Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #9

TITLE: The Alphabet Corps
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

She just wouldn't stop crying. Ugly, choking gasps for air between exaggerated sobs. Kneeling there on the dining room carpet, nose dripping down her rather plain face, babbling incoherently. Something about not hurting her boy. Çöl Çelik found it repulsive. He examined her with his jet black eyes, expressionless; trying to relate, trying to recall a time he had ever been so weak. But after a thousand years, he could only vaguely remember ever being human at all.

Sitting back in his chair, old wood and well made, Çelik turned away from the woman to brush flakes of dried skin from his black robe. To his left the woman's son, only a small child, was courteous enough to keep his tears to himself and for that he was grateful. The boy sat quietly playing with his miniature cars; some sort of police chase. A lot of collisions. He pulled a pistol from his robe and shot the child dead.

The mother screamed in agony, crawling to her son’s body and drawing his tiny corpse into her arms. Unfazed, Çelik ran a long, boney finger along the polished armrest. From this room. From this chair. Here the one they had mockingly dubbed ‘The Traitor King’ so long ago would finally take what he deserved. But the crying was getting to be too much.

“Oh stop,” he groaned. “I did him a favor. You have no idea what's coming."


  1. Maybe it's just me, but this seems a too "harsh" start for something YA.

  2. (I'm assuming Celik is not the MC, if he is, I have a different set of comments!)

    I liked the first and third paras, though in the first I think you have to choose between continuous sobbing vs. babbling incoherently.

    But -- a thousand-year-old being named Col Celik pulling a pistol and popping a cap, now that jarred me. Seemed out of character/tone.

  3. I had the same thought as Maya - that's quite alarming! Not necessarily because it's YA either, but because you've kind of blown a potentially tense, emotional, morality-bending moment in a casual kill. Still, I admit I'm hooked - dying to know where you're going with this!

    P.S. The ostentatious special character use in Col's name is a bit much. Is it a running gag or serious?

  4. I think it's well written. I'm a bit uncomfortable with the abrupt murder of the boy... especially since he doesn't seem to be doing anything that should get him murdered. What's the motivation for it? No witnesses? Too much of a liability for what he has planned? Torturing the mother? Why is he keeping her alive if she's annoying him so much?

    Also, do children play happily with cars when their mothers are sobbing uncontrollably? I figure he would be upset because obviously something's wrong.

    I was thrown by the special characters in the name. I'm assuming they're to indicate origins, but I don't know where I'm supposed to be thinking of.

    I wasn't expecting Celik to use a gun for some reason.

    Other than that, I'd read on to see what's coming. If it really is worse than murdering a little boy, then yikes!

  5. I'm not so shocked by the murder, BUT I don't get how a YA book has Celik as the main POV. If this is a flashback that the boy is remembering, then it would be written completely differently -- and that might work better... the scene through a child's eyes will be much more confused. (Like in Emma Donoghue's "Room")

    That gives you some great opportunities to do something unique. Good luck.

  6. The murder doesn't throw me off as much as the prose, and the presentation. For the first paragraph, I thought we were from the POV of "she," (because that's the first person we're introduced to) and I thought her name was Col Celik and she found her own crying repulsive. Then I realized who Col was.

    You also use semicolons incorrectly. A semicolon joins two grammatically complete sentence that are closely related, while a comma separates clauses/things that would be incomplete sentences on their own.

    The phrase "nose dripping" brought a very confused image to my head until I realized you meant "snot." It could just be me, but I'd replace "snot" with "nose" just to be more clear.

    As for the rest, I actually liked Col's name. It made me wonder about his origins. I was also intrigued about him brushing "flakes of dry skin from his robe." What kind of creature is he? That's probably what pulled me in more than anything else.

    Good luck!

  7. Really like some parts - the description of the mom and boy, and thought you made the Col character quite creepy - nice touch with the flakes of skin but thought you had a few awkward spots - screamed in agony; a pistol (seemed not to fit somehow); the name - (I kept going back to figure out to pronounce it and that threw me off the story). Really enjoyed your writing and would read on.

  8. As Heather said, why was the child sitting, playing with his cars, while his mother sobbed?

    The voice really seemed more adult to me. I would agree with Duango Writer.I'm not really sure who the MC is because this is a YA, so I'm assuming it isn't Col. I was wondering if this might be a prologue?

  9. I personally was totally turned off by the murder of the little boy on the first page, and would not read on. I don't empathize with any of the characters (except maybe the boy) so I'm not hooked.

  10. Hi all. Author here. Thanks for your feedback. Thought I'd respond to some questions/comments. Most of your minor questions are eventually explained in the book, just not right off the bat in the first 250 words. As for the bigger stuff...

    1) The character here is the main antagonist. He's a Turk from 1000 years ago, so his name simply reflects that. The other characters rarely refer to him by it, going with the easier "Traitor King" or "the king" instead.

    2) The shooting. It was pretty much the worst thing I could think of someone doing and it's definitely the darkest moment in the book. There's supposed to be an element of shock value there and you're supposed to feel uncomfortable. I hoped to establish how disconnected this guy was from humanity that he'd do something like that so casually and then think of it as a favor. I wanted to establish how knee-jerk dangerous he is. And I wanted to give the reader a reason to really hate him right off the bat.

    It wasn't my intention for readers to get confused about whether or not Col was the protagonist though. I simply introduced the villain first, which isn't really THAT out of the ordinary in storytelling. The following 40 pages is character introduction/development and world-building, and I didn't want the main antagonist first introduced 50 pages in, so I put him at the beginning. We can assume he's off putting his plan together while we meet the protagonists and set them off on their new adventure to find and defeat him.

    3) The protag and his friend, who are introduced immediately after this short passage, are teenagers, hence the YA tag. Yes, it's definitely not for the younger end of the YA scale, but I grew up with YA like Lord of the Flies and The Outsiders which have their share of darker moments. Hunger Games has a similar scene. I honestly believe high school kids can handle it. But, you know, if it's not your genre it's not your genre. Most of the offerings here seem to be teen romance, so perhaps I'm in the wrong place in terms of target audience a bit too.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. You've been really helpful and I appreciate it! :)