Thursday, July 17, 2008

#69 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Beyond the Wall
GENRE: YA science fiction

The moon’s rays seeped through the fog. Summer in North Queensland is hot but the murky air felt cold against Mike’s skin. He quickened his pace. Branches from either side of the narrow path seemed to stretch out and over him like gnarled fingers. Witches’ fingers.

Mike straightened and took a deep breath. “Witches’ fingers,” he scoffed aloud. A sixteen-year-old boy afraid of a few trees.

He rounded a ghost gum and, in the hazy light, Mike thought he had found a pixie. An oversized purple sleeve covered its face. Mike stepped closer. It was a boy.

“Are you lost?” Mike asked.

The child dropped his arm and raised his wet face. The body of his loose shirt was orange and tied at the neck with a thick red chord. “Yes.” The boy hiccoughed.

Mike rolled his eyes to the sky. Bloody kids, who’d want them? “What’s your name?”

The boy sniffed. “Terni.”

Weird name. Mike crouched on his haunches and regarded the boy for a moment. He guessed the child’s age at about six or seven. Dark curls flopped over the boy’s ears. His green shorts covered his knees and he didn’t wear any shoes. The kid, or someone else, had glued shiny white wings to the back of his heels.

Mike pointed to the wings. “Going to a fancy dress party?”

“I’ve been to parties, and we wear our best clothes. Is that what you mean?”

Mike frowned. “What’s with the wings then?”

“I’m a messenger.”


  1. I was thrown off by the phrase "thought he'd found a pixie." I thought you were establishing that pixies were a normal thing to find, maybe not common, but possible. And then it's not a pixie, but a small boy, but wait, no! it actually IS a pixie. I'd lose the first pixie thought if you want to establish that pixies would be really strange to find.

  2. "A sixteen-year-old boy afraid..." seemed like an awkward way to get his age in.

    I agree with the comment about pixie vs. boy above.

    It has a fantasy feel though, I think due to the formalness of language.

  3. I'm slightly confused by the mc - the implication from the text seem to me that he's not surprised to find a pixie. Then he's annoyed that it's a lost boy.

    The "messenger's" voice will need some work. He's presented in a very unattractive way; that's a hard barrier to jump if you want him to be a positive character.

    This, I would want to read another 250 words before I decided if I liked it or not. I guess that means I'm 50% hooked.


  4. Hmmm... I'm waffeling on this. It has potential but this alone doesn't hook me.

  5. I'm liking it very much, and would continue reading. I like Mike's voice and perceptions of things (ex: the Witches Fingers line). But ditto on the pixie thing. I don't have a problem with it as is, but I think you need to slow the pacing there a bit to allow your reader to digest the image.

  6. Yes ... for a little longer at least. Mike and the plot have potential, but I found the initial pixie comment disorienting. Is Mike making a joke or is he looking for actual pixies? I thought he was kidding, but he seems disappointed that the kid isn't a pixie. On the heels of that confusion, Mike assumes the wings on the kid are part of a costume. So are pixies real or not? Does Mike believe in them or not? Is he looking for one or not? Make the answers clearer, and I'd be interested in reading more.

  7. Ditto on the pixie thing. The last line caught me, but a little too late. I'd have to pass.

  8. I like it.

    If you fixed up the pixie bit that others spoke of, I'd definitely read.


  9. Yes.

    Only quibbled about this "sixteen year old boy" <0- since I have two brothers, they stopped thinking of themselves as 'boys' when they got that old. They were guys and men. :)

  10. Yes, I would keep on reading. At least a few more pages.
    I like the Austrailan setting.

  11. Yes...and I'm not a fan of male main characters :)

  12. Not yet.

    I didn't really find the voice/narration engaging (and the first line is description, which tends to turn me off, thought this is a personal preference) and the opening situation of a teenager walking around and then bumping into the magical world just doesn't seem done in a fresh enough way to grab me, here.

    I was interested in the messenger boy but not much else, I'm afriad. It does have potential, and depending on the plot, I might read on a little more, but initially I'm not hooked.

    Good luck though!


  13. Sorry, no. I got confused why Mike first thought the boy a pixie, and then is surprised he's not wearing a costume with "glued shiny wings." Doesn't make sense, and sounds more like fantasy than sf.

  14. What a novel idea, Witches and wizards have been done to death. I would have loved to have read the next page as it seems like this story is going somewhere.

  15. Not hooked.

    Not my genre, but I was confused. He scoffs at the idea of witches (as if it's a silly idea) then thinks he sees a pixie (as if it's a normal thing), then finds it's just a boy, but the boy has wings glued to his bare ankles and he thinks he's going to a party? I'm lost on this one.

    “I’ve been to parties, and we wear our best clothes. Is that what you mean?”

    I can't figure out what that reply is supposed to mean. And is the boy a boy messenger or a messenger being that looks like a boy?

    I think you need to clarify what is an established norm in the world and what isn't.

  16. I'm going to agree with above suggestions to clarify the parameters of your world a bit more. I think there's some promising things here (I thought Mike's disdain for the younger boy was pretty accurate--he'll help but he won't like it) but I wasn't completely drawn in to Mike--why's he outside?--or the scenario.

  17. I wasn't quite hooked by the narrative voice, although I really like him finding the odd child.

  18. Idea has potential, but something in the execution is lacking. I think it needs another round or two of polish and some work on the voice in order to make it really snap.

    (Yay Australia! ;))