Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Dot Reaper
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Thick pillows of smoke stung Max's eyes and invaded her lungs as she collapsed against the bedroom door in a coughing fit. When her lungs ceased the convulsion, she tested the temperature of the door knob with a quick tap before pushing the door open. A waft of clean air greeted her. Max darted to the nearest window and threw it open, taking in deep, agonizing lungfuls of the humid night air.

Following her up the stairs, Fabian, Max’s little brother, was by her side in seconds, sputtering and wheezing against the window screen. Max rubbed and patted his back to help him rid the soot from his lungs. When his breathing settled, she turned her attention to the mesh wiring blocking their escape. Max pushed at the middle and sides of the barrier, but only with Fabian’s help was she able to pop the screen’s aligner out of its track. Another push sent it hurtling to the ground.

Placing a steadying hand on her brother’s shoulder as she threw her leg over the windowsill, Max's bare foot met the rough material of the cold roof.

“Okay,”she said, adjusting her weight. “Hold on to—”

Another explosion rocked the house, sending a concussive force through the room. The top of Max’s head slammed against the bottom of the window as she was hurled outside and onto the roof. The coarse shingles scraped and scratched at her arms and legs as she slid down.

Then she spiraled downward into the darkness.


  1. The story seems to be starting in the wrong place. It needs grounding, a sense of place and character before launching into this action.

    I am not sure about the last line, if you jump out of a window I would think plummet is a better word. Spiral gives a feeling of floating through the air. Unless that is what you were going for?

  2. I would have to agree. The writing style is excellent, and this looks like a great scene, but it should come later in the book. The beginning of the book can have tension, but this kind of action has to come after we know more about the character.

  3. Like the writing, but have no sense of where we are in space or time. Ditto for the characters. Who are they, besides being brother and sister?

  4. I was okay with starting here, but the level of detail in the writing didn't seem to match the urgency of the situation. The first two paragraphs move very slowly, with testing the doorknob, stopping to cough, and all the steps involved in knocking out the window screen. I would think two kids trying to escape from a burning house would be rushing into the room and kicking out the screen as fast as they can.

    Shorter sentences and a faster pace would better reflect their peril.

    There were also a few writing glitches that threw me. The sentence that begins "Following her up the stairs..." doesn't work because Max and Fabian aren't on the stairs, they're in the bedroom. I think you meant "Having followed her...," but actually, you could just say Fabian was at her side. How he got there isn't important.

    If you parse the third paragraph, it says Max's bare foot placed a hand on her brother's shoulder.

    It's nitpicky, but those things would keep me from reading on.

  5. I felt that the scene did keep my attention and it was most definitely well-written. However I didn't feel connected to the characters. I didn't empathize with them. They seem to be in some sort of trouble but I, as a reader, did not really pity them because I had just met theme. You have to build up a connection between your readers and characters before you launch them into any sort of peril. We need to love them to root for them. This is why I agree with the previous comments that this scene should come later. Maybe once we've met your characters.

  6. For an action scene, the writing seems stilted. Short,choppy sentences are needed to convey urgency. Sounds and smells heighten in tense situations, so we need to get this.
    These first three paragraphs need to read like we see a movie to work.
    EX: show Fabian following her up the stairs. Let us hear him cough beside her.

    The last sentence is enigmatic and works for me.

    If you replace most of the 'ing' constructions at the beginning of sentences with action, it will help to put us in the moment.

  7. I do not mind reading a book that begins with this amount of action if it is subsequently followed up with a scene that introduces the characters and explains what just happened. The last line's "spiraled into darkness" gives me the impression that the main character is passing out, and that this loss of consciousness will be picked up in the next chapter. I liked it.

  8. I agree the opening is well written, but it could benefit from shorter sentences and less description to create a sense of urgency. What it does need is more description of the pain these injuries cause. How does she react to her brother's head ramming against a wall? How does it feel to be hurled outside onto the roof? I think we feel detached from the main character because we're getting a series of events that happened rather than experiencing what she is feeling.

  9. It’s a nice, active opening that makes me wonder what’s going on.

    I do think you have to place Fabian in that first parg, because he comes out of nowhere in the second one. And when she escapes the room, she rushes to the nearest window to get fresh air. Then she runs upstairs. Why? Why not crawl out that first floor window? Reading further, it seems that window was upstairs, in which case, you have to tell us she ran upstairs to the nearest window.

    Then ‘another’ explosion rocks the house. There can’t be another unless there was a first one, and even if it happens off stage, we have to know about it, so perhaps add somewhere earlier that the smoke is coming from an explosion in the house.

  10. Oh, the last passages excited me!