Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #6

GENRE: YA Sci-Fi Thriller

“Let me go,” Theresa shouts, her arms and legs flailing.

Restraining a furious seven-year-old is no easy task. But once the needle’s in, the thrashing subsides and her hazel eyes glaze over. The thin red stream shooting up into the glass is beautiful. After Mama and I release her, I tap the back of the kitchen chair four times.

Sarah’s next. Nearly twelve, she’d rather die than act like a baby. She jumps into the seat, though her hands quiver. When the vial’s full, she pivots toward me.

“Your turn.”

“Sixteen’s too old. They don’t want my blood.”

“Too bad. It’s fun.” She pats my shoulder, then bounces off.

While Mama talks with the medics, I rock baby David in his cradle. He has such pudgy cheeks, I want to gobble him up. In another year, he’ll be old enough for the needle. It’s too soon.

Josh is the last one to be tested. He slides into the chair before anyone notices, then starts the usual barrage of questions. How’s the blood labeled? How’s it stored? Where will it go? I don’t know any other ten-year-olds like Josh. The two women administering the test glance at each other.

“Don’t worry, child,” says the one with a big mole on her cheek.

“But who looks at the samples?

“Josh,” Mama says, shaking her head. “That’s enough.”

He frowns. There’s no way he’s buying the story we’ve given the kids about why they’re being tested.


  1. Wow. Totally hooked! Great prose, awesome characterization, and I can't wait to find out why they're testing the blood! Could you put the rest of the first chapter in the comments please? :)
    Flawless worldbuilding.

  2. What Ryan said. I'm dying to find out what's going on and what happens next. Mission accomplished!

    Your writing is great, so I only have nitpicks. I'm thinking opening with "Restraining a furious seven-year-old" instead of that line of dialogue might make this a more powerful opening.

    Well done, you!

  3. I agree with everyone else that you do a great job of throwing the reader into your world and getting interest.

    My problem was that the first full paragraph could potentially read that the seven-year-old was just brutally murdered, with blood splattering on a glass window. In fact, that's exactly how I read it, and then the preschool mom in me went, "Okay, this one is clearly NOT for me." In a bookstore, you would've lost me there.

    I did keep reading, though, and once I realized that wasn't what was happening, I was curious about what happens next. I think if you had made clear that we're talking about a vial of blood right away, you would've had me the whole time.

    Nice work.

  4. I love how quickly we're thrown into this world. It's interesting and raises all sorts of questions in all the best ways!

    I will agree that I was a little lost with the needle thing at first. When the girl calms down once the needle is in, I assumed it was like a sedative or something, not like a blood drawing needle? If that makes sense. Also, I read it at first like it was the MC holding down the girl, rather than the two women.

    But those are little clarifying things. Everything else is so cool. I love how urgent everything is! Nice job!

  5. I need a bit more grounding earlier on so we know where we are and who is there. It's not until almost the end of the segment that we find out some medics are there, but are they the two women mentioned later doing a test? This is confusing.

    Why would the family be holding the kid down? That would be one of the medic's job.To allow patient's family to do health care work would put the medics/female testers in legal jeopardy.

    And what is the MC's goal? His/her only response to this is that the baby is too young to have blood drawn. But they draw blood from babies younger than her brother all the time.

    “Let me go,” Theresa shouts, her arms and legs flailing.

    This would read better as Theresa shouts, flailing her legs and arms. Otherwise, it reads like her legs and arms are not part of Theresa.

    Actually, once the needle's in, there is still pain and often a burning, so why would she stop thrashing if they're drawing blood?

    This sounds more like she's getting a sedative, not having blood drawn.

    Not clear what the significance of the following sentence is: I tap the back of the kitchen chair four times.

    Now it's a test: Before it was a sedative, then a blood draw, now a test. Blood tests are conducted in labs. (The two women administering the test glance at each other.)

    I'd like more description of all the characters, also. I have no clear picture of the MC or any of the characters, except one has a mole. Just a few words for each person would strengthen the story.

  6. I'd drop the first line of dialogue, as it was confusing as I thought the antagonist was Theresa and it took a moment to realise it wasn't. You don't want the reader to pause and think on the first couple of lines.

    The only other think that didn't flow for me was the hazel eyes glazing over - I thought they must be administering a sedative, not taking blood. I'd cut that sentence at subsides.

    Overall, I'm hooked and I'd read on to find out why they are having their blood tested.

  7. I’m definitely intrigued by these tests! There's a lot to wrap my head around, though, and a lot of people are introduced very quickly. I’d consider cutting down on the number of kids introduced right of the bat (is the baby necessary here?), and using that space to expand on the narrator’s role and to clarify the blood collection/testing procedures a bit.

  8. I agree about cutting that first line of dialogue.. It made me think the speaker was the protagonist, and it turns out, it's not.

    The submission itself is intriguing. I'm curious about why these blood tests matter. But I also felt there's a discrepancy in what you're showing. At the end, we're told this is for a blood test, but earlier, one of the kids calms down after the shot and their eyes glaze over, which made me think they were being given a drug. Maybe clarify there.

    I'd read more.