Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#9 January Secret Agent

TITLE: The Words of Adriel
GENRE: MG Urban Fantasy

Go to your room. Close the door. Lock it. Light a candle. Turn out the lights. Before you read further, recite aloud the following words.

I cast aside the shadows that follow me. I shed myself of all which is unholy. Cloak me from the ones who seek to do me harm. Protect me. Guard me. Keep me.

Good. They won't be able to watch you now. Under no circumstances read beyond this point unless you've followed my directions. Otherwise they'll know I've told you. You'll start to hear them. At first you'll think they're just voices in your head, but they'll grow louder, whispering in your ears all sorts of horrifying things that will keep you awake at night. Then you'll see them. Everywhere. In the eyes of your friends, down dark alleys, when you're alone. They're always there when you're alone. Keep the candle burning. Keep the door locked. And whatever you do, do not turn on the lights.

It began with a book. Bound in leather and stuffed with worn, yellowing pages, the book found me. It sat just out of reach on the top shelf of the school library, surrounded by other books, but alone nonetheless. Its torn spine caught my attention as I searched the fiction section for the next crime novel to help me fall asleep at night.

My psychiatrist had recommended reading to put an end to my insomnia. I know, right? What thirteen-year-old suffers from insomnia? Give me a break.


  1. What a fun opening! Shades of The Neverending Story. Only with a dark side. :)

  2. Ooh, this is nicely creepy. I assume there's some formatting meant to distinguish the recitation from the rest of the text.

    Nice voice - I'd read on!

  3. I love it. I would definitely read on.

    This sentence seemed awkard to me:

    Bound in leather and stuffed with worn, yellowing pages, the book found me.

    Might want to reverse to:

    The book found me, bound in leather and stuffed with worn, yellowing pages.

  4. This is cool. I love that the reader is supposed to recite those lines. What a way to engage them in the story.

    My only nitpick is that the mention of a psychiatrist threw me a little. I think of thirteen year-olds getting help with insomnia from school counselors instead, but if the MC sees a psychiatrist as part of the book, then that's fine.

    I love the voice, and I want to keep reading.

  5. I love the opening. Giving middle grade readers the sense that they are being spoken to is a great hook.

    I agree with Elena. The sentence "Bound in leather and stuffed with worn, yellowing pages, the book found me," is a bit awkward. Other than that I liked it all...especially the last paragraph. Great voice and great job!

  6. I have to agree that 'Bound in leather and stuffed with worn, yellowing pages, the book found me' tripped me up at first but I like it. And if you reverse it like Elena suggested, be careful b/c 'The book found me, bound in leather and stuffed with worn, yellowing pages.' makes it sound like "me" is bound in leather and stuffed instead of "the book" which... is hilarious but incorrect lol.

    This is really interesting. I'd read on.

  7. I like this opening a lot. Shades of Percy Jackson in the opening, and definitely tells us that there will be danger. I agree with the line about the book, and also think you could shorten the first few paragraphs to get us to the action sooner.

  8. Hooked. Spooky and intriguing. Nice voice. I think mentioning the psychiatrist at the end adds to the suspense.

    Good Job!

  9. Very cool and creepy. I like the voice. I'd probably shorten the opening a bit and get right into it, but besides that, well done!

  10. I agree that danger and suspense fill this section. I am not sure how middle grade readers would react, I find it distracting to be addressed to. It is a style choice, and the writing is strong, so for other readers, this may not be a distraction.

    It seems to veer into YA for me.

  11. It felt YA to me too.
    But I did like it. I think I'd shorten the opening and get into the action faster.

  12. I liked this! It does seem at the upper limit of MG or early YA. Great voice and I love the warning at the beginning - well done!

  13. Wow! Well, the beginning certainly hooked me and I know if I was in MG, I would have chills right now, glancing about me nervously. You managed to spook my inner Middle Grader! Good job, because I think that's what you're aiming for.

    At first I thought this was going to be in second person, and I thought, cool -- unique! But then as I read along, I realized it was first. Threw me off a _tiny_ bit.

    I couldn't connect the beginning part -- with the books and the urgent scariness -- to the last part. I think I'd need to read on to understand why.

    But then the voice completely changes at the end! I was thrown off. We go from creepy formal to best friend informal. I loved the voice anyway. Oh, well. I'd still keep reading. :)

  14. This reads a little old to me for Middle Grade. I could definitely see it as YA. Generally I hate when narrators break the fourth wall and directly address readers but, in this case it works. Wonderfully spooky--I would read on.

