Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #9

TITLE: A Single Feather
GENRE: YA fantasy

Kila stepped into the breaking surf, letting the saltwater of the Pacific dampen the hem of her kapa skirt. A wind from the south pinned the bark cloth to her legs and sent her long black hair into a frenzy about her face. She closed her eyes and raised her arms, willing the wind to carry her away from the island.

“Kila, where are you?” her father, Wana’ao, shouted from the taro fields in the distance.

She smiled and ran to the grassy bank beyond the sand, pausing at the open-air hut where the family’s wa’a sat on stilts off the ground. As always, the wooden engravings along the side of the canoe transported her imagination to another time. The carvings weaved together the story of the ancient chief Akua. She traced the weathered shapes of his many forms: a shark, a sea turtle and a goose stirred beneath her fingertips. Kila longed for such a transformation. Akua’s tale spoke of adventure and freedom. She withdrew her hand and brushed it against her hip, wiping away the temptation with a sigh.

“Kila, hele mai!” Her father’s shout was closer now.

She jumped into the canoe, cringing as it groaned against the stilts. Lying as flat as a banana leaf, Kila tried to silence her breathing so as to not give herself away. When the only sound she heard was the lapping of waves on the sand, she grinned in triumph.

Aue,” her father said leaning over her. “Nice try, but you are not five anymore.”


  1. Nice start, I get the Pacific vibe without being clobbered. Plus it's not a common setting so hooks my interest. I'd take out "transported her imagination to another time" that's telling not showing. Other than that I'd like to keep reading!

  2. Hooked! The perfect amount of description, the writing is clean, the setting is refreshing, and the MC is engaging.

  3. I liked this, and I agree with the previous commenter that I liked your setting, unusual without being unusual, if you know what I mean! :) My only suggestion is to give us a bit more of an idea of what the protagonists conflict will be. I felt like she was unhappy in the beginning, staring wistfully off into the ocean, but then she's playful and happy with her father. Overall great writing though - good luck!

  4. I think this is very strong writing. But if I were to pick it up and read this as the first page, I might put it back down. Though it's very good, it doesn't have anything that grabs me yet. If I knew where it was going from a query or a book blurb, I may feel differently.

  5. The writing is lovely - perfect delivery and descriptive without a boring laundry list of adjectives.

    The question I have at this point is it being labeled fantasy. Which I'm sure will be answered and encompassed as the story unfolds.

    Also, I wonder what problem the MC is going to encounter. I would read on though. I'm thinking all these things will be addressed if I were to read on.

    Thanks for sharing and goodluck.

  6. I get a very strong sense of place from your opening, and I think you do a good job bringing the reader into this place that's probably unfamiliar to most. Unfortunately, I feel that this great strength in your writing may also be a great weakness. I'm not getting a sense of voice, or good dialogue, or what conflict may arise.

  7. Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! I really do appreciate the time you took to read through my submission and leave a comment. And thanks to Authoress and Secret Agent for this opportunity.

  8. I know zero about the Pacific Islands, so kapa and bark cloth took me a bit (and a google search) to piece together. Otherwise I liked the setting.

    When we got to the wa'a, I wondered why we'd stopped the action to wax poetic about a canoe, but then it turned out she was going to hide in it. I'd have liked some kind of small lead-in to that so I would know the canoe is a destination when it's first mentioned and not just a narrative side-trek to talk about mythology.

    While the setting and writing are strong, I would have liked more voice and something stake-like beyond "girl is wistful for adventure."

    (I'm not sure the colon is correct; I think a semicolon might be better... or drop the "stirred beneath her fingertips." Opinion, only.)

  9. The main reason the canoe description is there is to give a hint of the "fantasy" aspect of the story that is to come later on...with shape-shifting into animals and such. I'd rather move on to the dialogue and Kila's voice really coming out in the next few paragraphs, but also feel like I need to establish the mythology feel early on too. There's so much to get across in such a short time. If anyone has any suggestions how to fix this, I'd love to hear them!

  10. Hi, Author of #9! I'm a little more familiar with your setting than some, so it spoke to me. That said, I didn't get any sense that Kila was avoiding her dad until she jumped into the canoe.