Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #9

TITLE: Shifter
GENRE: Science Fiction/Paranormal

The big cat wound through the thick forest, his powerful body twisting gracefully as he slid beneath low-hanging branches and maneuvered through thick foliage. Mammoth trees towered above him, the giants among them soaring more than five hundred feet toward the heavens, while their lesser cousins crowded beneath the high canopy, yearning for a ray of sunshine, a hint of moisture. Every imaginable size and shape could be found, a riot of growth that spread across the land in a dense green swath.

It had rained two days ago and the soil beneath the cat's feet was still damp, thick with centuries of deadfall. With every step of his enormous paws, the ground released a rich, pungent scent that filled his nostrils and told him which creatures had come this way, and when. Leaves and branches drifted over his sleek, muscled back, streaking his black pelt with rainwater. He moved faster than the eye could follow, the dappled sunlight transforming nearly three hundred pounds of hunting cat into a shadow among shadows in the dense growth. A wave of panicked prey fled ahead of him; a pool of cautious silence followed in his wake. But he had no interest in food this morning. This race was of a different sort.

With a thrust of powerful hind legs, the great beast pushed off from the forest floor, hitting one of the giant conifers in his path with a dull thud.


  1. I don't think discription like this is the way to begin.
    I also noticed that, in the first paragraph, every noun has exactly one adjective, which preceeds it in every case. Boring.
    When you call the animal a "big cat" I was thinking oversized housecat. Now I think you mean panther, or something.
    Your last scentence has the cat leaping and thumping into the side of a tree. So it's either blind or stupid. Either way, I haven't seen any intriguing details that make me want to go on.

  2. I actually liked this. I read it twice before I came to a decision onen way or the other. The description made me think of a big cat on the hunt. While we don't have an immediate sense of the protagonist (unless it's the cat, which means cat-shifter of some sort), I definitely get the sense of being on a hunt.

    The last sentence though...I'm not sure about it. Did the cat mean to run into the tree? I could see that being a comedy line, or he hit the tree on purpose, maybe to knock pine cones/needles onto the forest floor for some reason.

    I'd keep going for a little while longer, at least.

  3. Not hooked. I remember this one from a previous Secret Agent contest, and it's still not doing much for me. I think it's just because I have a hard time relating to a cat. Is this a sentient animal? If so, you might try making his thoughts more humanlike to draw us in.

  4. I agree with Krista V.

    I do like the idea of having the cat as the POV. From the title, I assume this is a person who is in their cat form? But I don't feel connected, and if I did, I'd be more muh interested. I feel like I'm watching from above, and I want to feel like I'm experiencing these sensations.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  5. There's a lot of description. I don't think we need quite so many descriptors for the cat or the forest. I think it could be trimmed without losing the atmosphere or voice.

    A few questions while reading:

    Faster than whose eye? A human? Or any creature? If he's moving faster than can be seen, how could prey flee from him? And would he really call it prey if he's not hunting?

    When he hits the tree, is he slamming himself against the trunk, or landing on part of it?

    This is good writing, but all I get so far is a big cat running, then hitting a tree. Not enough to hook me.

  6. I liked it. I'm not sure why the cat would hit a tree, but there's a definite sense of purpose and urgency. If the cat isn't hunting for food, then what is he doing?

    I love the "pool of cautious silence" line.

  7. It was hard to connect to the cat. If he's a shifter, why not put us in his POV and stay there?

    You described the forest very well. However, I think you can lose the last sentence of the 1st para. I don't think you need it.

    I assume the cat jumped on the tree to climb it? I'm curious what he's after.

  8. I agree with the other commenters on the description--however, if this is straight Sci-Fi/Paranormal genre, I think the readers will give you some leeway on the amount you use.

    Still, for me at least (and I do read some fantasy), the amount of adjectives in that first paragraph was overwhelming. Rather than give me an idea of a lush jungle, I was caught by each thought and sentence. Not what you want.

    You also use a lot of measurements in that paragraph, "big," "thick," "mammoth," "giants," "high," "dense."

    In fact, maybe just cut that first paragraph all together and start with the second one, which I think is much stronger.

    The fact that the cat doesn't want to catch prey is intriguing and makes me think, as other commenters assume, that the cat isn't a usual cat. And rather a shifter.

    Maybe use the cat's name? You could keep the same sort of thought-process that way, but note to your readers that this cat is important rather than just a generic "He" animal.


  9. I enjoyed this. I thought your descriptions were wonderful, concrete and I could envision everything. I also thought your writing was strong. I'm interested to see what is coming next, but I'm a little partial to shifting panthers, too.

  10. Break up the first sentence.

    Emphasize the action that takes place before describing the forest. While you map out the environment beautifully, the character itself remains a mystery until “three hundred pounds of hunting cat,” approximately two thirds into the second paragraph.

    I had to reread the line about “the giants among them,” as the first time I read it I thought you were describing actual giant beings, rather than the size of the trees.

    Also, the grace initially ascribed to the cat is comically canceled out at the end of the passage, when it hits a tree with “a dull thud.”

  11. I enjoyed this until the final paragraph (although perhaps this makes more sense in the context of the next few paragraphs to come). I would suggest you go a little easier on the adjectives; that way the ones you keep will have more impact.
    I like the title and the start interests me enough that I would read a little further yet.

  12. Your descriptions were gorgeous but I'm not really hooked. I like to see the main character on page one, or at least the human form of the main character. I'd read on to see if plot-related things start to happen soon but I'm not completely hooked.

  13. I liked this and would read on. I don't know if the cat will be the MC or not, but the descriptions were lovely and the sense of menace was definitely present. The only problem, as others have noted, is the last line, which as of now is pretty comical coming after all that dark, beautiful writing.

  14. I'm not hooked, but I would read a bit more to see if you got into the actual story. I did think all the description was a bit much, but it wasn't that much, and it was written pretty well. Perhaps if you mentioned where this cat was heading or what his intent was, it would add some tension and intrigue to the piece?

    You left me interested, but not compelled.