Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Dodge the Sun
GENRE: YA Dystopian

The anklet jangled against Little Bit’s leg with every step, an irritation she couldn’t scratch at the moment. The full laundry basket occupied one hand while her other gripped the railing. The wicker handle balanced against her right hip, digging in with each stride. Creaks came from the wooden stair which wound in a spiral around the outside of the tower. She shuddered and kept her eyes fixed on the treads, careful not to look at the drop through the gaps.

The anklet caught on a protruding nail, pitching her forward and causing clothing to spill across the square landing of oak planks. She cried out and jerked the anklet free of the nail, then grabbed for the laundry, refolding shirts with sharp snaps.

She glared at the anklet while thrusting clothes back in the basket. “You did that on purpose.”

A wink of gold glittered in the morning sun. The chain of delicate gold links clasped around her ankle, mocking her with its fragile appearance. Little Bit frowned and reached for the anklet, then chewed her lip. “I’m sick of you.”

She squared her shoulders before taking the chain in either hand, feeling its strange heat burn her fingers. A sting as though a thousand nettles increased with each pulse of her heart.

“Come off!”

The tiny links refused to part.

With a gasp, she released it. Hateful thing. New burns crisscrossed over faded scars to cover her hands. She put sore fingers in her mouth. Garrett’s magic would never let her go.


  1. Little Bit is a pretty strange name - it feels very middle grade to me. But so far I like her. I get the sense that she feels very trapped, and I feel sorry for her. The detail with the crisscross of scars across her hands is a really nice touch - let's us know how long she's been trapped here.

    The sentence "A sting as though a thousand nettles increased..." tripped me up. I think I'd be better to say "The sting of a thousand nettles increased..." That phrasing makes more sense to me.

    Nice end to the 250 - very creepy about Garrett's magic!

  2. I don't usually say anything about a character's name, but I agree, unless you have a very good reason for her to be called 'Little Bit,' I'd suggest you change it.

    The opening two paragraphs have too much detail. Cut it down and work on the rhythm and flow of the language. For example, you use the word 'anklet' over and over and it gets distracting.

    You have some compelling information toward the end. The fact that this isn't a chain, but a tiny gold bracelet, and the scars on her hand are intriguing.

    It's always a tough balancing act, but if you can streamline and eliminate the repetition in your writing, I'd read further to find out more. Good luck!

  3. Ha! I had an uncle who called me Little Bit, but admittedly, I was very young.

    So I really love the premise here, and I'm digging the setup. The only thing I have trouble with is that the syntax is leaning toward a very passive feeling. And maybe that's on purpose to show the feeling of helplessness, but I think more active phrasing would be more engaging.

    Quick and dirty example:

    "The full laundry basket occupied one hand while her other gripped the railing. The wicker handle balanced against her right hip, digging in with each stride. Creaks came from the wooden stair which wound in a spiral around the outside of the tower. She shuddered and kept her eyes fixed on the treads, careful not to look at the drop through the gaps."


    "She balanced the laundry basket with one hand, digging the wicker handle into her hip, and gripped the railing with the other. The wood creaked with each stride she took up the stairs that spiraled around the outside of the tower. She shuddered and fixed her gaze on the treads, careful no to look at the drop through the gaps."

    And I agree with Christine about liking the detail of the chain scars. It lets us know how long and how determined she is that she keeps trying.

  4. What Heather said. The sentence structure in the first paragraph is very repetitive and puts the emphasis on inanimate objects, rather than on your MC. That's easily fixed.

    I liked the setting and was intrigued by the MC's relationship with the anklet, the way she talks to it as though its an intelligent being. Despite that slow first paragraph, I wanted to read more.

  5. This reads like a prologue to me, which I suppose is fine if it is. As another commenter mentioned, it could be the passive storytelling, and also a hyper-focus on one thing (the anklet) though we have no idea who, where, why these characters exist yet.

    If this is a first chapter, I think a hint of setting, time, and place would help hook. This feels like a good excerpt for later in the chapter rather than a first page.

  6. You've already received some great feedback here -- however, I will say that your MC's name doesn't bother me at all. Not everyone is going to like the name, but I I'd more love to hear the story behind it, before even thinking of recommending that you change it.

    I would agree you should be cautious of repetitive words (easy to fix) and watching the sometimes passive tone that can take the reader out of the action (also easy to fix). But otherwise, you've piqued my interest and I'm wanting to know what she did to be cursed with this anklet and even more, what she'll do to get it off. Well done - I'd read on.

  7. I really like the basic idea here, and storywise, you're pulling me in. The fact that she's imprisoned by an anklet rather than a manacle is intriguing, and then, it even seems to have a mind and will of its own. At the end, you throw in Garrett, who seems to be the one imprisoning her. I'd read more.

    The issue here is the writing, as others have pointed out. You might take another look at this entire opening and consider other ways to say the same things. It's a simple matter of Show. DOn't tell.

    Would an anklet 'jangle?' This isn't a long chain. SHow her try to bend and scratch or rub the irritation and the basket could teeter and maybe some of the laundry starts to fall out, and maybe in the process of trying to catch it, the anklet catches on a nail and her foot slips, or almost slips, through one of those gaps in the stairs which will show us high up she is. Then those few opening pargs become an action scene rather than narrative.

    You could reduce parg 4 to The anklet winked in the morning sun, as though mocking her. "I'm sick of you," she said.

    Parg 5, she has to put down the basket before taking the chain in both hands. And when she does, say she does.

    She took the chain in both hands and a strange heat burned her fingers.

    Now she has to react to the burn, so add a sentence that shows that, and then say it stung like a thousand nettles.

    SHow her try to pull it off or break it as she says 'COme off.'

    ANd maybe - New burns crisscrossed the faded scars on her hands.

    ANd compare - SHe put sore fingers in her mouth - telling us what she did, as opposed to - SHe sucked on a sore finger. - showing what she did, letting her do the action herself. And compare the verbs. Sucked says a whole lot more than put.

    That's the main issue here. Most of this is told rather than shown. Instead of telling us what she's doing, let her do it herself. ANd then watch the prepositional phrases, and use the best verbs you can.

  8. I agree - this feels middle-grade to me. It isn't just the name, Little Bit, but also the fact that the character is talking to her anklet. Unless you work hard to establish your protagonist's belief in magic it is more likely this would be the province of middle-grade not young adult. I would also think about how much detail you need about the laundry basket in the opening paragraph and see if you can streamline this scene. Best of luck!