Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Winter's Wood
GENRE: YA Fantasy

It started with the dream.

The rain pounded against the trees. Lightning danced across the sky. The icy wind whipped around the woods like a rocket. It encased Evan. He was in his pajamas, and the frigid wind cut through him like a knife. He pushed forward, deeper into the woods. There was a faint light ahead of him, and he knew that was where he needed to be.

Evan shoved through the head winds. They pressed against him with all the force of nature. His feet slipped over the slick ground. Evan scrambled to regain his balance, grabbing at the tree limbs, anything that would keep him upright. He was so close; the light was right there. He latched hold of a branch, and with one final tug and a leap into the air, he broke through the wind and landed in the clearing.

An eerie aura enveloped the clearing. All the wind and cold had died, and the forest floor was black and charred. Dead flora crunched under Evan's feet as he walked forward. There was a wide ring going around the edge of the clearing, and jagged, black lines shooting out from the circle like a starburst. At the center of the ring was the white light. But it wasn't just a light. It was a person, a young girl, no older than Evan was, crumpled on the forest floor. She lifted her head toward Evan, and he saw the terror on her tear-streaked face.


  1. Great work giving us a visual of everything that's happening around Evan. The thing which is MORE critical at this moment though, is hooking us to Evan. I don't have any sympathy for him yet, except that he's caught in a storm. Give us some of his thoughts? Why he's pushing toward the light? Is he in a rush? Is it life or death? Does he know the girl's going to be there on the forest floor?

    Also, if this is a dream, which I'm assuming by your first line, I'd encourage you to take a different route? Starting with a dream is pretty cliche--

    I think you could also combine the first two paragraphs. "Evan shoved through the head winds. Rain pounded and lightning danced across the sky. He focused on the light..." Etc. Give us a greater sense of urgency. I'm intrigued what's up with the girl though! :)You definitely have skills. Nice work :)

  2. I'm hooked.

    I agree with Morgan's point about adding a touch of emotion. Even in dreams we feel something.

    I'm not so concerned about the 'why'. It's enough for me that he just knows. I feel a sense of determination.

    I think you did a great job with your description. Only one line threw me:

    "There was a wide ring going around the edge of the clearing, and jagged, black lines shooting out from the circle like a starburst."

    I can't picture the wide ring. What is it made of? You might also describe the eerie aura. I'm picturing fog...

    IMO, you use the name Evan too many times.

    I would definitely read on. Nice writing!

  3. I like your title. I think it’s hard to start a novel with a dream because we don’t yet know whom we’re cheering for. I’m guessing it’s Evan, but I can only see what he’s doing, not what he’s feeling. I know it’s a dream, but even in a dream we can feel cold or hunger or fear. Was the girl terrified of Evan or something which happened to her?

  4. This would be fine - as long as it didn't start with a dream!!!

  5. I saw two issues, and both have already been mentioned. There's little emotion here, so Evan is just someone going through the motions. Show us what he's thinking and feeling and we'll be able to empathize with him more.

    The other is the dream. We get invested in what's happening in the dream, then it ends, and we have to start all over with a new situation. But you are letting us know it was a dream up front, and maybe that'll work.

    DReam or not, I'd read more.

  6. I'm concerned that you're starting with a dream. It's not real. Why should the reader care? Even if Evan dies, it's just a dream, right? I'm also concerned about: the frigid wind cut through him like a knife. This is over-used prose, and makes me think that I'll run into more later on in the ms.

    Even if I get sucked into the tense lines you've written, I don't know anything about the character. You haven't introduced me to Evan and made me care about him. There's no sense of his voice here and no emotion--it's just dry action.

  7. If you really want to use the dream sequence at the beginning, you're going to have to make your first line work a lot harder. Let us know who's dream it is, and craft it in a way that makes us emotionally invested in the dreamer. I'm guessing there might be a more effective way to begin the story, and this beautiful and troubling imagery could be planted later in the story. Or what if your MC alluded to this dream in his thoughts, while planting us in his real world?

  8. I agree with what everyone else is saying. It's hard to start a story with a dream. But I like that we get a good feel of Evan's determination.

    Your descriptions are beautiful, but they might be too much for the first few paragraphs.

    However, I'm curious as to who the girl is. So you succeeded in making me want to read more.

  9. What I liked: The descriptions.

    What needed work: “It started with a dream,” but I worry your sample shouldn’t have. As soon as I read that line, I groaned and lost interest. I can't say for sure it's a complete deal breaker every time, but it's a pretty easy way to get your story pegged as something not worth my time, unfortunately.

    Lose the dream.

    Would I keep reading? No.

  10. I'm going to be honest. I skimmed everything after the dream line. I just didn't care. I wrote this on someone else's entry too, but there are two reasons it's bad to start with a dream. 1. It's overdone (as evidenced by the fact that in the 20 samples in this comp I've read so far, you're the second one to open with a dream). You've got to do a lot to stand out. 2. But more importantly, there's no tension. I don't care what Evan is doing because I know it's just a dream and I assume he's going to wake up in his bed.

    Start somewhere else that has Evan in actual danger and make your reader care about him.