Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #48

GENRE: YA Speculative Fiction

I’d woken with a jolt early this morning, peace-keepers beating on my door. I thought we still had one more day, but my parents’ Grace Period to raise me was over. They had prepared me for much, but not this—how could they? While a Customized would be thinking about blowing out candles on their sweet-sixteen, I was trying to decide which of my parents to feed to the flame. Before I’d be allowed to leave the balcony room above the Pit, I’d have to choose which of my parents would die for me.

I dug my nails into the bloodless skin of my arm, not removing them until they left deep marks. I couldn’t really feel any pain. It was vague, a distant sting to a nervous system that no longer belonged to me. My consciousness seemed to float above my body, but it couldn’t escape, and neither could I. I remembered how I used to wake screaming when I was a little girl, plagued by guilt over a choice I hadn’t made yet. Now that that choice was before me, I was too numb to feel anything.

My counselor tapped her clipboard with long fingernails. She was sitting somewhere behind me, reminding me that she was still there—and that I was still wasting her time—every few minutes when she shifted the order of her crossed legs.

After a long silence she prodded me yet again, “Fayten, it’s been another hour.”


  1. This entry has a bit of a breathless quality. We get a good sense of stakes, but it's told to us, instead of being shown. It would be better, imo, to show the peacekeepers busting in on the MC, having the parents sheilding them and being torn away, and then have the counselor explain to the mc (and the reader) what happens next instead of cramming everything into your opening paragraph. There are a lot of fun concepts here, and I really like your use of lingo, but I feel like you robbed the reader of a dramatic opening scene and resorted to telling instead. Best of luck!

  2. This is interesting. I don't see the point of the capitalized words, they don't mean anything this early in the story, but I would read on to see what's going to happen. I don't quite get a sense of place in this though. I don't know where she is, only that she's in a room. Is she in her bedroom? Some office somewhere?

    You did a great job defining the stakes though, and I feel incredibly bad for your MC.

  3. The central concept here is a really interesting and unsettling one - I love it! But I agree with another commenter above that it feels as if you're trying to explain the whole set-up in your first paragraph. As a result, it comes across as rather wordy and not nearly as dramatic as it could be. I'd suggest letting the world-building details come out naturally through action and dialogue, rather than telling us everything at the start. Trust your readers to figure it out :-)

  4. I agree with the others. This is a great place to build on. Showing this scene would be very effective, though it might help further to back up a bit and show a glimpse of the family before it gets broken up. That would provide opportunity to explain the capitalization since readers aren't familiar with the world yet. All the elements are here, I think showing us the story will really help.

  5. I like the early tension and the protagonist's inner conflict.
    I would suggest a little more showing than telling...but, then that's the struggle in the opening of any fantasy novel, right?
    Great concept!

  6. I like the unsettling premise, but I too agree with the others that you beginning by telling rather than showing. I suggest that you consider beginning with the last two paragraphs and rework the rest to follow.

    Good luck.

  7. The first graph is too wordy, too much info. Second graph is far more effective. I also would like to hear people talk aside from the counselor. MC interacting with her parents? Not sure though if that would ruin your setup.

  8. Brutal premise. Love it. As a few others have said, you can't beat those stakes.

    The problem is that you tell it all to me in the first paragraph instead of letting me experience it with your MC. In fact, I'd recommend cutting the whole first paragraph and jumping straight into the second one. In this way, you show me that some terrible choice is plaguing her, but you make me wait to find the answer...and that makes me want to read more.

    I'd also reco cutting a few extraneous words. For example, in the first sentence, instead of saying "not removing them until" you can tighten it all by saying "I dug my nails into the bloodless skin of my arm until they left deep marks."

    But again, cool premise. With a little trimming here and there I think you'll be in a really great place. Best of luck with this!

  9. Wow, what an intriguing premise! It is so disturbing and heartbreaking -- which makes me want to read more.

    I agree with other commenters who suggest you start at the second paragraph, and show us the first paragraph's content as the chapter progresses.

    Best wishes with this. It is an exciting premise, almost seems like a movie plot. : )

  10. This one packs a punch right out of the gate. By the end of the 250, you're already presented with the question of which parent you'd kill. It makes readers wonder why the main character is in this situation. Though we wondered if she was human. Why are her arms bloodless? Is she just not feeling pain because she is in shock or is it something else? We don’t know the complete plot of this, but we’d maybe start with a scene of the main character with her parents—a happy scene. And then have the knock on the door come and say she has to decide which one dies. Give the reader an emotional attachment, instead of just telling us this is how the character feels.

  11. I wondered why, if the peacekeepers came early that morning, they're still there, and why they're not making her go with them. WHy are they leaving it up to her when to leaves?

    It might be something that is answered later, but it takes away from the tension here because, while she may have to make a horrible decision, she certainly doesn't seem to be in any danger.

  12. Wow! Like the others, I really like the premise. I was also a little confused about the proper nouns—I feel as though you threw too many of them at us at once, especially right at the beginning. I think you could probably move that information later on with a bit of a quick explanation and it'd work just fine. :)

    Good luck!