Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #43

TITLE: Finding Obeno

Samuel watched the faded football arch high into the hot Ugandan sky before dropping in the midst of a group of smiling children, who leapt into the air to meet it. It bounced off the forehead of the tallest, a skinny teenage boy, who sent it soaring across the hard dirt field to the waiting chest of a teammate. The huddle of children squealed with delight and scrambled after the ball, kicking up clouds of red dust with their bare feet.

Sitting in the shade of a low porch that stretched along the front of the Friends of Orphans Center in Pader, Northern Uganda, Samuel reached down and picked at the discolored bandage wound snuggly around his thigh. The doctors said the medicine was working, but his skin was tight with swelling and tender to the touch. A rust colored stain tinged the bone white bandage above the bullet wound, where the infection had taken hold.

Samuel understood infection. In his eleven years, he had seen it burrow deep into the bodies of other children. Their feet. Their legs. Their chests. Their arms. Spreading like brush fire until it consumed them. Biting down on his bottom lip, Samuel pressed hard on his wound with two trembling fingers until he could no longer endure the pain. Letting go, he squeezed his eyes shut until the inferno receded to its normal slow burn. Pain was good. It meant he could still feel. It meant he was alive.


  1. Great start!
    I think the paragraph beginning with "Sitting in the shade..." would be stronger if you ended it before, "where the infection..." You then mention infection again and so the information would not be lost.
    I'm confused about how pain is good, when yes it means he's still alive, but it's also an indication that there's an infection, something he's afraid of?
    Good luck!

  2. In a country where so many die young, I thought the line about pain being good was poignant.

    The writing on this page is stellar, IMO. You place us in the scene. The descriptions are just right, and you show us something about your character that induces empathy from your readers.

  3. I love that this is set in Uganda. It seems like every YA novel nowadays is set in either the US or the UK (mine too - guilty as charged!). It's so nice to read about something so different.

    Your first and third paragraphs are really vivid throughout. I would say that the start of the second paragraph inches just a bit more towards telling, though. Maybe you could work in the location at some other point, because here it just feels like a bit of an infodump.

    Good luck! I can't wait to read the rest of this story :)

  4. Your writing really gets the reader into the setting, dry, dusty, kids laughing. And Samuel watching it because he can't join them. I thought you could tighten the first paragraph just a bit, but other than that I really like this.

  5. I absolutely love the third paragraph. Very tight and poignant.

    I thought the first paragraph could be tightened a bit. I especially found the longer sentences a little bit hard to read. I wonder if the first line could be shortened. Is the clause at the end of that sentence necessary?

    The first sentence in the second paragraph is also a little long and has a little info dump. Again, I think this could be tightened and the sentences shortened.

    Overall, I really liked this and would read more. I also liked that it was set in Uganda. I spent a summer there a number of years back, when the civil war was in full throttle, and this brings back fond memories and some heart-wrenching ones to.

    Good luck!

  6. I like the juxtaposition of the unusual setting with the common experience of kids playing. Makes you take notice.

    I wonder if you mean arced instead of arched in the first sentence. Also, I assume the ball is a soccer ball (an American football hitting the forehead would be painful!). Could you spell it futball? Or give us some other clue to show this?

    I would love a stronger connection between the first and second paragraph. Maybe a comparison between his wounded leg and their bare feet that are running in the dirt. Just one phrase would do it.

    I like the final paragraph about pain and being alive. It really sets up the fact that this story is different - a different world, different experiences and a different MC. I'd read on for sure.

  7. I believe I would read more of this. You had some vivid description of the infection and the pain it caused. Also I love the original location.

    Your opening sentences could use some work. They have the same sentence structure. See: "Samuel watched the faded football arch high into the hot Ugandan sky before dropping in the midst of a group of smiling children, who leapt into the air to meet it. It bounced off the forehead of the tallest, a skinny teenage boy, who sent it soaring across the hard dirt field to the waiting chest of a teammate."
    You divide both of the first two sentences up with the word 'who'. I think that you could fix this up though.
    I would have read on. Good job and good luck!

  8. I absolutely loved this. As someone else said, it's so nice to see a setting outside the U.S. and you describe it beautifully. You do a great job of bringing the reader into Samuel's experience with the way you describe his wound and his familiarity with disease and dying.

    My only criticism is that I thought the first paragraph was maybe a sentence longer than it ought to be. I'd like to get to the MC sooner. Also, some of the phrasing (especially "huddle of children") seemed to be too adult to be your MC's voice.

    Those are minor quibbles with an otherwise excellent piece.

  9. The setting is unusual so the reader is intrigued. I would look to break the narrative up with some dialogue. If you have Samuel say something to one of the children it would immediately involve the reader in the scene. Sounds like an interesting novel!

  10. This is a great set up. The character and setting is crystal clear. I feel there is something beyond the problem of an infection and the poverty that causes it.

    I would read on.

  11. Great setting, great tension. The voice is composed and effective at building suspense and painting the scene. Already, we're into the character and ready for more!

  12. I though this was very nicely down. There are some small fixes which others mentioned - arc vs arch, tightening up that first parg. - but overall, really nice.

    I did wonder about Samuel's age and the story's audience. This is labeled YA, and is written as if for YA, but Samuel is 11, and I wonder if YA readers will read about an 11 year old. Of course, the nature of the story may raise it to a YA level.

    The only other thing was - discolored bandage wound tightly around his thigh.

    I read this a few times and, each time, I read 'wound' as an injury, even after I knew you meant is as a wrapping. I stumbled over it every time, FWIW. No one else mentioned it, so maybe it's just me.

  13. That should read - Nicely done. It really was. :-)

  14. Thank you for all of your comments and suggestions. They have been helpful. Best of luck with your writing projects!