Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #29

TITLE: Superstition Summer

Something red slithered beneath a tumbleweed. Dylan froze. A snake, two feet long, with a black head and red-and-yellow-banded body rustled the brittle bush. He lifted his camera, focused, and captured the creature before it disappeared.

His first Arizona picture and a whole summer to explore--gila monsters, tarantulas, sidewinders, and whatever else he found. Dylan left his camera bag and tripod under a cottonwood tree near the corral and slid down the bank into a dry streambed.

Wait. Scan. Focus. Shoot.

He wandered on, fascinated by the desertscape so alien from the trees and lakes of home. Afternoon heat rose from the ground and fell from the sky to cook everything in between, but Dylan hardly noticed how his bare arms or back of his neck baked.

In the middle of shooting a red-tailed hawk diving for a meal, his battery died. No! He'd left the extra one in his camera bag. Time to head back anyway. He shaded his eyes. Where was the winding streambed to his uncle's ranch? Or the corral and stable near the cottonwood?

Although the land was flat he couldn't see clearly through the sweltering air. The desert horizon warped in shimmering heat waves. He'd also left his water bottle behind. Always have water with you his aunt had warned. Sweat stung his eyes and the sun seared through his T-shirt. How long had he wandered? An hour? Two?

No problem, he'd use the GPS on his smartphone.

Big problem. No signal.


  1. I'd definitely keep reading. I like that he's out taking pictures and the danger implied by him being lost in the desert is a good hook.


  2. Good job!

    I'm not sure why Dylan froze in the second sentence. Was he scared? Also, you might want to add "captured the creature ON FILM before it disappeared."

    In the 6th paragraph, the first and second sentence say the same thing. You can combine them: "He couldn't see through the shimmering heat waves that appeared to warp the flat desert horizon."

    Poor Dylan. I hope he finds his way home soon! I am interested in finding out what happens to him.

  3. I like this, but I think there are a few things you could do to make Dylan's characterization stronger.

    From the details in the first paragraph, I assume Dylan isn't your average scare-at-the-sight-of-wildlife sort of kid. You could drive that home by adding a word like "Relaxing" at the start of the last sentence (i.e., "Relaxing, he lifted his camera, focused, and captured the creature before it disappeared").

    Hmm. I guess that's just one thing. In any case, good luck with this.

  4. I'm not exactly hooked. I feel kind of distanced from the action here. I don't know much about the character except he likes taking pictures and he's in a new place. So we're watching someone watching things... there's no tension.

    Nice feel for the place, but...I'd prefer more action, or more interaction with someone or something.

  5. Agree that last sentence in first paragraph should read captured ON FILM.

    I'm torn, which I guess means I'm not totally hooked. Good imagery. Like that he's lost and he's in a tough situation--no GPS or water. But,I don't really feel that concerned about him and I'm not sure why. In theory, he's the type of person I'd like to hang out with. Maybe more about him and less scenery?

    I'd give it a few more pages to see where it was going.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Oops. Now he's lost and unequipped for a desert outing. Good job getting me interested.

  7. You've created a sense of place which is important, and a problem -but I too want to know more about him so when I realize (as a reader) the danger that he is in, I am REALLY scared for him. I think you can do this by making the scene more active in general and bringing him out from behind the lens of the camera! Tuck in details about him like you do with the scenery. Good luck!

  8. I would definitely keep reading! Exciting, nice bit of adventure! (Though I wonder if this kid is a bit of an idiot, or what).