Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #31

GENRE: YA Paranormal

I'm not supposed to be here. The smell of fresh cut trees lures me like a sap beetle to pitch. If I'm caught, I'll be scolded and sent home. Unless I'm caught after I steal, then I'll lose my hand.

I listen. No crackling underbrush. No breaking branches. No voices. I dart from behind a boulder and reach a large cluster of bushes several feet away. I peer through the leaves and branches. No one is in sight. Clutching my herb basket to my chest, I head toward a large redwood. Something grabs my hair. I stifle a scream and reach behind me, feeling, praying I don't touch skin. It's only a branch.

I untangle myself. A few strands of my long auburn hair are left behind. I slip the hood of my red cloak over my head and wish I'd done it sooner. Peering around the redwood, I see chopped logs and branches littering the forest floor. Wagon tracks scar the earth. I might not have long before the gatherers return. A small cut of wood seems to call to me from a pile of discarded twigs and branches. My practiced whittler's eye sees the figure of a rabbit lurking within, begging to be released.

I lift my skirt and step into the open. Autumn leaves crunch underfoot. I stop. A quick glance proves I'm alone. I tiptoe to the pile and kneel. My heart flutters behind my ribcage; anticipation and fear. I snatch the wood and dodge back behind the tree.


  1. Almost hooked. I like the first person POV, it caught my eye and made we want to read more. Also enjoyed figuring out that the character is female by the use of a skirt lift. Other than a fear of getting caught I don't feel too invested in the character. Plus the red hood and woods automatically brought Little Red Riding Hood to mind.
    I would probably read an additional page or two just to see if the story reels me in further or provides more insight but those pages would make or break it for me.

  2. Love the use of liteary devices.

  3. Not quite hooked. I needed a bit more intensity, maybe a clearer idea of what she's afraid of. If she plans on stealing wood for her whittling, why is that such a serious crime? If she plans on stealing something else, what and why? With a bit more background, I think we'd feel her fear more strongly.

  4. A lot of your sentences are 'I did this' and 'I did that.' I would try to vary them more. It also feels a bit vague and detached. I would like to know more about this character and her current circumstance. So, I would keep reading at this point, but I don't know if I am hooked quite yet. Good luck!

  5. I like the little red riding hood reference, and I do wonder when we're going to see the wolf. I'm intrigued and would read more. The fear is real, and that helps up the tension here. It is odd that she wants it to whittle, which is part of why I'm drawn in. Not for frewood, or to make weapons... very interesting!

  6. Interesting that she so fearful of stealing wood. And I also get the feeling of Red Riding Hood.

    But I must admit that the instant I knew she was somewhere she wasn't supposed to be in order to steal something, it made me think of an agent comment I read somewhere recently about being tired of manuscripts where the MC is a thief, or is caught stealing.

    I'd probably read a few more paragraphs though.

  7. Hooked. I love the voice.

    I combine two sentences near the end, "I untangled myself, leaving behind a few strands of my long auburn hair." I think it's a little more active that way but it's just personal preference.

  8. Not quite hooked... the sentences seem slightly mechanical. Maybe vary the structure a little, without saying "I did this.."?

  9. Pulled me in with the rhythm of the first paragraph.

    Agree with varying the I did this, I did that.

  10. I'd prefer if the first line just tells us where she is straight away so I don't have to figure it out: 'I'm not supposed to be in the woods'. Also I don't know what 'pitch' is, but maybe that's a US/UK thing.

    The rest of it is both well-written and overwritten. You need to kill some darlings. You can cut half of your description and get to the action or more info about her (which I'd like so I can get a better feel for her) much quicker.

  11. Not hooked yet. I assume she's scared because she's somewhere she isn't supposed to be, but apart from one stifled scream I get no sense of that until the last paragraph. What does she feel about what she's doing? Why is she doing it? I just feel like I don't know anything about her yet. At the moment all we have is an account of someone going to get wood where she's not supposed to.

    That said, I would read on at least to see whether or not she gets caught, so I must care a bit :)

  12. Not quite hooked.

    Parg 1 - I'd cut "I'm not supposed to be here." The rest of it makes a great opening parg. I think.

    Parg 2 - Instead of telling us there is no crackling underbrush or breaking branches (which conveys no images) tell us what there is. Show us the stillness (which will convey images) The branch clutching at her hair is told matter-of-factly so it doesn't come off as scary at it should.

    Parg 3 - perhaps get her to the woodpile quicker. For me, the sneaking up on the woodpile went on too long. You might also make it a bit more difficult. Perhaps she hears voices in the distance, indicating someone may return. As is, it's too easy. There's no immediate threat to her. A threat will add suspense.

    And others have commented on all the 'I's"

  13. I really enjoyed reading this. The image was very vivid in my mind. There's only two things that I wished were different:

    1.)"The smell of fresh cut trees lures me like a sap beetle to pitch." I found myself reading this sentence a few times because I didn't understand the comparison.

    2.) I see what your MC does, but what is she thinking? I would have loved to get into her mind and poke around and little bit. I want to feel how scared she is.

    3.)While the imagery was vivid, I think the tension could be heightened. Are there people nearby who could turn around and catch her? How long has she been waiting behind the boulder for the gatherers to leave?

  14. Here's the problem here: Girl gets wood. That's all that happens in 253 words. Nothing here makes me care about the girl, and it's risky to start a novel with anything reminiscent of Katniss in The Hunger Games - maybe after this it's nothing like it, but it makes me very leery.

  15. Try setting the scene without using "I see" to get rid of some of the "I's", it's a given she's the one seeing everything. The sentences felt choppy to me also, it didn't flow. The content was good, just the overall feel needs to be smoother. Maybe ask someone to read it out loud to you and see how it sounds.

  16. I felt like there was a red riding hood reference here, which I love and which makes me curious about where this is going, but the voice didn't captivate me as I'd hoped.

    There was too much "I did this. I did that" and I also think the suspense could be increased.

    She's said that she shouldn't be here and that she'll lose her hand if she's caught after stealing, but it doesn't seem like there's a genuine concern.

    No one is there and I assume she's never been caught before... I think the silence could be eerie if you could illustrate how barren everything is, how something isn't right, or say what IS there as oppose to what isn't.

    As it stands, she's nervous, but that's not quite enough to get me invested.