Wednesday, November 4, 2009

12 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA urban fantasy

It followed her.

A soundless, invisible something.

She wasn't imagining it -- of that she was almost certain.

Like a glare across a crowded room, the silent something made itself known with an itching, burning pressure on the back of Eden's neck. She picked up her pace, refused to look over her shoulder for the tenth time, and fumbled in her pockets for her phone. Her heart sank when she remembered she'd hidden it at the bottom of her bag at lunchtime, after Janice warned her Mr Collins was on the prowl.

A ghost of disturbed air brushed the bare skin of her forearm, tearing a gasp from her chest the instant before a flash of black crossed her path. She stopped, caught on the corner of Broomfield Close, frozen in uncertainty and in full view of the entire neighbourhood. The black something vanished when she tried to get a proper look at it -- nothing but a shimmering wisp in the corner of her eye.

She peered through the weak rays of early-Autumn sunshine, heartbeat loud in her ears, found nothing in the deserted street but Mrs Haversham's cat slinking beneath a parked taxi. The sweet scent of baked goods hitched a ride on the breeze from the newly-occupied number 8, and somewhere in the distance a dog barked. The black thing was nowhere to be seen, the stillness of the street seizing Eden's breath in her throat.


  1. She’s in a room, then she’s out on the street. I don’t know what “Broomfield Close” is. Maybe a park? Autumn sunshine makes me think rural, but the taxi makes me think urban, especially if it’s parked, which is odd for a taxi. Why is the street deserted? Is it important that number 8 has a new resident? How does she know exactly where the smell is coming from?
    Too much description and the wrong word choices. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
    Not hooked.

  2. I like this. There are some really nice images to set the scene. I'm assuming "Close" is part of the name of the street/neighborhood, so somewhere in Scotland, maybe? Or England.

    I think the reference to a glare across a crowded room, while not actually placing your character inside, could cause confusion, as it did for Momwoman, making your reader think it starts inside. Maybe if you say "across a crowded marketplace" or something else outside, it would remove that possibility.

    "... scent of baked goods hitched a ride on the breeze ..." Very nice.

    I'm not generally an urban fantasy reader, but this caught my eye and I think I'd keep reading.

  3. I want to like this, and I think I do. But the first three paragraphs probably aren't the best way to start. It's not the words themselves but their format: Why do they have to be three separate paragraphs? Single lines like these only stand out when they're, well, single; the repetition is killing the effect.

    It's a bit overwritten (e.g., "A ghost of disturbed air brushed the bare skin of her forearm, tearing a gasp from her chest the instant before a flash of black crossed her path"), but the imagery is nice. I also liked how she buried her cell phone when "Mr Collins was on the prowl":)

    Moderately hooked.

  4. I like this. The opening lines are really good. I gather the setting is in the UK based on the spelling of certain words and the reference to a close.

    I didn't understand the bit about Mr. Collins being on the prowl. I immediately think of a teacher--since this is YA. "On the prowl" makes me think of someone trying to find a mate. The combination is disconcerting.

    I liked the line about the scent of baked goods....I want a cookie!

    I'm hooked and would read on.

    Good luck!

  5. I read lots of YA and have rarely seen any start out with so much description. In fact, most novels hint at the overall conflict in the very first sentence, and if yours does, well, I'm not sure I care about the conflict.

    I want to like this, so give me a reason to care.

  6. I thought this had potential but wasn't quite there yet.

    I liked the first three sentences being separate pargs. I thought it helped create mood.

    I don't get how a glare across a crowded room is like an itching burning pressure on the back of the neck. The analogy doesn't work for me.

    It was a bit too wordy and overdone, I thought. 'Tearing a gasp from her chest' might work better as simply - she gasped. 'She peered through the weak rays etc' That's not what she's doing. If it was, she'd be looking up at the rays coming down. What she is doing is looking down the street. If the scent of baked goods is riding a breeze, how can she pinpoint where it's coming from? The last sentence doesn't make sense.

    You might consider cutting down on the description and concentrate more on the terror she's feeling. The switching from emotion to description lessens the tension.

    It might also help if you got into her head. What is she thinking? What dos she think this black thing is? How does it relate to her everyday life? I don't know anything about your MC so it's hard to care about her.

  7. This feels a little dense to me...all mood, not a lot to grab on to. I don't NOT like the imagery but I found myself zoning out a little in a hurry-up-and-get-to-the-substance kind of way.

  8. Like others, I think the crowded room sentence can be a bit misleading, although I understood it. I love the imagery and your wording "baked goods hitched a ride on the breeze", that kind of cracked me up.

    I would definitely read more, though I'm a paranormal freak. ;-) Good luck!

  9. I was wondering how she could be in full view of a deserted street. After reading another submission where a girl felt someone was watching her, this didn't really stand out. I'm starting to understand how agents feel after going through the slush.

  10. I like this. Creepy and tense. The one problem I had was this sentence:

    A ghost of disturbed air brushed the bare skin of her forearm, tearing a gasp from her chest the instant before a flash of black crossed her path.

    Needs to be tweaked.

  11. I think this has a lot going for it, and overall that creepy feeling that someone is watching you in an apparently deserted street comes through well. I would read on (although I had issues with the last sentence, which (a) doesn't make sense -- are we talking about the black thing or about the stillness of the street? -- and (b) incorporates one of my syntactical pet peeves, the two unrelated or tangentially related things jury-rigged together with a present participle), because I do want to know what the black thing is (and, frankly, why the street is deserted and still on what appears to be a nice September afternoon).

    However, I also think the whole thing would benefit from a bit of simplification. Sometimes one gets tied in knots trying to avoid the cliché or the too-usual sentence structure, and I felt this about a couple of places in your excerpt: for instance, "A ghost of disturbed air ..." is good, very evocative, but then "tearing a gasp from her chest" is one too many metaphors for the sentence and it kind of topples over from the weight.

    And I also wonder how she knows where the smell of "baked goods" is coming from (and what kind of baked goods? Cookies and bread and cake and apple strudel and sticky buns all smell very different from one another...). Probably we could wait until page 2 to learn that No. 8 is newly occupied :)