Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Freak in the mad of your mind
GENRE: YA Urban fantasy

Not all the time, but sometimes when I sleep I go away. Off to distant places and other times, I'm still me but sometimes I look like other people. It's like wearing the most realistic Halloween costume ever. It helps me blend in with the locals, my own pale appearance would alarm the ancient tribes in Africa and South America where my dreams sometimes take me. Lately my dreams have been taking me to the desert, to one place in particular; the crystal pyramid.

In the middle of a deserted desert I find myself standing on a small swell of sand overlooking a huge valley. The valley's so desolate and big it could be a crater on the moon. The light never changes and the sun isn't in sight, so it's either just before dawn or just after sunset. I think it's just after sunset because it's still light and warm. I can still smell the heat. If you've spent any time in a desert you'll know what I mean. It's like baked earth or something out of a kiln; dry, hot and clean.

It's comfortably warm, good thing considering I'm standing in the sand in an impractical blue satin dress. In my dreams I try to use my clothes to place where I am. It's plain, sleeveless and flares out slightly at the bottom to gently caress my calves. I'm not sure what the style is, what era it's from. I could be anywhere, anywhen.


  1. I would cut the first paragraph completely. It's like a mini-prologue and by the third paragraph, we get it that she's dreaming. Also, watch your use of, "still". "I think it's just after sunset because it's still light and warm. I can still smell the heat." (I noticed it because it's one of my go-to words too) But overall this has a great voice and I would keep reading to see where she's ended up.

  2. I like the premise and your opening line. You have a very casual, breezy way of describing things and I think that is good. I agree about the word "still."

    I'd read a while longer.

  3. I'm not a big fan of opening anything with a dream. I would prefer action, something happening.

    Needless to say, this is really good writing and I love your descriptions. You probably have a great story, and I am curious to learn more about the MC.

  4. I'd agree about losing the first paragraph. Just jump right into her being somewhere else.

    I don't know why (or if it's even worth mentioning), but I was a little surprised to learn that the MC is a girl. I really liked that you showed us she a girl by sticking her in a dress.

    I'm not hooked by this opening, exactly. But, that said, I AM a bit curious about her story. I wonder where she's off to next.

    Good luck! :)

  5. I'm not in love with the opening paragraph. It feels like it's just there to tell us something we will have figured out by the end of the excerpt.

    I also think 'deserted desert' is overkill.

  6. I like the concept here--dream-traveling is very interesting. I know that there's an often-quoted rule to never begin your story with a dream, as another commenter said, but I think it works here because the action is the dream; it seems like a lot of the story will take place within the dream.

    I'm not quite feeling the writing style/voice. It seems like you're trying to be lyrical but, to me, it's not quite working everywhere. ("I can still smell the heat" is one place where it really works.) Your first sentence is an example of where it's not working--"go away" is too simplistic. (I think the Halloween costume sentence makes you depart from the your tone; I'd cut it.)

    Grammar stuff:
    Paragraph one: I'd combine sentence one with the first clause of sentence two due to the issues with sentence two as it is now (the beginning clause was, I think, intended to be an appositive but doesn't quite work out that way; the second clause can stand on its own and doesn't need the first). Sentence 4 is a run-on; I'd suggest a colon or semicolon between "locals" and "my". In the last sentence of that paragraph, you need a colon instead of a semicolon after "particular".

    Second paragraph: I'd move "In the middle of a deserted desert" to somewhere else in that sentence (after "standing", "sand", or "valley"). In the last sentence of this paragraph, there's the same issue as with the last sentence of your previous paragraph: you need a colon instead of a semicolon.

    Third paragraph: I'd suggest "which is a" before "good thing", or, at the very least, an em dash instead of the comma and "a" before "good thing". I'd also suggest a comma before "considering."

    All in all: really interesting idea--just make sure your writing is as strong as possible.

    Good luck!

  7. I kept wanting the MC to wake up. It wasn't clear to me where the story was going. Unless the dreams are a really integral part of your story, I'd skip to the action.

  8. It's different enough that I'd read on, but I wasn't really all that caught up in it.

    A lot of scene setting, and that could probably be the trouble for me.

    Good luck with this.

  9. I absolutely LOVE your title. I think it is brilliant.

    The first paragraph is completely tell and it should be show. Show us she travels like that.

    I have to agree with others that the dream-traveler and begin with a dream tropes have been done to death in fantasy.

    I encourage you to ask yourself what will make this different than great dream traveler YA books like Elizabeth Knox's Dreamhunter duet.

  10. The run-on sentences threw me out of reading the story. I went into editor mode. An easy fix. Periods are your friend.

    I like the dream sequences - I know alot of people don't, but I do. How better to set up a fantasy travel situation than with a dream?

    In your dream sequence, you're transporting us to a different place. If that's the set-up for the genre', then leave them in.

    Good Luck!

  11. I may be the odd man out ... or, er, woman ... but opening in a dream doesn't bother me one bit. Also, I really like the set up of the dream. Its not like, "I was running. And then I wasn't. And it was weird. Oh, I'm dreaming."

    I think you can omit the first paragraph completely. I really felt pulled in with the second paragraph.

    And I love the title!!

  12. Thanks everyone:)

    No, this isn't a hoary old 'protag starts off in a dream and wakes up.' Most of the book takes place in dreams - my protag learns life lessons through serial dreams. It's tough to start in a dream, even if it isn't the overdone plot device.


  13. I'm not sure if I'm hooked. I know you mean that her dreams are really taking her somewhere else, but the writing is low key enough that it is easy to read this like "oh, I escape life in my dreams" because honestly, there's almost nothing here that couldn't describe my own dreams. (I have very colorful dreams, am often a different person and have "worlds" that I visit repeatedly.)

    I do like the concept that she really goes somewhere in her dreams, but that's kind of an earth shattering thing and needs to be written stronger, not like something she's used to but still hasn't figured out.

    I think I'd read on for the concept, but need something big, quick.

  14. IN a 16 word span you use 'desert'...followed by 'deserted desert' - so find something other than deserted to modify it. Valleys are usually lush and verdant so you may want to rethink that word for describing the desolate place she is in. Some of the sentences are run-on so as was mentioned already -periods are your friend. If she is just dreaming then to me it is less powerful than if she (as I originally thought) was actually trsnsported to a different time and place. But, if she is just dreaming then how is it wondrous at all - we all dream like that. The title - as was said - is attention grabbing. I would find a good crit partner and do some careful editing and see where it goes. Good luck.

  15. I love the title.

    I get that this dreamer MC goes a lot of places.

    I would like to see her not in a dream. I'd like to see her in her own real world, trying to grapple with her dream world and her real world and keep it together. This would be really difficult for me to deal with and I want to know how she's doing.

    I kinda get a sense that the clothes are a big piece of this, so I'd like them to be very distinct and well-described.