Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #8

TITLE: Unwritten
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Footsteps in my dream tell me Nadu is coming. The sound of her feet on the hard wooden floor echoes in my head. I ignore it, fighting for a toehold in the story my brain has given me while I’ve been sleeping.

“Elsi, wake up.”

The words collide with my dream just as warm hands grip my shoulders, startling me awake.


My dream scatters, and I force my eyes open. Nadu stands over me, her grey hair barely visible in the dark room. I rise up on my elbows and glance out the window. Darkness presses through the glass. There’s no telling how late it is.

“The Council needs you,” Nadu says.

I roll my eyes. Of course they do. Tossing back the covers, I stand and thrust my legs into the pants Nadu hands me. I throw my nightgown on my bed and pull on my tunic. Nadu doesn’t have to tell me to hurry like she does the others. I’m old enough to know we don’t have the privilege of extra time. And besides that, the disapproving glare and extra chores I suffered from Nadu the one time I didn’t move fast enough have kept me from lingering every since.

I glance down the length of the room all ten female heralds share. The rest are still sleeping. There are eleven boys in the room across the hall. Twenty other people they could send, but instead this is my third interrupted night of sleep in the past few weeks.


  1. Hey there! Hopefully this is helpful!

    This is a little tricky--it's fine, but I wonder if there isn't a way to start with something more interesting. There isn't a lot of detail to hold onto here. Her dream is hazy--she's dreaming, she hears Nadu in her dream, she wakes up. We don't know anything about the dream or what it was, only that Nadu gradually woke her out of it. Her first response upon waking is to roll her eyes at the request. That, too, doesn't tell us whether this is common (and she really is just fed up with this).

    Now, I wouldn't necessarily suggest making her dream more vivid. Honestly, opening a story by waking up a character is a *really* common (and discouraged) trope. You could probably just as easily open the story with her being harried toward the Council at the crack of dawn, feeling whatever she feels about being woken up this early.

    So, basically: I just think you need something a little more active to start the story. A dream, being woken up, and looking at the room are all very low key. If (like I mentioned above) she was already on the way to the Council at the start, you could introduce a little urgency: The Council is important, they specifically wanted her to do something, they woke her up at an awful hour, and she has to answer it.

  2. I like the opening paragraph; it piqued my interest to read on.

    There are a lot of pronouns used here, pulling me out of the story a bit. Also, I think all the detail of her dressing may not be needed, not on the first page. Is it imperative that we know where she put her nightgown and exactly what she's wearing in the first page? I think this space could be better used for more gripping information.

    Not to be a spelling nitpick, but there is a typo; it should be "ever" instead of "every".

    Are the footsteps IN her dream, like a piece of a vision/prediction, or is she hearing them, thus disrupting her dream? I wasn't sure.

    I think with some tightening and revising, this has the potential to be amazing. Good luck! :)

  3. The protagonist being roused from sleep because a council NEEDS her presence already piques my interest. She is obviously young, a fact clued in by chores, stating she’s "old enough", her lack of urgency, and rolling her eyes at the needs of a council at an ungodly hour; why would they need her? Also, that out of twenty, they needed her; she must be very important. One thing I’m unsure about is that it’s written in present tense. It works for a while, but started to get a little labored towards the end of the entry for me. I’m wondering if it holds up for the entire novel. Thanks for sharing. I would read more.

  4. I'm definitely intruiged by what I've learned from your opening - our heroine is a Herald, one among twenty, tended by a strict old woman, and urgently needed by "the Council." That said, I agree with Ellie's comments about opening stronger. Meeting her as she rushes with Nabu, perhaps tugging her tunic down, to find out what the Council wants could just as effectively convey the same information, but put her in action.

    I also agree that text could be trimmed for greater impact and energy to accompany this tense scene. "No telling how late it is," vs "There's no telling how late it is," for example.

    Wishing you all the best with your story!

  5. I like the concept that the Council needed Elsi. I now want to know what's so urgent that they need. I do agree that maybe you need a stronger opening. Start it off with Elsi rushing down the hallway to the Council chambers, complaining in her head. I am really intrigued with what will happen though! Best of luck.

  6. Dreaming and waking up is an overdone way to start a story, and I think your opening could be much stronger if it was more original. Maybe skip right to the scene with The Council or walking toward The Council showing the MC’s annoyance at the summons—something to grab us. Some of the sentences felt a bit stiff and stilted, like “I stand and thrust my legs into the pants.” You’ve incorporated fantasy elements straight away, which is great, so that we get a sense of the world building from the start.

  7. I think you have a great idea for a novel and think the above comments are very on the mark. I do like that it opens with a dream and think you have great character names that aren't hard to pronounce, like in so many fantasy novels. Good luck!

  8. You've set up some good reader questions about what The Council is and wants, and what heralds are. Nice world building.

    But I think you may have begun too early in your story. There isn't as much action here as there could be.