  15. Some valid points.

    But I think this reads fine for M/G today's Y/A has much more of an edge and more mature subject matter.

    Late middle grader's will love this chilling and suspenseful beginning.

    Now for the sentence in question ...
    You might want to start the paragraph with ...

    It began with this book that found me. Bound in leather.... Then cut the next sentence.

    Or just cut out the sentence ... the book found me and leave everything else the same.

    Otherwise this except is well written and very exciting. It leaves the reader wanting more. What is really going on here?

    Good luck. Excellent job.

  16. I really love this. I think the last two lines are brilliant. Whoa! Her psychiatrist? Is it all real? Is it all made up? And I love the way that after dropping the psychiatrist bomb, she makes fun of the fact she has insomnia - as if that were what was interesting about the previous sentence.

    Great job - I want more.

  17. I would read on (even having been warned not to). The main question in my mind is this: Why is the MC telling this to whoever is reading the book? If reading this book will be dangerous for the reader, then what does the reader get out of it (in the MC's opinion)?

    The setup implies that "they" aren't aware of you and that you can't see "them" until the MC has told you about them.

    The only read nitpick I have is this: "but alone nonetheless". If the book is surrounded by other books, then it's not alone. If you're saying that it stood out, that's different, and I would clarify.

    As I said, I would read on, though I'd be really disappointed if the 2nd person statements that hooked me were abandoned altogether as the story goes on.

  18. I thought this was really interesting and I would read on. You definitely grabbed me.

    But you have to consider your intended audience, and while the book is written in MG language, the MC's voice is not. You're writing for 8-12 year old's, What 8 yr. old even knows there's such a thing as a crime novel? What 12 yr old goes around saying 'nonetheless?' Will they have any idea as to what insomnia is? Will they infer the same things from the text as an adult?

    You've got a child MC and you're calling it MG, but you're writing adult. You have to also write it at a mid-grade reading level, 3rd to 6th graders. You don't have to dumb it down, but you do have to watch sentence stucture and word choices. For instance, 'nonetheless' could be 'anyway.' Instead of a crime novel, have her read a comic book or some manga. Remember, you're a kid telling this story, not an adult.

  19. I love the premise and I love the creepy, shadowed feel this opening has. (Though I agree, the voice did feel a little too mature for MG...but it's close.)

    That being said, I do think that the character-addressing-the-reader approach,though well written (the short, declarative sentences were perfect), felt a little gimmicky to me, and it was distracting. I think if you want to go that direction you have to be sure you can keep it consistent throughout the book, without doing it too much. And 3 paragraphs, right in the opening scene, is pushing it.

  20. I loved it! It was very engaging! I wish there was more on here so I could continue reading!

    Great job!

  21. Great! Definitely grabs your attention right from the start.

    It has a brilliant beginning. I hope to read the rest!

  22. Perfect for Middle Grade! I wish there was more. The story appears to be engaging and slightly creepy. With a start like this, the rest is sure to be wonderful.

    Thank you for letting me read this!

  23. What a great way to start! I literally found myself reading the words out loud, which has a great effect. I love that the voice is different and engaging. Each sentence makes you want to keep reading, pulling you in little by little. I'm already hooked and want to know more!

  24. Love it. I would definitely keep reading, but I agree that the middle could be trimmed a little.


  25. It sounds YA to me, too. I also agree with the comments that suggest shortening the beginning and getting right to the story; too much second-person can turn some readers off.

    I'd keep reading.

  26. Hey, Secret Agent here! You’ve got a really arresting beginning here, and your sentences mimic the rhythmic urgency of a prayer. Great job. I like the direct address…it adds to the urgency. Two quibbles: I see a lot of submissions with a book as the vehicle for something…it’s really overdone, plus, the intensity of the voice feels older than 13 to me. But good job on the writing!

  27. This grabbed me right from the beginning... great suspense, totally got me.
    Maybe therapist might be less jarring? Or how would a 13-year-old refer to their psych? Shrink? It feels like we've been taken out of this amazing beginning an put somewhere else... not sure why... maybe talk about the insomnia first?

    Best of luck, this is fab!

  28. Like I others, I was drawn into the opening, even though it's unusual. I did think the third paragraph went on a little too long. I think it would still be effective if it's trimmed by half. I'm not sure kids read 'crime novels'. Mysteries maybe, but crime novels?