Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Change of Fate
GENRE: YA fantasy

I was the first to be recruited.

It was a Friday, and it was drizzling. I hate that kind of weather, but considering I was safely tucked away under the bleachers while the cheerleaders scrambled to keep their sleek and shiny heads dry before the Homecoming game, I let drizzly slide.

Leaning against the metal support beam, I pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Breathing in hard, I exhaled a ring of smoke that was quickly assaulted by some rogue raindrops. It looked like the ring had been riddled with watery bullets, ripping through it until it dissolved into nothing. That’s what I was doing – watching the death of my smoke ring – when I first saw her.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman crouching on the ground. “Hello, Ava,” she said, voice rasping and cracking with each syllable.

I cocked my head at the intruder. How did she know my name? And why was this homeless person camping out under some crappy high school's bleachers?

Feeling a little impish, I decided to play along. “Hello back, old woman whose name I don’t know.”

She gave wide smile, showing off yellow, crooked teeth. Her lips were cracked, and as she stood, I heard a full scale of bones popping, like someone wringing a piece of bubble wrap. The noise made me shudder.

“Don’t care for the sounds of old age, deary?” she asked, her voice a little smoother then.

“Not really.” My puckish demeanor dissolved.


  1. I'm really liking the voice in this. There's a little bit of repetition--"... when I first saw her. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a woman crouching on the ground." We get told twice that the narrator notices somebody. Other than that, I found myself really drawn in and curious. The bones popping like bubble wrap was a really vivid image--love it. Great image of the smoke ring, too. Your imagery really drew me right into the scene along with the voice.

    Nice work! I would definitely keep reading this.

  2. I agree with G.B. above. Definitely interesting.

  3. Your use of imagery is wonderful! I was definitely intrigued! I would read more!
    Good luck!
    - Byrne

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The story was interesting, but not interesting enough to make me overlook the writing, which is why I wouldn’t read on.

    “I was the first to be recruited.’ She knows that. Why would she say it to herself? Who is she talking to? The reader, but the reader should not exist for her. Unless she’s telling the story after the fact.

    The cigarette. “Breathing in hard (which is inhaling) I exhaled – so she’s doing both at the same time.

    ‘watery bullets THAT RIPPLED – rather than rippling.

    After you tell us what the MC was doing when she saw the old woman, you then say, that’s what I was doing. We already know that. You might cut that sentence.

    ‘She gave A wide smile

    ‘I heard a full scale SOUND ? of bones popping,’ perhaps.

    These are all little things, easily fixed, but because there were many, I’m assuming there are probably more, which discourages me from reading on. On the other hand, there are editors and agents who won’t care about those things if the story itself is good, because they can all be taken care of in the editing process. The problem is, you never know which type of reader you’re getting, so it pays to proofread.

  6. Verb police on the scene again. If you're giving us a flash-back - hiding from the drizzle under the bleachers and lighting a smoke, keep the past tense. (But then again, you shouldn't be opening with a flash-back). If it's happening now, use present tense. I don't think it's coincidence that the Grammar Gods refer to verbs as "tenses" - using them means the difference between "tension" and "zero tension".

  7. I like the voice, though the text does need some finessing. Like others mentioned, there is unnecessary repetition and misplaced modifiers (breathing in I exhaled).

    Those are smaller things, but it's the opening sentence that I really don't like. I've never been a fan of openings that give some foreshadowing and then flash back without explaining anything. I'd much rather that sentence were cut completely and start where her story begins, not with some allusion to later events.

  8. great voice and great imagery, it really drew me in. I also don't fancy the beginning line. It's not explained anyway in text.

  9. "Their sleek and shiny heads dry..." First time I ever pictured a group of bald cheerleaders! It was a fun image. I would keep reading. My only suggestion is to cut back a bit on the cigarette description-- overkill. I enjoyed reading this.

  10. I like this a lot, and I like the first line too tho I seem to be in the minority. Couple of things that stood out to me - 'I hate that kind of weather' etc seemed redundant to me, is there anyone who actually likes drizzle lol? And I'd like a few words of description of the old woman so I can picture her. Also 'puckish' doesn't seem like a word a teenager would use, even if it is appropriate. Good luck!

  11. I'm curious enough about the story to keep reading for a page or two, but I agree with the others' suggestions to clean up the writing.

  12. I really enjoyed this! The voice is awesome, and contrary to others, I AM a fan of framing a story that begins with foreshadowing. For me, it sets the stage for conflict. And since this is a framing technique, it's not a flashback.

    My only criticism is the lengthy description of smoke rings. You can cut most of it and not lose a thing. It only serves to slow the pace, which is not something you want at the beginning of a book.

    The old lady is well portrayed. She's obviously the recruiter and I'm eager to see what happens next. Hooked!