Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #4

TITLE: The Stricken
GENRE: YA Dark Fantasy

My footsteps clopped down the sidewalk, urgent, under the sound of busy shoppers. I didn't have much time. The storm would be here any minute. I dashed into the restaurant where Mom worked, my eyebrows scrunched in worry. There. Mom was behind the bar, hanging a picture.

"Mom!" I yelled.

The sea of customers didn't flinch. They ignored me, like always, their eyes passing through me as if I were a pane of glass.

"You're not going to make it."

I felt my mouth quirk up to one side. "Wanna bet?"

I pushed my way through the crowd, grateful for the presence of his voice. The feel of him inside my head was like chocolate. Smooth, comforting.

"It isn't safe for you to be out. There's nothing you can do for your mother."

I gritted my teeth and shook my head. I had lost Dad to the storm and wasn't going to lose Mom too.

I dug my fingers into Mom's shoulder and forced her to face me. The usual look of confusion traveled over her face before a hint of recognition hit.

"Clara! What are you doing here?"

"No time to talk." I dragged her from the restaurant like a mad bulldozer, ready to flatten anything in my path.

"It's here," he said. "Clara, you need to run."

I peeked over my shoulder and froze. The familiar dark cloud moved toward us, gliding down the street like poison. Crap. We were too late.


  1. I like the strong voice here. I also like that you convey a lot of information in a small space without the piece becoming confusing. I would definitely read on!

  2. Great sense of urgency here! There were a couple of places that felt a little outside a first person POV (the scrunched eyebrows, the mouth quirking up to one side--yes, you can technically feel those things, but I think they are noticed more by people watching you externally than they are from inside, if that makes sense). The other place that threw me was the fact that people look through her like a pane of glass, and then in the next line, someone speaks to her. Because of her seeming invisibility, I assumed she was the speaker at first, only it turned out to be someone else who may or may not actually be present. So, a little confusion in small, easily fixable spots. Overall, though, great tension. Well done starting in the story itself! I'd read on. :)

  3. There's enough here to keep me interested. She's got a voice in her head which felt like Dad, but I'm thinking it's not. Then you have this storm which doesn't seem to be your average type storm. And Mom doesn't seem to recognize her own daughter. So something weird is going on.

    In the first parg, instead of saying the storm was almost here, you might give us a small glimpse of it approaching so we know what it is we're supposed to be araid of, and it will also help create an eerie mood for you. Then at the end, when the storm's actually on top of them, expand on that earlier bit of decription by making the storm bigger and badder.

    I'd read more.

  4. I really like the sense of urgency you've created! Plus you've hooked me with a pretty cool mystery. Why are people looking through her? Why doesn't her own mother acknowledge her or recognize her right away?

    I had a little trouble with the first sentence - "clopped" in particular. Clop makes me think of a horse ambling through the street...slowly. I'm not sure it worked for a race against time.

    I'm not sure the feel of chocolate in her head worked for me either...didn't give me the right feel or visual. I would suggest a look at some of your verb choices.

    But, overall - you've piqued my interest. I'd read on. Thanks!

  5. I liked the sense of urgency the oncoming storm creates, and giving the little bit about her dad makes us understand why this is so important to her without bagging the scene down in backstory.

    But then the part about this other speaker had me confused. Since their words are in quotation marks, I assume this other person is with her, but there's no mention of him in the narration. If it's like a voice in her head that only she hears, then his words should probably be in italics instead of quotes. Either way, if the main character understands what this voice is, then there should be some explanation for the reader. Otherwise it seems like a false way to create suspense.

    I'd keep reading to figure out what up with this other voice and what kind of storm this is, but I'd prefer to know what this other voice is from the start rather than being confused about it.

  6. Wow, I really like this one! The Tension, mysterious voice in her head, plus I want to know what the dark cloud is. ;)

  7. Ooh! I like this! I love the oncoming storm (and want to know more about what it does) and the voice in her head and the fact that she might not make it. That she's trying to save her Mom when she's already lost her Dad makes her instantly sympathetic. Great work!

  8. Liked this very much except for the first sentence. Lots of tension and story questions are raised without being confusing. Nice job!

  9. I loved the tension present in this. I don't think you need "urgent" in the first line. As written, it modifies the sidewalk. You can also lose "There" when she sees her mom. Why don't the customers turn? That made me think it was another the-mc-is-a-ghost story. This was my favorite line: The feel of him inside my head was like chocolate. Smooth, comforting.

  10. This is cool. I'd totally read on. Though I was a bit confused who was speaking at times. I thought the 2nd line of dialog was spoken by her mother. And until the narrator's name was spoken, I (for some probably sexist reason) assumed it was a guy, which made the references to "him" and "his voice" confusing as well. But that's just me.

  11. Intriguing, but his interjections are confusing - perhaps if those were all set in italic, and perhaps not in quotes.

  12. What I liked: The sense of urgency and the questions raised by the strangeness of the events.

    What needed work: As noted above, some misplaced modifiers. Confusion over the additional voice Clara hears. And, although I liked the urgency, I actually felt things could slow down. There’s a great deal of confusing, rapid fire information being presented—the storm, the additional voice, the fact that no one can see Clara—and I feel the author can take a little more time setting up the scene. All we know is it’s a bar, but not what type of bar, or where the narrator is coming from, or other relevant details.

    Would I continue reading based on this first page? Sure.

  13. Thanks for the awesome feedback! What a fun contest!

    And FYI, the voice was in italics, but must have not transferred onto the blog.

    Feedback is the greatest gift of all! I'm honored for all of your suggestions ;)

  14. Very interesting, would keep on reading. What I'd change: sentence structure here and there, so we don't start too many sentences with 'I'. But all in all, great voice and interesting premise.

  15. Ooo... good catch with the "I's", Jayde!

    I've taken all of the suggestions and it reads much stronger now. Thanks!

  16. Hooked - yes! But the first paragraph needs some reworking. I think you can give readers a better impression of the MC's hurried walk better than 'clopped' mixed with 'urgent' (I don't think they really go together) and you lost me completley with 'shoppers.'

    Everything after that, expecially the dialogue, flows really well. I want to know who the voice in her head belongs to! Good luck!

  17. I have some issues with this but I won't repeat what others have said, I just want to add that I would really like to read more.