Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #ALT-1

TITLE: Nightfallen

The men in the clearing look lost, far away from home knowing they will never go back. The light filters through the trees casting green shadows on the ground. It should smell clean out in the middle of nowhere, but instead there is an overwhelming stench of decay. The infected are gathered in a loose circle getting ready to set up camp. Some of their bodies can barely move, the disease has spread so far.

My father leads our team of fighters, signaling men to move around the clearing. They are silent as they tread carefully into place. We should be able to stop any of the infected from escaping as long as the men hold the perimeter.

I step next to my father. With his hand on my shoulder, he leans in next to my ear. “Lexy, there are twelve in the clearing. They may have reinforcements.” My role is to step in and draw their attention to begin fighting. If they do not attack me, we move on. They aren’t far enough gone to kill yet.

I nod and grab my katana in one hand, my knife in another. I peer through the trees assessing the situation. My first rush of adrenaline shows my anticipation for the next few minutes. A group is gathered around a small fire. The infected look tired. A few have the gray bubbles spreading up along their faces. They shouldn’t be able to fight back as quickly as the others.


  1. This seems like an interesting situation! I like the idea of the protagonist being bait of a sort. Also interesting in why there are only men (apparently?) who are infected.

    Watch out for "-ing" words, as this forces your tone into passive voice and slows action. Your first paragraph particularly has a lot of these words.

    "The men in the clearing look lost, far away from home knowing they will never go back."
    This tripped me up for a few reasons. The first is, I'm not sure we need two descriptions explaining how they looked--it might be better to pick one and go with it. The other reason is that we start slipping into the men's POV in that second part. How does you narrator know that the men know they will never go back?

    The few sentences that explain her role--I'm not sure we this. It slows the action, and aren't we going to find out that that's her role as soon as she starts moving?

    "My first rush of adrenaline shows my anticipation for the next few minutes." - This is telling instead of showing.

    Good luck!

  2. Hi,

    I really enjoyed this a lot. I especially liked your voice and the tone you set right off the bat.

    Though I am not a big fan of first person narrative, I had no trouble staying in the story.

    I would definitely read more.

    Thanks and good luck!

  3. The situation sounds interesting but the telling gets in the way. First sentence is too vague - not enough specific details. The second sentence could begin with "Light" - don't need "the." What is "the middle of nowhere" - it sounds like a forest - even a forest far from a city is somewhere. Say where. Why only men? "Lexy" sounds like it could be a girl's name. If the "infected" are terminal (i.e. can never go home) why would this hunting group leave them to only get worse? I like the sympathy for the infected in the last graph - and the notation in the last sentence. It lets the reader know the hunting group as been through this a lot. You have athe basis of an interesting story. Good Luck!

  4. I find this intriguing. I like the voice. Sometimes I have trouble with 1st person present tense, but this drew me in.
    I'm trying to figure out what genre this is--dystopian? I'd keep reading to learn more.
    Good luck!

  5. This is a very intriguing start. I'm so grossed out by the description of the rotting people that I have to read more.
    I'm also terrified for the young girl who will act as bait to lure the infected towards her. It is a great combination.
    What I would really like is to get a better sense of where we are and the period in which this is written. Is it current day? The future? Another world? My instincts say future, but she's using a katan, so perhaps post apocalyptic? If you can enhance your setting, you already have a great hook and will be sure to lure readers in. Great story idea!

  6. Like the idea and this could be very good, but...

    First sentence is vague; what makes the men look lost? describe it. How does Lexy (is that a boy or girl?) know the men are far from home?

    Bodies don't move, people do. Maybe some of the men stumble and stagger, their arms hanging off (or whatever), but describe it more.

    Where is Lexy and her father in relation to the ill men? I want to be able to picture this.

    Where are the father's men treading? right? left? north? south?
    why are they treading carefully? maybe a bit of dialogue here would help.

    Draw their attention to begin fighting? Each other? The father's men? This is confusing.

    How does Lexy feel about being used this way? No emotion so far.

