Wednesday, February 10, 2010

16 Secret Agent

TITLE: Of Mice And Little Girls
GENRE: Young Adult

I wake to darkness.
Light from the cage
Draws me close.

Mice scurry.
Surround the mother
Giving birth.

A baby emerges
Pink and hairless.
Eager paws whisk it off.

Hungry mouths feed.

The cycle repeats.
Another baby,
Another meal.

It’s better to think they’re not alive. Dead babies. No. Not even dead and not babies. They’re just pink things emerging from the fat mouse lying propped up on her back. Little pink, non-breathing, non-moving, non-living things. I couldn’t watch if they were alive and being eaten.

I glance behind me. The light fades into the depths of the room. Darkness blurs the outlines of my sleeping cousins. Just lumps lying on the floor. Little blanket covered lumps. They slept through me getting up, walking over them. Maybe they did sleep through their father coming to me in the middle of the night, touching me, sticking his finger inside me and telling me I’m a good girl. Maybe. Or maybe they’re really good at pretending.

More little pink things come. Life and death in one brightly lit cage; in less than one minute.

But I go on living. And dying – one tiny piece at a time.


  1. A little too much graphic information for me, too soon. Are they sleeping in the attic with the mice? Or do they have pet mice. I wasn't sure of the correllation. Not hooked.

  2. Too graphic for me as well. I'd rather be eased into it, and I have no idea where the setting is. I'm glad I finished my breakfast before reading, though. :)

  3. I have to agree with Laura. It was a bit too graphic for me right off the bat. I was also confused by the mice. Sorry, I was not hooked.

  4. I thought this was well written, but was put off by the graphic part.

    It's not something I would want to read. Sorry. Not Hooked.

  5. Me, too... too graphic off the bat. Not that I'm against reading a story where you know immediately that she's being abused. I'd just like it portrayed less graphically.

    I also don't understand what's going on with the mice and the poetry.

  6. This was really difficult to read without vomiting, but that's from the content and not the writing -- so that's actually a compliment in disguise! I think starting in verse is an interesting way to begin a book, but I think you should weave the incest/molestation aspect into the story instead of just laying it all out on the first page. I think most people would throw the book down in disgust. We need to know who these characters are first so we can feel their pain and understand where they're coming from.

    I hope this helps and good luck!

  7. So I have mixed feelings about this. I think it's bold of you to delve into the story with such a graphic tone so soon, but as you can probably see by now, it can be a turn off to your readers. Get them invested in your character before you hit them with something so disconcerting and you'll be golden.

    That being said, the writing itself is great! I would keep reading. I like the poem, but as far as I can tell it serves no real purpose. The words would make just as much sense as prose.

    Good beginning!

  8. Love the writing here, especially the last line. I think I'd keep reading based on that, although I'd hope that the next page was less graphic than the first.

  9. I think you have some really beautiful, poetic writing here. I particularly like the last few sentences. I would read on just to learn more about this girl's situation.

    I see why others find the opening too graphic, but honestly, I found it a bit confusing on two levels. One, I wasn't sure exactly what was happening. Who was eating the baby mice? Other adult mice? The mother? Other baby mice? I re-read a couple times trying to get what you were describing.

    On the second level I was confused a bit as a reader as to why it started with a poem. I thought it was going to be a book in verse, but it wasn't. Then I thought maybe it was a prologue, but it wasn't that either, which left me wondering why she thought the first part in poetry and the rest in regular prose. Maybe this becomes clearer later on, but I found it distracting that it switched from poetry to prose.

  10. This is very poetic, but very graphic.

    Stylistically, I wouldn't buy a book that starts off with a poem. A lot of readers skim that type of writing.

    The writing here was also confusing- I'm not sure why the baby mice are being eaten or why it's significant.

  11. I confess I'm perplexed. The poem, well nice, threw me off. I tend to skim opening poems and quotes. I wasn't sure whether it was in the nature of a prologue or part of the text.

    The following narrative didn't the story much clearer to me. Obviously a girl abused by her father, but I didn't understand the connection between the girl and all the mice. Wasn't sure why it was "their" father. The mice's father? Is she using "cousins" literally?

    Too many questions. I'm sorry, I wouldn't read on.

  12. Okay, maybe I'm the weirdo, but I liked this. You gave us a unique world and a unique MC in one page. Too graphic? Uh, if you're being abused by your uncle, your world IS graphic and ugly. (And it happens more often than we want to know. This might speak for some victims-a good thing.) Yes, the poetry and the mice being eaten is weird and confusing, but I'm going to believe you'll clarify it all for me soon.

