Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Across the Stars
GENRE: YA sci-fi

I can’t breathe.

As the water closes around me, I fight the urge to gulp for breathe. Creatures of the sky are not meant to be submerged, and yet—here I am.

An eel darts past, and I shy away it As it vanishes in search of food, I look around—I’m alone. Which means Juhan’tr is about to go back on the dare that brought us here.

Get your skinny as** in here- I demand on a psychic thread, twisting to look through the water to the surface.

I feel the wicked edge of intent before he dives and I jerk backwards, almost out of his grasp. His long hands close around my ankle and I thrash, panic swamping me and I open my mouth to inhale and scream.

It breaks the amphibious gel seal that lets me breath, and water, sticky sweet and cloying, floods into my mouth and I choke.

Close your mouth, you idiot- my brother orders, you’re not a fish.- I glare at him and he smirks, This was your idea.-

He mellows the harsh words by twisting to grasp my hand. It is familiar enough to settle me and I glance around again. The water is warm, tickling my fur into a hundred different directions, tinted a soft orange by the roots we came to see.

I've never been swimming before. Neither of us have.


  1. Lots to like about this one. You use a lot of sensory expressions to make the readers feel a part of your world. There is also a confidence in your writing that makes me feel like you are in control of your story.

    My only nitpick is that she's panicking, yet she's more aware of what's going on than someone who panics typically does.

    Otherwise, you have a good beginning with voice and characterization right from the start.

  2. This is a very hooking premise and something I haven't seen before. That's a great start.

    "Creatures of the sky are not meant to be submerged" great, engaging line that tells us tons.

    "I've never been swimming before. Neither of us have." redundant and flat after such a perfect line.

    There are some awkward constructions that an annoyingly thorough critiquer could help you root out. Otherwise the writing is solid.

    I would certainly read on and I would expect to continue to be amazed by new perspectives and paradigms of a "sky people".

    If they turned out to be just regular old folk with a regular old culture and regular old problems, it would be a heartbreaking discovery.

  3. I definitely found this intriguing and would read on. I learn quite a bit: two air creatures (brother and sister) daring each other to swim. And they have fur instead of feathers. Interesting.

    I agree with the previous critique that there are some awkward constructions (and spelling errors - like "breathe" for "breath" and vice-versa). In particular I found the line "The water is warm, tickling my fur into a hundred different directions, tinted a soft orange by the roots we came to see." I couldn't tell at first whether the water or her fur was tinted, "tickling into" doesn't quite make sense, and the word "roots" threw me off - maybe you should name them? The Water Roots we came to see.

    I'm also confused as to why she starts screaming when her brother jumps in, since she's the one who demands that he join her. In addition, she says her screaming breaks the gel that allows her to breathe, yet the first line says that she can't breathe.

    I think all the above is easily fixed through editing. The story and setting itself do interest me.

  4. This opens with your character unable to breathe, implying she's already underwater, and then the water closes around her. It should already be around her.

    Breathe in the 2nd parg should be breath. And would your MC refer to herself as a 'creature?'

    Parg 3 I shy away 'from' it

    Parg 5 - why would she panic and thrash when she not only just told him to get in there, but also knew he was coming, and that it was him holding her ankle?

    Parg 6 - where are they swimming, that the water would be sticky sweet, and cloying?

    The water is warm, tickling my fur into a hundred different directions, tinted a soft orange by the roots we came to see. - This says that the directions are tinted. Rephrase for clarity.

    And last - if they've never been swimming before, how do they know how to swim?

    The idea is interesting. Clean up the writing and the logic issues, which is easy enough.

  5. I think the scene setting works best when the language is simplest "Creatures of the air ..." etc..very nice. The excerpt suffers a bit from a bit of florid writing that I think detracts from the immediacy of the situation - turning what might be a situatin or peril into an almost dream state. I think losing some of the more poetic attempts at description would make it more solid. I am not sure why I am the only one who did not see gender - everyone is referring to the MC as a she and a sister - but I did not pick up on that. I thought it could be two brothers just as easily - one younger, one older. But, perhaps I missed something. Either way, my reaction is the same. Just not sure why everyone assumes it's a girl.

