Wednesday, September 9, 2009

28 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Illuminated
GENRE: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

I had never been pulled out of my seat in awe before. I would have guessed that my first time would be from something remarkable, catastrophic—apocalyptic even. A meteor or a tornado.

I was wrong.

The autumn colors sparkled. I rose out of the dining room chair where I had been studying, captivated by the oranges and reds of the forest behind my Maine home. I tripped over my seat trying to get to my shoes next to the kitchen door, leaving my homework strewn across the table.

The narrow trailhead was at the end of our property. The pine and ash were enormous, their branches blocking out most of the afternoon sun. Wind caught in the short locks of my hair and sent shivers down my spine. The pungent scents of fall seemed sweeter than usual. I was charmed, to say the least.

I had been this far back in these woods maybe once before. Mom and Dad were always against my brother and I exploring here when we were little; it wasn’t our property. Okay, so trespassing was illegal, but it wasn’t a deadly sin. No one would know I was ever here.

Within a mile I came to a brook accompanied by a small, handsome bridge. I had never in my life crossed it, but today was different. I carefully stepped onto the moist wood, checking my phone for messages. Mom would call if she was worried.


  1. My problem is while I appreciate the descriptions here - and I'm a avid hiker - it just seems like a LOT right up front. Not saying you should rip them out, but maybe be aware you need to build more urgency.

    Then when she started crossing the bridge, I sort of expected her attention to be on whatever was drawing her across - not checking her cell.

  2. I agree with Catherine here. The descriptions are well done but a bit of a let down after an opening sentence that promises more!

  3. What an incredible first paragraph, then to be led to put it down or move on. Sorry, maybe need to read more. How can something so powerful pull you out of your seat, then not explain it? Was it just the oranges and reds? What drew him/her to continue, doing something they have never done before? Hopefully the big build up leads to a better next chapter.

  4. Too much on the weather, and the surroundings. Where is the tension? What makes me want to keep reading?

    Not hooked yet. Maybe the agent will feel differently!


  5. Nice images, but I would rewrite the part where the character leaves his/her homework and is drawn out of the house by the beauty of the woods.

  6. I wanted more action, too.

  7. Not hooked. I wanted to know what drew her out of her seat and made her go where she had never gone before. What was it about the leaves and the weather and the outdoors that drew her? What was she feeling as she was pulled along? And as she gets to the bridge, I had this feeling that everything was going to change once she crossed it, and then she . . . checked her cell phone.

    The magic seems to be in this beautiful autumn day and whatever is just beyond the bridge. Rather than concentrating on description, perhaps make me feel the magic or whatever it is that is compelling her.

  8. Your description is very compelling, full of imagery and sensory details.

    I do think that instead of having your MC check phone messages, having the action occur immediately would have better impact. Checking the cell phone loses all of the momentum built by the previous paragraphs and loses any tension that might have gathered.

    Also, the MC was inside the house to begin with - did the colors call to her from through a window?

    I wasn't quite hooked, but probably would read on another page or two to give it a chance.

  9. Beautiful descriptions, but I echo the comments above. It was a bit of a let down on what drew her up and out.

  10. Not quite hooked. The imagery is very good, but pulling out the cell phone to check for messages seems to break the spell.

    But I'd probably keep reading to see what was drawing her.

  11. I loved the intro and this hooked me more than any thus far.

    my only halting points were when MC was suddenly way down the trail, and the last time I had pictured him/her he/she was putting on shoes in the house.

    the only other part that stopped me was "I was charmed, to say the least" it breaks the mood and doesn't add anything we don't already know, just drop the sentence.

    great. I must say again the intro was fantastic about what pulled him out of the chair. great mood.

  12. Good images, no tension. And it jumps from tripping over his seat, to never having been this far back in these woods did we get there?

    Just no hook for me. Maybe, if something was calling him?

  13. If the character (is it a boy or a girl?) has lived there all their life, how come the Fall colors suddenly are enough to drag them out of their seat and outside? Surely after all these years they can't be that surprising. Plus, they don't just appear out of thin air, they'd have been there for days.

