Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#42 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Reaping of Norah Bentley
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

I should have died that night.

The rip current was too strong. I could feel it--a rush of smooth water at my ankles, weaving through them like a snake and pulling me off balance, pulling me out to sea. And the shore was already so far away now. A small crowd of people had gathered on it, and from this distance through my salt-stung eyes they all blurred together into one giant, shadowy figure, pointing and yelling things I couldn't hear over the roar of the waves.

The pressure on my ankles increased, swept my feet out from under me.

I'd meant to get away. I wanted to hide, because I was tired of all the fighting, disgusted with my parents for not being able to get along for even a single weekend so we could have a normal, enjoyable family vacation. I didn't mean to get this far away, though.

The current pulled me under again. I found the gritty ocean floor under my feet and pushed, managed to resurface long enough to gulp down a few breaths of air tainted with salt. The rip current gave one final, powerful tug and then seemed to dissipate, and for a moment there was an eerie sort of calm. Then I saw it: a dark wall of water, edged with white foam and glittering in the moonlight as it grew taller and taller, pushing forward, the center pulling into itself until it collapsed, breaking over me and slamming me down into the ocean floor.


  1. Whoa. I want this. And I'm not even an agent. Beautiful prose, I felt every word of it. Me likey a lot!

  2. A slow burner. Seems a bit extreme to get into such a pickle because the family couldn't agree to stop arguing.

    The causation for a near-death experience was not clear.

    Nice writing style.

  3. Gripping opening. Nice job.

    You may want to cut the telling statements about her parents, to make this even more intriguing. I don't think you need the info-dump so early on.

    The rest of it is great. I would definitely read on!

  4. Dramatic! I like it! I'm 15 years old and I would definitely want to read more. This is the type of book I would be spending my limited allowance on (and since I get just a little amount of money, I can only buy 5-6 books a year)Great job!

  5. Very nice writing and a great opening scene!

    Perhaps cut the first paragraph. First, it sets up the main event (what follows) to be happening in the past, but when you tell it, you tell it as if it's happening now. And second, it says everything turned out okay,(because she didn't die) so you lose all the tension.

    The other issue is that we have a girl drowning. There's this huge wave about to slam her to her death, and she's not the least bit worried, scared, nervous, nothing. She doesn't have one thought or show one emotion. So even though it's a gripping scene written well, I'm going 'Yeah, right. She went through all that like it was nothing?' Let her react to what's happening around, and to, her. It'll make a huge difference.

    And perhaps consider cutting the 'I'd meant to get away,' parg. It stops the action and the mounting tension. You could get it in later or even intersperse some of it as her direct thoughts.

    Overall though, nicely done!

  6. I like that you opened up with a near-death experience. It was definitely interesting but I don't think you need the first sentence. I also would have liked it if you showed her panicking in the water.

  7. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing, and I love that first sentence. It makes me really want to know where the MC is writing from now, and how far he/she has come to reflect on what happened.

    A couple of small, nitpicky things--your MC is writing about what happened in the past, but uses phrases like "so far away now" and "this far away," which to me implies the character currently being there. I'd just cut "now" and change "this" to "that."

    I would definitely read more of this.

  8. AWESOME description of being swept away in a rip tide.

    Really nice writing. I think you could break up some of your sentences more to make it crisper - there are a lot of commas here. :)

  9. You're writing flowed well and pulled me into the story. I felt like I was out to sea with your character.

    Two things stopped the flow for me, though. One was the line, "I didn't mean to get this far away, though." I like the hint at back story in the paragraph, but for some reason that line didn't work as a wrap up.

    The second was your use of the phrase ocean floor in the last paragraph (easy fix).

  10. I agree with Barbara - First, she should be more panicked, and 2nd, it's a catchy first line, but it takes away the tension. Maybe something like 'I knew I was going to die' or 'I knew I was too far out' (obv better than that but you get the idea lol).

    Overall I like the writing, especially the end. The only thing that really pulled me up short was: 'I found the gritty ocean floor under my feet and pushed...' which confused me, since I though she was a long way out, so the sea would be too deep to do that.

  11. This kind of wanders about so that I wasn't sure whether I liked it or not, but after the last paragraph, I would have definitely kept reading.

  12. I think the first line is great, although it left me confused as to when this story is going to take place. Was the first line a single thought from the future and then the whole story is retelling what happened or is the character there in the moment?

    I agree with others that she should show a little more panic. She seems very clinical in her explanation of what's happening, which makes it different to really connect with the character. I'm very curious about the crowd of people on the beach. Since it seems like she wanted to get away, I'm curious why she walked into the sea with people watching her. It seems like she would have done that in private.

    The writing was very tight.

  13. I third Barbara's comments.

    The first line is catchy, but I think the second is a much stronger start.

    You could cut "And the shore was already so far away now." Also, I agree that you could cut the fourth paragraph -- that could come in later. Right now it takes away from the immediacy of the moment and puts a veneer of morality/culpability over the near-death experience which seems at odds with the MC's situation.

    In the moment, I mean, it seems like she'd be focused on trying to survive rather than bemoaning the decisions that got her where she is.

    Other than that, I really like the writing. I know nothing about the character, really, but this scene is evoked well enough and with enough surety that I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy the whole thing regardless of what it's actually about.


  14. I've got mixed feelings on this one. It's clear you're a very good writer. But all 5 paragraphs restate a very similar idea. Right from the first line we learn (or can quickly infer) she was caught in a rip tide but survived. Then you tell us that again, with more detail. And then again, and then again. If I didn't know she survived, I'd be more caught up in it. But instead I just want the action to move forward and know what she did AFTER all this.

    I think the problem is that right from the start we know this is happening in the past and the MC is telling us this story. So then it feels weird to get such vivid, "in the moment" details. People usually summarize when they're telling a story.

    That said, it IS great writing, and the lack of panic doesn't bother me as much as some of the other commenters. When you're in a life-threatening situation, it's not unusual for your mind to deny it and minimize the risk. Plus, this isn't happen in real time--she's recounting what happened.

    I'd absolutely read on to see what happens after. This is a good start, I just think it needs tightening.

  15. I like this, but I think it would be stronger if you removed the first sentence and bumped the "I'd meant to get away" paragraph up to the start. I think it would make a stronger opening.

    I love the writing!

  16. I think that starting with "I should have died that night" pulls the intensity of the near-drowning scene away from the reader.

    Part of me wants to be in-scene with the MC as the riptide sweeps her away and she struggles to survive, rather than being told about it after the fact.

    But the writing style is good and I'd definitely read on just to see what happens!

  17. Hey, Secret Agent here! Yikes! This is intense! I really like the descriptions, very visceral. Small thing: a few of your sentences (last sentence, first paragraph, for example) run long and it’s hard to focus on all those images in one go. It’s okay to break them up, or go a little easy on the description. We can tell you’re a good writer, you don’t need to work quite so hard in every paragraph. Otherwise, really full of good tension, from the situation to the family backstory.