Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #20

TITLE: However Improbable
GENRE: YA Alt History Mystery

Given the time I’d had to consider it, I would much rather be sentenced to death. Poison or hanging, I had no preference. Yes, it’d be slow and agonizing, but really, that would be merciful compared to what they had in store for me. I wish I hadn’t ever won the damn Sweepstakes for the Colonies. Really, I wish I had listened to my gut and stayed in Maryland.

“Marigny Sheridan,” the brown haired man said, catching my attention. Mostly because he butchered my name. Mare-ig-nee? He said it like I was some horse and iguana hybrid. I wanted to say, “The ‘g’ is silent, idiot,” but I doubted that would have helped my case. I swear he even smelled holier-than-thou, like some volatile mix of expensive perfumes and the dirty stench money leaves on your hand.

With a sharp breath, the man said, “Before we proceed, do you have anything to say for yourself?” If I spoke, it would undoubtedly seal the likelihood of my exile.

Gazing down at the sloppy clothes I’d thrown on that morning, only one thought came to mind: “I wish I could go out in something a bit more flattering.” But then again, I was all out of wishes at that point.


  1. Ooh Yummy! I want to hear more from this girl. Artfully done bit about the name there too.
    Good luck to you!

  2. I am intrigued. I want to know more. I'm a little confused about her reaction to being exiled if it is worse than death. Why would she joke about it and then ask for something different to wear? I do love her humor and personality, but is just seems off in this situation.

  3. Your mc seems very snarky. That is not a common name so how was he supposed to know the g is silent? I think it would read better in present tense.

  4. I like this, but it may help to name who "they" is in the first paragraph to ground the reader. I'm a little disoriented to time/place given the genre; this seems like one of those stories that might start with action and then move backward--it's so tough to judge on 250 words! I would keep reading.

  5. I would keep reading because you've got a strong voice here, and I like the snarky! Though I am also a bit confused. If she's in England, and sentenced/sweepstaked to the colonies, wouldn't she be going to Maryland instead of wishing she stayed there? (I'm from Baltimore so I got all excited when I saw my state!) I think if I weren't confused about that, it would read better.

    "Given the time I'd had to consider it" is also a bit confusing here. What time? Consider what? We don't know the alternatives to death. Poison or hanging is probably fast (well maybe not poison, but hanging, your neck normally breaks), so "slow and agonizing" confused me too.

    Would someone in this time period/place know what an iguana is?

    "Dirty stench" of money was a bit strong for me, though maybe money is smellier in this day and age. Money is definitely dirty. I used to work selling t-shirts at concerts, and god my hands would be disgusting after handling the cash all day, but does it have a stench? More like a staleness. Definitely not volatile. Then again, the t-shirt stand was next to the porta-potties, so my sense of smell was a bit blocked. Also, that she noticed the smell is awesome. Just make sure the smell is right!

    In the last two paragraphs, it really did seem like a last words/execution/trial situation which confused me because I didn't think she was hanging. "Go out" also made me think of death. And exile isn't a done deal? It can still be sealed or unsealed? I think you could probably clear up all this confusion with just one sentence that shows us physically where she is. If it's clear in the next few words, we're good.

  6. The voice is solid in this opening, but I found myself as confused as the person above me. Why enter a Sweepstakes if the result is being exiled? By colonies, do you mean the original American colonies? From the sound of it, it has a Hunger Games feel to it.

    Also, I never picture the stench of money as being associated with holier-than-thou. People who work in cash are usually minimum-wage-earners or people dealing in underhanded work. This person should have a "new-car" smell, not a dirty money smell.

    Despite the great voice, I just don't have a grip on what's happening or why. Opening with conflict is great, but not if the reader doesn't understand what the conflict is.

  7. You have a strong voice here, but it strikes me as very contemporary. So opening your story in a historical setting is jarring. It might help to have a more distant narration, or at least a less snarky one, to help establish period.