Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #7

TITLE: The Fishermen
GENRE: YA Contemporary Dark Fantasy

Starting the fire had been more satisfying than I expected.

Flames wave out from the dumpster, a fiery demon drowning in garbage, signaling for help. The putrid wafting of lighter fluid, melting plastics, singed paper products, fish, and dank rot of uneaten salad billows out. The breath of the garbage beast. The blue metal containing it groans under the intense heat, flares glowing from the rusted-out holes near the edges.

 “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Pulling my gaze from the crackling fire, I glance over my shoulder. Jeff, my ex-boss in all of his self-righteous, holier-than-thou glory, stomps across the back lot towards me. The sickly pallor of his face makes his sweat-stained polo appear white. For once.

“What does it look like?” I brush a flake of cigarette ash from my own polo, still damp from the orange juice flung on me earlier by the irate Mr. Soren. All it does is smear the grey into the tangerine stain. Jeff’s eyes bulge out of his head as he stops beside me.

After his mouth opens and closes like a gulping fish, Jeff spins toward me. “What the hell, Derry? Don’t you know how dangerous this is?”

I take a long drag from my cigarette with the determination of a little boy enjoying a Slurpee. The final puff billows inside me, coating my lungs in a warm blanket of toxin before rushing back out as I exhale.


  1. You have a great voice here-- the narrator feels very real and I et a strong sense of personality. I also like how you weave in details smoothly-- how Jeff is the "ex-boss," for example. A lot happens and is hinted at here and I want to know why the narrator quit and why he (or she) started the fire in the dumpster-- and what will happen next. I am doubly curious because of the "dark fantasy" label-- I want to see hints of the fantasy element soon. Nice opening.

  2. I do wish to know more about the protagonist, especially his age. At first I thought he was a teen (by default, due to the genre being YA), but he does seem significantly older.

    The first paragraph appears to contain supernatural elements (is the dumpster alive?), but perhaps that's just me taking metaphorical language too literally. Not sure if the ambiguity is intentional.

    I really like the characters. You've established 2 distinct personalities in a very short passage, and I've got a solid feel for both of them.

  3. A couple of things:
    -It's odd to start this in past and then jump forward immediately. It's also telling an emotion which would be much better shown with a satisfying smile or something like that.
    -I was thrown off by the comment about Jeff's pallor making his polo shirt look white. If he is paler than usual, why would that make his shirt look more white? I know this is a tiny thing but it stopped me from reading and you don't want to do that.
    -Unless this is from the POV of your antagonist, I don't think you should be showing smoking in such a positive light, especially in YA.

    Good luck!

  4. Wow, your attention to detail is really good. I especially love the description of the garbage fire.

    I don't have much to say except that the mention of a Mr. Soren threw me off because I don't know who that is (a customer from the job he just left?). But maybe your story gets into that later.

    I really like this! Good luck!

  5. That opening line is outstanding and the imagery is really good. You throw a lot at us in a short space, so it gets a little confusing to try and straighten it out, but that doesn't make me not want to read more.

  6. The details here are rich, but there are quite a few. I’d recommend simplifying. Several well-placed details can be just as strong, if not stronger, and not interrupt the overall flow of the piece. This opening does a good job of pulling the reader in and raising questions, but I also felt that a few things still needed to be explained. I wasn’t sure if there was a literal demon burning in the garbage or rather that was just a description of the dumpster, what the MC’s previous job was if Jeff was his/her ex-boss (and why he would be there then), and who Mr. Soren is. There seemed to be a few key pieces of information that were missing that would tie everything together.