Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Gray Mist Soldiers
GENRE: MG Historical Adventure

Waves crashed against the craggy cliffs of Torrey Pines State Beach, sending flecks of spray high into the air, like spit. Peter tugged at his tight shirt collar. The sun had begun to burn through the clouds, making the occasion seem happy, instead of what it was. He preferred the gloomy mist.

Mom called him over. They were starting. With his head bent to avoid everyone's sorrowful stares, Peter slowly shuffled along the cliff's edge to join his brothers around the phony urn.

The minister started blabbing. Peter stared at the ground, and listened instead to the restless waves. One by one, his brothers stepped forward to grasp a fist of sand from the 'urn'. Jeff cleared his throat, and spoke with a husky voice out of place with his seventeen-year-old face. His solemn words were appropriate, and heartfelt. Jeff turned away from the crowd and stepped to the edge of the bluff, releasing the sand over the side. It drifted peacefully out of sight. Stephen was next. He said something funny, but inappropriate. Mom smacked his arm in a warning. He flung his sand out to the ocean. A gust of wind tossed it back in his face. Stephen cursed, which got him another warning smack. It was Derek's turn. He uttered an almost inaudible goodbye, and let the sand sift through his fingers into a pile at his feet. Peter was the youngest, and always last. He stepped forward, the vast sea stretching out before him.


  1. I love the setting! I could almost taste the salty spray.

    It might help the reader if you elaborate after "phony". Is the urn fake? The more I read, the more I'm thinking it is.

    When Jeff reached into the urn, he grabbed sand rather than ash, which leads me to believe the entire funeral is fake.

    I'd definitely keep reading to find out the answers to all these questions. Good job!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. You have some seriously good descriptions here. "Like spit" is great in the first line. "Phony urn" is a nice surprise in the sentence, but I agree that it needs more elaborating.

    I think your third paragraph would have more punch if you broke up such a huge chunk of text and and also offered more detail. For instance, tell me what Jeff said. I want to hear what funny but inappropriate comment Stephen made. It would have far greater impact if you did this.

    I would definitely keep reading though. I'm intrigued.

  4. An interesting opening, but I wondered why you didn’t tell us what it was. Who’s ashes are they sprinkling? Dad’s? A siblings? Their pet’s?

    And then I wondered when this was taking place. What time period are we in? It’s listed as historical, but there’s nothing in the text to give us a clue as to time period.

    You might consider letting the reader hear what each kid is saying. It will help with characterization by letting us ‘see’ each kid’s unique personality.

    I didn’t think comparing sea spray to spit worked because you have the spray rising in the air, and people usually spit down on the ground. Although, if you compared it to the spray falling back to the ground, it could work

    I’d give it a few more pages because you’re giving me story. There’s a character in a situation, and people are acting and reacting. What comes next would determine whether I stuck with it or not.

  5. I think this needs a little more information to give us a hint at the time period. I'd add dialogue. Give us some of the words being spoken. Make them funny, cute, or humorous or even sad, but let us hear them talk. The "phony urn" has me curious!

  6. The questions raised on this page are good ones (why is it a phony urn? Why is it filled with sand? Who is it for?) and you're right not to give up the answers right away.

    I like that we get the actions of Peter's brothers through his filter (though that could be upped)--and it keeps us with Peter--but it might be one of those things where you have to write both versions and decide for yourself which is more effective. Each of their bits is already so telling of their characters!

    The sense of the setting is wonderful, though it's true that there's not an indication of time period. If it weren't for the genre, I'd assume it's contemporary. Possibly giving us something more about Peter's uncomfortable clothes would be all you need at the very outset. Like sweating in tights, or itchy ruffled cuffs, or heavy buckled shoes.

    I don't think "making the occasion seem happy" is the most effective way to put it. I see what you're getting at--bright sun at a mournful event doesn't fit the mood--but the statement just doesn't ring true. I've been to sunny funerals and rather than "making it seem happy" it was an unpleasant kind of sunshine. Just my thoughts!

    The last line is great--so evocative! I'd keep reading!

  7. I like the gloominess you set up here and the location is well described and really clear in my mind. I wondered here if this would be stronger written from Peter's perspective, in first person. For example: when you say "phony urn" that's clearly what Peter thinks of it, so it might be better coming from his perspective.

    I also think in the last paragraph that I'd prefer to "see and hear" the scene in dialogue rather than have it recounted to me. What does the minister say? Tell us how each brother steps forward, what they look like, and give us what they say - don't just tell us that the words were solemn and heartfelt.

    Otherwise I'm intrigued and I'm curious to read on, but something about the way it's currently written makes me feel distant from the text and not in the moment, so I'd consider revising.

    Thanks for entering!