Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2 Secret Agent

TITLE: Double Agent
GENRE: YA Suspense/ Mystery


A gunshot shattered the stillness of the rocky canyon.

Emma and her friends were at the bottom of the gorge; they'd been hiking along the dry riverbed. Emma heard the bullets exploding into the sandstone around her and instinctively shielded her head and ran for cover. She dropped behind a cluster of boulders and scanned the high walls, squinting toward the disappearing sun, but she couldn't tell where the shots were coming from.

Another boom! Alan screamed and fell to the ground, waves of heat shimmering up around his body.

"Help me!" Emma called to David.

The pair abandoned their cover and dragged Alan behind the high rocks, a low cloud of dust rising around them. Alan was still screaming, clutching his thigh with both hands.

"Stop screaming-- it's just a tranquilizer dart," Emma shouted to him. "It doesn't hurt that much!" She'd learned this the hard way-- just a bee sting, then you wake up with a killer headache.

Tears streaked through the dust that covered Alan's face. He lifted his hands away from his leg and his palms were soaked with blood.

"What happened?" Emma scurried to his side. "You shouldn't be bleeding from a dart-- did you fall?"

"No! I've been shot!" he shouted.

Emma locked her index fingers into the hole in his pants and pulled sharply, ripping the fabric apart. She leaned in for a closer look. She could smell Alan's sweat, metallic and salty, and his blood, like rust.


  1. I like how this jumps right into the action. I had a little trouble sorting out who everybody was right away, but it's an easy fix. Perhaps Emma and David were in the gorge, and Alan was falling behind on the hike. Something like that.

    I'd read on to see why Emma knows what it's like to be shot by a tranquilizer dart.

  2. Great start. The only part that tripped me up a bit was after the second boom when Alan fell and Emma said 'help me'. I had to re-read to figure characters out..who was hurt? Who was Alan? Simple fix could clear that up. I'm definately interested in what Emma has been through and what is happening. Good luck!

  3. Not entirely sure about how you began this.

    I'd probably begin down in the gorge and introduce the characters before you start shooting them up. :]

    Right now it's hard to tell the guys apart or care that much about the trauma here. If you make them real to the reader first and put the reader there in the gorge with the kiddos, then it will be that much more tense reading through this.

  4. I also would have liked more connection with the characters--the action feels like something seen on TV, fast and remote.

  5. I'm not hooked because I don't quite believe that anyone would be so calm that after shots rang out (and they took cover), they would tell the injured person "Stop screaming -- it's just a tranquilizer dart." But it might make more sense if there's some backstory later about tranquilizer darts. It just doesn't grab me from the get-go. Also, the description of "another boom," doesn't really make sense if Alan is getting shot with a shotgun/handgun. To me, "boom" is for cannons; you might want to try a different word. On the plus side, the writing moves along and a nice, fast pace.

  6. I think this is a good beggining for a nice YA mystery but I suffered some confusion about what was happening here. A little bit of clearing up and you should do fine. I'm wondering why she thinks it's a dart? That confused me a little.

  7. There is a lot to like here and I'd probably turn the page to read more.

  8. There was nice action in here, but the line "Another boom!" feels very MG to me – especially with the exclamation point. I think it can be dropped. It kind of took me out of the scene.

  9. I love your first sentence. Short, to the point, and grabs your attention. I also like the fact that you've mentioned Emma's been shot by a tranquilizer dart before. It makes me want to know the situation where something like that would happen. It's a good setting, and the action picks up right away, keeps me interested.

    I haven't read the comments, so someone's probably pointed this out already, but it jarred me out of the story when Emma told Alan to stop screaming. That would definitely not be my reaction if I heard gunshots and one of my companions was shot. But I give you the benefit of the doubt in assuming that you probably clear it up later.

    Verdict: I'd read on. Pretty good stuff. Good luck in the contest!

  10. This worked for me. It's clear from the passage that they've had past experience with people shooting darts at them. Why, I don't know, but at this point, that's something I'm willing to get to the bottom of.

    I would cut the "it's just a tranquilizer dart" though. If they've really encountered them before, it's unnecessary, plus you're emphasizing the fact Emma thinks it's a dart in her next line of dialogue.

    The only thing that bothers me is that they've encountered this before enough to be relatively nonplussed, but they didn't seem to be worried about hiking along a canyon where they would be easy targets.

    Is this something that frequently happens wherever they go, or is it specific to being in the canyon (like they're trespassing or something)?

  11. I love how this piece jumps right into action. I didn't have any trouble following the action and would definitel read on.

    Also, in this brief glimpse, I already like Emma. Super job!

  12. This felt more like a chapter end than a beginning. Maybe introduce us to these characters a bit first. Good action, though!

  13. I agree with Megs--I'd prefer reading a scene prior to this, where the characters are in the canyon doing something before the shooting begins. Really like the dart gun bit!!!
    I'm having a hard time with POV on this one...with so many characters, I'd like to feel connected to the main one. Could just be me though!

    Sounds like an intriguing storyline!

  14. Just a suggestion, use deep pov to pull the readers in.

    Instead of what you have, how about:

    A gunshot shattered the stillness of the rocky canyon.

    In the bottom of the gorge, Emma and the others shrieked and scattered for cover. (this is just an ex. and I'm sure you can come up with a better sent. but I hope this shows what I meant)

    Action followed by reaction.

    Then bring in the background info about hiking and stuff.

    BTW, love your fist sentence.

  15. Lots of action—right off the bat! I’m intrigued! I am curious though how Emma can mistake a tranquilizer dart for a bullet, when in the first paragraph she specifically mentions “bullets.”

  16. I liked it right from the start, but I think the bullets/darts issue needs to be cleaned up. I get that they've been exposed to darts (some sort of game, a bit more intense than paintball?) before. Hooked.

  17. Lots of action and I'm definitely intrigued as to why people are shooting tranquilizer darts.

    Nit - isn't she already at his side?

    'David' and 'Alan' are uncommon names for boys nowadays, which gave this a slightly dated feel to me - but I see this is a I on to something?

  18. I would definitely keep reading, but I think this could use some small edits. First, clarify the characters a bit more from the start. "Emma and her friends" was too vague for me. Second, dropping right into the action is good, but you don't want people to feel disoriented. Why are they hiking along the riverbed? Just a couple more carefully placed details could make a world of difference.

    I love Emma, though. She's tough! :)

  19. The tranquilizer dart reference hooked me...the rest could use some tightening to help focus and ground the reader a bit more in the action--a bit chaotic to start.

    Would read more

  20. Deliciously readable! Great writing. Flows smoothly, you've created great tension and set the story in action with plenty of details in only 250 words. This is going to get bought by some agent or publisher soon, I predict.

  21. I don't buy it. As an ex-forester I can tell you that shooting tranquilizer darts doesn't make much sound even if they are delivered with a gun instead of a blowtube. If Emma truly had experiences with those darts she should have realized that the sound was too loud. I think you will need to research the details a bit better. Otherwise I like the idea of a group of teens stuck in a gorge with someone shooting at them.

  22. First try eaten by blogger (it's hungry this week!)

    I'm not completely buying this, even though I will say that the action works--it's an energetic beginning. The fact that it starts "Emma and her friends" says to me that they are not criminals, so I immediately wonder why anyone is shooting anything at them...

    I'll agree with the others about tranquilizers vs bullets, but I think that could be fixed with a "holy cow--this is a bullet wound" kind of statement (not precisely that :) ).

    I'd read on.