Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Tell Me This
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

The footprints started at the edge of the trail.

Sophie Rowan found the solid ground beneath the mud and pushed herself to her knees to get a better look. She hadn't imagined it: the large impressions were still there, leading through the fog that was quickly consuming the forest. If she hadn't slipped in the mud, she wouldn't have seen them at all, half-hidden beneath the bushes that lined this part of the trail.

But that wasn't possible, she thought to herself as curiosity battled her confusion. The footprints originated at the edge of the path and led into the forest . . . but what confused Sophie most was that she knew, for a fact, they hadn't been there half an hour before when she walked that same stretch of trail.

Ellery Wildlife Preserve had closed to the public nearly an hour ago. No one was allowed on the trails except Sophie.

She reached into her raincoat to take out the thick blue notebook she kept her reports in. She wanted to mark down the footprints before they washed away, but a movement out of the corner of her eye made her leap to her feet.

"Who's there?" she called. At least the howling of the wind made it impossible for anyone to hear the quaver in her voice.

She could've sworn something had moved in the woods. She'd heard the faint crack of twigs breaking on the ground, and seen a shadow drift between the trees, but where?


  1. At first it sounds like she came looking for the footprints and then that she found them by happenstance. I wonder about her level of excitement also because as the reader I don't share her concern - does that make sense?

  2. I'm intrigued, and the writing is taut. There is a bit of a doom-and-gloom feeling, but I think with a few small edits, you could heighten that quite a bit and make this beginning a lot stronger.

    The third paragraph is a little problematic. You say in the second paragraph that she only saw the footprints because she slipped in the mud. Yet she is absolutely certain they weren't there when she passed by before. If you can massage that a bit, I'd buy into it a lot more.

    It also might be beneficial to describe the footprints a bit more. Is there anything unusual about them (other than their presence off the path)? Are they human? Shoes or bare feet? If shoes, is there anything you could say about the tread? A hiking tread would mean business, while a flat (or a heel) would mean something entirely different. Any details you can add to heighten the vague sense of menace already there would make this beginning pop.

  3. You started with some suspense and a great first sentence! I agree with a couple of comments about how she found the prints. In the second paragraph, you say "still there." I assumed she'd seen them earlier, not that, as you describe later, that she tripped and found them in the mud. I think you can clear it up. ANd what is she thinking at this moment? I'd be scared out in a park, all alone at night, and finding fresh to be exact. And I agree with giving us info on the marks. Are like a bear, are there scratch marks where nasty claws dug into the mud...WHAT? : ) Good luck!

  4. Great first sentence! Would like a couple more details or hints about the main character so we begin to care about what happens to her. Why is she in the mud in the first place? Could she be so completely convinced she hadn't seen the footprints earlier, since they were so hard to find in the first place? Your opening promises some great tension -- I think knowing more about the footprints, like Richelle suggested, would be a great way to ramp it up. And I wanted to FEEL muddy. If she fell in the mud, wouldn't she at least have to wipe off her hands before reaching into her raincoat? Pile on the sensory detail, there's a wealth of opportunity with your set- up here.

  5. Too slow. If you tighten this, you could get in more that would let us see a bit more of Sophie.

  6. For me the tension was stolen because I didn't understand why the footprints were so scary.

    Since she is the only one that is supposed to be in the park at that time, wouldn't she know what made the footprints--or that what scared her was that she didn't recognize them and she knew all the animals? Are they human or animal? How big is big? It would be more frightening to me if I knew what the main character thought the prints were or what scared her.

  7. I must agree with Pat. I liked your prose, but I think this would be scarier if the footprints were described -- unless they're plain shoeprints. If so, then I'd need a good reason, like people being murdered in the woods, to understand why the character is frightened.

  8. I thought you should have started with her actually falling. The first line is intriguing, but it gives the impression the MC is standing there looking at the footprints. When she pushed herself to her knees, it was a surprise to find she was actually laying in the mud.

    And then, she's laying in the mud. Perhaps add some reaction to that. It's hard to believe she wouldn't mind it at all.

    And as others have said, definitely describe the footprints. Depending on what kind of footprints they are, they can change the whole tone and mood. They can justify her fear,
    and/or add tension.

    And it's all told. Add some showing to make it more immediate.

  9. What I liked: Beginning on a moment of high impact.

    What needed work: I didn’t find myself sucked in by this sample. We enter a situation that is obviously important to the main character, but doesn’t yet feel important to us. This sample needs some work to ensure we feel what Sophie’s feeling; we need to feel the fear she feels, and as of now it feels too rushed.

    Would I read on based on this sample? No.

  10. The last sentence of the first paragraph should come right after your (good!) mysterious sentence. The stuff in-between is just confusing. There's good mystery here - let's cut to that and forget the stuff in-between. It doesn't feel necessary - or maybe it will be later, but we can get it then. I'd like to know more about what she thinks might be moving/sneaking up on her.

    Good luck!

  11. I actually didn't like your first sentence. I wasn't sure what you meant when you said the footsteps began at the edge of the trail. Are there no prints on the trail? Was it the end of the trail and the person had kept walking? I didn't understand it but I seem to be the only one. I do agree with those who said to start with her falling in the mud and then have her see the footprints. Also, you tell us that she had heard the cracking of twigs, etc. This would be much more powerful if you showed us, eg. Sophie heard a twig crack... etc. Leave us in the moment with your MC, don't tell us what she heard after the fact.