Wednesday, April 15, 2009

16 Secret Agent

TITLE: Reta Morse and the Sinister Shadow
GENRE: Young Adult Comtemporary Fantasy

Reta leaned out farther onto her porch; surely the pale morning light had fooled her eyes. The man standing across the street looked like a solid shadow. Squinting, she struggled to make out any of his features. She caught the outline of what looked like tall boots on his legs, but nothing else came to her. Darkness shrouded his entire frame and an inky face seemed to stare back at her.

Hackles rose on her arms. What was in that cereal I ate? Reta tried to move but felt as if she had two anvils for feet.

The tall man shifted leg to leg and scratched the top of his head. After what felt like minutes, he whirled around, ran down the street, and vanished around the corner.

“Who knocked?” her mother asked behind her.

Reta turned. Her mother stood in the middle of the living room, pinning up one of her blond curls.

“I…I don’t know. I answered and no one was there.”

Her mother pointed outside and smiled. “It looks like they left you something. Maybe you’ve got a secret admirer.”

Reta turned back to the porch. For the first time she noticed a blue piece of paper sitting on the first step, folded neatly in half. She gulped; only one person could have left it there.

“Well?” Her mother smiled again. “Aren’t you going to see what it is?”

Picking up the paper, Reta took a deep breath. Okay. What do shadow people write to you, anyway?


  1. I would read on. Your opening raised questions that I want answered.

  2. Interesting. I'd like a bit more character development, but you've set up an intriguing premise.

  3. This is very intriguing. I would read on to find out who the shadow man is and what he wants.

    I want to know what he wrote so I'm hooked.

  4. So who is this shadow man and what does he want with Reta. I want to know!! I'd read on. :)

  5. While this was interesting, and I love the voice, I stumbled over some of the words and sentence structures.

  6. The writing here is good but I'm left feeling a little confused. It happened a tad too fast for me. Like I just got dropped into the middle of something I don't get at all. Also some tightening would probably be in order. Some of the sentences require more than one reading which might have added to my feeling of confusing. Nice start though.

  7. Nice set up for the story. The shadow man is intriguing.

    One little nit was the fact the mother could see the blue paper from the living room and Reta was standing outside and didn't see it.


  8. The note left on the step felt a little unoriginal, and I'm not clear on the setting or what is happening. But I'd probably read another page or two to see what was coming.

  9. I recognize this, and I like this opening much better. Good job.

    The writing could still use some tightening though. I've made some cuts to your first two paragraphs as an example:

    Reta leaned farther out her door. Surely the pale morning light had fooled her eyes. The man standing across the street looked like a solid shadow. Squinting, she struggled to make out his features. She caught the outline of tall boots, but nothing else. Darkness shrouded his entire frame and an inky face stared back at her.

    Hackles rose on her arms. What was in my cereal? Reta tried to move, but felt as if she had anvils for feet.

    **Her mother smiled again.**--If she's looking at the paper, how does she know her mother's smiling?

    And you have a typo in your genre.

  10. Your description of the man was intriguing so I'd read on. I found it a little confusing because of the starting point. The dialogue centers around events we didn't see -- the knock, Reta answering the door. I wonder if it might help if you let us know in the beginning that Reta's answering the door. I also wondered why her mother noticed the note and Reta, who answered the door, didn't see it. But again, the shadow man and your last line would keep me reading.

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  12. I am familiar with this story of course, and I am hooked. The shadow man is very interesting. I do wonder though if you want to bring more of Reta's personality back into the beginning. I like the action, but she's got a great personality, maybe some of that could be intertwined with the narrative.
    PS. Sorry that deleted comment was me, I was logged in under the wrong account.

  13. Nope, not hooked . . . you lost me at "but nothing else came to her." The "Hackles rose on her arms" threw me" as well.

    I'd rather she notice the note instead of having her mother point it out to her . . .

  14. Just a few things, "tall boots" should be on his feet, legs don't wear shoes. I was thrown off by the casual way the man shifted and scratched his head before running away also. Based on Reta's reaction, I expected more tension or more intensity from the man. Maybe he doesn't move at all?

    The note does have my curiosity piqued. I would read on for a couple more pages at least.

    Hope that helps.

  15. *Not sure about hackles being on arms. Always thought that was a 'back thing'.

    I noticed other spots where the wording could be nudged a little - like the shifting leg to leg and scratching the top of head....

    Hee, I was also thinking about a John Bellairs book where the kiddo sees a figure in the shadows, who leaves a note with the 'vieno' (or something like that, in latin, means I've COME).

    Anyway! *shoves mental distractions aside*. Intriguing start. Needs rewording possibly. Am hooked.

  16. I like it! Good tension and character voice. My only nit is that this seems more like an MG voice than a YA one, but I would still read on!

  17. I liked this one, too. I got stuck in "hackles" and "whirled and ran" and then "gulped." Slightly awkward, for me. But I am interested in where you're going, where she's going. Best of Luck!

  18. I agree. Hackles jarred me and this does sound more middle grade than teen, however, I liked the voice and want to know who the shadowan is!

  19. I stumbled on 'solid shadow', but it's an interesting start to a mystery.

  20. I remember this one from a number of times. Last time she was running after a school bus and her eyes fell out of her head. Sorry, couldn't resist that.

    I'm hooked.

    The line, "What do shadow people write to you, anyway?" didn't made sense to me. I read it several times and still nothing. Maybe my brain's going numb from critting so many enteries.

    Good luck!

  21. Yeah, I'm hooked.

    "Hackles rose on her arms." Can a person have hackles? Can they be raised?

    I like how her mom seems all innocent and smiles.

    I like the anvils too.


  22. Sorry, no, not interested in reading more. I mean, I'm *curious* to know who this shadow man is, and what the note is about, but as an agent, I have to prioritize my reading. And this doesn't compel me enough to need to read on.

    The voice just doesn't drive the plot enough for me.

  23. I'm curious about the note, too! Although I don't know how her mom knows it's for Reta, and not another family member or herself.

  24. I'm a little bit hooked but not very. There's just something about the description of the shadow man that doesn't quite gel with me. I'd read on a few paragraphs to find out what's in the note though.

  25. I'm not very interested, sorry. And the mother pinning up one of her curls made me think she was bald and just had two curls.

  26. Enjoyed til the end when "shadow people" was mentioned. It seemed off considering the previous curiosities by mom and daughter.

    But I'd read on a bit to firmly hook myself.

  27. I found this generally confusing. Odd word choices (arm hackles is just anatomically wrong), mismatched actions to intent (twirled before running off... too dancer like) pulled my out of the story.

    The last line was a clunker and lost me entirely. Sorry

  28. I felt as if this could have been done in half the space - too much extraneous information/words. I am curious and would read a couple of pages to see what happens but if the writing wasn't tighter, I stop.

  29. I don't think that the voice is very strong. Sorry, but it isn't compelling enough to make me want to read more.