Wednesday, February 10, 2010

29 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Fiction

I observed the clouds approaching the waxing moon and prayed that it did not block out my only source of illumination. Why hadn’t I taken a flashlight? The problem was that I was a romantic, which was not smart in my condition, and I realized too late that my thirst to find him was blocking out my sensibilities.

Tentatively, I followed a path littered with leaves that crunched beneath my feet, ignoring the slithering, snapping, and cawing sounds of the forest. His image kept me brave as I continued on. I began calling his name over and over. A friend of mine who had been hiking the previous day spotted him here, and I assumed that he must be camped nearby. If he was that close, why hadn’t he contacted me? I hadn’t heard from him for nearly nine months, and I was desperate for him to know. Once he knew, he’d take me back.

After a few minutes, my voice was hoarse, so I could no longer call out to him. I began to feel foolish, wanting to turn back and give up, though I hated defeat more than almost anything in the world. Then I noticed the silence – as if someone had plugged my ears and blocked out everything. I stood paralyzed with fear. Where had the animals and the wind gone?

There was the sound of crackling leaves behind me. I whipped around and there he stood!


  1. This felt very description heavy and I counted "was" 7 times - try to replace with concrete verbs choices to avoid "telling" us what is happening instead of showing us.

    For instance replace "was blocking" with "blocked" and "my voice was hoarse" to something more concrete like "my throat felt ... "

    I also am unsure about the exclamation point - it seems a little flippant, when the whole setup is more that she should be scared.

  2. "My condition" and nine months since she last saw him. I'm thinking she's pregnant?

    I think some of the writing could be polished/tightened a bit. You have several unnecessary "that"s. The previous comment mentioned "was." ("There was the sound of crackling leaves behind me" could be "Leaves crackled behind me.") In the first sentence, you mention the clouds approaching the moon and pray "it" did not block out my source. Also watch for places where using "I" actually distances the reader: "I observed." You can simply say, "Clouds approached" and we'll know she's observing them. Also, "I followed a path." You can say, "Leaves crunched beneath my feet, and I ignored..." We'll know she's walking.

    Also, it's a little thing, but her "thirst" for him feels off. I wondered briefly if she was a vampire but see this isn't paranormal or UF.

    All in all, I see potential here. I'm curious about enough things that I want to keep reading. I'd just suggest, as I mentioned, tightening up the scene in a few places so your reader doesn't stumble.

  3. This feels very wordy for a beginning. Also, the lack of dialogue and/or action was beginning to wear on me towards the end. I agree with the first commenter in regards to using more active verbs. With a little tightening, this has potential! Keep going!

  4. This felt like it was trying to hard to me. It starts with a tense situation, which is good, but it didn't read smoothly. Look for more active verbs to help the flow.

    The mention of 'thirst of find him' also made me think of vampires.

  5. This doesn't read like YA (word choices like "observed", "illumination", "littered" all feel too pompous). I loved your descriptions but agree that they need to be balanced with more action/dialogue for an effective opening.

  6. Dialogue. And the exclamation point at the end threw me off.

    Definitely cut out "was" whenever you can afford to.

    Good start though.

  7. A little repetitive and relying on some cliches--like the waxing moon and crunching (latter crackling) leaves to set the stage. Don't get a sense of the MC except she(?) is desperate, in a needy kind of way, maybe not so good. Too many sentences begin with I and too many "ing" words for me. Sorry. Not so hooked.

  8. I like the setting and I see potential with this, but I think you are rushing it. Why not show her calling his name with dialogue instead of telling the reader?

    As a reader I want to be in the main character's head, hearing the cracking twigs and seeing the moonlight come and go. I think you're close to having a nice spooky opening just take more time to discribe it and cut as much backstory as possible--you can tell the backstory later in the chapter.

  9. I think it may work better in present tense. I think you were trying to give a scary feeling, but it doesn't read as a scary woods to me.

    Real potential.

  10. First off, although this is a slow start with not a lot happening, I have no problem with that in principle. Not everything has to start with a bang. You have someone looking for someone, which raises questions, which is good.

    A problem for me: I'm not sure whether or not you are trying to make the setting scary. If so, I don't think it is coming across too clearly. If not, what are you trying to evoke in the reader? I wasn't really sure what the MC was feeling--fear of the darkness and the woods, impatience, anxiety at the thought of defeat, loss or separation? The narrative seems to flit from one to another. It might help to focus on the dominant drive or emotion and get that across more clearly.

    However, the biggest problem for me, right from the first sentence, was that I found this hard work to read.


    Big words where simpler ones would do. e.g. "Observed" instead of maybe "watched" or even "saw". "Illumination" instead of "light". I'm a big fan of simplicity wherever possible.

    Words that simply felt inappropriate to me. e.g. Why "tentatively"? If I'm so eager to find someone, I don't think I'd be tentative about it. And I don't think you meant "sensibilities". "Common sense" or "logic" or "practicality" maybe, but your MC is very clearly able to respond to emotion!

    Right now, I am not sufficiently hooked to want to read further. Sorry.

  11. I liked it. I thought it had some good tension and mystery, telling just enough to make me wonder what was going on and want to keep reading.

  12. This read like perhaps you were trying too hard - as botanist said, using bigger words when smaller, more natural words would do, and being overly descriptive. It was also heavy on the telling.

    An example --

    I observed the clouds approaching the waxing moon and prayed that it did not block out my only source of illumination.

    To make it active and to show, rather than tell --

    Clouds approached the waxing moon . . .

    To create mood, use better verbs --

    Clouds crept toward the waxing moon
    Clouds drifted toward the waxing moon

    Changing the verb creates a different feel to each sentence. Use verbs that promote the atmosphere you want to create.
    'Approached' seems more appropriate for a police report.

    More revision/rewriting could spice this up.

  13. I don't like beginnings where information is kept from the reader, information that the MC knows. Who is he? Why does she never mention his name? I kept wondering this, but not in a good way. I much prefer to be in the MC's head and to be wondering along with her about things she doesn't know. I should have been wondering where he was, but instead I was wondering why she never thought his name.

  14. I felt like this opening was trying too hard to be mysterious at the risk of reading vague. It has potential to be an intriguing opening, but wasn't quite there yet. As others have suggested, stronger verbs and more specific details might help. You already have nice sounds in there, but don't forget about the other senses. And not a fan of the exclamation point at the end.

  15. Not hooked -- I think the writing needs work so that it flows better. There is no reason for me to care about this character or why she is searching for "him".

  16. I think this is a fine opening, but needs some polish. I think the "observed" in the first sentence is a case of using a more obscure word where a common one would do just fine. (Not that observed is that obscure, just that "saw" or "watched" would work just as well.) The "Tentatively" to lead the second paragraph isn't necessary, and the exclamation point after "there he stood" felt a little heavy-handed. I liked the details about the silence though, and I think this builds an interesting mood.