Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Invasion
GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

June 1940

Bernie’s lungs burned. Sweat mingled with ocean spray and matted his hair to his forehead. He sucked in gulps of air, pumped his legs like a steam engine, and reached out to touch the weathered boulder that marked the finish line.

           Emma surged past him, her blonde hair streaming out behind her. Her fingers slapped the rock a fraction of a second before Bernie touched it.

            He dropped onto the sand, rested his hands on his knees, and tried to catch his breath. “I must be daft to keep racing you.”

            Emma laughed and sank down beside him. “Don’t feel bad, I’ve been practicing for almost twelve years.” She patted his shoulder. “I’m an unstoppable force.”

            Bernie rubbed the stitch in his side. “No argument there.”

            They sat in comfortable silence and soaked up the late afternoon sun. Bernie loved their island, perched in the Channel between England and France like a vacation postcard come to life. Fishing boats, yachts, and freighters dotted the harbor. Rows of brightly painted houses surrounded the blue-green sea. Flowers splashed bits of color here and there. Waves breaking against the shore provided background music, adding to the sense of peacefulness on the tiny island.

            But in the last few days, a new sound had sailed over the water, rumbled up the sand, and crashed over Bernie’s world. An ugly sound. A scary sound. A sound that threatened everything.


  1. I enjoyed the sense of place in this entry. My only suggestion is for the sentence "Bernie loved their island..." Mentioning that the island is in between England and France felt mildly in-organic when compared to the rest of the writing, particularly when compared to the lovely visuals that followed ("brightly painted houses" etc). Is it important to mention the island's location this early in the story?

    I also really enjoyed the sense of foreboding.

    Best of luck, and happy writing!

  2. You start well with action and show us a good glimpse of both of these characters' personalities. Then you get a bit caught in the setting. But it brings me to the place well. I do wonder how an island boy pictures his legs like a steam train, Wonder how many he has seen. And in the final paragraph the word 'sound' is over-repeated. A couple could be combined or use a synonym. Good start though. Good luck!

  3. I'm assuming it's Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey...maybe just name it. It's 1940 so in addition to fishing boats, would there be yachts and freighters? Brightly painted houses? Typically these buildings are whitewashed or grey stone, even today. The devil is in the details especially in historical fiction. But I am loving it...great start.

  4. Because of the title and date at the beginning, I assumed he was being bombed when I read about his burning lungs. I was a bit disappointed when I realized he was simply racing.

    When you first mentioned the island, I wondered if it was an English island, or a French one. I know there are English islands in the channel, but have no idea if there are any French ones, so I agree with suggestion to simply name the island.

    In the third parg, you might add some tension and suspense if the kids hear the strange sounds then, as opposed to the last few days, that way something big is happening at the end of the excerpt, which is an instant page turner.

  5. You hooked me right off. Good writing.

    When I got to the parag about the setting you lost me. You can spread that info around for the reader to grasp the place but it slowed the pace.

    Maybe instead of the last parag being about the past it could take place in real time with more action instead of the sound.

    I hope to read the rest some day. Best of luck.

  6. Because of the date entry, I know the year. However, the scene of the race felt as if it could happen in any era/time period. I think you need more hx details to go into the scene. Is the reference to 12 years of practice a clue to their ages? That was confusing. Their exchange felt a bit adult at times. I think the vocab "daft" is appropriate to the era, but a current mg reader might not get it. Good use of action tags. Wondering about the new, scary sound? War planes overhead? Would they have bomb sirens/shelters on the island?

  7. Nice beginning! You have an interesting scene created here, with two strong characters. Will we stay in Bernie's POV or also jump to Emma's? Just curious.

    I was a little torn with the competition. Bernie keeps racing her, and he keeps losing, but he doesn't seem to mind losing, so is it competitiveness that's driving him, or something else? He doesn't really come across as overly competitive, so I'm thinking it's more along the lines of a crush. Is this accurate for the beginning of his arc? If not, you'll need to give us more information about what's he's feeling.

    I agree with other comments to show us the new ominous sounds in real time, not as a memory mention. That would add some great tension, and give Bernie a chance to really show his character.

    Well done!

  8. Nice progression of events. Your description of the swimming was done well enough that I could connect to the experience quickly, and the simple competition between the two children solidified both for me, keeping me interested in their dynamics while getting "situated," so to speak, into the manuscript's beginning. My only concern is that while the contrast between the last two paragraphs make them fit well and transitions us into the reality of the time, I feel like the beginning was meant to fool us a tad into thinking we were there before they had any warning of what was coming. The date shares the knowledge with readers who have relative knowledge of the timeline of events of WWII, but without that, we have two kids enjoying a swim then find out they were enjoying that swim during scary sounds. Granted, you don't actually say the sounds were happening while they were swimming, but with the transition where it is, I think the mind sort of recreates the scene we just saw played out mentally to include the new information. I would keep reading, though. Maybe with a bit of trepidation given the readership and subject matter, but I'd keep reading. :)

  9. Academic writing is clear, concise, focussed, structured and backed up by evidence. Its purpose is to aid the reader’s understanding. read more is all about academic writing.