Thursday, July 17, 2008

#111 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Doorways
GENRE: YA Alternate Reality

Jana Chipston’s feet were going numb.

The burning, anaesthetised sensation crept over her heels and moved through her muscles, making them shake. She gritted her teeth from the pain and tried to breathe. She had to escape, but she doubted she’d be able to move when the time came. Taking another deep breath, Jana shuddered as she felt wind swirl into her hiding place. It was inexplicably cold. She froze as she felt an icy finger run down her back. Then she started shaking. It felt like someone had walked over her grave. Well, that’s what her Chippewa Grandma would have said.

Jana bit her lip and tried to concentrate. Suddenly, she was aware of a pressure build up in her lower stomach. Oh no, she thought, dismayed. This was just great. On top of everything else that had happened she really needed to pee.

She narrowed her eyes resentfully. Everything hurt, especially her feet. She shouldn’t be here; she shouldn’t be sore, shouldn’t be worried out of her mind and she shouldn’t be going numb…

Jana certainly hadn’t wanted or planned to come halfway around the world to this dusty, dry country in the first place. And she definitely hadn’t ever imagined that she’d end up squatting in some nook in an old house in the sweltering heat on her birthday.


  1. Yes.

    You start off with the main character in danger and I didn't have any problem identifying with her because she's presented clearly.

    One quibble is you have a lot of paragraphs starting with "Jana".

  2. Yes. My only comment is that I would like to know more right away about what's happening and why she's there. It seems vague. So far, you've just really talked about how she's feeling (physically). Quite interesting, though!

    Emily H

  3. Am I hooked? Yeah, I think so. I'm interested to know why she's hiding, why she's so worried. But I'm also a little confused. At first, I thought she was freezing, hence the shivering and anesthetized feeling. But in the last paragraph, you mention the sweltering heat.

  4. Yeah, I'm hooked. The only thing that distracted me was her sudden need to pee...not that it lessened the tension of the scene. But I laughed out loud and it broke me from my suspense-filled trance :)

    Great job,
    Mysteria Wednesday

  5. I was semi-hooked. Number one, she's shaking or shuddering through most of the first paragraph. I thought that was a little over the top. You say the hiding place was "inexplicably cold" and then you say she was squatting in an old house in the sweltering heat. Those two things simply don't add up.

    I didn't like "lower stomach." Like, she has more than one stomach, like a cow?

    So I'm halfway with you because I want to know why Jana is there, how she got there, and what's going to happen, but things still have to make sense.

    :) Sounds interesting though.

  6. I'd have to agree with everything so far. I liked it, and I would read on further. You've written enough and left enough questions answered that I want to read on and find out why she's there and if her birthday has any significance. However, the contradictions between the heat and cold distracted me.

  7. okay, i agree here
    I love that she has to pee!
    my favorite line!
    I'm hooked, but the word "felt" is used a lot. Make us feel it. describe it. Make it more active. Other than that, I'd love to this!

  8. Yes. A bit too much passive writing, but the situation would make me read at least another page.

  9. I liked the line about having to pee and the last paragraph had a good hook quality to it. However, I'd look for ways to reword some of the 'she'. She gritted her teeth from the pain - from the pain was clear enough from the first line that I don't think we need it. Also, there are three paragraphs beginning with Jana. Sorry, this one is a no for me.

  10. I'm hooked. The freezing feet and sweltering heat confused the scene for me though. Great start!

  11. I liked it. It had a definite hook :)

    The only negatives I saw were some consistency problems and missing punctuation.

    Good luck with this.

  12. If she is so caught up with shaking (with fear?), would she really feel the need to pee? I would think that would take a back seat. I can't tell if she is afraid, or just annoyed.

  13. I'm curious, but not quite hooked. You've used a couple of cliches eg. 'walked over her grave' and there's a bit of telling too. Inexplicably cold - show us how cold it is, maybe ice crunched under her feet...something. "She narrowed her eyes resentfully" - don't tell us she's resentful, show us.
    Good luck!

  14. I'm curious, but I'm not sure I'm hooked. Like others, I was confused by the apparent dichotomy between freezing cold and sweltering heat. I also found a bit too much "telling" instead of "showing". ("LY" words are a big giveaway there.)

    I love the last line. Have you considered making it the first one?

