Wednesday, February 10, 2010

14 Secret Agent

GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

Janelle paced in front of the bay window, unable to tear her gaze from the black rolling clouds and blasting wind outside. “Dad, we have got to get out of here!”

“It’s okay, honey.” Her father turned away from the glass to face her with a blank expression. “The storm won’t hurt us.”

Every palm tree in their yard bent over as if pointing them back to Michigan , to the safety she’d left behind. Rain beat against the roof and a roar surrounded the house.

Icy terror raced through her veins as she backed away to stand behind the couch. “Please. I want to go to the shelter!”

Her father came over and took her arms, staring down at her and speaking in a level voice. “I know this is scary, but take a deep breath and calm down. You’ll understand it all soon.”

A piece of sheet metal scraped and somersaulted its way down the street.

“Understand what? What’s wrong with you?” Janelle ducked out of his grasp, fighting back the scream building in her lungs. She dodged around boxes to the television and turned the volume up to drown out the howling wind. “Listen to this.” Maybe then he’d get her the hell out of here.

A weatherman’s voice boomed through the room as he pointed to a green and yellow radar mess behind him. The eye of Hurricane Gary twisted closer to shore, and Janelle’s new home, Palm Grove, stood right in its path.


  1. I would read on to see why the father felt so sure all was well.

    This is probably just a typo but:'Every palm tree in their yard bent over, (I'd lose the 'if' here) pointing them back...'

    I like the urgency and the mystery. Good job.

  2. Tight writing. Good descriptions that set the scene quickly. I too wonder about the father's calmness. I am hooked. Right away, I want to know the outcome of the physical storm and am curious as to what figurative storm Janelle faces. Good job!

  3. Hooked. I already have a sense there's more to Janelle than she herself knows, and her dad is in on the secret. The emotional tension is captured, leaving me wanting more. Good job!

  4. I'm hooked. I want to know why the dad is so calm while the storm is happening.

    I think you've done great job with just a few words. I love the palm trees, pointing them back to Michigan.

    Great tension at the end.

  5. Great description and tension! There is a typo in "Every palm tree in their yard bent over IF pointing" - perhaps "as if" or remove it altogether.

    Good luck!

  6. Hmmm... I guess I look for something different than the other commenters, because this didn't get it for me. "We have got to..." doesn't seem like natural teen-speak. At the very least, it would be "We've got to..."

    Overall, though, it just seemed like a narrator was listing what was happening, point by point.

    Sorry, not hooked.

  7. "Palms pointing back to Michigan and the safety she'd left behind" is an awesome example of how backstory should be slipped into narrative, though! Great job on that one!

  8. Interesting. I'm feeling like this might have a Wizard of Oz twist to it (excuse the pun!). Though the writing is good, the dialogue didn't feel real (but it may just be me!). It felt like I was watching a soap opera -- overly dramatic, maybe? I think it was the part where the father took her in his arms. It was hard for me to imagine a father doing this to his teenage daughter. "Icy terror raced through her veins...." also seems a- bit overwritten, imho.

    But overall, good writing and best of luck!

  9. I'm almost hooked, but not quite. I think you set up a great situation, and I like that you started with the action, but I wasn't totally able to connect with Janelle.

    She goes from pacing in front of the window to icy terror and it feels out of place given that nothing has changed at that point. My guess is that she's already terrified when she's pacing. Better to show us that in the beginning. To me pacing seems more like frustration or anxiety yet her life is at stake here. I also wanted to see more reaction from her at her dad's total lack of concern.

    Other than that, I really liked your descriptions. The line about Michigan is great, but you're missing a word. It should read "Every palm tree in their yard bent over AS if..."

  10. Great tension, but a tad overwritten. Love the palm tree/Michigan passage, but the last sentence feels too telling.

    The dad's actions are what's fueling my desire to read on the most.

  11. I think what's missing here is the storm. You tell us about it, but I'm not feeling like it's real or truly dangerous. Perhaps show us the black, roiling clouds, let us hear the wind and rain, feel the rumbling thunder.

    I'm also wondering about Dad's blank look. One moment his expression is blank, the next time he speaks, it's with concern. What made him change?

    There's a lot of implied danger and tension and things that seem 'off' here. Perhaps show them, rather than telling us about them.

  12. I agree with Barbara in that I feel as though the storm isn't as big a threat as you obviously intent it to be. It would suck me in more if you showed instead of telling. Other than that I like it. I'd read on, but I do have one quibble.

    It might be a totally frivolous thing. But I have to tell you that the very first person I pictured when you used the name Janelle is Jaenelle of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy. As I said that might not matter in the long run, and no one else has mentioned it.

    I'm not a professional. But the deeper I get into commercial writing, the more I learn about things like titles, and such that can cause you trouble. Not that it's copyrighted. I simply mean that Jaenelle of the Black Jewels is a well known, adored character. And you don't want people thinking of her first thing when they read your character's name. Because then they could end up comparing your character Janelle to Bishop's Jaenelle. It's just something to consider. I've changed titles because of such things. A great trick is to go to google and type in a name or title you plan on using and see what comes up. You'd be astonished sometimes. :)

  13. I have to say that I'm not hooked. The writing was just a little too spare to give me the level of tension I think you wanted to convey. I'm being told that there's a storm and that Dad is unconcerned, but I'm not being allowed to feel it. I also feel like I'm dropped in a little bit after the story should have started. I want to sympathize with Janelle in this moment where she's scared out of her wits, but I don't yet know her or her dad well enough to do so.

  14. I think there are good elements here and I liked that the palm trees were bent over "as if pointing them back to Michigan" and I liked the line "A piece of sheet metal scrapped and somersaulted its way down the street." But I'm afraid I didn't find the dialogue convincing. It felt a little too straightforward: both characters say precisely what they mean and there isn't much personality infused into the dialogue. And then, the narrative doesn't really get inside Janelle's head except to say, "Icy terror raced through her veins," which is somewhat generic. I just wasn't getting a sense of either character's personality, and that made it hard to connect with them.