Wednesday, March 18, 2009

13 Secret Agent

GENRE: Tween adventure/mystery

Victims of cursed gold—buried alive, beheaded—vanished. Paul shivered in the Arizona heat and turned the page. Did he believe in curses? Of course not. But he did believe in the Lost Dutchman Mine and that fifty miles away treasure waited:

…near Apache Junction a gold vein wide as a river runs beneath Superstition Mountain. For two centuries, all who tried to stake a claim died. And the last prospector, the infamous Lost Dutchman, disappeared without even a body part to identify…

Under the shadow of a jacaranda tree he turned his book sideways, intent on a map until a voice interrupted.

“The Lost Dutchman’s Secret? Another crazed gold hunter!”

Paul squinted against the afternoon glare as a slender girl in a red T-shirt stepped into his shade. “I—I. . .”

“You must be Paul. Your cousin David said you and Abby would be on the ranch today.” The girl pulled a bandana from her riding pants and mopped her neck. Damp curls clung to her brown skin. “I’m Felipa. I help in the stables.”

“I am. He did? You met my sister?” Paul searched Felipa’s eyes for reactions to Abby.

“Not yet. I thought I’d see her at the stables. David says she loves horses.”

“Yeah, um. . . ” Paul had never seen eyes like Felipa’s. Golden green? He automatically reached for his camera, but didn’t take her picture. That’d be lame and would blow any chance he had to impress her. “Abby’s wild—about horses.”


  1. The promise of a hunt for lost treasure is a nice way to begin an adventure. But I think the reader may be more excited if this is tightened a bit. Perhaps we don't need to know the specifics in the second paragraph until later. And Paul's response could be narrowed down to his question about his sister, which is definitely the most interesting part of it. Is he worried about the bad impression his sister might make, or something she might say about him? It made me curious.

    Searching for treasure, maybe with horses involved, sounds like my kind of story. Good luck!

  2. One thought here - I got the idea that Felipa is David's age. Which would make her 11-13 (?). My think is she sounds mature for somebody that age.

  3. I liked how you started with the mysterious curse of the Lost Dutchman. Very cool.

    For the first three paragraphs, though, I thought Paul was already in the mountains on his adventure to find the Lost Dutchman. Then later I realized he was at the ranch. So that threw me. I'd recommend establishing your setting a little earlier.

  4. It's all good fun until somebody gets cursed. ;)

    One nit...

    I'd cut the "I am" from Paul's dialog. In natural speaking, he'd probably only answer the last question or two.

  5. I liked the opening, but I live in Phoenix and know about the Lost Dutchman, so I may be biased. I'm curious about Abby-- why will Felipa have a strong reaction when they meet? I like that he wants to take her picture but doesn't, and I like that he talks about her eyes without sentimentality. I'd keep reading.

  6. Sorry, but I’m a little lost here. There’s no transitions between thoughts, printed words, or character arrival/dialogue. I remember this from previous SA contests, and still don’t think the story is starting where it needs to—with action or something occurring to change the course of the MC’s life. Right now, all he’s doing is reading a book. Not very exciting, IMHO.

  7. I'm a little on the fence about this one. I don't dislike it, but overall I'm not that gripped either. I'm intrigued by the Abby thing, though, so I'd read on to find out more about it - so, kind of hooked?!

  8. I'm afraid I'm not hooked. I'm having trouble with the age. "Another crazed gold hunter" sounds older. These characters seemed the wrong age to be hunting for treasure. It has potential but I think it needs to be reworked.

  9. For me, the characters are clearly drawn...a nerdy shy kid, maybe 12 or 13, with a camera who is wowed by this girl and doesn't have a clue how to be comfortable with her. I see a first crush coming,

    I have a strong physical image of the girl, including a red T-shirt, her riding pants showing horses even before she mentions them. She seems forward/outgoing/confident, the opposite of the MC.

    the first paragraph establishes seeting in Arizona and the heat.

    There's a promise of treasure and adventure and I'm curious how the shy, probably nonathletic kid is going to go after it...because you know he will.

    And then there's the sister. Something's up with her and that also draws me on to the next page.

    In 250 words there's setting, 2 viable characaters, the mystery of a third and the prospect of buried for me.

    It probably helps that I'm from Arizona too and know this legend well!

  10. I love a treasure hunt. I love Arizona. I'm hooked. I especially liked that I inferred Abby is not a normal girl and I want to see how she figures into the story.

    I like that Felippa is a stable hand used to work, and evidently Hispanic, while he's not, but they're going to get together anyway. That's good. These few words offer a hint of better things to come, with love, hidden treasure and his sister, Abby.

    But, the first paragraph, while good to know, needs to come after we meet the MC and Felippa. You can slip it in as you go and it won't seem like a travelog or prolog.

  11. I must say that after Jeannine explained it all, I re-read the excerpt, and it made much more sense. But I must admit, I didn't catch most of the subtleties the first couple times I tried to read it. This might say more about me than your words though :)

    I do think you've asked too many story questions on this first page. It's a bit overwhelming. But I would read on.

  12. I'd read on to see where this is going. I'm not totally hooked though but that might just be personal preference (adventure isn't something I usually read). I like the Dutchman and the question about why he fears the encounter of F. and A.

  13. I had no idea until I reread it that it was YA--I assumed it was adult. I'll admit I'm not terribly keen on treasure hunts or Arizona, but thinking objectively, I was having issues with the dialogue. Not bad ones, but I was concerned that they would end up stilted and less exciting than I would like.

    I'd read on, but i'd need a pretty quick wow. Sorry.