Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #45

GENRE: YA Science Fantasy

Noise filled the giant factory as machines hummed, metal scraped and Jace Faulkner grunted under the weight of his work and the watchful eyes of the supervisors. As he listened, the clamor blurred together like a sickly orchestra. No one seemed to mind it though. They all knew there were worse sounds, like the buzz of an electric baton and the crack it made when it contacted the flesh of a worker who wasn’t working hard or fast enough.

It wasn't the prospect of the baton or the grinding melody causing Jace's pulse to spike. He'd heard the factory song for the past two months and was long accustomed to it. But the unfamiliar clicking accompanying it was enough to make him drop the powerdrive he was holding. And then the buzz of the baton would join the factory symphony.

Their sharp steps echoed as the uniformed men walked amongst the workers, all slaves, all under the age of 18, debating who to choose.

Jace searched his sleeve for a clean area to mop the sweat from his brow, but finding none, wiped his face anyway. His thoughts flickered to the Faulkners, his adoptive parents. Word traveled fast on Renderon and they were likely in full panic for him by now. Even if they were the ones who sold him into slavery in the first place.

The officers probably wouldn't even notice him, much less pick him, Jace assured himself.

It was at that moment the clicking stopped beside him.


  1. You do a good job of laying out a lot of exposition and world background without it getting in the way of the narrative.

    One very small hiccup: "unfamiliar clicking" doesn't really fit if you're talking about the footsteps of those running this place. If it was unfamiliar, it wouldn't frighten him.

    You're looking for a word or phrase that implies "seldom heard."

  2. I think you could trim some sentences, like in the first paragraph when you could end after "flesh of a worker" since the rest is easy to figure out. What is the clicking anyway? Boot heels?

    I'm definitely interested in this world and this story. I'd love to see what happens next.

  3. Very interesting start. I feel uncomfortable in this factory because it doesn't seem like a pleasant place to be and I feel bad for your character. I'd read more to find out what happens.

    Be careful with your telling vs showing or telling THEN showing. You start right off with your first sentence telling us a noise fill the giant factory, then show us what that noise is. Lead with the noise.

    In P2, you start off in present tense ("melody causing Jace's") and then return to past. You have some passive sentences that hold the reader back in the 2nd paragraph (was holding).

    I agree with "tomalanbrosz" that you shouldn't use unfamiliar.

  4. This is the sentence that really catches my attention: Even if they were the ones who sold him into slavery in the first place. Immediately I wonder any parent would sell a child into slavery and what kind of world is this that allows slavery. I also wonder why they would be panicked. What is different about Jace's situation than what his parent's thought they sold him in to?

    I suggest working the description of the first two paragraphs into later action. The story starts for me with the uniformed men. I might suggest:

    The sharp steps of uniformed men echoed above the hum of heavy machinery. Workers, all slaves, all under the age of 18, cringed as the men passed. Cruel eyes passed over the children in search of a particular candidate.

    The clicking is a little confusing, because it is never directly attached to the footsteps.

    Perhaps: At that moment, the heel clicks stopped beside him.

    I'd like to see Jace focus on his task while he talks himself into believing he won't be noticed, much less chosen.

    Sounds like a cruel world for our hero to rise above.

    Keep it up!

  5. Nice job of setting the scene. I feel like I'm in a noisy factory.

    I am wondering, though, what Jace is doing. He grunts under the weight of his work, but you don't say what that work is.

    I was confused about the unfamiliar clicking. His pulse spikes because he doesn't know what it is, and then he does know that it's the steps of the uniformed men.

    ALso, if the factory is loud and noisy, would footsteps even be heard? And if the footsteps echo, wouldn't the other noises, and wouldn't that make for a horrendous amount of noise?

    And then Jace insinuates that his adoptive parents know the uniformed men are coming for him, he seems to be wary of it happening, and then he says, "nah, they're not coming for me.' It doesn't seem to make much sense.

    You might also say why they're coming for him. Omitting it only creates the question - why do they want him? Telling us why opens up a whole world of questions, giving the reader lots of reasons to read on.

  6. There are a lot of great setting details about the factory here, but I think some of this description of the noise (in it's current location) actually distracts us from the (really intriguing!) uniformed men and the real start of the story. I'd work on condensing those first two paragraphs, or interspersing the details later in the scene to create a more clear hook here.

  7. I like this. It's creepy, but I don't understand the unfamiliar clicking. Most shoes have a familiar sound reguardless of whether the person is familiar or not. Also watch for telling then showing.

  8. The setting details are great. I really like the "sickly orchestra" descriptor.

    The opening line feels like it's working a bit too hard, maybe too many concepts together. Perhaps start with Jace and how he feels/is experiencing working in the factory; the elements are there, maybe play around with the opening sentence and pare it down to a concise line.

    When it says "no one seemed to mind," are those the other workers? More specific detail there will further set the scene, especially if the workers are described in visual detail. The last line of the opening paragraph is vivid but also might benefit from paring down. Something like: "There were worse sounds, like the buzz of an electric baton when it cracked against the flesh of an unsuspecting worker."

    I would move to having Jace do a bit more than wipe his brow and think of his family. If something can be going on, or interaction with another character, this could be really engaging. The last line makes me want to continue, so maybe move that up to keep the scene moving.