Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Exile
GENRE: YA

They grab me from my bed in the sharehouse, ripping away my blanket.

Two of them restrain me with forked tree limbs, pinning me against the thin bedroll. The forks bind my arms, so that I cannot grasp my assailants. Muddled with sleep, I stare up at them. Alone in the sharehouse room, I’m not sure what I could do against three of them, even were I wide awake. Each is bigger, stronger, and at least five years beyond my own fifteen.

The tallest commands, “On your stomach, cursling. Hands behind you. Wrists together.” His gruff voice suggests he takes pleasure in his duties this evening.

And now I know for sure why they’re here. Sleepy confusion gives way to silent fear. I am to be exiled into the unprotected night. It is a death sentence. Not for what I’ve done, but for who I am. And what I might do.

“Release my arms,” I say. I do not give in to my terror, though my stomach fills with bile, my throat with acid. I will not give them the pleasure of seeing me fall apart.

“You know I can’t do that,” the troop leader snarls. Does his voice hold just the slightest hint of fear? Probably not, but it feels good to imagine it.

“Then I can’t do what you ask.” I’m being purely reasonable. It’s either that, or yield to panic.

He raises a fist. One of the other guardians turns to him and says quietly, “Sir?”


6 comments:

Tracy Goeke said...

I want to read more! I want to know what's going on and why, what a cursling is, and from where the MC draws strength. I also like that you chose present tense--it helps me feel the immediacy of your words and the MC's feelings.

In your second paragraph, you say that two of them restrain the MC, but you don't say what the third is doing. Is this intentional? Is there something else going on or is the third simply standing there, watching? If I had more of your story, would I find this out?

There's only one part of one sentence that stands out, bothers me. It's in the seventh paragraph, when you say the MC is being purely reasonable. I don't think purely adds anything to the sentence, especially since I'm not sure what purely reasonable implies beyond what reasonable does.

Mim said...

I think you did a great job of pulling us into the action. There is a lot that would pull me into the book and have me keep reading, I want to know what a cursling is, and if the main character knew what that was first or not.

Usually by this point, I want to know if the main character is a boy or a girl--is there any way you can show that in the conversation?

I agree about the purely comment. I would cut it and the sentence means the same thing and flows better.

I'd keep reading this. Good job!

MK Becker said...

Thanks for the comments. You're right about "purely," though without it the rhythm breaks down, so I need to recast those two sentences - which I'll do shortly.

Mim, in about four more lines one of the guardians says, "We have him pinned on his back," which identifies the MC's gender. I hope that will be soon enough. (Besides, I assume readers of a published version will have glanced at the dust jacket or back cover, which would reveal that information. I don't know if that's legit, but I know I rarely pick up a book without at least a bit of non-textual information about it.)

Tracy, in a few sentences readers discover that the third man is the troop leader. I'll probably change "tallest" to "third man." There are other ways later to realize he's tall. (He plays a continuing role - not a major character, but he appears in half a dozen scenes and eventually in a confrontation with the MC that triggers the showdown with his antagonist, so I don't want to anonymize him too much here.)

Again, thanks for the comments. And I do hope that someday you'll get the opportunity to read the rest and find out what a cursling is, why it matters, and whether the MC prevails. (Okay, a cursling has a minor gift that makes him or her different. Jonah had the ability to make people forget the past few minutes, which sounds more useful than it is... unless he figures out a way to harness it.)

Barbara said...

You start by saying he is grabbed out of bed, and then, in the next parg, he is being pinned to his bed. Clarify whichever is correct.

He also has no reaction to what is happening to him. Is he scared, angry, befuddled? We learn in parg 5 that he is in terror, but you don't show us any signs of his terror, and he doesn't act terrorized.

Also, these are government troopers coming after him. Wouldn't they have more than tree limbs as weapons?

Perhaps take another look at the logic involved here.

Secret Agent said...

You do a nice job of pulling us into the action. I would like to see a little more of the main character's reaction right at the beginning, though. I was intrigued by how he blocks out his terror in the later paragraphs, but think it would make for a more engaging opening to know what's going through his mind right off the bat as well. Besides that, I hesitated over “forked tree limbs” in the second paragraph (are they the only weapons available to these assailants?), and think you can probably condense that paragraph a bit--but those are small notes. This is off to good start!

L.C. McGehee said...

This is intriguing, but at times the writing feels a little distant -- that is, as if you're talking about what he's experiencing rather than putting the reader into his shoes so they feel what's he's experiencing.

Saying 'I do not give in to my terror' is unnecessary, and it actually detracts from the details around it. His calm response shows us that he doesn't, the bile in his throat lets us know that he is terrified. 'It's either that, or yield to panic' is the same kind of thing; that's already clear from the context. These are examples of what I'd call telling on top of showing, when you weaken the good stuff by stating what the reader has already been shown quite effectively.