Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #45

TITLE: The Shoemaker's Daughter
GENRE: YA Retelling

Connor stared up at the hawk hanging by a leather strap tangled on a pine branch. She flapped to gain purchase, flashing her mottled brown and white underwings. His heart pumped. The bird would die and quickly. He needed Robert to help solve this. What use was an older brother in another country?

   As he looked into the canopy of needles, branches far out of reach, the branch of a neighboring oak caught his eye. He walked under it. He loved to climb. Jumping not so much. But this was the way if there was one. And it would delay the dance lesson.

    He climbed until the branches sagged with his weight. Leaning back, he swayed the young tree, and on the crest he jumped, pine tanging his nostrils as he scrabbled the wood. With the branch encased between his legs, he shimmied toward the shrieking bird, hands collecting tar. Reaching the strap, he pulled a short knife from his belt. Clenching the blade between his teeth, his check against the rough bark, he hoisted the bird whose flapping unsteadied him. He blindly cut at the leather wrapped around her leg. Her talons caught at his shirt, piercing the flesh. Connor grunted, he’d nicked her. He felt the leather break between his fingers and released her leg. She fell, spinning, then caught the wind and soared away. Getting down wouldn’t be so easy for him. He let his arms dangle, wishing he didn’t have to come down.


  1. I love how you open with your MC struggling to rescue this bird. We immediately sense his empathetic nature. Can you remove ROBERT from the first 250? I'd like to get to know Connor and stay focused on him. Good luck with this!

  2. I love the descriptive writing, quite vivid and easy to visualize. There was just one thing, I wasn't sure if Connor's goal was to rescue or kill the bird. I had to read it twice to finally decide that the goal was rescue. Here's a thought: how about showing Connor's intent by changing the 3rd-to-the-last sentence to something like, "She fell, spinning, then caught the wind. Connor smiled as she soared away." (Or something else, but you get the point.)

  3. Reading the prose in this scene was a delight. I felt calmed in a gentle, reassuring way.

    However, I would agree with some of the comments made, mentioning Robert is a distraction from the Conner (the MC) and takes away his agency. Connor is willing to climb the tree and save the bird even without his brother.

    You mention dance lessons, and I would love a tiny reason why he’s avoiding it. Perhaps entwining his avoidance/feelings for the dance lessons with the trapped bird could bring thematic depth and insight into Connor. The last two lines of the scene reinforce Connor’s avoidance, but they feel out-of-place without some thematic context.

    I enjoyed the writing, but one of my pet peeves is a rhetorical question on pg 1. I don't really know the MC yet, and my immediate response to a question so soon is: I don't know and I don't care. Consider tweaking a rhetorical question like that into something that conveys more personality or subtle character info. Maybe his foot slips on a branch and he wishes his brother were there to call the ambulance if he should fall. In any case, if the brother is important enough to mention in the opening sentences, give that mention a reason and a context. Otherwise, it feels like a distraction, a meandering thought.

    The writing is vivid, and I enjoyed this read!

    Thank you so much for sharing!