Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #25


He stepped out onto the icy sidewalk,noting how the chill rattled his tired bones. Tucking the box under his arm and pulling his coat tighter, he ventured into the shadows of the poorly lit street. He seemed to blend with the inky night sky but he knew that wouldn't be enough to camouflage him from those who were stalking him. Those who wanted what he had. Those who would kill to get it.

Those who had killed to get it.

Now, it was up to him. He devoted his life to protecting it and he needed to guard it as long as he could. Without someone to keep it from falling into their hands, everything would end. The balance would shift and it all would end. The thought shook him to his core and he hiked the box deeper into his grip and quickened his pace. A little farther and he would have time to think. He needed to think. And he couldn't do it out here. Exposed.

Suddenly, he stopped walking and cocked his ear into the night. He heard nothing but the whistling breeze and rustling leaves. But he could have sworn he heard something else. Something indistinguishable. Something dark. They found me. He began to run. The harsh flap of wings drew closer. Faster. His feet couldn't carry him fastenough. Not fast enough to get away from them. He knew he wouldn't make it.


  1. I really like this. I like how it starts right into mystery and the suspense of the chase. The only thing that bothers me is it feels like you're being intentionally vague.

    My agent recently said the same thing to me about my MS, and I responded with, "Of course. I want to leave it a mystery so people will read on to find out." But instead of creating intrigue, I had annoyed her by withholding too much information.

    I'm getting a little bit of that sense here. The MC would know who is chasing them wouldn't he? Do these people have a name? He would also know what's in the box. Even without saying specifically what it is, you could add a little more detail as to what it does. "The balance would shift and it would all end." What would end? Life? The country? Cable television? Being a little more descriptive about the box contents would actually increase the suspense and help us understand exactly why it's worth his life.

  2. I agree with the intentionally vauge comment. I want more information or I don't have a reason to care about what's happening. I WANT to care, but I don't. The other thing I noticed is there's a disconect between the MC and thoughts--your first line for example: He stepped out onto the icy sidewalk,noting how the chill rattled his tired bones.
    That he's NOTING it instead of feeling it, there's a removal that doesn't let me connect to the MC.

    I do like what I read, enough to keep reading to find out more.

  3. Who is "he" and who are they? I agree with previous critiquer. Think it's too vague.

    I think unclear personal pronouns are always a problem.

    too many "He" in this short section makes me confused and lose interest.

  4. I understand that it's intentionally vague, but that tends to frustrate me as a reader rather than spark my curiousity. I love a little mystery, but too much and you've lost me. There's nothing here to connect me to the narrator.

    "noting how the chill rattled his tired bones." No one really notes things when they're doing it. You could sharpen this line by simply saying "the chill rattled his tired bones." That way the reader feels it with him rather than reads him thinking about it.

  5. I got distracted by the number of time the word 'it' appears in the first two paragraphs. I agree with the others, it would be nice if you could give us a bit more.

    That said, I'm intrigued and would like to read more.

  6. I agree with Rachel. This is too vague. The reader should know what the MC knows, and he knows what 'it' is. He knows who 'they' are.

    If you don't want us to know what 'it' is, name it, but don't explain what it is or what it's for. You can get away with that because the MC knows what it is and would call it by name, but not explain it to himself. The same with 'they.' Give them a name, but don't explain them. That way, the reader has enough info to keep him interested rather than frustrated, and you still keep the mystery.

    You have the opposite issue in parg 3. Here, you're explaining too much. The MC knows where he's going and why. He knows the importance of 'it.' He woudn't be explaining it to himself. That info is basically there for the reader and you don't need it. It's already implied by the situation you've put him in.

    Overall though, I did like it. You've created mystery and suspense, as well as a sense of danger. Just figure out the issues of how much to tell and not tell and this will be stronger.

  7. I am reading the comments and am so happy for the feedback....I was torn here. The 1st 250 come from the prologue and the character is not the MC. I mostly put it out here to gauge whether or not I should keep it. I've had complete split opinions on it. Still deciding. The prologue goes on to directly move the story forward since the following few paragraphs add to the internal and external conflict of the MC. Hmm...decisions, decisions.
    Thank you!! :)

  8. "He seemed to blend with the inky night sky" this confused me because it seems like the narrator's voice intruding when i thought this was from his perspective.

    "but he knew that wouldn't but he knew that wouldn't be enough to camouflage him" - instead of telling this part, can you show it? Show his slinking through the shadows, glancing over his shoulders frantically like he expects to be followed, realizing that it isn't dark enough to hide him completely.

    Same with "His feet couldn't carry him fast enough. Not fast enough to get away." Show them getting closer and closer, his breath growing ragged, that their speed is much greater than his.

    Italicize "They found me." Otherwise it seems like you randomly switched to first person.

  9. I'm not a fan of the vague noun "it" as a means of creating mystery. Tell us what "it" is, and then use that revelation to create real tension. Share with us It's value. I'm also not a fan of "suddenly." Suddenly is a bit like the mysterious "it" -- a bit full of itself without really meriting the fullness. With all the vague tension and stakes here, I'm afraid I can't commit to the fight.