Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #20

TITLE: The Limbo Tree
GENRE: YA paranormal

I tried to relax, to breathe deep like Dr. Williams told me to, but the of air smelled of chemicals and containment. My heart slammed against my ribcage, trapped just like me. Tight straps across my face. The whine of the drill in my ear. And the sick, metallic taste of ground tooth on my tongue. I held my breath and focused on the tree outside the window, the gently waving branches, the bright green leaves fluttering in the fresh air. And somehow, I got my wish. I wasn’t in the dentist’s chair anymore. But somebody was.

Somebody wearing my black flip flops, my purple nail polish. What certainly looked like my unimpressive chest moved slowly, up and down, though I felt so…breathless, so weightless and…fluttery. And I realized I no longer saw the tree because I was in it. And I nearly fell out when a guy’s voice spoke from right behind me. “It’s your first time, isn’t it?”

I whirled around and nearly died.

A weird tangle of moss sat on the branch beside me. Yes, sat. With stubby little legs handing over the sides. It had stubby arms too and mismatched button eyes. One big and blue. The other smaller and misty green. A bit of red ribbon formed a mouth. As I stared and stared wondering what the heck was happening, the ribbon moved quirking up into a crooked smile. I flattened against the window banging and screaming, “Stop, Dr. Williams. Please! Stop the laughing gas.”


  1. I like the concept, but I found it confusing. I'm not sure if she being held captive, or has died while in the chair and is having an out of body experience. I'm guessing that the laughing gas has affected her, but it's not coming off clearly to me. I would try rewording it, maybe even starting with the last paragraph as an open and reworking the first two?
    Hope this helps somewhat :-)
    Good luck!
    - Byrne

  2. I love your descriptive wording, however I too felt myself getting lost somewhere in here. I think it may be in how you are trying to describe things but then the story gets slightly lost. I hope this helps, good luck!

  3. You had me until I reached the moss with a face. Everything seemed so serious up until then, and then that was kind of comical, and my suspension of disbelief totally crumbled. Paranormal says serious, spooky, eerie to me and the moss was none of those things. If it just spoke, if it didn’t have a face, I think I could have probably stuck with it. Or if you mentioned the laughing gas before that, it might have prepared me for some silliness. Reading about the laughing gas at the end of the submission didn’t help with my suspension of disbelief. By then, it was too late. So this probably has more to do with my personal taste than the story itself.

    At the end, I wondered how she was suddenly pressed up against the window when she had just been in the tree. Maybe add a transition sentence that gets her from one place to another.

  4. I like everything in the first sentence except that it's one sentence. :) I think the air smelling of chemicals and containment is an awesome hook. If it were mine (and obviously it's not) I'd flip the first sentence around, put that first and then make the "I try to relax..." its own sentence. You've got some great sensory details in these paragraphs.

    I, too, felt thrown for a loop by the laughing gas at the end. It makes me doubt my reading/interpretation as to what's real and what's not here, which is a little close to waking up from a dream.

  5. I love this concept, and really hope that it turns out that she can jump out of situations. I felt like I was missing the 'who'. We don't really get a chance to settle into who your character is before we're jumped to the magic. I'm all for jumping into the action, but I wanted to know a bit more about your MC before learning about this new ability (assuming it is an ability.)

    But again, really cool concept. And your descriptions are great! Best of luck with this!

  6. Switch all verbs to present tense.

  7. The whole selection here is a bit confusing. The opening paragraph comes across as dystopian/concentration camp science experiment with the intense description, but then it goes a bit psychedelic with the out-of-body stuff.

    But I laughed at these lines: "It's your first time?" I whirled around and nearly died.

    While I think there could be something here, going for confusion at the beginning of your ms is not the best plan, because when readers get confused, they close the book. Not what you want.

    Instead, give readers a firm basis for the main character and her world before dropping us in Wonderland. Even Lewis Carroll set the stage, with Alice lounging outside in the real world reading a book before she went down the rabbit hole.

  8. I agree with most of the other comments. I think this might be a case of starting too close to the inciting incident. We need a bit more grounding in the character and world first. But I am curious about where this is going.

    You probably know this, but you don't need to change all your verbs to present tense as suggested. As long as it's consistently one or the other throughout, past and present are equally acceptable.