    Nice set-up. I don't know where the story is going, but that's the exact reason I'd read on. Good job. Hooked.

  13. I'm with texcat. If you're writing about an ugly subject, it's going to be ugly. So being graphic didn't bother me.

    Neither did starting with a poem. But I do have to admit I didn't get it. Were the mice real, or was it just a poem, and what was the coreelation between the poem and what happened in the prose? I didn't get what you were trying to do, or convey, with it.

    Still, if this were a book, I'd read on, at least for a while, to see if what came after this helped me make sense of this. If I still didn't get it, I'd probably stop reading, but if I began to see connections, you'd probably reel me in.

    On the other hand, if this was all I had to read, I wouldn't ask for more, simply because I don't completely get it. It may be to your advantage to cut the poem and just tell the story.

  14. I don't feel like I know enough about the MC to be concerned that she is being abused. I know that sounds harsh, but I think, like others, I need to be eased into a graphic abuse mention. I'm confused about who the MC is, her age, other vital information. I'd keep reading, though, at least a page or two more to learn more about the MC.

  15. For me it's not the graphic bit or the molestation that pulls me out. It's that there is no tiny spark of hope to pull me through. I'd probably want to read and root for this character if I could tell that it was going somewhere but from this passage I can't. There is so much richness to be had, but it feels wasted too long on the mice. Also, why is it a poem? Isn't it really just text formatted that way? I'm not sure it needs to be a poem at all. It can stand as text as is. Just give me something. Some little thing to pull me through and I'm along for the ride. But as is, not so hooked.

  16. Okay, I agree with both Textcat and Barbara. I don't have any problem with the graphic parts. That said, people have told me that some of my own writing is too graphic sometimes. But it is what it is. Like Barbara said, if it's an ugly subject, it's going to be ugly.

    I do think you could alter your description of the molestation a bit. The way you present the baby mice being cannibalized is brutal and graceful at the same time. It'd be great if you could change the wording of the sentence about the uncle to something similar. It could still be blunt, just not quite as crude.

    I feel I understood the beginning pretty well. At least, I found the over-crowded cage of mice to be an analogy to the room full of children. I really liked it. I think it was a unique way of starting things. I'd read on.

  17. I'd read on. I think it shows voice and emotion. Just plain excellent, brave writing.

  18. I'm not nuts about the poem, but I both understood and applaud the mice metaphor. Long after a lot of the other pieces here fade from my memory, I'll remember this one. So in a sense I am hooked.

    I have to be honest, however, that I'm not good with dark books. This is too resonant, atmospheric. For that reason, I wouldn't read on without a pretty strong promise the MC will be okay. Then you'd have me and I wouldn't put it down.

  19. This is a hard one - on one hand it's well-written and has a nice, poetic quality about it, but on the other hand, it's too much, at least for me.

    I think I'd probably leaf through this in a bookstore and see how graphic it is before buying it.

  20. I quite liked the anology between the kids lumped together in the room and the mice, there is a connection, albeit a dark one. I didn't have any problem with the 'graphic' descriptions. I agree, this isn't a subject one sugarcoats. I doubt the MC's feelings are vanilla about the situation with her uncle, so why does she have to whitewash it for the reader?

  21. I'm going to go ahead and be a weirdo too. I really liked this. The graphic nature makes me want to know what has happened to her and what's going to happen. It makes me want to root for a happy ending.

    I'm a little confused by who is eating the mice, but it's such a short entry, I'm sure it would be cleared right up.

    The only thing that throws me off, is starting in verse and then switching to prose. I liked both the verse and the prose and I think you could pull it off in either. Who knows, maybe switching between them is a fresh way to tell the story. Dare to be different. Good luck!

  22. The poem really struck me as strange. Is it the MC's thoughts about the mice? Are she and her cousins the mice?

    It also felt odd that she seemed to be heaping more blame on the cousins than she did her pervert uncle. Perhaps this is a normal reaction for abuse victims, but for the purpose of the narrative, I was struggling to stay interested.

  23. I give the author credit for trying something different, but this opening didn't quite work for me. It doesn't feel natural and the author's hand in crafting it is too transparent. Just not sure enough was gained by the unconventional approach.

  24. Thank you all for your comments. Lots to think about.