Wednesday, May 13, 2009

12 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Fantasy

When I returned to Anjidia, I was naked (save for the towel vainly shielding me from the biting wind), standing in ankle-deep mud, and being drizzled on.

Although, I guess calling it my return makes it sound as though I’d taken a trip and finally had decided to come back home. In reality, I had no memory of this place and certainly wouldn’t have labeled the only life I could remember a mere vacation or detour.

For argument’s sake, let’s call it my arrival in Anjidia—my disorienting, unbelievable, shocking, and completely unceremonious arrival. The unceremonious part is particularly important, because already legend would have it that “destiny drew me back to meet my eager and willing people.” That was absolutely not the case. In fact, my experience was exactly the opposite of that comforting little fantasy.

My immediate reaction upon realizing that a forest of trees, not a forest of clothes, greeted me when I stepped into my walk-in closet, if memory serves, was a mixture of confused paralysis and frantic eye rubbing and head shaking. That’s hard to wrap your brain around, I know. But is it so hard to believe that getting transported between worlds without as much as a “Heads up!” can cause nonsensical reactions?

The usual suspects cam to mind, of course—alien abduction, Narnia-esque enchantment, and so forth. Sensibly, I settled on the "it's just a dream" theory, until I stubbed my toe on a moss-covered rock.


  1. Not hooked. Too confusing and garbled for me.

    First off keep our narrator naked or just explain that they have a towel on without the parenthesis.

    I get confused over the whole arrival/return. (I'm sure that get explained out!)

  2. The setting sounds interesting and rife with potential.

    *walk-in closet* in an exotic setting is a little jarring.

    A lot of info here that needs to be spread out more subtly into the narrative.

    Stick to one dilemma and show the narrator dealing with it.

  3. I like the voice of your character that you're trying to convey here, but it needs polishing. A casual tone is tricky to get just right. I'd suggest reading it out loud - that can often reveal the awkward constructions. For example, "being drizzled on" doesn't quite mesh with the other phrases in that sentence.

    Being transported from the modern world to a fantasy one is a very common trope - your protagonist even acknowledges that! This isn't necessarily a problem; it just means you need to make it stand out in some way.

  4. This was just odd to me. Too much in too little space. I THINK you might have something good, but I don't know if I'd be willing to try to decipher my way through it to find out.

    A big part of the problem is the aside to explain the return vs. arrival. It pulled me out of your story and when I tried to get back in, I felt like I was in a different story entirely.

  5. The real grabber are the last two paragraphs--especially the last sentence about stubbing her toe. This definitely made me want to know more. It may have been a little awkward in the beginning, but I still really liked it.

  6. I have to agree here. I'm not hooked. I'm confused.

    Selestial-owg makes a good point. The second paragraph doesn't seem the right place for a debate about something, that at this point to the reader, is completely irrelevant. I need to be invested in the character before I care about a side note like this.

    The walk-in closet line jarred me as well.

  7. I was confused about the whole return vs arrival.

    I agree that you should have a towel on or be naked, but not both.

    I wasn't hooked until I got to the last paragraph. It seemed like your voice was stronger in that one section.

  8. I like this, but it seems a bit rambling. Cut, tighten and focus on your MC's immediate reaction to arriving in this strange place in a towel.

  9. A lot of "writing-beating-around-the-bush." Cut out unnecessary words and get to the point.

    I like the opening "I was naked" but then you immediately contradict yourself. WRite it like it is.

    But I love the premise--returning, standing ankle deep in mud etc.

  10. I'm leaning towards being partial to this, as it deals with the same premise as my own novel in progress; sudden an unexpected transportation to a foreign/fantastical world.

    But it ends there, as your beginning suggests that our intrepid hero has been there before, and is coming back. The parenthesis could just as easily be replaced by a dash or a comma, and would be much less of an interruption that way.

    Ah, now that I'm reading more carefully, I see that it's not a return, it really is the first time they've been there. So lets move that to the beginning.

