Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Neodymium Betrayal

The children could never have imagined they would wake up inside a volcano.

They did know it could be a long time before they returned to the embattled hell they had called home. Several hundred pre-adults in thick yellow camouflage huddled against each other in the dark belly of their transports, strapped to the humming metal floor by simple safety belts. The littlest ones laughed as they played with the screens on their wristbands; the oldest sat in silence and wondered where they would find themselves when the light came back.

The four transports carrying the children sailed across waving flaxen grass, piercing through rolls of fog like giant black bullets. A solitary figure stood on a hill overlooking the convoy. Mist wisped about him like breakers against a rock. His faded tan tunic flapped in the wind, tugging as if it had a life of its own and only his still form kept it from seeking out adventure.

Nineteen-year-old Roz Bereens wanted to plop into the grass and collapse--he'd had a long night--but he stayed on his feet, his fingers drumming on the short bamboo staff suspended from his belt as the wind tousled his auburn hair. He had promised not to rest until the children escaped.

His tired mind played picture-games with his vision. A bright blue-eyed spectre in a black jumpsuit had tormented his dreams all night long. Diebol.

Maybe the torture-nightmares would stop if he wasn't behind everything.


  1. Wow. I should always critique my own stuff the second after reading through other peoples'. I suddenly want to cut words out of the second paragraph here, and shorten sentences to make choppier, stronger points. The second sentence could cut down to "They did know they might never get to go home." The "he...escaped" should become an italicized in-person thought quote, in order to sound less cliche' and hero-y. The third sentence just carries way too much in it. I establish the conflict but don't carry it!

    And here I thought I had revised twenty or so times and that was enough. Is this the first time anyone on here suddenly had embarrassing revelations and commented on their own post? I hope not!


  2. I feel too far removed from the story. Because of where you start I think I should be concerned about the kids and then you bring in Roz (I'd leave off his age and last name btw. Is there a more organic way to tell us this?) and I'm not sure who I should identify with. If I'm going to follow Roz around for several thousand words I need to know more about what he feels as opposed to what he sees. Lastly, I think some of description takes me out of the story. The whole third paragraph is description and maybe better used giving the reader more about what's going on.

  3. I got confused with the switch to Roz. Is he with the kids? Your first sentence mentions a volcano but the description is the carriers over a grassy flatlands. I think it's interesting but the writing needs work as you've already pointed out,

  4. I think this has some serious potential. I am absolutely intrigued about where you're going with this, but there are a few things which need some work.

    I'm really not all that keen on that first sentence. It seems... not up to par with the rest of it. Even if they do end up in a volcano later, it's too silly to buy into right away. Maybe that's just me, but I do read a lot of fantasy, etc, so I'm usually pretty open to whatever. I just think, if you're going to have them wake up in a volcano, maybe we should work up to that, get your reader to buy into your world and the childrens' situation first. Because the rest of it is intriguing and beautifully written.

    The Roz transition didn't seem to jar me as much as your other commenters, but I can see how it might be done a little smoother.

    Still, I can feel the sense of danger and almost dispair hanging around your children. I can sense a certain weight of responsibility on Roz's shoulders. I don't get who or what Diebol is, but I assume you explain that better later.

    Don't lose heart. I'd definitely keep reading (if that first sentence didn't lose me). It just needs a little tweaking to live up to its potential.

  5. Too much description.

    I think this could be tighter. Love the name Roz.

    Also, I think there is a stronger start in here.

    The title threw me. I can't even pronounce that first word. :D And this is YA, but fantasy? It feels fantasy-ish. But it's hard to have a place and time with this.

    Also, I don't have a feel of the MC. That bothered me. I wanted to be closer to him.

  6. @Tyson It's sci fi, so I don't really want you pronouncing the first word (j/k). But do you have any specific 'closer' requests? Are we talking feelings, action, or writing voice? Thanks.

    @firespark Thanks so much! I have been told that before, about the first sentence. I might replace it with something more 'in his head.'

    @thesilenth @Raechell I see a theme here! I'm going to try to see if I can describe the kids from his head.

    Thanks, all!

  7. I'm not a big fan of an omniscient narrator, so I would have stopped reading this. When we get to the POV of Roz, I was interested again. I would rewrite it from his POV from the beginning to keep it more interesting.

