Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Strung
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The fog burned off early that summer morning, in the hills east of Oakland, leaving behind a clear view of the bay. With her hands wrapped around a mug, Raven observed this from her usual post, shaded by eucalyptus that crowned a ridge behind the estate.

She hardly noticed the chill in the air. Still, the hot tea felt good going down—it was strong and sweet.

How could she find comfort in a ceramic cup under present circumstances? Or was it the soothing hum of a distant lawn mower? If she could take a nap, it would be now.

She laid her head on folded arms, careful to avoid splinters from the picnic table. The staff would be busy with morning meds for at least another hour. Then the smokers would come out and chase her off.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply--cut grass. There was something like hope rushing down her back, tugging at her shoulder blades.

But a fast approaching argument cut it short. Her father and Oscar, general right hand man and chauffer, were headed towards the garage.

“I’m capable of driving myself,” Dr. Lengrid Fredrick bellowed.

“Sir, please. There’s someone at the service entrance.”

This was Raven’s cue to hop off the bench and out of Oscar’s range. She rounded a corner beyond the residents’ veranda. Leaning against the brick she listened, careful to keep her own thoughts as dull as those of the yellow jacket that was packing mud into mortar just inches from her nose.


  1. Nice sensory experience here. I'm interested and liked the MC's voice. Something is afoot!
    Good luck!

  2. I agree with Jill- I really liked your descriptions, and I definitely want to know more about your MC. Great writing and best of luck to you!

  3. I agree that it seems something is afoot, which is good, but I think you'd do well to add in more tension early on. Raven starts off pretty much in a relaxed state, and even though the scene becomes more tense, I think you might not grab some readers right off the bat because of the relaxed atmosphere. See if you can infuse more tension right up front.

    Also - nitpicky things - don't say she "hardly noticed" the chill - does she or does she not? Same with "something like hope" - is it hope or is it not? Be concrete and clear with your writing. You also don't need to say "an approaching argument cut it short" - just have the argument happen and the reader will be aware that's what's going on. But yeah - this is a nice opening. Good luck with it!

  4. Nice opening. I feel like I can hear the lawn mower and smell the grass. Well done. Where is Raven? A mental hospital?

  5. I think you need to reveal what the current circumstances are. You don't have to give away everything, but I think your readers will want something more to keep them hooked. I would change the yellow jacket simile. It doesn't quite fit. I loved the description of the tea and flowers. Gave me a great visual!

  6. I’m not quite hooked on this so far, but the setting of what sounds like a mental institution is always interesting. I agree that we could use more of a hint of what the “present circumstances” are to ramp up the tension. A few thoughts:

    If she noticed the fog burning off why didn’t she notice the chill? Why not just say “Raven sat at her usual post…”?

    “If she could take a nap, it would be now” sounds almost like she’s incapable of napping. Why would she nap first thing in the morning anyway? Wouldn’t she just go back to bed?

    The “hope rushing down her back, tugging at her shoulder blades” didn’t work for me. Did the smell of cut grass give her hope?

    I agree, let the argument itself cut her thoughts short.

  7. I wondered where this took place. At first, I thought she was home, then I imagined her in a hospital of some sort. I also pictured the MC as an older woman. And I really had no sense of what was going on here.

    Parg 3 was confusing and you might want to have her put her cup aside before resting her head on her arms.

    I'm feeling a sense of something to come, but it's not enough, I think. Perhaps revise to make things clearer.

  8. I like the idea of a mental hospital too and I get a sense there is something going on, I mean it is a YA fantasy. Maybe bring in more of the fantasy element right away because as it reads it seems more like a contemporary. I agree with the other comments. Tighten it up a bit and bring in the fantastical sooner. Good luck!

  9. I like this, the writing is strong and you hit a lot of elements in a short space. I do think that paragraphs 3 & 4 can be dropped and you still get a good sense of the setting and her reactions to it. Those 2 paragraphs slow this a bit too much.

  10. The lead in is very descriptive, but by the time I get to 3rd paragraph, I'm bored. Then, hoping to get drawn in with "under present circumstances" it falls flat. I think if you spent the following paragraphs explaining the circumstances, rather than focusing on the setting, I'd read on. Otherwise, all I can picture is a spoiled doctor's daughter - and I don't care about her. Best of Luck to you -

  11. You set the scene well, both the physical scene and what the MC is going to be dealing with.

    I was confused by the "yellow jacket" line. I read it twice and realized that you meant the little bee-creature. I was possibly looking too hard for a fantastical element.

  12. This has a "dark and stormy night" style of opening, which worked in the late eighteenth century, but modern fiction needs to start with a hook to grab reader attention. I strongly suggest cutting the first five paragraphs and getting to the meat of your story. The pretty atmosphere creates no tension and can be woven into the action later.

    Give Raven a purpose other than as an observing bystander. There's no context here to ground the reader in the story that's about to take place. These elements are all nice, but they need to be shuffled around to create a sense of purpose, to let readers know this is going somewhere. Good luck!

  13. There's a bit too much emphasis on minutiae in these opening paragraphs. You're busy talking about potential splinters, the smell of cut grass, and how the tea feels when Raven swallows it. Some of these will be helpful in establishing setting, but all together they slow your opening to a crawl.

    I'm much more interested in the argument between her father and Oscar! Try to streamline the description so we can focus on that.