sang along. Knowing the right words was beside the point. But, singing them loudly---that was everything. He readied himself for his patented rock-and-roll-splits-jump in which he’d strum the broom, pop a tiny ground clearance and spread-eagle in a not attractive way, when he was hit at the base of his skull. With keys.

Tyler rubbed the back of his head---it didn’t hurt really, it just felt like a tennis ball rolled around in there. But who would do that? He turned to face the key thrower. It was Sid Strayhorn, the walrus of a man who’d sold them the farm earlier that summer.

Strayhorn pantomimed removing the ear buds and Tyler complied.

“I was saying, I forgot to give these to your dad.”


“You know, keys. To the shed. Anybody home upstairs?” Only cicada song filled the void. “Answer your elders, people will think you’re a sucker or something. Well, see you around, kid.” Strayhorn mock-saluted.


  1. Good start. I think you should try starting with the Key throw though and let the other items build. Right now the story starts with a lot of "telling" instead of "showing" BUT you have the showing right there, you just need to reorient the story to fit it.

    Maybe if Tyler sang something aloud then was hit with the keys. Right after that give us the reasons why this is important (if the music is important), and continue the narrative.

    Good luck. Enjoyed it.

  2. Generally this is a strong opening. You clearly establish place, character, and motivation.

    I'd also suggest you move the key throw to the very start. It's easy to miss at the end of a long paragraph.

    Trim a little bit of verbal fat ("people will think you're a sucker or something" should just be "people will think you're a sucker") and you're good to go.

  3. I really love how you've captured daydreaming personality. His impression of the rock star life is hilarious, especially since it's probably not that far off the mark. I agree that maybe having him quote a lyric from that famous R.E.M. song would add something. I'm not really sure what the conflict is yet, unless it's that his tendency to mind-wander is tied into it.

    I did feel that throwing keys at a boy is rather odd behavior. If he's close enough to speak, why not tap him on the shoulder? Maybe if you position Sid as being only part way inside it would show he's too lazy to walk up to Tyler. You've already established he's a very large man.

    Do young boys refer to adult men by their first and last name? I sure didn't, and neither did my own children. It's incompatible with my impression of a farm setting.

    This line bothered me: "Tyler rubbed the back of his head---it didn’t hurt really, it just felt like a tennis ball rolled around in there. But who would do that? He turned to face the key thrower." First, I don't get the tennis ball image. Second, the way it's written makes it seem like a lot of time passes between being struck and turning around. I get that Tyler is a tiny bit "slow" (in a middle school sort of way), but this makes him seem really slow.

  4. The other folks have nailed the same points that occurred to me, especially about the tennis ball bit.

    As for why Strayhorn would nail Tyler with the keys instead of just tapping him on the shoulder, I would think that speaks to the kind of fellow Strayhorn is -- so I'll give points for good characterization. In fact, I agree, the characterization is the strong point of this piece.


  5. I felt like there was a lot of telling in this little bit. Perhaps consider rewording as to create more excitement. You don't even have to change the scene, just the way you tell it.

    Just off hand, here's the key smacking part I reworded as an example. It's not perfect, but maybe something like this:

    SMACK. Something hit the back of his head. A set of keys lay next to his boots. "Who does that?" He grumbled, rubbing the tennis ball lump forming.

    Also, for some reason, this felt YA to me instead of MG. But maybe that's just because I haven't read enough of the book yet. Dancing around a barn to "artillery drum patterns" and thinking about "hot chicks" seems like something a teenager would say and do. Not necessarily a younger preteen.

    It's a great start you have here! Good luck with all your wiring endeavors!

  6. This felt like a lot of telling to me. Perhaps it would work better if the daydream of being a rock star were written as if he really were a rock star. Then the keys can hit him in the head, and both he and the reader would wake up to where he really was? Not sure about that tennis ball image, either. Didn't get it. This piece has promise but needs more work.

  7. The tone of this is good. It feels right for MG. However, I was a little confused about the POV. We're mostly hearing Tyler's thoughts, but would he really think of is big rock-and-roll-splits-jump as "not attractive"? That seems more like an omniscient narrator.

    A couple of other nitpicks:

    1) In the first line, did you mean that he swept the ground hominy into a golden pile? Because at first, I took "pile of gold" to mean a literal collection of gold coins or nuggets, and I couldn't figure out why he'd add grain to that.

    2) Some of Sid's dialogue felt unrealistic. The last two sentences didn't really flow. He tells Tyler to answer his elders then doesn't wait for an answer. It was a little jolting.

    Overall, I think I'd be more drawn in if I felt a deeper connection to Tyler. We're hearing his thoughts, but I don't know what he's feeling, physically or emotionally. Is it hot? What does it smell like? Is he bored or enjoying the chance to listen to music and day dream?