Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #29

GENRE: Young Adult

Sean waited, heart pounding. His breath came out in gasps. A shudder went through him.

They were getting closer. Crunching footsteps, twigs breaking, the rustle of jackets brushing against the vegetation.

He peered around the tree trunk, desperately wishing he'd chosen a bigger tree to hide behind.

He had one chance. Double back, slip from tree to tree, get to his car. But he had to be very, very quiet. Then he saw them. The larger man was in front, head swiveling from side to side. The other guy was right behind him. Sunlight glinted on something in their hands. Guns!

A cold sweat broke out on his face. Move, his mind screamed, move! They would soon reach him. He edged around, back pressed to the trunk.

The big man stepped past the tree and kept going. Relief sang in his heart. He swung around, poised to sprint - and froze. The barrel of a gun pointed straight between his eyes.

“Going somewhere, Mr. Collins?” A mocking smile twisted the smaller man's lips. “Mr. Calvert will be so disappointed.” The breath left him in a whoosh. His heart clenched in fear. “What..what does he want from me? He has my report. Please....” He had to find a way to get out alive.

The man's smile widened. He seemed to enjoy Sean's pleading. Heavy footsteps sounded. The other gunman lumbered into his peripheral vision.


  1. Not quite hooked. This is really well-written but I think you've erred on the side of too much conflict. With all this conflict it's hard to get a sense of the character or setting. Maybe start with the moments right before he starts being chased by bad guys.

  2. I would probably read a little further, but I'm not hooked just yet.

    There's something off about the first paragraph. I know you are trying to show he was running and is scared, but it seems awkward. It didn't hook me. And 'a shudder went through him' sounds too passive. Use a more dynamic verb than "to go."

    In the second paragraph, show us what he's hearing first, then tell us they're getting closer. It sounds out of order the way you have it.

    And finally, you've mentioned heart twice in the first 250 words. Makes me wonder how many other times you mention it in your novel. That's not a good thing.

    There is huge potential here, and you have, for the most part, done a great job.

    Good luck!

  3. I am definitely intrigued, and want to know why the heck these two men are chasing Sean (I don't know his age, though, yet, but am assuming this is a kid). However, something about this feels disjointed. Not enough tension. Maybe it's sentences like, "A shudder went through him," and "A cold sweat broke out on his face." These types of sentences almost take us away from Sean, instead of making us feel what he's feeling. Also, in the second to last paragraph I had a hard time figuring out who is talking and because we don't know the characters yet, seems cryptic.

  4. Well, you got me, and I'd read more. I did think you had a bit of passive writing here, and the shuddering and heart pounding was a bit much, but you've got a character in an intriguing situation, and it's all story. And I could see the setting with the bits of description added here and there.

    It can definitely use some polishing. Watch out for passive sentences and telling. Instead of saying things like - They would soon reach him - show them actually approaching him, getting closer and closer. The more you show, the stronger it will be.


  5. It's intriguing, but it could use some tightening, too. I think you could cut the first three sentences, actually, and start with "They were getting closer." it might pack more of a punch and help with the passive sentences.

  6. I would read more. However, I think the 2nd para is a much stronger hook.

    Nice voice.

  7. Nice descriptions but I thought you could do some cutting to improve the pace.

  8. The "going somewhere" paragraph needs cleaning up, make it more distinct re: who is saying what. It sounds like the gun-holder is saying everything. Which is weird.

  9. Tigthen this up and I think you'll be on to something even better.

    The only part that reall threw me was the paragraph,which to me the way I separated makes more sense:

    “Going somewhere, Mr. Collins?” A mocking smile twisted the smaller man's lips. “Mr. Calvert will be so disappointed.”

    The breath left him in a whoosh. His heart clenched in fear. “What..what does he want from me? He has my report. Please....” He had to find a way to get out alive.

    Also instead of using him all the time, use Sean just a little more often.

  10. I'm curious about the situation, but the voice isn't strong enough for me. The "heart pounding, shudder, cold sweat" all feel a bit cliche. "Relief sang in his heart" does not sound like a teenage boy. If you could really get inside his head and show us genuine and unique reactions, this would be stronger.

  11. I'm intrigued, but I think I'm more drawn in by this scene as one that would come later in the book. I've found that I more often enjoy books that don't start with a high level of tension/conflict, but that start with some character building - just before the action, so I care more about the characters. I think this is generally well written, but I'd love to see what was just happening prior to this scene. That may just be me, though.

  12. There's something about exclamation points that make a mockery of the panic a character's feeling. Maybe that's just me, but I would take them out. Your prose already shows the danger of the situation very well.

  13. "be very very quiet" made me laugh because all I could picture was Elmer Fudd. I don't think that was your intention.

    How old is the MC, what does he look like, why is he being chased and why didn't he just stay in his car and get out of harm's way?

    I'd keep reading at this point.

  14. In a scene like this, you really need to tighten your prose so it feels like every word counts - that will help up the tension and the suspense.

    I would actually open with "They were getting closer" and combine the first and third paragraphs.

    Be careful of using exclamation points - they can make something sound silly rather than tense.

    There's also too much telling and some cliched description that hurts the tension. "A cold sweat broke out on his face" and "relief sang in his heart" these descriptions don't make us FEEL the tension like we'd need to in order to be hooked.

    Also, who is Sean? We need to know more about him in order to care what's happening to him.