Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #47

TITLE: False Skies
GENRE: Speculative Fiction

On some autumn nights in the New York dome, the icy breeze sliced straight to the bone like a knife, drawing goose bumps to the skin’s surface instead of blood. Even on the roof of the Clifton hotel, where the bulk of the British Embassy across the street should have blocked most of the wind chill, it was still too cold for comfort.

“Why the hell do we have to wear these uniforms even when we’re on night jobs?” Meredith muttered from beside me, pulling the coat of her suit jacket further around her shoulders. “They’re so damn thin!”

“They allow us to wear overcoats, don’t they?” The rookie cop from section five asked tentatively. The poor guy had looked seconds from passing out the entire night. Not surprising, given that this was his first Beta related mission.

“Exactly.” Simon flashed the rookie a grin, pulling his thick, black coat around his shoulders to make Meredith jealous. “Meredith just didn’t bring one; her pain is self-inflicted.”

“I don’t have a suitable coat that goes with my uniform.” Meredith quipped.

“What do you mean it’s not suitable? A coat is a coat.”

“Some are expensive. I’m not chasing down Betas in a designer coat.”

The rookie looked in between my two exasperating team members, looking sorry spoke in the first place. I chose to come to his rescue.

“You can discuss your wardrobe later,” I said and my team immediately fell silent. “Do you want to warn off the Beta before he even gets here?”


  1. The first line does not anchor me because of the unspecified time line. It might read better if you cut "On some autumn nights" and simply talk about this particular one. Meredith's dialogue feels stiff, as if it is there simply to reveal critical plot details. "The rookie cop..." dialogue tag tells me what is going on, rather than showing me. The beginning of the story feels as if it is written in third person, so the revelation that it is actually first person feels abrupt, tugging me out of the story. The story is well-written, but there just isn't enough conflict going on to hold my attention.

  2. Wow, this does sound interesting. Nice amount of suspense, a little snark to show a glimpse of the characters. Good job. I'd definitely keep reading.

  3. I loved this! Loved the description at the beginning, the detail about the Brit embassy. ost of all, I loved the humorous dialogue and the way it gives us info about the characters. Would certainly continue reading!

  4. I'd keep reading - I'm intrigued about these Betas they're chasing down. Some of the writing could use a little tightening. The phrase "sliced straight to the bone like a knife" is redundant; using sliced already implies the knife-like quality of it. Just little things like that. Good luck!

  5. Yeah, it's a little wordy. I like the idea behind the dialogue, but it feels a little stilted, like a few words could be changed to make it flow better.

  6. I was thrown off by the realization this was a first person story. Up until the eighth paragraph, it reads like a third person omniscient. There's only one me that was tucked in next to Meredith's muttering. I missed it the first time around.

    I'm a little weird when it comes to this stuff, so forgive me if it comes off as nitpicky.

    In the first page, you have four questions. At first I was going to say that you were trying to worldbuild through the questions, but really it's the observations between the questions that make it feel like you're building stuff in, such as first Beta related mission. Would it be smoother to just say Beta mission and give us a bit of a mystery as to what that means?

    I like the opening setup, but it does feel pointless without someone to tether the cold to, i.e. POV character.

  7. I love the opening paragraph. The "New York dome" is enough to intrigue me and give me a sense of setting.

    After that you lose me. A conversation about clothes? Meh. Especially because they seem to be repeating things they already all know or asking stupid questions or being shallow people I'm not going to like. If the one guy knows it's OK to where an overcoat, why isn't he wearing one? Why does he even ask now?

    If she knows she could be wearing a coat but she chooses not to because of some fashion choice, then I'm out right there. I don't want to follow any heroine who will freeze her butt off on a potentially important and/or dangerous job because she can't find the RIGHT coat to go with her uniform.

  8. I really enjoyed this! I thought the first sentence was awesome but could be cut down a bit. I actually liked the dialogue about the coat. I deemed it humorous and it allowed me to capture a glimpse of who I am guessing are primary main characters.

    However, about halfway through I started to wonder where the main character or narrator was. I found him/her (?????) at the bottom and was instantly drawn to the control this person obviously exhibits. "Immediately fell silent" shows me how respected this person is and that he/she is the leader over Simon, Meredith, and the rookie cop.

  9. This was intriguing. But my first thought was "How is there a breeze in the dome?"

    When you get to your POV character it surprised me a little as well. Hearing the "I" after so much "he, she, they" threw me off. I'd establish the POV sooner.

  10. My suggestion would be to start where this page ends - with your MC and the Betas. The first parg lets us know NY is under a dome and that sometimes, it gets cold on the roof. But the cold referred to is 'sometimes' rather than on the day the story is happening, and we learn from the following dialogue that it's cold. And where would the wind come from in a dome? It would seem a city under a dome would be climate controlled. You can also place that dome in one of the following pargs easily.

    The pargs of dialogue are all about the cold and wearing coats. Again, I'm wondering why it's so cold under the dome (enough to want an explanation) and I'm wondering how important the cold is to this story. If it's relevant, then perhaps keep the dialogue, but if it's just the day's weather, you might cut it all.

    And then we don't meet the MC until the end of the page. As I read, I kept trying to determine which character I was supposed to empathize with.

    It seems that what is important are the Betas and whatever this group has to do with them. Perhaps start with that, and your MC, in mind. I've a feeling that's what comes next.

  11. I’m immediately drawn in by this query, because it intersperses something that could be majorly boring (a description of the weather) with tantalizing glimpses of the world of the story (a dome over New York! A bulky British embassy!) The switch to the banter of the soldiers is a bit jarring, but overall it’s a strong opening.