Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#48 January Secret Agent

TITLE: Moral Compass
GENRE: YA dystopian

I wake up without my memory and a pile of sand in my mouth. I'm in a desert, and everything is beige. Sand dunes stretch out in the horizon and all I can see is barren land. I have no idea how I got here or what I am doing in a desert.

My mind is empty of memories, and all I get, as I strain to think of my life before this, is a headache. I can't even remember what I look like. The bones in my body feel foreign and my skin feels like a leech attaching itself to my skeleton.

As I struggle to sit up, a headache pounds through my head like a flash of lightening. I squish my eyelids tighter and bring my hands over my head like I can block out the pain even though it's internal.

And then a noise comes. A sound so quiet. A sound I realize is happening in my head.

"Tobin," a soft voice echoes through my skull. "I love you, Tobin." It's a woman's soothing voice, but I don't recognize it. I get the strange feeling that I should know this woman. That somehow she knows me intimately. But still... I can't remember.

After the head pounding stops, I hurry and stand up before the grains of sand become more stifling against my body, as though if I stay there on the ground any longer, I'll turn into a sandman, my bones giving away to dust.


  1. Love the first sentence. Love.

    But right away I notice the second sentence-- You should definitely take out "I'm in a desert" since you say it in the last sentence of the paragraph. It makes it more interesting in my opinion.

    Also, the first and second para both mention that you awake without memory-- redundant.

    Also (again) when the woman says she loves da protag, we can assume they know each other (unless she's just a psycho... which would be really interesting, actually!)

  2. Interesting. I would read it. ;-)

  3. Very intriguing!

    Your imagery is awesome. I especially like-

    "The bones in my body feel foreign and my skin feels like a leech attaching itself to my skeleton."

    I even like the protag's name. Tobin makes me think we are in a foreign locale.
    You hooked me. I'd read more.

  4. This came across as kind of bland to me. He's in a desert, which is an interesting location, but there's nothing here that says desert. There's no heat, no wind, no thirst, and the only mention of sand is the sand in his mouth, which he never spits out.

    He also has no reactions. He wakes up in a desert. No big deal. He has no memories. No big deal. He hears a voice in his head. No big deal. Consider adding some emotional reactions here. Is he thinking WTF? Is he scared? Right now, he's just a reporter stating the facts. Letting him react to his situation will give this more life.

    Also, it should be 'on' the horizon and 'lightning.'

  5. This has an intriguing start, but I think you could clean up the writing by editing out the repetition.

    "I wake up without my memory." 1st line.

    "My mind is empty of memories." 1st line 2nd paragraph.

    The same goes for "headache".

    Also, in the first paragraph, the line "I'm in a desert," is telling. There is such great description of the landscape following that line, I don't think you need it. Trust your reader. Sand dunes, beige, maybe include a description of the heat or dryness and we'll figure out that he's in a desert.

  6. It's interesting, but I think that you spend to much time telling about where the MC is rather than showing where the MC is. And I felt like I was watching the MC through this instead of being there with him. And, I like that feeling that I'm with the MC through the book because that's what makes the book so good and real. Also, if the MC woke up without a memory and he has no clue where he is, then why would the first thing that he realize be that he has sand in his mouth? I think that he would realize that there's gritty hard rocks in his mouth and then after looking around he would realize that it was sand. And I agree with Rachel Menard, trust the readers, we'll be able to figure out its the desert.

  7. Every so slightly overwritten, but nothing that's not easily fixable. This is good, very good. I would be eagerly turning the page, and if it continues anywhere near this good, I'd be asking for a partial or a full immediately.

  8. I really, really like the premise. It's a very gripping opening. The descriptions are well written but you have so many it feels a bit cluttered. I'd cut out some and let less be more.

    There's much repetition you can trim..."I have no idea how I got here or what I am doing in a desert" says kind of the same thing and you say both these ideas a few times.

    However, it's a very clear first page, pulls you in, and I would absolutely keep reading. Awesome job!

  9. I think there are some mismatched similes here, and no matter how intriguing the story, they're really bothering me. Skin in general is just not a really leech-like, thing, and neither does lightning pound. And grains of sand are too small to stifle.

