Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #22

TITLE: Toxic
GENRE: YA Sci-fi Thriller

There's a boy in the cell next to mine.

It is dark, but I know this because after each cough, he pardons himself. I want to speak to him. I want to ask him where we are and why are we here. But my lips are like a dam, the river of words catching on the cracked, tender flesh.

I pace the length of my cell again. My prison is small--about three bodies in length, two in width--but I'm tall, and I'm certain it was built for a smaller person. There's a cot in one corner, with a flattened mattress, no sheets. It smells more of stale urine than the relief facility, a steel bowl directly across the room.

A light in the hallway comes to life, flickers uncertainly a few times, then decides to remain on. I rush to my door and squish my face to the glass. There are two slots in the glass, just big enough for me to stuff my fingers through. I don't realize that a layer of finely ground shards is fashioned to the inside until blood flows from my fingertips and knuckles, trickling down the other side of the glass. I jerk my hands to my chest. Hurt myself even more. The fresh, warm blood intermingles with the dried on my wrists and forearms.

The cell next door creaks open, a momentary distraction from my stinging hands. Someone is speaking to the boy. Every few seconds, he answers with an "uh huh" or a snort.


  1. Ooh - this is so eerie! Opening line is FAB and it continued to have me hooked the whole way through. I have a ton of questions already that would make me want to read on! :-)

  2. Agreed on the opening line. It's fantastic. A boy in a cell! WHY?

  3. Great first line! I agree...this opening gave me a lot of questions, in a good way. I'd definitely read on! :)

  4. Hooked. Really gave me the creeps. Liked the fingers in the holes and he gets cut. Unexpected, and yikes, makes you think whoever put him there is scary/sick!

    A couple of suggestions:

    In the second paragraph, I don't think you need to say "It was dark." Just start with "I know this...". I think most people know that you can't see the occupant of a cell next door. Plus you say the lights flicker on later.

    "...with the dried on my wrists and forearms." just missed a word. Common edit error!

    Great job!

  5. Nicely done, but I hate the title. To me, it's a turnoff.

  6. I agree with fiction writer about the title.

    My biggest question - why doesn't he/she know where he/she is and why? Has he/she been sleeping? Drugged? Etc? I'd love just a hint in the third or fourth sentence. Otherwise, it feel to much like the author chose craftiness over clarity.

    Love the line about his/her mouth like a cracked dam. Very, very nice.

  7. Fantastic! You had me at hello :)

  8. Hooked! Nicely done. There's tension, suspense and mood.

    A few nits--

    I agree about cutting "Its dark"

    The "My lips are like a dam" sentence doesn't work because the ending clause isn't saying how her lips are like a dam. They're saying how her words are like a river. Perhaps rephrase.

    About three bodies - be more specific since bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

  9. Fantastic first line! I like the next para a lot too, though I think 'cracked lips' is enough, you don't need 'tender' as well.

    After that I like it, but not so much - I want something to happen, for you to end on action or an interesting line like you began the page.

    You definitely have real writing talent but occasionally you cross over into slightly purple prose so just a little bit of cutting and this would be fantastic.

  10. Hooked!

    Start the second line with 'I know...' I know what you're saying but by starting a new para it suggests that the MC knows it's dark because of the boy's coughing, (if that makes sense).

    One tiny thing, I might suggest using 'stinging fingers' in the last paragraph rather than 'hands' - I actually went back to check that s/he hadn't managed to get a whole hand through the slot.

    I really like this, although I'm not sure about the title.

  11. Doesn't work for me ... no sense of the main character or story, sorry.

  12. I'm captivated by the uneasy tone of this. It's creepy, and I love that.

    There's some confusion, for me, when the MC says "It Dark, but I know this because..." The "this" seems like the MC is talking about knowing it's dark, rather than knowing a boy is next door. Maybe rephrase that.

    I struggled a bit with this: "But my lips are like a dam, the river of words catching on the cracked, tender flesh." Why doesn't she talk? She's in a prison and she doesn't know where or why, right? How could she NOT at least try to say something?

    Can she literally not talk? Is she afraid to talk? Are there guards listening? Will she be beaten? Has she been drugged? Will it be pointless?

    I just don't believe that she's not talking because her lips and mouth are tender.

    Despite those few qualms, I was hooked. I'd keep reading for sure.

  13. Interesting. I'm curious enough to read on, and I like the voice in the first few sentences especially.

    Agree that you should cut 'tender' and maybe tighten up a little of the rest of the description as well. The sentence that described the size of the cell seems awkward to me.

  14. I'm okay with saying it's dark, I'd reword the "I know this" part about the boy. Darkness contributes to the feel, and why the lights flickering on might be a hope or relief. If it's really dark though, did the description of the cell come from feel or from the last time the lights were on? Just being picky... Good start, I'm hooked.