Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Zorya

My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

There were fifteen of us in my classroom that fall—the entire high school senior class population of the Northern California Enclave. And then there was David. Named after David, I guess.

He wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.

I propped an arm on my desk and casually leaned my head on my hand, turning my face a bit to the right. That way, I could look at him without...looking like I was looking at him. Up at the front of the room Madame Stefonia was writing something on the whiteboard, so she probably wouldn’t notice right away that I wasn’t paying attention.

The moonlamps were turned up high so David could see well enough to read and write. Their eyes are really bad—I don’t think they can even see colors at night. On the other hand, I could see him just fine. Unlike me, he was watching the teacher and busily taking notes.

He was blonde, which in a room full of black hair made him stick out like a snowball on an asphalt road. He was almost a year older than me, almost a foot taller, and even skinnier. His eyes were dark brown, which was as weird around here as the blonde hair. His voice had a twinge of accent, Texas I think, and my God, the tan.


  1. Hello there!

    SF/F is my go-to genre for books and YA is a secret kindle weakness. I really like your opening, and I would definitely read more simply to find out what Zorya is, when David seems human.

    I think you introduce that this isn't quite our normal world very subtly, which is great!

    I'm not being much help ^^; but just two things. When Zorya propped 'an arm' on her desk I had this bizarre image of a spare body part instead of her own, and in the final paragraph I don't think you need to mention the 'black hair'. If the sentence was adjusted it would run well because asphalt = black anyways. But that's just a personal preference!

  2. You've got a very distinctive voice, which I enjoyed here. Because I know you can do it, I'd suggest making the opening paragraph even stronger.

    Right now it reads as if I'm meeting her on the street. It's just a little bit sleepy and bland, especially b/c I know nothing about the goddess she's named after.

    What if you opened with a fact about the goddess.

    Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star, reduced villages to ashes with a single look from her eyes of fire. I know because Mother named me after her.

    Other than that my only critique would be regarding your snowball metaphor. I'm on the fence about it. Its original, but I keep thinking, that would never happen and the snowball would melt, especially b/c I think of asphalt as being hot... Is there a metaphor more accessible to everyday experience?

  3. Sure, I would keep reading for a few pages. I am a sucker for SF & F and I'm interested in the world that you're creating, partly because it's mysterious.

    However, I'm not as drawn in as I could be. I don't think you need the first paragraph -- it doesn't flow into the second, and the second is where the problem of the book is introduced.

    In fact, you might do well having the third paragraph be your first, i.e. "David wasn't one of us. He was one of them."

    The voice is good, and I especially liked the snowball/asphalt simile (though it makes me think the snowball doesn't have long to live).

  4. I like the way that you have hinted at some slight insecurity in your narrator. Her assessment that her name is "sort of cool" because of its connection to the goddess of the Evening Star. That she angles herself to look at David without looking like she's looking at him. These are moments that give a human connection in a world, that so far, hints of being different.

  5. I, too, liked the voice, and I'm intrigued by the world you're building.

    However, I stumbled through the first four paragraphs, which jumped rapidly from present to past tense, and then from a series of general statements into a specific action (arm propped on desk). And I really, really like the opening line, but it doesn't seem connected to the rest.

    I would suggest rearranging this a little, to set the scene in the classroom before moving into Zorya staring at David. Maybe something like the following (this is rough):

    The moonlamps in our classroom were turned up high so David could see. He wasn't one of us. He was one of them. The only blond among the fifteen dark-haired seniors of the Northern California Enclave, he stuck out like a snowball on an asphalt road.

    I propped an arm on my desk...

  6. I'm intrigued. I would keep reading, even though SF is not usually my thing.

    You have done a good job giving us a hint at how unusual this world is, while also keeping some common elements (e.g. staring at the new guy) so I don't feel lost.

    I always think of asphalt as hot, the snowball would melt.

    I wasn't as interested in the first two sentences; consider moving details about her name to later in the story?

    Well done!

  7. This is my kind of story, and I really enjoyed the unique take that the human is the "other". Good voice, and I am intrigued. Would definitely keep reading.

    That said, I agree with others that you can do better than "Hello, my name is . . ." for your opening line. That opening line is way too over-used.

  8. I read this because of the Texas stuff. LOL. You So pegged it.

    Very interesting opening. I'd set the scene first. Maybe start with 'He wasn't one of us..." because the first two paragraphs are background that can be woven in later.

    the first two lines seem like two different stories.

    Main gripe: fix the tense errors and let us know if the MC is male or female right away.

    Love this concept!

  9. Interesting. Nice way to describe David without giving us a block of physical description, and you’ve slipped in some nice elements that let us know this isn’t the here and now.

    I’d suggest cutting the first parg. It’s cliché, it says ‘beginner,’ and she’s not writing her memoirs, so who is she telling that to? The reader should not exist for her, unless she’s writing all this down, or telling the story after the fact. Otherwise, the only people who exist for her are those in the story, those who exist in her world.

  10. There are some intriguing ideas here: the Enclave, moonlamps, David's appearance. I recommend elevating your writing--working on voice, scene-setting--to match the ambition of your set-up.