Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #46

GENRE: YA Fantasy

My footsteps echoed in my ears as I ran through the deserted parking lot. I was late.

I stopped when a blur of red streaked past me, so out of place in a sea of metal and asphalt. I hesitated and watched the cardinal fly into the trees.

The referee’s whistle and shouts from fans reached me from the stadium, pulling me out of my daze, and I started jogging again.

After a few steps a parking lot light creaked and I looked up, throwing my arms over my head just as it crashed in front of me, a spray of glass. Shards crunched under my boots when I jumped back.

My heart rate slowed to normal after a minute, while I stared at the broken glass sparkling in the fading sun. “Stupid light.”

Our victory song rang out. We must’ve scored. I shook myself out of my trance and started walking toward the stadium entrance, glancing back once at the mess in the parking lot. Had I been a couple of steps ahead that light would’ve crushed me. The cardinal saved me.

At the stadium I climbed the steps, my boots clanging on the metal. My friends had saved me a spot in our usual place.

 I leaned against the rail and let out a whoop. Of course, where I stood I knew my backside would get some attention. Not everyone goes to games for the football.


  1. I was a bit confused reading this--maybe I just read too fast, but my first impression was that the MC herself was participating in some sort of competition--that the parking lot was the "playing field" (hey, it IS fantasy!). I had to reread to figure out she was listening to the sounds of the stadium while still on her way there.

    The only sentence that caught me off guard was the last one about people noticing her butt. It just didn't seem to flow with the character's voice. And why did she let out a whoop? Cheering on the game?

    I love that the cardinal "saved" her!

  2. I think of footsteps echoing in a parking garage, but this sounds like it's in an open lot outside a stadium? Would "pounded" be more appropriate? "Deserted parking lot" makes me think no cars. But it's just that the people are already in the stadium.

    Are the trees along the edge of the parking lot? Does she see where it lands? You could add a beat more about the bird to show how distracted she is by it.

    "After a few steps" slows down this part. Maybe start that with "a light creaked and I looked up . . ." Could the shards already be under her boots if she jumps back to avoid the light falling? Maybe - "A spray of glass hit my boots and legs"?

    Does the loss of that light throw her into a patch of darkness? Could add an ominous feel to the scene. But if she can see the cardinal, maybe it's just dusk?

    I would think that her heart would still be pounding even when she entered the stadium if the light was as big as I visualized it.

    Do you need the second reference to the boots clanging? A sentence about the friends she's meeting might be interesting here. Do they notice her approaching? Are they too caught up in the game? Maybe insert something she hears one of them say as she comes up the steps? Would they call out her name and wave? It's an opportunity to let the reader know the MC's name.

    I like the cardinal reference and wonder what it's significance will be. Liked the last line; it really gave me a sense of the character. You have a lot of details that set the scene well. If you sprinkle in some more about the MC, it will be an even stronger opening.

    Good luck!

  3. I love the title, but wasn't hooked by the rest. Watch for overwriting - e.g. "my footsteps echoed in my ears" -- you can take out 'in my ears', because where else would they be echoing?

    Also, the MC doesn't seem to react appropriately to almost being crushed by that light. If I'd nearly been seriously injured like that, I think I would need a few minutes to recover! Maybe add a few lines to elaborate?

  4. I was a little confused about if she was supposed to be playing the game and with the echoing outside, but I felt grounded by the end of the 250. The comment about her butt felt out of place, but it might have tied in with what's coming next, conversations with friends. The cardinal was a nice setup.

  5. This felt very disjointed for me. It didn't feel like a smooth narrative of what was happening. I don't know if it's the writing or the formatting or the combination of the two, but I felt like it just hopped from one thing to another rather than moving steadily forward.

    Also, why isn't she freaked out about a parking light pole falling beside her? The noise would be massive. The shattering lights would fly dozens of feet in all directions. And if she's at a game, the parking lot should be full of cars, in which case one (or several) would get smashed. She takes this all very calmly. Her heart calms after a minute, she's not shaken. She doesn't tell her friends. She's more concerned with her butt looking good to the fans than the near death experience she just had. That was actually the first glimpse of personality I felt from her, but it was too odd after what happened.

    I just couldn't connect to the story or to character. I need more emotion from her. This should have a much bigger impact on her in order for it to have any kind of impact on the reader.

  6. I had some of the same confusion -an abandoned urban scene became a stadium, etc. And yes, some over writing (how on earth could one be in a trance in this situation - and if she was, make it clearer and more dramatic) - but you definitely have something with the light and the cardinal. Really, really intriguing.

  7. The image of the cardinal is stirring, but it feels as if this dramatic moment is rushed. Before we have a chance to take in the drama of nearly being crushed by a falling light, our narrator is running on to the game, not seeming particularly shaken.

    To make the falling light feel more dramatic, beat out each moment- first she hears a creaking, then she looks up. She sees the light, it starts to fall, she freezes...and it CRASHES to the ground in front of her! As is, all these beats are run together in one sentence. (Also, the term "parking lot light" feels a bit cumbersome. Perhaps "street light" or even "one of the lights lining the parking lot"?)

    A logistical note- if the light has fallen in front of her, and she jumps back, I'm not sure how there can be shards behind her for her boots to crunch down on. Wouldn't the shards be in front of her? I also wasn't sure whether the bulb fell from the light pole, or the entire pole tipped over.

    Finally, where is the narrator standing such that people will notice her backside? On first read, it sounds as if she's climbed the stairs to the top row and is leaning back against the railing. I had to reread to understand she was at the foot of the bleachers, with her back to the crowd. Perhaps this could be reworked for clarity?

  8. I doubt the MC would walk from such a life threatening experience without more of a shock.

    " heart slowed down to a normal rate" this sentence is a little clumsy/ could use a little more description or refinement.

    Other than those things I really liked it

  9. I'm sort of echoing everyone, but I agree that the drama in this scene is too rushed. I like the image of the cardinal, and I want to know why they're late, but it's done so quickly I don't know what to care about more.

  10. This could be a really intense scene, but I agree it felt a bit disjointed, without much emotional "glue" to hold it together.

    Footsteps wouldn't echo in an outdoor parking lot.

    If there's a crowd at the game, why is the parking lot deserted?

    "Lamppost" might be more precise. We already know we're in a parking lot.
    I'd say: WITH a spray of glass.

    The MC's body would have blocked shards behind him or her (and would have been hit by them).

    The MC is running, jogging, and then all of a sudden walks. More reaction to almost being killed or seriously injured would explain why she didn't resume running.

    You used two different meanings of "saved" close together.

    Last two lines totally came out of the blue. Does she have a big butt? Since this is fantasy, could she even be a non-human? Wouldn't she still have been jittery? Bursting to tell her friends all about the near-death experience?

  11. Hmmm.... I'm confused. I had to reread this a few times to figure out what exactly is happening. You should probably make things a bit clearer.

    So a light in the parking lot almost shattered on top of her and a she only missed it because a cardinal slowed down her progress? That's kind of the gist from what I'm getting, but after almost having a light shatter on top of her, would someone really think about the cardinal that had distracted them a few minutes later as saving her? Maybe if it distracted right before the light broke.

    Also, I don't feel like we got to know anything about the protagonist in this passage. It takes us until the end of it for us to even find out she's a girl, and even that isn't entirely clear. Some dudes might like to have their backsides admired, too. It's really important to create a connection to the main character or at least enable to feel grounded with who their experience the story through as soon as possible.