  6. Agree with what others have said. The writing isn't entirely clear. She can't breath, but but the water is closing around her and not already around her? And if she only needs to break the seal to be able to breath, why doesn't she do it sooner?

    Also, Across the Stars immdeitaly makes me thing of Across the Universe by Beth Revis, which is also a YA sci-fi. Though you're book isn't reading a thing like that one, you may want to consider changing the title.

    I do like the relationship between the siblings. A good connection from the get go.

  7. Your MC is very aware for someone who is panicking. If they are simply surprised by being in the water at first, you might want to go back and fix that. I love this premise and voice, and would definitely want to read more.

  8. I like how you capture the idea that time slows down in a moment of life changing and maybe life ending danger. As a reader, we know he is thrashing about and looking for rescue but in his mind everything slows down and he has a kind of out of body ability to see the scene as if it was not involving him. When his brother reaches out his hand to save him it is a very powerful moment and I think you captured all of that nicely. Some of the language might need to be streamlined because it is an opening 250 and you don't want to get too descriptive but I think his life-altering situation comes through wonderfully and I think someone who is a creature of the air suddenly immersed inwater might have a part of him that was analyzing the difference. Really nicely done. I am hoping that in the next 250 as the story continues the relationship between the two brothers beomces more concrete because now it seems like one is cautious and one is daring and I think that is replete with possibilities. Good luck!

  9. There seems to be some confusion as to the gender of the MC. Perhaps when the MC's brother is communicating with the MC he can say it was your idea, bro or your idea, sis. That would be a fairly easy way to clarify the gender of the MC.

    Otherwise, the premise is interesting and I would love to read on. :)

  10. This is really cool. I love how alien the setting and characters are. I love the psychic chatter, and 'creature of the air' reference.

    However, I am frustrated as a reader that I have no idea what these characters look like. They're so much empty space to me, because it's been hinted that they're more than human. I really want to know what that looks like.

    I don't often say this, but a little more description would make this even better.

    But genuinely, really enjoyed this. Really well done.

  11. I like your first line and your descriptions; however, the descriptions don't always work as well as they could (panic swamping over me, sticky sweet and cloying). I'm a bit confused about whether these are aliens, animals, or humans and would like to have an idea about what they are within this section. With some more editing, this could be even better.

  12. Other people have pretty much covered the issue that she seems awfully calm for someone *this* close to drowning, so I'll nitpick instead. I don't know if the style of writing is entirely clear or complete.

    You probably don't need the dash before "here I am." Other changes I'd suggest on a mechanical level:

    "...gulp for breath."

    "and I shy away from it. As it vanishes..."

    "in here, I demand..."

    "lets me breathe,"

    "in a hundred different directions,"

    There seem to be random hyphens all throughout the 7th paragraph. The single sentence in the 6th feels overlong. I don't quite know what to make of this buildup of little errors, but I will say that it's an interesting place to start, with an interesting-seeming MC. Best of luck!

  13. I'd start this with "Close your mouth ..." - the rest is too detailed and laborious. But the last three paragraphs SO hooked me.

  14. This has an odd mood, which fits really great with your story. Many editing, spelling errors others have pointed out. I guess this is your first draft.

    What is a psychic thread? Maybe show this more?

    Swamping? Doesn't seem the right word. Maybe show it more?

    What's a gel sac? show this, too

    Quotation marks are missing when they talk to each other...or are they using ESP? Make it clearer what's happening between the two of them.

  15. My biggest comment here is Show, Don't Tell. It's a very confusing start to a book because --- well, you're not really showing us much. Just telling us and we end up with a lot of facts that mean nothing to us. She has fur? She is a creature of the sky? What is a gel seal? A psychic thread?

    Too many strange things to process without any real information. Take your time with this passage, spread it out and explain things to the reader.


  16. I can tell by reading through this entry that I would love to read the story, which is great --but the opening just doesn't do it for me. Stressful openings where a person is drowning(?) or going underwater grate my nerves, because I instantly think why should I care if the person drowns-? I don't even know who they are yet. Still, the overall idea of who the characters might be is beautiful and intriguing. Good job.