Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Violet Ray and the Magnetic Pole Reversal

Violet Ray swung the machete over her head as a cluster of giant palm leaves snapped and fell heavily behind her like dead bodies. She continued down the switch back, turning her headlamp to light the next leafy victim and occasionally stumbling over loose volcanic rock. In the chilling darkness, no birds were singing and the slicing thuds echoed in the cold silence. She'd never used a machete to cut a path. No reason to-the island used to be mostly shrubs, a few palms and the mangroves lining the southwest beach. Impossibly, in the past few months, her arid island became tropical. The months of storms were part of the transformation, but Violet knew there had to be something else going on to make the foliage grow so fast. She was trying to figure out a scientific theory about the spectacular changes when yesterday's storm brought a fresh emergency: her water system shut down. Despite collecting huge cisterns of rainwater during the storms, she didn't want to lose it as a backup. Her Mother created the Mangrove Watercatchment Globes and she saw the construction completed when she was little.

The sun would rise soon and that meant another storm. If she didn't figure out how to fix the system, she would really be in trouble.

Unlike most 11-year-old girls, Violet's trouble didn't come from her parents. Her survival depended on herself and her science. It was her Mother's plan. She was made that way.


  1. The first paragraph is too big. There are several places where it could be broken into smaller sections and that would help with flow and first impressions. That large chunk of text was a lot to take in initially.

    I'm hoping the capitalization of "Mother" means that Violet's mother is either Mother Nature or a scientist who created her. Either way, I think that adds an interesting twist.

    Describing the leaves as falling like dead bodies seems a bit heavy for MG, although this appears to be a more serious MG story.

    There's a lot of backstory about the island's changes and Mother. Not a lot happens in this passage so I'd recommend that you move some of the backstory and add more action to the first 250 word.

    My favorite part was the last paragraph. It reads like a hook and would be really good in a query. I'm not sure what happens next, but if you have a strong followup to that, you might want to consider starting there.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  2. I'd like to know what challenge the MC is facing right up front. Agree that last paragraph reads like a hook and maybe should start the story, although there are some unclear ideas there.

    So keep tweaking...

  3. This is really intriguing! I agree the first paragraph is too long, but there are ways to break that up (insert some action "beats," for example). It does sound like Mother is not quite...human, not in the ordinary way, anyhow.

    Not sure how the sun rising would mean another storm, but I'd read on to find out.

  4. Interesting. I'd read more.

    I agree with dividing up that large first parg. The fact that it's one big block can turn a lot of people off so that they don't even bother to read it.

    You might intersperse some actions in the section where she's explaining the change, just to keep the story moving. She must be headng somewhere. Perhaps show her getting there.

    I really liked the ending, and I'm wondering if she's cloned, or genetically engineered, and what her true situation is. ANd who is this mother who made her?

  5. I liked this! Great world building, well-paced writing and I already know what the girl wants and get a sense of some of the conflict.
    I'm assuming she's a very sophisticated 11 year old, yes?
    Good Luck!

  6. After the first four lines, the pace of the narrative slows due to excess backstory and explanation. I really liked the tone of the first lines, but you need to get your character doing something interesting in the present (besides killing palm leaves). Instead of telling why she'll be in trouble regarding the water, you need to show her urgent actions.

    It sounds like the idea might be interesting, but there isn't enough tension or voice in the hook.

  7. Violet is on a mission -- to get water needed for survival. My first thought is why does this action depend on an 11-year-old? I'm wondering where other people are. She seems very smart, and agile, so I'm thinking she's alone, and I'm wondering why. I'm interested to find out (with Violet) what the deal is with the change in climate. Overall story line is interesting. Others here mentioned some language issues easy to fix. Good luck.

  8. Intriguing world building! But definitely break up the first chapter. Save the backstory for another chapter and let us see the character doing more. The "dead bodies" mention felt out of place because the main character seems so serious and not given to melodrama. I was surprised the character was eleven -- I thought she might be sixteen or seventeen. Wondering who Mother is, and if Violet was "made" differently than most people. Good start!

  9. What I liked: Strong, confident writing that doesn’t talk down to the audience. Interesting conflict introduced and questions raised right away. Compelling stuff.

    What needed work: Tough access into the story amid all the details. I’d recommend shortening the initial paragraph to include the most relevant details, or splitting it into two or more.

    Would I keep reading based on these sample pages? Definitely.