Wednesday, May 13, 2009

21 Secret Agent

TITLE: Star Child
GENRE: YA Fantasy

It began with a key, cold and heavy in Jenna’s hand. She knew she shouldn’t open the cherry wood box, placed neatly on Matthew’s desk amongst a clutter of porcelain dragons. The mobiles in Matthew’s room had fluttered around her when she entered, knights and creatures swirling around each other on white strings, weaving together and apart in a whispering dance of paper.

Jenna shouldn’t have entered Matthew’s room at all. She should have slipped past to the bathroom like she’d said. But the door had been ajar, and the mystery inside had simply glowed at her, beckoning her to unravel the truth about him.

When she lifted the key from the velvet cradle of the box, a thick coil of silver and gold ribbon sprang out like a serpent. The band was far too long for a key that only stretched across her palm. Jenna lifted it up to her neck and peered into a small mirror propped up by a dragon on the desk. The key was old, made of iron and blackened from the fires that shaped it. It was hardly extravagant with its plain design and single tooth, which only made Jenna more curious about the dazzling ribbon attached.

“What’s it for?” Jenna whispered, her eyes scanning the clutter of Matthew’s room. It was too large for a diary, and she was pretty sure Matthew didn’t keep one; boys didn’t do that, did they? The key looked too small for a door.

“Jenna?” Matthew’s voice called out from the bottom of the stairs.


  1. Hmm, this is interesting, but it left me a little confused.

    You start with "It began with a key." But, I think it really began with the door ajar and the mystery inside glowing at her.

    I really liked that paragraph and description. And see, I didn't know- did she find the key elsewhere and already have it in her hand? Because in paragraph three it says she lifted it from the velvet cradle as if she found it in the room.

    Also, there is one too many Matthews in the beginning. You can simply say "The mobiles overhead had fluttered...." We already know it's Matthew's room.

    But overall, I am intrigued.

  2. Hooked. I agree on the "too many Matthews" comment though.

  3. Not hooked. It's good writing, very discriptive and scene setting, but it just didn't grab me.

  4. The big thing that threw me here was that I thought she HAD the key and was using it to open the box, not that she found the key in the box.

    I'm also left wondering how these kids know each other. Is this boarding school? Is she at his house studying? I don't get how she'd have access to his room, much less know what to look for.

    I agree that you can cut some of "Matthew".

    I'm not sure I'd keep reading far, but I might give it a little longer to see if distance from the initial confusion over the key made it read smoother for me.

  5. The 'too many Matthews' doesn't need to be repeated, so I won't, and I can't really tell you why I wasn't hooked. It's not badly written, and it has possibilities, but I don't think I'd read much further than to find out how Matthew reacts to her being in his room.

  6. This has some interesting elements--the key, the dragons. But the mystery confused me--is it an actual thing that's glowing, and if so, what is it? Is it the key? You have some nice descriptions, but there might be a little too much so early on, it slows down the pace. I think it's best to leave that for a bit later. But I might read on to see what happens next.

  7. The beginning: a box and a key. Much too cliche, but then I loved the mobile image. Can you start with that?

    I like the rest of the imagery and I'm hooked because I thought Matthew was asleep in the room. When he calls from the bottom of the stairs--nice surprise and possible twist?

  8. I think I saw this one before. Still hooked. :P

  9. i think you coudl start with the sentence - "what is this for?" just to grab the reader. magic boxes are always fun. Thanks for sharing it with us ;)

  10. You have to be careful about figures of speech at the start of a fantasy. The reader doesn't know if they are literally true. Are the mobiles actually doing a dance around the girl? Is there a literal glow? The answers to both seem to be no, but it's hard to tell when it's the start of a fantasy story.

    I don't know how Jenna can tell that the band is too long.

    Still, either because the rest of the writing is good, or I was mistaken about the figures of speech, I was curious as to what happens next.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  11. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who left a comment. I have learned so much from reading each one.

    This has already been an incredibly valuable experience for me, so I'd like to thank you all for spending the time to read my piece and write these thoughtful critiques. It is most appreciated.

  12. I haven't read other crits; sorry if this just repeats others.

    I'm hooked. I like the dancing, whispering mobiles and I want to know what the key will open.

    The first paragraph seemed a little choppy, not clear connection between the sentences. And I;m puzzled about why Jenna's looking in a mirror to see the key.

  13. Hooked. I loved the mobile description. Very nice.

    You might place it in the here and now -- show her actually doing all this (you practically do anyway)rather than telling us as if it had already happened.

    And I agree with the comment about it not starting with the key, which is another reason to put us in the moment.

    Maybe give us some ideas as to what they key might be for, rather than things it wouldn't be for.

    It's not quite mysterious enough for me at this point, but the writing is good enough to make me believe you can deliver.

  14. Hooked! I love keys and doors, so this got me interested right off. The description of the mobiles is great, as is the mention of the ribbon springing out like a serpent, making it seem slightly sinister.

    I can feel her fear of getting in trouble as she hears her brother's voice call up to her, so you really made her come alive to me.

  15. I'm not hooked by this one.

    While the mobiles are quite interesting, I can't get a very good grip on how old Jenna is as a character. I'm not sure why she's not supposed to be in Matthew's room, and what her relationship to him is. Most of all, I'm not really that intrigued by the premise of the key, which is a very standard trope for opening a YA fantasy.