Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Bound To The Ground

Why am I awake? My body told me it was too early, my mind said, “You’ve still got time, go back to sleep.” Midnight enveloped me in its thick, velvety darkness and there was nothing but a strip of light, sneaking in from the hallway to guide my eyes. I yawned, rolling back to my side to settle in for the rest of the night when the most disgusting odor weaseled its way to me. It filled my nose with its strange putrescence, clogging my sinus cavities with the scent of burning garbage and wet skunk. My mind flopped numbly, what is making that terrible smell?! It wasn’t a fire. So, relieved that my house wasn’t burning down, I figured it was safe for me to go back to sleep. If in the morning it continued to smell like this, I might burn it down myself.

With my fears quieted and my blanket tightly secured around my face, I drifted off. In the hazy moments between sleeping and waking, I thought I heard a rustling noise coming from the living room but it could have just been my imagination playing tricks on me. I ticked the seconds off in my head one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi style while I waited for the phenomenon to happen again but all was quiet. After ten seconds with no interruptions, I felt safe again, assured that I could finally sleep. But no one could have been more surprised than me when that sound came again.


  1. I think I'm more on board with the first paragraph over the second. I LOVE the word putrescence, though I doubt I'd be able to go back to sleep if I smelled something that nasty.

    Yeah, rereading it I definitely couldn't go to sleep smelling something so gross. Is this a male POV? I'd sooner think a guy could sleep through it than a girl.

    The way the second paragraph ends is what gets me off track. I was ready to read on until "But no one could have been more surprsied than me when that sound came again."
    Why not?
    Why is he/she surprised?

    I feel like I'm just a bit too in the dark to fully love this submission, but I feel it has great potential, I just don't have enough details.

  2. I'm not really feeling the tension in what could be a very intense opening. A few comments:

    "to guide my eyes" made me think the MC had gotten up.

    "You’ve still got time" and "midnight" made me think the MC was going to have to get up in the middle of the night for something, but then you say the "to settle in for rest of the night," so that was confusing. Taking out the reference to midnight would solve that.

    "...when the most disgusting odor..." sounds very MG. "...when A disgusting odor..." might sound more YA. And I agree with the first poster, I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep if I smelled an unknown disgusting odor.

    "My mind flopped numbly, what is making that terrible smell?!" is run-on. "Flopped numbly" made me think of a fish. And the two punctuation marks make it seem MG-ish.

    Consider: I ticked the seconds off in my head--one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi--while I waited ...

    "I waited for the phenomenon to happen again but all was quiet. After ten seconds with no interruptions, I felt safe again, assured that I could finally sleep" is too formal. Not very YA.

    You never say the disgusting smell goes away, and then you add a weird noise that repeats itself. The last line is way understated--I'd be a basket case by that time!

    Good luck!

  3. I thought the writing was good and opening interesting enough to keep going. I couldn't get past the notion however that your protagonist could so easily ignore the disgusting smell you described so vividly.

  4. inimitableballerinaMay 14, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    I felt the opening went on a little too long, and was an unrealistic response. I know someone reasoned above that a male might sleep easier than a female, but I think POV doesn't matter. If there's a chance someone's house is burning, they are going to wake up.

    Maybe cut the second paragraph after "almost drifting back to sleep" and inserting the noise. I am definitely interested about the sound.

    Very good on creating tension! It's a balance between sensory details and dragging on.

  5. Sorry. Not hooked. While trying to sleep (no tension or suspense) a person smells something. Said person (male or female?) doesn’t care enough to search out the smell. (Still no tension or suspense) It goes away and he/she goes to bed, gets awakened by a noise, doesn’t care enough to investigate where it came from or what it is, and goes back to bed again, only to be awakened by the noise once more.

    There's no tension, suspense, or conflict, and the only mystery is what was that noise. And since you're MC isn't that worried about it, why should I be?

    Perhaps make more of these noises and the smell. Let your MC react to them in a bigger way. If your MC cares, we'll care, too. And maybe give us a clue as to who your MC is.

  6. You've used two long paragraphs for your opening. I wonder if you might build more tension with shorter, sharper paragraphs?

    There are some intriguing concepts here - the disgusting smell - but not enough to ground me. I'm not sure who the MC is and what their motivations are.

  7. I love the images and the lyrical flow of your writing. The phrase 'clogging my sinus cavities with a scent of burning garbage and wet skunk.' was particularly great. It felt very different from descriptions I've read before, so that hooked me.

    However, I have to agree with some of the other comments in that I was not hooked overall.
    I was intrigued up until the MC decided it wasn't a fire. It seemed an odd response. I get not wanting to get out of bed, but if something stinks so badly it wakes you up, it warrants more than a 'whatever' response.
    I think it would feel more appropriate if the MC buried his/her face in the pillow to block the smell, or some similar reaction.

    I think you should seriously consider revising the last line. The phrase 'no one could have been more surprised than me' seemed really cliche, and immediately made me hesitate about wanting to read more.

    The intrigue and unique writing style is there. I think you just need to focus this beginning a little more to introduce the story.

    Good luck!

  8. Interesting! I suggest using the smell at the very start because I wasn't sure it was what woke this person up until they were awake. Right away you know it's a smell when it's that bad, right?
    And then a noise in the LR, and instead of wondering what it really is or explaining why it's normal to hear weird stuff, you show us the narrator trying to stay in bed. I'd like to know why this is, if it's a sign the narrator is...exhausted from...or unmotivated because...and then, after being somewhat blase about the smell and the noise, why so surprised at another noise? It didn't add up yet I was trying to make it, so I think you have something good here, worth polishing up. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Interesting. Is this a historical? I ask as the voice feels very formal to me. I like a good verbose narrator (I love rolling around in some purple passages), but the writing here gets in the way of the story a bit, to me. In two longish paragraphs we learn our narrator wakes up to a bad smell-- and little else. I wouldn't want you to lose the verbal playfulness, but I do think this could be tighter by half. Otherwise I fear you might lose young readers (who, after all, are reading for story not style)