Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #33

GENRE: YA Sci-Fi/Adventure

If not for the hot skin of Mom's hand, I would have thought she was dead. She was so still. I couldn't even see the rise and fall of her chest underneath the hospital sheet.

I clung to her hand. She was alive. Alive.

For now.

A soft whimper slipped through my lips as tears blurred her image. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the nurse glance at me. I sniffed and wiped my eyes on the back of my gloved hand.

The nurse’s protective gown scritch-scratched against her scrubs as she went to the other occupied bed. I didn't want to look; the sight forced all the air from my lungs. My little brother had never been that still his entire life. I felt a sob rising in me, but I swallowed it.

Maybe they were wrong. The test results weren't back yet. Maybe this just looked like the pyretos virus. Maybe something else had caused Chase and Mom to pass out, and in a few days we’d be laughing about how scared we’d been, and they’d be fine. They had to be fine. Please, God, let them be fine.

The white sliding door hissed open, and chaos burst into the room. Both the nurse and I jumped at the noise, and I spun around to face the door.

Three people wheeled in a shaking man on a stretcher. Everyone was shouting, but it was just noise. All my brain could process was the man on the stretcher.


  1. This is really interesting and I love disease-based scifis, but grief is a hard emotion to start off with because it's difficult to write it as potently as it occurs in real life. I need to feel the grief just as the MC feels it since this is how the reader is introduced to her and this is how the reader will empathize. In order to feel it, it's more than just reading about tears and praying. For example, when chaos burst into the room, I expected the MC to continue sitting in a thick bubble of grief, maybe not even hear the commotion. Instead, she seemed all too alert for someone who is supposedly despairing.

  2. Good start. I originally pictured the mother and brother sharing a hospital room so it threw me a bit when the the man in the wheelchair entered. Maybe add just a short sentence about being in the ER or somewhere in a hospital where lots of patients are present. I love the idea of the disease-based plot as well, and I think you could really rev up the opening pages with description of the disease (skin yellowing, blisters, boils, whatever physical symptoms you've created for the disease). I do think it is enticing that you've started it with the MC alone, wondering if her mother and brother are going to be okay. Good luck!

  3. nicely done! i think you captured MC's anguish well, though i'd remove the words "sniffed and" from this sentence: "I sniffed and wiped my eyes on the back of my gloved hand."

    you piqued my curiosity about the man on the stretcher, but like previous poster said, i also assumed this was a small hospital room 'til man on stretcher arrived.

  4. Based on the last line, I'd keep reading. Having said that, I think you're starting too late. This scene has the potential to pack a real emotional punch, but I don't know your character well enough to care. You might consider backing up to show the mc's relationship with Mom and Chase, so your reader really feels it when they get sick.

    Also, at this point I have no idea if your mc is a boy or a girl. I'm guessing girl. Getting that info in there up front wouldn't hurt.

    I hope this helps! Good luck to you! :)

  5. I like the Outbreak feel about this, but the passage is very passive. I don't feel the urgency or fear because of that. Try to punch it up by getting rid of all the was/were/has etc. Good luck.

  6. I have to agree with Meredith about the passive feel to the start. It wasn't until the men brought in the shaking man. Perhaps if you started with the action and then worked in the pain and plot with the Mom you could get it going faster and up the stakes sooner.

  7. I would definitely turn the page. Good start.
    If I had to find something to Pick on, I'd say soft didn't seem necessary to describe whimper.
    I was expecting an isolation room, so was thrown when the man was wheeled through the door. I also had concerns that they would let a child in a room with a highly contagious virus.

    Keep writing,

  8. I loved the beginning. I felt her grasping at any chance that the doctors were wrong.
    I agree with the others about the last paragraph. I had an image of an isolation room and when the chaos started it didn't fit with what I thought it was.
    Good start but explain what kind of room they are in.

  9. I can tell by the way the nurse jumps that she's not expecting anyone to come into the room. I think one or two more hints about what the room is will help heighten the shock of the man.

    I honestly didn't want to keep reading until that last line. I think if there was a way to shorten the grief scene, and get to this faster, it would help.

  10. I felt like you could have started earlier, just before the point where mom and bro collapse and have to be taken to the hospital, that way, we can see their interaction on the way there, which will connect us with the MC, and when things get really bad, we'll feel her grief with her.

    As is, it seems a bit vague and slow. We don't even learn why mom and bro are in the hospital until parg 7, so we don't know if they're ill, or have been stabbed or shot or hit by a car. Not knowing is another reason not to connect. So, yeah, I'd suggest starting earlier.

  11. Your prose is lovely and I like your MC already. I'd read on. If possible, you should back up a bit to make us care for the sick some more. If we experienced their collapse, this scene might hold even more oomph.

  12. I immediately know what your main character is up against here, and I’m rooting for her and her family to recover. You might consider moving away from passive phrases into a more immediate active voice. It makes sense that your MC would be grief-stricken as she looks at her little brother, but try showing us how she feels rather than telling us that the air is forced from her lungs.

    I’m intrigued by the virus, but it would seem more menacing if it didn’t have a name yet. Since I don’t know anything else about the universe we’re in, naming the disease doesn’t add to the story for me. Perhaps including more info about the virus (its symptoms, etc.) would help fill this section out as well.

    One final note – saying that “chaos” burst into the room sounds too abstract. I would recommend focusing on who comes in and how your MC recognizes the man on the stretcher. The power of your next few scenes rests on that point.