Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#33 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Dream Thief
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy

Cassandra’s heart is a bird inside her chest. Its wings beat in time with her running feet on the concrete path. She knows what’s going on – just as surely as you don’t, not yet – and she’s trying to run away from that knowledge.

But she can’t run away from it. She turns around the corner of a dorm and takes a breath but she can still feel it behind her, a presence like a thickening in the air. Cassandra is in the shadows cast by gatherings of trees, but she doesn’t want to be in the darkness. There is no hiding in the dark, not from this thing, this whatever it is, this appearance of a man.

She walks quickly to stand beneath a lamppost. The light ruins her night vision so that she can barely see beyond where the light stops and the way she came is an inhabited darkness. Still, she feels better, and her breathing deepens, her thoughts calm.

This is not how Cassandra acts, she tells herself. This is not how a girl raised in New York behaves, and this is not how a city girl is going to die. In fact, she assures herself, she is not going to die at all. She’s taken years of aikido and has thrown down men many times her own weight. Once, walking home from a friend’s house on her own, strictly against her mother’s orders, she had been assaulted by a man.


  1. At times I felt like there was more showing than telling. I think in 250 words you fit a lot in that could be expanded on differently. But, it's only 250 words, difficult to know what kind of important things are coming up and whether or not you've expanded on them.

    I need more here! Great job!

  2. I like the tension you've built, and the little description we get of whatever is chasing her. I do feel the style is awkward--but that might be because of the present tense in third person. Watch for showing vs telling--you did that in the last paragraph, but otherwise, I like it :)

  3. The flow here is odd - as it is to speak directly to the reader - and the last sentence seems stuck in just to fit in a fact the writer wants the reader to know. I'd keep reading for a few pages to see if this writer pulls this off, but this style of writing is very difficult to make work.

  4. I think your writing is pretty, and I actually like the intrusive narrator in the first para tho it won't be to everyone's taste. But I think you need to use the last para of the page to tell us what is going on - who is chasing her - and end on a note of excitement or suspense, not backstory.

  5. I could take the intrusive narrator for the first parg or two, sort of like Rod Serling introducing a Twighlight Zone story, but I couldn't take a whole novel this way. But that's my taste, not your writing. The writing is very good.

    That aside, I was disappointed with where you took it. The chase was exciting, even though I wasn't getting anything from Cassandra, (and if I was, it could have been even more exciting.) Then she suddenly turns brave. Why am I running? I've kicked some butt in my time. Why, once I even . . . .

    Why the sudden turn around? What has changed? (Nothing that I can see.) So everything that came before that is nullified. What was the point in her running? Why didn't she just stand and face her stalker?

    The story isn't standing up on page one. There's no incentive to read on. Perhaps give her a reason for changing her mind. Maybe her running is a ploy to lead him someplace where a fight will be to her advantage? Whatever she does, there has to be a reason, and you haven't given her one.

  6. I really like the first sentence, but don't care for the second. Maybe if you just let the chase be the chase without the telling in between, Cassandra can reflect on what happened later. I think that would be a bigger hook. The last sentence of the submission took the wind out of it for me. But I think you've got something here!

  7. I'm not sure about this one. On one hand, I read quickly, was intrigued -- it did grab me. On the other hand, a lot more of this would irritate me. The voice works, but I don't like that it's withholding information. (And then rubbing it in. Mean narrator!)

    As I'm also a big fan of close PoVs, I hope we'd get to be inside the characters' heads more eventually instead of just being told about them from some distant voice in the sky.

    I think you got unlucky that the 250-word cut-off is right where you slip into a bit of backstory. If it's just these lines, fine, but if it goes on for over a paragraph... You can't tempt us with something tense like this scene with Cassandra running and then slip into backstory.

    I'd give it the benefit of the doubt and read on, though. I want to know what's going on, and some of the writing is really nice!

  8. I liked several lines in this (especially "There is no hiding in the dark, not from this thing, this whatever it is, this appearance of a man"), but on the whole, I wasn't hooked. Between the title, the genre, and the third person present voice, my first thought was, "Oh, no, another WAKE." Then the scene just didn't draw me in. I wanted to get to know Cassandra before I had to start caring about her life and well-being.

    Also, the use of second person in the first paragraph jerked me out of the manuscript, as did the tense change in the last sentence. (Since this is in present tense, you only need past tense to tell us about something that happened in the past. So that last line should be, "Once, walking home from a friend's house on her own, strictly against her mother's orders, she WAS assaulted by a man.)

    Those are small things, though, easy to fix. And it could definitely be a matter of opinion. Hopefully, the Secret Agent disagrees with me.

  9. I'm not sure how I feel about the present=tense, third person, but, on the other hand, i read quickly and didn't have to stop to think about what I was reading. So, I liked it, with some comments:

    -I didn't like the breaking of the fourth wall in the first paragraph. It confused me and bumped me out.
    -You've set up a tense scene where Cassandra is running from something, but then in the second half of the excerpt she stops and decides to calm down. I don't feel like it's quite fair to a reader to start in a tense moment and then just back off. Maybe this is just a brief interlude, though...

    Overall, I like it.

  10. Hey, Secret Agent here! I like the writing here and the overall feeling is intense. Maybe I just like some information with my fiction, though, because I felt, again, that this was vague. Instead of feeling disoriented at the beginning of a novel, I want to feel grounded and oriented, even if there’s lots of danger and crazy stuff going on, at least I know what I’m getting into. The author here seems to know that, because of the maddening-yet-funny line: “She knows what’s going on – just as surely as you don’t.” Ha! At least the writer is honest and knows they’re withholding info the reader wants to know. That doesn’t give them a free pass in my book, though…

  11. Most of my thoughts have already been plopped by other readers, but I have to say this: "The light ruins her night vision so that she can barely see beyond where the light stops and the way she came is an inhabited darkness" reads stiffly, a bit awkward. Can you state it in simpler terms?

  12. I agree with previous commenters that, though in a great voice, this is confusing and vague. I always joke that I'll only go running if something is chasing me, and even then it depends on what that something is and whether or not I have a weapon. Lol. As written, I can't tell if I'd be running or not.