Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #7

TITLE: The Invaders

January 3rd, 2099

I’m watching the door, shuddering in a paroxysm of fear. She’s coming to take me now. I hear her footsteps. Crunch…Crunch…Crunch…my life is being shredded and torn under her heavy, clunking boots.

Alphan asks if I’m ok. He’s the only person with me.

Misery, sordid and awful, grows big and heavy in the room as she approaches. Goosebumps prickle up on my arms. My breath slows down and I’m oozing onto the floor, suddenly a puddle at Alphan’s feet. He gets frantic; he tugs me up hard and tells me to be strong. We can face this together he says. I nod and I’m standing when the door finally opens.

“Hi,” she says. There’s no sneer in her voice. Steely resolve cloaks her entirely. I glean nothing from looking into her face, and it’s a face that I know very, very well.

“Hi,” I say in return, gulping down tear-salted draughts of fear. Alphan places a hand on my shoulder.

We're ready.

September 27th, 2098

It’s Monday morning biology class and I’m groggy. Dr. Shush’s dull, monotone voice lulls me to sleep. Bang! The heavy classroom door suddenly slams open. I’m jerked awake. A new boy stands in the room.

He’s not cute. His nose is violently crooked. His mouth is flat and light pink like a piece of gum that’s been stepped on. Blue eyes studded with heavy lashes are set unevenly above his cheeks. Straw-colored hair flops languidly about his forehead.


  1. Hello there!

    I like your opening scene but I feel a little bit like I'm being told the events instead seeing it unfold before my eyes.

    I want to read more and see what happens, especially because you go back (to the beginning?) but compared to some of the other openings I've been reading so far I feel that there is a lack of personality and voice.

    But I do like the premise!

  2. The beginning makes me curious about what's going to happen, but the language is very dense with elaborate and colorful descriptions and could probably be trimmed down without losing the effect you're trying to get.

    Maybe simplify things a bit, and it will be just as intriguing and the language won't distract from the story.

  3. I agree with the critiques made by the others, i.e. being told the events rather than living them & the language being somewhat distracting.

    Because I don't have an idea of what's going on in the first scene, I'm not pulled along enough to want to keep reading. The most interesting thing to me there is the fact that the person they are so afraid of seems normal, like a possessed child, but nothing is really made of it.

    The language, especially, stalls me. "Tear-salted draughts of fear" and the melting into a puddle (made seemingly somewhat literal) are both places I was jerked from the narrative.

    I suggest taking more time with the opening teaser, and more space. What exactly is the problem/fear? Why should I want to read through a year to get there?

  4. Way too much telling here and too much emotion before we even know the characters. Try cutting all of the telling and see what remains. We can experience the fear of the narrator without being told about it directly. Maybe it could begin something like: "She's coming to take me now. I watch the door, the skin on my arms prickling, the hair rising at the back of my neck." I would cut the crunching and the rest of that paragraph. You can also cut "in return" since we know she's replying in return. I'd cut the "draughts of fear" and try something more subtle there. You have definitely set up some tension--it just needs to be tightened. I don't follow the relationship between the two entries. I think it breaks up the action a bit too soon maybe.

  5. I really enjoyed this piece. It reminds me a lot of Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me (albeit, less flowery).

    AKA, I liked the language. As a (somewhat) YA person myself, I gravitate towards startling images, unique ways to look at the world.

    Bah, I really want to know what happens next. Is the boy with the crooked nose Alphan?

  6. Hey there! First of all, I love the fact that you know your world so well and am so confident about your word choice.

    I especially love this line: " life is being shredded and torn under her heavy, clunking boots." So very painful, even for a reader.

    I see that a lot of the other previous comments have mentioned that it feels like they are being walked through the opening, but this doesn't mean you are on the wrong track.

    My main recommendation is to read a novel in your genre - one you really like, from an author you look up to, and especially something with a prologue since this is what you are working with. This is not to kick yourself over how awful you sound - I do this to myself a LOT.

    Instead, think of it as sitting down with a teacher. What hooks you about the opening? What information is given, and how can you make it as dense and non-dumping as possible?

    Another resource I recommend is Invisible Ink. The author helps you to really be able to clearly visualize your opening for yourself (and he helps people out at companies like Pixar and LucasFilm).

    You are doing an awesome job! Keep up the good fight and remember that critiques are only half the battle. You're a winner just for entering this contest. <3

  7. Great start to your story. It is compelling, and it draws the reader in. I would keep reading to find out more about this mysterious boy.

    That said, I agree with previous commenters that the writing feels bogged down. Two things I noticed:

    1) You named the emotions she is feeling (i.e. fear and misery) instead of using her actions / reactions / body language to show them.

    2) You are unnecessarily redundant. For example:

    She’s coming to take me now. I hear her footsteps. Crunch…Crunch…Crunch…my life is being shredded and torn under her heavy, clunking boots.

    Any one of those three sentences would get the point across that she is coming for me. Using all three bogs down the reader. I'd keep only the third sentence, which in my opinion is the best because of the crunch noises.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your writing.

  8. Creepy!

    Perhaps instead of telling us what Alphan says, allow him to actually say it, and maybe give us some indication of who he is. Brother, neighbor, friend? Her age or younger? And when he asks if she’s okay, she should probably answer. I wonder if we might also get a glimpse of this person who comes in.

    If it ended here, I’d definitely read more. But then we go back to ordinary life and I’m disappointed. I want to read the rest of the previous scene. I don’t want to read what leads up to it, I want to see how it progresses. Perhaps consider finishing the scene.

  9. I found the opening a bit too overwritten for my tastes. I'd suggest paring it back a bit.