Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #41

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Deep in my chest, I could feel it: the girl was asleep. The itch to jump into her dream almost overpowered me, but I lingered in the arched entrance hall of Rainthorpe Manor, the mansion we'd used as home base on Earth the last twenty years. A new recruit had died this morning, and Beatrice would bring her by any moment to meet me. Not even the peaceful glisten of snow through the leaded windows could curb my urge to depart, and I leaned around the corner to check the grandfather clock again.

Beatrice and an older woman with brown, wind-toughened skin materialized in front of me. I nodded to both of them.

"This is the Head Sifter, Seth," Bee said, gesturing in my direction.

The new Sifter's eyes flicked to Bee and back to me.

"Welcome." I didn't ask her name. The details of her former life had been included in her contract.

Her voice wavered as she asked, "Are you the one shielding it?"

I gave a short nod, and her hard face looked like it might crack. "Thank you. It was horrible."

Bee caught my eye and raised a finger to show she understood my impatience. "I'll introduce you to your partner," she said, drawing the woman from the hall. "And we'll go over some of your duties."

"Thank you!" the woman called over her shoulder, but I was already fading out, diving into the dream world of the destroyer.

It was time to find the problem.


  1. You've done a good job of creating a mysterious atmosphere here. But the first line confused me a little, and I'm not sure that I understand who the girl is and why he wants to jump in her dream even after reading further. I do want to know more, so good job enticing intrigue.

  2. This is really intriguing - I want to know what a sifter is and the connection to dreams and death.

    The mention of Earth threw me, because you the genre says contemporary fantasy, but any reference to planets takes me to science fiction. If your character's not from another planet and instead from another world, you might consider subbing earth with "this world" or similar to clarify.

    You have three big nuggets in the first paragraph that take a bit of digesting: the mention of jumping into dreams, the mention of someone who died that the MC is about to meet and the mention of Earth. Is there a way you can parcel this information out more slowly? For instance, perhaps you focus on the dream jumping, and save the mention of the girl being dead until we actually meet her. Give us time to adjust to the new world and the unique details vs. giving us everything in the first para.

    But as Vanessa said, you've done a great job enticing intrigue. I am very curious about this world and what's going to happen next. Nice job!

  3. I agree with two comments above. There is a palpable sense of tension that makes me want to read more, but also obscure comments that aren't explained such as jumping into the girl's dream, what is being shielded, and why the old woman had to meet the narrator.

  4. I really enjoyed that first paragraph. I'm a sucker for strong starts that draw me in immediately and you did with all the questions forming in my head already! My stumbling block was the exchange after the new sifter asks if the other was shielding it - the answer threw me out as it didn't make sense to me. But that's the thing with 250 words - all the explanations come later... All the best!

  5. You've woven an excellent sense of foreboding into this. I feel myself there instantly. I definitely want to read more.

    I agree that your first paragraph is too dense. I needed a little breathing room.

  6. I love this! I'm absolutely drawn in. I just want to read more.
    I don't agree with the other comments about your first paragraph, but that's just me. The only thing that could use tweaking is the mention of the girl whose dream he wants to jump into. Who is she? Why HER dream? You never mention her again in these paragraphs. Just a one-sentence explanation of why her would be helpful.
    Your voice gives us good characterization. We know he's tired and annoyed, an imperfect character, but still are drawn to like him. The world-building is completely integrated into the plot. Every sentence does at least two or three things here. I'm very impressed.

  7. There are too many unanswered questions here for the very, very beginning of a story. Also, the voice felt very adult, given this is YA. Good dialogue writing though. And good pacing. This immediately trots along at a nice clip.

  8. Thanks so much for the feedback so far! In case anyone else stops by here, do you think it would help if I changed the first line to:

    "Deep in my chest, I could feel it: the destroyer was asleep."

  9. You have some very interesting world building going on here. It's subtle enough not to feel like an info-dump, but by the end I still think I understand what's happening. Seth wants to jump into someone's dream, but he holds back because he's waiting to meet the new recruit. Once he has, he can get on with his work. Obviously, there's still a ton I don't know, but nothing that makes me too confused to go on.

    However, I wonder if the introduction of this new recruit is absolutely necessary on the first page. That's prime territory, so unless she's essential to the story, maybe she could wait until later. If jumping into dreams is the main plot of the story, why not get right to it?

    You end on a great note. It makes me want to find out who the destroyer is and to find the problem along with Seth. Well done.