Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Jane Unwrapped

My name is Jane Ezrael. I am seventeen years old.

And I think I just drowned.

I’m on all fours, palms flat on black sand. Only thin rays of purple light allow me to see. I stand and a dull ache spreads throughout my body, as if my bones are rusted pieces of metal grinding together. A dark haze reaches towards me, swirling around my arms and legs. Grey fog shifts in the distance, like a rolling storm.

I wrap my pink hoodie tighter around myself; it’s soaked through, and my dripping bathing suit still clings to my skin. I have an eerie feeling I’ll never be dry again.

This isn’t right – this isn’t how it’s supposed to be! If I were dead, there wouldn’t be anything left. I couldn’t see or feel or hurt. No, I can’t be dead. I have to wake up and take my chemistry test on Monday. I’m not dead.

“Duncan!” I scream. He has to be around here somewhere. When I fell from my tube and was carried down river – I must have ended up in this weird spot. I’m stranded, that’s all. Duncan is probably looking for me now, laughing that his little sister has embarrassed herself again.

I peer through the haze: still nothing but fog in the distance. There has to be something out there. I take a tentative step. The ground is grainy beneath my bare feet, like the banks of Skutz Falls.


  1. I think you should cut the first three sentences and begin it on "I'm on all fours..." That's much more interesting, the reader seeing that she's wet and tired. Telling us upfront that she drowned takes out all the thrill of finding out what happened to her.

    Plus, why is she so certain that she's dead? It's as if she wants to be. She should be saying, "Thank God I'm alive" or "I should be dead, but I'm not" and then turn around and see her dead body floating in the water, and then she can be like "Oh crap I'm dead!"

  2. You have a lot of powerful writing here, and I would definitely read on to see what's happening. I agree with Empress Awesome that it might be interesting to get rid of those first three sentences. Because really, I can't quite imagine being confused if I drowned or not. I would think she'd just assume she was alive, even if she's actually dead. It might be stronger to let her think she's alive, and throw some clues in there to let us wonder if she's actually drowned and just doesn't realize it yet.

    Anyway, good luck! :)

  3. Actually, I love the opening sentences. They caught my attention more than opening immediately in the scene would have by providing context.

    I don't entirely know what's going on in this excerpt, but that's okay -- I want to keep reading and find out.

    My only concern is that this kind of premise reminds me of a lot of YA novels I've read, so I'd want to be sure this one would stand out. But that's an issue to be determined from the query/premise or by reading more, not from these opening pages, which are great.

  4. oooo, I like this! Strong writing skills and enough intrigue to make me wonder, is she really dead? Or maybe in between or something? Yes, I would definitely keep reading.

  5. I think you should cut the first two sentences--despite what the Secret Agent says. Starting with the name and age is dry and a put off to me. With your imagination, you can find some other place to ease in this information.

    The rest is intriguing. I want to know where she is. Suggest you use innertube. "Tube" stopped me, but that's a minor thing.

  6. You grabbed me with the start, through the first couple of lines, which I think were a great hook. After that, I felt like it didn't quite fit with the scenario from those first couple of lines. I can imagine someone being a little disorientated if they had just had a drowning experience, but I think she would have thought about where her brother was sooner.
    She's talking about how she can't be dead, needs to do her test on Monday, but she's also confused about where she is. I think one of those needs to be the focus for now, and then come to the other in a minute. To me, this just doesn't feel like it fits together right - I'd suggest maybe reordering what she's noticing and thinking about here.

  7. I liked the opening but not so much the paragraph beginning with THIS ISN'T RIGHT... The internal dialog felt wrong, forced. Let me find out if she is/isn't dead. What a great twist it would be if she actually is but didn't realize it...kinda 6th Sense-ish.

    What kind of YA is this? Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal, etc?

    I do think I'd read more, so you hooked me. :)

  8. I'm hooked. Loved the first lines. The details made this real to me--the haze, the rusted pieces of metal, the pink hoodie. The only part that stopped me was falling from the tube. I have no clue what the tube is and I had to check the genre to make sure it wasn't science fiction. Otherwise, I thought this was well done.

  9. Sorry, I meant to say 'the comparison to' the rusted pieces of metal. (I know the rusty pieces aren't really there.)

  10. I also didn't like the opening. The name and age bit is just done too often. And while I liked the overall set-up, I thought the tone was too calm and even. Regardless of whether she's dead or not, I'd expect a bit more emotion, and this just reads flat. She seems much too rational for the situation.

    Having said that, I'd still read on because I do want to know what happened. The next pages would be what kept me hooked or not.

  11. Great hook! You are obviously a strong writer, and you grabbed my attention with the opening lines.
    This is a premise I've seen a lot in YA lately, but if your opening is any clue to the rest of the manuscript, you've found a way to make it fresh. Good luck!

  12. This reads a little like a prologue, with those first two lines; not sure if it is or not. This might work well as a prologue, and then ch. 1 grounds the reader a bit. So hard to tell with such a short excerpt!

    This line felt a little off This isn’t right – this isn’t how it’s supposed to be!
    Not sure if you need it at all, you could go with the next, or at least lose the exclamation. It actaully takes away a bit of the drama for me.

    I also don't think you need "I scream" since so far, she is the only person in the scene, and clearly, she's screaming or yelling! :)

    I would watch for the I + verb starting in so many sentences. Some of the actions you can nix altogether. You don't have to say she peers if you show the haze around her, we know she is seeing it. Or maybe rephrase. "My steps are tentative. The ground is grainy beneath my feet."

    I like the mysterious element here. I'm guessing this has a paranormal slant, I'm curious what the slant is.

  13. The line that got my attention was "I think I just drowned." You might consider leaving off the name and age that several people have objected to and just start there.

    The following paragraphs jumped around a little too much for my taste. I thought her first reaction after coming to in the fog would be to look for her brother, rather than thinking immediately, "I must be dead and it doesn't feel how I expected it would."

    Having said that, it's an intriguing beginning and the writing is pretty clean. Nice job.

  14. You are a strong writer and have many ways to keep the reader interested. Liked the line, "I have an eerie feeling I'll never be dry again."

  15. I liked the opening hook and it made me assume it was a paranormal story but the tube thing threw me a little. Everything else seemed so normal but why was she in this tube? Was it a waterslide? I also wondered why nobody else was around.