Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Through a Glass Darkly
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

My bedroom mirror had too much room for monsters in it. I dragged it to my window and tilted it upward, watching it fill with stars and darkness. I pretended that if I filled it with other things, the monsters couldn’t get in.

The stars became frozen fireflies, trapped in the rectangular jar of the wood-framed mirror. The dark oak grated against itself as I shifted the mirror to set them free. Now, with the mirror facing me, I was the one trapped in the jar, caged and flightless.

And then the monsters came, the mirror churning with shadows the way it always did before they appeared. I touched it lightly with my fingertips, holding in a flinch as their massive, reptilian heads butted against the glass. You don’t scare me anymore, I thought at them. But I knew it was a lie.

I liked to think I was brave, that standing here every night in front of a mirror I could have hidden or destroyed actually meant something. But with graduation on the horizon, it was past time to admit the truth. All it meant was that I’d been fooling myself for nearly seventeen years.

As if they could hear my thoughts, the creatures clawed more frantically at the barrier between us. Their scaly hides glistened in the strange half-light of their shadowed world, rippling with the churning power of their heavily-muscled frames. One of them smashed a triple-clawed hand against the barrier, its nostrils flared, its fang-studded mouth snapping silently.


  1. This is really intriguing, monsters coming out of a mirror. Is this a retelling of Alice in Wonderland? The title makes me think so. Immediately, I thought a spin on "Through the Looking Glass." I loved the opening line. It made me do a double take. My only concrit is that during this scene, I kept wondering if her holding the mirror out of the window is making the monsters come, like she's luring them. Because if she is, then her fear of them doesn't make sense. I think they just come, though. I'm obviously a little confused. Anyway, great opening scene.

  2. The prose is lovely. I'm not quite sure what to think of the premise. She's so nonchalant about the monsters in the mirror that I'm not certain whether this is the fantasy aspect and her mirror really is some window to another realm or she's having psychological issues.

    And that's probably my main comment on this. I'm not sure how to feel because I can't really tell how she feels about it. She says she's afraid, but she's not acting it. There doesn't seem to be any real danger here. But I'm not sure I buy that she does this every night, just calmly waiting around to watch these monsters come... It's just all very surreal.

  3. I love the title, and the first line is pretty great, though you could probably lose "in it" and it works just as well. I think what Heather is getting at is maybe the storytelling is a bit passive here, which to me makes it feel like a prologue. We get the initial, mysterious set up and then somewhere a page later the story actually starts.

    If this is not a prologue, showing your a closer POV, like feelings, reactions, might help. I don't mind a bit of narration to start a story, but the character should be doing this for a reason and maybe explain what that is, or show why she needs to do this right now, to provide a little more active setting.

  4. It's a strong opening, but I agree, this situation could, and should be, a lot creepier than it currently is.

    There are monsters. In the mirror. This is way freakier than clowns or dolls.

    I'm curious as to why your character hasn't destroyed the mirror yet or at least hidden it. She's just so matter-of-fact about the whole thing.

    And maybe there's a good reason for her not to be freaked out, but you can still show the danger of the situation. What if the monsters ever got through? Do they show up in every mirror or just this one? Maybe make the monsters seem more intelligent, as if they're hunting the MC or only interested in her and no one else. I suspect the opening would be more powerful if you got a sense that the monsters were biding their time, waiting for their opportunity to strike.

    Good luck!

  5. Interesting. I like the line about filling the mirror with stars and darkness.

    At first, I wasn't sure if the monsters were real or imaginary. By the end, I think they're real, but I'd like to know that for certain sooner. The fourth paragraph has kind of a 'telling' tone that removed me from the immediate scene and made this harder to follow. Maybe if you moved it to the beginning it would help with both of these issues.

    Also, *But I knew it was a lie.* could just be: But it was a lie.

  6. I loved the imagery in the first two parg's. Nicely done. I'd keep them as the opening pargs because the mirror is the catalyst here and making it special matters. I would cut the 'in it' at the end of the first sentence. It reads awkward.

    In parg 3 you introduce the monsters by saying -and then the monsters came, which isn't scary. Make their intro bigger. Perhaps cut that and say - And then the mirror churned with shadows. I touched it lightly with my fingertips, and massive, reptilian heads butted against the glass and I flinched. You don’t scare me, I thought. But it was a lie.

    Parg 4 you might cut 'All it meant was that," in the last sentence.

    Last parg - maybe cut "As if they could hear my thoughts," and maybe change the word 'frames' in heavily muscled frames, because all of this is happening in the mirror frame.

    I'd read more.

  7. I am concerned that this might not be the best scene to begin a novel. I am left with the impression that the protagonist is mentally ill and in a very bad space which is a tough way to begin. I often think the sample chapters have to deliver a promise to the reader that it is going to be worth investing their time to read the whole book so you want to connect immediately with the protagonist or the setting. To have the protagonist staring into a mirror seeing monsters does tell me a lot about her but do I want to know more? Maybe start with a less dark, somber scene and use this one later in the novel. Best of luck!