Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #22

TITLE: The Outside
GENRE: Fantasy

I noticed the silence first. My neighbor vacuumed every morning. Students chattered in the hallway. Feet stomped on the floor above me. But I heard not a sound. No sunshine caressed my skin. This windowless room could not be my studio apartment. I sat up, massaging my temples as pain coursed through my forehead. Slipping out of an empire sleigh bed, my bare feet touched a cold hardwood floor. A grandfather clock and dresser with a swivel mirror stood opposite me. Time had frozen at 3:05 a.m. All three pieces were crafted from a beautiful walnut and polished to a high sheen. A bronze chandelier with four candles provided light. Where a desk or other furniture could have been set, there was emptiness. Embossed wallpaper peeled off the walls. Last night I had fallen asleep in graduate student housing. Where was I now?

A door lay open in the north-east corner. Had it been there a minute ago? Jeans and a polo shirt had replaced my pajamas. Better not to dwell on how – or who – had changed my clothes. I saw no shoes or the socks I had worn to bed. Fear of the unknown halted my movements, but my choice was to either wait for my kidnappers to appear, or try to escape. I wandered out the door and into the hallway.

Gilt bronze frames hung on the walls. None contained paintings or photos.


  1. I would definitely read on, but I wouldn't have much more patience for it if we don't get some answers soon. It's hard to empathize with a character when we know so little about them and they have been thrown adrift. Part of this stems from the fact that we don't have much reaction from the MC. For instance, is today the absolute worst day possible for this? is there an exam later today? Why isn't the MC more concerned? Does she feel violated? At this point it's hard to tell if this is something that happens regularly in her world.

    I do like the way you've described things, and it is intriguing. I'd just like some more grounding I think. (of course, this set adrift feeling could be exactly what you're after).

  2. I'm curious about what is happening here, but am a little distracted by the questions I have. Might I suggest that you move reference to the lighting in the room up a bit - otherwise, how would the MC be able to describe her surroundings during the middle of the night? How does she know that the time on the clock had frozen if there's no mention of what time it really is? How does she know the opened door is in the north east corner of the room if there is no reference to her bearings? I am intrigued, though.

  3. I agree with what's been said. What you've got here is good but there are just so many questions that come with each line. Maybe it's best to ground the reader just a little bit more.

  4. I agree with everyone else. Your MC seems little... disconnected. Unconcerned? You devote a chunk of your 250 words to setting, but I think they may be better used to flesh out your MC's emotional state.

    I am definitely intrigued, though!

  5. You've got me intrigued, but yet, you're not selling me that your MC is in the least bit concerned with where (s)he is or how they got there (the use of the phrase "wandered out the door" solidifies this for me, as it sounds too casual).

    But maybe that's your point? If so, terms like "fear of the unknown halted my movements" or the word "kidnappers", makes me believe otherwise - and should be re-looked.

    Otherwise, you still have my interest and I'm left wondering how this person got to be where they are and where this is headed - and I'd read on to see what happens.

    Best of luck in the contest!

  6. I love the last pair of lines. A nice, creepy touch.
    I'd be really interested to see where this goes, but some of the narrator's reactions are a bit odd. I like the details you give the room, but I think that perhaps, having been kidnapped, the narrator might be more panicked at first, not paying attention to the setting. Maybe he/she (I think a he) could freak out at first, then get a hold of themselves and study the room, try to figure out what the furnishings tell them. I was taken out of it when you described it as an "empire sleigh bed." I like that you provide the vivid image of what type of bed it was, but I don't think that's something the narrator would notice at that point.
    A very promising start. I love a mystery, and I'd definitely keep reading to find out what has happened to the narrator, and what's on "The Outside."

  7. You write well and this is an intriguing premise. But I'm afraid this starts a little too much "in medias res" for me. I wanted to know more about the narrator -- and to have more reason to sympathize with her -- before being thrown into an unusual place.

    I think you're trying to force your story to open too fast, but letting it slow down a little will make this a compelling opening.