Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Secret Agent #15

TITLE: Waking Up
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

In movies, murder is a savage act--something that severs the killer from humanity, something dreadful and dark that corrupts her soul and festers in her mind. Murderers are the bad guys. It's necessary propaganda, because kids these days aren't really taught right and wrong anymore. But most of the screenwriters have never killed anyone, so they can't possibly understand.

Murder can bring peace; it can be the best catharsis and the only salve to ease an aching heart. God and heaven may exist. There may even be avenging angels. I can't speak to all that because I don't know anything about them. I do know that I sure as hell won't wait for an angel. I do my avenging myself.

EIGHTEEN YEARS IN THE PAST ON EARTH

Matilda woke with a start and slid her sock clad feet out of bed, padding as quickly as her seven-year old legs could manage across the floor. The hinges on Jesse's door creaked as she pushed it open. The noise woke him and Matilda shot over to his racecar bed, hopped up onto it and crawled over next to him.

He rubbed his bleary, bright blue eyes and asked, "Tildy, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, but I had a dream. I thought you'd wanna hear it."

"Really?" Jesse pushed himself up and ran a small hand through his straight, dark chocolate hair, which stood almost on end. "You've never had a dream--any dream. Of course I wanna know what it was."

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your work. I have a few comments I hope will be helpful:

    1) The first sentence is 3rd-person that switches to first by saying "the killer" then switching to "her soul." So, stick to one or the other.

    2)When you say, "most of the screenwriters have never killed anyone, so they can't possibly understand," I immediately think "Oh, so this writer, unlike the distained screenwriters HAS actually killed someone?"

    3) I see now the first paragraphs were a prologue to hook us in. But, it feels really jarring to be hit with:
    EIGHTEEN YEARS IN THE PAST ON EARTH. I suggest starting where the story starts.

    4) I'd use a different word for Matilda crossing Jesse's room quickly. "Shot" doesn't work for me. Maybe scamper? scuttle? scoot? race? skip? Also, sock-clad seems to want a hypen.

    5) How old is Jesse? He speaks like an adult: "
    but sleeps in a racecar bed? I'd suggest making his words match his age. I'd rather know his age than his hair color at this point.

    Good luck! I hope this helps.

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  2. Hm ... interesting. I am intrigued but confused over what exactly is happening and how the two characters already mentioned relate to one another.

    But the bit about screenwriters - I think it would be more powerful if the reader knows who says it - what they're thinking, how they see the world and why.

    Just my 2cents.

    Thanks!

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  3. RE: title—you need something more interesting, and I’m sure there’s something in your novel that would be worthy of the title.

    As for the text:

    In movies, murder is a savage act--something that severs the killer from humanity, something dreadful and dark that corrupts her soul and festers in her mind. Murderers are the bad guys. It's necessary propaganda, because kids these days aren't really taught right and wrong anymore. But most of the screenwriters have never killed anyone, so they can't possibly understand.

    Murder can bring peace; it can be the best catharsis and the only salve to ease an aching heart. God and heaven may exist. There may even be avenging angels. I can't speak to all that because I don't know anything about them. I do know that I sure as hell won't wait for an angel. I do my avenging myself.

    Cut. This is “prologue” material and completely unnecessary—I would have passed on this if it were coming through my inbox after the first few sentences. We don’t need an introduction to your novel, we need you to put us right into the scene in which there is tension and to go from there.

    EIGHTEEN YEARS IN THE PAST ON EARTH
    Write it as:
    EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO
    EARTH

    It’s easier to process.

    Matilda woke with a start and slid her sock clad feet out of bed, padding as quickly as her seven-year old legs could manage across the floor. The hinges on Jesse's door creaked as she pushed it open. The noise woke him and Matilda shot over to his racecar bed, hopped up onto it and crawled over next to him.

    He rubbed his bleary, bright blue eyes and asked, "Tildy, are you okay?"

    "I'm fine, but I had a dream. I thought you'd wanna hear it."

    "Really?" Jesse pushed himself up and ran a small hand through his straight, dark chocolate hair, which stood almost on end. "You've never had a dream--any dream. Of course I wanna know what it was."

    I have a few thoughts about this opening:

    1—Scenes about dreams—or dreams themselves—are clichĂ©, since there are only so many ways that you can set scenes like this up—if this were part of a query, I’d skip down to the dream. Is there any way for you to write this scene in a new setting with a different approach to dreams, etc.? To this discussion?

