Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Shadow's Turn

There was a girl in Oregon who combed her long black hair over her face so you couldn't tell if she was coming or going. She wore loose black sweaters and pants. Over her mother's objection, she adopted the name Shadow the day her father disappeared.

She was sitting in the Principal's office working on a list of who was going to live and who was going to die. She'd written her own name on both lists; her intuition was vague when it came to her own fate.

Shadow was waiting for the Principal because her English teacher, Mrs. Valium (real name: Valmore), had pressed the discipline button again. One of the guards escorted her down the hall but he waited outside the door, so Shadow was alone with her folded paper and the Principal's wall decorations:

1) Two WANTED posters for known Rogue Citizens who had been seen walking on the beach to avoid the patrols.

2) Official school photos of the kids the Principal had sent to Joycamp since he took command of the school.

3) A life-size, cut-out photo of The Equal standing at a podium, arm raised to make a point.

Shadow recognized one of the Rogue Citizens. The poster identified him as David Atkins, but he went by Moose. He lived a mile deeper into the forest than Shadow did, and his friendship was worth far more than the reward.

She knew the Joycamp kids and feared she'd never see them again.

The Principal entered.


  1. Hooked, hooked, hooked!

    I love the first paragraph but to me it 'sounds' different to the rest. As much as I like it I personally would start with 'Shadow sat in the Principal's office...' it is a great first line though - I'm glad I don't have to decide :)

    The brackets explaining the teacher's real name pulled me out a little bit, but it's a minor thing.

    I want to know about everything on the principal's wall - please tell me when this is available to read, I really really like this.

  2. I want to like this, but the weird distancing of the first two paragraphs threw me off.

    They're not "personal" enough. I feel like a fly on the wall instead of an active participant, but as the story continues, it starts to draw me in more.

    I'm torn. :-/

    Can you make the first two paragraphs more from Shadow's POV too?

  3. I liked the distant narrator's voice, as well as the sharp, declarative sentences. It sets a mood and lets you know immediately what type of story this was going to be. I do wonder if it will work for an entire novel (as opposed to a short story.)

    I also wondered if this was contemporary or not. It doesn't seem to be, but you didn't label it as fantasy or speculative fiction or paranormal.

    You could also make this more active by eliminating 'was' as in 'was sitting' to 'sat,' and 'was waiting' to 'waited.'

    Regardless, I'm hooked!

  4. The first paragraph is an info dump. Delete it. The rest is awesome. I am definitely hooked!

  5. The writing felt very disconnected and mechanical- I didn't really get a sense of why I should be caring. Also, the fact that the MC chose her own name and it was Shadow just screamed "Mary Sue" to me.

  6. Hooked! This sounds like a fascinating world, and Shadow is a fascinating character. I agree with an earlier comment to get rid of the first paragraph - that information can be woven in later on. The first sentence especially through me off, but I ended up loving this!

  7. I like this a lot, and am hooked, though I agree with some of the posts that suggest that this needs to be a bit more personal. I'd like to see more of her. The hair thing reminds me of the girl in "the Ring." I like the irony of the camp name. I like the creation of a dystopian police state. All of that intrigues me. I'd be willing to read more, but I would want to get closer to the MC.

  8. I generally can't stand dystopian novels, and I admit the first paragraph made me roll my eyes and think, right here we go, but i got drawn in, against my will. i liked the hitch in the line 'the equal standing at the podium' --'the equal' standing above everyone else. well done.

  9. This is unusual in that I really like the story and what you're telling me, and I'm eager to find out more - but I don't like the style of writing at all in the first paragraph. I think if you began it in a regular way it would flow far better and I'd empathise with Shadow more.

  10. Hooked, though it came later after the impersonal opening. It didn't work for me, and threw me off, and I honestly would have put the book down after getting to the MC's name. That's just me, these kinds of openings work for other people.

    That said, once I read further--spurred on by the need to critique--I was drawn into the story. Enough questions were raised to keep me wanting answers, and the writing flowed to carry me along the current. Nice job.

  11. I'm torn over this. I did not like the first paragraph at all. It makes Shadow seem dramatic to the point of silliness and that made me feel very distant. And this: "who combed her long black hair over her face so you couldn't tell if she was coming or going" doesn't make sense. I felt like it was more about being stylish and clever than about telling the story.

    But then, I got quite into it. The introduction of the joycamp and Rogue Citizens was the perfect amount of information - enough to get me curious, but not enough to spoil me- and the voice becomes decidedly less angst-ridden, and much more potent and captivating. If I had read just that, I would have been hooked.

    I think I'd read more, and I'll cross my fingers that Shadow is a teen that readers can connect with.

  12. I'm with a lot of the others. The first paragraph put me off. I didn't understand the line about her hair and her name made me think she was a wanna-be Goth or something. But as I read on, I became intrigued by Rogue Citizens, joycamp and the equal. This was written very, very well. I loved the line about Moose's friendship being worth more than the reward. Cut the first paragraph and you'll have a ripper.

    Nit - the 'her' in the third paragraph actually refers to Mrs Valium, not Shadow.