Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Day of Night
GENRE: YA Science-fiction

Tendrils of wind whipped all around Vanessa, as though trying to rip her to shreds. Even though she and her sister stood under the porch awning, the mist from the downpour coated their skin and clothes. The abnormal darkness made it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead.

Tiana looked at her sister, holding back her mass of black curls to keep them out of her face. “Is the world ending?”

Vanessa frowned at her, but her heart was thumping hard. “It’s just a tropical storm.” Even as she said it, she knew this was no ordinary storm.

“But it came up so fast! And the news didn’t show any warnings, and the sun just disappeared--”

A snapping noise rent the air, louder than the gales and pounding rain. From the darkness, a massive shadow started falling toward the house.

“Watch out!” Vanessa cried, pulling her sister off the porch, out into the downpour. The impact when the tree hit the house caused boards and shingles to fly, nearly hitting them. The deafening smashing sound told Vanessa that the uprooted tree had done significant damage to the house. It had even blocked off the way through the front door. It was a good thing they’d come outside to look at the storm; they could’ve been killed if they’d been inside the house.

“Come on, we need to get to the cellar!” Vanessa yelled over the storm.

8 comments:

  1. I love your description of the storm. Coming from an area where hurricanes occur, I can fully see in my mind the wind and the rain beating down on them and hear the crash of the tree falling. Great dramatic opening!

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  2. Dramatic opening. And you set up right from the beginning that this is sci fi, which I know isn't easy! I know this is only the first 250 words, but I'd still love to see you sneak in just a hint or two about Vanessa's character beyond that she pulled her sister away from the falling tree. Age, appearance, or something else about what she's like...

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  3. More powerful to open your first sentence with, "It felt as if the world was finally ending." Is this a surprise or have she and her sister been anticipating this? What can you slip in to hint at why they're in this situation? Good to open with an inciting incident though. Just needs tweaking.

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  4. A few things:
    - You use the word "though" in both the first and second sentence. It jumped out at me, and you remove "as though" from the first sentence and personify the storm more for a stronger opening.

    - "abnormal darkness" made me pause. What about the darkness makes it abnormal? Darkness already implies inability to see, so what is it that makes this so out of the ordinary, enough that her sister wants to know if the world is ending? Especially given the title of your novel adds emphasis to this darkness. Make it feel alive.

    - when the tree hits, you can eliminate some unnecessary words and add tension. For example: The tree sliced through the house, a deafening boom shaking the ground. Debris fell with the rain, broken boards and shingles dotting the walkway. The kitchen door, where'd they just been standing, was swallowed by the massive trunk. They could have been killed.

    Or something like that, but work the description into the narrative rather than just describing it matter-of-factly.

    I love the tree crashing into the house as an opening; it's a great twist to the weather approach. With some tweaking, it could be really strong. Best of luck to you.

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  5. I wondered why these girls are standing out in the storm if it's so bad. Why not wait it out inside. It's okay to have them outside, but they should have a reason.

    Also, if the tree is massive, a snap is too small a sound to describe it breaking. Was the tree uprooted? Did it crack in half after being hit by lightning. Think of a better sound to suit the situation.

    And then, perhaps, show the tree fall. As is, you're telling us. Show the tree crash down. Let us hear it smashing through the roof. Let us see the shingles and rafters splintering. And the same with the house. Don't tell us the tree did significant damage, show us the actual damage. Showing will make this much more real.

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  6. para 1-3 are great. Thought the line "Is the world ending?" is clever and kind of ironic--I actually disagree (sorry, Natasha!) about starting out w/ a sentence such as "It felt like..." That feels very passive to me.

    The dialogue in para 4 feels a little too obviously exposition, which makes it feel stiff.

    And then the final paragraph is too much telling--instead of saying they could've been killed if they had stayed in the house, show the character's reaction to realizing she just narrowly escaped death.

    I think with some light revising you could really take this scene up a few notches and suck in the reader.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!



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  7. There's quite a bit of unnecessary repetition, especially in the sixth paragraph. "House" is used four times (including once in the previous paragraph)

    The biggest thing to help with this is to cut out unnecessary phrases.

    “Watch out!” Vanessa cried, pulling her sister off the porch, out into the downpour. The impact when the tree hit the house caused boards and shingles to fly, nearly hitting them. The deafening smashing sound told Vanessa that the uprooted tree had done significant damage to the house. It had even blocked off the way through the front door. It was a good thing they’d come outside to look at the storm; they could’ve been killed if they’d been inside the house.

    [Blogger wouldn't let me do strikethrough, so the phrases in bold are those that can/should be cut.]

    Trust that your readers will understand and follow what is going on without having to use the same phrase repeatedly in such a short space.

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