Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Wasteland Rhapsody
GENRE: YA Fantasy

"Honey, I'd rather use your face for target practice than
for kissing." I gave his grimy cheek a pat. "But thanks for the
offer." I slid something off the small table that was in between us
and sauntered towards the bar doors, my boots clicking on the half
rotten floors. The sound of my boots was very noticeable, as a dead
quiet had settled in the room, and the only movement was many pairs of
drunken eyes watching me leave. At the last minute, I decided my
victim was a glutton for punishment, so I turned and blew him a kiss
as I tucked my prize into my shirt and pushed through the swinging
doors. As soon as I was gone, a raucous erupted in the bar as everyone
started berating my old friend about losing at a game of poker to a
pretty, young thing like me. I smiled, and stretched my body, walking
off the porch into the too hot sun. Small clouds of dust rolled down
the street in front of me, and far above, the caw of some ravenous
scavengers called. I could picture their sharp little eyes on me, but
alas, I was still warm and walking, not quite a meal they would enjoy.
I bared my teeth up at the black spots circling above me, and made my
way over to the side of the bar where I'd left my motorcycle. I was
done here.


  1. I would like to see more dialog among the patrons in the bar. More reaction and thought from the MC.

    I like the title and from what I read it feels like this could be a YA Fantasy Western, which, if it is, sounds cool. Hence I would read more :-)

  2. Partly hooked because I like the western setting, but this seems both over- and underwritten. Over because of phrases such as "the sound of my boots was very noticeable" after already describing the boots clicking, and "I decided my victim was a glutton for punishment" which is clear by the way you turn to blow him a kiss. Underwritten because we never see the victim's reaction, we don't know what the "something" you slid off the table is, and we've no clue why you're done here. If he's an old friend, why do you suddenly decide he's a glutton for punishment? If you're a wester character, why would you not more specifically identify "ravenous scavengers" and why would buzzards be circling the town, anyway?

    A lot of promise, but needs work, IMO.

  3. I love the setting and the idea of the scene, but a few things tripped me up.

    First, the opening dialogue. I had no idea who was speaking (obviously), or who she (I assumed it was a she) was speaking to. It might help to ground the scene with at least a sentence or two of exposition to start.

    Second, you're missing a noun about midway through the excerpt. It should be "a raucous [something]," as raucous is an adjective. Or maybe you meant "ruckus"?

    Lastly, our narrator seems older than a teenager to me. I think it had something to do with the way she calls the man "Honey" at the beginning. And if she isn't a teenager, then I wonder about starting with a main character who doesn't fit the YA age range.

    With some tweaking, I could definitely be hooked by this - it totally sounds like something I'd like to read. Best of luck.

  4. I'm torn. I would definitely read more as the voice of the MC comes through loud and clear and the MC is engaging, mysterious and a little bit fun.

    The torn part comes because it seems more like an adult than YA story with the setting, the hard-living implied, the motor cycle, etc. Also, the writing is still a bit rough - formatting and a few awkward phrases.

  5. I'm also torn. I like the setting, premise, and the voice, but I'm a little turned off by the writing. I find some of the phrasing a bit awkward. I think if you tightened up the writing, you'd have a dynamic beginning though. Good luck!

    Also, I think this works as YA -- even though the setting feels rough. I think that's appealing, especially for a YA book.

  6. It does sound interesting, I would probably read more.

    You need many paragraph breaks here (which could totally be an email formatting issue).

    Also, I think you are looking for the word "ruckus" rather than "raucous" about midway through the piece.

  7. I liked it. I think part of the reason people think that it's reading awkward is that it came across as one paragraph (which could be a computer thing).

    Broken apart properly, it reads easier and has a decent flow. I also would clarify what she slid off the table (I assume it was the money won in poker?)but otherwise thought it was fine. In fact, I liked the character and setting.

    We aren't clear on the age of the MC, but it's certainly feasible she's late teens (and you would know better than us). Good luck!

  8. Good elements here, and a sassy heroine, which I like. I don't mind not knowing what was on the table - that's the tidbit we're waiting to find out. I do think ravenous scavengers is out-of-place. Also, "stretched my body," seems odd, but maybe that's just me. Overall, a lot of potential.

  9. think you need to start with the MC's major problem to hook the reader

  10. Terrific opening sentence. I'd like to have seen more snappy dialog like that, rather than exposition.

    I liked the main character, although I'd like to know a bit more about what makes her tick. That's a hard thing to accomplish in 250 words, of course. :-)

    Overall, I thought it could use some tightening up: avoid some word repetition (e.g. boots), clean up some grammatical/spelling mistakes (I think you meant ruckus instead of raucus), and consider the character's POV (she's not in the bar, how does she know what happens in the bar after she leaves).

    Still, I'd read on because the character herself is interesting.

  11. I would keep reading because I liked the MC.
    I like the suggestions that others have given you here.
    What is the something that was slid on the table? Why the MC was done there? Maybe I missed something?
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. I love the premise, but felt this would be stronger if you started with the actual poker game. Then offer a few lines of dialogue so we immediately fall into the story.

  13. After reading this I was disappointed that no one reacts to the main character. Someone should stop the MC. This will create tension or conflict and help me want to read more.

  14. I have to admit, the "slid something off the small table" totally threw me out of the story. Even if you want to keep us guessing about the object, you need to identify it in some way because our brains automatically do so. I may not know the make and model, but I immediately identify it as a car. Consider changing "something" to winnings, or coins, or jewels, or talisman, or whatever generic term that works without giving away the mystique of the object(s).

    I love your MC's voice and I am intrigued by the setting. At this point I am not hooked, but if you followed the suggestions of the previous commenters, I'd read more.

  15. I definitely like the Western motif that's going on here, and I always love a hard-ass main female main character, so I thought that was compelling. That said, I felt kind of manipulated by this--as though it's trying to hard to make me wonder what's going on. For example: "I slid something off of the small table that was in between us." Why "something"? Why not just say what it is? That's probably not a detail worth hiding, and being more specific would only help to further strengthen the scene.

    Still, I'm intrigued by the character and would probably read more, but I'd advise against trying too hard to make things seem mysterious when they don't need to be. If the story is compelling and the characters are strong (which it seems they are), then things will fall into place naturally.