    "My arrival in Anjidia - my disorienting, unbelievable, shocking, and completely unceremonious arrivial - was made even more horrifyingly unbalanced by the fact that I was naked, save for a towel that tried in vain to shield me from the biting wind."

    Continue from there as you had. My suggestion, now that I reread it, makes for a more attention-grabbing first sentence than 'When I returned to a place I'd never been before..." which leaves the reader confused.

    Needs some work. Probably a lot of work. But it has great potential, and I want to read more of it, simply because of the similarity of themes.

    Backing off to become impartial again, "My immediate reaction upon realising.." and the rest of that ill-fated paragraph is just a tangle of words that make less sense than a cluster of brambles.

    The last sentence is good, but everything that precedes it needs work.

    Not quite hooked.

  11. I don't think you need go into the list of adjective, unbelievable, shocking, etc. I'd rather you show me. I also feel like you are telling me what happened, like the character is remembering it. I'm not sure if that's your intent or not. You talk about the shock of arrival for three paragraphs. I don't need it that many times. I loved the last line of stubbing the toe. I would keep reading.

  12. Sorry.... this is a little confusing for me.

  13. Hi, Sam! I'm afraid I'm having the same reaction to this as I did during the Amazon contest. That said, I've read a heck of a lot farther and I can tell you it was the only Amazon entry that I wanted to keep reading. But the beginning is still too one thing and then the other and I'm not real fond of telling the story from the "safe perspective". I like the humor, though. ARGH! If you can do it from her present tense pov but keep the humor, you'd have a WONDERFUL hook. I really like it, I just want to see it be stronger. I want to read the rest of it, for one thing!

  14. I was given a piece of writing advice once: don't use brackets. I didn't really agree with it at the time, but now I can see they'll nearly always weaken your writing. So I would give them the chop.

    I think the second paragraph is intriguing, but I do agree that perhaps this isn't the place for it. It sounds like the kind of info that belongs on the back cover.

    I would spend more of the time describing what happened to your MC on arrival, rather than reflecting back on it. I'm also not a fan of the walk-in closet that transports you between worlds. It sounds too much like a copy of Narnia, and the fact that you acknowledge this doesn't get you off.

    Overall, the premise sounds intriguing, but I think it needs a bit of editing.

  15. Not hooked. For two pargs. you explain his return.

    I put myself in his position so I can get into the story.

    In parg. #3 you say - nevermind. I didn't return. Let's just pretend I've never been here before.

    Now I have to start all over.

    In parg. 4 he tells us about being transported to another world, but then, that may not be the way it happened, or the way he felt, because he's not sure about his memory.

    And then, once he gets there, he has to figure out how. He considers alien abduction, through the wardrobe - which is exactly how it happened, according to him in the previous parg - IF his memory serves, so of course, he settles on -- it was all a dream.


    Start the story with him going through the closet, stubbing his toe, and realizing he's standing in a strange place, in the mud, being rained on, and he's wearing nothing but a towel.

    Then let something happen, and let him react to it.

  16. I liked your wry voice and humour and laughed out loud at your last line.

    Your last two paragraphs were the strongest. Finding the forest of trees rather than a forest of clothes was a particularly good image.

    I agree with others' comments about the arrival/ return confusion and would like to see that tightened.
    But I would definitely read on.

  17. First sentence is great, but I agree about the parenthesis. Someone once told me- if its important enough to say why do you need them. Over time, I've come to agree. I think the clause they cover fits nicely with the rest. I would leave off the mud and drizze. It loses the momentum of that first great impact/visual.

    I too like the wry voice, the slight poke of fun at all our favorite fantasy themes, but it does go on a bit long. I think that's where the readers are getting lost.

  18. This one is partially hooking me.

    Although the trope of showing up in a fantasy world is a common one, you do a pretty nice job of having your heroine be naked upon arrival. It instantly makes it intriguing to me, although you lose me further on.

    Part of the reason I'm getting lost is that it feels like you're trying too hard for a conversational narrator, and this is causing the writing to be awkward in places. I might be interested in this one, but I'd want a rewrite first.