Thursday, July 17, 2008

#103 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Population Explosion
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense


Three years from now.

Wei Chen awoke as he had for the last four weeks, terrified to look at himself in the mirror. He avoided the encounter by taking in the beauty of Qinghai Lake in the mountainous Chinese province of Qinghai, from the bedroom window of his small frame house.

Wei walked to the bathroom, avoiding the mirror before urinating, for fear of wetting himself at the sight of his reflection. A plague had assaulted the entire world, nearly crippling his powerful nation.

Observing no obvious evidence of the disease, Wei released the breath he had unknowingly held. His family would have a father for at least another day.

Two months earlier, Wei had assumed the position of Construction Manager for an electricity-generating wind-farm. The white spinning propellers towered above the landscape on the lake's west bank.

Still living eight hundred and fifty miles away in Beijing, Wei’s wife, Mayzhu, and three-year-old son, Liu, would be joining him the following summer. The two months of separation from his family already seemed like an eternity. He could hardly wait until they were reunited.

The disease overcame the elderly first, as many diseases do, though the symptoms were subtle and difficult to detect. More recently, the disease had begun attacking many middle-aged adults and even some children, whose symptoms were obvious the very first day.

Rumors had spread that the outer provinces may be spared from catching the illness due to their remote location and sparse populations.


  1. Yeh-maybe. :)

    Not the sort I usually read, but I wanted to see more of the chapter.

    One thing - maybe a description of what he thought he'd see in the mirror?

  2. Yes, yes, yes!

    I loved this!

    The clever "3 years from now" was great. I love "end of the world" stories, and I love things set in China. The fact this guy's family is going to die because they're in Beijing is interesting.

    I would love to read on. I am definately hooked.

    Hao kan jile! Nin xie shu, xie de hao! Hen you yisi!

    Cheers, & well done!

  3. I felt a lot of this was telling. Why not just drop me into a scene and let me figure out for myself that "A plague had assaulted the entire world, nearly crippling his powerful nation."? I might cut that sentence and just go into how he doesn't observe evidence of the disease.

    And then after he's thinking of his family, you sort of go into the backstory of the disease. It seems odd to me, and removes me from Wei's plight of being disease-free, yet separated from his family. They're moving up there with him to escape the disease, right? So I think it would be better to have him counting down the day until they were in safety instead of telling me what the disease does. I think it could be worked in in a different way.

    So you sort of hooked me. I love futuristic, the world-is-wiped-out stuff. :)

  4. Edit, Edit, Edit. Read your stuff out loud again and again.

    There is some good stuff here. But, it just does not flow. Some sentences seem out of place and would fit better in another paragraph.

    No. Not yet.

  5. I'd rather see the first chapter than the prologue.

    Pass for now.


  6. I agree with Matt... the paragraph structure needs work. It has a lot of possiblities.

  7. I'm usually a sucker for stories like this, but as everyone else has mentioned, the bouncing around from topic to topic didn't lend itself well to grabbing my attention.

  8. Not really my thing, but I'd be willing to read more.

  9. Sorry, no.

    The first sentence is great.

    This is followed up by mostly expositionary back story that doesn't interest me. Perhaps it will appeal to others (I'm a hard person to please).

    Good luck.

  10. Not really. The sudden shift from talking about the disease then jumping to wind propellers didn't work for me. I'd much rather hear about, and get hooked by, an unknown disease.

    The "Three years From Now" thing really didn't work for me as a prologue. Prologues mean "what happened before," not is what is yet to come. You can certainly start something in the future and then jump back, but not as a prologue, IMHO.

    Also, the "character waking up" construct is cliche and doesn't do anything to advance the story or plot.


  11. Sorry, you did not hook me. I like the concept of the story and like reading this genre. The flow of the story was hard to follow. I would also have to agree with Matt that some of the sentences appeared to be out of place in the story.

  12. Nope, sorry. I like the concept, but the way you relate the information feels like an infodump. You're giving a lot of backstory about the plague and the character, but all that really happens is that the character looks in the mirror... and he doesn't even have the disease. I liked the first line, but I felt a bit let down by the rest of the excerpt, because I expected something more exciting to happen.

