Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #36

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Samantha Liffey peered across the meadow at the target two hundred feet away. She took a deep breath and held it. Just two hundred feet between her, a perfect score, and acceptance into prestigious Xenith Training Camp for field sports. Good thing she always did best when she was nervous.

Honeybees buzzed in the summer clover, and the crowd murmured behind her. She licked her lips, the arrow cool in her hand, her arm straining against the bow. Squinting, she aimed at the tiny golden circle in the middle of the target.

As always, her gut told her the exact moment to let go, and she released her grip. Heart thumping, she watched the silver arrow fly. Her aim, like always, was true. As if drawn by a magnet, the arrow struck the bull's eye with a satisfying thunk. Success!

"Yes!" A girl's voice rang out above the screams of the crowd. Sam turned to see her older sister, Abby, darting across the field. She was still wearing her white fencing uniform. The first place medal she'd won earlier bounced against her chest, flashing gold in the sun.

Sam ran to meet her. "We're in! We did it! Do you get what this means?" She threw her arms around her sister.

"Yeah!" Abby jumped up and down, pulling Sam with her. "We get to be with Mum! She'll be so happy. We're the best, Sam, the best in Salem. We could be the best in the world!"


  1. I love how you draw out this moment. A lot of nice details. And just when I wondered what the conflict might be you mentioned they got to be with their mum. And that raised good questions like why aren't they with their mum? Great job!

  2. Love this. I agree with Laura, great details and I want to know why they arn't with their mum too.

    I could just see this scene as I read. It read lovely and smooth too. I agree, great job. Love that it's in Salem too.

    Good luck.

  3. This is excellently written. I'd read on to see how the conflict is set up.

  4. I was immediately drawn into this because of the sister relationship. I also thought that the honeybees in the grass was a great detail that made the moment feel real. The conflict with not being with their mother made me want to keep reading.

    I would have liked to have seen more tension with her shooting. She's nervous but "Her aim, like always, was true." If it was always true, why was she nervous? At least, let us be nervous for her before we find out she's an excellent shot.

    Overall, great job!

  5. I was definitely hooked and would read on. I love how you incorporated sports into the begininng. It flows wonderful and had my interest the entire time! Excellent!

  6. I'm hooked. :D

    I don't think there's anything else to add that hasn't already been said. Good luck! :D

  7. Good job. There was just the right amount of detail, and the bees in the summer clover was perfect.

    Nice buildup to what seems to be the conflict-reuniting with their mom.

  8. I liked it. You put us in a place that was easy to visualize, without going overboard on description, and your MC is doing something to accomplish a goal.

    Perhaps omit the 'as always' because if she's always perfect there's no fear that she'll fail. She knows she's going to succeed and so do we. And you might want to put that bow in her hand in the first paragraph. Perhaps, with a bit of rewording, make the second parg. the first, and the first parg. the second?

    Either way, very nicely done!

  9. Very nice. I would have like a bit more tension about whether her shot would be true, or not. She's nervous, but then she has no reason to be?

    That's a small thing, though. Overall, this is very good and draws the reader in.

  10. I really really liked this. Love the tension in the first couple of paragraphs. I could feel it myself. And great characters!

  11. Nice! I want to read more. :)

    I do wonder about the "arrow in her hand" - you dont' really hold the arrow in your hand, if you've got the bow drawn. You have the *string* in your hand, and the arrow - depending on type of arrow, and what equipment you're using - may not touch you at all. At most, your fingers touch the feathers, not the arrow itself.

    Being an archer myself, I notice these details, but if someone hasn't shot before, maybe it wouldn't make a difference. :)

  12. I really enjoyed the piece. Great details, description is spot on(but for the one teeny part I didn't agree with-- the arrow in her hand. i'm not an archer, but imagining a long bow or crossbow, i think it's really the string that one is pulling taught, but that is very minor and i had to back to find something to knit cause it's depressing when someone has a near perfect entry- hee hee).

    Even though fantasy is not my thing in books, watch it in film though, I would keep reading on because this is well written.

  13. I like this one. It draws me in and gives me enough to really be interested in the characters. I'm hooked :).

  14. I really liked this and was drawn in. The only part that bothered me was the last line; the sister saying "we could be the best in the world." I guess I just don't get how you go from try-outs for a training camp to claiming you're the best in the world.

  15. Is there a reason you open with her full name? I think I'd rather feel closer to the character which I would if she was just "Sam" from the opening line. We can find out her last name later.

    I'd cut the last sentence in the first paragraph - it feels cliched and based on what happens, the reader can infer that. Also by saying she does her best when she's nervous it zaps the tension because now we expect she'll do it, that it's no big deal.

    I'd also draw out "watch[ing] the silver arrow fly" because that could be a great moment. And I'd cut "Success!" and the following "Yes!"

    Similarly, with the dialogue be careful about saying too much. The most important details here are "We're in" "We get to be with Mum" "We're the best in Salem" and "We could be the best in the world." Cut the excess.

    Also, be careful of overusing exclamation points, the overuse dulls their affect.

  16. Oops, I meant to add, I'm not quite hooked here but I'm interested to see where it's going. I would keep reading.

  17. Thank you to everyone for your comments and critiques, and an extra special thank you to the SA for reading it and for such wonderful detailed feedback on how it can be improved. I loved all your comments. I'm cracking my knuckles and ready to edit! I am so appreciative. Thank you.