Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #40

TITLE: Damaged Goods
GENRE: YA Science Fiction(light)

Snatchers have come to our Wastelands to reduce our numbers. Again.

One of our soldiers rides up, his face haunted, two fingers raised in the air. I peek from behind a tree. The scratchy wood cuts my chin from pressing too hard, but I let it.

My father sits on top of his horse and looks like he’s about to be sick. The shake of his head is barely detectable. “Two what?” Father asks, his face still twisted. I know he knows already, just like I do. He doesn’t want to believe it.

The soldier’s face darkens. “Children,” he says like the word hurts his tongue.

In the middle of the dry forest, about two hundred of us hide—my father’s army and me. To hide we have to go in deep; the leaves are sparse. The nearest soldiers freeze when they find me behind them, listening. So does my father. Father insists on keeping me with the group, but usually finds a way to keep me away from the ugly happenings.

I hardly have a chance to finish swallowing the lump that forms in my throat before the group bursts into chatter-prattle. My father’s in a frenzy, checking on me every few minutes. Two children snatched away instead of the usual one is the biggest news I’ve heard in my lifetime. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve made it thirteen years. In a couple more, I’ll no longer be a child the enemy wants.


  1. What an awesome idea you got here :) I feel like it starts with a lot of tension, but then kind of dies off by the "in the middle of the dry forest" paragraph. So my suggestion is to heighten the tension and make readers really feel scared because this kind of idea warrants as much tension as possible.

  2. I would cut "to reduce out numbers" as it slows the flow to the sentence and isn't really necessary to get the idea across (especially along with the impact of the last paragraph. Those last 4 sentences, yaaaassss!) Also, does the MC age throughout the story? In general, 13 is a little young for YA (but don't quote me).

  3. This is a great start! I agree that the tension decreases with the paragraph of explanation. If you save some of the details for later, it will draw people in more. And 13 is definitely young for YA, unless this is a prologue and the MC is older for the main story action. But you have me curious about the snatchers and the world!

  4. I agree the first sentence is cumbersome, but would rather cut "to our wastelands", as "to reduce our numbers" really gives an immediate feeling of terror, and "wastelands" doesn't really give me a lot to go with anyway.

    The hints of setting in the last paragraph are great, but I would like some more detail to picture the world before. What exactly is a dry forest? I just know the trees are scratchy and the leaves are sparse, but otherwise I have no idea of what to picture.

    The language is a bit clunky in parts, and the flow could be better. Sentences like "He doesn’t want to believe it." can be cut out, because the reader can make this interpretation themselves.

    The backstory is really what makes this interesting, and I do want to know more about the enemy and why they snatch children below 13. I think the opening should provide a few more snippets of information and more vivid images, and it should flow more smoothly; but there is certainly something here.

  5. I felt this started with a strong hook, but then my interest dissipated as the scene moved on. There are too many filter words here for my taste, and the POV is more distant than I like.

    I do like this premise though, and I'd read more.

    Thank you for sharing!

  6. Ooops! I had a few more thoughts on this one.

    The stakes for the community and the main character are clearly stated and they're high. In the last paragraph, however, the use of the phrase “chatter-prattle” changes the serious tone. I didn't believe her father and the soldiers would engage in foolish, trivial, or inconsequential talk immediately upon finding out that TWO children have been abducted. Also, I wanted more clarification in the setting. “Wastelands” makes me think that they are in or near a desert. I was surprised by the phrase “dry forest.” I associate forests with a certain lushness or humidity, unless the forest is near a coastline and arising from sandy soil. Maybe describe what a dry forest is and what it looks, feels, and smells like? If the land is that dry, is it hot, is the horse sweating, are its hooves kicking up dust as it approaches? Add some atmosphere. Also, it might help to know why the enemy is taking children--Just a subtle hint would work. <3

  7. Fantasy is tough because there is so much to establish early on in the story. In this case it might be better to stick with the tension between the people because that's where the heart of the story is. You've got a dynamite premise.

    When is comes to the description I feel a little lost because I do not know what a "dry forest" is. If the leaves are sparse because of a drought or the type of trees they are, say so. The bark of trees is usually rough but it doesn't leave cuts - again - maybe tell the reader what kind of tree it is. Does this tree's bark have a purpose? Sharp details let the reader know that you, the author, live in this world. They'll trust you to take them anywhere in it.

    This really is just the first 250 words, there are limitations.

    And yes - the age feels young for YA. Reader usually read up in age. Maybe upper MG?