Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #39

TITLE: Sarita
GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

“Eli did what?”

Oh, man! Dad doesn’t get mad very often but now he was really and truly steamed. We were at the back of the lecture hall and a bunch of blue-haired ladies were staring at us like we were eating bugs. Worse, Dad had a pretty good reason to be mad. I mean, we were supposed to be babysitting Eli in Dad’s office. It’s not like Eli’s that much of a bother, but we started playing a computer game and for the first time ever Sarah was beating me. The next thing we knew, no Eli. When we finally found him, well, we knew we were fried. Dad didn’t really have to yell his head off for us to get that.

“Darwin’s Ghost, Samuel! You’re thirteen. Can’t I trust you with your brother for two measly hours?” I shrugged and kicked at the floor.

“Dad, uh. I know we’re in trouble, but, uh....don’t you think we need to go get Eli out of the cold room?” I asked.

Dad suddenly remembered there was a room full of people watching. He turned and announced, “Folks, thank you for coming today. I’m sorry to have to cut the question and answer session short but I seem to be having a little family crisis here. Please excuse us.” He pushed Sarah and me out of the room and down the hall toward the stairs.

“Now, what in tarnation is going on?” he demanded. “What do you mean, Eli’s in the cold room thawing out my mummy?”


  1. Ok, the last line of this sample got me. I was really wondering where it was going and BAM, the line about thawing out the mummy.

    I'd be careful starting out with dialogue. It throws us into a conversation with no context.

    There's also a ton of description in the sample with not much movement.

    But, overall, I liked it and would read on.

  2. I really liked this, good voice. I don't feel like starting with dialog was a problem in this case since it is explained immediately. And you managed to bring in Samuel's age in a believable way. And I LOVE the last question. I'd read on.

    My only suggestion might be to mention where they are - a museum for example?

  3. The last line is fantastic. Prior to that, I didn't have a sense of place or context. I probably wouldn't have read to the last line, actually. Why not start with that one? Then we'd want to know where they are and what is going on.

  4. I agree - I think we're starting in the wrong place here. Begin with a sentence that sets the scene then hit us with the mummy line and then you can move through the argument with Dad. There's a lot of tension in that line because not only is our MC in trouble, there's a kid in a cold room! Not sure about Darwin's ghost as an explitive. It made me think fantasy/alt. world Good luck with this!

  5. This is 'historical fiction'but the kids are playing computer games? The 'blue haired' old ladies?

    The physical setting of the characters is confusing. I don't know why the MC kicked the door - did he do that to get into the room his dad was speaking? But that mean the door was locked. How did dad know to head down the hall? It sounds like he's giving a lecture in his home? The MC could make that clear - that he and his sister always get the babysitting chores when their dad does this.

    The 'Darwin's ghost' does sound fantasy.

  6. The last line is the hook, so why not start with it. My concerns, though, is that this line puts the emphasis on Eli rather than the MC, and it doesn't set up a story question. The way it's written, it sounds like Eli is just a bratty little brother who's just thawing out the mummy as a prank.

  7. The passage gets stronger as it gets nearer to that punchy last line. :)
    What would happen if you left out: "Oh, man! Dad doesn’t get mad very often but now he was really and truly steamed."

    I think it might be more powerful if you chose one setting to describe in that paragraph rather than two. Right now there's a lecture hall and an office--sort of offstage--where the narrator was playing computer games. Maybe the reason the narrator lost Eli could wait a little longer to come out?

    What is the historical era? Computer games says some time after the 1970's to me. "Darwin's ghost" made me think some time after Darwin :) but not the present. Invoking Darwin made me expect the father was a biologist, so I was surprised that he seems to be an anthropologist/archeologist instead. Sounds like a fun story that is going to be an exciting ride.

  8. I'm confused by a few things not already mentioned. If Samuel and Sarah realized Eli had slipped away and located him before Dad even knew he was missing, why are they in trouble? It doesn't sound like Eli is in any immediate danger. And if he refuses to come out, it's not really their fault is it?

    Why would a mummy need to be thawed out? They're already preserved through mummification.

    The dad's dialogue clashes with what seems like a fairly contemporary setting (computers). "Darwin's ghost" sounds old, "tarnation" sounds 19th century hillbilly.

    Perhaps the "historical" setting is yet to come? Is there time travel involved?

    I am very intrigued by what Eli thinks he's up to. So far he's the most interesting character and he's not even shown up yet.

  9. I like the voice here but there are some things that aren't working. First of all, it doesn't quite feel like historical fiction. It feels very contemporary, to me, with the computer game reference. Also, not loving that you started with dialogue, as it feels like we came into the middle of something, but I'm not sure what. It's also not clear what, exactly, is going on, or where they are. Too many questions here. And yet... nice and voicy!