Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #36

TITLE: The Wildness in Mellie Feye
GENRE: YA Magical Realism/Fairy Tale Retelling

I'm hunting blue eyes in the grassy, brackish water when vibrations pulse against my legs. Faster and stronger than the soft ones from the scallops I'm hunting or from the sting ray swimming fifty yards to my right. Standing thigh-deep in Sand Blast Bay, I look behind me into the strong Florida sun. A boat is heading toward my sandbar, hip-hop reverberating off the water. The music means they're not here to fish. Or if they are, they have no clue. A party boat.

Just ignore the boat, Mellie, you're here to reach your quota. Not bask in the sunshine and quiet.

The sapphire of scallop eyes flash in the water. I go under, blinking to clear the salt and sun from my eyes as I push bay grass aside. The scallop clicks its two shells together, an underwater butterfly fluttering deeper into the mucky bay floor. I grab it and bag it.

When I break through the surface, goosebumps race down my arms. I was underwater for less than a minute, but in that time, everything has changed. Bruised clouds swallow the sun. A menacing wind slaps me.


I glare at the sky, wondering what I did to bring this on as I wring water out of my Fish Shack tee shirt.

The boat slows, I guess whoever's on it sees me. The nearest shore is two hundred yards away. I wade toward the twisted pines.

The stereo cuts off as it gets closer. I touch the oyster knife strapped to my leg.


  1. I had a hard time reading this opening. There was a lot of description but it almost seemed to hinder the idea of what was going on. And I was confused by the Mama line. That seemed to come out of nowhere.

    otherwise, it sounds like this could be an interesting story.

  2. I like this a lot. Great imagery and sense of place. Good pacing and sense of character.

    A few minor quibbles.

    Do scallops have blue eyes? I pictured her hunting something more human.

    Using "hunting" twice in the first two sentences was distracting.

    Very well done.

  3. I thought this was an interesting beginning. I like that you don't tell us everything--a little bit of mystery keeps me curious and reading, especially since you hint at something supernatural. The writing is pretty solid too.

    The one issue I had was I didn't feel much connection with the MC. She seems tough and smart, but I didn't get a lot beyond that. Maybe if we knew who she worked for, how she felt about the job, why she's working, especially what she wants--what are her goals or what's at stake?--a little more of that and I'd feel like I knew the character better and had more reason to cheer for her. There's some tension/danger in the scene, so I'd read a bit more to see what happens, but if I didn't get to know the character fairly soon, I might put the book down.

  4. I'm definitely feeling sucked into this one. I love the really descriptions of the setting - they seem very tactile. And the voice seems clear and strong.

    The one bit that threw me was the 'Mama' line, but I'm hoping that will be explained soon.

  5. I liked the opening. It had a sense of movement, pulling me forward. I also really liked how she felt she caused the change in the sky. It makes me wonder how and why that would be possible and I would read on to find out.

    The only thing that threw me was the line "Mama." It seems to introduce another part of the story line and it might be too much in the small number of words at this point. I would suggest to use that part to tell us more about the main character.

    Very interesting!

  6. The descriptions you used had a good mix of the different senses and not just sight. That was refreshing and kept me reading. The "Mama" didn't hugely bother me. I think adding a line after the Shack tee shirt about what has happened in the past or why she isn't looking forward to what is coming would help tie that in with what you have already written.

  7. Like the others, the mama line threw me. Also, I'm not sure the sapphire eyes would be seen so clearly, but you are right about the color! Scallops are quite beautiful, me thinks:-)

    I'm curious to know why she has a quota and what the approaching boat is about. I'd read on!

    Good luck!

  8. I'm not sure if the Mama line has something to do with the drastic change in the weather, or is about her actual mother. It stopped me for a long moment.

    I've never seen blue eyes, but now I definitely want to. You manage to stir all the senses in this one small snippet. And although not a lot has happened to give us many clues about this girl, I have a definite feeling it's about to.

    I'd certainly keep reading and I wish you the best with this.

  9. You hit one of my pet peeves right with the first sentence. "I'm hunting blue eyes in the grassy (...)" makes me think she's hunting for dismembered eyes, little eyeballs that flew from someone's face. You repeat "scallop" a lot in such a short period, too. I'd try to work around that.

    Otherwise... I get that she needs to catch a lot of scallops, but why is the boat a menace to her? I don't know if it was intended to sound like that or not, but that's the impression I got from that last part.

  10. I liked this very much. The tone is very nice, whimsical even. You've used some really great, strong verbs throughout, too.

    I wasn't wild about either of the italicized passages. Actually, the mama one didn't bother me as much as the first one where she's talking to herself in the third person. The story is already told in first person. We know that everything we read is being told by her from her perspective, so we don't need you to italicize her thoughts as if they're separate from what we've already read. It's unnecessary and a little awkward.

    Other than that, I enjoyed this very much!

  11. I did connect to Mellie, in the way she thinks about the boat disrupting her scallop fishing. But I think this opening could improve with a greater sense of focus – perhaps you’re trying to do too much here? I don’t understand exactly what she’s hunting – scallops? Do scallops have eyes? Why does everything change so quickly, while she’s underwater? How did she affect this change? Is she in danger from the people on the boat? What’s going on with her Mama? You do want to leave the reader with some questions in the opening, enough that they want to read on, but I think this feels like a few too many.

  12. A big thank you for everyone's feedback!