Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #33

TITLE: Jewel Angels
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The dazzling golden sunlight faded away and the dense gloom of the underground cave closed in around them. The faint mephitic smell of sulfur wafted in the air and heat consumed the atmosphere. The footsteps of the three sisters echoed as they made their way into the narrow ovate shaft of Stonesthrow Mine.

A flashlight flickered on and sliced through the darkness. The wires that ran along the ceiling were no longer running with electricity, so the hanging bulbs provided no illumination.

"We'll have to go further in this time," Rubi, the eldest, announced as she shone the flashlight around. Her black hair that was cropped at her neck stuck out from under her white hardhat.

Saphyr clicked on her flashlight too, its beam brighter than Rubi's. "Yeah, last time there were hardly any gems to find." Her naturally curly brown hair was in a low ponytail, and her hardhat was so low it fell over her eyebrows. She reached up to adjust it, but it would soon fall back down again.

Imerald stared at her sisters, disbelief widening the features of her caramel-skinned face. "You mean we're going beyond the sign that says 'Prohibited'?" A shudder ran down her spine at the thought.

Saphyr rolled her eyes. "What did you think we were going to do, Ime?" Imerald's sisters frequently called her by the first syllable of her name.

"I don't know...
pick through the rock wall till we found something?"

"That's too much hard work," Rubi said.


  1. I'm not hooked. There's not much that's grasping my attention.

    This is just my opinion though.

    Good luck with SA!

  2. Not hooked. The voice seems a little too old for YA to me, and some of the telling bits yanked me out of the narrative (like the descriptions of each girl's hairstyle, and this sentence: "Imerald's sisters frequently called her by the first syllable of her name").

    Seems like this should be an interesting scene, but it's just not quite hooking me. Best of luck.

  3. I quite like it. Maybe instead of 'Prohibited' the sign could say 'Danger!'. Prohibited didn't scare me enough.

  4. I think the reason I'm not getting sucked in is that you're not in anyone's point of view but using an omniscient narrator. If you chose one sister's point of view, you would be able to instill more voice here. Also, you use a lot of adjectives (dazzling, golden, dense, faint, and mephitic--which I don't even know the meaning of--in the first paragraph alone.) I love YA fantasy and am curious what's going on in your story, but I wasn't hooked. Best of luck.

  5. I have to agree, I'm not really hooked. I like sister stories, especially when they are actually friends but there's not enough grabbing me off the bat. I'm distracted by the descriptions of them in their hardhats. I guess I need to know more about why it's so important that they find the gems.

    Good luck!

  6. There was too much telling in this excerpt. "Imerald's sisters frequently called her by the first syllable of her name" is the most egregious.

    Also, a personal pet peeve of mine is too much description of what a character looks like in the first page or two. We've got black hair on Rubi, curly brown hair on Saphyr, and a caramel skinned face for Imerald. More action please! I do want to know what they look like at some point, but that can happen much much later.

  7. I'm not really hooked either. I found the descriptions of their hair out of place--kind of like you were forcing details in there.

  8. This sounds like it could be interesting, but you lost me at "mephitic." It feels a tad overwritten for the age of the characters/audience.

    Maybe you could move the prohibited sign up to the first paragraph. Then the danger of that might hook me.

    This opening made me think of the Rainbow Fairies books. I'm curious what will happen next.

  9. Not hooked, sorry. The "different" spelling of gem names, unfortunately, made me cringe. I'm also not sure who we are following, character and POV wise.

  10. The above comments pretty much echo what I felt. Too much description, here, makes for a forced feel to your details. I would edit them all out and get to the action.

  11. I'd like to know who the POV character is. It also seemed to me like some of this dialogue is stuff the characters either already know or should know before they got to this point. I like the mine setting, though.

  12. I think this is a tad over written but it could easily be fixed up. Simple is usually better. For example, the first line:
    The dazzling golden sunlight faded away and the dense gloom of the underground cave closed in around them.

    Could be:
    The sunlight faded away and the gloom of the underground cave closed in around the three sisters.

    Take away some of those big words like mephitic and get rid of those adjectives and I think you'd have a good start.

  13. I agree with the other commenters. There's a good story here that's a bit lost in amongst the adjectives and character descriptions. The descriptions especially pulled me out of the story. I get that you're trying to help us get a mental picture of the girls, but at this point I think it's more important to hook your audience, and knowing the hairstyle of each sister won't do that, whereas more on the gems and going deeper into the mine would.

  14. I can probably tell you one of the first things you should do. Go through the piece and remove as many 'that' as you possibly can. Even if this means sitting minutes thinking about alternative ways of phrasing.

    You use too much tell not show. Do take LJ Boldyrev advice which was good constructive advice. That also includes words such as mephitic. I don't know one kid who would gladly read a book full of this kind of word. They'd be running scared and wary. Gosh it even scared me.

    Bron says knowing about the hairstyle of each sister is so inconsequential to the story and also describing yourself in your POV is a problem. When I think of me I don't think of what I look like unless I'm looking in the mirror making sure my makeup isn't smudged or whatever.

    Too much description slows the M/S down so much and this first page is too important to waste... it's your headlight. It's the oh too short opportunity to beam the reader into your head.

  15. There are just way too many adjectives, especially in the first two sentences. Sorry to say that if the next few pages read this way, I'd stop reading.