Wednesday, January 14, 2009


TITLE: Stricken
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

Karma’s hair bounced around her waist as she descended the dark staircase. Reaching the bottom, she crept over to the kitchen. The faint aroma of that evening’s dinner still lingered in the air. The moonlight, barely visible through the kitchen window, made it difficult to see anything apart from a couple of spiders, dripping silvery spikes from the ceiling.

“You have to leave now . . . !”

Karma froze. The unfamiliar voice echoed out from her stepfather’s office. Tiptoeing across the kitchen, she halted at the office, and pressed an ear against the door.

“Go to Oswald – stay in Carling . . . . You know the Gothic King will stop at nothing to destroy you! 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 mystery man growled. “Dammit, Devante, it doesn’t matter how he found out; what matters is he did! If you don’t leave, you and your entire family will be killed . . . or worse. He might figure out who she is. King Alrick threatened 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 –?”

“But what am I to do with her now?” The sound of Devante’s fist slamming on the top of the desk made Karma jerk her head back. “Oswald would see what she is the moment he lays eyes on her – and with those bloodthirsty werewolves lurking in the woods to Carling, we’d surely be killed even trying to leave!”

Karma’s eyebrows knitted together. Are they talking about me?


  1. Hooked! -oh wait... this is mine! LOL


    I'm more than half-way through reading the submissions, and there are a ton of great opening pages! This is going to be a tough competition, but good luck everyone! We're all in the same boat and I'm picking out my top 5 favorites as I read!

  2. I'm hooked!

    I would definitely keep reading!

  3. The overheard dialogue seems a bit info-heavy, but I love the sensory details of the kitchen in the opening.

    One question--why is she creeping about before she hears the raised voices?

  4. I really like the writing, and this sounds like a promising fantasy! I'd definitely keep reading, and I haven't read a traditional fantasy in a while.

    A couple nits: the eavesdropping is a bit info-dumpy, but that could be toned down. The "eyebrows kitted together" gives me a creepy visual. I get what you mean, but that phrase just doesn't do it for me.

    Good luck!

  5. Unlike many of these entries in which not enough happens, I think you try to cram in too much in. Karma, Oswald, Carling, Devante, Alrick, werewolves.
    This has a lot of promise, but I'd say slow down just a bit and let us catch up with you.
    Otherwise, congrats. It seems atmospheric and exciting.

  6. I love kids overhearing conversations. Nice way to start the story. Unfortunate way for Karma to find out herself...if indeed it is she they're talking about.


  7. I got sucked in. Great writing.

    I agree that there is a bit of info-dump. The information after "He might figure out who she is" might be able to be doled out a bit at a time.

    I also find it very interesting that people who eavesdrop in the middle of someone's conversations always end up the gist of the entire thing.

    But, that is me being nitpicky. Like I said, I was really intrigued and wanted to read more.

  8. I would read more, even though I usually don't read this genre. I enjoyed the imagery in your first paragraph.

  9. Did your paragraphing disappear when you formatted it to email it? I'm finding it hard to read and very hard to decide who's saying what, without separate paragraphs for each speaker, I'm afraid. That alone kept it from hooking me.

    It reminds me a little of the opening of The Golden Compass, with the eavesdropping. But why is Karma there? To eavesdrop on purpose, or did the voices surprise her? I sort of thought they surprised her, but then why was she sneaking into the kitchen? Inquiring minds want to know...

  10. Hello everyone!

    I just wanted to pop in here to answer a few of your questions.

    I originally wrote this telling the reader Karma woke up from a nightmare and was going into the kitchen to get something to drink, but decided it could wait for a few pages.

    You end up finding out more in the first eight pages. I just decided to space it out rather than answer that question right away.

    I agree I have a lot of info in this first page, but I hate drawing the narration out. I like to jump into the story fast and then "bottle-feed" the reader info as the story develops throughout the novel.

    By the end of this first chapter Karma and her family are caught by the King's men, and she meets King Alrick for the first time in the second chapter. So I need the reader to know this information right away without someone telling Karma directly.

    Hope that helps a little!

    Love the comments, Keep them coming!

  11. I'm with the others--the eavesdropping is passive and a bit of an info-dump. BUT--like the subject and was intrigued by the premise. I'd read on!

    [PS: I'm glad I'm not the only one who's introduced herself as the author! And I agree--tough competition!! Good luck!]

  12. I'm hooked.

    (And not just because you liked mine last time and you liked again it this time. At least you and the agents who requested full and partials disagreed with the naysayers currently attacking it).

    You've got just the right amount of description to paint a picture without slowing the pace.