  13. I can see potential here, but at the moment it's not working (sorry). Have you considered waiting to tell us a disease has wiped out most of the world until later on -- say, the end of the prologue? It seems to me a man worrying about the health of his family 800 miles away might be compelling on its own -- and then, WHAM! You spring on us that most of the world is dead, and Wei and his family could succumb at any moment, too.

    Might it build suspense to tell us what Wei feared seeing without actually explaining why?

    "Observing no obvious evidence of the disease...." Like what? What symptoms might he have expected? (Yes, I know, you mentioned the symptoms were subtle, but if they're subtle, wouldn't Wei be more afraid the disease would sneak up on him without manifesting anything at all?)

    Just some thoughts. Keep at it! I think you may be onto something here. :-)

  14. Not for me. Since stories about worldwide diseases don't interest me, I had trouble getting into this one. Starting with so much background also puts me off. The writing itself looks polished -- just not a genre I like to read.

  15. No, sorry, it didn't grab me. Too much telling (why do we need to know the exact location of the lake?) and too much back story. I didn't feel anything much for the MC even though you told me about him.

  16. Not hooked.

    It's got potential, but the way it's sturctured is a little jerky.

    The pace: He's terrified to look at the mirror, a disease is plaguing the world!....Wei works at a wind-farm, his wife lives 850 miles away with their 3 year old son, he can hardly wait to be reunited....the disease takes the elderly first, now younger people are catching it!

    The urgency of the plague is broken up by the backstory, and the tenderness of Wei wanting to be with his family seems out of place sandwiched between two paragraphs about disease and death.

    I'd reconstruct this opener, make it flow smoother, giving each idea room to breathe. I'd think you'd tie in the family with his worry for their safety (when the whole world is suffering this) but there's no mention of that, as if their safe.

  17. Sorry, you lost me at "urinating"; not a promising beginning with that word near the forefront.

  18. Wei woke, still not sick, still able to pee.

    Seems like a lot of words to convey that.

  19. I like the setting and your idea here. But in general, I have an aversion to any book that starts with the protagonist looking into a mirror. Even though your purpose for doing so here was different from the norm, it still feels like a trick. As someone else suggested, editing to get to the real point here would make it more of a grabber.

  20. Yes I'm hooked because I love the setting and you've got a nice build of tension and sympathy. I think you could make it stronger with a one or two sentence revelation of someone he's known with the disease. Something that punched the character in the gut so that we the reader can feel it. It would also give the feeling of a bit more immediacy and action. But I'm definitely sympathetic and want to read more.

  21. Not yet. I like the idea and I think Wei makes (or will make) and interesting protagonist, but I'm leery of prologues and this did have a lot of telling, plus, the scene is him getting out of bed and using the bathroom. Not all that hooking. :P

    I might read on if I could see chapter one.

    Good luck,


  22. Lots of backstory, telling rather than showing, and nothing particularly interesting happening.

    It has potential, but as it is, I'm not really hooked. Sorry.

  23. Yes and no.
    I like the situation you're setting up.
    I don't like the waking up opener and the telling. I felt less backstory here and perhaps more show of his fear of looking in the mirror. You have a fantastic op here. Get me into his head and make me feel the tension. Worry about the history lesson after you've hooked me. Here you told me he is afraid. Show me.
    Do that, and my anwser is "hooked"

  24. I didn't feel like there was any transition or flow between paragraphs. The first two conveyed the same info (fear of mirrors) but I thought this was horrified avoidance due to the effects of the plague, not fear of seeing he'd been affected. Then why go from a description of the wind farm to the family? Then to the epidemiology info? Take another run at this. I love apocalyptic and pandemic stuff but this just isn't quite ready for prime time. Good bones, but keep working.

  25. I was interested in Wei, but rather disapointed when instead of a scene the writing turned informational and seemed to focus on distant facts of the spreading disease. I was hoping for a scene.