    I also don't understand how the character never entered the forest before, even if it was forbidden. Wouldn't have stopped me as a kid unless there were some scary monster stories attached to the warning, and even then...

    It just seems to me that if you were enchanted enough to suddenly disregard a lifetimes worth of staying out of the forest, there would need to be some big reason for it, bigger than fall colors you'd have seen a thousand times before. And the character wanders into it so calmly that it makes you wonder why they didn't go in before if it doesn't seem to bother them now.

    I like the descriptions a lot but the rest just doesn't ring true to me.

  14. The writing doesn't flow. Good information, nice phrases, but it reads in clumps. The opening paragraph is great, but then the writer brings me down too far with a lot of information drawn out---just when she'd set up me for a nice bit of tension. It is a set up without an immediate pay off.

  15. Nicely done but sounds a bit like a fall foilage travelogue. You may want to heighten the danger of going into the woods so as to have more ofa conflct.

  16. Pulling out the cell phone seems fine. This is what a kid/young person would really do. Heck, I walk my dog through the most gorgeous fields on earth and pull my rotten old cell phone out every day.

    The piece is just too wordy for me.

    If this was mine, I would cut the beginning and start it here:

    "The narrow trailhead was at the end of our property. The pine and ash were enormous, their branches blocking out most of the afternoon sun. I had been this far back in these woods maybe once before. Mom and Dad were always against my brother and I exploring here when we were little; it wasn’t our property. Okay, so trespassing was illegal, but it wasn’t a deadly sin. No one would know I was ever here..."

    This way, you're in the woods, and you're a kid, and exploring where your Mom and Dad said not to go, and as a reader I can buy it.

  17. Ditto on what catspit said. Wasn't sure how he/she leapt from the house to way back in the woods.

    The descriptions were beautiful, but it was a bit of a letdown not to learn what was baited in the first paragraph. Not even the tiniest hint...a voice, a shadow, etc. You've teased us, but by the time we get to the end of the page, you still haven't rewarded us for moving forward.

  18. Hi, Author Here.

    Thank you for everyone's wonderful comments. In a way I am kind of glad that everyone is wondering WHY THE HECK my MC ( a girl, by the way) is thrown out of her chair by something as simple as the woods outside of her home that she's gazed upon a million and a half times. I'll let you know that it is completely intentional, a major plot point, and will be explained later, however if it is too irritating, distracting, or too many people don't want to continue reading because of it, I will elaborate slightly in the first page, but too much would destroy the mystery.

    Again, thank you for all of the constructive criticism. I really appreciate it.

  19. The beginning was intriguing and then it kind of fell flat for me. Even though you warned that the MC wasn't pulled by something remarkable, I still wanted it to be something more than the autumn colors.

    If there is something across the bridge that will get the excitement back, maybe you should cut the getting there and just get there. =)

  20. Hi Sara,
    I don't need an explanation of what draws her to the woods. (Funny, I thought it was a guy, I suppose because I'm a guy).

    I just the tiniest hint of a tingly feeling etc...

  21. Could be hooked. The writing is nice, and I LOVE the title, but the idea of a teenager being "pulled out of [her] seat in awe" of some nice scenery is a bit unbelievable. I'm a borderline nerd, and even I find that too nerdy:)

  22. I don't understand pulled out of my seat in awe - literally. Meaning she stands up because she's awestruck? Confusing.

    Wait, she gets up because she likes the autumn colors? Yah, losing me.

    Handsome bridge?

    And why is she crossing it today, for the first time?

    Interesting and good descriptions, but I think readers need more in the first 250 words - at least a sense of what's going to happen. Need to have more of a hint of what it is that compels her out of her chair, deep into the woods and across that bridge.

  23. The story line intrigued me here, why was she being drawn by something so very everyday... but the voice didn't didn't do much to keep me hooked. Not sure why, but it just didn't have the feel of YA and that put me off.

  24. I think Shadowfeet said everything I thought about this piece. I think you might need to elaborate as you said, because at the moment it just seems strange.