Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Thirteen
GENRE: Science Fiction

Absolute dark spooked her, always had. MiKayla forced her gaze away from the black night beyond the screen-covered window and back to the bare room with four narrow beds. Only one was in use--hers. After a moment of concentration she clamped down her mind-sensing. She did not want to connect with any minds, outside or inside. Not yet.

She sat up, pushed her hair from her face. The thin blanket bunched around her waist. A trace of light glowed from her open suitcase where she'd slipped a battery-powered nightlight when Mom wasn't looking. One piece of luggage, that's all she'd been allowed. No books. No electronics of any kind. Not even a clock to check the time.

The moon should be visible here at the equator like in northern Nakbe. A sliver of moon shed some light. She glanced out the window. But why expect outside lights in unsettled, forested flatland?

A loud hoot echoed through the window and she jumped.

Screeches, clicks, chattering and other strident noises started up. She rubbed at the goosebumps on her bare arms. Maybe the huge trees she'd seen when they'd flown to this waystation last night cut off the moonlight. Flatland, dense with immense trees-- What work would people find here?

She sighed. Enough of questioning the unknown. Had she slept? She sent her awareness inward to check. Not tired, not sleepy, must be early morning, before suns-rise.

And her thirteenth birthday.

The day she'd anticipated and dreaded all year.


  1. I think you have an interesting setup here. The elements I find most compelling are her mind-sensing ability and the fact that she has both anticipated and dreaded her thirteenth birthday.

    The world-building elements are a bit overwhelming. What I really want to know is why this child is waking up alone on such an important day.

    It's a great start! Keep writing :)

  2. I like this start. It gives me information about the situation, and creates enough of a "what next" to keep me reading. Nice work!

  3. I really like the setting. It's an unknown place but familiar enough to readers to see it. And of course there's the question of exactly where they are and why Mikayla can do this mind-sensing. The only question I had was where she is at the beginning, because it feels like she's outside looking in at her bed, and someone else is in it. But then she sits up. So maybe focus that POV just a little. I'd read more to find out what's up, though!

  4. This had me totally wanting to read more. I felt grounded in the setting, a part of it with Mikayla. Left me wondering why she was alone on such an important day.

  5. Well written opening using the senses. Lots of worldbuilding up front, like the mind sensing, and the atmosphere evokes a sense of 'waiting', not quite knowing what will be coming down the pikc. The hook, of her 13th birthday, an echo of the title is superb and has me looking forward to reading more :)

  6. I really liked this. The storyline, the world building and the no-holds-barred tension.
    Beautiful beginning...I'd read more!
    Good Luck!

  7. Intriguing but could be tightened.

  8. I agree, loved the setting and the set up. Very spooky.

    The only thing that stood out to me is why would a 13 yr old (or almost) wonder what kind of work people found there? If there's a reason someone so young would wonder that and it's explained later, no problem. If not, I'd suggest having her wonder about something more in line with her age.

    I'd love to read more!

  9. I loved the sense of removal from the familiar: the bare room with only her bed filled, the restrictions on what she could bring, and the conflicted anticipation/dread of her birthday. The mind-sensing and the open questions drew me in.

  10. I'd read on. Really good world building and enough unanswered questions to really drag me in. I feel for her, alone on her birthday in a strange place.

  11. Hmmm... I wonder what turning 13 does to her? She already posesses a unique ability, mind-sensing. I'd read on to find out more about her and what she is doing in this new place, and why alone when there are 3 other beds, and why bringing a battery nightlight does not constitute electronical device (so will she get into trouble because of that?). Lots of questions to make me read on.

  12. Great job on setting, Carol. You really left me wanting to know more. I did wonder why her parents weren't with her. Did they send her there, or did the almost 13 year old get their on her own and how?

  13. This is written well and the premise is interesting. You've set up a nice situation that leaves me wanting to know more.

    There are, however, lots of logic issues. The first sentence implies she's in absolute darkness and yet she's gazing. At what? the darkness? ANd if all she sees is darkness,why does she have to 'force' her gaze away from it? Wherever she looks, that's all she'll see. Darkness.

    Then she sits up and a trace of light comes from her open suitcase. SO she wasn't in absolute darkness in the first parg?

    The moon should be visible--this implies it isn't. In the next sentence, there is a sliver of moon. So now we have a nightlight and a bit of moon in the absolute darkness.

    Maybe the huge trees she'd seen when they'd flown to this waystation last night cut off the moonlight. -- why is this a maybe? She can see a sliver of moon. She should be able to see if the trees are blocking it or not.

    And then she calculates it's early morning just before sunrise, so wouldn't the sky be lightening by then? WHat happened to all the darkness?

    You've created tension and interest and mood in this piece. You've shown and evoked emotions. All very good stuff. But the story has to make sense. Every time I come across a logic issue, it takes me out of the story.

    Take the time to get the logic right and this could be really good.

  14. Beautiful writing and imagery, but the emotional impact feels watered down. Maybe if you tightened the lines a bit, they'd pack a bigger punch. I especially felt it needed a stronger opening sentence. Would love to have a hint about whose minds she would be sensing, since her alone-ness and the desolate environment are emphasized. The anticipation and dread of her thirteenth birthday made me want to read more, but it does echo the beginning of SAVVY by Ingrid Law . . . would read on to see how the story unfolds!

  15. What a great opening! The one thing that sort of confused me once I realized she was only 13 years old is when she wonders what kind of work people will find. Is she talking about jobs for her parents? Have they told her they'll join her once they've found jobs? Oh, and for a split second I thought she was standing, staring out the window, but then she sits up in her bed. Not a big deal and probably just me anyway. Again, great opening! Very gripping and eery!

  16. What I liked: The use of the third person in YA, which, based on these samples, not many authors are willing to try. Decent setup.

    What needed work: Character waking up is very clichĂ©. Some of the details in the sample helped offset this, but I couldn’t help but wish there’d been a different start to the story.

    Also, some of the phrasings sounded very stiff, like “strident noises” and “anticipated and dreaded all year.”

    Finally, I felt some of the details were muddled, like how she at first couldn’t and then could see the moon, and how it felt like she was saying hers was the only bed occupied, which made me think it was by someone else, before realizing it was MiKayla occupying it. Be sure to pay attention to small details such as that.

    Would I read on? Sure.

  17. I was interested in the mind-sensing, and the fact she had been sent away with only one suitcase and no books or electronics. But I got bogged down in all the details, some of which were confusing (like the contradictory moon sentences that the SA and Barbara have already pointed out). I'd read on to find out what her thirteenth birthday meant, and hope the writing tightened up once some action gets underway.