Wednesday, November 4, 2009

7 Secret Agent

TITLE: Vision of Death
GENRE: YA Fantasy

“Not again!” exclaimed Amirilla, dashing into the kitchen. She had smelled the smoke upon entering the house. Swiftly the sixteen year old pulled the pan of cooking vegetables from the stove, the source of the billowing black clouds. Shutting off all the burners, Amirilla turned unhappily to face her thirteen year old apprentice. “Two years Prisca! I have less than two years to teach you how to cook. What happens when I’m not here anymore?”

The limited time scared her. How could Amirilla possibly ready Prisca to lead the Ration Givers group when she couldn’t even manage to make dinner?

Muttering a jumbled apology, Prisca lowered her head of dark curls towards the floor. Amirilla sighed, hating to pressure her young friend with threats. The threat of war, however, was real. With her seventeenth birthday approaching, Amirilla couldn’t afford to be lenient.

“We can’t keep wasting rations,” sighed Amirilla, her blue eyes fixed upon the burned vegetables. Even if her group was responsible for distributing the food to all the children in town, Ami knew that she could not take more than her designated amount of supplies.

“I said ‘sorry’,” muttered Prisca, hating to be a disappointment. Only thirteen years old, the youngest and newest member of the Ration Givers absent mindedly traced the scar of a carved letter “B” on the upper part of her right arm. The scar served as the only reminder of Prisca’s history with the rival Baroah gang.


  1. I like your writing, but I don’t like the characters. One kid is thirteen, and is standing in the kitchen staring at a bunch of burning food, and isn’t bright enough to turn off the stove or even call for help. Your 16-year-old character is thinking in terms of 2 years being a short time. At that age, I thought 2 years was about the same as a million, all the time in the world.

    So, we’ve got a protagonist who has two years to teach a mentally retarded kid how to boil vegetables. If there’s an emergency here, it needs to be much more immediate. Sorry, not hooked.

  2. I thought you had an interesting premise here. We've got rival gangs, food rationing, and an impending war. It could get very interesting.

    The above should be enough to keep me reading, but it doesn't. The writing doesn't deliver what your words are hinting at.

    Perhaps give us a sense of time or place here. Is this future Earth? A different world? Showing us your characters in action, rather than telling us what they did, could give them more life. And you haven't made me believe the situation you're trying to create. (I can see someone burning the veggies if they fell asleep or wandered off somewhere, but if you're standing right there?)

    It needs more work. Stick with it!

  3. The rations intrigued me, the mention of gangs and the threat of war, as well. However, I didn't feel particularly grabbed by the protagonist. You are telling us things are dire, but I'm not really feeling it.

  4. I would suggest taking out the ages of the characters. It is simply too much telling. We need to feel how old they are, not be told. Also take all all the explanations like "hating to disappoint" Show us this in her face, her demeanor or even conversation.

    Good luck,


  5. I like the idea of these kids fending for themselves. It sounds like it's a futuristic society where everything goes wrong. But I do have some questions. I don't understand why the cooking is so important. Also, I'm confused about a 13-year-old being the apprentice of a 16-year-old. It just seems like the 16-year-old would not have that much to show her.

  6. I like the premise here, but I'm totally not hooked by the execution, sorry.

    I don't think we really need everyone's age spelled out on the first page, and it's especially superfluous to tell us Amirilla is 16 in para 1 if you're already planning to tell us her 17th birthday is approaching in para 3. We also don't need so much physical description of the characters -- at least, I don't.

    Also, I don't buy that a 13-year-old saw a pan of food on the stove producing "billowing black clouds" -- that's some serious overcooking, there -- and just stood there watching. If she ran into the kitchen at the same time as the older girl, having put the pan on the stove and gone somewhere else and forgotten about it until she smelled the smoke, that I would buy; but standing right there the whole time? Sorry, no. (Also, two years? More than enough time to teach a person of normal intelligence how to cook, especially if they can read -- I don't know if that's the case here. It seems like there must be something we're missing -- like the cooking is not the whole story?) And if this kind of thing has happened before, and Amirilla knows it, why would she not supervise more closely? Something doesn't add up here.

    As I said, I think you have a good idea here -- rival gangs, kids surviving on their own, the threat of war -- but I think it needs more work before it's ready for prime time.

  7. I like the concept, and idea of the kids fending for themselves, and I can tell that there is probably much more to this, but it didn't grab me like it should. I probably would not read on much further.

  8. I like the premise, and the potential of where it might go to. Is it post appacoliptic, is it another world, I'd want to know those things and so would probably keep reading, but only for a bit.
    I thinking that if you have an entire manuscript there may be a better, stronger place to start? Something that will make teens want to follow these characters through whatever adventure awaits them.

  9. I really liked how you dropped little hints about your world and its potential conflict. But, like others I had trouble connecting with your characters. I have a thirteen year-old and can't imagine her standing by the stove watching something burn. That's not bad cooking, that's being brain dead. Maybe have her mess up something a little harder?

    Also, you slip out of close 3rd person POV when you mention Amirilla's age. She wouldn't be thinking of herself as a sixteen year-old.

    I'm curious about why Prisca will take over as Rations Giver. It makes me wonder where the adults are. And I liked that Amirilla wouldn't think of taking more than her share. I'd probably read more to learn about the world you've created.

    Good luck!

  10. Slightly hooked by the concept of the Ration Givers; I'd read a bit more.

    **hating to be a disappointment** --- This is a POV slip. Amirilla doesn't know what Prisca's thinking. Also, no need to restate that Prisca's 13 in the next sentence. You've already told us her age.

  11. I thought the idea of a sixteen year old forced into such a responsible role added to the intrigue. Makes me wonder what happened to all the adults.

    The POV switch, however, confused me and kept me from feeling connected to either character. Also, you gave Amirilla's reaction before the reader knows the action that caused it. Consequently, I didn't feel any anxiety or frustration along with her--just understood it cerebrally.

  12. I liked the premise but I think the writing can be improved.

    In the first paragraph, I was pulled out of the story twice where you tell us important information after the fact. Amirilla would have smelled the smoke before dashing into the kitchen, but you tell us afterwards. And she would have seen the billowing black clouds before pulling the pan from the stove, but you don't tell us afterwards, so we're left picturing the clouds belatedly. If you're trying to create a sense of urgency, I would tell it in the order it happens: eg. "Not again," exclaimed Amirilla as she smelled smoke. She dashed into the kitchen, which was filled with billowing black clouds. Amirilla pulled the pan... etc.

    Two years seems a really long time to teach someone to cook. I didn't read all the comments but I agree with Momwoman in wondering if there is a more immediate problem? I'd be worried first about the wasted rations and the consequences of that.

    Also, the story is told from Amirilla's POV, but we slip into Prisca's in the first sentence of the last paragraph.

    Having said all that, you manage to convey a lot of information in the first 250 words and we already have some idea of the word these girls inhabit.