Thursday, November 13, 2008

9 SECRET AGENT: Are You Hooked?

ITLE: Stricken

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Descending the staircase, Karma crept over to the kitchen. The faint aroma of that evening’s dinner still lingered in the air. The moon, barely visible from the kitchen window, made it difficult to see anything apart from a couple of mosquito-sized spiders, dripping silvery spikes from the ceiling.

“You have to leave now . . . !”

Karma froze.

“Listen, Devante! He’s on his way here. You must get your family as far away as you can now! Go to Oswald – stay in Carling! You know the Gothic King will stop at nothing to destroy you now that he’s discovered what you’ve done! He hates traitors even worse than Oswald –!”

“B-But how could he have known? There’s no way he could’ve found out! I was so careful . . . .”

The icy lips of fear kissed Karma’s blood and awakened a rhyme from a nightmare.

In the past grew trickery and lies,

Deception formed in the stepfather’s allies.

Be careful in whom ye place yer trust,

One wrong move, ye’ll turn to dust.

The mystery man growled, “Dammit, Devante, it doesn’t matter how he found out; what matters is he did! Escape now or you and your entire family will be killed . . . or worse. He might figure out what she is. King Alrick made it clear that he’d kill anyone who gets in his way of finding her. Thirteen years he has searched for her! What do you think he’d do to you if he knew you were harboring her in your own hou –?”


  1. Hmm... This is mine. It didn't format the way I thought it would.
    Hope you all can still read it all right.

    (The actual manuscript is formatted correctly, I just tried to make it more readable for this contest.)LOL

    I think I failed at making it more readable, but live and learn.

    Hope you enjoy! ;)

  2. Sarah, I read your blurb on Verla Kay so I know this sounds like a fascinating story. I think it possibly jumps into this a little too quickly. I'd push the rhyme down a little, after you've heard more of the conversation, after we readers have learned who the speaking people are. I know you have an amazing story ahead, though.

  3. I agree with florkincaid; it's a little fast. Take some time to explain to us who Karma is, what she looks like, how she thinks, before you jump into the action. For the first few sentences I thought Karma was just that -- karma, and the entire story was taking place from its pov. Which would be kind of cool...

  4. This sounds cool - I assume that we will get an intro after the "beginning action/hook".

    It read fine to me. Hooked. :)

  5. Yes, I introduce Karma a bit more after this first page. I read agents and editors don't like LISTs of a character's description, so I broke it up throughout the first chapter to avoid that.

    Thanks for the tips though! I love feedback, good or bad!

  6. The opening is clear enough, and you give a good sense of the visual.

    Personally, I'd open the scene with some of the dialogue as she enters the kitchen.

    On the craft. The opening "descending the staircase" is poor grammar. A clause like this should be at the same time as the rest of the sentence.

    In other words, you can shut the door and put the house keys in your pocket at the same time, but you can't walk down the staircase and walk into the kitchen at the same moment.

    Also, a person can't "growl" dialogue. A word or two, yes, but not a series of sentences.

  7. Oh, and the dialogue gives too much information for the situation.

    The person giving the warning and the warned person both know what's going on.

    The man who is warning is risking his life by coming and wants to get out of there fast. All he'd need to say is "The bad guy knows about her. Get the heck out of here. Bye and good luck."

    The other man would want to know if he's certain, and he'd be scared.

    Both would use short sentences filled with emotion.

    Don't let your need to give the reader information get in the way of realistic dialogue.

  8. I'm hooked. There's a good balance between enough information to form a good fundation and enough left open for me to want to know what happens next.

  9. Thanks for the tips Marilynn!

    I think rewriting the first sentence would fix it to read better.

    And I think placing a period after "The mystery man growled," would help separate that action from the dialogue. You're right, it wasn't my intention to have him growling throughout the dialogue.

    First the growl. Then the dialogue.

    Thanks for the help! I'm off to read more submissions!

  10. Definitely liked it, save two things. The first is that the four lines of poetry take away from the great tension you've built to this point. The second was the title "Gothic." That word's been overused so much lately, especially by bad romance writers and cliche "dark" fantasy writers, that it just throws me completely out of the narrative.

    But I would keep reading on. The pacing was right on and the plot/conflict clear and engaging.

  11. Thanks Lori!

    I've been watching the comments, because I've been wondering whether I need to move the rhyme farther into the first or second chapter.

    LOVE all the helpful remarks!

  12. Yes, I'm hooked and yes, I'd read on.

    You've got some good tension going on here.

    The formatting worked against you. No spaces make my eyes glaze over.

    However, slowing down to read it revealed some tension and some descriptions that were nice.

    I think you could employ a few easy fixes that would shine this up beautifully.

    I think "mosquito-sized" is too much and takes away from the beauty of spiders dripping silvery spikes from the ceiling.

    I also think the characters should not tell one another things they already know.

    And have you thought about having Devante throwing stuff in a burlap bags as he speaks?

    "you've got to go, Devante. He's coming for you. Go to Oswald."

    Karma peered around the doorway.

    Devnate cut the ham down from the rafters and shoved it into a burlap bag. "How did he find out? I was so careful."

    That type of thing.

    You can cut out the specifics of why the king is coming and dribble that in later. For now, hook us with the danger. someone is coming. They have to get away. We'll keep reading to find out who is coming and why.

  13. I had to read this twice to figure out that there are three people in the first scene, not two. I was confused because I didn't realize that Karma was overhearing this..

    I think it was partly because I was still thinking that Karma was the philosophy, not a person's name, so once the dialogue started, I didn't realize that Karma was a person listening to two others speak.

    Despite that, I'm hooked. And as a hooked reader, I probably would have started over to make sure I truly understood the details before getting too far in and being truly confused.

    Hope this helps.

  14. The first sentence is a perfect example of something that makes me crazy in manuscripts: a writer joining two actions together in a way that makes no sense. She can't be creeping to the kitchen if she's descending the staircase. At the very least she would have had to make it to the bottom of the staircase first.

    Likewise, the moon wouldn't make it difficult to see things, but moonlight might.

    The voices come out of nowhere. Obviously she's coming down the stairs and sneaking into the kitchen because she hears voices, but that isn't made clear. Also, where are the voices coming from? Are the speakers sitting in the dark with the spiders?

    You need to be careful with details in your writing.

  15. Oh dear...

    I guess I have more work to do, but these comments are very helpful!

    Thank you for the help Secret Agent!

    It helps me out in the long run. ;)

  16. I liked being slammed into the action, myself. Maybe it's because I've been reading too much about how it's best to start "in the middle," but I've noticed that that's what I tend to prefer. I'd keep reading. :)

  17. Thanks scribess, and everyone for the helpful comments!

    I already edited my Manuscript based off of everyone's input. They were actually very simple and easy changes to make, but I'm going to reread my entire manuscript with the comments from our Secret Agent in mind.

    Makes me wonder if I didn't have the few mistakes pointed out, would it have hooked the Secret Agent or not? She/he never specified.

    (I'm just going to take that as a maybe.)LOL ;-)