Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Chasing the Tail Lights
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The darkness is absolute. I'm not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they're already wide. Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I'm in. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. I waver on the edge of consciousness, wavy gray lines wafting across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me - what's left of them - fighting the darkness threatening to drown me. I gasp for breath, certain now I won't pass out. Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fingers around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my scored digits, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. A huge weight pins my legs to the ground. I can't move them, can't even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do.


  1. I want to know what "this" is now! Great job -- taut and tense and engaging.

    A couple of things stood out to me as questions/problems. I had a hard time believing the narrator didn't know if his/her eyes were open or closed. Perhaps it didn't matter, but not knowing didn't seem to jive with him/her being able to identify shards of glass by feel in the next paragraph. The struggle from losing consciousness to being certain he/she won't pass out happens quickly and without explanation -- what made him/her certain? What made breathing easier?

    I'm not sure what "scored digits" are. Is the narrator pulling him/herself forward with just fingers? And since the legs are pinned, what part of the body is moving?

    Finally, is the light distant or close? Did it suddenly appear? If not, how could there have been "absolute" darkness earlier?

    Again, I really was engaged, and would definitely keep reading. But those little things popped out at me and made me work a little harder than I wanted to to picture the scene.

  2. this is such a vivid and enthralling opening. The tension is so psychological but with the sensory inputs, it heightens the entire experience, which works great for a person who looks like they're trying to figure out what's going on.

    Amazing hook.

  3. The description is good and the scene is vivid, but at the moment there's just not enough information for me to sink my teeth into. All I can guess is that it's someone who's been in an accident, but that could be totally off. I don't even know if they're male or female.

    Keeping back too much information is one of my pet peeves, sorry, so I wouldn't read on.

  4. Pretty damned good.

    savage bolt of pain may be overdone - either savage pain or a bolt of pain, I think, might suffice
    scored digits is slightly odd phrasing - torn fingertips? cut fingers?

    But I would so turn the page.

  5. I thought it was a little overdone. I couldn't believe he didn't know if his eyes were open or not, or that he had to strain to open them. Opening your eyes isn't even something you have to think about.

    fighting the darkness - how does one do that?
    that threatened to drown him - he's already surrounded in darkeness and has hasn't drowned yet.

    WHy does he suddenly become certain he won't pass out? WHat has changed?

    scored digits

    At the beginning the dark is absolute. He moves two inches and there's suddeny light. Why couldn't he see it before?

    I'm thinking something happened to him and he was left for dead on the side of the road and what he's seeing are taillights (because of the title) and while I do like the premise, I just feel like it's a bit much. Maybe tone it down a bit and get the logic right. And it would be nice to know if the MC is a he or a she.

    I'd give it a few more pages.

  6. I found this interesting. Yes, I do agree with some of the notes above regarding the wording and such. I would cut down on some of the description, not by much, but a little bit. I liked how you described the realization of the pieces of glass in the mind of the character.

    I was good until the "scored digits". I got it, of course, but it made my brain stop, and my eyeballs went back over it again because it made my brain stop. It's cool to find new ways of describing things, but in this case, that particular wording doesn't work.

    It did get my interest, though. I would continue reading.

  7. This is a dynamic opening. I was glued to every word. The prose is original and beautifully written. I felt that you expressed the mc's feelings very well, and I'd definitely read on.

  8. I agree with all the comments above. Some of the wording (i.e. torn digits) and the contradictions (i.e. if the MC strains to push their eyelids open, then it is clear they're closed AND 'not a lot of light', but then it's bright in next sentence) tore me away from the tension and panic of being in a strange location.

    I think in parts you build tension with the description. But one thing that is missing is the MC's fear or confusion as to where they are. They can't breath. They're in a dark place. They've been bopped over the head and it hurts to lift their head. They just cut their fingers on glass. If you add fear, it would really heighten tension.

    I like the fact that you haven't revealed whether your MC is male or female. This is a clever hook to make the reader want to find out!

    Your last line leaves the opening on an awesome cliffhanger! Where is she? Car boot perhaps, as the title suggests? Why is she there? Who has got her? It's definitely an opening that makes me want to read more to find the answers.

  9. The opening had me intrigued about what happened to the character... I thought they were tied up because they had something over their mouth/nose making it hard to breath. The one thought that kept going through my mind though was, why don't they think back to the last thing they remembered to give us some insight into who the character is.

    Agree with the previous comments on not knowing their eyes are open, and that it was a bit overdone, but this has promise and I want to know what the thing is.

    Good luck.

  10. Strip it back and you've nailed it! Drop the digits thing and give us some sense of what's happening because the tension's certainly there and it would only intensify if I had a sense of what is happening.
    Also, I'd drop the 'the' in your title and make it 'Chasing Tail Lights'.
    Good job!

  11. This is a great opening. You did a superb job with building the tension and making the reader wanting more. I did notice a couple of repeats that could easily be ironed out. At the start you say, The darkness is absolute. Then, Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I'm in. Which basically say the same thing. Apart from that, I absolutely love this opening. Fantastic job!

  12. What I liked: Effective, tense opening. This sample gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and made me assume the worst.

    What needed work: A clunky phrase or two. “Scored digits” definitely made me cringe. I also would have loved to know a little more about this character to get some sense of where he/she just came from. I’m sure it comes quickly in the sample pages, but even something like, “Last thing I remembered was the date with Billy” or “I’d been racing my ex-girlfriend’s Mustang down Breakneck Quarry” or whatever.

    Would I read on based on this sample? Sure.

  13. Glass, darkness, red light. Where is she? Or he? I have many questions in my mind that would keep me turning the page to find out more. Very intriguing beginning. I'm not a big fan of present tense, but it works well here.