Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Embrol
GENRE: YA Soft SciFi

My art teacher says the eyes are the window to the soul. Apparently, I have no soul.

I studied the self-portrait lying on my worktable. Dull, lifeless eyes stared back. Yup, definitely soulless. Next thing I knew, I’d be wandering the streets in search of brains. The stiff paper crumpled beneath my fingers. Why can I draw anyone, anything else, but I can’t draw myself?

Mr. Unrealistic-Expectations—aka my art teacher—was two tables away, making his daily rounds to check everyone’s progress. So what if this was the fourth time I’d started over? This assignment was impossible to complete, and on Friday, when I’d told him as much, he’d said, Olivia, you’ll never survive Pratt with that attitude.

Yeah, well, maybe I didn’t care. Maybe I was tired of living up to my potential.

He reached my table as the bell rang. “You destroyed another one?”

“I’ll work on a new one tonight,” I lied. I shoved all my papers into my portfolio and hopped off my stool. Working on this stupid project was the last thing I intended to do today. Birthdays are supposed to be fun.

Before he could offer his assistance, I shouldered the door open and headed out to the crowded outdoor locker area. I smiled at the heavy clouds overhead, breathing in the damp smell that always accompanied a rainy day in Mesa, Arizona. At least something good was happening today.


  1. I like the opening sentence. Don't need to define Arizona after Mesa. But, good start.

  2. You've done a great job of introducing your main character. We know a lot about her in just a few words.

  3. There is something about the subtlety in the voice that I like. The first two lines were great and I almost expected--and was slightly bummed to be honest--that the MC didn't have any eyes at all. (probably a weird comment!)
    The "Why can I draw anyone..." line reads a little awkward. Maybe "How come I can draw anyone else..."

    I also like the last line about "at least something good was happening today." Somehow it makes me feel like I'm being set up--like the only exciting thing going on is rain and then BOOM! Something interesting is about to go down.
    Good Luck!

  4. The opening sentences are great, and I really like the voice in this.

    I, too, was expecting (hoping for?) a self-portrait without eyes.

    Also, I have trouble with the teacher asking if she "destroyed" another one. It's such a negative word. I expect teachers to be more encouraging, or at least neutral, in their comments to students. Is there another way the teacher could phrase the same idea? Maybe, "Not quite there yet?" or something along those lines.

    But that one line wouldn't stop me from reading on. In fact, I'd like the next 250 words, please.

  5. I love the comments above about an eyeless drawing - I think that would add a really neat element to these first paragraphs, especially knowing this is soft sci-fi. The entry is strong and the voice is subtle and likable.

    I agree that the line "Why can I draw anyone..." reads a little awkwardly and not quite as "teen" as it should.

    I actually think keeping Arizona is important, as Mesa isn't so big a city that people outside of AZ or the Southwest would probably know it. I would like a hint, though, of how rare that rain is, as it feels like it would help forebode or foreshadow whatever is coming next.

    This is strong and I would definitely read on!

  6. Really, really like this opening. I get a strong sense of who the MC is--and I like her a lot! She has such a great voice, and you capture it so well in every aspect of your writing.

    I do have to agree with the above commenters about the eyeless drawing, though!

    Also, your first two lines are brilliant. They really caught my attention.

  7. Good voice, lovely prose. As several others have mentioned, you've used this first page to really show a great deal about your MC, and that's hard to do.

    I do think you could do a tiny bit more smoothing. For instance, the repetition of "soul" in the first paragraph stood out to me; I couldn't help but wonder if "Apparently, I have none" would work better. I actually didn't mind the "Why can I draw anyone...?" line and think changing it might make her sound more juvenile than you want her to. And I agree that using the city and state in the last paragraph sounds a little too much like a textbook. If you're concerned that some readers might not know where Mesa is, you could change it to something like "southern Arizona."

    On the whole, though, I really liked this and am curious to see where it goes. Good luck!

  8. I liked this a lot. I immediately like the character and sympathize with her frustration. I even get the teacher's frustration with his student and thought it fit when he asked if she'd destroyed another one.

    I disagree with everyone about the drawing. It doesn't make sense to me that she would draw herself with no eyes - to me that sounds more like something from a horror story. But maybe you could describe the eyes she does draw a but more. Or, she could be so frustrated with the eyes that she erases them!

    Honestly, I don't think I'd change much, if anything, here at all - it's a good opening and I'd read more!

  9. I thought this worked well and would read more. I did think you could add more of her thoughts about the assignment, about why she felt she had no soul, or why she thought she was drawing herself with empty eyes. That could introduce the problem right away, which isn't in this excerpt.

    I imagined she, herself, was going to have no eyes. Not literally. I expected her to be blind. But I wouldn't change the opening because of that. It's a great first parg.

    THe stiff paper crumpled beneath my fingers isn't strong enough. Maybe say - I crumpled the stiff paper . . . . to make it more vivid.

    I did stumble over the 'Why can I draw anyone' sentence. I kept wanting to say - Why CAN'T I draw.

    I thought the destroying comment worked because it's not a statement, implying she can't draw, it's a question that refers to the fact that she crumpled the drawing. It's like asking her why she did that.

  10. Overall I enjoyed this. I don't have anything to add that wasn't already addressed above. I think you did a great job weaving in little details about the setting and MC. I would read more. Nice job and good luck!

  11. Strong voice in your opening here. Olivia’s art teacher saying that she “destroyed” her work took me out of your story, as this seemed uncharacteristically negative for a professor or teacher.

    I’m interested to see where this goes given the fact that it’s light sci-fi and you have allusions here to Olivia being soulless. I would read on.

  12. Lovely voice and not too much going on. The voice is very teenage. Love it.