Wednesday, May 13, 2009

28 Secret Agent

TITLE: Eleventh Hour Understanding
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Wet. Ada Mailan shifted away from the dripping woman next to her. Inspection duty - underwater farms, Ada guessed. They'd all dropped whatever they were doing to respond to the summons. Except Emma. Lena. Terri. Sheila. Selene. Where's Emma? Ada's eyes flicked toward the sound of the door; but the newcomer wasn't an heir.

Grandmother, the head of the Mailan Family government, entered the room. "We're going to be breaking some bad news," she opened. "Emma collapsed shortly after her lap session this morning. She was dead by the time doctors arrived."

Ada stopped breathing. From the dead silence, she guessed that the rest of the heirs had done the same.

"We opened a standard investigation and things look pretty straight forward. They're leaning towards heart failure." She paused, but no one had anything to say.

Perfectly healthy 19 year olds don't just die.

"Perfectly healthy 19 year olds don't just die." The words followed the thought automatically.
Five pairs of eyes locked onto Ada. One pair, Grandmother's, narrowed slightly. The old woman pursed her lips and began a step forward.

"What exactly are you implying?" The voice came from behind her.

Ada seized on the distraction and turned halfway to face the speaker, Selene. Of course it was Selene. The heir seldom let a statement go uncontested. Ada paused, aware of Grandmother's dominating presence. In that moment, she became aware of something more important.

Oh crap, it wasn't me. Someone killed her and it wasn't me.


  1. I found this excerpt intriguing and I'd love to read more. The one suggestion I'd make is to delete the "dead" from "dead silence," it follows to closely on the use of the word "dead" in the previous paragraph.

  2. I really liked this, particularly the last line. I'm definitely intrigued.

    I think "19 year old" needs some hyphens ("19-year-old"). I also found the list of names in the first paragraph too much information to process and also tell vs. show. It put me off. I'd rather the characters be revealed as they spoke. That way I'll get some personality to attach to the names. This way it's name soup and I forget them.

  3. 'Wet' with no explanation or description does not make for a very intriguing first sentence. This would be better if that word were taken out altogether, and it started with "Ada Mailan etc.."

    "Except Emma" and then doing a headcount is also repetitive. "Grandmother" needs a name. "Grandmother Sophialee, the head of the Mailan Family Government" would be better, so we have an idea of who we're dealing with.

    More unnecessary repetition with her speech following the thought. "One pair," can be taken out altogether.

    The last sentence is good, but it's not enough to save the rest. Not hooked.

  4. The only thing that hooked me was the concept of a Family Government. I am curious as to whether it is some sort of futuristic monarchy or what.

    What I got hung up on was the comment that perfectly healthy 19 year olds don't just die. Sure they do - and it usually is something like heart failure. So what was meant to be the hook doesn't hook me at all. Good luck!

  5. It's some good writing with a great concept, but the story doesn't grab me right away. I might read a little more and see if I like it, but based on this alone, I'd say no.

  6. I think this is interesting, but the wet/ underwater thing at the beginning was very confusing. A summons is clear enough for a beginning (although I do agree that the name list could be deleted; just mentioning that one is missing is enough).

    That Grandmother had no name didn't bother me. I just figured she's so badass that she didn't need one.

    Without the wet business at the beginning, I'd not have stumbled and I'd be intrigued.

  7. I had to reread the first lines a couple times so I agree, you might want to delete the dripping woman unless that's critical information for later. In that case, maybe move it down a little later. Normally, healthy 19-year-olds don't die so I found this intriguing. And the last line hooked me.

  8. I agree with the confusion mentioned about. I was willing to roll with the "Perfectly healthy 19 year olds don't just die" comment, because it felt very in character.

    The last sentence, however, confused me completely. I have no context for the statement really...I was going "huh?" more than "oooooo!"

    Concept is interesting, but the hook needs to be stronger. I'd read more, I think, just to be less confused. But that's not the reason you want someone to keep reading I don't think!


  9. Interesting concept, but I agree, lose the wet person at the beginning unless she's really important to have standing there.

    The list of names made me think the people she was rattling off had all not shown up at some point.

    I'm still on the fence as to whether or not the last line would make me read more.

  10. Too much confusion in the first paragraph. The First person ending was confusing too.

    However, there is something interesting going on here, but it lost me...may be if I could read on.

  11. Yep. Not my genre, but I'm hooked.

  12. Interesting hook - i dont htink you need any italics - it pulled me out. But i want to know who is the killer. Thanks for sharing with us :)

  13. Not hooked. I loved your last line, it promised a lot, but what came before it didn't make me feel like you'd deliver.

    What comes before it is bland and generic. Set the scene a bit more. I liked the wet, dripping woman, but give me more than wet.

    Show me what Grandmother looks like. The word, by itself, evokes a certain image (old woman) but her dialogue didn't give me that feeling. A physical description, the way she stands or moves, could convey more than looks. It could get across attitude and power, and it could make me understand why your MC fears her.

    It could also help set time and place. How she's dressed would place us in the past, present or future, depending on how you describe her and the room they're in.

  14. *Posted without reading other comments*

    Overall, I liked this, but there are some parts I would edit.

    In the second paragraph, I would change 'she opened' into 'she said'. We know she's opening, and that dialogue tag drags us out of the story, or so I felt.

    Third paragraph: 'Ada stopped breathing.' That dragged me out of the story too. If she stopped breathing, she'd be in the same boat as Emma. Let her gasp or something. Or say, "Ada stopped breathing for a few seconds."

    I'd cut the first mention of 'Perfectly healthy 19 year olds don't just die." You repeat this immediately, and then you say that the words follow the thought automatically. This sentence is enough to convey to use that Ada has thought as well as said this line.

    The last line was great.

    I'm hooked, but I think some editing could make it even better.

  15. I was intrigued by this. But confused more than intrigued. Your first paragraph reads like I should understand what's going on, but I don't. "Inspection duty - underwater farms" just had me totally baffled. Also the fact that Emma wasn't an heir. Because I don't know what an heir is, I'm not sure why not being one would keep Emma from coming out of the door. So twice in your first paragraph I had to go back and re-read for context to see if I'd missed something that might explain those two things.

    You don't have to say "perfectly healthy 19 year olds don't just die" twice. And, they do die from heart failure. More often than you'd think. So it feels sort of forced there. By making that comment, Ada isn't implying anything specific - so Selene's comment just made it feel forced again for me.

    And why is Ada thinking "oh crap, it wasn't me"? Was she supposed to have killed her and didn't?

    Sorry, not hooked. But if you clarified, I might be.

  16. I have to agree with macaroni pants. I was more confused than anything else by this.

    I feel as though I've been dropped right into the middle of a story and have nothing to guide me. I don't know who the MC is or the identity the bad guys. I don't know who heirs are and I don't know if it is a good thing that Emma died or not.

    I'm not sure what to say, other than start somewhere else. Either earlier or later.

  17. The premise was intriguing but it's a bit lacking in detail to bring it to life. Is she happy or sad that Emma is dead?

  18. I'm not hooked by this, largely because your worldbuilding is off-kilter. I don't understand the purpose of the multiple heirs; I don't know who Grandmother is; and I don't quite get whether they're underwater or not.

    I'm not sure this is science fiction, but that's largely because it feels more like a fantasy setting right now. Science fiction doesn't always have talk about "heirs", which is generally a clue to the reader that we're in a more fantasy-like world. Like I said, you need to clarify and be more concrete about your world.