Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Labyrinth Rats
GENRE: YA Sci-fi adventure

If not for the hot skin of Mom’s hand, I would have thought she was dead. She was so still. I couldn’t even see the rise and fall of her chest underneath the hospital sheet.

I clung to her hand. She was alive.

For now.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the nurse glance at me. I wiped my eyes on the back of my glove.

The nurse’s protective gown scritch-scratched against her scrubs as she walked to the other occupied bed. I refused to look at my little brother, but I couldn’t escape the memory of his blank face. I swallowed hard and clenched my teeth.

The doctors were wrong. I squeezed Mom’s hand tighter. This just looked like the pyretos virus. In a few days, we’d laugh about how scared we’d been, and they’d be fine. They had to be fine. Please, God, let them be fine.

The sliding door hissed open, and the clamor that burst into the room felt like a physical slap. Three people wheeled in a shaking man on a stretcher. Everyone was shouting, but it was just noise once I saw the man’s face.

“Dad?” I breathed. I launched myself to him and grabbed his arm. His muscles were tense, his neck turned at an odd angle, and his eyes rolled back in his head. “Daddy!”

“Move back!” An arm swept me out of the way. “Keep her back.”

Different hands grabbed me. I fought, but the petite nurse was surprisingly strong.


  1. This one definitely hooks me right from the beginning. Great visual picture developed and the emotions are high and tug at the heart strings. I'd definitely read on. Well done.

  2. This is a great opening and also offers suspense regarding what is wrong with her mother and brother. I'd maybe add just one more sentence in the para about the virus to further frame the problem--ie epidemic, usually fatal, etc. Wasn't quite sure I knew what you meant by doctors being wrong.

  3. I'm hooked as well - good job dropping us in on the action!

    Is the MC in a protective gown as well - just wondering, based on the glove she wipes her eyes on. If she's in head to toe protective gear, that helps drive home the severity of her illness.

  4. Gripping start. You ground the scene with great economy. I only have one ultra-picky point -- you may want to revise the 4th paragraph to avoid repetition of eye/eyes two sentences in a row. Perhaps cut the 'filtering' section entirely?: (Out of the corner of my eye, I saw) The nurse glanced at me. I wiped my eye...

    The situation starts bad and quickly becomes worse as her father's wheeled in. You've hooked me; I want to read on.

  5. The first and last lines are dynamite. Hooked!

    A bit too much description is given to the gown the nurse wears rather than her stature which comes back at the end. I'd like to see this nurse (not too much) but get a stronger sense of her and the surroundings to know how serious this virus is.

    Also, is the little brother infected as well? The mom is the focus here and the dad comes in later but the narrator says "they'd be fine" so I'm wondering if it's the whole family at this point.

    Color me intrigued on this one. :-)

  6. I really wanted to like this one - yet somehow, I'm not hooked. A few things pulled me out of the story. First, like the commenter above mentioned, the description of the nurse was a bit too much. I was also confused about the brother - if he's there, and the nurse is going to check on him, that implies he's still alive, too. Yet the comment about his 'blank face' makes him seem like he has died. If he's dead, why would the nurse go over to check on him? And if he's alive, why wouldn't the MC want to look at him - even just to reassure herself that he is still alive? It seems odd - she's clutching her mom's hand to reassure herself she's alive, but she doesn't care about her brother?

    I can't pinpoint why, but this opening felt just a tad gimmicky to me. We're launched into the story, into a very dramatic moment, but I don't know enough about the MC to care that her family is sick/dying.

  7. I really liked this! Good details--gown scritch-scratched, sliding door hissed open, clamor burst into the room. Well-written, with compelling desperation.

    A few more details could make the scene even more compelling. I want to know HOW the nurse glanced at the MC. With pity? Blank expression? Tired? Worried eyes above her sterile mask? (Is she wearing a mask?) What was the nurse doing when she glanced? Adjusting Mom's IV? What did she do at the brother's bed. What sounds do we hear? Smells? Are there blinking, beeping machines?

    Small nits: I'd say launched toward, or at. // We don't learn that the nurse is petite until the last line. That's a good detail that could easily go in the line where she glances at the MC.

    Nice job!

  8. Wow! This definitely has me hooked -- nice work :) In particular, I loved the way you worked in world-building details as they became relevant without slowing the narrative or disrupting the flow/tension. I would absolutely keep reading.

    Best of luck with this story!

  9. Great starting point. I could totally picture the scene.
    I was a little confused about the brother - at first I thought he was upset because mom was sick, but the later "they" made me think he might be sick too?
    Good luck!

  10. Really gripping opening, full of pathos and tension (when the narrator sees the man is her father-- so shocking and sad!!)

    I have one small note. This line confused me: "I refused to look at my little brother, but I couldn't escape the memory of his blank face." Why does she refuse to look at her brother? We might assume it's too painful, but why is it more painful to look at Bro than Mom? In what way is his face blank? Is it still? Is he dead? "Blankness" could also suggest emotional flatness, and at first I thought the narrator refused to look at her brother because bro didn't care mom was possibly dying. Maybe reword?

    Apart from that quibble, a really strong passage. I like it!

  11. I really like the opening line. But the rest is a bit much for me. Anyone has sympathy for someone whose mother is ill, and I like the hint of the virus, but it's difficult for me as a reader to make any kind of connection with a character when I'm thrust into such an emotional situation. It's a lot to ask on the first page of a novel. There's no real sense of voice or age or gender. And just when I'm starting to get acquainted with the situation and curious about the virus, the dying father is thrust at us. We want to know that the story will have tension and conflict and hard decisions, and this sounds like it will, but we don't need it all right now. For me, and it sounds like I'm probably alone here, it's just too much to take in and connect with in the opening page. I do wish you the best of the luck.