Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #36

GENRE: YA Post-Apocalyptic

The last time I climbed a fence this high, the world was a different place. Back then, my family wouldn't have approached the Splits of America if you'd paid us in gold. Back then, the Mexican Civil War was still young. Back then, we lived on a farm near Acapulco, and Mamá and Papá worried about silly things like me sneaking out to see my best friend, who had a tall chain link fence around her house.

We can't afford to worry about things like that anymore. I'm not thirteen years old, and the biggest risk in climbing this chain link fence is not a nasty fall or a skinned elbow. If Border Patrol sees my brother and me, they'll shred us with bullets.

Shrouded in darkness, outlined with moonlight, Davio and I finally slip over the top of the fence. Thank God it doesn't have barbed wire. Of course, there was enough stretched over the last three fences to compensate - the Patrol probably didn't think anyone would dig this far.

We drop the last couple meters and hit the sand in silence. On the other side of the fence, Mamá and Papá stop keeping watch and start climbing.

I stare through the starlit semi-darkness. Did we cross at the right spot?

Then floodlights slam on, bleaching my brother's skin the color of sand. His expression freezes in horror.

We stand in a pool of daylight in the middle of the night, pinned in place by the white bulbs. Caught between countries. Caught between worlds.


  1. Wow! This was tense and compelling. I liked the balance of backstory and current action.

    The only thing that distracted me were the many types of light - moodlight, starlit, floodlights, daylight. This seemed to dilute the contrast between the dark climb over the fence and the point that they're caught in the floodlights.

    Overall, I would definitely read on. Good luck! :)

  2. Love this opening. It draws me in right away with the contrast between past and present.

    The phrase "starlit semi-darkness" did seem a bit unnecessary--I think it would be stronger without the "starlit."

    Given the tension of this passage's ending, I would absolutely keep reading. :)

  3. Nice writing. I would keep reading. I agree that "starlit semi-darkness" is not necessary.

  4. I was definitely intrigued by this. I think it will be interesting to see how illegal immigration looks in a post-apocalyptic world.

  5. The 'back then' gets a bit repetitive for me in the beginning, but I think that's the only thing I can nitpick. I really liked this! I had the 'oh sh!t' moment, when the lights hit the brothers:( It gave tension without being dramatic.

    Good job! I'd read on!

  6. The story definitely opens on an intense moment and I want to keep reading. But, I think a little bit of polishing is necessary.
    For example, consider doing things like this:
    We can't afford to worry about things like that anymore. I'm not thirteen years old, and the biggest risk in climbing this chain link fence is not a nasty fall or a skinned elbow--it's being shredded by Border Patrol bullets.

  7. The setting is built up beautifully which helps me connect to your MC's situation. My only suggestion is tightening the prose. e.g- "We can't afford to worry about things like that anymore." can be cut without losing any major impact and your next line is a rockstar.

    Good work.

  8. Great start. I'd read on for sure. It's tense and I like the voice.

    I'd watch the use of the word 'light', it becomse a little distracting and contradicts itself in a couple places.

    Other than that, well done. Bring on more!

  9. You immediately ground us in a setting and put us into a tense moment.

    One suggestion--the narrator states that "I am not thirteen," which begs the question, how old is she/he then? Perhaps have the narrator say, "I'm seventeen (or whatever age) now, not thirteen anymore."

  10. Exciting! I think you could really tighten up the first two paragraphs, maybe even combine them. You could take out the repetitive "Back then..." The first paragraph has a little too much information and the second feels stilted. The third might be a better place to start because that's where you really grab the reader.

    I would definitely keep reading!

  11. I'd keep reading, but I think you can make this even stronger by tightening much of the lead-in.

  12. I really like this. Another pass-through to weed out filler words to tighten the writing, and I think you have a great opener. The repetition of back then in the first paragraph weighs it down; you could condense that a bit and it would flow better and keep hold of the urgency. I already feel the stakes being set up, so you don't want to lose that momentum. I would definitely continue reading.

  13. I like it. The only part that gave me pause was 'Then floodlights slam on..' Too me it reads a little awkward, but that could be a style thing.
    Overall, though, I really liked it and would keep reading. :)

  14. Tense opening that makes you want to see what's next.
    A definite page-turner.

    I do need to know the ages of the brothers. Yes, they've grown up because of the situation, but how much time has actually passed since MC was thirteen?

    Also, could you somehow date 'the Mexican Civil War' ? It pulled me out momentarily as I tried to remember when that was, which shows that without the Genre description, I wouldn't know if it was future or past.
    Maybe that's just me.

    Good job melding setting and action.

  15. It started out like many other dystopians I've read, but I began to become really intrigued when I found out the parents were sneaking out with the kids. The last paragraph is beautifully written. I would definitely read more. It has strong potential to be different than other dystopians.