Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #43

GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Maniacal laughter pierced Golden Alexander’s mind as she lay in her bed. Her eyes flew open. She tried to scream, but only managed a faint squeak.

A huge creature hovered three feet above her. Its twelve foot wingspan spread from one wall of her bedroom to the other. The wings, divided by black veins, formed an interlocking pattern that shimmered with iridescent blue scales. No sound emanated from the rapid beating, but a current moved as if huge wooden blades, suspended from the ceiling, oscillated at full speed.

The air in her bedroom grew thick—charged with electricity. Ozone scorched her nostrils. Chills chased their way down her spine, and the weight of the comforter did nothing to warm the frigid blood circulating in her veins. Her breaths came out in gasps as she struggled for air. This can’t be happening again.

Transfixed, she stared at the insect-like body and her heart jackhammered in her chest. Nauseous waves roiled the contents of her stomach while electrified air pounded with rhythmic contractions. Her legs thrashed on the bed as her head twisted from side to side. An unseen force pressed her into the mattress. She couldn’t get away.

The creature’s face glistened with skin the color of burnt flesh. On its brow jutted two blackened nubs. Three inches long and jagged, the dark bony prominences looked like something larger and more vicious gnawed the decaying stumps.

Sleep paralysis, sleep paralysis, this isn’t real. Golden repeated the diagnosis as a mantra in her mind.


  1. Great description of the atmosphere and the creature! I was able to get a firm hold on the "feeling" being created. I would definitely read on to find out what happens next. The only thing that tripped me up a bit was the part about the sleep paralysis. In the previous paragraph you mention thrashing and head shaking, and for me when I think paralysis I just assume you can't move at all.

  2. Sorry. I usually eat this stuff up. But I spent the entire snippet trying to figure out how something that large got into someone's bedroom, and then wondering whether this was a dream sequence, and then dwelling on the whole 'don't open a book with a dream sequence' thing. (The curse of being a writer and a reader, I guess.)

    I did like your descriptions in this snippet, though. I'd read on to see what the explanation is, and to see if the richness of the world can overcome small niggles, but if it's not plausible and the writing doesn't hold up, I won't read much further.

  3. I liked the descriptions, but I'd like to figure out who she is and what her life is like before the creature.
    I'd read on, because I'd want to find out what happens to her.

  4. The description is great, but I kept thinking, "Jeez, if that were in my room, I'd be freaking out, not admiring its iridescent wings." If it were me (which Golden obviously is not), I would notice details as they became relevant. Ex: I notice the teeth because they take a snap at me. I notice the wings because they are sweeping down toward me, etc

  5. You've got really strong and vivid details, but for me they turn into a bit of a laundry list. I agree with Rae Chang that I would like to see the details that are most pertinent to Golden's situation, not just this long description of the creature. For me, and this is just me personally, it kills the tension of the scene (which should be really tense what with a snarling beast hovering over the bed).

    If you can take the vividness of the description and really root it in Golden's emotion this will really shine.

  6. Sleep paralysis is totally freaky, I've had it happen and it's a great thing to explore (even if it turns out to actually be monsters). I think the opening line could be a little stronger. It starts strong but the "as she lay in bed" kind of brings down the momentum. Maybe something that combined the first two lines, like "Maniacal laughter pierced the night, and Golden Alexander’s eyes flew open." A lot of times when "as" shows up it kind of muddles things and you probably want to avoid that in an opening line.

    I like what's shown happening to the character in paragraph three, but I agree it feels a bit like a laundry list. Maybe pick two of the best ones and cut the rest. That might go for the rest too, to keep one or two descriptors, but keep the scene moving, noting she is trying to fight but can't, a little less of what the thing looks like, but just a few cuts for pacing.

    Good luck!!

  7. Ah, the Old Hag paralysis. I actually used to suffer this when I was in High School, nothing as vivid as a giant insectile creature, but I understand the complete inability to move. It can be truly terrifying.

    That being said, I was confused by some thing such as "huge wooden blades, suspended from the ceiling, oscillated at full speed." Not quite seeing the image here.

    There are also a few things that cut tension. For one, the creature doesn't really do anything. It's more about her struggling, but even that fear isn't presented heavily throughout. I like the hint with "This can't be happening again."

    Why not have the creature standing on top of her, rather than saying an unseen presence was holding her down?

    I'd read a bit more just to see how she broke the spell, because from what I remember, you just have to let yourself come out of sleep to break the hold.

  8. Okay! I can dig the witch riding your back tale! I've experienced this a number of times and I can't say I'd be as transfixed by the creature as she was. There's too much description here for it to be credible, you know what I mean? I think you're just fine without the "No sound emanated..." sentence. One of my episodes of sleep paralysis was freaking horrible and I can remember seeing an amber/orange-ish face with oval sinister eyes and thin lips. That's it. I don't buy the full blown description here so early.

    I would definitely keep reading though because I want to see how she escapes this terror. The only thing that ever woke me up from these spells was demanding my tongue to call on Jesus--it was a struggle to speak too. I'm intrigued!

    As well, I chuckled when she said, "this isn't real." But since this is of the paranormal genre I'm guessing that it is? Hoping, really. And I'm interested in the romance side of this novel too.

    But honestly, I must commend you on the first two sentences. They immediately caused me to think of sleep paralysis!

  9. As is, we get four pargs of description -- of the monster and her reaction to it. But the monster doesn't really do anything, and her reactions are more a list than things she actually feels. And then the end comes and we learn it's not real. (I'm thinking it will be though.)

    Perhaps cut two or three of those pargs so you can get the reader to the place where Golden realizes it's not sleep paralysis by the end of the page. And in the parg you keep, show the monster doing something threatening, and have Golden react to that specific thing.

  10. Love the description and the choice of words in this scene. It pulled me in, kept me concentrating instead of skimming over the words.

  11. This opening employs the “woke up to danger” element that is fairly common in my query inbox – the reader knows more about the huge creature that is attacking Golden than Golden herself. I would consider not beginning with Golden waking up, and give us more of an insight into her as a character so that the reader wants to follow her journey, and will care about her when she’s attacked by this huge beast.