Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #36

GENRE: YA dystopian with heavy romantic elements

Noplace in D-town to escape the sound of The Dance, and I’m glad. The techno beat gives something to latch onto as punch number I’ve-lost-count crashes into my stomach like it will tear through and shatter my spine. Air leaves my lungs in a shocked oomph— always a surprise, no matter how many blows have landed—and my body curls, absorbing the violence.

Awareness narrows to brilliant agony and the boom of the bass. If only my meditations were half this focused. A timeless moment later, I can breathe again, but not for long, because the next hit comes, with its oomph exhale followed by aching stillness.

The beat carries me, red flashes of pain pulsing in time, and I lose track of everything else until the blows stop. I am lying on the ground with my right eye swollen shut. I open my left a little and meet the glazed eye of the A who’s been beating me. I cower back before realizing he’s on his side too. Blood drools out of his mouth onto the broken concrete between us.

Tattooed fingers grab the A’s shirt, flipping him onto his back, and a knee clad in black denim thunks to the ground by my lips. The new guy’s fist smashes into the A’s round face, splitting the skin over the cheekbone.

The knuckles land again, widening the gash.


Again—the nose this time, connecting with a crunch. The A’s head jerks to the side, and a warm spray of blood mists my face.


  1. I had to read the lede twice because I read punch number as some kind of card being punched instead of a fist punch. (suggest editing to fix this...would really help if we knew up front who was punching protagonist). But then once I got it I really liked it! You wove in the The Dance element seamlessly, and it succeeded in achieving a v sci fi Clockwork Orange feel.

    I guess my only concern is that you indicate there's a heavy romance element here...and I'm not sure there's a lot of overlap between readers of romance and ultra-violence. Starting with something so violent might prevent the usu reader of YA romance from going on. But as far as the writing goes, I think this is gripping.

  2. Violent beginning! I want to know how this transforms into a romantic story, because these first 250 seem to indicate a more brutal, fight-for-your-life sort of world. Your writing is strong, and I'm curious to know what happens, but I think robyn is right that this might turn off some readers who are expecting a cozy romance.

  3. Agree with Robyn and Jeannette. I'd put this down because violence turns me off and I'm looking for romance.

    Maybe decide which audience you're going for and stick with that?

    Good luck!

  4. Brutal! I agree that if you're going for romance, you may want to tone down the violence a little. But I'm okay with it being there... just maybe not as completely described, if that makes sense? I can see romance arising out of violence (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?) and I think this could work in a Baz Lurhmann kind of way. But this is only the first 250 anyway, so who knows where it goes from here? (Except you!)

    I'd read on. Well done!

  5. I also had to read a few times to convince myself that you weren't describing the affect the music was having on you. Too wordy. Come right out with it if you're going to start with this inciting incident. Increased action = short sentences and few modifiers. Try it out. It feels uncomfortable at first. Read it out loud. Good concept. Keep working it.

  6. I disagree with everybody and think that in YA, violence and romance sometimes go hand in hand (not in an abusive way!!!). I'm thinking, Divergent, Carnival of Souls, The Hunger Games, Blood Red Road, etc.

    The thing about your narrative, which out of all those titles is the most like Melissa Marr's Carnival of Souls because of its descriptive brutality, is that it can be extremely confusing. I re-read those first two sentences a couple of times. "I've-lost-count" as an adjective threw me.

    I like that there's a fight going on and that loud music is playing. I like that your narrator is a boy...I think. YA heroines always seem to love boys who fight.

  7. I'm thinking the person who saves him is the girl who will be his love interest. If it is, nice twist having the girl save the boy.

    What struck me most was that the MC just stands and takes all this. He doesn't try to fight back and doesn't even try to protect himself. He's just standing there letting someone beat the crap out of him. At least let him try to throw an arm over his face and head. I want to be able to believe the MC has the brains and courage to be a hero, even if he doesn't have the muscle.

  8. Sorry if this is repetitive. I agree that the first sentence is confusing. It took me a few re-reads to get what "punch number ..." meant. I also wasn't sure if "punch" meant the beat of the music or something else entirely. Aside from that I think this reads really well. It's a vivid sensory description of the violence. I'd like a little more hint of context. Why is this happening and who are the parties involved? Also a hint of what the MC is feeling (emotionally) in regard to what is happening. If these things are coming very soon, I think that would be OK, and I would read on to find out! Just my 2 cents of course. I think the writing is very strong.

  9. There is nothing her to ground us in the world or give us any inkling of the character. This is one case where "dropping readers in the middle of the action" is not a good thing. It leaves everyone utterly confused.

    Back up a bit and give us some sort of basis for who, where, what is going on. Because so much slang is used without explanation or context, it's incredibly difficult to follow. So take time to show us a few things before the mc's brain is busted in a fight.