Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #45

TITLE: Crystal Children
GENRE: YA Dystopian

If she had to be confined anyway, Raine preferred sleep or at least rest. But pain with every breath wouldn’t allow her to do either. So when someone ripped away her blanket there was no reprieve or gradual return to awareness, she immediately felt the pang of the sun. There was no method to the foraging of her person that followed. The sun-proof socks she’d bartered at one of the roadside towns were removed and presumably claimed. The pockets of her threadbare shorts rummaged.

Being robbed was inconsequential. Most of her valuables had been taken days ago. However, the thief’s disregard bothered Raine. He never even checked to see if she was alive or dead. How could he not feel the heat of her fever?

The disregard made it impossible for Raine to keep her eyes closed any longer. When the thief kneaded along her stomach as if he suspected that someone may have used her body as storage space, the pain became too much. She opened her eyes.

“She’s alive,” the thief yelled as he fell away from her.

And when Raine saw him— all blonde hair, clear eyes and skin that had somehow averted the odd orange tint— she matched his yelp. Why had she opened her eyes? She should have played along, pretended to be dead.

“How’d you guess?” asked a voice that Raine didn’t have the strength to sit up and put a face to. “The breathing or the fact that she’s looking at you like you’re a monster?”


  1. The use of "disregard" twice in quick succession caught my attention. Perhaps change one of those. Also, this line: "[...]asked a voice that Raine didn’t have the strength to sit up and put a face to" seemed awkward and I had to reread it a couple of times to get what you were trying to say. The concept sounds interesting, but some of the descriptions seem to take me out of the story a bit. Also, it seems strange to me that she seems to believe that someone stealing from a body would actually CARE if she were alive or dead. But perhaps this is supposed to show her innocence?

  2. I like the idea, but the writing style isn't my fav, so I don't think I'd read on.

    I actually thought the question of checking 'alive or dead' made sense. Personally, if I'm stealing from someone, I want to know if they're alive and sick enough that I can extort something else from them--like a bank account number--or if they have a disease I should worry about on my stolen goods. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn't care. Maybe I just want the stuff. But that would make it even more infuriating to the victim--no one likes to be treated like a supermarket shelf. As victims, we prefer to think that the thief has some kind of congnizance of our humanity. I thought, whatever the thief's motives or rationale, Raine's response, illogical or not, makes sense. I don't expect her to get in the thief's head. I expect her to feel used.

    I liked how you described her reaction to the sun.

    I felt like some of your sentences have more words in them than necessary. "The disregard made it impossible" could just as easily read "she couldn't keep her eyes closed any longer--how could he not feel the heat of her fever?" You can connect the disregard and her frustration without 'telling.' You can show us, with creative syntax and punctuation, instead. That reads more smoothly for me.

    Other sentences slow the action down because of their length or their punctuation. Short, punchy sentences show shock, frustration, etc, just like you did with "she opened her eyes." Awesome! We could use more of those here, IMO. The sentence "So...sun" does not use that comma right. The comma can only separate two complete ideas (or independent clauses) if you include 'and' or 'but.' In this case, any kind of rewording or extra wording would slow down the sentence and seem awkward. I'd go with the dash. The dash acts as your 'I'm changing to opposite ideas now' punctuation. I can't be that condescending pedantic jerk who says "go check out Strunk and White" or "google comma usage," because I have the same syntax/punctuation struggles I see here. People have dismissed me because of it. (Which is why I regularly google commas, and think everyone else should, too!) So this is me not being that jerk. = P You and I both have to remember that punctuation carries just as much meaning as words, and every comma, dash, semi-colon, or period should carry the weight of our art behind it.

  3. I agree with some of the previous comments about it being a little wordy, but I really liked it and would definitely keep reading. I would change "pang" of the sun to "bite" or "sharp heat" or something. Pang just didn't sit right with me. I would also re-word "the foraging of her person" which felt so formal. And I was curious about "somehow averted the odd orange tint..." If most people have it, it wouldn't be odd. It might be "characteristic" of some virus, but I would probably go with, "clear eyes and skin with no sign of the orange tint from the virus" or something, which sounds more natural for someone who is dealing with it on a daily basis.

    That's all I've got. Great start!: )

  4. I agree with comments to clip words--I liked it, but when we got to the very last paragraph, I liked it a lot more. The second-last paragraph, in particular, didn't make a lot of sense to me. I can see that you're trying to introduce a world, but I had to stop and think hard.

    Also, she says, "why had she opened her eyes?" But two paragraphs earlier, you answered the question ("the disregard made it impossible...")

    Lots of potential in this, just edit for clarity & brevity.

  5. I'd definitely read on! I liked a lot of what Steph said, though. The writing's a little formal, and I didn't like the word pang. But I loved the idea of sun-proof socks. Obviously we're in a world where the sun has become the enemy rather than the giver of life. I'm anxious to see why everyone's orange and how the the thieves have escaped it.
    Great job!

  6. Gah! I wrote such a nice post, and then Blogger booted me! To the best of my recollection:

    I basically agree with the above posts. I'm interested to read on and learn how Raine got herself into such a state, why people are orange, what her fever is all about, and what the thieves are going to do with her now that she isn't following the expected script. The word "pang" threw me, too, but I'm curious enough to want to read more.

  7. I like it. There are few bumpy parts (The foraging of her person, the disregard twice) but I would keep reading.
    I also think you could consider cutting the first paragraph in half--the part I felt really drawn into was when she opened her eyes and what follows. Get to that, and you'll be good. :)

  8. I was intrigued at the idea of sun proof socks. It made me wonder if she was a vampire and needed every surface covered against the sun. Which made the pang of sunlight fit well, in my opinion.
    There were some examples of jarring phrases. "the pockets of her threadbare shorts rummaged", for example. I wonder if you were trying to squash your narrative into the word limit at the expense of flowing prose. If you can't make the sentence work for you, it needs to be dropped. That sentence needed some more work, perhaps a subject, (even if it was an unknown person's hands) and maybe some internalization, too. If somebody was going through the pockets of my shorts as I lay on the ground, I would feel violated, scared of possible assault, or, as you describe in the next paragraph, worried that the thief would realize I was not dead.
    Needs more work, but overall, I would read on.

  9. Have to echo on a few comments made above. Agree with the word 'pang'. I also like your MC's name, Raine.

    I liked the dialogue at the very end, cause I can imagine the voice that would go with it.

  10. Wordy. Specifically, I was taken out of the story by misused words, "foraging" and "averted". I had to read the sentences several times to know what was going on.

    I might read on, only to see if the action and character building pick up, but at this point I have no connection to any of the characters or a good idea of the world they're in.

  11. The premise has me curious, but I think the writing isn’t as clear as it could be. I wondered where she was confined, and thought you didn’t need the ‘anyway’ in the first sentence. She says there was no gradual return to awareness, and yet she is aware of what’s happening to her. If she bartered her sun-proof socks, that means she traded them away, so she wouldn’t have them for someone else to steal. Say – bartered for. And the last sentence should be part of the previous sentence. Delete the period and make it a comma, otherwise her shorts are rummaging. It has those same kind of problems throughout, but they’re easily fixed. Maybe rewrite with an eye to better clarity?