Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #43

GENRE: YA paranormal

Death is a strange beast. You hear so many theories on what it’s like on the other side. Then you hear about those people who died for like a minute, and came back from the dead claiming they heard angels, saw a white light, or felt calm and peaceful.

It’s totally not true.

Realm 17 has been nothing but one big disappointment. Seriously, a boarding school for seventeen year old spirits is not where I thought dead people went.Plus, I never thought I would die at seventeen. It seems like yesterday I was on my dad’s plane coming from Milan. I’ve been trying to get back to find out what happened to my brother. Unfortunately here, I’m an outcast and getting what I want hasn’t been easy to come by. Any way I try, I can’t get to him. Mr. Biggins told me when I arrived, “Who you knew on Earth is not your concern now. They have their own path and you can’t interfere with that.” He also assured me I’m not a ghost that I’m energy except I look, feel and speak just like my last body. Words I thought I’d never hear in the same conversation—died and last body.

Apparently, your spirit comes here for rehabilitation. It’s not heaven or hell, its in-between. Since I screwed up so many times, I need to learn how to be a better spirit. That requires mind numbing classes of how to be kind and helpful.


  1. I thought the opening of this was very strong and engaging. I was instantly hooked in your story and ready to read on.

    Paragraphs 3 and 4 were problems for me, however. Paragraph 3 starts out strong but quickly became bogged down with backstory and world building. I think it's too early for this. For example, do we really need to know about the plane to Milan and Mr. Biggins in the first couple hundred words? I think you could better use this space maintaining the momentum you gained in the first two paragraphs, further establishing your MC's voice and subtly setting the scene. There were also some punctuation and typo problems in the third paragraph.

    I think you have a good start here, but need to trim back on the background info to make it really engaging.

  2. What Michelle said. It's a terrific setup, but show us the world as it unfolds within the story.

  3. I really enjoyed your introduction and would read it if I had the chance.

    Be careful with the info dump as the others mentioned. You are working too fast to introduce us to the background of your world, we don't get to learn who your character is, we're just told XYZ. You've got some punctuation errors (...look, feel, and speak...). Beware of adverbs...use with caution! You start a lot of you sentences with them.

  4. I think you have a very unique and compelling story here. I love the idea that if you die and haven't been so good you must go to school to learn to be a good spirit.

    I suspect that if we got a few pages into your story we wouldn't need that background information or it could be held off. Bring us into the story immediately and fill in the background information a little more subtly.

    I'd totally read this. Great job.

  5. I like the idea of this story. I think you could hold off with some of the backstory and there is a few grammar mistakes.

    This next sentence seems very awkward to me.
    'He also assured me I’m not a ghost that I’m energy except I look, feel and speak just like my last body.'

    Maybe reword--He assured me that I'm not a ghost, I'm energy. Except, I look, feel, and speak just like my last body.

    But, I do really like the premise of this story, and I would keep reading.

  6. This is ALL tell and setup. I have no idea of how she feels about any of this. Maybe try and work this information into the story as you go.

    As it is now, I'm not engaged and probably wouldn't read on. In particular, I struggled to get through the first paragraph as it seemed so cliche.

  7. I agree with earlier comments. It's an interesting concept, but what's the story? Is the MC male or female? Is the story how s/he died, how s/he will be rehabilitated, what happened to the brother or all of the above? And I'm a little confused about Realm 17. It's only for 17 year old spirits and there are Realms 1 through 101? Why would they be segregated? I can see a lot of potential with the story, but I think this beginning is very confusing. I'm not hooked yet.

  8. You have a great voice and an intriguing concept here. As the others said, it's a lot of telling instead of showing. But the good news is you have the story; it just needs some unpacking. If you could take everything you tell us in paragraph three and build it out into a scene, i.e., show Mr. Biggins greeting your MC, show him/her beign an outcast, then maybe flash to snippets of the plane crash throughout that scene, I think it would be quite compelling.

    Good luck with this!

  9. Great opening paragraphs and drawing the reader in. Paragraph 3 needs changing. Starting with Realm 17 - show us, not tell us. Weave in pieces of the back story later in novel. Firmly put us in the narrator - let us feel, experience Realm 17.
    Good luck :)

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  11. I'm with KayC. I have no idea what this story will be about. You've spent 250 words chatting with the reader instead of telling your story.

    Forget all the explanation and just start the story. ANy time you're explaining something for the reader, that's a sure sign you've left the story behind. Cut it, and go back to the story.

  12. I love this idea of a boarding school where spirits go to be rehabilitated. But this opening is all telling, and doesn't do the idea justice. Open with a scene that shows us the school and our main character in this new environment, then fill in the background details later. (And the ideas you express in the first two paragraphs can easily be expressed through the story, rather than stated outright.) There's a ton of potential here!

  13. The opening is so close, I think just a little tweaking and it could be awesome. Maybe one snappy line about what everyone says dying is like, then that line: It's totally not true. I don't think "death is a strange beast" is needed.

    Like others said, I would show her interacting with someone or within the school. It would be a cool visual to show other students--do they look maimed or altered from when they died? A conversation with someone can fill in some details, or just show what happens first in the story and let the other details fill in.