    Overall, an intriguing beginning. I like voices in heads pretty much always. :)

  10. There are some really interesting descriptions that make your voice memorable.

    I'm definitely interested in who this woman is and why the protagonist has no memory - both make me want to keep reading.

    However, there are a couple of points where you repeat - no memory and desert at the beginning.

    Interesting setup.

  11. Unfortunately I've read that this is a cliche that agents hate - someone waking up in a strange place with no memory. I agree with others who said he sounds too calm, he should be panicking. For example, 'I'm in a desert and everything is beige' is a bland sentence with no emotion.

    Not hooked, sorry.

  12. This is a potentially really great story. I want to know the answers to why he's in the desert, who the girl is, etc. But the story is lacking some visualization. Perhaps this is telling more than showing.

    Add more feeling so the reader gets a connection right away and then you're solid.

  13. This is an interesting set up to a story, but I felt very disconnected from Tobin. I wonder if Tobin's first actions would be to look for his memories. He might wonder about how he got there, but I'm not sure he would be so concerned about his life before or his looks. Isn't his immediate problem figuring out what is going on?

    The last paragraph bumped me out because I wondered how much time had passed and what led to the end of the headache. Also, I feel like his motivation for standing up should be to figure out what's going on, not to get off the sand.

    Even though I felt disconnected from Tobin, I like the voice. It's eerie.

  14. I am curious as to what is going on here, just don't know if I am curious to keep reading for long. I need something more to happen, fast, which it may. I know it is hard to get a good scene across in only 250 words. In the last paragraph I think you need a new adjective as I am not sure grains of sand are stifling. Good luck!

  15. This is a cliche opening, but sometimes it works, most recently with The Maze Runner. I agree with the others about the redundancies. I like the details in the descriptions, but don't have a sense of reality; i.e., this could be a dream sequence, in which case I wouldn't be as interested.

  16. A person who has to figure out who s/he is has been fodder for many stories. The interesting detail to me is that he can hear a voice in his head. (I am going to call the MC he just because that's the impression I have.)

    The writing cab tightened. "everything is beige" doesn't tell the reader much. Waking up with no memory obviously means he doesn't know how he got there. And yeah, waking up could very well be one of those things that turn many people off. If you must do it, get to the voice in his head sooner. And he needs to react to that. Not just that he thinks he should know the voice, but is he freaked out? Does he react physically? Does he try to make it stop? DOes the woman's voice bring up warmth? fear?

  17. An easy fix to the waking up with no memory scenario would be to have Tobin come to awareness suddenly with no memory, i.e. Next thing he knows, he's walking in a desert.

    I agree with Barbara, though, that what you have here doesn't really grab me. Part of that has to do with repetition of a cliche (no memory x2) and the uninteresting setting. If he woke up in a strange city or room or an alien landscape, at least there'd be some interesting description for the readers to feed on.

    That said, I think you could spend more words on describing what he sees and what is immediately around him, including his body. If he has no memory, is he sort of surprised by what he looks like?

    The pile of sand in his mouth really bothers me. What kept him from choking? Why isn't his first reaction to spit it out?

    There's a story here, but I'm not getting any of it. The only hint of what's beyond the desert is the woman's voice -- which is interesting, but not enough. And I agree that just because he has no memory doesn't mean he has no emotions. A little fear, excitement, anger, whatever, would go a long way towards making this intro more immediate.

    But those are all rationalizations. The long and the short of it is that I'm not hooked.

  18. I agree with Barbara on all counts. I want more emotion, to get a better feel for the MC's voice. I think this could be really, really interesting, especially if he was freaked out about the lack of memory or the voice in his head, but I'm not hooked yet.

  19. Hey, Secret Agent here! I feel a bit inept commenting on this beginning, as I’ve very openly said many times that I don’t like “Where am I? Who am I? What’s going on?” beginnings. I see A LOT of those in my slush and they never seem to grab. Sure, waking up without one’s memory is a scary thing that should, I guess, pull a reader in, but if a character doesn’t know who they are, I don’t either, and that’s going to keep me from caring. Some of the bones-to-dust/leeches-on-my-skeleton language felt a bit melodramatic, as well, and that always gets in the way of authenticity for me.