    To avoid criticism about the cliche nature of "someone walking over her grave," try prefacing the phrase with the notion that Jana's grandmother would have thought in those terms. :-)

  15. Yes. Despite the fact that nothing really happens, I want to know where she is and how she got there and what she's going to do about it. I also like the fact that it's her birthday, though that's probably just me, because my family always dragged me out into the woods or into a different state on my birthday. Not nearly as bad, but I can relate to not having the perfect birthday... :D

  16. I don't know. The writing didn't really grab me. I just seems like an MC in peril scene.

  17. Sorry no. But this is not my thing.

    One comment is that your first sentence has "were going", which is a passive construct. Whilst accurate in this case (ie, they are not yet numb), I think it dilutes the impact of your opening.

    The rest of the prose could also be sharpened. Avoid using the word "froze" to relate to her movement, when she is actually in a situation where she might potentially actually freeze - as it can be confusing.

    Wanting to pee is a great detail. Gives it authenticity and humanity.


    Good luck.

  18. I'll say I'm tentatively hooked. There's urgency in the situation, but the long sentences and descriptions hinder that, IMHO. I'd probably at least read until the end of the chapter.

  19. Kill that "Suddenly" where it sits. It doesn't make it anymore immediate, it acutally slows things about.

    I like that you start with the character in danger, so I'm on the fence here.
    I think you could crank up the tension a bit, I wasn't feeling it and I think it's important to this scene.

  20. I probably would read on. I wondered why she was hiding. The sentence about the pressure in her lower stomach was awkward to me. You might say, "She suddenly noticed the pressure in her lower stomach." I was also confused as to whether it was inexplicably cold or sweltering hot, maybe you explain that later.

  21. Afraid not. While the writing feels crisp, I failed to connect with Jana. Since she's in a perilous situation, I'd like to know more about her and what got her into trouble. I'd suggest starting earlier and letting the reader develop compassion for Jana. Without knowing her better, I can't muster a strong fear for what happens to her.

  22. Not hooked.

    I don't understand or empathize with whatever peril the MC is in. I was confused about feeling cold and being in the heat. The writing seems good, though. I think you need to show what's going on.

  23. Sorry, not hooked.

    I can't quite explain why, but every paragraph didn't seem to lead into the next. It felt disjointed somehow. I'd like the last paragraph (with some word changes) to be the opening. That was hooky to me.

  24. Although there's a lot of merit here, I wasn't actually "hooked."

    I suspect that she's wounded and going into shock, which is why she feels cold despite the heat. I liked the individual images.

    I think what might have helped me (and obviously we're all different) is to take the very last couple of sentences of the page and put them near the beginning, maybe right after the first sentence. Something to place me in the scene rather than merely into the narrator's body. We're five paragraphs into the opening before we have any sense of an external world.

  25. Hooked? maybe... I was curious what the numbness was. THe mention of the grave confused me. As I read it, I pictured the MC lying in her grave and that the sensations she was experiencing were related to being dead, or perhaps alive but buried.

    I agree with the comments on passive writing.

    The inexplicable cold in contrast with the sweltering heat didn't confuse me. I assumed that she had a fever of some sort and was experiencing chills.

  26. Not really. While the situation is mildly intriguing and it's an interesting way to open it, the writing didn't grab me and I thought it took too long to actually SHOW us what's going on and why she is in that situation (and what, if any, is the conflict).

    Good luck,


  27. A bit passive and slow-moving. Had trouble picturing the scene - thought she was lying down until right at the end when it turns out she's squatting.

    Also, the 2nd sentence ends 'making them shake', but then the 8th sentence says 'she started shaking'. Er, she was already shaking?

    I think it takes a bit too long to come to the point, but overall I'd give it another page or two to see what the situation is.

  28. The birthday got me. I would keep reading. Though I had a few little issues with the first few paras, I'd be curious enough to get through them to understand more about why she is there.

  29. Not yet to me. The part that got me was the last paragraph. The earlier stuff had me feeling a little impatient rather than absorbed into the atmosphere.

  30. I had a few issues here... a lot of "felt" and "was", and you start out with it "inexplicably cold" and end with "sweltering heat"... which is it?

    I like the idea of her captive and on her birthday, but it feels like you took a bit too long to get there.

  31. I know this is incredibly late, but I stumbled over one of my favorite pet-peeves in this story.

    The stomach is the organ that digests food. It is not where you feel the urge to pee. That would be in your (lower) belly, or abdomen, or, if you want an organ, your bladder.

    Thanks for sharing your first page. It didn't really hook me because of the vague writing and the lack of a clearly defined conflict. Good luck with it!