Wednesday, April 15, 2009

7 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Paranormal

The world was barren and without life. Black, dry earth stretched out around me for endless miles in the distance, and I had to squint at the brilliant white sky. The view was almost like the weather clearing after a thunderstorm, a thin veil of cloud cover with rays of light beginning to break through. There was no end to the monotony of dark and bright here—like staring at a vivid outdoor black-and-white photograph.

I stood somewhere between hell and middle-earth, where someone had burnt and blown humanity away.

The hot atmosphere was dry and suffocating—the only movement the result of irregular gusting winds. I watched the dirt blow erratically across the shrinking ground and for the first time noticed little fissures cutting up the dark soil in every direction. The infinite cracks ran from my feet and lead to large craters scattered unevenly across the earth.

Curiosity engaged, I gradually moved forward and strained my eyes. The craters broke the monotony of the vast space, rising through the earth and roughly splitting it open. Black dirt spilled from their edges, and suddenly I knew in the pit of my stomach that these massive holes weren’t empty.

Inside the crater closest to me lay a single figure.

My eyes locked on the face that looked up at me. I had never seen him before, but that face haunted me, hurt my chest to examine. His mouth and eyes were beautiful—long eyelashes—set against a strong jaw and cheekbones. Dirt and a darker liquid were streaked across his features, running into his eyes and hair, both gray in the absence of color. But the handsome and noble face—it didn’t move. It was frozen.

I felt an inexplicable urge to speak to him, though I had no voice here and knew he couldn’t answer.

What’s your name?


  1. I am definitely hooked! With lines like, "I stood somewhere between hell and middle-earth, where someone had burnt and blown humanity away." and then final line of the face asking her name. It's very creepy and really sets the scene for the reader.

  2. The description is awesome! You've got my interest--because I want to know what's happened to this place they're in and I want to know who the mysterious guy is!

  3. Great writing!

    Would you consider making "I stood somewhere between..." your opening line?

    You may want to consider paring down the description in the first and third paragraph just a bit. I know it's necessary to describe this "world", but it slows the pace.

    I love your description of the man. This is interesting and I'd read on.

  4. Beautiful description, but I agree with the suggestion above - you might want to consider starting with "I stood somewhere..." I got a little bogged down with the two long paragraphs of description, and wanted something to happen. Which it totally did by the end, I just wanted it sooner. But, I was definitley hooked by the end.

  5. I like it! It's nice and creepy. I really liked the second paragraph. Also, I'm curious if he's actually frozen or just standing still. Good work.


  6. Well done. Tiny nit: can his face haunt you if you've only just seen it?

  7. Nice description - I could clearly picture this scene. No idea what's going on, but I want to read more and find out.

    I agree with the other comments about rearranging/combining your first three paragraphs.

    Also, this sentence seemed a little awkward to me: **Curiosity engaged, I gradually moved forward and strained my eyes.** I'm not sure you even need the 'curiosity engaged' or 'gradually.'

  8. Not hooked. Here's why: 1) Unfocused narration. For example, you describe the world as "barren and without life," only to describe some form of life only four paragraphs later. That makes the reader doubt the narrator; is that what you intended? 2) Choppy writing. The writing is filled with "this and that;" for example: "dark and bright," "black-and-white," "hell and middle-earth," "burnt and blown," "dry and suffocating," "moved forward and strained," "mouth and eyes," "jaw and cheekbones," "dirt...and liquid," "eyes and hair." I'll stop there; I think you need to take out some of the writing-in-pairs. 3) You don't need to say the place is barren and then describe how barren it is. Show the reader; the reader will figure out that "dry earth stretched out around me for endless miles" means "the world was barren".
    I think you'd benefit from a good critique group - there's definitely potential here. Best of luck!

  9. the first para slowed me, but after that it was great. I think you could pare down just a bit of descript in the rest, though.

  10. I think this falls prey to the cliche of starting with weather -- you're not doing that exactly, but it's that same sense of setting a scene rather than just STARTING it.

    While I do wonder about the narrator -- is she/he a robot? There's something about the text "curiosity engaged", "I gradually moved forward" that feels non-human. If that's not your intention, that's something else to work on.

    However, I'm afraid this doesn't capture my interest beyond mild curiosity.

  11. Some really nice phrases, but starting with world and weather both usually make it hard for me to get sucked in, so starting with both made it really slow for me.

    Get into character faster might be more effective.

  12. I'd definitely read more. I do think starting with "I stood between . . ." would have more impact and draw the readers in. The rest can be introduced more slowly. Good writing.

  13. Your descriptions are beautiful but there was a lot of it and the middle earth thing sort of threw me off because, as a lotr fan, i immediately have a set image of middle earth, if that makes sense.

    However, I loved the descriptions. they were really beautiful.

  14. I'm going to have a hard time critting this because I just read the book and loved the book.

    I agree with starting it at 'I stood somewhere . . . '

    You can also cut 'curiosity engaged'.

    I loved the reference to noble face and frozen. Having read the book, I thinks it's perfect.

    I'm so hooked that I want to read the book again. :D This is great writing, and it only gets better.

  15. I agree with shorty411 about the reference to middle earth; that term is kind of taken :-) Obviously I haven't seen the rest of your book, so I don't know what it means in your universe. The body in the crater did make me think of the bodies in the Dead Marshes that Frodo, Sam, and Gollum see, and I was a little lost after that. I did wonder how the narrator knew there were bodies without seeing them.

    I like the writing style, and I wonder who is thinking or speaking at the very end. If it's the narrator, why would s/he after admitting that it wasn't possible? If it isn't the narrator, who is it? I would read a little further to find that out, and to try to readjust my Dead Marshes image.

  16. Hmmm... this is a little ethereal. I mean the protagonist anyway.

    I think you have great descriptions of everything but the protagonist.

  17. Interesting and a little creepy. You do a good job of using 'telling' to show the place with your narrative voice.

    You create a mood. Although I am not usually into fantasy/paranormal because of the world building, I am curious to find out more about this world.


  18. Not quite hooked yet. The writing is solid, but the descriptive parts feel a bit over written to me. Also, I don’t understand how someone can be haunted by a person they’ve just seen.

  19. This didn't really hook me. I would have probably one paragraph of description, then move on to the body in the crater.

    When you said 'middle Earth', I immediately thought of hobbits. Also, the 'curiosity engaged' sounded a bit out of place. I'd delete it.

    It sounds like it's building up to an interesting story though.

  20. I was cautiously interested by the end. I want to know what's going to happen next! However, many word & sentence choices gave me pause.

    The initial description is vivid, but also repetitive ("monotony of dark and bright" & "monotony of the vast space"; "Black, dry earth...white sky," "black-and-white photograph" & "Black dirt").

    Phrases like "endless miles in the distance" seemed unnecessarily wordy. The first paragraph contains two similes in a row. And "middle-earth" was an immediate reminder of LOR.

    The writing needs to be tightened, but the story seems very engaging!

  21. It's very bleak...not sure I would read on. I liked the beautiful face - hoping he's alive.

  22. I felt that this was overwritten, especially in the beginning. The world was barren and without life. Isn't that what barren is? Certain words repeat, black, dry, white, dirt. It just goes on too long before something happens. Cut it down about half and I'd probably keep reading.

  23. Paranormal isn't what I usually read, so you might take what I say with a grain of salt.

    But, is it normal just to start with a "strange new world"?

    I liked the description well enough, but the ex-journalist in me wanted a bit more who, where, how, etc. Or even a why. Why is this person on this earth?