Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #19

Title: Shadows of The City
Genre: NA Paranormal Suspense “Lexi’s gone.”

“Hello to you too,” I greet my younger sister, Stormie, without looking up from my client’s notes I am almost finished editing. “How was school?”

“I said,” Stormie’s voice edges in annoyance. “Lexi is gone.”

Puzzled, I look up to meet my sister’s turbulent hazel eyes. “Lexi?”

“My friend, Lexi. Gone.”

“Can you give me a few more details? At least some context?” I sigh, closing my laptop with a snap. “Where’d she go? Why? Should I be worried?”

Stormie shrugs her slender shoulders noncommittally. “I haven’t deciphered her last message.”

“Because?” I ask, rapidly losing my patience. Breathe through the nose. Inhaling slowly.

“I just got home!” Stormie yells impatiently, throwing down her backpack. “Did you expect me to decode in front of everybody on God’s green earth - in school?” she rolls angry eyes to the ceiling. “You must think I’m stupid! Geez!”

“I thought you might decipher it in the bathroom stall,” I suggest, ignoring the desperate desire to smack my thirteen-year-old sister upside the head. “How long will it take?”

“Will what take?”

“To decipher-”

“That depends on the length of the message!”

“Could you tell me why you interrupted me?” I demand, swallowing the anger boiling up my stomach. “I was working.”

Stormie rolls her eyes at the word working. “I thought you might want to know that there’s a real-life mystery at Lakeview High School.”

I slip my computer to the floor, my attention fully on my sister. “No way!”

Way!” Johnny says...


  1. I'm going to start by saying I really like this. That said, I had to go back and read the first few lines a couple of times. It felt like something was missing. I wonder if you might want the reader to hear Stormy say "Lexi is gone" the first time. Because she is apparently repeating herself here, I went back to read it again to find when she said it the first time. Nope. Didn't find it. Aside from that, I was curious and engaged, looking forward to finding out what decoding means, and what's going on with Lexie. I wonder if big sister (I assume sister?) could be amused at Stormie instead of angry? Or maybe simply exasperated? The anger boiling up in the stomach made me dislike her some.

  2. The opening was great, and I was really amused by the exchange between the sisters. You have a great sense of humor!

    Two main critiques:
    1. I thought it was very strange when the older sister suddenly believes her younger sister just because she says it's a "real-life mystery." Clearly she wasn't taking this the slightest bit seriously, why would she do a 180?

    2. I don't have a sense of where this story takes place, what the people look like, ect. When Johnny shows up at the end, it comes out of left field because I'd assumed the two sisters were alone. (Google calls this issue "talking heads" and there are interesting suggestions on how to fix it if you look the term up.)

    Hope that helps! Good luck!

  3. I think you have some really intriguing circumstances to start out! I am really curious about the deciphering and the mystery you are presenting here. I think the biggest suggestion I have it that I would want a little more grounding in the narrative. Instead of opening with dialogue, maybe set the scene. Where are they? What is happening? There is a lot of dialogue in the opening and I think it would help to get in our main character's head more. What is she thinking about? Also a little more context would be helpful: what does she mean by deciphering? It sounds like this is something that has happened before? Hope this is helpful!

  4. I like the mystery around what deciphering is. I was confused at the end when suddenly someone named Johnny talks. I think you need to introduce him. Show him walking into the room.

    Also, I noticed that a lot of the sentences have a similar cadence. There are many adverbs and gerund phrases.

  5. While I liked it, I was jarred that s/he suddenly started paying attention when Stormis said they had a real-life mystery. What was Lexi being gone if not a mystery? If a NA protagonist needs a 13 year old to explain that, s/he isn't going to be very interesting. Maybe move the mystery sentence up and protagonist could start to pay attention with the Lexi is gone bit. Who is Johnny? I thought the two were alone. Also, I would like to see a bit more about the protagonist. Can't even tell if it's male or female. Maybe have Stormie use a name when she comes in. Or say a typical little sister line like, "What kind of brother are you, never paying attention to me?" Something so the reader can identify with the protagonist.

  6. The dialogue tags feel a little tell-y and could be doing more to help ground me in the scene. I have a feeling I’m not registering everything that’s going on here. For instance: what does the MC mean by “decipher”? Is this alluding to a supernatural gift Stormie has? Why would "real-life mystery" make the MC pay attention and not Lexi's disappearance to begin with?

    This has the potential to be an interesting sister dynamic, given the age difference, but their relationship feels a little one-dimensional to me—almost like the MC is still a teenager herself--so I’m having a hard time connecting emotionally. I’d need to see more nuance to the characters and context to feel invested in this scene.

  7. I appreciate all of your comments and suggestions concerning my story, Shadows of The City! I have began making corrections using your comments and look forward to seeing how much better my story will become.
    Much love to y'all!

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