Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Vestige
GENRE: YA Speculative

I'll never stop hating the ice and blood. I see it when I sleep, so I don't sleep much. This time, insomnia caught up with me just in time for class, so I didn't even get to finish my essay. That's a shame, because the world needs it. The title page is beautifully formatted.

It wasn't a restful nap. I'm still sweaty and gross, and the air bites, even though the sun is high and bright. That just makes it worse, like it's mocking me. I really wish I’d grabbed a jacket before I left the dorms this morning as I crunch and kick through yellow leaves, cutting across the quad, weaving through a copse of trees, their limbs are sparse and skeletal this late in the Oregon October. Red brick buildings, trimmed with white paint, border the grass.

Everything is normal, but I can’t shake the feeling that the nightmares followed me back. I keep waiting for the grass and the trees to freeze over, for the people sunning in the quad to start shrieking, blood streaming from their eyes and down their faces. Nothing happens. So far, so good. No blood, no ice, no shrieks. Still, the day is young—no, it's more middle-aged, but there's some time for the world to go to hell. I avoid looking into anyone's eyes, afraid they'll see the nightmare playing in mine like a movie.

My muscles are tense, like my body's preparing to run without asking me first. Traitor. Saboteur, even. My chest thrums.


  1. I like the voice in this piece, especially the humor about how nicely formatted the title page is.

    I got a little disoriented with the shift between past and present tense so early on in the story. I also thought at first he fell asleep in class and wasn't sure why he was in a rush, then I later realized he must've fallen asleep before class and was now rushing to get to it.

    Best of luck!

  2. While I like the tone of the page, I honestly have no idea what's going on. The Ice and Blood is something visual I take it, given the way the MC talks about how s/he sees it, and it’s a repetitive nightmare s/he experiences. Yet there’s little description to help me visualize this terror. Some sort of ray that freezes people like what Mr. Fries from Batman has? Something like the storm from Day After Tomorrow?

    Before I get a chance to formulate it in my mind we move on to an essay that the character didn’t finish—even though they were up all night with insomnia—with emphasis on the title page. Then s/he wakes up from a nap I didn’t realize was going on because the last mention of sleep was the lack of it (side note: characters waking up starting out a story is clichĂ©).

    I’m able to orient myself with the character as they rush across the quad. Another side-note: Mention of dorms, quad, etc. brings to mind a college campus. Unless this is some sort of private school, which it could be, or the MC is some sort of genius that graduated early and went to college early, this reads as the start to an NA piece.

    By the end, all I’ve taken away is that the character has nightmares about ice killing people, somehow, though I’m not sure how. Storm, device, any hint of how will help paint a picture. It feels almost like the how is being held back/shrouded to provide a sense of mystery, but it backfires as I’m left floundering a little. Being more definitive, without necessarily being descriptive so you don’t bog down the first page, will help with this, I think.

    Good luck!

  3. I"m sorry, but I don't think I'd read past the second paragraph. I can't tell if the MC didn't sleep the night before or awoke from the nightmare. I'd like to have more of a clue as to whether the MC is male or female. The writing is good in the sense of your having set the stage for spooky. Good luck.

  4. This left me confused, too. Is the MC male or female? Does "the insomnia caught up with me" mean the MC finally fell asleep? Also, when I read "ice and blood," my first thought was "hockey!" not murder.

    That said, there are some gems in here. The bit about the essay and its title page made me smile. I also like the description of the MC's body as a traitor. You also do a good job of showing that the MC has a problem/conflict.

    This first page just needs a bit more grounding/context for it all to make sense to the reader.

  5. This might be a case of not starting in the right place, based on the comments above. Something isn't quite connecting with the setting and time/place.

    I like the opening lines and the imagery. I would urge you to root out the word "it," a lesson I've recently learned about my own writing. It is fine sometimes, but you can often choose a more descriptive word, and generally, even if people speak this way, starting a sentence with It is not looked upon favorably.

    For example, the second sentence "I see it when I sleep" You can expand on this ice and blood theme with a good descriptive word, so you're not wasting your opening on "it."

    "That just makes it worse, like it's mocking me." Like what is mocking? The dreams? An entity? You can show a lot with more deliberate words, which might clear up some of the confusion others experienced.

  6. I'm going to agree with the others and say that I don't think is starting in the right place. The first sentence really grabbed me, but it doesn't lead into anything else. I get the MC is trying to be funny right away, but since I haven't related with him/her yet, I'm not following the sarcasm.

  7. I didn't care for this opening. You mention the blood and ice then abandon it right away leaving me asking what?

    Even when you bring it up again, I'm struck with what? Why is this person worried that people will see his nightmare in his eyes? Especially if he's awake and walking around?

    I just didn't follow what was happening enough to care about this mc or the nightmares.

  8. First, this sentence is too gangly. It needs to be made multiple sentences: "I really wish I’d grabbed a jacket before I left the dorms this morning as I crunch and kick through yellow leaves, cutting across the quad, weaving through a copse of trees, their limbs are sparse and skeletal this late in the Oregon October."

    I would change the first sentence to, "I hate the ice and blood." It's more declarative. I'll never stop feels passive to me for some reason.

    I can tell there is something interesting here, but I'm confused about who this character is. I just don't get it, and I feel like I should. Maybe this isn't where your story really starts. I might even start at, "Everything is normal, but…"

  9. My thought is that there is no focus here. The piece goes from one topic to another - blood and ice, a nightmare, insomnia, a school paper, back to the blood and ice.

    The humor was fun, but this is speculative fiction, and you started with the nightmare, so it would make more sense to keep the darker tone for now and save the humor for a lighter moment.

    Start with a specific incident, one that introduces your MC and a problem, and go from there. For instance, if it's going to be the nightmare, then give us more than blood and ice. Fill us in on the nightmare. Give us more than blood and ice, show how it affects the MC and how he/she reacts to it on an emotional and physical level. Show us why it's relevant. If you start with something else, do the same thing with that.

  10. I was confused in the opening: if this character had insomnia, wouldn’t that mean she’d be awake and therefore able to finish the essay? That said, the line about the title page being beautifully formulated made me laugh out loud, and overall I enjoyed the humor here.

    Descriptions are good and I have a strong picture of the place, but I’d like a better sense of the character first (for instance, I don’t know if this is a female or male MC); that way I’m invested in what’s going on with these dreams.

  11. I know I'm coming late to the party, but I wanted to echo some of the other comments. I loved the voice, especially the humorous notes, and the description of fall was lovely. I also can't tell from the voice if it's a boy or girl, and while I'm intrigued enough by the nightmares to keep reading, I did get confused by the shift between the first couple of paragraphs.