Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #9

TITLE: Arcanum
GENRE: YA Thriller

It was a frigid night and no one was outside unless they had to be. The only light came from the few light poles still standing along the deserted road.

A lone patrol car stopped, pulling close to the canal that ran parallel to the train tracks. Two police officers exited their vehicle, flashlights in hand. Their lights flickered along the manmade structure, reflecting off the standing water at the bottom.

Approaching the edge, their flashlights lit up a dismal sight: a half-naked and seemingly lifeless body partially submerged. A passing train's vibrations caused their lights to dance over the body. Though they both cursed, it could not be heard over the noise of the train.

The body was that of a teenage boy. He was covered with bruises and mud, and wore only jeans and socks. The bruising was very dramatic against the ashen pallor of his skin. It appeared he had dark brown hair, but it was hard to tell in the weak light and with all the dirt covering him. Blood was smeared from his hairline down the side of his face, neck, and along his arm.

The older police officer leaned down, touched the boy's cheek and said, “Poor kid.” The boy gave a low moan, causing both police officers to jump back.

The flashing lights of the emergency vehicles in the distance were like a beacon of hope.



  1. I'm not hooked. This feels too much like an adult thriller. (I've discovered that the only real difference between YA and adult is age of hero and other words, adult thriller narrators seem lobotomized and disconnected and YA thrillers (should) have more personality.) This felt too clinical. It's a disturbing (and interesting) scene, to be sure, but it's hard to care about any of it. Young Adults need a character to latch onto right in the beginning. Maybe the voice would've started as soon as the boy woke up. (I'd read on to give you the benefit of the doubt.) And I appreciate that the policemen's swearing was alluded to, rather than described syllable by syllable. :)

  2. I do agree with Ryan that this should an adult thriller. But just this brief look into Arcanum, I would definitely like to read more!

  3. I agree with Ryan that this felt a bit clinical. The prose is great and the plot seems intriguing, but without knowing anything about who is telling me about this scene, it's hard to really get sucked in. it also felt detached to me, and since the narrator seems so separated from the scene, I feel separated, too.

  4. My best guess is this is a prologue. That it's intended to be an objective narrator to show the reader the crime scene. Maybe that is where the distant narrator feeling is sourcing from.

    What might remedy the clinical feeling is to add the character right away in the first line. Instead of a distant narrator saying nobody was outside, you can show why your character is outside when nobody else is (if they in fact are). Give us the reason they are out roaming the night when no one else is, even if it's just a quick fragment. X needed to see Y. This gives the character's name and an objective.

    Prologues are always tough to critique. If this isn't a prologue then I suggest injecting your character and their outlook into what's happening.

  5. I like this. The POV feels distant, as though a reporter is describing the scene. I'm assuming the officers play no further part in the story since this is straight exposition and there is no emotion from either of them except for the 'poor kid' comment.

    You've opened some intriguing questions to answer.
    o How did the police know exactly where to go?
    o Why did they expect to find something of interest there?
    o What happened to the boy?
    o Why didn't the attackers finish the job they started?
    o How did he get away/survive?
    o Who called the EMT?

    I would read more just to see how the POV of the boy comes into play, assuming he is the YA of the story.

    On the other hand, if the officers do continue on in the story, consider introducing them by name, and letting some of these facts come out in dialogue.

  6. You succeed in depicting an eerie and unnerving scene here, but it doesn't feel like YA. I'd need to see who the main character is and how the story looks through their POV.

  7. I agree with Steph that this seems like a prologue because of that # at the end, or it may be a separate scene from whatever follows. It might work for you if you are presenting several pages or chapters, but if all you have is this one page, then it wouldn't work for me. As others have said, there's no life or emotion here. It's extremely clinical.

    If the boy is your MC, you could start in exactly the same place, but show us the scene from his POV. If the MC is someone else, it could serve you better to start with them if all you have is one page.

    Also, you tell us how dark it is and how hard it is to see, and the boy is covered in mud. If that's true, how could they see all his bruises or the pallor of his skin? The same with the blood. Perhaps don't make it so dark, or eliminate some of the mud.