  8. This is really intriguing. There's enough here to make me want to read more and I'm really interested in the world and what's happened. The prose is nicely written... I'm completely confused about almost everything, though. I'm not sure how to reconcile those two opinions. Lol.

    First... if the kids are going to wake up in a volcanoe, then... they should wake up in a volcano. Where did the volcano go?

    I'm really lost as to what POV this is. Some parts seem omni and some seem close third on Roz. And then you mentioned that you might try to describe the children from Roz's head, but I'm not sure how you would do that. Roz can't see inside the transport (right?), and none of the children are marked as MCs. Was the second paragraph about him strapping them into the transports, possibly?

    I like the descriptions of the children and how the young ones seem oblivious while the older ones show a better understanding of their predicament, but the shift from inside the transport to Roz on the hill was jarring to me.

    The other thing that confused me is that Roz vowed not to rest, but then he had dreams and nightmares all night (hallucinations, maybe?)

    Mostly, though, it's the volcano thing.

    I'm curious about who Roz is and what part he has to play in this "embattled hell." At nineteen, why has he been placed in charge of all several hundred children? How does he feel about sending them off... Relieved that they've escaped, sad that they have to leave, worried about what they'll find? Do they have adults with them? Something very dramatic and life altering has happened here, and I'd like some reaction from Roz beyond just being tired.

    I'm not clear on what "if he wasn't behind everything" means. Do you mean, "if he hadn't been behind everything"? Or has he fallen behind something and catching up will make the nightmares stop? I'm not even sure whether "he" refers to Roz or Diebol.

    But still... interesting things going on.

  9. Wait. I feel dumb. Have they've woken up in the middle of a catastrophe, and is "volcano" a metaphor for their "embattled hell" of a home? ... and not, in fact, an actual volcano?

    *slinks off*

  10. Don't feel bad Heather I didn't get the volcano metaphor either.

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  13. I am so going to take out that first sentence.
    It's not a metaphor--they really will wake up inside a volcano. Just not yet. So the sentence is extremely misleading foreshadowing.

    Rewriting the beginning from Roz's POV! With "feelings."I made some changes, and put the fixed beginning at this site if any of you super-helpful people have any more tips. = ) (I know these changes don't count towards the contest--I crave crits.) I will totally crit edits for you in return.

  14. Definitely thrown by the volcano. I think it would be a lot stronger from Roz's POV. I'm not an omniscient narrator fan in YA especially, so I was torn. But the description was beautiful so I kept reading. It really threw me out of the story with the abrupt transition to Roz. I agree with leaving out the age and last name and weaving that in. The "have imagined" and "he'd had" and "had tormented" kept jumping out at me. Also the lack of contractions and other functions of a formal voice pulled me out of the story every time. As an adult reader who's willing to keep reading for quite a while before giving up on something, I would've definitely kept reading, especially since the writing had the promise of a great story and voice. But would one of my teen students? I don't know if they'd connect with this. Told from Roz's POV? Yes.

  15. I also thought the volcano was real. If they're not going to one, it seems to be a trick to make your first line pop.

    I don't mind a bit of omniscient POV to set up the story, but paras 2 & 3 seemed a bit description and adjective heavy, and it seems the POV will continue indefinitely. I don't feel much connection to the mc (and isn't 19 too old for a YA mc?). I didn't understand the mind playing "picture-games" line.

    I'd give it another page or two, but believe omniscient-POV will prove to be too distant to really connect with.

  16. This would be a form rejection for me. I feel so disconnected from the story and Roz. I can tell you've created your own vocab for this world, but there is too much in this passage before I even know what the world is.

  17. @Secret Agent Do you have any specific requests or suggestions about making that connection? I'm a little surprised about the vocab comment, since the only foreign words on the page are the MC's name and his rival's name--if you have a moment, I'd love a little more detail on which sentences/words are confusing! I certainly want to fix that! Thank-you.

  18. I had no idea what was going on here until almost the third last parg when Roz had to make sure the children escaped. I don’t know from who or what, but I know that everything that happened before that was the children escaping.

    The problem, for me, is that I wanted to know it as it was happening. Perhaps start with Roz so we know right away what is happening and who we are supposed to care about.