Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #11


Zeno jerked his head back as a three foot long stick slammed down on the desk in front of him. His teacher and legal guardian, Katie Burrows, arched her thin torso and scowled.

“Where is it that little boys go to when they don’t pay attention?” she asked in a light cheerful voice.

Zeno stared into the tiny wooden room. Six other children in tattered clothing, all girls ranging from seven to twelve-years-old, watched him with various expressions: anger, curiosity, confusion. Only one face contained sympathy.

Maddy opened her hands slightly upward. “Say something,” she mouthed.

His eyes slid down to the frosted glass desk. Chips and dings marred the surface, but despite its apparent age and use, icons flickered underneath with a cartoon background of a boy running in dark clothing. Zeno’s fingers slid across the edge of the desk. The stick thwacked down a few inches in front of them. Ms. Katie grabbed his chin and yanked his face up. She closed the distance so their noses were almost touching. Staring into the flecks of her green eyes, he smelled chewed peppermint leaves on her breath.

In the five years he had lived with Ms. Katie, he could not remember a time when she didn't smell of a flower or fruit or some other wonderful aroma. Even her shoes smelled like roses. She was thirty-two, unmarried (which was common in the Outlands), and full of hate.


  1. I really like the world-building here. With the stick, I expect something old-fashioned. But then the frosted glass desk with flickering icons makes me think futuristic. Makes me want to read more.

    My only suggestions are that "three-foot-long stick" needs hyphens whereas seven to twelve years old" does not.

    Good luck!

  2. Good job building tension here. I'm wondering why this woman is so nasty to these children. What does all that hatred come from and why is she working as a teacher if she apparently hates kids?

    Interesting glimpse at this world, a combination of technology and remnants from the past.

  3. This is an interesting situation, full of tension, but I feel a little lost. I think Zeno is in a classroom, sitting at a desk, but then you say he stares into the room, which sounds like he's outside. The description of the desk also threw me off. Do we need it right there? It doesn't seem relevant.

    Your descriptions of Ms. Katie also sort of tossed me back and forth. She's slamming things and scowling but then she's speaking in a light, cheerful voice but her words aren't remotely cheerful. I assume the contrast between her pleasant appearance (and great smell) and her nasty personality is deliberate, but it confused me. Maybe if we got Zeno's reaction to it? Is he used to how her insides and her outsides don't match? Does he wonder who she's trying to fool? Something to clarify that the contrast is on purpose.

  4. This needs work. The first three paragraphs are WAY telly. P5 is good, but overall the opening is confusing. It took a reread before I realized that Maddy was the sympathetic face from the previous paragraph. And the Katie description issue that Abbe pointed out.

    And can we please, please, please lose the "grumpy spinster schoolteacher" cliche? Even in today's world, an unmarried 32-year-old is utterly unremarkable, and in your world, it's even more normal. Don't use marital status as lazy shorthand for a woman's value.

  5. I was a little bit confused at times, but I like some of this. The image of the sweet or flowery smelling teacher who's filled with hate really made me smile. You need to clean this up though, so it flows better and the action is more easily followed.

  6. I liked the sympathetic face and Maggie's advice--which the MC doesn't follow of course because that would be too easy. Intriguing villainess who smells sweet and is angry.

  7. There's a lot of interesting stuff here, but what's missing is Zeno's reactions. You don't allow him to react to anything that happens to him, nor do you allow him any emotions.

    What's he feeling when he stares into the classroom? WHat's he thinking when Ms. Katie jerks his chin up? How does he react when that stick slams down near his fingertips? Does he enjoy the flowery and fruity smells, or do they make him sick to his stomach because it's a warning that she's nearby and he's scared to death of her? Let him do something besides be there.

  8. The immediate thing that threw me was the teacher 'arched her back' This was a wierd visual for me. I got this picture of a lady sticking her boobs out. Maybe a different word? Also when she spoke in a light voice did not ring true to me. Unless maybe add, her eyes belied her tone something to go with the hate.

    I am a sucker for Sci Fi though and world building, so am intrigued. I so wish we could post queries here too!