    Would definitely read more.

  13. I like it even though you didn't like mine. :) heehee.
    I think it's well written and fun. I can visualize what's happening, and that's always good to me.
    So yeah, HOOKED.

  14. I'm definitely hooked -- I love the premise.

    Have to agree with the info dump, though. Maybe the reader doesn't need to know ALL of this just yet?

  15. I have to say, my first thought was The Golden Compass too. I'm sure it's nothing like that as things get going, but I thought I'd let you know my first reaction. But it's a good ending. I'm curious to know how they're going to get away.

  16. Well, there's something exciting going on here - but as an introduction to the story, this is all a bit dense. Too much we have to take in very rapidly without yet having our bearings. Is this a contemporary situation? Who are all these people being named? Werewolves? I'd like to start more simply, and with more focus. And perhaps see one thing, very strongly, through your protagonist's eyes.

  17. Nicely done, I would read more.

    Like others, I got to the eavesdropping bit and thought, "info dump." I don't think you have to tell us all that information up front. You have a compelling scene - you could even start with the step-father telling her "we have to leave, now!" and gradually reveal the rest of the info.

    Great writing, interesting story questions, and lots of tension - good job.

  18. I love this! Great opening, definitley an interesting hook that kept me guessing. I would love to read more!

  19. I'm hooked...sort of. I'm not too into contemporary fantasy, but I think I'd be inclined to read more. You've set a great scene and I love the overheard reveal. You've created some great tension too!

  20. I wasn't wild about the opening of this. Maybe like everyone else has been saying, there was just too much information for the first 250 words. I felt like I was being tossed so many details that by the end, they all toppled over on me. The first paragraph wasn't grabby enough for me though it did have some beautiful writing. I'd suggest slicing this down a bit and giving us some time with the main character before you throw so many names at the reader.

    As it stands, I'm not hooked. Sorry.

  21. Doesn’t hook me…
    Because while the action and threat are immediate, it doesn’t feel believable. I know it’s fantasy, and I love fantasy, but it seemed overdone. Too much info, too directly to be credible. Well written, but I’m not really hooked.

  22. Not hooked, but not because of the premise. I didn't mind all the info and diving right in. For me, it was the execution, particularly the first parg.

    Her hair is bouncing as she comes down the steps, which means she has to be coming down pretty energetically, then she 'creeps' to the kitchen, creating two different moods in two sentences. Then it's too hard to see anything in the bit of moonlight, but she does see spiders. She can't make out furniture but she can make out spiders?

    Perhaps consider a revised opening and be more aware of the logic of it all as you go along.


  23. Hooked. Absolutely hooked! I love the set up of the conflict and how you're introducing the important details in a Showing (not Telling) fashion. Plus, you've dropped enough world building so we understand our setting and genre, without infodumping. I'd definitely read on!

  24. I'm hooked. I want to know more about the girl and this mystery surrounding her.

  25. A little confusing at the first, but I' read on

  26. I liked it, but had to read a few times to understand everything that is going on.

  27. Trimming the first paragraph would help get me into the story faster. The tension in the overheard conversation is great, though I think you could be more subtle (less telling) and leave a little to the imagination. I'd read on.

  28. I really loved this! I am wondering if you could leave out "King" and "werewolves" until we know Karma better. (I'm assuming here this book starts out in a contemporary setting before moving to an otherworld.) I love the sensory details. Good Job, Sarah!

  29. I'm glad most of you like the story, and editing is just part of writing.

    Since everyone agrees it starts out just a little too fast, I'll review my first chapter again and try to tone it down a little so I'm not overwhelming the reader.

    Thank you for all of the feedback Secret Agent, and fellow authors!

    Hopefully I'll be done with my new novel and enter that into the next secret agent contest!

    I have a few more entries to read and comment on, but so far I have three I'm really rooting for ;)

  30. To have your hair bounce means you have to be walking/moving with bounce. Otherwise, it usually just sits on your shoulders, etc. And I'm not sure a person would pay attention to her hair bouncing unless it got caught in something along the way.

    Nice info dump in the conversation. Why is her stepfather (?) telling this Devante (not sure I got that right) something he probably already knows? Both would probably already know that the Gothic King was after the girl, whoever she turns out to be.

    Of course, you need to let the reader know this, don't you?

    Your writing is good. I would read further to confirm that Karma is this sought girl.

  31. Wonderful writing...I'm drawn into the mystery, but a bit too much is happening in such a short span. Lots of names thrown out might want to hold back on a few to get your reader firmly oriented. Would love to read more!