Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #43

GENRE: YA Near-Future Science Fiction

Seeing so many smiles made the stale air easier to breathe. My eyes flitted over my eleven sisters huddled in small groups around the great room: chattering, squealing, fidgeting with their identical, blonde braids. All caught up in the excitement watching the BioLife staff enliven the sterile ward with a Thanksgiving feast. The first in our seventeen years.

Invisible strings tugged at my ribs, urging me to join them, to lose myself in the rare revelry. And I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to! But a second string pulled even harder. One I seemed unable to resist.

Alone, I claimed my favorite stakeout spot, slouching against the ward’s library. The shallow, metal cabinet held exactly one hundred and fifty-three paperback books describing wonders from the outside world. All censored by the doctors, of course. Chosen to stimulate our growing minds. Despite my faultless memory, I’d read each twenty times.

I surveyed the room. Four black-clad, female soldiers, armed with Tasers on their hips and rifles across their backs, flanked the stark hallways leading to the classrooms and sleeping cells, keeping my sisters and me herded in the great room. Kitchen staff, again all women, donned in knee length aprons bustled around the dining table laying out rich-scented foods normally banned from our strict diets. Then, there was Gladys—the night warden who, as always, was wearing her eye-damagingly bright skirt-suit too tight and enough paint on her face to supply our art class for a month.


  1. I really like your world building. I'm not so in love with your opening line. If she grew up in this place and knows no other kind of air, how would she know the air is stale?

    I was a little distracted by the invisible string line. At first glance I wondered if there really was a string - you never know.

    You can cut "I surveyed the room." It's redundant since she is describing the room. Also don't take too much time describing a room. The best descriptions come while the character is interacting with objects in the room.

    I would definitely read more.

  2. I agree with the comments above. But I did find this interesting and would turn the page.

    Loved the last line "enough paint on her face to supply our art class for a month."

    Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  3. Very interesting! I was wondering about the significance of 12 sisters all the same age, same hair and everything, or whether they're all the same age only, treated as sisters.

    I like your world building and I'd read on, even though this isn't my genre at all!

  4. I'm wondering how the narrator knew there were more than 150 books in the world? IF their lives are this controled, would she know there were more books? And if so, how...

    Also, I'm wondering about the censored line - same questions as above.

    That being said, I love the idea of children growing up in a test environment and the resulting issues. Very Logan's Run.

  5. It's vey interesting. I would read on. Nothing's happened, really, but I think the setup is interesting enough to make you want the answers to the questions--and there are a lot.

  6. Wonderful descriptions! This is a terrific set up and I would definitely read more :)

  7. This intrigues me and I would read on. Nothing much has happened yet, but I agree that the set-up is good enough to warrant reading on.

  8. I'm just a little puzzled about how the ward could be described as 'sterile', especially when there are so many people in it at that moment. Also agree with the 'stale' comment by some of those who'd posted above.

    It sounds intriguing though, kind of like a Twelve Dancing Princesses motif in a futuristic setting? Love the concept!

  9. I like the world building here, although nothing much happens this is what I would expect in a sci-fi. I disagree with the comments about "stale", I assumed they were not usually together in the common room at once, that it was just for the special occasion.
    I love the tone, I would definately read on.

  10. I'm drawn in by the interesting world you've created, and would keep reading to learn more about these twelve identical sisters. A few nitpicks:

    "Seeing so many smiles made the stale air easier to breathe." - I'm not in love with this first line since I can't see how it fits the context. It sounds to me like she's about to be betrothed in front of the royal court. If she's in some sort of panic or is doing something dangerous and secret, it's not quite clear enough.

    "My eyes flitted over my eleven sisters huddled in small groups" - I think it's tighter and more immediate to just say "My eleven sisters huddled in small groups," since we know she's the one watching them. We don't need the independent action of her eyes.

    Great images with the soldiers and caretakers. I'm intrigued.

  11. I'm really liking this set up - great world building in only 250 words. The last paragraph is the strongest. I was lost a little at the start, perhaps because I think this piece deserves a killer first line.

    The writing is very strong and I really want to read more, so if a nice hook can be inserted at the start, I think this would be one of my favorites.

  12. I feel pretty overwhelmed by the details here, like the writing is screaming at me, "Look at how many strange rules there are! Look at how different this world is from our world!" BioLife staff, sterile ward, first Thanksgiving in seventeen years, identical haircuts, doctors censoring books, soldiers, "sleeping cells," something going on with gender, strict diets, a night-warden...all in the first four paragraphs. If you want us to believe that the narrator actually lives in this world, you have to be more patient in describing what makes it so special. Choose one striking detail, write a longer scene around it, and let the "new" parts of this world reveal themselves organically. My favorite detail of the bunch was that the main character has a photographic memory but continues to read the 153 paperbacks over and over again. What about showing us that instead of telling us that?