Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #36

TITLE: I am the Window
GENRE: YA Dystopian

The crowd in the banquet hall looks like the oil spills I’ve only seen in pictures. Black satin, black suits, black jewelry. Black: the color of the Consilium. It is solid, it is steady, it is unifying. I look around at all the others with me. We are the future. We are all seventeen, and in under an hour my life, our lives, are going to change. We are going to receive It.

The Vita.

It is not an object. It is not a word. It is that one thing that we will seek to fulfill our entire lives. It defines us, drives us, is the one steadfast thing when everything else may be raining from the sky—our life's goal. I glance down at the empty skin of my shoulder, the neckline of the gown baring the canvas that will soon be painted; each person with different colors around the room.

I feel my heart beating in my throat, and my stomach drops in a familiar free fall. I look at my friends, and wonder what their Vitas will be. We all have some kind of idea—the aptitude tests last week told us our three most likely Marks—except me. I pinch the black satin between my fingers to keep from running my fingers over my empty collarbone for the hundredth time. I have no idea what the Consilium will choose for me. After my aptitude test, the technician had gone pale. When I had asked her what was wrong, she had shaken her head.


  1. Nice opening! It caught my attention. But do you think the aptitude test, and your MC not falling into any category, might be too reminiscent of Divergent? I don't know how easy it would be to change that idea, but I would really think about it.

    Also, "empty skin of my shoulder..." 'empty' makes me picture a hole in her shoulder. Is that right? Otherwise, I had a good visual of the scene.

    Some great writing, though! Good luck!

  2. The whole aptitude test thing reminds me of Veronica Roth's "Divergent," as the other commenter noted, but otherwise I like this. I'd read on!

  3. Yeah this definitely reminds me of both Divergent and The Giver, but i'd still read on. I like both those books and i'd probably like this too. I'm a big fan of tests and trials and stuff so starting with that is a plus for me.
    Good job!

  4. I like this, but agree - the use of the word 'empty' makes me picture a boneless shoulder/ collarbone, with flapping skin. I think it's intentional, and that makes me wonder why she has no bones there. I'd read on:)

  5. This also reminds me of Divergent and the Giver, both of which I really enjoyed. I'd still read on, but keep in mind, your book would have to stand up to those two.

  6. I had to re-read the "empty" line as well. Perhaps "blank" as reference later to the canvas upon which tell-tale signs will be painted (tattooed?). Interesting. Would like to see what happens next.

  7. I wasn't hooked. :( The writing was strong and I couldn't put my finger on why I didn't feel stronger towards it.

    But I'm clearly the minority. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I'm a sucker for a snappy first line, and I'm tempted to think The Vita could work, followed by the paragraph after. If you can work in the line about being 17 and the future, I think the opener about describing the room can be taken out.

    I would keep reading to see where this goes. I know dystopian chosen ones is a big thing now, and your twist on it, and the defining hook, should show up early.

  9. It's not for me, but, dystopian is very popular today.

    I want you to eliminate all the extra "hads". Had slows a story down for me, and I don't think you need them.

    I liked the aptitude testing idea, and the way the character who read MCs test reacted.

    Good Luck!

  10. Phew! I was worried I'd be the only one who read the "empty" line and pictured a hole in her shoulder. I kept wondering what happened to her to sustain such a wound. But I think you're saying her shoulders are bare, right? A strapless dress?

    The feel of this reminded me of Matched in addition to the other two mentioned. Maybe put a little more detail of what the Vita is (give an example of what someone she knows was given), something that will help set it apart from all the other dsyopias that are popular right now. Maybe tell us what the three Marks are, too?

    I think I would need to see something truly unique to want to read further--I'm sadly getting burnt out on dystopias :(

    Good luck!

  11. In addition to all the other books people named that have aptitude tests in them, I thought of Delirium by Lauren Oliver and, to a lesser extent, Anthem by Ayn Rand--so I think that the tests are more of a standard dystopian thing. I don't think it will seem too reminiscent of one particular book, then, if it's common theme in dystopian novels.

    Little nitpicky stuff: I felt that "It is not an object. It is not a word" was a bit too dramatic. In the same paragraph, for the last sentence, you should have a colon instead of a semicolon.

    I really liked this one a lot and want to read more!


  12. Good writing and great suspense. Several of your verbs were weak and will need to be strengthened, but other than that and the confusing line about the shoulder it's very compelling.

  13. I think the writing and voice is strong, but I also immediately thought of the other books mentioned that this one seems so much like.

    You obviously have the chops to write, but I just felt myself yearning for a more unique story and plot line, especially since the writing was so good.

    "each person around the room with different colors" should be changed to "each person around the room with different colors"

    empty shoulder bothered me too and could be "unadorned".

    I don't think I'd read on because I'm eager for a new story.

  14. Ips. that should have been "each person with different colors around the room" changed to the other. The current version sound like the colors are around the room, not the people.

  15. I like the description in the opening paragraph and a nice lead in to the quest.

    I agree with the others about the use of 'empty' and found it equally jarring when used to describe the collarbone later in the opening.

    Outside of that sentance, I thought it was a excellent intro and I would certainly continue reading.

  16. I agree with others are saying both about the empty shoulder, that put a gross image in my head, and the being like other books already published. I also think you could do away with the first paragraph. A description of this crowd doesn't pull me in.

    I would read on, but I would be looking really hard for something to set this apart. What would make this different?

  17. I could nitpick a bit, but nothing would keep me from turning the page - a very promising start.

  18. Less about things raining from the sky and more about that black satin canvas they are about to paint. All the black and I just wanted to hear more about what possible colors they would use, what is the painting like, how do they do it? Physically, mentally?

    I also wanted her to have some dread, like if she gets painted a certain way or something that she fears. Ratchet up that conflict that is obviously there from the technician not wanting to tell her something.

    Does she recognize anyone in the room? No friends, parents, siblings? I then wonder if she's an orphan or separated from her parents and siblings.

    So many questions, which bodes well, but a lot of your description of the Vita can wait and you could be filling this page with a ton more visual that connects with the conflict. What does it feel like to be standing there waiting for this? What does she fear specifically? What will happen when she receives the Vita. More of that.