Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #10

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Taela wasn’t a thief, not usually, but sometimes folks had to do unpleasant things for the sake of the people they loved. Like keep secrets or steal from their own families.

Or even commit murder.

She slipped into the cool darkness of the storage shed and quietly latched the door. She took a deep breath to calm herself. At least, after tonight, it would finally be over. She would fulfill her promise, no matter what it cost or how much it frightened her.

Ribbons of moonlight shone through the slats of the old wooden structure, falling across the crates, casks and barrels stacked around her. She had to be quick. She rummaged through a crate, grabbed a handful of dried apricots and few shriveled potatoes and stuffed them into her pack.

Standing on tiptoe, she reached up to the top shelf for the stoneware crock that held last season’s summerbeans. It felt smooth and cool in her hands. She slid the container to the edge and eased it off the shelf, but it was heavier than she expected. Before she could get a good grip, the crock slipped, fell to the dirt floor and shattered with a crash. She jumped back as shards of pottery and beans scattered at her feet. Blast it! Probably just woke the whole village.

She grabbed her pack and scrambled toward the weathered door, but the sound of footsteps approaching stopped her. Too late. She ducked into the shadows and hid behind a barrel.


  1. I love the title of this piece, and I would definitely pick it up from that alone.

    I know that the first two paragraphs are to put us into the feel of your piece quickly, but I think that information could be woven into the story. Start in the dark with the theft, it works.

    There are some little things that could be nitpicked, but you should know that's what they are, this is well done as is, but it could be even better. One thing I see, is that you have whole sentences devoted to the different scents. You could really punch up your writing by dropping some of the redundant words (e.g., "Standing on tiptoe, she reached up..." probably don't need the up, we got that from the reach and the tiptoe).

    Another tiny thing, when it comes to moonlight the shining of it is understood, so you might want to go for something else about the moonlight that's important. Does it wash out the color making it hard to tell what's what? is it too bright, making tonight's jaunt more dangerous than usual? Is it a smoggy city lending it an almost bloody tinge? I'm sure you see what I mean.

    And I'm serious, this is good work, and I'd definitely turn to the next page to see who's coming.

  2. The buildup in the first paragraph—secrets, thievery, murder—is let down quite a bit when it turns out that she's only stealing potatoes. If you're going to start with such bold statements, what follows had better hold up to that.

    Also, I've seen this opening quite a few times as well. Is there another way you could start strong but that doesn't come across as though it's been done before? (My answer is yes, but I'll leave the execution of it up to you. ;)

  3. I liked this, but I agree that the line about murder seemed out of place. I'd go with the first sentence and then right into the third paragraph- she slipped into.

    Of course an agent's advice is more valuable than mine, but I didn't think stealing food was a let down- i figure she's hungry, someone she loves is hungry and she's willing to risk stealing for them- that makes me sympathetic to her problem. She's not a professional thief going for valuables- she's a girl down on her luck. I want to know why. I want to know who she's stealing for.

    My one comment-and this is personal-I don't like italized thoughts- it makes them stand out too much. I find it jarring. Just write them and since we're in her head we'll know they're thoughts.

    Good luck with this. I was interested-I can't think of a single book I've read that started this way. And I have read a lot of books.

  4. I know it's asking a lot in just the first 250, but there's not much to tell me this fantasy other than your genre title. I like the tension and the opening, but I would like to see some hints of this world you're building for us.

  5. I love the opening, particularly the first few sentences. What it's missing for me is a sense that it is fantasy and that the protag is a young adult.

  6. Waaay too much telling. You seem to have identified the inciting incident/plot catalyst, but it needs to be presented differently. That's why they call it "creative writing".

  7. I agree with others that if you say 'commit murder' you then expect to segue into her doing just that. Otherwise I thought this was an ok opening, but I'd really like a bit more info about her and her world threaded in. It also reminded me too much of the beginning of Janice Hardy's YA The Shifter.

  8. I liked this a lot: the voice, the tone, the writing style. I think the "commit murder" bit is a stretch, thought, because it appears tossed in for shock value.

    I wanted more tension to reflect the importance of fleeing whatever enigmatic danger she's in. The punishment I foresee is perhaps a spanking, which doesn't add up to high stakes. So her crime doesn't measure up to a decent hook. Do i care if she's caught? Not especially, because I don't know the consequences of her actions in this scenario. I'd recommend some stronger hints that she's in for bigger trouble than your introduction conveys.