Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Rimotest Falling
GENRE: YA Fantasy

A feeling of unexpected foreboding brushed Arika’s consciousness like a moth’s papery wings. Had she lived this moment already? She frowned and continued to scrub the laundry with a stone. It felt as if time was repeating. Perhaps she was recalling a dream.

A thunderous roar rent the stillness. Startled, she looked up the hill. Oh, Lanai, no, she thought. Her parents’ cottage and neat gardens were billowing with flames, thick black smoke pouring from the fire in waves. She dropped the laundry and stood. Tripping on her dress, she pinwheeled and fell backward. When she hit the river, the cold water stole the breath from her lungs. She was completely submerged.

Her skirts soaked up the water. Her thrashing legs tangled in the fabric until she could barely move. She struggled to swim upward through the water, but she did not rise. She touched the silt at the bottom of the river. Bubbles poured from her mouth as she screamed. She took a huge gulp of murky water.

She kicked at the water to no avail. Her clothes were just too heavy. Her eyes stung as she looked to the surface, where the sunshine taunted her, out of reach. She couldn’t believe the goddess Lanai was taking her in death after only twelve short years. Her eyes rolled back into her head, and she breathed water. The cold permeated her from the inside.

Suddenly a hand gripped her shoulder. Her eyes popped open.


  1. Hi,

    I'm participating the Secret Agent and critiquing for the first time. Mind you, I'm no expert so I'll just give you my opinion.

    You have too many She and Her. Since you stated at the beginning that her name is Arika, you should use it later as well instead of all the "She".

    You did make me curious but the previously mentioned problem detracts from it.

    Also, I would suggest getting rid of "Suddenly", it actually slows down the action insted of making it faster.

    I think this would sound more immediate: Arika's eyes popped open when a hand gripped her shoulder.

    Hope it was helpful.



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  3. I was drawn in on your first line. Very powerful. Then you asked a question. This pulled me out of the moment.

    The third and fourth sentences weakens your story further. Using words like "felt" are telling. In the beginning especially, we need to be shown.

    NOW, the second paragraph is very exciting. I would pull that up into the beginning.

    The third and fourth paragraphs are good, but I would tighten them a bit more. They were a bit too drawn out.

    I hope this helps.

  4. I'm going to confuse you by being completely contrary.

    Since she's the only character in this scene, you don't need to use Arika's name until you've mentioned another "she" we might confuse with her.

    Also, it seemed to me that this narrative flew by. There are a lot of events happening here: She has a premonition sort of feeling, then she looks up and her parents' house is burning to the ground, then she trips, then she falls into a river, then she drowns, then someone grabs her shoulder... and yet I'm not really engaged with any of this action because it goes by so quickly, I don't really have any time to make any sort of connection to Arika, and frankly, a lot of it seems really unrelated. Like, first the house being on fire is the issue... but then she's very suddenly drowning.

    I would step back from this, figure out exactly what you're trying to achieve, storywise, with this scene, and map out a series of related events. Revise with an eye toward engaging the reader with the character and a conflict, rather than just a bunch of dramatic events that could be happening to anyone.

  5. I was very intrigued by the first line, but then, like Michael said, the question sort of pulled me out of the moment. On the whole, while the action is certainly very gripping, without knowing much about the narrator I wasn't as impacted by what was happening to her as I could have been. Like Heather said, I wonder if you could allow the reader to engage and connect with the narrator at least a little more before everything happens to her.

  6. I found the first line a little busy. I'm really intrigued by whatever's happening with the goddess, and how she's choosing to "take" Arika--great way to give us a glimpse into Arika's world. However, why does her reaction to her parents' house/gardens burning seem so...understated? Her only reactions are standing, tripping and thinking "Oh, Lanai, no." If my house were on fire all of a sudden, I'd be frantic. Maybe Arika has a stoic personality or something, but if so, this isn't a great way to introduce the character.

    I also think this would benefit with a better transition between her falling backward and hitting the river. I got the sense that she tumbled down a hill. What did that feel like, physically and emotionally?

    I also agree with Maya about "she" and "her."

    Good luck with this! Seems like it could be cool.

  7. I wondered if the fire was important or the drowning? Why start with the fire if we're not going to see it?

    Once she falls into the water, we're told just about everything, which is why there's no connection to your character. You're telling us what happened to her, rather than us letting her kick and flail, and react and think about what's going on. Show the scene and it'll be stronger.

  8. Some very exciting events are happening, but they all seem to rush by without leaving enough of an impact. I was a little confused by her reaction to the burning of her parent's house - perhaps this will come later, though.
    I am intrigued and would read on.

  9. You've got some beautiful descriptions here, but I have to agree with some of the other commenters in that there is just too much happening in the first 250 words. How about we just get to know the character and understand her situation before we get to the fire and drowning. :-)

    Best of luck.

  10. The best writing advice I ever got was Slow Down. We're told over and over that we should start with conflict and excitement, in the middle of the action, and that leads to a kind of breathless rush through the first page. But I think your opening would benefit from a little more richness of detail. What is Arika feeling and thinking? What words can you choose to make us feel her fear, horror, panic? That might serve to bridge that distance that I felt from the character in this life-changing moment.

  11. I was confused at the beginning. Was it just a feeling of deja vu or that something was amiss? I didn't feel the characters panic and terror. Like Abbe Hoggan suggests, take a little more time. Were there or would there be any indication that something is wrong? Wasn't there any yelling or screaming? The last line definitely has me intrigued.