Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Shadow Fire
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy/Romance

Every step I take is one step closer to death.

Hiking through the dense underbrush, I try to calm my frayed nerves and control the fear threatening to overwhelm me. Twigs and tendrils of ivy grab at my ankles as I continue to forge ahead, forcing me to wrench away from their skeletal grip. The sunlight is quickly fading, signaling the end of another day, but this is no ordinary day.

Today is the last day of my life, at least my life as I know it.

A loud crack pierces the air. I freeze in my tracks, my breath catching in my throat. Whipping my head around, I try to locate the source of the sound. My heart beats wildly, the erratic rhythm painful. These woods are full of predators, some animal, some monster, but the worst…human.

Lungs burning, I force myself to continue walking, though every fiber of my being just wishes to collapse to the forest floor in defeat.

I’m quickly approaching the edge of the Planthes Forest. The town of Verdane, my home, is only another twenty minutes away. Normally when I’m this close to home after a long day of hunting, I’d smile, breathe a sigh of relief, and perhaps look forward to dinner. Today there will be no raucous family meal, no solace in entering the normally peaceful village, and certainly nothing to smile about.

The villagers will be awaiting my return, skulking in the shadows, desperate to catch another glimpse of the walking dead girl.


  1. Hello there!

    I would read on, I like the last line especially because as a reader I want to know why she's a walking dead girl.

    I get a distinctive voice and I would enjoy reading more in this MC's point of view.

    However, I think there were a few terms that had me pull back from the reading. 'Twigs and tendrils of ivy grab at my ankles', because Shadow Fire is a YA Fantasy I thought the plants were actively reaching out to grab her, and I'm still not sure if the MC was caught in a tangle of underbush, or if she had to struggle away from plants actively seeking to constrain her.

    Also the first line, and 'Today is the last day...'. I'm a huge fan of Fantasy, which is my go-to genre for novels. So personally it sounds a little bit cliche- I've read many novels that use the same phrases, so I'd rather just have it shown by the plot than have the phrases trotted out.

    (Also, I've just watched the Iron Man 3 trailer so maybe that's why it sounds a little cliche... the Mandarin says ' today is the first day of what's left of your life.')

  2. I really love your word choice and I agree that your MC has great voice! I think the opening sentence is fine, but I would definitely suggest playing around with other possibilities that would be more specific.

    Take this next piece of advice with a grain of salt, since I obviously have no idea where this story is going, or even what this girl's story is. It may not be wise to start off your book with the MC's life being in danger. I don't know anything at all about her yet, and I need to care about her first before something like that happens.

    Unless her life isn't literally in danger. Again, it's hard to say with only reading the first 250 words.

    I really enjoyed this passage and would definitely read more!

  3. I am not hooked, but I'm not sure I can pinpoint why.

    Partly, it's because the action -- though there -- is not really directed. I'm not sure what she's running from or why, and because I'm in the head of the MC, I would expect her to either be more specific, or for her emotion to be more palpable.

    I think the main reason, though, is that almost every sentence is I-centered. The story is first person, so of course the MC is our eyes and ears, but instead of seeing things through her eyes, every sentence has her as the main focus. There is very little scenery to picture. For example, in the fourth paragraph, all we get of the world she's traveling through is "A loud crack pierces the air."

    I agree with Sescha that the hook at the end of this is rather arresting. Maybe put that earlier, since it is clearly the focus?

  4. As I'm reading this I feel tension and questions, aka "hooked!"
    My one concern is how much it made me think about The Hunger Games. Last day to live, hunting, forest outside of the village...I'm wondering if you do end up expanding your description of the scenery, maybe you could bring of the unique elements I'm sure are there up to the forefront?
    I can see myself skipping meals and neglecting my kids to keep reading this. I just feels like a 'page turner' to me.

  5. I did not like the first sentence,it felt over-used and just put there as a grabber. I would read a few more pages, but this doesn't seem like my sort of book (though it may be perfect for others.) There were too many adjectives which diluted the power of the few important ones. Once again, just my taste.

  6. As an action scene, this does not work for me. As others have said, there are things missing: setting the scene, MC goal, who the MC is, etc.

    Favorite line: 'The villagers will be awaiting my return; skulking in the shadows, desperate to catch another glimpse of the walking dead girl."

    We need to get a hint sooner why she is the walking dead girl, and who she is.

    Watch out for cliches like 'every fiber of my being'.

    Hope these comments help. Good writing!

  7. There's some great imagery in this opening. (I'm thinking of the branches described as skeletal -- creepy.) The writing overall is smooth and enjoyable to read.

    I think my hesitation is the line, "life as I knew it." It makes me think your MC isn't literally about to die or even be left for dead -- she's about to go through some major life change and she's using hyperbole. I hope this isn't the case, because that would feel like a big letdown to me. I'd feel lied to as a reader. I don't believe the MC's life needs to be in immediate danger to grab the audience's attention. But if you say she's in immediate danger, then I would expect to see that in the next few pages.

    All that to say that yes, I would keep reading, but if the threat wasn't real, I would stop soon after.

  8. Loved the opening. This is my kind of story, so I'd definately keep reading.

    The voice, description, emotions, and danger were great for the first five paragraphs. Then that sixth paragraph information dump hit me like a ton of bricks. I agree it's important to tell us where she is going and give us some context, but you really need to stay in the main character's voice while you do it.

    In a high action scene like this one, you need to stick with the short sentences and suspensful word choices, even while sharing information. Maybe have her spot a landmark that means she's almost home. Mention the game hanging from her belt to let us know she's been hunting. All this information could be worked into the scene in small bits rather than dumping it on us all at once.

  9. The beginning here felt unimportant and unnecessary to me. What is the relevance of her walking through the woods? What is she afraid of? Then we jump to her homecoming and the 'threat and fear' are dropped/forgotten.

    Because I don't know anything about the MC I'm struggling to find a reason to care. I would be inclined to start the story at "I'm quickly approaching the edge of the Planthes Forest." This then leads us into the real hook - the walking dead girl.

  10. At the beginning, every step she takes brings her closer to death, which implies she’s alive. At the end, she’s a walking dead girl, which means she’s already dead, so how can she be walking toward her death?

    And normally, going home is a happy event, but today it won’t be because the villagers will be skulking to catch ‘another’ glimpse of her. If it’s ‘another’ glimpse, then they must do this often, so why would today be any different?

    Perhaps start this when she actually reaches the village and let us see the reactions of the others who live there? Maybe give us an indication of what walking dead means. Zombie? Vampire? Something else?

  11. I think we're being hit over the head a bit with the repeated references to the MC's impending death. A little subtlety goes a long way.