Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#20 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Infected
GENRE: YA Literary Fantasy

I walked slowly, trying to be quiet but my footsteps echoed out. The hallway was dark so I relied completely on the flickering beam from my dying flashlight, which left plenty of shadows for monsters to hide in.

I hated it when we split up like this, but we needed to search the hospital quickly and we all knew this would be the fastest way.

There was an unfamiliar bend in the hallway and I froze when I heard scratching from around the corner.

Davis would have ordered me to turn off my light, but I couldn't. The sound came closer and an empty can rolled into view.

My hand was shaking as I pulled out my knife. I wasn't going to fight, but it was better to be ready. I froze when I saw two little beady eyes come into view.

The rat scurried over to the can and continued to chew on whatever was inside.

I let out the breath I had been holding and allowed myself to lean against the wall. At one point in my life, I had been terrified of rodents. But now, they were the least of my worries.

"You scared me..." I whispered when I saw the pale hand reach out to him. Before he could even react, the deformed fingers wrapped themselves around him and pulled him back into the darkness. He screeched before I heard the sickening sound of bones crunching.

No longer caring how loud I was, I fled back down the hall.


  1. Literary Fantasy? Is that a real genre? Just wondering.

    Also, thanks for creeping me out! *Turns lights on and checks under bed*

  2. I didn't mean to be Anon! Sorry!

  3. OOh, I like this! This starts strong, and the tension is AWESOME--I'd so keep reading. I've got nothing to nit-pick at all.

  4. Yes, I loved this, but I always have a nit to pick:

    This para is really important, but doesn't work for me:

    You scared me..." I whispered when I saw the pale hand reach out to him. Before he could even react, the deformed fingers wrapped themselves around him and pulled him back into the darkness. He screeched before I heard the sickening sound of bones crunching.

    You need to split the first sentence. "when" doesn't make sense there.

    Also, how do you know the sex of the rat? You should call it "it" or "the rat".

    Like I said, I always have a nit.

  5. Literary fantasy... interesting!

    This is a great start, nice and creepy. My only crit is that the writing could be tighter. For example: 'echoed out' - just 'echoed,' you don't need 'out.' Also, 'so I relied completely' - get rid of the adverb b/c it doesn't do anything and the sentence is stronger without it.

  6. I love it! Leaves me wanting more....

  7. Wow, excellent beginning. My curiousity is peaked, I would love to keep reading. Good job

  8. Yikes! I'm terrified!

    I love that the rats is the least of her worries. That puts everything in context.

    I would also cut the "out" in the first sentence and see if you can tighten that first paragraph a little more.

    One other tiny nitpick: She is walking slowly, but they are trying to search the hospital quickly. Maybe in the first paragraph just focus on her effort to walk quietly.

    But, I'd definitely keep reading (assuming I wasn't home alone at night!)

  9. Love things that go bump in the night...or dark...or the hospital, whichever. *grins* However, I'm not sure why you call this Literary Fantasy. I'm going to get real nitpicky now (because I like this a lot!) and say that Literary usually relies on strong language, and yours could use some pruning. Better language would also up the tension in here, and this should be a tense thing, so that would work for you. My best advice to you: think five senses here. Examples:

    I walked slowly, trying to be quiet but my footsteps echoed out could be improved. First, she's searching quickly, so walking slowly is bad. Second, does she shuffle, pad down the hall, tip toe? All better verbs than "walked slowly." And what sounds do the footsteps make. An example of how to push this further (and I'm sure you can do even better than me): I tip toed down the hall, trying to be quiet, but the hard soles of my shoes clacked against the tile. [Adds in setting, description, eliminates adverbs]

    The next sentence could be more show than tell: The hallway was dark, illuminated only by flickers of yellow from my dying flashlight.

    Also, I'd put "which left plenty of shadows for monsters to hide in" on it's own. Gives it more impact.

    Not sure why it's an unfamiliar bend, unless he/she knows the hospital by heart...and hospitals don't change if that's the case.

    Sounds don't "come closer," they get louder. There is a difference.

    These are just some little nitpicks. Strengthen the language and you'll strengthen the mood and that might mean the change from mid-list to page turner. I would read on, though. Good job.

  10. I agree with the comments above. The last paragraph threw me off. But the story sounds interesting, and I'd want to read more.

  11. I like the build-up and tension that you've set in the first few sentences. There's a cool, cautious-creepy mood to this.

    A couple of observations--

    For me, the tension seemed bogged down by too much telling. For example:

    "You scared me..." I whispered when I saw the pale hand reach out to him. Before he could even react, the deformed fingers wrapped themselves around him and pulled him back into the darkness. He screeched before I heard the sickening sound of bones crunching."

    This sounded like the MC started to speak after s/he saw the hand.
    I was looking for a fellow human character, too, with the use of 'him' instead of referring to the rat as 'it.'
    To give this scene more tension, use less words and 'show' what is happening. Shorter sentences will also spur the pace.

    "Before he could even react" is telling us. "Deformed fingers snatched" would illustrate the hand grabbing the rodent before the latter could react.

    Be careful of too much passive voice in a tension scene, too.

    "My hand was shaking" vs. "My hand shook."

    I would read on because I'm curious to see what happens next!

