Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September Secret Agent #31

Genre: MG Fantasy

A streak of black fur shot over the hill, her paws skimmed the lane, her green eyes keened ahead. No need to turn; she heard him panting too close at her heels. Ten whisker-widths behind her – his ears flapping, his head bobbing – was Dylan the terrier.

Cantrip sprang to clear the garden wall with elegant precision. She wove through rosebushes towards a white cottage, inhaling scented triumph.

Dylan skidded in a patch of mud, stopped inches from the wall and seconds from a flattened snout. He snorted, shook his head and darted to the wicket gate, and poked his nose through as her black tail licked the corner of the cottage for the last time. He barked as if to say – Catch you tomorrow.

Day after day, Cantrip shadowed the girl out of the cottage. Most school days were fine, but on weekends, she rarely got past the edge of the village before – Yap, yap, yap! And the chase was on.

She slipped through the kitchen door flap and paused to cool her pads on stone tiles, then leapt onto a rickety stool by the table where her breakfast lay. But as she bent her head to eat, a prickle shot from tail-tip to whiskers. They quivered. She froze and listened... no one. She dismissed the sensation and ate her bacon and black pudding.

The cottage stood solid in the morning sunlight as Dylan trotted back to the village, but shuddered on its foundations as he disappeared over the hill.


  1. I got hung up in the very first sentence. "Keened" as a verb means to wail and cry.

    After that I was pretty much lost. I actually had to read the first three paragraphs twice before I could move on. There were lovely descriptions in here, if somewhat dense, but the whole started and stopped and changed the topic so many times I never caught up. It felt like a set of semi-related paragraphs thrown together almost randomly.

    I would probably have stopped reading before this.

  2. This is an interesting tale. I think it has potential. I would be cautious of using pronouns so much, especially in your opening. We want to know who and what at the beginning. Otherwise the reader will get confused. Also some of your sentences could be cut in half for more impact and less 'ands'.

    I'm curious as to where this is going!

  3. This seems like the protagonist is an animal--if that's accurate, then good word with your use of descriptions.

    I have to agree about the use of pronouns; they can really weigh a story down (especially a first page), and as someone who's recovering from pronoun overuse, I can tell you it's fixable! Just have to really focus page by page on swapping them out or removing them. Once you do, it'll tighten the story up immensely.

    I'm also curious to see where this is going. Good luck! :)

  4. I absolutely loved this! Lots of energy. Yes, the sentences could be shorter. The dynamic scene pulls the reader in - and then - a cottage disappears. Not what was expected from reading about a dog chasing a cat. And there are telling details that lead this reader to believe there is more to this cat - much more. I'd definitely read more.

  5. I like the story from the perspective of the animals. Very good visual description as you described the cat on the way to the house. I'm not sure about the phrase "scented triumph." I like what you're doing there, but maybe try "the scent of triumph/victory" instead.

    I wasn't very drawn into the story from these openings words. You touched on some potential action toward the end, but I kind of wanted more to pull me into the story. It's hard with only 250 words.

    Keep going. It definitely has potential. Good luck!

  6. I love this! I definitely didn't have trouble understanding it. I liked the language and the POV from the animals. I wondered if maybe they were also human, but the line about following the girl made me think otherwise. However, that line also seemed out of place to me, like some backstory kind of thrown in. I wonder if there is another more seamless place to put it? I also love the way you introduce the mystery or the threat or whatever the vibrations are insinuating. I would love to know what comes next. With the text cut off where it is, it seems weird that first it is the cat feeling the vibrations, but then a very distant omniscient narrator watching the whole house shake and the dog over the hill...or is it still the cat's POV and she can see the dog? My guess is that next part makes that more clear, which I would definitely read because I'm intrigued!

  7. Be careful with body parts, or in this case fur, being personified. Fur itself cannot shoot over a hill, it’s the animal that is. Same thing with the eyes keening ahead (which, too, I don’t think is the word you’re looking for either).

    I love the idea of animal narrators and the line of Dylan being ten whisker-widths behind her is adorable. I think you mean lengths, though, and not widths since whiskers are thin and if he was that close, Dylan would be chomping on a kitty for dinner.

    There’s definitely an over-use of pronouns, especially in the fourth paragraph since Cantrip follows the girl out of the cottage — and then use the word ‘she’. It’s hard to say who the she is referring to! So if she’s shadowing the girl (clearly not knowing her name), what kitchen is she in? If she’s in the kitchen, how does she know Dylan is trotting back to the village? Why does the dog going over the hill make a cottage shudder on its foundations?

    1. Thanks for your helpful feedback and constructive criticism.

  8. This felt scattered and unfocused to me, probably because you keep jumping from one POV to another. And then the girl, who we never see, is thrown into the mix, and at the end, I don’t really know what’s going on. A cat is trailing a girl. A dog is chasing the cat.

    Who is the girl? Why is the cat trailing her? Why is the cat able to think and rationalize like a person, but the dog is just a yapping terrier? Perhaps give us some answers.