Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Soul Breather
GENRE: YA Edgy Inspirational

Late afternoon’s darkness crept in until it enveloped every corner of the room. Candles’ shadows danced on the plaster walls in response to their chants and provided the only light to the room’s black mood. The air was thick and smelled of sulfur. The space felt anxiously heavy, and the atmosphere seemed resistant to what was about to take place. Emotions splashed over me like waves, some gentle and some with force. I’d never felt such fear and calm all at once. I knew soon my life would be changed forever, or at least I hoped it would.

It felt like Rome. Not that I knew what Rome felt like, but it looked like what I’d seen of it on television. The vaulted ceilings, the stained glass, the arched pews – it all reminded me of a movie.

As I lay on the pulpit’s floor, I tried not to watch them pace back and forth. They made me nervous. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, yet their words were making me crazy. I wished they’d speak English.

“What are you saying?” I finally asked. They stopped momentarily but began again. “Please. It hurts,” I exclaimed.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” the young one said.

The priest began praying louder. My body became more and more tense with every word. It was as if each syllable was a poisoned dart piercing something dark and deep within me.

“Stop!” I screamed. I rose from the pulpit floor and tried to run away, but he pinned me down.


  1. Okay, first things first. Edgy Inspirational is not a genre. Contemporary, Sci Fi, whatever.

    "in response to their chants" - the candles chants?

    It's interesting but it feels out of order right now. Maybe it starts with lying on the floor and then watching the people pace, moves eyes to watch the candles to distract his/herself?

  2. By the end of this, I am definitely hooked. I want to know why she's there, why people are chanting at her, and why she's pinned to the floor. It's the very beginning I have problems with. Maybe this is just my opinion, but it feels a little overwritten, especially since it's in first person. I think if you started with, "I knew soon my life would be changed forever..." that would be more enticing. But overall a great first page!

  3. You've managed to capture that 'ritual' type atmosphere well and I enjoyed this, but I wonder would your opening be stronger if you began with: 'I lay on the pulpit floor and...'
    You could weave some of the description of place in throughout the text then. Nice entry though, thanks for sharing.

  4. The first paragraph was problematic to me. The logic seemed wrong. I always associate late afternoon with golden sunsets, not darkness; and candles themselves don't usually cast shadows, they provide light that makes other things cast shadows; and if there are candles it should smell like candle wax or smoke, not sulfur.

    The last few sentences, though - about fear and calm - those were nice. I understood that.

    It felt like Rome - I think you need to be more specific. Felt like the Coliseum in its heyday? Felt like the ruins you can see today? Felt like being inside the Sistine Chapel?

    Once you get to the action, I love it. More than the moodiness of the first paragraph, what set the tone so well for me is that you never name the other people. Our first glimpse of others is them pacing. I liked that choice.

  5. I love the feeling I get when reading this. It's ominous and I connected with it right away. I want to know exactly what's going on and I'd keep reading for sure!

    The only thing I could critique would be the dialogue tags. I think you could cut 'I exclaimed' and 'I screamed' because the surrounding story is strong without them.

    I think ominous really is the perfect word too. I love it.

  6. I love the chilling atmosphere of this. It gave me the shivers! Totally want to read more. Who is she, what's going on, why is she on the floor. Awesome opener!

  7. This is a bit florid and it’s mostly telling. The candles danced in response to the chants? The atmosphere seemed resistant? What emotions splashed over the character like waves? How did they feel? Instead of saying, “They made me nervous” show me the main character being nervous. Show me the main character being made crazy. What hurts?

    Also, "edgy inspirational" isn't a genre.

  8. I am curious to see where this is leading. It seems more dark than inspirational. I liked the beginning because it established the setting and mood. I would take out "anxiously" in the sentence "The space felt anxiously heavy. You need to show her anxiety and fear. Is she shivering or shaking? Is her jaw clenched? What are her hands doing? Are her eyes scanning at a fast rate? I agree that "splashed over me like waves, some gentle and some with force" is a good simile but replace emotions with specific emotions.
    In the third paragraph take out the sentence, "They made me nervous." It is telling. Your previous sentence implies her nervousness. Show "making me crazy". As for the sulfur smell I wondered if it was from holy water, though you didn't mention it or maybe you explain the sulfur smell later.
    In the 2nd to last paragraph show her tension. I would also leave out some words in the last two sentences of that paragraph and connect into one sentences, which would make your metaphor stronger. For ex., My body became more and more rigid, as if each syllable was a poisoned dart piercing something dark and deep within me.
    I agree you don't need tags on her dialogue. Is "rose" what you really want the action to be in the last sentence? It seems like you need a faster and stronger verb there.
    Good luck. I hope this was helpful.

  9. I love the description in the first paragraph...but I'm not sure that should be your first paragraph. I think, instead, "As I lay on the pulpit's floor, I tried not to watch them pace back and forth" would be a great first line. You could still keep the description, just move it farther down. That way, you've got my attention right off and given me a sense of your main character (which otherwise doesn't come until several sentences in).