Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Secret Agent #33

TITLE: Gate Series: Stone of Orenda
GENRE: YA Fantasy

With a violent head toss, the single-minded equine locomotive beneath me yanked the reins through my hands and we surged forward. Windblown tears crept out of my eyes as we careened through the old apple orchard. I ducked another branch and tried again to slow the charging mare. My frantic tugging on the reins didn’t elicit the tiniest response. I gulped as my left foot bounced and lost its tenuous grip on the stirrup.

“Vienna, whoa! Whoa!” I screamed. It came out as a whisper, lost in the airstream.

I pulled desperately on one rein and succeeded in turning Vienna’s head enough to see the gleam of insanity in her left eye. Visions of flying through the air prevented stronger action.

We thundered toward an unused dirt road. Maybe she’ll slow down now. My throat closed involuntarily. What if she doesn’t?

She hesitated, just enough for me to get a good look at the irrigation ditch concealed in the weeds as we soared over it. “Whoa!” I screeched mid-leap.

I slammed onto the saddle, and Vienna dropped into a bone-jarring trot. My other foot reached for a stirrup and found only air, but I took advantage of her uncertainty to bring her nose around to her right side. If she didn’t stop, I was going to end up in a tree -- but then so would she. Sides heaving, she jolted into a walk and stopped, eying the tunnel of leafless trees as if she wanted to do it all over again.


  1. Lots of good action and vivid description.

    There are a few typos and the writing could be tighter. Also, I popped out of the story a minute noting the MC turned the horse's head enough to see the left eye but later brought her nose around to the right side. I would have thought in a tense situation, the rider might try to turn the horse's head in the same direction both times, especially with a foot loose from a stirrup. Just a thought and I'm not an expert rider, so I could be wrong.

    That said, nothing in this initial sample gave me an idea of why the horse was running wild or hooked me into wanting to find out.

    Not hooked, but thank you.

  2. I think this is a classic case of wanting to start in the middle of the action, as writers are so often told to do. But unfortunately sometimes it doesn't work, and this is one of those cases. We don't yet have a reason to care why this horse has run away and we don't get to know the character well enough to care whether or not she is safe.

    I would focus on developing character more strongly within an action-packed scene.

  3. I think you just need to back up a little. Show what spooks the horse. Show the relationship between the horse and the MC. I like your writing. Your wild ride was easy to follow and I don't think that's easy to do. You could drop the specifics of right and left, that was distracting. But I think with a little in front of this, it could be great.

  4. What's missing, in my mind, is why is this happening? What set the horse off in the first place? While you take us on a wild ride, I don't know why it's happening, I don't know who is on the horse. Were they just out for a ride, or were they going someplace specific? Give us some context before the horse bolts.

  5. I like the humorousness of "equine locomotive"

    I agree with secret agent. It's well written, but I'm not sure where the conflict is?

  6. The action was well described and easy to read and understand. Unfortunately, I felt lost right from the beginning. Where are they? What kind of world is it and why should I care about the protag?

  7. I like horse-back riding (not that I do it myself), so I'd probably read on just for that. :)

    I agree with the comments above, and would encourage you to rewrite this, but also watch a few things generally:

    When is this happening? YA fantasy doesn't tell me much, but the term "equine locomotive" tells me that trains have been invented. If this is set pre-train, you have an anachronism. Maybe throw in some reference to clothes to clear things up?

    Watch for contradictions--the horse hesitates, but doesn't seem to pause as she soars over the ditch. The MC can't find the stirrup... but it's the horse who's uncertain? Since when? Be clear on cause and effect, as well as motivations--for human and horse.

    Good luck!