Wednesday, May 13, 2009

24 Secret Agent

TITLE: Into the Dark
GENRE: Young Adult


I was four years old when I first saw a ghost.

I met him in the bathroom of my mother’s latest “gentleman friend’s” house, in my search for a clean towel to dry my hands.

Bottom drawer, an unfamiliar voice said. Tucked behind the razor blades.

I gasped and turned toward the sound, my soggy hands collapsing at my sides.

The stranger sat on the bathtub’s ledge, his arms crossed over his chest and one black combat boot kicked over his knee. Everything I’d ever been taught told me to run, but I was too entranced, too fascinated, to do the safe thing.

This stranger was unlike any other man I had ever seen, like a character from a Japanese cartoon or an image in a painting. He was dressed in all black—black boots, black pants, and long black trench. His skin was an unblemished pale, his eyes like stars against a dark canvas—stars so bright I could hardly stand to look at him, but so mesmerizing I couldn’t turn away.

You are making quite the mess, he said with a disapproving nod toward the puddled white tiles.

I could hear his words, clearer than glass. I knew that if I opened the bottom drawer a towel would be there, hiding behind the razorblades. I knew I should find it, clean up my mess, and run the heck away. But all I could do was stare, my eyes bulging from their sockets like marshmallows.

40 comments:

  1. 'You are making quite the mess'-- that's awesome. This is cool. Great opening, kind of creepy, kind of sardonic. I'd read more :)

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  2. I loved this! I am absolutely hooked. The nonchalance of the ghost really got me.

    The reference to "Japanese cartoon" sort of jarred me, although to be honest it was my first instinct to picture him that way. But there are a lot of different anime styles so it might not be the best reference!

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  3. Really enjoyed this!

    You might not want to use the word "like" too often. It starts to sound like a broken record. ;)

    In these 250 words you used it four times.

    Just a suggestion.

    Thanks for sharing. Hooked me and I would like to read more!

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  4. This is fun! I would keep reading in the hopes of reading more ghost-sighting anecdotes. The tone is a good balance between humor and creepiness. The gentleman friend reference gives a good hint at the familiar issues that are sure to show up later.

    I'm not sure if I like the bulging like marshmallows simile - just doesn't quite work for me. But I'm definitely hooked.

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  5. And by familiar, I meant familial. ;)

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  6. Hooked!! My favorite so far!

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  7. Not my genre, but I'm hooked. I would definitely read more!

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  8. I would definitely keep reading. I don't know anime well, so the reference to Japanese cartoons was rather lost on me. The biggest problem here is that I want to know what's going on with the character NOW, so too much in the past this early would turn me off pretty quick.

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  9. I love this and I'm totally hooked, but this sentence:

    I met him in the bathroom of my mother’s latest “gentleman friend’s” house, in my search for a clean towel to dry my hands.

    I stumbled it over it like four times, is there some way to make it tighter?

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  10. Great first line hook. If all I read was this, I would definitely buy the book.

    Verbage: He was dressed in all black. Could this be written smoother?

    I like the marshmallow eyes but the visual image isn't quite right--marshmallows too plain white. Maybe marshmallows with.....I can't do better.
    Good luck. You have a nice beginning.

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  11. Finally something I can say "I'm hooked!" over, and not have to point out all the things that are wrong with it. It's perfect. I'd totally read more.

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  12. Thank you all SO much for your suggestions and helpful comments! It's amazing how many times you can edit something and, for instance, still not realize that you have 4 "likes" in 250 words. ("you" being "me," of course). The feedback from this contest has, so far, been invaluable.

    Omni: you just made my day! :)

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  13. Hooked. Loved the first sentence. You have a good balance of description with action. I agree with some of the other posters, watch your word choice so you don't overuse words. I would keep reading.

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  14. Loved the first line. Hooked.

    Didn't like the "marshmellow eyes," sounds too much like a cartoon, says my 11-year-old.

    But we'd still read more.

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  15. Hooked - and I liked the marshmallows.

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  16. I agree with Saltier.

    Great job and good luck!

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  17. I liked the first sentence hook. But there were a few things that pulled me out:

    * my mother’s latest “gentleman friend’s” house -- Awkward to read. I think just shifting the phrases around will help.
    * my soggy hands collapsing at my sides -- I'm not sure what that means, and I can't picture it.
    * one black combat boot kicked over his knee -- I get what you want this to convey, but it stopped me on both reads.

    But I think it's a great start! Good job.

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  18. I'm hooked. Just make sure not to make your sentences too wordy.

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  19. No.... I'm sorry. I think part of my deal is that I know this is a flashback to him when he was four years old instead of the now. So if this was a book, I'd probably treat this like a prologue and skim read to the present. And another thing was I randomly wondered why the razorblades were in a bottom drawer where a four year old could get his hands on them.

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  20. i found this very intriquing. I would read on to see how it was different from other ghost-seeing MC and want to know who the creepy guy is. Thanks for sharing it with us! :)

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  21. I was sucked right in and would definitely read on.
    Great showing vs telling in this excerpt

    It started right in the midst of the action and I had a real sense of character from the outset.

