Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Shedding the Demon
GENRE: Science Fiction

Damon looked down from the rooftop into the alley below. Shadows were spreading over the ground as the sun fell behind the tall buildings all around him. He listened intently; sure that he had heard something unusual. This close to the City, its sounds drifted into the Ruins in a never-ending hum, but he had trained his ears to ignore the incessant droning and focus on particular sounds. There—just around the corner. Something is going down, Damon thought as he tried to move quickly yet quietly.

He threaded his way over the rooftop between piles of garbage, broken down machines, discarded trash, and other detritus. Mindful of his training, he could hear his mentor’s voice in his head:

Keep focused on your target, but never forget that threats are everywhere, do NOT let someone get the drop on you because you were preoccupied.

Damon smiled as he thought of Andrea and her oft-repeated admonishments. Nonetheless, he followed her advice to the letter; eyes shifting, hearing focused, and the path he chose was winding amongst the debris rather than the easier, and faster, straight line across the roof. He came to the other side of the building, squeezed between two rusted-out hulking pieces of machinery and listened again.

He heard a shuffle of feet moving quickly, the metallic crash of something falling to the ground, and there, hidden in the other sounds, a muffled scream. Now he just had to take a look.


  1. I liked this up until the final line. I feel like that paragraph should just end with "muffled scream." The next paragraph could begin with Damon taking a look, but I think it should be a more active sentence, like peeking around the corner, or crouching in the shadows to remain unseen.

  2. This is really tight, clean writing. The tension is just right, and you manage to give us an enormous amount of information on Damon, the time period and the situation. I also like that his master is a woman. I agree with what someone said that the muffled scream, the way it came across, seemed secondary, not so important, and probably its' because of the phrasing, but to me that was really minor.

    What I did notice is words like "oft" and "detritus" that made me question the time period and the character's authenticity. If I had more to read, maybe this would not be a problem, but I did notice it. Perhaps you intended it. I'm not sure. Something for you to think about. Good luck. Great writing.

  3. Fine, tight writing. The only concern I have is that we have a couple paragraphs focusing on an unusual sound the MC hears that he's focusing on, but we don't get any sense of what that is until the last paragraph, and then I'm not sure if it's the same sound he heard in the beginning. I guess if you're trying to make a distinction between what the City is like, and what the Ruins are like, I'd want more specific details about what he hears at the beginning that is out of place.

  4. This feels like throat clearing to me, which usually isn’t necessary. It would probably be stronger if you started where something actually happens, with the action.

  5. I liked the scene setting here. I can picture what's going on clearly. Also, I like that his mentor is a girl--fun possibilities there.

    I did find the vocab just a bit jarring--'something is going down' and 'detritus' didn't seem like the same voice to me.

  6. I would like to get a hint of what time period this is. Or, if it is a different world or way in the future, what does the garbage and broken down machines and "detritus" look like? Based on what I am reading this seems like a very contemporary setting (with mentions of alleys and rooftops and discarded trash). Is that the case? Generally, I like where this starts, along with the writing. I would very much appreciate some more concrete descriptions of this world Damon is moving through.

  7. I feel like the writing here could be tighter. Phrases like "shadows were spreading" and "He threaded his way over the rooftops" could be reduced to "shadows spread" and "he thread over rooftops" to make it less wordy. A lot of times cutting out unnecessary words like that can be the difference between blood pounding intensity and "meh, it was okay."

    It also felt a little "tell"-y to me. Phrases like "he listened intently, sure he had heard something unusual." Could be more intense if you showed the action. Like maybe, "Something scuffled. He cocked his head. The ruins were silent. But that sound. So quiet, ye--there, again. Like a the quiet shuffle of feet over carpet." That was off the cuff, but you get the idea. More action, less telling!

    DESPITE those suggestions, I actually felt the intensity of the scene acutely. So mad props for that! With a few more adjustments, this would make my heart pound!

    Good luck!

  8. Very nice description in my opinion and smooth opening. Too bad it feels like a stereotype. This is science fiction. Then maybe add a few details that feels like technology plays a part in the way the rooftops are built or the way the street looks like. Maybe a shadow could follow Damon or Damon could follow someone. Why is he up there?
    How coud the buildings be in ruin and be tall? What is the humming all about? What kind of sound did he hear? IMO, you need little details that make real and something original that will intrigue the reader and will not sound like a hundred other novels already written.

  9. I usually like all sci-fi, but this didn't draw me in. You had great descriptions of Damon's surroundings. There was nothing wrong with your writing. I guess I just don't have enough to be hooked. What's the sound? Where are we? What's happening? I don't have to have all of these answers right away but I want to be grounded.