Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Legend of the Totem Keepers
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Will cranked the throttle on his snowmobile as the blast from the air horn tore through the crisp Alaskan morning. A dozen idling engines growled to life. Leaning into the handlebars, he punched his snow machine into high gear. The treads clawed against the thick ice. Fish-tailing, he fought to keep his momentum forward. Glancing to his right, Will caught sight of racer 97, Rhett Mitchell, pulling ahead of the pack with him. For a split second, Rhett’s blood-red helmet turned and though he couldn’t see Rhett’s face, Will felt his poisonous glare.

A shower of snow hit Will from the right. One of the riders was already out of the race, his machine mangled with the fence lining the course. Will leaned left through the first turn, his knee inches from the razor-sharp ice. Despite his thick winter gear, the biting, sub-zero wind soaked through his layers. He gripped the handles and forced the sleds to the right, sliding through the second turn.

Obviously an amateur, number 108 shot past Rhett and Will as turn three approached. He flew to the outside of the track, and then fought to pull his machine back to the inside. His skis caught and the machine and rider flipped end over end before crashing in a heap in the middle of the track. Will yanked his machine to the left and flew through the powder, past the accident and the two medics now rushing to the racer.


  1. I'm not sure how I feel about this opening. The writing is strong, but I'm sure about opening with such an action oriented scene, without any prior knowledge about the characters and why or whether we should care about them.

    I would keep reading to see what happens, but I'd think it would be helpful to get at least some more sense of Will who seems to be the MC.

    Once specific point, I'm don't know if "poisonous glare works". Good luck! I hope this helps.

  2. I liked that you opened with an action scene, but what's missing, I think, is the reason for the race.

    Is this just an annual skimobile race that's a fun thing for the MC to do, or is the race more important to him? Is winning imperative? Maybe he just wants to beat Rhett, but then, we should know why.

    As is, this is just a race, which isn't compelling. The outcome doesn't really matter because we don't yet know your characters enough to care. Make the outcome matter. Will entered the race for a reason. Let the reader in on it, and then they'll care.

  3. I like this setting, Alaska seems like an interesting place to set your story, although this read contemporary to me rather than fantasy. Then again, it's only the first page!

    I think your first paragraph should be split after putting the snow mobile in high gear. Then the following lines could be combined or condensed a little to show the action but not every action, for exmaple cutting "glancing to his right" feels extraneous. Racer 97 Rhett pulled ahead and then you can show your character react.

    A line or two about why they are racing and/or what the stakes are could be snuck in here among the action to give it some context. The MC could have some internal thoughts about needing to win the race because x, and then swerves in front of #97 etc. The action here is good, but the opening page should give an idea of why the action is taking place so we can root for your MC.

  4. Hmm, the writing is strong, but I can see what other critiquers are saying about there being something missing. There's a lot of action described, but I don't know much about the character. Could you slip in a few lines that show us what this character is like/who he is? I tend to get more invested in action if I have a character to root for.

    Good luck!

  5. I really, really agree with the other commenters here. I ADORE the setting, but I'm not big on the action-packed opening here. It seems flashy without substance. There's descriptions and descriptions of action, but I'm not sure why it's important--to me or the MC.

    I almost started skimming when I came to the second paragraph, because it was much the same as the first: action, action action. Don't get me wrong, the writing is really great and tight, but sometimes planting readers right away into a scene like this can be disorienting rather than engaging.

  6. To me, this is the sort of opening that works better in an action movie than it does in a book. The biggest issue is 'Who is Will, and why should we care about him?' There's strong action here, but no sense of the character.

    I do like some of the things happening in here, like the way the cold bites through his layers, but I'd like also to feel the adrenaline rush that I'm guessing Will feels as he races.

  7. You set a great scene here, but I do agree slipping in some motivation from the MC would give it that missing something. A quick thought like, I can't lose this time or something about why he's racing.

    Or if that isn't the focus of the scene and since it's fantasy does he see something out of the ordinary? Maybe this happens on the next page. 250 isn't much.

    The writing is strong and I would keep reading to find out what's going on.

  8. Strong voice and great action. Now add a short reason for why they are racing (it seems to be something official. Mention a name and maybe that Rhet and Will have traditionally been enemies on this race or some other reason), and you've got a winner, imho.

  9. Unique setting and opening scene. I’m just not sure what the tension is here, and who the players are in your story. A little more info about Will – even fleeting thoughts as he passes by the accident on the tracks – would give your reader a better sense of where the book is going.

    I know I’m in for something fairly weighty with your title, but I don’t get a sense of that from your opening. What are these characters competing for, and what specifically is in this for Will if he wins?