Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #15

TITLE: Under the Veil of Dawn
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The intense hunger cramps continued to gnaw at my empty stomach. They crept into the hollow insides of my body— silent and sly— during short moments in which I had finally given in to the sleep that I hadn’t had in weeks. I had fooled the yearning for a while by wrapping a cloth tight around my torso. I had almost convinced myself that I wasn’t hungry. Almost. Now, enraged at the deception, the hunger was back with a vengeance. It was useless to try and go back to sleep for the lands where dreamers went, were no longer open to me.

I glanced at the skeletal figure lying beside me. The scratchy blanket had slipped off her bony body and now lay in an untidy heap on the floor. I picked it up and gently pulled it over her cold shoulders. She rolled and formed a cocoon for herself in the blanket, sighing happily. I felt my lips part in a smile, echoing her short-lived contentment.

Creeping out of the room, I spared a final glance at my sleeping sister before stepping outside. I pulled the door behind me but despite my soft touch, it wailed as its rusted hinges creaked. Cringing, I began walking along the dirt road, past rows of corrugated iron and wooden shacks, towards the only well in our slum. From a distance, my home looked like a human bird’s nest but I loved it as it was. The crippling infrastructure was the framework of my life.


  1. Good opening.

    One problem: I haven't seen enough of your story to know for sure who this person is, but this is very sophisticated language for a slumdweller. It's important in a first-person book to match the narrative voice to the actual voice of the main character.

    It's certainly possible that your character has a background that would make him or her well-educated and articulate and has somehow ended up in this slum, but if not, you might want to dial the language back to what would be normal for such a person.

  2. I would keep reading for a while, the voice and the situation piquing my interest.

    Mostly, what I want here though is more of a sense of her world and her surroundings. For example, we don't even know the other person is the MC's sister until the third paragraph, when it would be more effective to know earlier. Similarly, for the first paragraph the MC could be anywhere. I was imagining her in a forest hiding, but that's a much different picture than inside a metal shack.

  3. I absolutely love your description of being hungry. You get at it from the inside (cramps) and out (skeletal). I was okay not knowing where they were at first. When I found out it was a slum I was only further intrigued. Well done.

  4. The writing is very nice, and I agree with Nancy that the description of hunger is well done, but I'm not sure it's the best place to start the story. At this point, I can't tell whether the MC is male or female, what age he/she is, or where in the world they are (if it is even our world -- the style suggested to me that this might be fantasy).

    If you could establish a few of those grounding details, along with the fact that they are starving, I would be more drawn into the story.

  5. I don't think you need those grounding details yet. I'm happy to follow the description of the hunger for a bit. I didn't quite understand why the sister is content when she seems just as starved as the narrator. So that made me pause. The last 2 lines are great, although "crippling" may not be the right word...did you mean "crumbling"? Also this phrase is rather awkward and could be changed: "during short moments in which I had finally given in to the sleep that I hadn’t had in weeks." Instead you could try: "during the short moments when I finally slept. It had been months since I'd had a full night's sleep." Also, I'd change the last sentence in that paragraph to read: "It was useless to try and go back to sleep--the lands where dreamers go were no longer open to me." I really like how she covers up her sister--that gives us a big clue to her character. I don't see any problem with her diction and living in a slum. I am quite intrigued by this set up!

  6. I was grabbed by the description of hunger. I would read on confident I was in the hands of a good storyteller.

  7. I like starting with the hunger cramps because it sets the scene a bit. Great description! I also would like a few more grounding details, as well as a clue to the MC's goal and why they are in the predicament. Also, is the MC male or female?

    Last two lines are nice.

    The problem for me is the writing. So many run-on sentences, wordy and double-duty sentences.
    EX: 'I felt my lips part in a smile, echoing her short-lived contentment.' Just saying 'I smiled' would do. Also, the POV error is that he can't tell that she is content.

    Using 'had' distances the reader from the action. Try to stay in present.

    Don’t open a sentence with an -ing phrase unless the action occurring in that phrase happens at the same time as the action in the main part of the sentence. You can't creep out of the room at the same time as looking back.
    Hope this helps!

  8. I don’t know where they are. I don’t know why they’re in this situation. I have no hint at where the story is going. You haven’t given me any reason to read on. Perhaps start this in a different place where something is happening. Is something going to happen at the well? That may be a better place to start.

  9. Great description of hunger, and I can see how much the main character loves this person starving beside her. I was hooked until the main character said she loved this place. I find it difficult to believe anyone could love the slums where everyone is starving. I'd be more inclined to believe she loves what it used to be before falling into poverty or that she vowed to restore it to it's old glory.

  10. I didn't really get the sense of intense hunger. It's told rather than felt.