Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #4

GENRE: YA Science Fiction with 1850s-like setting

My rope arced through the moonlit night and slid down the wooden fence to land at my feet. Again. Damn.

Panting echoed from the empty yard beyond the eight-foot fence—the blacksmith's dog must have heard me. I coiled the rope and tossed it a third time. Yes. It caught the top of the post. I yanked it, testing the strength, then braced my feet against the slats and scrambled up.

At the top, the points of the boards dug into my torso as I twisted the rope around so it would fall into the yard and provide me an escape route. The big black mutt gazed up at me, sniffing for the treat I'd brought him. Or smelling me. By now, we were old friends. He hadn't barked at me in weeks.

When I dropped down, the dog whined softly, and I pulled my ration of meat for this week out of my pocket. My mouth watered, but I tossed it to the dog. A small price for a glimpse of freedom. The two chicken pieces disappeared in seconds.

Despite the fence, the shop was always locked at night, but there was a workstation set up outside. Sometimes, nails fell down, and the blacksmith was too lazy to go after them right away. I fell to my knees, inching past the sawhorses toward the lean-to, sifting through the sand with my fingers as I crawled. Under the water-filled trough, my fingers grasped cool metal, and I snatched it up.


  1. I loved this! Love the voice that comes across from the very first paragraph. A few minor quibbles.

    Second paragraph, should the "Yes" come after "It caught the top of the post"? To me, it would read better that way as we see the reaction of 'yes' after what he/she is reacting to.

    Which brings up my next point. Who is this MC? I'm ok not having a name right off the bat but so far I have no idea of age or gender, and I would like a little something to help set the story. I have a great idea of setting, but am having a hard time seeing the MC in my head. A little hint as to who they are would really round this out.

    Intriguing opening! Why does he/she need nails? Great start-I would definitely keep reading this! Best of luck!

  2. I'd read more! This is very intriguing and I love your imagery. I don't need the name or the gender right away and since it's YA, I assume teen. I love that the MC has to give up their weekly meat ration to get nails for some, as yet, unknown reason. Good luck!

  3. I love this. Great action and i love the elements: blacksmith, a dog, food ration given up for a taste of freedom. And why was the character doing all this to gather nails? What is its value? The best thing I like is that the character's gender (or even better, since it SciFi, whether it's even human or some other fictional being) is not revealed yet, but I'm already along for the ride. Too bad I only get to read the first 250.

  4. This is an easy piece to offer feedback because I really enjoyed it and was disappointed when it ended. The opening hooked me and I immediately wondered how many times the MC had tried this trick and failed. What really worked for me the most, was when the MC tossed the meat to the dog. As much a kindness as a peace offering which revealed character. The writing is tight, every detail seems to do double duty. Well done.

  5. Breaking and entering, great way to start your piece. I was hooked. I loved the line "a small price for a glimpse of freedom." Your writing is solid and subtly revealed how things in the MC's world are. When I pick out a book to read, I normally read the first page and I would happily read the rest of yours. Break a leg!

  6. Since this is sci-fi and not a Western or simply YA, I'd like to have a hint of the genre from the start. I also don't know if this character is a boy or a girl.

    Not sure panting can echo - you may want to rethink that.

    He's smart to bring a treat for the dog, but is he at all worried that someone will catch him? Is there any danger? I'd like to see some potential for danger or sign of conflict. That's what keeps readers turning the pages. You have made it clear what this character wants - nails (to sell?) and freedom. So I'm intrigued enough to wonder who is keeping him locked up and and why he has so little to eat.

  7. While we get a sense of place on the first page, we don’t get much about the MC. Unless there is a reason for the vagueness, I’d reveal a bit more so we might connect with the MC better. You do win us over by letting us know he/she gave up their only meat ration for the week to the dog—who can’t fall for a kindhearted animal lover? Also, “YA Science Fiction with 1850s-like setting” makes me think of Steampunk. It might be good to look at comp titles and see what area of speculative fiction this falls under (or maybe it truly is sci-fi and it’s just not coming through in the first 250).