    A knife in my other; unless she has more than two hands...

    Show the infected looking tired.

  7. I like the idea - even though zombie stories are dropping like limbs from a, well, you know - but it feels like it's been written before... until you get to Lexy as bait. Why not begin with something like this: Deep breath. Step into the clearing, draw their attention.

    My father, hand on my shoulder, leans in next to my ear. "Lexy, there are twelve here. They may have reinforcements."
    And suck us in.

  8. I love the visual you paint and I love the situation, but I can't help but think she should feel unsettled. She's being used as bait, she has to fight a horde of undead, she might die--how must she feel about this? You're writing in first person, you have to show us how she feels. MK Becker provided an excellent critique. Consider this.

  9. You very nearly lost me on the first line. It is all TELL. How, exactly, does a person "look" when they know they will never go back home??

    Then you TELL me the light is filtering through the trees - and the shadows are green? I'd be inclined to get rid of this sentence - it doesn't actually give me any visual of where they are, or what is around them.

    The second and third paragraphs are also all tell and setup.

    I feel like I'm being harsh, but this doesn't work for me. My suggestion (i.e. what would work for me, personally) - I'd start with "I hold my katana in one hand, my knife in the other. I peer through the trees (don't TELL me you're assessing the situation!) at the group gathered around a small fire. My stomach lurches as the overwhelming stench of decay drifts towards me on the breeze, and I struggle not to gag and alert them to my presence. There will be plenty of time for that later ... once I've assessed just how far gone the infected are."

    Then describe what she sees. Show her scanning around to see if there are any backups and let me feel her anxiety when she sees lots of places others might be hiding. What does she feel looking at the infected - pity, disgust, hungry? This will then give us some idea of why they are there and about to attack them. Describe how she feels about being used as bait - scared, nervous, resentful? Have her look back at the her father and the others she knows are hiding in the trees behind her (showing us she isn't alone).

    This is just my two cents worth, hope it helps.

  10. I agree with KayC's points above - it's a really interesting situation, but if you showed us the scenario unfolding from the first sentence, it would have a far greater impact and really do the concept justice.

    I would want to read more and find out what happens, but I think the narrative style would have to be more show less tell to really hook me in.

  11. I like this piece but I agree with the other commenters. I think you need to establish the setting as it will help us to understand where the MC is and I think you should go deeper into the MC's thoughts. We should be taking this journey with Lexi. How does she feel about being the bait - whether good or bad about it - let the reader know. You can do this through her thoughts or give her a nervous habit...there are so many ways to do this. Good luck with your story!

  12. I really like what I've read so far! I think if you add a little more detail about the surroundings it will be even better.

    You were able to pull me in from the first paragraph and you have me craving more. Good luck with your story!

  13. I like the idea behind the words. In a world where one group of people is hunted down and destroyed, there will have be dissenters and an exploration of ideals, of moral and ethics, so this drew me right in.

    My issues were the same as others. The whole thing is told, so we get none of the details that would kick this up a notch or two.

    Perhaps describe the men in the clearing. Let us see what being infected does to them, and what does the MC feel when she sees them. Does she agree with what her father is doing?

    Give us a better sense of the setting, especially if they're going to be fighting there, since that will help with the logistics of the scene.

    You tell us she assesses the situation, but you don't tell us what conclusions she's drawn.

    Her first rush of adrenaline shows her anticipation.. . WHat is she anticipating? Is he happy to do what she's about to do? Is she only doing it because it's expected? How does she see the infected? As people to be gotten rid of, or does she feel sorry for them. Give us more.

  14. I'm definitely intrigued by this world, and this situation. I think we just need to get a little further into the scene, and into Lexy's head. I’d suggest playing around with the order of the paragraphs a bit, and really showing us how things unfold from her perspective-what she observes, and how she reacts. I’d also advocate for physical and emotional cues to show us how tense the situation is, instead of relying on lines like “My first rush of adrenaline shows my anticipation for the next few minutes.” I’m curious about what happens next, and think there’s a lot of potential here.