Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Mark of the Muse
GENRE: MG fantasy/light scifi

The boys looked real enough. They were all unremarkable, average-looking teenagers, just shadows of the men they had already become.

In fact, they looked so real that the grey-haired woman walking by held her purse just a little bit more tightly to her chest, and added a little bit of bounce to her step as she walked by. The next passerby put his hand in his back pocket to cover his wallet. You could never be too careful with teenagers these days. He ought to know after all. He raised one. He looked over at the wild haired young man. Hadn’t he ever heard of a brush?

A short, elfish looking one with fiery red hair seemed unsettled by the man’s gaze. He threw a small ball at his back, and then watched it bounce off into the gutter nearby. The man stopped, shifting his freezing look towards elfish one, who just stared defiantly back. It was an unfortunate, and wasted response. The boy wouldn’t remember the encounter the next day.

The boys turned, greeting another with curly brown hair that had just arrived. At first glance he looked a lot like one of the other boys. In fact, they looked almost identical. Only upon closer inspection could someone make out the difference: the extra wrinkles around the newly arrived boy’s eyes, the few extra pounds he wore like a belt, and even a grey hair or two.


  1. The first two sentences are intriguing, and the reactions of the passers-by are realistic.

    Parta 3 is a little confusing. I think you could delete the first sentence and make the 2nd- 'a small ball hit the man's back and then bounced into the gutter'

    Para 4 'curly brown hair WHO had arrived'

  2. I like the idea of fake teenagers looking realistic, if that's what's in fact going on here, but the first two sentences are kind of confusing. You have "boys," "teenagers," and "men" all in the first para. What are they, exactly? If they're teenagers, they can't really be boys or men (well, you might be able to get away with "boys" as a synonym). Maybe you're trying to foreshadow something about the nature of these realistic teenagers, but tripping over their identity is a confusing way to begin a novel, I'd say.

    I feel like the POV character is a bit of a concern, too. This is a middle-grade story, yet the POV character must be older, since he's raised a teenager. If this is a prologue, though, you might be all right, but otherwise the main character should be between the ages 9-13 or so.

    I am kind of intrigued, though. I'm curious about these teenagers who look "real enough." There's something eerie about them to me, and I like that.

  3. I think a bit of POV clarification is needed. There are an awful lot of "he" references.

    Is the guy covering his wallet the same guy who raised a teenager?

    Needs tightening throughout. FIrst sentence in second graph has "walking by" and "walked by."

    The word "boy" is necessary but the number of instances overwhelms in such a short excerpt.

  4. I'm having a hard time being drawn in by this, for a few reasons. First, it's very heavy in description, and very light in plot. There just doesn't seem to be anything going on. You've got a bunch of teens and some other people walking by. At this point, I'm asking if this is really the right place for you to be starting this.

    Second, it doesn't feel at all like a MG. Where's your protagonist? Where's the voice? So far, there's no names, nothing to give me a feel for what this is.

    Also, a word about genre. While very occasionally there are stories that break the genre boundaries, most often, scifi and fantasy are pretty mutually exclusive. Are you looking at a magic-based world? If so, it's fantasy. Is it a futuristic world, with a tech-based system? Even if it's not overly techy, that's still scifi. Make sure you know what genre you're writing.

  5. You know this almost feels like omniscient pov. In that I cannot decipher who is speaking, it's like the author inserting thoughts from characters and I'm not even sure who's thinking these thoughts. Is it the man with the wallet? The weird man/teens/kids? Who raised a child? The protag? I'm just confused.

    I'm curious about the boy/men/teen look alike's, but probably not enough to read more. :(

    Good luck with this.

  6. I agree that the lack of concrete point of view is a bit confusing. I liked the next passerby's attitude and thoughts about the teens.

    This does read a bit old for MG, I'd say it was more YA.

    I'm interested in these boys who aren't boys who aren't men. If the POV settled somewehere soon, I'd read on to find out what happened.

  7. I like the first sentence, and then I spent the rest of the time trying to work out the boys to men to teenagers thing- Men they had already become and the age thing alluded to at the end.

    And the POV leaping from head to head or hanging in the air over them all.

    No, I wouldn't read on.

  8. I found this confusing from the outset. Are they robots? Wasn't drawn in enough to want to read more.

  9. This is a poser. On the one hand, I find the writing to be exceptional. My other hand says the structure is suffering (but only in the first 250). You have created a really tense and vivid world populated by pretenders and I like the possibilities. From para 2 to 3 is a problem....we are first intro'd to a group and then we get references to one in particular (in para 2)..that is followed by the same (in para 3) abother one. I get where you are going but the only crit is you need to rework the opening so it is more centered - perhaps abandon the many to focus on the one. Then bring the rest in later. But, I really love what I read so far in terms of plot. My concerns, at this admittedly early stage, have to do with execution. But, in terms of story, you already got me.

  10. So, POV is an issue here. I think making sure there is one viewpoint to this scene is crucial. You've got some choices from just this first page, but for MG, your choices are narrowed down considerably.

    Who will be the most changed by the events in your story? Try writing from the top three POVs on that list. Which one feels the most authentic to you? Follow your gut on this. If you find that your MC is an adult, you might be writing something other than MG!