  12. I'd cut out much of this - it's a lot before you've introduced the characters. You're asking the reader to assimilate a lot that's not said or explained and to care about this unknown character, and I think it's too much. You just need to show the MC searching, hearing the scratching, then jump to your last four paragraphs. The last paragraph is your punch, and you need to get to it sooner. (And call the rat "it" rather than "him.")

  13. I was left confused by some of this. Footsteps echoed out… where? Finish the sentence. Also, the pale hand grabbed “him?” Who is “him?” The rat? Davis, who isn’t even in the scene? If you're referring to the rat, then it is an “it.”

    In the end, though, I would have read on a little longer because the premise interested me.

  14. Oh, I wish this pulled me in but it didn't. :(
    You have a great scenario, right? Character in hallway, weird noises, scariness, creepy fingers crushing rat.

    But...the writing! Oh, no. This has SO much potential but the writing kills the whole thing. (Sorry for using such a harsh word, but it's true). It was almost TOO simple for me. I need more words with a horror-ish connotation. I need to feel the terror. Diction is so important!

    Check this out, "I walked slowly". Whoops, adverb right away. Not that adverbs are bad, but they're best used when there's no other possible alternative. This could be changed to, "I walked with hesitant, anticipating footsteps. My footsteps were too heavy, as if anyone in a ten feet radius could hear it." Something along those lines, although that isn't the best example. Other trite sayings I came acorss were, "My hand was shaking", "beady eyes", "I fled back down the hall".
    See, I don't feel terror. I'm not scared when I read descriptions like this.

    Sorry, writing style and characterization (speaking of which, I didn't really get a sense of who the MC was) are biggies for me. Obviously there are people who were perfectly terrorized with this, so maybe it's just me.

    Good luck!

  15. I really disagree with Mayaah's comments about adverbs (they are no more to be avoided than any other part of language) and regarding the phrases she says are trite: They aren't, they are just simple.

    That being said, I also didn't feel the horror. Partly, it was because you start off with the generic term "monsters". If the MC is experienced with what's haunting the shadows, then shouldn't they have a specific name? Is he talking about zombies? Or are there actually a wide variety of monsters that might be hiding in the shadows?

    The second thing that stopped me was the idea of splitting up. Haven't these kids seen movies? Sure, splitting up means covering more ground in less time, but it also means being more vulnerable. If you know that monsters are there, why would you even think about splitting up?

    The writing doesn't do enough for me here. I agree with what many of the people have said above re: the unfamiliar bend, the rat as a "him", and the "whispered when I saw".

    Still, I would read on at least a few pages because I like the scenario and I'd want to see where the writer was taking it.

  16. I agree with mayah in that it's the witing that's holding this back. K. Cooper gave some great suggestions on how to fix this.

    But I was also put off by the fact that I don't know who your MC is. Is he male, female? Does she have a name? How old is she? What is she looking for? Is the hospital abandoned? If not, where are the doctors and nurses etc that would normally be there?

    Overall, this feels like a scene, not part of a story.

  17. Different eyes, different reactions, yes? I loved this, in a "I'm going to keep the lights on tonight" way. It worked for me.

    The "You scared me" problem would be fixed by making that two sentences. Love a bit more description about the hand, too. And maybe what it signifies.

    Because this sets up the "who we're scared of" well, I can wait through this to find out who's speaking, why she's carrying a knife for protection and why they're searching an empty hospital, but I should know all those things in detail *very soon.*


  18. This is an interesting premise, and seems like a genre I'm not familiar with (it seems like horror rather than literary fantasy). This passage didn't quite work for me because, even though it was creepy, I wasn't really connected inside the MC's head. I know he/she is scared but I didn't really feel the fear along with him/her. Also, I'm confused about who the MC is. If she/he is some kind of hunter, she/he doesn't seem very professional or confident in the job. I'm wondering why this MC was chosen to help and what he/she is supposed to do when the 'monsters' are found (side note: monsters is very unspecific and seems a little elementary to me). Personally, I would start somewhere else in the story so we can learn a little about the main character before we're thrust into a tense situation.

  19. Sara J. Henry already said everything I was going to say, so I'll just say ditto.

    Oh, and I agree with those who've said the genre might make more sense as literary horror than literary fantasy. Something about the expression "literary fantasy" just doesn't sit right with me, and I think literary horror is more representative of what this actually is.

    Good luck!

  20. Hey, Secret Agent here! I wanted more interiority. Why couldn’t they turn off their light? What thoughts, feelings, fears, are in their head in this moment? I think this is creepy (a good thing), but want to know why they’re walking around this abandoned hospital.

  21. Like this very much--love zombie everything! The rat was a nice touch.

    I feel like the flashlight is the most important thing in the first para--love that there are plenty of shadows for the monsters--making that your first line would suck in the reader instantly. The only other thing (minor) is I don't know if the narrator is M or F. I realize this will be revealed later but for some reason I'd like to know.

    Great job!

  22. Creepy in a good way. I agree with what several others said, the writing is holding this back. A lot of passive language that slows it down and doesn't give the impact possible. I also agree with adverbs. Try to use stronger verbs and nouns instead and your writing will be stronger.

    I love that the rat comes and out and he/she relaxes, but then the same rat is grabbed and eaten. Strengthen your language and punch up your writing and this will be intense. You've got my curiosity piqued.