Wednesday, September 9, 2009

17 Secret Agent

GENRE: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

I was a month past my expiry date to sanity. Barricaded inside my sky-blue wallpapered room, I desperately wanted to break out, but I couldn’t, not in my current state. Feathery flesh and cartilage wings jutted from my back. Until they were vanished, I needed to stay hidden.

I cloistered with the remnants of my month’s food stores: stale noodle cakes and hard raisins. I drank water from my bathroom tap. My bed weighted against the door.

I had to keep everyone out. I had to keep me in, because only one other person knew about the wings: my best friend and neighbour, Christopher Zhang.

But right now, Chris was out of reach. While his plane from Hong Kong supposedly landed at six o’clock this morning, I held little hope of him coming by soon. Knowing the fussiness of Australian Quarantine restrictions, he was likely stuck in Customs.

Eight o’clock. The minutes crawled by on my analogue clock. I listened to the radio and hummed along to peppy pop songs. I chewed splinters of funny tasting noodles and crunched on raisins. I drew patterns on the dusty walls and flitted by the curtains, longing to peek out the window.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a knock sounded against my door.

Stunned, I froze mid-step, my heart thudding palpitations of panic. I turned to the door, but in my haste, I crashed to my knees in the process. My wings bobbed painfully. Gravity wasn’t kind, especially when the weight of wings felt so foreign on my back.


  1. I'm intrigued by the concept of what is going on with this person (though I would like knowing who he/she is). But, some of the word choices are throwing me for a loop. They don't seem to flow or work in the context used. Also, it reads a but choppy to me. I think this needs a bit of smoothing and a few word substitutions. But, the idea has definitely piqued my interest.

  2. I like the concept, it could go any number of places. The analogue clock is a nice touch. I would read more of this.

  3. Hooked. I want to know how he/she got the wings.

  4. I'm not sure about the spelling and grammar here... some of it is the UK/US difference, I'll bet. The effect though is it made this read a little strange and choppy for me.

  5. I like the potential of the story, but I don't like how it's written. It's not pulling me along, and it doesn't feel like a legitimately young voice. There are strange word choices and sentences where you say the same thing twice in a row: 'heart thudding palpitations of panic.' Palpitations are essentially panicked heartbeats. Or "a knock sounded..." A knock IS a sound.

    Not hooked. Sorry.

  6. This isn't my genre, so maybe this is obvious to everyone else...

    I was a little confused by the first paragraph, where a return to sanity, a wall-papered room, and unusual body parts were mentioned. I wasn't sure if the main character was in a mental hospital, a self-imposed exile in their bedroom, or somewhere else.

    Really like the voice, though.

  7. Not hooked. The first sentence says she should have been sane a month ago, but she's still not, which wouldn't matter if she was really insane, but she's not. She's just grown wings.

    I wondered if she (I imagined it was a she) was in her own apartment, in a bedroom at a family home with parents or siblings. And if so, what did they think of her hiding out in her room.

    While I liked the idea, the writing didn't grab me and I don't have a hint of where it might lead me. For me, it's not enough that she has wings. I want to know what problems these wings are causing for her, besides the fact that she can't let people know she has them.

  8. I wasn't hooked.

    Why was she so shocked to hear a knock, if she was expecting her friend Chris?

  9. I really like the writing style here, very immediate. But the plot didn't draw me in, although I was intrigued as to what kind of being Chris is, that he'd be quarrentined in customs. I'd probably read a little more just to find that out

  10. The first sentence is a little confusing, but I think it means he/she should've been insane a month ago due to the circumstances; however, he/she is still holding onto sanity?

    That's just what I think anyway.

    The idea interests me, but this sounds more like a first draft. I think it needs a bit of tightening.

    I also understand why he/she would've jumped when there was a knock on the door. After being alone for so long, I think anyone would become jumpy, especially if he/she doesn't want anyone but Chris coming in.

    One more thing that caught my attention straight away; raisons aren't crunchy. I'd probably use a different word there.

    It hooks me about 5/10. Interesting, but could be tightened.

