Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #47

GENRE: YA Thriller

Most people don't know what heat feels like. How it swathes your bones, goes down deep to melt your marrow. I know the feeling all too well.

A drop of water makes an empty sizzle as it falls, evaporating instantly onto hot iron. It feathers in the air as a thin breath of steam, disappearing, vanishing, leaving me alone. Chills spread through my veins as a chair is moved, metal scraping on metal. The warmth from the man I fear lingers on my skin as he hovers over me too closely.

When his movements slow, I sharpen my hearing, tuning my sensories to an overloaded channel. My muscles freeze, my breathing stops. My neck creaks when it moves slightly after remaining so still. A warm finger brushes along my neck, moving my long, black hair to drape down my chest. “Baby girl,” the man behind me says. “November, are you ready to be brave?” I feel his breath hit my newly exposed neck as he speaks, warming my pores. The molten, metal iron is at my skin before I have a chance to respond.

This is when I start to scream.

I stumble down against the bathtub and slam the faucet shut. The rise of fresh steam stops though my memory will not. Fumbling to find an outlet, I trace my fingers along a fan's extension cord to swiftly jam the plug into the wall. Heat is my enemy. The trigger on a loaded gun.


  1. LOVE the voice. Your use of verbs--too delicious!

    I'd read more, just to find out more about the past.

  2. Hi, I was intrigued by the beginning and would read on definitely to discover the reason why heat is your enemy. I also loved your voice. Good luck!

  3. I'm not sure about the first line -- while it's definitely a strong, decisive statement, my first thought was: "Well, yes they do." Everyone knows what heat feels like.

    Also, I was a bit confused by some of your wording - e.g. what is an "empty sizzle"? And how can a drop of water "feather" through the air? When I think of 'feather' as a verb, I think of a feather slowly gliding down to the ground -- which is not really how water evaporates off a hot iron.

    There were a few other phrases that left me confused -- "tuning my sensories to an overloaded channel" ... "Heat is my enemy. The trigger on a loaded gun." To me, it all felt a tad overwritten. And I was confused by the last paragraph -- if heat is her enemy, why is she getting a hot bath? And is she fumbling for the fan's extension cord because she wants to cool down the room?

    That being said, the concept feels very creepy and suspenseful -- appropriate for a thriller :)

  4. It definitely has an intriguing opening and seems on track for a thriller. I enjoyed the concept of heat being the enemy and some of the language. I would probably give it a bit more time to find out what's going on but also have to agree with the notion above that it seems overwritten. You can establish the tension requisite for a thriller without overdoing it.

  5. I want to know more, but I didn't feel I could picture the scene. She sharpens her senses, but we don't learn anything new - the man is right there.
    Is she in the tub? I thought so from the third paragraph, but then I wasn't sure when she stumbled. Why doesn't she panic before since she fears the man.
    A great job writing with tension for a thriller, but I felt a little disconnected. I'm guessing that would resolve with a few more sentences as the action starts!
    Good luck.

  6. I liked this and was engaged and intrigued. I did have a couple questions. I'm assuming this isn't the first time heat has prompted a flashback for November so I was puzzled why she'd take a hot bath. I'd think this is something she would avoid -- especially since heat is her enemy. When she comes out of her flashback, I was surprised she didn't touch the spot where she'd been burned or begin to reach for it then stop. This last note may be due to me watching too many movies/TV shows where someone kills another by tossing a fan into the bath, but her still being in the tub and reaching for the fan stopped me for a moment.

    But, like I said above, I want to know more. I'd definitely read on.

  7. Me again -- I forgot to add what I thought was a typo 'my sensories' -- I'm assuming you meant 'my senses'?

  8. This is a visceral opening, but it's also confusing. First, everyone knows what heat feels like. You don't distinguish it until later on, but the opening line already has me doubting the narrator. Second, I have no idea who she is or who he is or where they are. Since this is a thriller I'm wondering if the chair is moving by itself or if it's just signaling her that she's not alone. The she's screaming and I don't know if it's real or dream. Then she's dropped in the shower and I'm completely lost.

    For as descriptive as the scene is, it doesn't tell me anything. I don't know what's happening, where, or who these people are. I love mystery, but there's a fine line between suspense which makes your readers anxious to read more, and frustration which makes them not care enough to turn the next page. I need more information before I can connect to the narrator and the scene at hand.

    You are certainly a capable writer and I think a few tweaks could make this a truly dynamic opening.

  9. I think the beginning is beautiful, if a trifle remove from the reader. Not sure it's a YA voice. Then there's somebody there who might make her scream. I think maybe set up the scariness and her fear at the beginning and show us where we are, who's there, when, and why.
    That will make this an awesome beginning.

  10. I was confused by the opening line as nearly everyone knows what heat feels like. The voice is distinct but I was a little confused as to what is actually happening and why she is running a hot bath if heat is the enemy.
    Also I was confused by the 'warmth of the man' and the heat from the iron. Perhaps if you clarified that sentence better. I would read on as I wish to learn more.

  11. I concur with what others have pointed out as far as everyone knowing what heat feels like. As far as the rest of it, I find it annoying to be drawn into the first scene only to find out it's a memory (or worse, a dream). IMO, it weakens the impact.

  12. To me, it seems there are a lot of words here that don't say a whole lot. Others have pointed them out. And in the end, nothing actually happened. The man she fears doesn't do anything to her. He hovers over her. Slowly. And then it turns out it's only a dream or a flashback so really, nothing happened. It's sort of like starting with a dream. I get caught up in the dream, then learn it's only a dream and have to go back to the mundane reality or someone waking up, and it's disappointing. Perhaps this isn't the place the start.

  13. That should be 'of' waking up.

  14. I agree with the others. I'm not sure what's happening. "Swathes" feels awkward. What is "sensories" and "overloaded channel" -maybe instead of describing what it is just say it? You have a scene with lots of tension, the over writing gets in the way.

  15. I love all the tension here! It pulled me right in. That said, I think you might benefit from grounding the reader a bit more. I wasn't quite sure where we were or what was happening. There's heat here, but is it coming from the man, from a radiator, a hot iron? Or is it from the bathtub? We jump from a room (presumably in the narrator's memory) with a chair and a man to a bathroom with a running faucet, but which objects and sensations exist in memory and which exist in the present moment are unclear.

    I also agree with the above comments that "sensories" feels like an awkward word choice here, where "senses" might fit better. Perhaps "overloading my senses" might read a bit more clearly?

  16. So I love how dramatic this was! At the end my heart had actually sped up which is hard to do these days. But I agree with the other comments that "swathes" and "sensories" feels awkward. I'm also not positive what's going on, if this is a flashback or a hallucination that's stopped by the faucet turning off, or what. Maybe clarify?

  17. Although there are some lovely descriptions, I never figured out what was going on. The description of heat in the first paragraph makes it sound like a good thing, but later on heat is bad.

    A drop of water sizzles onto hot iron. Metal scrapes against metal. (Is the floor metal? In a bathroom?) A man burns her (with the hot iron previously mentioned)?

    I think you may have meant "senses" instead of "sensories", but this part doesn't make sense. (Sorry about the pun.) If the hearing is sharpened, it would tune out other things, not overload.

    If you say "A warm finger brushes along THE BACK OF my neck, PARTING my long, black hair SO IT DRAPES down my chest" then the breath on the newly exposed neck makes more sense.

    "I scream" is more effective than her telling us she screams.

    She's not in the tub, but the water is running. Plugging a fan into a nearby outlet could give her more problems than being a little hot. Besides, if this man is torturing her, how does she have the freedom to fumble around for a fan? Is she not tied up? I didn't get any vibe of a flashback.