Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #45

TITLE: Summer of Soup
GENRE: MG Contemporary

My neighbors outside are trudging back and forth across their lawns to finish their mowing before the rain comes. Dark clouds threaten another summer storm. Cars caught off guard by the newly installed speed bump slam on their brakes a few seconds too late. Normally, I would find this hilarious. Watching the driver’s head bob as their cars bottom out on the raised cement sending sparks flying is quite entertaining. Not today though. Today is not funny.

My little brother helps himself to my room wearing the same monster truck shirt he wore to bed. Well, it’s our room now. I am being forced to share a room with an annoying brother who smells like a puppy, leaves minefields of Legos everywhere and sticks out his tongue as if it’s an Olympic sport.
“Get out!” I beam a stuffed bear at him.

He catches it with a sneer. “I don’t have too! It’s my room too.”

I roll my eyes at him. “Ugh! Don’t remind me.”

He sticks his tongue out at me while upending a bucket holding a gazillion Legos onto his racecar bed. The bed that’s now across the room from my pretty pink princess bed, which I’ve clearly outgrown.

Half deflated birthday balloons float in midair beside me. A reminder from just a few weeks ago before my summer plans became avoiding stray Legos on the midnight trek to the bathroom.


  1. Great opening! I know something is about to happen because she says "today is not funny." Good foreshadowing. You've also created great characters in a short period. I wonder if you want to add a line about why they are sharing a room earlier. Otherwise I think you do a great job here!

  2. I enjoyed this. There was a sense of foreboding to the piece that pulled me in, as well as some tension in the lines, 'Not today, though. Today is not funny.'

    You may want to consider cutting the things little brother does (the part where she tells us he does them) because a few graphs later, you show him doing them. Keep the showing and delete the telling. You don't need both.

    I don't yet know what the issue is, but I was okay with that. I got a sense that perhaps her parents had divorced, or one died, but somehow, their financial situation had changed for the worse. Seems they're in a smaller home now (the shared bedroom) and perhaps living im a trailer park (the speed bump.) And the neighbors are all pushing their lawn mowers instead of riding them. Whatever the issue is, you left some clues and a trail of breadcrumbs, enough that I'm eager to read more.

    1. I was driving in rural Mexico once and went over a speed bump. Perhaps the setting isn’t a trailer park but a town in rural Mexico? Did you know that in Mexico, speed bumps are called Topes?

  3. I'm curious what's different about today. I like your description of her brother. There are a few typos to edit. The 'clearly outgrown' isn't super clear to the reader unless we're just comparing it to her wanted to laugh at people hitting speed bumps. And the last line is confusing, but maybe a comma behind 'ago' would help, and explaining 'my summer plans of ___ became avoiding...'
    You did a great job showing her dislike of sharing a room, I would've hated to share a room with my younger brother too.

  4. I loved the smell of her brother smelling like a puppy as little kids do! Good job on all the imagery and MC voice

  5. Oh, room sharing and the joys it brings. Great job at painting the pains of this misery. I'm anxious to discover what summer plans were ruined due to this fate of room sharing.

    As far as critique, the only part I can come up with that the others haven't brought up yet is placing the dialogue tag 'I roll my eyes at him' on the other side to not mirror the one above it.

    Fun story! I'd read on.

  6. The setting is contemporary...little brother, Legos, room share (wondering why?), change in summer plans..good immersion into setting. I would recommend tightening with revision on verbs, ing forms, grammar (to vs too) (driver's head/their cars to agree), shortening sentences. Consider "Today is not funny." as a stand alone sentence for emphasis. Good job with sibling dialogue.

  7. Nice voice here. Trudging back and forth is a great image, but I didn't get that they were mowing their lawns until the next line. Maybe instead, trudging back and forth with their rumbling lawnmowers trying to....
    I love that she has a dark sense of humor and the word "hilarious" seems so fresh -- I feel like I know who she is. I adore the line Today is not funny. It makes us want to know why. It makes us want to keep reading. I assume the storm ties into this -- or is a looming storm a metaphor for what's about to come? Note, "I don't have too" should be "I don't have to." The push and pull of trying to grow up with a pink princess bed and a little brother who smells like a puppy is something that kids will definitely relate to. Nice job on this! Would definitely keep reading.

  8. For me, while I like the opening paragraph, foreshadowing that something bad is coming (dark clouds and a new speed bump) but then telling us it's already happened (today *is* not funny) isn't sitting quite right for me. I either want a transition afterward, then, that tells me (for sure) what went wrong, or I'd rather the manuscript start right into the second paragraph or back further when we find out what's going on (why the room merging) and how it's going to impact the protagonist (the room merging). Otherwise, as a reader, the backward puzzle solving creates a filter that makes me feel like I'm looking in from a third person POV while I'm reading in first person. The writing is good, don't get me wrong, and "Today is not funny" is catchy, but the line is strong enough that its influence weights the end of the paragraph and carries through as you read beyond it. I feel like I'm in a boat that had an anchor drop too far from the dock; I'm firmly interested in the story, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to step out of the boat yet or keep waiting for something more substantial. So, why not bring that line ("Today is not funny.") to the beginning of the manuscript to set the mood and hook their interest (drop the anchor) and then "Not today though" works as the transition (tells the reader this is where we get out of the boat) from the first paragraph into the description of what's going on.

    Beyond me overthinking that one line, though, overall, your opening scene was a relatable story for the readership, started a nice voice, and was pleasant to read. :)