  11. The author here. Thank you for all the criticisms. I didn't realise my Australianisms were coming through so strongly! Nevertheless, a little FYI about Australian quarantine as clarification. Australian quarantine restrictions are among the strictest in the world. You can't bring certain food or plant items into Australia, and the Customs check is ridiculously vigorous. All bags are Xrayed, and any offending items are confiscated. They even have a high rating TV show about it over here, called 'Border Security'.

    I do clarify this point a page later, but I guess it is a page too late. :)

  12. I'm neither hooked nor put off by this. I would read a bit further to find out how she came about these wings. :)

  13. I'm pretty hooked here. I think that the whole wings thing is cool, and I want to find out more. I would definitely keep reading. Good Luck! = )

  14. Hooked!

    I didn't see any Aussieisms that made it hard to read - did wonder about My bed weighted against the door, which seems to be missing a verb or something.

    I love expiry date to sanity - I suppose we would say expiration.

    And I'd lose the out of nowhere - cliche!

    But, oh, yeah, I want to keep reading! Good job.

  15. Not hooked.

    I like the idea of her pacing the room, the wings and the trapped feeling. But I wasn't 100% convinced the story was YA. I got this feeling because the main character is in this room by herself, but there is no mention of adults who might be around and why they aren't breaking the door down. Or a mention of the absence of adults. The music was the only detail that said teen to me.

  16. Not sure about the title, and there were some awkwardly phrased sentences throughout, but certainly the concept and character hold promise. I would need more than 250 words to know if I would read the whole book.

  17. As a fellow Australian, I would firstly like to say that I understand the pain of Quarantine and Customs.

    However, your writing felt choppy to me as well. The first line, while an interesting concept, sounded clunky to me. Phrases like "Until they were vanished." threw me off, because you could have just said "Until they vanished" and had a much stronger sentence.

    Also, the entire scenario doesn't seem believable to me. Girl (I'm imagining your character as a girl) stays hidden in room for over a month, eating stale noodle cakes and doing...nothing. Not even coming out for water. She doesn't have to lie to her family to keep this up, feign sickness or anything else (as of yet). AND, she's not really DOING anything. (If I were stuck in my room for a month there would be huge, drawings on the walls in bright pink pastel. Not kidding. What does your MC do to pass the time, because she's bound to get bored.)

    Other little nits of mine, "bed weighted against the door" -- feels odd to me and could probably be rephrased. "My wings bobbed painfully" -- This doesn't actually tell me anything, why not describe the pain your MC feels, in which part of their body it hurts et cetera (this is, essentially, me saying show don't tell. I know, I'm just repeating old and overused advice, but it's good advice.)

    "Weight of my wings felt so foreign on my back" -- If she's had them for a month, then why are they so foreign?? Also, parts of this felt overwritten, "heart thudding palpitations of panic" is one example.

    In the end, you have an interesting concept, but it's by no means unique enough that your writing doesn't have to be stellar (I'm getting very strongly reminded of Aprilynne Pike's Wings, here).

    I think you need to show us more of your character (why is she unique?), more of what's at stake here (what happens if Chris takes ages to get back? What happens when her family comes hammering on her door? Create tension to hook your reader), and tighter use of language.

    Good luck!

  18. I liked the concept of wings, and her lines about sanity. I'd read on because of the concept, but not so much because of the writing. I'm not hooked, but I'm intrigued.

  19. I liked the concept, and I had to laugh at the Australian quarantine line... it's so true. But there's a lot of telling in the first few paragraphs and they raise questions like "Where are they that they can stay in their room for a month?" Rather than hooking me, these questions made me feel distant from the story. I'd cut these first few paragraphs and start the story with "Eight o'clock."

  20. I like the potential, but why mention noodles and raisins twice already in 250 words? Tighten that up.

    A little bit to melodramatic. I'd cut some of that alliteration out.

    The gritty, bare bones descriptions that you started out with, really hooked me. I'd cut the second and third paragraphs completely.

    Suddenly, out of nowhere, a knock sounded against my door. - Cut this, too much alliteration. There was a knock at the door.

    Go next to, I froze mid-step. I think that is enough to show the shock, heart thudding etc.

  21. I'm intrigued. I'd keep reading.