Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #37

TITLE: All Us Good Little Soldiers
GENRE: YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

I was elbow-deep in sheep's milk and squeezing a mass of curd when the door slammed against the wall. Henryk loomed in the entryway, a cutout of shadow from the low, golden sun. As he stepped closer, I could see his eyes had swelled like overripe tomatoes. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and I curled away from him in case he was gonna toss up. He didn't, though; he had to go and do something worse.

He said, "Again, it happened again."

I didn't need to ask. The cheese slipped out of my fingers and plopped into the vat under my knees. Hot curd splashed up and clung to my cheek, but I followed Henryk out of the hut without cleaning it off. Henryk and I ran across the pasture, dogs clipping our heels and sheep bleating from all around.

"Oh, Nie, nie, nie," my mouth was going, and I couldn't stop it.

Henryk slowed. He ducked under the boughs of a gnarled, old spruce tree and flung aside the white capes we'd hung there that morning when the sun began to bake.

That's where I saw her. One of our ewes lay curled on dead spruce needles, her once-white fleece yellowed and bare in patches. Her open eyes saw somewhere I couldn't find, all filmed over and greyish blue. I covered my mouth.

Henryk didn't quit shaking. He was crying, but I didn't do anything to comfort him. I just stood there, my eyes fixed on that dead sheep.


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  2. I really like this beginning. I want to know what's going to happen and I want to read more. Even though I looked at the genre and Sci/Fi Fantasy is not my thing!
    The only thing that threw me of was the MC's dialogue. "Nie nie nie."
    PS. I like the name Henryk.

  3. First of all, I liked the title. It made me interested before I looked at anything else.

    It immediately brought me into the fact that something bad is happening in the MCs world.

    I would say that the first paragraph is so strong that I felt a little bit of a break in the flow when you wrote "He said" before the dialogue. Perhaps have it afterwards or not at all (I think the reader will be able to know that it is Henryk speaking when we read the MCs reaction immediately afterwards (But this is a very nitpicking critique and it in no way stopped me from reading on).

    I want to know more about what is happening here. Very nice start.

    Good luck!

  4. Nice! This is well-written and intriguing. I like the "nie nie nie" spoken by the MC--gives us a sense that we're in a different culture. I also wonder if Henryk lost control and did something to the sheep. Sucked its blood, maybe? He was wiping his mouth after it happened...

    The only critique I would give would be to replace the word "slammed" in the first sentence. I got a visual of the door coming off its hinges and being pinned against the wall. It's got a doorknob, right? So wouldn't it bounce with a loud crash?

    Good luck!

  5. Love this! Great world-building. I love the "Nie, nie, nie" but didn't like the "my mouth was going" that followed it. How about "I heard myself crying, 'Nie, nie, nie' and I couldn't stop it."?

    I also was distracted by the "He said" at the beginning of the sentence. I suggest reordering that line like this: "Again," he said. "It happened again." That way WHAT he's saying becomes more important than the fact that he said it.

  6. This is spectacular, I would so read this! The imagery was amazing, and it leaves me really wanting to know what comes next. Awesome job!

    ps--I agree with ami, Henryk is a pretty sexy name ;) Therefore the only thing I would say is wrong with this entry is that you made him cry!

  7. I really loved this piece. Very descriptive. I have only one question, why did your mc say, "Oh, Nie, nie..." Um...what does that mean! LOL. Not sure if other people might stumble on this also. One other observation, is the MC male or female. I thought male but was not certain. Great job. I wish you every success!

  8. I also wondered if the MC was male or female. I pictured male, but wasn't sure. You have great details and I like the tension you bring from the very beginning. One thing I thought about that you may want to try is to start with the dead sheep. I don't think this is necessary because you do start with action from the start in the hut, but I think it might worth rewriting to see the sheep dying or getting killed. That could really be an even stronger first page.

  9. I really liked opening with the MC elbow deep in sheep's milk, because it's so unexpected and immediately tells me something about what kind of life she lives. (I'm assuming the MC is a girl, but it would be nice if that were made clear, and if you could include her name.)

    The rest of the scene was strong as well, although I would have liked a bit more of a clue as to how Henryk killed the sheep -- a broken neck, blood, just something more graphic than yellow fleece.

  10. I love all your description and it builds such a great sense of suspense. The whole description of the sheeps milk is wonderful imagery. Agree with the "he said" should go after or deleted completely.
    Also, the words "toss up" seemed a little out of place for the time period/place you were describing. It made me pause.
    Also, when you say the sheep's eyes "saw somewhere" you couldn't find, was thinking that maybe it would be better to word that the eyes "were looking" or "were staring" rather than past tense. But other than that wonderful job

  11. I think the idea works well. We've got suspense, tension and a problem, and two characters who are acting. The problems are in the writing. You could tighten this a lot.

    Some suggestions--

    Parg 1 - A cutout of shadow IN the low, golden sun.
    He stepped closer, eyes like overripe tomatoes.
    and I curled away in case he tossed up.
    Cut the rest of the parg, because you're telling us he did something before he does it.

    Parg 2 - "Again," he said. "It happened again." Then show him run back out.

    Parg 3 - Cut 'I didn't need to ask.' telling.
    Cut - out of the hut
    Change Henryk and I to WE.

    Parg 4 - perhaps - I cried, after Nie, nie, nie, because she's making the noise, not her mouth.

    Parg 6 - cut - that's when I saw her. It's telling.
    Put a comma after 'patches' followed by - her open eyes filmed over and grayish blue,

    Parg 7 - Henryk shook and cried, (or maybe cried and shook)but I didn't comfort him.

  12. Good build up of tension.

    Interesting that others throught Henryk had mutilated the ewe, I assumed that the aliens had left their calling card, and it was a sign of things to come.

  13. Interesting. Yes, remove - He said - from the beginning of 2nd paragraph. It's not necessary. I'd like to see more description of the sheep to get a better feel of what's happened to her. And don't make Henryk cry. You built him too sturdy in the first paragraph to react in that way.

  14. Very unusual setting! I like that you drop us right into the action and include some dialogue to show us that we’re in a different type of world here. You could provide some more detail on what happened to the poor ewe, as the description of her death felt vague (“her open eyes saw somewhere I couldn’t find”) and I couldn’t tell if she had died a while ago (as indicated by her fleece being patchy) or if Henryk had killed her? His emotional reaction makes me think he had something to do with the ewe’s death, but that doesn’t quite track with the state they find her in.

  15. Lovely beginning. I'd read more to see what the ewe died from. Also, you've got a lovely way with words. The scene immediately sprang to life.