Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Saving Abe Lincoln
GENRE: MG Fiction

The old man walked out of the water.

There was nowhere else he could have come from, such as a boat on the rocky beach. If the man had been walking along the shore, Ted or Carin would have noticed.

Yet he didn’t seem wet.

“Who’s that?” Ted asked.

“Don’t know,” replied Carin. They slowly retreated back toward the house.

“Where’d he come from?”

They reached the sliding double door. Carin felt behind her for the handle, unwilling to take her eyes off the strange man even for a second.

“Please stay,” the man called with the sound of leaves brushing a window.

Some people can make a demand sound like a question. On the other hand, some people can make a polite request feel like a command.

The stranger, for instance – his simple words commanded obedience.

Carin held the door handle in one hand. Ted clutched the other, for once looking to his sister for guidance, even protection.

The man, back bent with the years, seemed neither violent nor strong. However, an eleven-year-old girl and ten-year-old boy might still be vulnerable, even a boy with considerable practice beating up his older sister.

The man looked them over with rheumy but sparkling eyes.

Ted and Carin looked him over in turn. A few inches shorter than their dad, who was about six feet tall, he seemed shorter yet because of his mild stoop. His cloak reminded them of a monk’s robe they’d seen once. The cloak, like its owner, had known better days.


  1. This is kind of creepy in a good way. I like the image of the man coming out of the water and sort of "chasing" the kids up to the house.

    I'd like it even better if I were getting more out of the beginning. Aside from his sudden appearance, what specifically makes them so wary of him they head for the house? I think you can do more with the atmosphere. Where are they? Kentucky? Louisiana? California? Give us a little bit of an idea of the setting, bring it out more and use it to make things seem more threatening.

  2. You have a good title that gives us a hint of what's in store and you've started off with a lot of action, but we need a stronger sense of place and time.

    I've said it before (and will no doubt say it again), but openings are a delicate balancing act and in this case, you need to do more to set the scene. Are the kids standing by a bay? An ocean? What's the weather like? Why are they out there anyways? Don't go too far in the other direction and overload us with information, but a few well-placed details will go a long way.

    Also, in the following sentence, "Ted clutched the other, for once looking to his sister for guidance, even protection," show his emotions through his actions and dialogue. For example, have Ted inch closer to his sister or have him glance toward her. It's a lot more powerful if you don't spell it out for us.

    Good luck!

  3. I love your opening line. It hooked me right away with its cadence, smidgeon of alliteration, and intrigue. Plus it plays on the cliche - he didn't walk on the water but out of it.

    All that from one sentence - fantastic. The rest of the excerpt is good and kept my attention, but I agree with the comments above - it'd be nice to have a few more details about setting, context. I think you could indulge a little into deeper descriptions. It feels a bit like a plateau, after that first sentence, rather than building up the intrigue.

    Great title, too. Good luck, this seems like a great project!

  4. Intriguing title and set up. You have me wondering who the man is and what his intentions are.
    I did; however, have a difficult time picturing the setting. Are they at a beach house?

    The line about some people making a polite request feel like a command worked for me. I knew exactly what you meant.

    The description of the man calling with the sound of leaves brushing a window stopped the flow of the read for me. I read the line a couple times, but couldn't imagine those sounds together.

    Great start! I'd read on to see what happens.

  5. This is really creepy and atmospheric! Nice job, there! I do think trimming down some of the descriptions though would move it along better. When we get to the bit about the man not looking strong, and then about being shorter than their dad, and then the cloak, the tension is sort of lost. If you cut that down to just a few descriptions, or scattered them throughout the scene better so they're not all there at once, I think the pacing would move along much better.

  6. You did a great job building the creep factor with your first 250.

    I was a bit confused by your second sentence: "There was nowhere else he could have come from, such as a boat on the rocky beach." The "such as a boat" part threw me -- I think it's just the way it's worded, it doesn't flow as well as is it could.

    Otherwise, I think you did a good job and I'd be interested in reading more, to see what happens.

    Best of luck in the contest!

  7. You've definitely got the creep vibe going here. Nice job!

    It does seem a bit spare. Perhaps instead of saying the man came out of the water, you could say he came out of the lake, river, ocean, pond, whatever. Whichever word you use will help the reader fill in the blanks as to setting. For instance, if you say lake, I think forest and trees, if you say ocean, I think of sand and rocks. I build up the setting in my own mind, so you don't have to give it to us.

    The POV also bothered me. At first, it seemed like it was Ted's, but then it seemed to fall into an omniscient POV. Toward the end, we have them both thinking the same thoughts (the cloak, dad's height) which seems unlikely. Perhaps pick a single POV and stick with it.

  8. This is an interesting opening scene but I'd pay careful attention to your prose to make sure that it shines. For example 'rheumy but sparkling eyes' seems a little labored - perhaps try to think of a similie 'rheumy/ old/ eyes that sparkled like...' Also watch your POV - 'The man...seemed neither violent nor strong.'To whom? The children or the narrator. The set up is intriguing so make sure that your choice of words lets the reader experience the scene for herself/ himself. Good luck!