Wednesday, September 9, 2009

26 Secret Agent

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

There was a boy in the lake.

I wasn’t sure whether he was real or not, since I have a tendency to see things that aren’t really there.

At first, I thought he was my brother, but then I realised he was way too big to be a ten-year-old boy, and even in my mind my brother will never get any older.

That’s scary, isn’t it? To realise you’ve lived a whole eight years longer than your older brother ever could.

Besides, the nightmares ended years ago. This was a real, flesh-and-blood boy drowning in the lake. No illusions. No hallucinations.

It wasn’t like he was fighting against it, either. He was just sinking, down, down into the inky water.

As if he’d decided to die tonight.

I kicked off my shoes and I waded into the water, my jeans dragging me down, my legs numbing quickly. I reached the boy and dragged him above the water, cradling his head. He looked so peaceful, like he was sleeping, his dark hair splayed out in the water, eyes gently closed.

I considered letting him go, letting him disappear into the murky depths, but I couldn’t. I carried him back to the shore, and in those seconds I felt as if I were making up for what I didn’t do for my brother. I couldn’t let this boy die as well.

And then I resuscitated a boy who was going to die anyway, but who still changed everything.


  1. I like the idea here, but it seems like she's not as 'concerned' as I would think someone to be in this situation. How is she feeling? You've got a lot of her thoughts here which is great, but I'm not feeling her panic, or fear. I think this could be really great with her feelings added. Also, I think you should expand on the last line. Why not show her resuscitating him instead of telling us? I am intrigued and would read on.

  2. You've got a great grasp on writing, but I'm not completely hooked. And the last line was a bit confusing.

    I'd still read on because I would want to know why he was drowning.

  3. I like your voice and the premise. However, it needs more emotion and more urgency, especially when she went in the water to save him. Waded seems like she took her sweet time. How about splashed?

    Also, how can she see him sinking in the inky water? The last sentence didn't make sense to me either. But I would read more.

  4. I'm intrigued. Not completely hooked, but intrigued enough to find out more. I like the oepning line. a boy in a lake. I went, like, ten different directions with that....and I think I'd enjoy finding out where you take it.

    Yes, I did get a bit confused by that last line, but not enough to make me "shut the book"


  5. I love it. I love the voice, love the scene, love the semi-Gothic nature of it.

    It's a little offputting, however, to stop and do mental math - no matter how mild - in the third and fourth paragraphs (let's see, her brother died at 10; she lived eight more years, so she must be 18) - and it slows down the flow. I'd consider dropping or simplifying the entire fourth graf.

    But beautiful writing - and intriguing as well. Oh, yes, I'd read on.

  6. It's amazing, isn't it, how even really good writing can be tightened and tightened until it gets better? I think you write well -- and that you have an interesting premise.

    I think if anything you need to make this more urgent. I'd take out the paragraph about seeing things that aren't there (if that matters, you can stick it back in later) and go right to his/her (I was reading it as a boy talking, not sure why) own brother. That seems more powerful.

    But I do think I'd read on, at least a bit, to know what was going on. There are already two mysteries and we're not even a page into your book. Cool!

  7. I liked this, I liked the simplicity of the first sentence and I was definitely hooked.

    But - if he was drowning I doubt she'd have time to think all this through. And I don't like the bit about 'who was going to die anyway'. I'm just getting interested in this boy and I don't want to know that he's going to die. Unless it's meant in a 'we're all going to die' way, in which case lose it.

  8. I liked it, and I'd read. It's an intriguing opening. The voice is present, but distant at the same time, detached. I think it's eerie in a good way.

  9. I'm conflicted...

    I like the calmness and simplicity of this snippet - in so many words, you've managed to tell us her brother had drowned, but she still sees him. That's the reason why she thinks the boy in the lake is her brother.

    My only problem is I'm trying to figure out why she thinks the boy is drowning if he was not struggling? Why didn't she think he was merely swimming and doing a float? Unless he was floating face down and showing no signs of raising his head to breathe when necessary. Then why didn't she assume he was already dead?

    If he was just sinking down in the water, instead of floating, then how could she see him from the shore? Especially if it was a murky lake.

  10. I agree with all comments. It is well written, and also really really interesting. I think the point that there are too many thoughts happening while the boy is drowning nails the problem for me. All the best with it!

