Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Secret Agent #25

TITLE: The Witch and the Demon
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Ebba ran into the moonless night. Her soaked dress clung to her skin, wind and wetness competing to freeze her into a corpse. Tree roots banged her feet and fatigue crept up from her shaking limbs to numb her brain. If she fell, she might not be able to get up again. Keep moving. Get as far away from the witchfinder as possible, may he be reincarnated as a constipated drunk’s chamber pot.

In the darkness, directions blurred. She focused on climbing up the mountain, away from her village. Faster, faster, faster. Her lungs took on the weight of iron balls.

Her left knee finally gave out—right when another root caught her ill-fitting clog. Her ankle bent sideways with a crack. She hit the dirt.

Waves of agony crashed over her. Mustn’t stop moving. But her body refused to rise. She wanted to scream or cry. Instead, Ebba took a deep breath. To focus her mind, she pinched her face, right on top of the scabs from the witchfinder’s pins. The itching behind her eyes from too long without sleep, the burning of her throat, the blistering sores on her hand—everything faded away.

Heartbeat steady, she groped for a tree root. Her right hand oozed pus from the burns on her palm, so she used her left one to pull herself into a sitting position. The merest touch to the swollen lump was torture. Through the pain, the rational part of her noted this felt worse than a sprain.


  1. Lots of good details in this opening. It started with so much action that it was hard to get a good sense of character or stakes beyond her running from the witchfinder. I almost want to start slightly earlier in the story, maybe see her in her regular day in her village before the hunt begins.

  2. I think the opening line should be below and maybe "Her ankle bent sideways with a crack" should be the opening line instead. I really enjoyed the detail so far and the descriptive gruesomeness of what I assume to be witchcraft.

  3. Ooh, I'm really feeling the intensity of the situation here! Love all the details. Just one thing: wouldn't being a "constipated drunk's chamber pot" be a good thing, since it wouldn't be used?

    Also, I really like the name Ebba. Yes, that is a shallow reason to like something. No, I don't care!

  4. I love the tension in this opening. She's fleeing danger, and you feel how terrified and desperate she is. The descriptions are vivid and put us right into the moment with her. Super strong opening, dude! :)

  5. I love an action packed opening, and this one is really good. You do a great job of revealing the terrible things the witchfinder did to Ebba. I think a reflection or two will deepen our understanding of Ebba beyond being angry and afraid. Does she glance to toward the warm village and know she'll never be that comfortable again? Does she have a brief regret at having been caught by the witchfinder? Some little tidbit that goes beyond running would do the trick.

  6. I don't like beginnings that start with action. We see a lot of sample pages in our query inbox that start with a character running. An action scene. Sweat pouring. Lungs burning. Muscles cramping. Feet stumbling over rocks and tree roots. The sound of a pursuer’s footsteps ringing out in the darkness. These writers hope we’ll be just as breathless and scared as their characters are. But this type of opening lacks context (which means readers aren’t yet invested in your character’s plight). It’s an opening that’s tough to make fresh because we see it all the time. Plus, it can only lead to one of two possible outcomes: the character will either outrun her pursuer or she’ll get caught. That makes this type of scene skim-or-skip material. Worse, it makes false tension out of all the pages the writer devotes to pouring sweat, burning lungs, cramping muscles, stumbling feet, and darkness. And false tension makes readers feel cheated.

    1. Not the real secret agent.

  7. While I certainly get a sense of atmosphere and Ebba's dire situation, I'm afraid I also am left wondering why she's running, other than to get away from the brutal witch catcher. Who is Ebba (to her village, to her family, to her circle of friends) and why does the witch catcher care about her in the first place?

    Great sensory details. I just need more about Ebba herself.

  8. This is a great scene, but I'm not sure it's where the story should begin. And the first bit of internal dialogue seems unwieldy for someone running in fear.

    I want to root for Ebba, but I don't know her yet. Maybe she's as bad or worse than what she's running from. I need more about her situation and her personality before I can be on her side.

  9. Loved it! The starting place was great and put us right in the crux of the matter. The descriptions painted the scenery and character nicely. The voice was strong and showed her fear while also showing her desperation to keep going and her strength at never giving up, which are very crucial in showing us Ebba’s character. Great job and thanks for entering!