    There were some interesting images here; the marshmallow eyes, the puddled white tiles all worked for me

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  22. I like the voice and the main character. I'd definitely keep reading. I'm having trouble picturing the one black combat boot kicked up over the ghost's knee--is his other foot in it, or not?

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  23. Great job!

    Ditto Matril's whole comment as well as Amanda's comment about the Japanese cartoon character.

    I would definitely read on.

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  24. Wow.
    There's an psychological undercurrent to this. Just how distorted is her realty? what happened to her? how often do "ghosts" show up? What's her mom's sordid life like? Why put razor blades as an obstacle to the towels? I think I'd find less hooks in a tackle box.

    Normally all this would be considered dense writing, but because you showed it all, in terms of the girls perception, it becomes rich. it's literature.

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  25. I liked this, good job. Would be careful about the overuse of I and like.. Great Voice.

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  26. Hooked. Although I do wonder if this ghost, who she met when she was four, is going to be part of the story now. You made me like him and I wonder if he'll even be part of the story.

    But the writing's good (a few rough spots) and you made me like the ghost, so yeah, I'd say Hooked.

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  27. Have to join the chorus -- great voice, great set-up. I want to read what happens next, so count me as hooked!

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  28. This is good and very intriguing. The one thing I wondered about is the age of the mc at the time. I sure as heck don't remember much from the time I was four. Obviously an encounter with a ghost would be memorable, but I don't know that I would recollect all the details. Unless I had some sort of power or a photographic memory...which could be the case!? But I'm hooked!

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  29. Megs: who skips past the prologue? That's the setup for the whole story? If I wanted to miss the point of the story I'd close my eyes and pick a page from the middle of the book. As long as flashbacks aren't every other page I think they are a great way to give the reader alot of information spread out over a long period of time. I would definitely read more of this. There were too many "likes" but that's how people speak so I can easily get past that. I do wonder what hapened to this person but I definitely wouldn't skip past the prologue to find out :) also, it's understandable that 4 year olds wouldn't remember much but if I had experienced something like that I would like to think I would remember it.

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  30. I'm hooked. I love me a good ghost story. But, please don't tell us he's dressed all in black and then go on to tell us all the black he's wearing. The razor blades are there because it's not her/his house it's the gentleman friends, so that makes sense. I'd rework the marshmellow eyes.. Good luck with this!
    Hannah6

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  31. I liked the writing, but the premise doesn't really grab me. This is a matter of personal taste though.

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  32. @Kayla -

    "Who skips past the prologue? That's the setup for the whole story?"

    No, CH1 is the setup for the whole story. That's where you are introduced to the MC who you will live with for the entire novel, and where you are presented the "Problem".

    Most prologues in fantasy novels are fairly unneccessary in the main scheme of things.

    1. They usually are there to show something that they can't show in the story itself - something that happened far apart from the main setting that the protagonist(s) doesn't know about yet.

    2. Or they are there to set the mood for the story.

    If (1), I usually go back and read the prologue after I've finished the book and am dwelling on things. I didn't need to read the prologue to understand what was going on, and the hook was definitely in CH1.

    If (2), I never read the prologue. It's completely unnecessary. :]

    The prologue as the writer has it here is interesting... but like I said, I got distracted by various things as I read and I just wasn't entirely interested enough in the protagonist.

    I do think the information could be dropped in without dedicating a whole prologue on it.

    One example that comes to mind would be Meg Cabot's Mediator series, where she embedded the details of the protagonist's first ghost sighting (at age 2, I think?) in the first chapter. :]

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  33. Maybe it's just a matter of personal taste for you but prologues definitely add to the story. If you are going to go back and read it sometimes anyway then why not just read it from the beginning? If you don't like it then skip right over it and continue about your reading. However, to say it's basically pointless is baffling to me bc most prologues have good information in them. They may not serve some huge literary significance but they are definitely a way to intrigue the reader which this one does. Since this is a genre I like, I feel very comfortable saying the prologue works and I would definitely continue reading and wondering what happened to this person

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  34. Maybe Authoress can start a conversation outside of the contest for people to debate the merit of prologues. :)

    Apologies to writer and Authoress, I didn't mean to distract people from critting the submissions themselves.

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  35. Megs & Kayla: The back and forth on the prologue vs. no prologue debate may not be precisely the purpose of this contest, but I think that the debate is just as helpful for the writer (me, in this case) as any other positive or critical feedback. Thank you both for your opinions, and thank everyone for the helpful remarks. :)

    Author

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  36. I'm not really hooked by this one either.

    Part of this is because ghosts don't really do it for me, and part of it is that you immediately lost me at the phrase "my soggy hands collapsing at my sides." I had an instant mental picture of a four year old's hands disintegrating into little wet fragments because she had seen a ghost. I wasn't able to really take the rest of the excerpt very seriously after that because I had been thrown right out of the novel so soon.

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  37. Love it..just needs a bit of tightening up.

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  38. I'm not into ghost stories, but I'm hooked on this one. Great job!

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