Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #3

TITLE: Jace Folsom - Exctinction
GENRE: Middle Grade Adventure-Fantasy

At that moment the unknown man turned his head and stared directly at where they stood. He had two distinctly different eyes; one was dark green and the other, an iridescent yellow. They were not eyes you typically saw on a person. They were too large, without any whites. They were more like what you would see on a deer. His face was roughly attractive with jagged cheekbones, and a protruding chin. Short, blonde bangs lined his forehead, that turned gradually into dark auburn down his back.

Standing absolutely frozen, both boys did not breathe. For what felt like hours, they did not move. Finally, the person turned his head back toward the ground, and continued his search.

Without a sound, Jace mouthed to Tyler hysterically "We have got to get out of here now." Jace pointed up the mountainside and made a movement to leave. With his heart pounding deep in his chest, adrenaline consuming him, he felt like he was in a dream where he couldn’t move when he so desperately wanted too. Watching the ground, instead of what was in front of them, they both moved simultaneously up the path.

They had not even moved ten feet when a brush of swift air startled them to a stop. Instinctively they turned around, only to be to face a white fox with too many tails. With one hell- raising scream, they both ran as fast as their feet would take them.


  1. Good start setting up conflict, I take it the boys are being hunted or searched for.

    Two notes: Watch dialog formatting. A comma is needed after hysterically.

    Also, I'm not sure I'd use hell-raising. Maybe a bit more showing something like a scream loud enough to be heard in the next town or something similar.

    Great start and best wishes to you!

  2. Is there a typo in the title? Did you mean Extinction, not Exctinction?

    I think the intro paragraph goes on a bit too long about this unknown man’s eyes. We don’t even know who the main character(s) are yet and an entire paragraph is devoted to a character who appears to be a nobody. Also, the last line is awkwardly worded, making it sound like the bangs go all the way down his back even though they line his forehead. I know what you meant to say, but I don’t think it says it accurately.

    I’m not sure how one can mouth something hysterically yet without a sound. That seemed somewhat contradictory.

    There also seems to be a typo in the fourth paragraph: “…only to be to face a white fox…"

    I would suggest reading aloud the entire manuscript since this is meant to be already cleaned/perfected. Too many errors early on might deter agents/publishers from reading more.

    I do really like the sense of anxiety/panic/fear this piece creates and am curious as to what is facing extinction.

    Thank you for sharing and good luck!

  3. I'm sorry but this seems like it starts one step too late. Consider telling me something about the boys before you mention the man.

    o At what moment? Where who stood? Starting here leaves me immediately confused. Let the boys arrive first so I understand where they are and a tiny bit about how they came to be in this place.

    o Then have the unknown man turn and stare at the boys.

    o Consider moving the boys first reaction immediately after they spot the man. Then follow with the man's startling appearance.

    o Cut hysterically. For one thing, it mean out of control.

    o If they watch the ground, they are watching what is in front of them. The sentence would make more sense if they watched the ground instead of the man in front of them.

    o There's also a problem in the 'white fox' sentence.

  4. I found the very first line a bit confusing because 'At that moment' suggests something has gone before it; it doesn't feel like the opening of a book. I don't know who the 'they' are who are observing the unknown man, or where they are, or anything. In fact, reading this extract, I would assume it came from the middle of a story.

    Beyond that stumbling block, however, there's a good sense of mystery and tension, and I liked the description of the stranger. I think you could cut out pretty much all your adverbs without losing anything, though :-)

  5. First paragraph talks about the eyes too much, and the last sentence makes it sound as if the forehead turns color. I need something in the first paragraph to keep me reading, and a description of the man isn't enough to do that. I'd suggest tightening all paragraphs up. Best wishes.

  6. Good notes already about cleaning up the typos and errors. I liked the description of the man in the first paragraph and got a good image from it. I was also a little confused with the first line. It felt like we were dropped into a story that had started already.

  7. I was lost. I didn't get what was happening, except that the boys didn't want to be where they were. I don't know where they are, or who they're with, or why they are there.

    You start with 'At that moment' but we don't know what moment that is. Then the unknown man stares directly at where they stood, but we don't know who 'they' are, nor where they are standing. If they are hiding from this man, make that evident. You might also give us a clue as to what the man is doing? Is he searching for them or someone/something else, and they just happen to be there? Is he carrying a weapon?

    The unknown man’s forehead is gradually turning to auburn down his back. Change ‘that turned’ to ‘and turned.’

    Without a sound, Jace mouthed to Tyler hysterically – If he mouthed it, it is obviously without sound, so you could cut that. And I don’t see how you can mouth something hysterically, especially if you’re being silent and still.

    Then they move up the path, when a moment ago, they were afraid to move lest they be seen. So what is different now? The unknown man is still there. Perhaps he needs to move off first or Jace and Tyler need to sneak away?

    Only to be to face a white fox – something’s missing?

    I’d suggest a rewrite and start with the boys. Introduce the characters and give us a sense of place. Where are they? Why are they there? Then show us the man and give us an idea of what he’s doing.

  8. I agree with many of the points already made here regarding the piece.
    There is tension in the story brought about by the introduction of the man with the unusual eyes. But then you drop it when the man continues his search. It seems he is ignoring the boys.

    Try eliminating some of the adverbs to strengthen the immediacy of the events taking place. For example - Both boys stood frozen, and drop 'instinctively' to show a more dramatic image. I would try a rewrite with some of the suggestions here. You've got a good premise. Keep revising.

  9. Well, it seems Barbara got all my points across before I could. I'd definitly consider her critique as it is spot on.

    I also want to add that the biggest flaw with this piece is the POV. I think (I'm not sure) you're using omniscient; I'm uncertain because you switch from the POV of the strange man to Jace. If you write from Jace's (whom I believe is the MC) this opening will be enormously better.

    Oh and as a reminder, you should watch those "big words" in MG. Try to keep them as simple as possible. Your readers are 8-12 and I'm not sure a child knows what "iridescent" is--heck I don't even know what that is. The last thing I, or a kid, wants to do is grab a dictionary while we read. ^_^

    Good Luck.

  10. The strange man creates suspense and mystery right away, which is good. The fox with too many tails creates curiosity as well, and it’s nice that this sets up adventure and fantasy elements from the start. We’re a little uncertain about the first paragraph though—we don’t think the kids would really be thinking about the man’s bangs or how his hair turned auburn down his back. They are good details, but maybe save them for later.

  11. Definitely create suspense and build curiosity. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the comments I skimmed echoed my thoughts about jumping in mid scene and not knowing where the character are or what's happening. I wouldn't start with that much description (ruggedly handsome - would boys think that?) but maybe describe the boys' fear of being discovered by the creature with different colored eyes...
    Using they instead of we also creates distance like a narrator is telling the story. You might want to take note of how many times you used "they" including three consecutive sentences and change up sentence structure. I've also been taught to avoid "felt" as a weak and telling word. Instead make us feel it by showing instead of telling us.