    2—I can’t tell how old these kids are, and the way that you’ve written the dialogue makes them seem very young—I’m irritated, especially since this is an urban fantasy. I think you might be better off if you didn’t use any dialogue until Matilda starts to explain the dream (if you keep this scene the way it is)—just narrate via 3rd person that she goes to Jesse, who wakes up and consents to listen.

    3—This is also “prologue,” probably, considering you went back eighteen years. Is this absolutely necessary? Will your story be impossible to understand without telling us about this dream? No. You’re relying on background to hook us—you’re taking the easy way out. I’d go to present day, to the present conflict that will be the foundation for this novel.

    I’m not hooked. There are too many newbie elements here that are uninteresting to me—they don’t offer any tension and don’t put me in the moment; I’m not interested by anything that’s unfolding, and I would really like to see the urban fantasy aspect come alive as soon as possible; if not the UF aspect, definitely the setting within which the UF will take place.

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  4. If the theme and plot of your story relates to the content of the prologue, you probably have a very interesting novel. However, I didn't like having that prologue; I'd rather go directly to a scene that begins the story. With the prologue using up so many words, it's hard to say much about the actual first scene, except it doesn't engage me much with those few sentences.

    Given the quality of your writing and the hint of the story in the prologue, I would encourage you to keep working on this novel--but perhaps start it closer to the beginning. Best wishes!

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  5. Honestly, I started skimming before I hit paragraph two. That's BAD. I don't want to read a moral treatise, I want to read something exciting. Even while I'm reading it I can see it's just a opening, but it makes me despair of what's coming next because you've just wasted two paragraphs of my life lecturing.

    The actual action I really liked. I thought the writing was clean and natural... until the last paragraph. A kid in a racecar bed is going to be pretty young, I'd guess, and the dialogue is too old and mature. If this is Charles Wallace, let me know before you induce the 'no way' reaction.

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  6. I am leaving my comment without reading the other comments first, so my apologies if there is some repetition. Anyway, I like what you're saying in the first paragraph but I'd tighten it so that it doesn't drag. Maybe delete the third sentence, for ex. I love what you say in the second paragraph - it's so shocking, and yet, it has an element of truth that we can all recognize, which makes us sort of uncomfortable in a good way. Again, I'd tighten it; maybe delete the fourth sentence.

    I don't understand the "eighteen years" sentence fragment.

    Watch the cliches - "woke with a start" "stood almost on end." And watch the excess description - "bleary, bright blue eyes," "straight, dark chocolate hair"

    The last line feels weird "You never had a dream - any dream." doesn't feel like realistic dialogue.

    But - and this is the important part - it hooked me enough that I would read on!

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  7. I'm assuming that the unnamed narrator in the first part of the excerpt either is or is intimately tied to Matilda. At the moment, these two segments don't seem to have much to do with one another, so they just leave me confused.

    I think, if the narrator has such a different idea about what a murder is that you'd be better of just stating that, rather than having a discourse on what other people/media think. She(?) can simply say murder is peaceful, or however she'd word it. That would certainly grab the reader's attention.

    When Matilda slides out of bed, she is taking her whole body, I assume, and not simply her sock clad feet. Is there a hallway between her room and Jesse's, or do they share a door? Is a seven year old going to notice that her brother's eyes are bleary and bright blue?

    I don't know how old Jesse is, but his comment on her not having dreams seems a little odd and out of place.

    Sadly, I wouldn't read on as is.

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  8. Secret Agent - you say you can't tell how old the kids are - but it says that Matilda is 7 years old.

    At least her legs are.

    (And if Jesse has a racecar bed, he's likely pretty young.)

    And I'm intrigued by the fact that Matilda has never had a dream before.

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  9. I groaned the minute I started. Another first person story where the MC talks to the reader instead of telling the story.

    But then you got to the kids and I became interested. I liked both Tildy and Jesse and was interested in the fact that Tildy had never dreamed before. I did wonder how her brother knew this but I was willing to forget that and read more. Unfortunately, there wasn't any more.

    I'd suggest losing those first two paragraphs, and then watch the description in the rest. Some of it is forced, just there for the reader - dark chocolate hair which stood almost on end." Same with the dialogue. Keep it realistic. "You've never had a dream. Any dream." is for the reader, because the both of them already know she's never had a dream, so they wouldn't say that.

    But I'd read on.

    ReplyDelete