Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Jake Tenkiller and the Widow’s Lament
GENRE: YA - Science Fiction

Emily watched the traffic through the bars of her window, trying to imagine she didn’t exist. The hospital parking lot was filling up, and the interstate was thick with morning commuters. People she would never know were going places she would never see…and that was fine, the way it was supposed to be.

The door opened behind her, pulling her back from her daydream, but she didn’t look. People moved out of sight, busy at some task; a hinge squeaked and something locked into place, wheels rolled on linoleum, feet and papers shuffled. The sounds of retreating steps and the shutting of the door told her someone had left. The squeak of an office chair told her someone had stayed.

“Emily Gardner?”

She flinched at the sound of her name but resisted the urge to turn.

“Emily, would you come sit with me?” The voice was male and rang with authority. A small impatient silence followed when Emily didn’t move. “You can come by your own free will,” the man said, “or I can drag you over.”

Emily turned, somehow managing to keep her face a mask. A handsome man sat behind a small folding table. His eyes, a remarkable blue, might have been chunks of ice for all the warmth they held. A smile split his face, and Emily knew at once she didn’t like him.

The man motioned with his hand to the side of the table opposite him. “And bring your chair when you come.”


  1. I am completely drawn in by this first page. Her point of view is strong. I have a good sense of her personality, and I'm intrigued by her situation. Last line, I'd cut out 'with his hand to the side of the table opposite him.' That is all implied. :) Fantastic page!

  2. I like this, but I don't feel drawn in. The first paragraph is passive (was); I'd like it to feel more active. The descriptions of the sounds are done well, but I wonder what she smells. Does she have her nose pressed against the window? I'm not sure I'm hooked with this snippet quite yet, but I suspect if there was a bit more I'd read on.

  3. I like this beginning. It's understated and strongly written. Regarding the man, I would like other adjectives aside from handsome and remarkable. Both are subjective, so tell me nothing. I also agree that the line where he motions is too long. Good job!

  4. The first paragraph is quite passive, both in language, and in the fact the character is just watching out the window. I'd be more drawn in if we were shown her doing something, rather than just accepting her position in life without question.

    I like the way she detects what's going on without seeing it, but I'd like some idea of what she's expecting, and why she's choosing not to look. It would help build up the scene a bit more. Same with when the man calls her over. I don't feel like I can get a grip on the character with what's there.

    I loved the line about him smiling and Emily deciding she doesn't like him. I'd like some more specific description of him, though. Words like handsome are so subjective, it doesn't really give a good impression.

  5. This opening creates a mood and atmosphere which I think works very well. It emphasises Emily's unwillingness to engage or reveal anything about herself. The writing is strong but I agree with the other commenters that 'handsome' and 'remarkable' could be much more specific. While Emily comes across as a well-rounded character, the man seems a little one-dimensional. Still, I would like to read more about Emily!

  6. Your writing here is very strong. You've got a clear voice and a great knack for locking in atmosphere and mood while still proving characterization and the perspective of your MC. You get a lot of details in without overwriting and provide just enough information to keep me intrigued. I think your opening sentence was particularly effective--telling me that there are bars on Emily's window immediately made me wonder about her circumstances.

    My one critique is that this doesn't jump out at me as much as it could. Your writing makes the opening stand out, but the action and setting doesn't--at least not in the first 250 words. Honestly, I think that's okay. Strong writing can get you far, and you introduced effective tension here. I would absolutely keep reading if I found this in my inbox.

    Thanks for the entry!

  7. Now that the Secret Agent has weighed in, I'd like to thank everyone for their comments, both the positive and the critical. Few eyes have seen this, and it was nerve-racking waiting for comments. I've never entered a contest like this before either, so, you know, double the palm sweat. It's been an extremely rewarding and fun experience (Thank you MSFV!).

    Writing critiques of other works was new for me also. I hope what I said was helpful. I think there is some real talent on display here. Good luck!