Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Secrets Awakened

Ten min past dimming time, Kyle and Cimber froze as someone pounded on the entrance to their family quarters. Cimber seized one of her brother’s hands and stared wide-eyed into his hazel eyes as her fingers stuttered, “Who is that?”

Kyle pulled his sister next to him on the floor in their chair created retreat and signed, “I don’t know but, nothing good comes from a visit after dimming time. Only officials on business, mostly the unpopular kind, are permitted to travel the domes during the dim.”

The twins trembled as they stared at the door and then startled at their father’s voice behind them.

“I don’t know,” Father said, pulling a thin grey robe over his naked torso and pajama pants, as he emerged into the common room.

Mother tried to awkwardly follow, but winced as she stepped forward on her unsecured walking boot and clung to the door way of their sleeping room.


“Arla stop. Wait there.” Father held his hand out. As he turned toward the main door, he collided with a chair, yanked it back into place and stopped, staring down at his fourteen-year-old twins. A moment later, he pointed to them with two fingers, flicked his hand over his shoulder and drew his thumb down his jaw line as he spoke, “Go to your mother.”

Hand in hand the twins scrambled away as their father repositioned the other chairs.

The visitor pounded again.

Father hurried to the keypad by the door.


  1. This sounds interesting. I wish we'd gotten a little further to see who was at the door. There might be some room to tighten this, so that we get to that point faster.
    This is labeled YA, but the twins seem to behave much younger (trembling, holding each other). OTOH, Kyle's voice sounds older than YA. So I'm feeling a little disconnected.
    There are also some misplaced and missing commas. This has potential, but needs polishing.

  2. I also think there's potential here. I think Kyle's statement is exposition, and should be cut (or at least trimmed). We don't need to know the details of why they're afraid, just that they are. It doesn't seem like what he would really say. The father's dialogue was far more effective.

    Another nitpick: "The entrance to their family quarters." Why not say door? Or something more concrete like aluminum door, wooden door, etc.?

    About halfway it drew me in. Good luck!

  3. Agree this has potential, but needs tightening. Suggest deleting all adverbs and extraneous words, e.g., the description of the father moving his arm when he says, "Go to your mother."
    Also agree the twins don't sound like teens. Either make this MG or change their behaviors.
    Good luck with an interesting idea.

  4. I definitely want to know who is pounding, and get a sense of danger! The concept of "dimming time" says a lot about this world but leaves me wondering in a good way.

    Some small things:
    Watch out that you don't start dialogue after something like "fingers stuttered" with no period. So "her fingers stuttered. "Who is that?" Or else it sounds like she's talking with her fingers. Which would only make sense if she was blind.

    Would Kyle really be telling his twin sister all of that about dimming time? Wouldn't she already know? Seems to me that he could just say "Nothing good comes from a visit after dimming time" and then leave all the official stuff out, to be discovered later.

    I might skip "Ten min past dimming time"--if you show the characters freezing, that gives a more immediate sense of danger.

    Are the kids really trembling as they stare at the door? We get that they're scared from everything else, this seems a tad much.

    Who is father saying "I don't know" to?

    Watch adverbs, like YA Writer said. "Awkwardly" isn't needed because you show her tripping.

  5. Agree with these comments: potential, needs adjustment with fear level, etc.

    BUT, I do love the idea of sign language in a YA book. Try reading "Five Flavors of Dumb" to get a bead on a really fine contemporary ASL character. Be really careful that anyone you portray as deaf or having other disability are not portrayed as fearful or shy or "poor little...(fill in the blank)..." Not cool in the deaf or any other 'disabled' community.

    Perhaps this is fear b/c of home raids by authoritarian police force and the family has something to hide? If so, show them covering up whatever makes them a target, even if it is their disabilities that make them a target.

    Only if the disability happened recently would I try anything of the cowering/confused/upset kind of stuff I'm seeing here. (And I could totally be misreading this...but that's what I got out of it.)

    As a hearing person who has deaf friends and does some interpreting, I'm a little sensitive. But again, read "Five Flavors of Dumb". Super take on being deaf and interacting with different folks' reaction to that disability.

    Best wishes!!!

  6. Oops meant to say "...try to AVOID anything of the cowering/confused/upset kind..."

  7. I would agree that the behavior of the twins does not suggest Young Adult. The dialogue feels stiff, and some of the narrative facts feel like they are dropped in there for the reader's benefit. But you have done a good job of setting up your world, and creating tension. I feel that with some polishing and tightening, this story will go places. It certainly is an interesting start to a unique story. I would suggest slowing down, focus on what will capture your targeted audience's attention, and expand on those details. You don't have to explain everything to me in the first few pages.

  8. Ah, reading this again, it is more clear that it's sign language, because the father is signing too! Maybe make this more obvious so people like me don't get confused...use the word "sign"? "Fingers stuttered" definitely didn't show it to me. I also realized I said "only make sense if she was blind" which makes no sense, I meant deaf! And I didn't even write that comment late at night. Shame.

  9. Are the twins deaf? They hear the knock on the door and they startle at the sound of their father's voice. That made me think they were using sign language for another reason, possibly because they're not supposed to be there and they don't want the person at the door to hear them. Either way, whether they are deaf or hiding is a key fact that should be clarified.

    It wasn't clear to me either whose POV we are in -- Kyle, Cimber, or both? Nor did I understand what was meant by a "chair created retreat." What is a walking boot and why does Mother wince when she steps on an unsecured one? Is she wearing it or is it lying on the floor? I appreciate the attempt to signal that this is a different world, but there were too many details I just couldn't picture. Like JD said, focus on what's essential.

  10. I like how this world is starting, but feels more like MG to me. It did take me a minute to realize they were signing to each other, which is clever...but can you stutter in sign? Curious word choice and I'm not sure it fits.

    Some of the actions seem contrived and not natural, like set directions in a play. I read the father's actions a couple of times and can't get a sense of what he's feeling or if he's signaling a message.

    I sense a creative world has been built here.

  11. I enjoy the sense of place that you've created. I love sci-fi and this gives me a sense that you've thought about your world and details in it. I'm interested in the signing because it doesn't appear that anyone is deaf, so perhaps you've included that as a world-building element (which I, personally, think is a great idea).

    Kyle's explanation to his sister makes me think this is a "Well, John, y'know..." piece of dialogue that is intended to inform the reader, not the person being spoken to. It's necessary information, but you could take it out of the dialogue and have the narrator address us.

    Some of the actions/reactions seemed a bit off. Fourteen-year-olds trembling at a knock on the door? Mother trying to "awkwardly" follow? (I'm not sure what that meant--perhaps more description of what she's doing?)

  12. I like how you quickly inject sign language into the story, but it also raises questions, since both twins apparently hear the pounding on the door. Are they both able to hear? If so, why are they signing to each other?

    The twins' initial interaction feels more middle grade to me than young adult, but we're admittedly catching them at a tense moment.

    Lastly, be careful of using dialogue for info-dumping. Kyle's explanation was a bit *too* informative.