Thursday, July 17, 2008

#70 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Grotto of Fear
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Eli arrived at the New River Gorge campsite only to discover his dad had lied--
Again. Instead of braving the wilderness alone, the camping trip had turned into a
three-ring-circus. Complete with girls! Because, his mom and sister were coming too.

That evening after unpacking, Eli slid into the woods and leaned against a large rock.
Lately, he had let all disappointments pass, but not his time. He absentmindedly gnawed
at the inside of his jaw while feeling swallowed by the emptiness surrounding him. ‘This
is crazy! ’I’ve got to do something! Anything!’

Later that night, the moon spawned an
unusual glow as Eli tread silently into the enormous West Virginia mountains.
As Eli drew farther from his campsite, his speed increased. His footsteps kept perfect
time with his run-away heart beat. He now gasped for every precious breath and spit into
the brushy undergrowth, trying to rid himself of the bitter taste in his mouth. The
taste of betrayal. Inside his gut, a flame kindled. . . A flame of unquenchable
fury and rebellion. The fury of a troubled soul. The rebellion of . . .Rejection.
The taste of rebellion was new to Eli, but he savored the flavor. He
felt a strange quiver of excitement inside his stomach as he vowed, “He’ll
never get the chance to lie to me again!


  1. This is very weird. Such overwritten and exaggerated emotions just because his dad brought some girls along on a camping trip. I liked the first sentence, first paragraph, thinking it was going to be light, humorous story. And then it turned completely strange.

  2. I agree with writerperson. I can't connect with Eli--I don't understand why he is so angry at what many people would consider a small issue or an inconvenience. Eli perhaps was tricked, but it sounds like he sees it as a betrayal.

    The justification for the anger needs to be better, or we need to understand more from the beginning that Eli has a history of being a nasty kid (is he the antagonist of the story?).

    I do think that the setting is interesting...I like the idea of a camping trip being the start of fantasy.

  3. The mood of the story is changed FOR me by the language, and I need it to be changed by the EVENT. The emotion seems painted on rather than felt on any level.

  4. I see some technical problems - too many commas, sentence fragments, and the formatting makes it harder to read.

    IF Eli's dad lies a lot, IF Eli is truly that disappointed, IF the emptiness is that intense - why did he wait until after sunset to respond? That disconnect between Eli's first emotional response and his reaction makes me think that Eli's dad may not be so bad after all, nor is having his sister and mom around as horrible as it could be.


  5. This doesn't seem like a young adult book to me. The voice sounds more like a middle grade novel. I'm sorry, but this doesn't quite hook me.

  6. It's hard to show all you want to show in the first page. I'm thinking Eli is the MC and should have the reader like him but his over-reaction to his mom and sister camping with them, even if his father lied, makes him look like a spoiled brat. Doesn't he like his mom and sister? Of course there may be reasons he doesn't.

  7. I was distracted by the grammatical errors. I don't find much to like about Eli, but it is only 250 words. I love this description:

    He now gasped for every precious breath and spit into the brushy undergrowth, trying to rid himself of the bitter taste in his mouth.

    However I don't know what it is refering to.

    I don't think I would read more.. thanks for posting. I know how hard it is to do.

  8. This just didn't grab me. I'd like to think that it's because your aiming for a younger target audience. Good luck.

  9. Afraid not. The emotions run too high, too fast. Plus, the lack of transitional phrases makes it hard to keep up with whatever reason Eli has for his "emo-ness of the moment."

  10. No. Eli seems like a brat, moping and being melodramatic because his dad brought his mother and sister along. If Eli wants to be a little irritated, that would work fine -- but running from the campsite, filled with rage and bitterness, no. Overdone and unrealistic. The whole scene feels contrived, like you need Eli to be alone in the woods for something supernatural to happen to him. If that's the whole point, let him have an actual argument with his father. He could walk off alone to calm down. Whining because his mother and sister intruded on his space makes me dislike Eli a lot.

  11. Not hooked. I don't connect with Eli. Why is he so angry? Also, I did't get things like "The rebellion of... rejection." This doesn't feel like YA, but something younger. Sorry :(

  12. No, I'm sorry.

    I really didn't get this....

  13. Probably not, although I really liked the first paragraph. And the second up to gnawing on his jaw. I couldn't picture that.
    If he's just had enough, and is running away, that might be better stated, while the reason for his strong feeling of betrayal is given.

  14. No from me, I'm not keen on how it reads, and wasn't interested in Eli as a character.

  15. No.

    I didn't quite get it and the melodrama and over the top reactions just come across as slightly bizarre to me. I'm not sure what to make of it, honestly, but I'm not compelled to read on.

    Good luck,


  16. Not hooked.

    I don't understand at all Eli's reactions to a simple camping trip. How old is he? The time jumps were too often; they arrive, then its later, then its night and he's running through the forest.

    We don't know anything about Eli or his relationship with his dad so there's no connection to his 'rebllion'. And it seems like an overeaction. Where's all this fury coming from, and troubled soul, and gasping for every precious breath? I just don't understand the MC at all.

    You should pace it. Let us get to know Eli, why he hates this camping trip so much, and why he's so quick to runaway. We don't even get to see or hear from the family he's running away from. I wouldn't make it such a rebellious thing, perhaps more of an adventure.

  17. This is a no for me--I didn't find a lot of emotional honesty or a clear path to understand and connect with Eli, sorry to say.

  18. The pacing seemed off to me... moving too quickly to really get to know the character. Maybe slow down and show us his feelings in an actual scene as they're unfolding.

  19. I loved the first line, but got lost from there. Ditto above comments about realistic emotion and reactions, and especially about pace - it feels way to fast.

  20. Yes, in the beginning, then no.

    I was with Eli until the last paragraph. He seemed to be harping on his feelings. Felt a little dramatic.

    I think the idea is good, it just stalls with the overdone anger.