Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #ALT-1

TITLE: The Scion
GENRE: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

Behzad woke to darkness. The fire had been reduced to glowing embers and the sun had set long ago. Moonlight peaked in through the openings in her curtains, silver against dark colors of her rugs.

Her throat was dry and her head pounded. The dream was still fresh in her mind, making her hands shake. She forced her body to relax, loosening the muscles in her shoulders and legs.

But no amount of relaxation would wipe the sound of a cracking whip from her mind. And it wouldn't wipe the smell of her cell or the sounds of her kidnappers goading.

She turned over, her fingers blindly reaching for the bottle of vodka. They closed around the bottle neck and brought it to her lips, but nothing came out. Even when she lay back and tipped it as far it could go.

She swore and threw it across the room.

It was eerily quiet. If she had stayed at the castle, no matter the time, she would have heard servants and their footsteps. She would have heard papers being rustled on the second floor and generals pacing. But her father's apartment was empty.

Just thinking of why she had fled the castle made her heart pound in trepidation. It was home �" had been for the past four months. But she refused to be there the day of her mother's arrival. The covers were heavy and their heat made the nausea resting in her stomach rise up.


  1. While I'm intrigued, I'm also confused. The bottle of vodka made me think it was contemporary. But then there's mention of a castle so I wondered if it's set in the past. The cracking whip grabs me but I don't have enough to hang on to. And there might be a typo in the next sentence b/c I didn't understand it. The last paragraph offers some interesting mystery - why she fled, why she doesn't want to see her mother, why she's only lived at the castle for 4 months (Is she pregnant?) and I want to love it but I'm afraid I have too many questions right now.

  2. This is confusing. Also, so far, it reads like a protagonist doing some arbitrary activity while thinking about exposition. Aside from descriptions of weather, this is the most boring way to open a story. Maybe open with the dream instead (if it's exciting)?

  3. Interesting but I am not hooked.

    You have some misspellings (peaked) and double verbs/passive voice (being rustled) going on in your ms that need corrections. My biggest problem is the genre, YA urban fantasy. I realize there is some controversy about the definition of urban fantasy and it is confusing. But my understanding is ‘urban’ refers to Now, In This World.

    Possibly the reference to castles and whipping are explained later but, IMHO, it connotes Long Ago, Different Realm kind of flavor.

    As I say, this may be under the definition of urban and I am too quick to judge. Good luck.

  4. I wasn't interested at all until I read about the sound of a cracking whip and the smell of the cell. That fascinated me, enough to carry me for awhile, though I didn't know what was happening. I kinda wished something had happened, but the girl is just... sitting there. Of course, it's only 250 words, so that's not exactly fair. I'd keep reading though! :)

  5. Do watch your passive voice. This had some good elements but it moslty just confused me. I agree with a previous commenter that you should start with more action, less thinking.

  6. Being that this is only the first page, I am actually more intrigued by the clashing images of the vodka bottle and the castle. Trusting that the writer knows what UF is, I'm inclined to continue reading, wanting to know how this beginning can be set in a modern world. I don't find it confusing, actually. The scene is pretty straight forward and I love the imagery in the first paragraph. I would suggest switching up sentence formation in some of the sentences, such as the second paragraph where the sentences "The dream" and "She forced" have the same structure.

  7. I'd start with the third paragraph. That's the one that drew in my attention. I was also confused about the vodka. I think this needs some tightening up.

  8. The first 250 is so difficult! I love the scene setting, I definitely get a clear picture. Like some of the previous comments, the third/fourth paragraph hooked me. I'm intrigued by the bottle of vodka and the castle - so I'm in it to read more...

  9. Any character that wakes up and immediately tries to drink, followed by an angry throwing of the bottle against the wall is going to turn me off a little. In a YA, it makes me nervous - the actions are something I attribute to abusive or alcoholic parents in writing, not to sympathetic main characters.

    Agreed on the passive verb use. Some passive verbs are good and necessary, but they seem over-used in this, giving the excerpt a bland feel instead of an exciting one. A character that sits around, thinking is less exciting than a character who is moving and doing.

  10. I think you manage to inject quite a few elements of mystery into these 250 words, which hooks me. I'm intrigued by the mention of kidnapping and the cell, and you have some nice imagery here. I would agree to work hard on eliminating passive tense as much as possible, but I'd definitely read on. :)

  11. I've seen a lot of agents say you shouldn't start with waking up because so many people do it, it's hard to stand out. When you step back from this, all that's happening is the character waking up and thinking about her situation, and trying to drink some vodka.

    The castle, vodka and the mention of kidnappers hint at a really interesting story, but I don't think this is the best place to start.

  12. I'm hooked. I want to know what's going on.

    Good luck with SA!

  13. I second Bron's comment on starting by waking up from a dream. Not that you can't do it, but it's done a lot so you have to do it well. In this case, I wasn't interested at all until the mention of kidnappers, which suggests the dream is trauma from some recent event. That is to say, I'm interested in the event, though not necessarily Behzad's recollection of the event (not until I'm grounded in the present, at least).

    The last sentence seemed disconnected from the rest of the paragraph to me too.

  14. Not hooked, sorry. It's far too generic and been done before (waking up, bad dream, lots of info right away, and I worry there would be a 'daily routine' scene to follow) to pull me in.

  15. I thought you had some interesting stuff here. What turned me off was the writing. In the first sentence you tell us it's dark. In the next you tell us the sun had set long ago. Same info.

    Also, there's a lot of passive writing. Check for sentences with 'was' in them, and rewrite without using the word. The same with 'had been.' You can't do it to all of them, but you can with most.

    The fire had been reduced to glowing embers and the sun had set long ago.

    could be - dying embers glowed on the hearth . . .

    Work on the word choices (particularly verbs)and sentence structure. Improving them will improve the entire piece, I think.

  16. There's quite a bit of telling and the waking up from a bad dream is overdone. I'd try to find another way to hook the reader.