  11. I would keep reading, but feel the girl needs to show more emotion. Also, too many "I know more than you do" lines in the first few paragraphs. I'm unclear why she considers letting the boy go ahead and drown. -hart

  12. You managed to give me the creeps! Well written, but I would do some showing and less telling.

  13. I liked this. Hooked.

    I want to know what happens between herself and this mysterious boy.

  14. Great voice! I loved it right away. I do agree with the other posts in that I would expect her to have a bit more urgency, but maybe this is a dream? Either way, I am hooked and would definitely read on!

  15. Any anxiety or turmoil that the character felt, was resolved by rescuing the boy. There doesn't seem to be any unanswered question at the end.

    The second line was a good hook, but you lost it after that.

  16. I really liked this, but I, too, had a problem with her nonchalance. She sees the boy, she knows he's drowning, she watches him a bit, then she wades out to get him.

    There's no urgency. There's no, OMG! I have to get him out of there!

    My first instinct is to say you need that urgency, but the writing says you know what you're doing, and maybe there's a reason for her unconcerned, unemotional reaction.

    Either way, I'd read on. Hooked.

  17. I agree with the other comments. This is very nice writing that pulls you along despite its lack of urgency. I have several questions about the last sentence, but I have a feeling we'll find out soon where it's going.

  18. Steph, I love this. I agree with Sara.

    By the way, the last line is a bit confusing, but the next chapter jumps right in to explain it, so ... it's a gamble.

  19. I liked it a lot. I also think there needs to be a bit more urgency from her, I thought it quite odd that she was considering letting him go back into the water at one point.

    But I liked it and am interested to see what's going on here. That last sentence seemed a bit odd, a little like you were trying to fit something in there just to hook us but that might not really be in the story. But I liked it anyway :)

  20. I loved the last line, it nearly made up for some of the writing that wasn't as worthy as the plot seems to be. Watch the repeated words within a paragraph, like "dragged" and "dragging." Great visualizations here, but the writing isn't tight enough to make them work for me, IMHO.

  21. I liked it - it's spooky and atmospheric.

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  23. I feel like this is being rushed just so that you can get to the resuscitation in the first 250 words for this contest. I disagree with the people commenting who say that you need to see conflict conflict CONFLICT in the first page of a novel. You don't.

    I would rather you draw out the first three paragraphs using inner dialogue to give your readers a stronger sense of who the MC is and what they are like, and make these 250 words an entire chapter.

    Other than that, I really like the idea that you have there. If this was the concept of the entire first chapter, I would definitely continue reading.

  24. One question: why would he go in after the kid, grab a hold of him, just to consider letting him drown up close?

    I feel the MC should be experiencing more panic, even if the child in the water is peacefully drowning. I am slightly curious to how saving this boy will change everything, but I still find myself on the fence because the MCs reactions are a little off for me. He seems rather nonchalant about the experience.

  25. I like the idea here and I'm mostly hooked. Just a few things that bugged me -

    - When she slipped into second person (That's scary, isn't it), it threw me.

    - Also, she doesn't seem overly concerned with the fact that she's watching someone drown.

    I'd probably read a few more pages, at least, to see if it went anywhere.

  26. I'd want to read on, for sure. My impression of the MC is that she's rather emotionally distant, frozen. As well as fatalistic, and I want to know more.

  27. Like everyone else, I'm not sure if this is a he or she narrating, which isn't a huge problem if it becomes clear in word 251.

    I definitely find this intriguing, but off the bat, I don't like the MC. She/he let her/his brother die and is considering letting another child die? Not a nice MC!

  28. I liked the dark, matter-of-fact writing. I'm not sure if the MC is creepy or emotionally sterilized by the past, but I definately want to read more to find out.

    I'd bet the last sentence doesn't need to be there. It tells too much.

    Little nit: delete one of the DRAGs from the 8th paragraph.

  29. I really like this, although I did feel that the second half was sort of skimmed through, as if summarised in order to get to the hook on page 1. I'd keep reading though

  30. I'd definitely read more.

  31. I loved the last line and would keep reading.

  32. I suspect the lack of urgency was deliberate.

    I enjoyed this snippet and would read on.