Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Transmigration
GENRE: Young Adult Mystery

I saw him in my nightmare, the faceless boy that reached out for me just as my legs gave up, my arms stopped thrashing, and my last breath consisted of pure water. For just one moment, while putting my pain aside, I felt exhilarated. I was going to be saved. This nameless boy promised me he would save me. But it was too late. He was too late. I let the water pool over my head as I began my descent towards the bottom, the boy's hands pulling at his hair, his anguish reflecting through the ripples in the water.

I awoke with a scream. A bloodcurdling, agonizing scream. Looking around the dark expanse of my room, I wasn't floating lifeless on the placid surface of a pool, but rather in my bed, a layer of sweat drenching my sheets. Shivering more from fear than temperature, I pulled the sheet tight across my chest, looking longingly at my purple comforter twisted in a heap at the foot of my bed. With the glow of my nightlight, I could see sweat glistening on my forearm as I stretched out my arm and begged it to stop shaking. It was just a nightmare, I wanted to tell myself. A nightmare that never went away.

As the shakes spread throughout my body, paralyzing me with fear, I grasped my chest for relief. Breathe, I demanded of myself. Breathe. I. Couldn't. Breathe.


  1. There's some strong writing here but I'm not sure this is the best place to begin. I seem to remember a few entries in the last SA contest starting with a drowning scene. Then switching it to a dream might not be the best idea either. I hate it when people I know recap their dreams for me. I don't even know this mc. Not even the gender. But if you are going to do a dream scene, which I'm not a big fan of, keeping it short like this is the way to go. Good luck!

  2. I'd tend to agree that dream scenes are too common. Can you find another place to start? The writing isn't bad, it's the cliche of the dream sequence.

  3. I have to concur - dream openings are a hard sell. I think you should look for another way to begin your work. I think the writing is strong and if this was anywhere else in your manuscript it would be a pretty good passage.

    As it is, all this does is tell me the MC has a dream about drowning and has trouble recovering.

    I didn't care for the very end. The individual words as sentences "I. Couldn't. Breathe." seems cliched. I think you've done an excellent job creating a sense of panic in the sentences before and don't need to resort to that to get your point across.

    Based on the sample I've read, I wouldn't continue reading. But, I really your writing style and I would definitely have continued if you started a different way.

  4. Some strong sensory writing here. But the dream opening isn't one that pulls me in. Perhaps it would be more compelling after I knew something about the main character, something that made me sympathetic about the terrible nightmare.

  5. The problem with starting with a dream is that the reader gets caught up in it, and just when it starts to get interesting, the MC wakes up, so we don't get to see what happens, and then we have to start all over, acclimating ourselves to the new situation. If it happens in the middle of a story, it doesn't matter, because we're already grounded in the reality of your story. At the beginning, it's often confusing and disappointing.

    The MC also tells us she saw the boy 'in the nightmare' which implies she's awake and telling us about it. She describes the scene as if she's awake and telling about it. Then she wakes up, so that throws the reader off, too.

    And in the dream, the MC is sinking below the water. When she wakes, she's looking for herself floating on it. Keep the logic issues consistent.

    And perhaps consider what you're presenting in these 250 words. A girl (or possibly a boy) wakes up frightened from a nightmare. We don't know the MC's gender, name, age, or location. We can gues that the story will somehow concern the boy in the dream, and the MC will probably be in the drowning situation for real at some point, but that's it. It's hard to relate to a character when you don't know who they are.

  6. Ah, gad, a dream beginning. It's not impossible to make a dream start work, but you're narrowing you odds markedly. Despite the strong writing, nothing here to make me care about the MC - he or she had a bad dream. That's all I know. Not the best place to start, I think.

  7. I enjoyed your strong writing, but then realized you can't sustain a book IMO on a dream or a recurring dream (and so say the agents who reject them)...unless.... you have a paranormal element so you could write your genre as young adult paranormal mystery or young adult mystery with elements of paranormal. It would disappoint your readers if this boy doesn't show up in her real life some how. If he does, you have every right to tack on paranormal.

  8. I'm always intrigued by a mystery with young adult characters. But this read more like a paranormal to me.

    And yes, agree with the posters about the dream sequence opening being overdone.

    But you have a good voice. Perhaps try a different opening.

  9. I think you have some very strong writing and wonderful imagery. Dreams are hard, yes, but if that's how you want to open, then somehow make the "waking up" part keep the dream hook alive.

  10. The voice and the mood sucked me in. It's very strong, evocative writing.

    Opening with the dream didn't bug me as long as some action is going to immediately follow. The "bloodcurdling scream" and even "I awoke with a scream" seem overdone to me (not in your book but in any book; the awoke w/a scream seems cliché). If you agree, you could change it to awoke with a scream stuck in her throat or choking back a scream, ragged breath?? Not sure.

    Overall, this is very interesting to me. Best wishes with it!