Wednesday, May 13, 2009

43 Secret Agent


I realized my mistake when I came through the door. My mother was pacing around our small hut, her hands clutched to her chest, her dark curls pulled back haphazardly from her face, and her brown eyes nearly frantic with worry.

I opened my mouth to greet her but the look she turned on me was such mix of anxiety and relief that the words died in my throat. She was the only one I knew with that could shut me up with just a look, and I didn’t comment as I quickly shut the door behind me. Not that I blamed her for being afraid – when people went missing around here, they went missing for good. I cursed myself for being selfish and making her worry; I could have found time to get clean on another day.

Taking the extra time to go through the ruins to bathe had been a bad idea but I’d been sick of being dirty. And there had been hovers in the skies; I hadn’t wanted to be caught in the ruins – it being forbidden and all – so I’d had to hide in nearly every doorway to avoid detection.

“Abigail –” she said shrilly.

I took her hands to stop her pacing and smiled. “Mama, I was just bathing. I got the laundry done and I thought I’d take the opportunity to get clean.” I thanked the gods that I hadn’t taken my time getting home.


  1. Nice intro, it got me curious to read more. What's up with Mom? Good Job!

  2. Hmm. I felt a little bit as if she was telling me this instead of it was happening to her.

    My mother was pacing- instead of Mama was pacing.

    I remembered this story from Drop the Needle, and was curious to know more; but there's a little too much description (small hut,dark curls, brown eyes) right away to make it seem real. The narrator knows what the mother looks like so why spell it all out? (and aren't huts always small?)

    I do like this story, and the first sentence is good, but the rest could use some tightening.

  3. The first sentence is good, but it goes downhill from there.

  4. To me, it's a matter of rearranging. If I started reading at "Abigail-", it hooks me more than starting with the explanation of all the background. If you dole out the information in smaller bits, I think the piece would shine.

  5. I agree with susiej, it's nearly all telling and this slows the work down.

    I would start with the rushing home, avoiding the hovers. This would be exciting and action-packed and would really get the suddenness of being stopped in your tracks with just a look down pat, without having to use so much detail. There's an entire book to flesh out the details, use these first lines to really do something exciting and grab us.

  6. The first paragraph enticed me to read more (although I'd lose the "nearly" in the last line).

    The typo and wordiness of the first sentence in paragraph 2 tripped me up ("but the look she turned on me was such mix of anxiety and relief").

    I must admit, I lost interest about two sentences into the second paragraph. But then I was pulled back in by what happened to people when they went missing. This is a hook, and it's buried underneath a lot of telling.

    As for paragraph 3: I have had exactly one foray into the world of YA SF, through Scott Westerfeld's Uglies' series. The mention of hovers and ruins seems overly derivative to me, but perhaps these are common concepts that I'm not aware of due to my limited SF knowledge.

    That being said, I think you have a very solid start, and I love that you jumped right into the SF part of your story.

  7. I love this genre, so that helps. I liked the setup with people going missing, but you lost me after that.

    Interested, but not hooked.

  8. The first sentence pulls me in because it's active and it immediately raises questions. Then everything slows down with exposition, burying the answers to the questions under lots of little details. Trim out most of the descriptions; there will be time to show what the mother looks like as the narrative continues. No need to put it out all at once. Keep the pace moving. Maybe bring in the dialogue sooner. The protagonist explains that she was bathing right there, so you can probably cut the earlier mention of it.

    On the basis of the first sentence and the intriguing setting, I'd like to read more, but it needs some polishing to really hook me in.

  9. I wonder if there is anything new in this story--the hovers were a red flag--thanked the gods.

    I like the relationship that is established between the mom and the daughter.

    Shrilly doesn't work with stating her name.

  10. A lot of telling. I think this would be much better if you showed her racing home from the ruins. The "missing for good" part made me interested, but not really hooked.

  11. Interesting start with interesting concepts: People missing, hovers, the gods.

    Some words should be trimmed from the first paragraph: The first two uses of "her," and that unfortunate adverb "nearly."

    Or you could take a big whack like Jilliebeans said, and work in the essential information from the second paragraph later.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  12. I think the first 250 should really work toward setting up your story/character/problem. I know you can't do it all in 250, but you can do alot.

    This feels like a scene that belongs in the middle somewhere.

  13. I'm not hooked, but I think that if this were tightened and polished, I could be.

    I would avoid the physical descriptors of the mother in the first paragraph. Frankly, it doesn't really matter what she looks like--at least not right off the bat. And it doesn't feel organic for the MC to be noticing such things about her mother (whom she presumably sees all the time).

    I would avoid using "nearly". It comes off pretty weak. Either she's frantic or not. Why waffle in the middle?

    There were a couple typos here, unfortunately. "the look she turned on me was such mix" and "She was the only one I knew with that could", specifically. Neither "with" nor "that" are correct in the second example... it should be "who", since we're talking about the mother.

    The fact that the phrase "get clean" was used twice in such close succession really jumped out at me. I'm not sure you need the telling about the bath and her adventure in the third paragraph, when she immediately tells her mother she went to bathe. Right now it feels like info-dumping, and I think world-building details could be dropped in a bit more elegantly.

    I'm interested in the world your characters live in, but I'm not convinced that I'm in for a well-crafted story.

  14. I'm not hooked, primarily because the second paragraph is awkward, in particular the second sentence. The use of "get clean" twice also really stands out.

    You have some nice descriptions here though, I have a nice mental picture of where she's at. Keep up with it. Good luck.

  15. Not hooked. There was a lot here that could be interesting - folks disappearing, ruins, hovercrafts, but you don't show us any of that. What you do show us is --

    Abigail walks in the house and says she did the laundry and took a bath.

    And it took 250 words to tell it.

    What does Abigail want and why can't she have it? Get that across in an interesting way and you'll have a great opening.

  16. This is not my genre, but under all the descriptions, wordiness, and tense problems, I think there's a good story there.

    One of the things that bothered me; it was much too passive to draw me in. She did, she had been, she hadn't, nothing wrong with some passive structure when the story calls for it, but nothing happened at all for me until her mother spoke.

    I want to be 'in' the story. Your third paragraph read very awkward *to me.* Had been, I'd been, had been, hadn't wanted, I'd had...

    Rather, something along the lines of:

    Taking the extra time to go through the ruins to bathe was a bad idea. I knew it. But I was sick of being dirty. [There were hovers in the sky] I didn't want to be caught in the ruins though-it being forbidden and all-so I hid in almost every doorway to avoid detection.

    Now, mind, this is me, but something along that line brings the reader along with the character, rather than leaving the reader behind. And I'd work in the 'hovers' line when she's talking to her mother.

    The other thing, you're inconsistent. She took extra time to go through the ruins and take a bath, and yet she thanks the gods in the next paragraph that she didn't take her time getting home. So which is it?

    Needs work, but the underlying story seems interesting. Not hooked. Yet.

  17. I'm not sure exactly what's not hooking me about this one, but I'm not hooked.

    I think the quality of the writing needs a bit of improvement, and I need a firmer grasp on the world of the novel.