Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #39

TITLE: The Last Life of Avrilis
GENRE: YA Literary Sci-fi

In all my lifetimes before, I never witnessed the moment of Kristopher's death. The horrifying sound of collision sent me rushing to my covered porch only to find his long, lifeless body immediately forgotten on the cobblestone boulevard. And in each of the innumerable repetitions, I knew it was an image impossible to forget.

The discarded body of a young man whose name I did not know those times before. The way death so abruptly dismantled the quiet opulence of my respectable street.

A harried chorus of screams would be heard amidst the motorist's angry cursing. Before anyone could be bothered to retrieve the dusty flat cap or kneel to determine whether the poor soul could be resuscitated and perchance saved, a woman would collapse on the sidewalk not far away and all would descend upon her instead. The motorist would scoop her up quickly, following her sister into their parlor where - upon his departure into the next room - the woman's corset would be loosed. That part my mother would tell me when she returned home late in the evening. Or would have.

As for the struck young man on whom the dust had by that time settled, the rolling of his body to the side of the road would suffice until later when - upon consideration of pedestrian traffic - he would be further relegated to the alley between two rusticated stone residences. It would be another day before the sanitation committee was notified and Kristopher's body taken to the crematorium.


  1. You lost me as soon as you said the body was immediately forgotten - but it was an image impossible to forget.

    And the rest is just too confusing.

    I suspect there is a good story here, and the writing is close to good enough to pull me along despite my confusion ... but confusion wins out here, for me.

  2. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but is there such a genre as "YA Literary Sci-fi?" I believe it's one or the other, and overall, the voice in this doesn't speak YA to me. It sounds more adult, and yes, along the lines of literary. I also have to agree with Sara that this is confusing. I think you might want to re-think your opening and either make your story adult focused or tame down the language to fit into YA.

  3. I think that you have the ability to write great setting and detail! When I read certain phrases and the overall tone of her vioce, it feels as though she may be living in a long gone era;it would clear it up a bit if you introduced readers to the year. Then again, this is sci-fi, so she's in a different world with different rules. Perhaps that information would also help. I didn't have a problem with the voice if it were a different timeframe or world.

    It also seems, I could be wrong, that as she sees Kristopher's death, she is remembering the last times he died in previous lifetimes. That would clear up some areas where I had confusion with the use of "would have." When there is no query or jacketflap, it makes it hard to know where the character is.
    Good luck!

  4. I really like the first sentence. It is definately different, and simple in a great way. After that though, I start to get lost. Your wording is rather heavy, it doen't read very much like YA, more like adult. Perhaps you should spend the opening describing the accident itself in detail, show how Kristopher died instead of describing souls and more abstract ideas. Keep it concrete, and simpler like the first sentence.

  5. When I scrolled down to this entry, I accidentally read the fourth paragraph first (I know I shouldn't have); but my thought on reading that paragraph was that the story wasn't present enough for me. The passive voice ("he would be relegated"--by who?) and the description of it all as something that "would" happen held me at arm's length. When I scrolled up, it made more sense to me that the story was being described that way.

    I loved the mysteries that you've injected into this: such as the implication that Kristopher's death is going to be pivotal; the implication that something bad has happened to the mother; and why was Kristopher treated so callously? I love it when I know there are clues hidden in the beginning of a story.

    But the voice does still keep me at arm's length. I think you could change this by using more active voice and try writing the beginning as though it's happening right now--more powerful verbs, more action and less passive observation. The scene of a boy being hit by a car could be incredibly powerful--and then inject into that action all the hints that this is not the first time she's seeing this and that there's more involved in this moment.

    Good luck!

  6. The "woulds" really lost me, but I'm definitely intrigued by the story I'm understanding it. I think it would pack more punch if you (as Marice suggested) described the accident as the MC experiences it this time and then announce that this time is different from all the times before.

    There's a lot of power here, but I agree that it gets lost in the dreamy, passive voice.

  7. I am a bit confused, but the plot and the voice hooked me. However, I think it would be stronger if you make some things clearer: is he dying right now? Does it happen the same way every time? Is this scene the past or the present?

  8. I had the same issue as Sara Henry. The body was immediately forgotten but impossible to forget. I think with clarification you could make that work. The body was immediately forgotten by those on the scene, but she, herself, would never forget seeing the accident. Find a way to say it so it's clear.

    I also found it hard to get into because it's all told, so it's one giant monologue and I wanted something to happen. As others have said, showing us the accident as it happens could add some much needed life to this.

    While I think you have an interesting premise with lots of possibilities, the style just doesn't work for me.

  9. This reads to me like an adult literary novel rather than YA. That wouldn't bother me, but I'm not your target reader. I want to like it, it sounds like my kind of subject, but I'm a bit confused at the moment.

    One tiny point. In the first para, 'his long, lifeless body' confused me a bit. Unless you're trying to say his body is long as well as being lifeless then I don't think the comma should be there. If it's just a typo, then ignore me :)

    I'd love to read this again after a rewrite.

  10. Because you have an extraordinary concept, I think you need to work at making the story clear for readers. I'm another one who was a bit confused. I understand the idea that the MC has seen the moment after Kris's death in many lifetimes, but I imagined the lifetimes would be over different time periods, whereas the mention of the sanitation committee suggests a fixed time. Perhaps she is reliving the same life over and over again? In any case, I also agree with Marice's suggestion that you rewrite this as an active scene with hints that she has seen this before.

  11. I like the idea of a lovely past that your language (and the corset!) hint at, but there are so many contradictions in these first few paragraphs that I'm getting lost. First he is forgotten but then he's unforgettable - I think I know what you mean, but the juxtaposition is too much in the beginning, where you need to ease the reader into the world where you are. Dramatic things can happen in the open, but only if we understand them. Good luck!

  12. What I liked: The idea of repeated lives.

    What needed work: The voice. I felt this sample was very overwritten, and in many cases a fancy word—innumerable, opulence, perchance—was used instead of a simpler, more straightforward word.

    I also had a very difficult time grasping what exactly was going on.

    Would I keep reading based on this sample? No.