Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #20

TITLE: Juma's Rain
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The sun drained Juma's thoughts as she shuffled single file through the red dust with her family. Although it was her right to walk at the front, she had allowed her father to take her place. He knew the way better.

When they had set out this morning, she had urged him to go faster to keep up with her longing for the day she would apprentice as chieftess. She had felt like singing. Soon, she would be more than the-girl-from-the-all-male-family. After a long day of walking, her enthusiasm was slightly worn. They had left the plains behind and walked through gently rolling hills. The grass was yellow and withered, and she missed green. The pebble in her mouth helped to quench her thirst but the heat burned the soles of her bare feet through the sandal's soles. But her dream kept her mind alert and her feet moving.

When the first fields came in sight, the plants were far smaller than they should be at this time of the year.

The voice of Tolobe, her eldest brother, carried from the back of the line. "Vanamate be praised, we're nearly there."

Her father didn't acknowledge his statement, but soon, the dusty path widened and became busier. Families arrived from many directions, all headed toward the village. Their colorful clothes made a nice contrast to the dried earth. Children pointed excitedly at the herds of goats and sheep. The families merged turning single streams of people into a river of color.


  1. The imagery of the pebble in the second paragraph is so unique. It really caught my eye.

    It does seem to be more of her passive observations. I would like to know more about her relationship with her all-male family.

  2. The opening paragraphs are very passive. "She had allowed her father," "they had set out this morning," "she had felt like singing," "the grass was yellow." Get rid of the passive voice and give it more action. She allowed her father, they set out this morning, etc.

    However, the second half of this passage is much better. Starting at "The voice of Tolobe" it pulls me in.

    I'm definitely curious as to what's going on. The description sounds almost like an apocalyptic type event occurred.

    Nice job and good luck :)

  3. I really like the imagery. The hot sun and the vibrant colors feel very real and beautiful. :)

    However, I agree that the voice is too passive at the beginning. It's pretty imagery, and intriguing, but it doesn't pull me in. All of the 'had's' make me want to hurry forward to what is happening 'now'.
    Perhaps you could begin the story at a different time, like right as they arrive or during this special event they are headed toward.

    Great job on painting such a beautiful image of the setting!

  4. It's like a portrait- great descrips. Suggestion- capitalize, Chieftess? Great start!

  5. I agree with everyone else, in that this is extremely passive. Part of that is the past perfect tense, part is telling, and part is beginning sentences with prepositions. Get rid of the past perfect tense and the opening prepositions, and then show us the same scene.

    SHow them walking along. Let them have some conversation. Do her father and brothers defer to her? Are any of them jealous of her? Are they all close?

    And what about Juma? She's eager to get wherever they're going. Maybe tell us where that is and what Juma thinks it might be like. How does she treat her family? How does she handle the long walk? WHat does she hope to do when she becomes a priestess? All these things will show characterization and allow the reader to get to know your character, and the walk becomes more than a walk through beautiful scenery.

  6. You definitely have great atmosphere here, and you set up the plot, but in addition to removing the passive voice, you also could hint more toward the relationships and conflicts between her and her family. What do they think of her becoming a chieftess apprentice?

    The mention of the plants being smaller than they should is obviously there for a reason, but there's no reaction to this — was she expecting it, because of the drought; was she surprised; does this cause her anxiety?

    If families are arriving from many directions, then when the path widened, did it also branch out.... meaning, were there many paths that are converging into one, leading to the village?

    I like the feel of this, but more concrete details and implications about the relationships and unique balance of power in Juma's family would be great!

  7. Great imagery. Like the others said, switch to more active words. Instead of telling us that she urged him to go faster... show us her anticipation of being apprentice and her frustration at the slow pace.
    You call her feet bare but she is wearing sandals.
    I also liked the idea of the pebble.
    You do a good job of building anticipation that something interesting is going to happen as soon as they get there and I like the imagery of the people merging together.

  8. Thanks for pointing out the passive voice. I was so focussed on getting the drought into the first page (the major antagonist in the story) that I didn't even notice. I will rewrite.

  9. I’m interested to see how Juma will relate to her all male family after she takes on this new leadership role. For a story about such a powerful and important girl, I wanted Juma to be a stronger, more present character in the text here. Consider replacing many of your passive phrases, and possibly shifting into a first person POV. This is clearly a big day for your main character, and we get a good sense of how arduous her journey has been. If we can get to know a little more about what her dreams really are, your opening will be much stronger. What does it mean to her to break free from her all male family?