Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Love You To Death

I covered my mouth with both hands to silence the sound of my breathing. My lungs were burning. I cowered behind a mountain of stacked hay bales.

Where was Gideon?

God, I prayed, please let him be alright.

I shifted to the left, carefully so I wouldn’t make any noise and peeked around the side. The barn door was still closed. My labored breaths had calmed a little, enough for me to notice it wasn’t echoing in my ears. The rusty hinges on the barn door squeaked. I froze. He was here. Instant tears of pure terror ran down my cheeks. The door slapped shut, a muted clap of wood on wood.

“Come out, come out, where ever you are…” He sang.

Chills raced up and down my spine. He sounded as sick as he really was. I curled into myself, trying to become small enough to disappear. His shoes made scraping noises on the concrete floor. I could hear him checking the stalls as he walked. One of the horses snorted their disapproval, probably Lola. I calculated his position, still closer to the door than to me.

“I’m not gonna hurt you.” He called out. His raspy smoker’s voice carried across the barn.

I knew he was lying. I knew he didn’t mean it. As soon as I surrendered I was a goner. Not dead, but I’d wish I was. Where was Gideon?

There was a twelve gauge hidden in the feed barn, if I could get to it.


  1. Good way to open with tension. My only suggestion would be to add a little bit more about who "he" is - you don't need to say who, just give some descriptors that really enhance our fear of him.

  2. I liked it, the tension and our feel for the character are both there right away. I think, as long as more info about our 'he' is introduced shortly hereafter, that leaving it slightly vague for now is fine, useful even for drawing in the audience

  3. Definitely a juicy conflict to open the story, but the grammatical errors were pretty jarring for me. I'd take a look at the rest of the ms and make sure the writing itself is as clean as humanly possible.

    "I shifted to the left dash carefullycomma so I wouldn't make any noise dash, and peeked around the side." (the structure of this sentence is pretty funky; that's one way of several to fix it)

    "My labored breaths had calmed a little, enough for me to notice they weren't echoing in my ears." (The phrasing here is a little odd, too - the "noticing" makes the MC feel oddly detached from herself)

    "Come out, come out, wherever you are..."

    "I calculated his position colon, dash, or something that isn't a comma, otherwise it's an adjective attribution error still closer to the door..."

    "I'm not gonna hurt youcomma" he called out."

    That last one worries me. If all the dialogue in the ms is incorrectly punctuated, it'll be a pain in the butt to fix. I'd definitely double-check that.

    Other than that, nice tension, nice clear goal, nice stakes.

    Good luck!

  4. You know how to build suspense and tell a story. I'd keep reading. But yes, there are some punctuation errors. When you have a line of dialogue like, "Did you see what Sarah was wearing today?" she asked. The she is a continuation of that sentence, even with the question mark at the end of the dialogue, so said is lowercase . If it was a straight sentence with a period like, "I love you," he said. You use a comma not a period, and the he is also lowercase. The only time you use a capital after dialogue is when the action is the dialogue tag. For instance, "Are you going to eat that? I'm starving." He snatched the sandwich off her plate before she could say no.

    Hope that helps. Also a great book that teaches punctuation techniques is A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman. Reading about punctuation is boring, but you may find it takes your writing to the next level.

  5. LOVED THIS! Super creepy.

    Yes, there are a few punctuation errors. However MS Word's find-replace function can make solving repeat problems with things like dialogue tags a breeze. (Well, mostly).

    This is a great opener. You've totally got me hooked!

  6. Agree with much of what was said. I love the bit about the smoker's voice. THAT was when I felt like I had a real glimmer of the villain. A few more bits like that perhaps?

  7. A good beginning that puts the protagonist in immediate danger. The piece could use some editing, there are a few errors of punctuation, but overall, it draws the reader in, so good job.

  8. So there are some punctuation errors - those can be fixed. What you nailed was the tension, the voice, and investing me in the main character's plight. A great start.

  9. Yes, definitely fix the punctuation and word choice errors. The tension and suspense pulled me through forcefully enough that I didn't actually notice them the first time through, but now that I see them, they're pretty glaring.

    My only quibble with this is the "He was here." I feel a peculiar sense of vengeance against phrases like that, "He was here." "And then it happened." And "That's when everything changed!" and so forth.

    They're not deal killers, but they're usually like little artificial sign posts that tell the reader "You should feel tension now," when what follows usually shows that much more effectively. I'm also a tad annoyed that the MC is obviously familiar with this villain and yet withholds the name. I feel like that's just withholding to create false suspense--which is unnecessary in an already tense situation.

    Regardless, I totally would have kept reading. The quibbles are forgivable in light of the tension, story questions, and voice.

  10. I won't bother repeating what most have said about the punctuation, as that is an easy fix.

    I may be the only one but with the first dialogue and He sang, since that last male name used was Gideon, I thought it was him. It wasn't until she wondered about Gideon that I realised it was a different male. Since she knows this person, maybe offer a name or something else to make it clearer the male sing-songing the sentence isn't Gideon.

    I'd read on.

    Good luck with it. :)

  11. I too thought "he's here" was referring to Gideon and it threw me out a little until I worked out it wasn't. A simple fix for this would be to take out the two lines referring to Gideon at the start. He isn't relevant at this point - only her fear and the appearance of the bad guy are important to draw the reader in.

  12. Ditto what Mia about repeating. I think your writing is very strong, and I would definitely keep reading. I did want to mention-I know it was mentioned in other comments-that I would love to be "introduced" to the characters a bit more.

  13. Very suspenseful and intriguing. if I can suggest a few things, don't be afraid to break up your paragraphs some. An editor once told me smaller paragraphs are easier on the reader. I know I tend to skip long paragraphs when reading sometimes. i'd rethink certain word placements as well. "I shifted to the left, carefully" might be a confusing or awkward statement for some YA readers. "I shifted carefully to the left" I feel works better because carefully modifies shifted, and now the reader doesnt have to work as hard to associate the two. That way, they can focus on your intriguing plot instead :)

  14. Great tension. I want to know what will happen next!

    I want the horse's response to sound fearful of the man who has entered. Make the horse sound scared of the man and the tension will go even higher. Would the evil man clank something across the bars of the horse's stall? That could cause the horse to rear back and the MC could worry about the horse.