Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Black Reign
GENRE: Young Adult Dystopian/Action

Axel Schwartz began to stir as a powerful vibration shook his bed. The bed continued to shake as he took a startled breath and his eyes snapped open. He rolled on his stomach and commando crawled over the mountainous sheets and blankets until he reached the bed head. The instant he jammed his hand down on a raised square at the head of his bed, the vibrations stopped.

Above the bed, bright blue LED numbers silently flashed ‘0600’. He swung his feet onto the white porcelain tiled floor and pushed himself upright.

“Praise be to Szva, almighty god of everything!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.

Axel shuffled to the far side of the perfectly white room where a golden skull about the height of a small child sat on an ornate wooden stand. Its eyes were red crystals that gleamed in the light that filtered through translucent wall sections. Like a dead man, Axel fell as prostrate in front of it.

After five full minutes Axel arose and paced on the cold, hard tiles towards a wall and pushed a panel. It retracted and slid aside revealing a glass box about a metre by a metre. It reached from floor to ceiling. There were two knobs on either side of a hollow cylinder that projected a short distance from the wall. He dropped his white sleeping garments to the floor, placed a pair of goggles on his eyes and stepped into the box.


  1. I posted on another entry that agents don't like when you start with waking up. I know it seems like a good place to start, at the beginning of a day, right? But if I started telling you about how I got up, took a shower, ate breakfast, put on my'd be ready to go back to sleep.

    I also feel like you're TELLING us about the room instead of really describing it. Take this for example. "Axel shuffled to the far side of the perfectly white room where a golden skull about the height of a small child sat on an ornate wooden stand." It would sound more realistic if you did something like this, "Axel shuffled across the white tile to the stand in front of the Snarfblatt. Through the translucent wall, the golden skull stared down at him with red, glowing eyes, turning Axel completely prostrate." See what I mean?

    You can also give your writing a quick punch by looking for words like: began and continued. Take your first sentence for example. Instead of, "Axel Schwartz began to stir as a powerful vibration shook his bed." Try, "Axel Schwartz stirred when a powerful vibration shook his bed." It's a little more active.

    Good luck!

  2. I, too, immediately thought of the "waking up" cliche until the 3rd paragraph when Axel hails Svza. Game changer! Things take a drastic turn to a very different world, which is good. However, I wonder if there's more dramatic scene where the book can start. Even though Axel's world is different than ours, it can be portrayed more as backdrop of a plot element rather than the content itself.

    That said, it sounds like a very intriguing world you've created and I would have continued reading.

    Best of luck!

  3. It sounds like you have set up a very interesting world here. I'm especially curious about the glass box.

    I have to admit I feel like the first two lines kind of tricked the reader. I thought there was an explosion, but it was just an alarm clock. When I read about commando crawling, I wondered if it was a little kid playing soldier at first.

    The line "Praise be to Szva" is a gamechanger (like KKMHOO said), especially being yelled. But it really surprised me after the first paragraphs, and it didn't feel like it fit to me. So one solution might be to rewrite the beginning, maybe after the MC is already awake. Then you could jump into this daily ritual and show your MC in his/her world. Good luck!

  4. I think I agree with the other comments. Try to find a different place to start. I did like the screaming and prostrating because it was odd enough to catch my attention. Also I would talk about him stirring not beginning to stir. I would use fewer "to's" and make the action immediate. You have an interesting world created here though. It should make for a good story.

  5. I agree that waking up is not usually the most engaging starting point. There's a lot standing between a person and the action then (teeth brushing, using the restroom, getting dressed, eating, showering) that's boring when described and distracting if ignored.

    I'd also like to know a bit more about your protagonist within the first page. The only things I can guess at so far are that he might be smallish (the sheets are mountainous), he seems to be devout to Szva, and he's probably a morning person if he's able to leap out of bed and shout straightaway. But more details--things to invest me in the story and the character--would be good.

    Good luck!

  6. I said it on another post this round too, but waking up isn’t the most exciting, unique way to grab your readers. The second half of the sample was much more intriguing than the first, so you might want to rework this. The wording also feels a bit clunky at times, so really make sure your descriptions pack the dangerous punch of suspense you want them to. Also, just a note that YA dystopian is pretty crowded at the moment, so make sure yours is unique and brings something new to the dystopian table.

  7. I liked the ending of this segment - very cool. I do agree with others that waking up is cliche. Try to begin in media res - in the action, in the thick of it.

    The line: “Praise be to Szva, almighty god of everything!” struck me as a bit forced and info-dumpy, and not like something a young man would shout jumping out of bed. I think the first clause before the comma insinuates that Szva is a god of some sort, without the forced drama of the last bit.

    Overall, an interesting first page. Good luck!