Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #14

TITLE: Strange Occurences
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Something brushed Spooky’s elbow. Luke, it must have been Luke, slipped a piece of paper into the palm of her hand.

A note.

Pens were restricted-use items, so notes were rare. More importantly, notes were risky: you couldn’t change your story once it was in writing.

Spooky smiled a little, and squeezed the scrap in her hand. Luke had thought ahead about giving her this. She wanted to read his face as much as the words he had put on paper, but she kept her eyes trained on the front of the cafeteria.

“And that’s our inspirational quote for this evening!" Izeah Dodgson continued into the mic. The shine of his head matched the lacquered wood floors, which Spooky herself polished twice a week. "Now, I have one more announcement, and I don’t want anyone to be alarmed: last night's patrol spotted an animal inside the fence. Now, now,” he raised his hands as if to quiet the room of campers, none of whom had made any sound. “This is exactly why we have the fence in the first place. A thorough search of the camp tells us that our visitor didn’t stay.”

“It was a bear,” someone whispered. 

“Two Scuffs,” came the echo from a counselor. No one got away with talking during announcements.
The fence wasn't really for the animals. Spooky had seen the exposed bars and chain-link on the exterior when her parents brought her through the gates. The plastic sheeting that made it impossible to climb only ran along the inside.


  1. This is great! I love the subtle hints at world-building without actually telling us anything and the creepy feeling. "Spooky" is a great name for your MC.

    I'm struggling to think of anything critical to say. I found the second sentence a little bit confusing and I think using dashes instead of commas with "it must have been Luke" and changing slipped to "had slipped" would make it easier to understand. Also, I understand why you made "A note" it's own paragraph after reading the whole thing, but at the first read I was wondering why you were stating the obvious so dramatically.

    Good luck! I would definitely want to read more of this.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, and the punctuation suggestion!

  2. ooh, the intrigue and the opening lines lead me to believe this quite a unique tale. ( a little scary too -no pens?!) I want to read his face too- great tension. I'm trying to find something constructive to critique -- but darn, this is so good. :)

  3. Nothing but cheerleading from me, too, I'm afraid. I love the steady pace. There's no in-your-face shocking or strange info, no big drama. What we have instead is a steady dropping of wildly interesting crumbs, crumbs that are just a bit out of the ordinary (pen use is restricted, "two scuffs" is punishment for whispering, and a fence designed to keep kids in more than animals out, for instance). I love the casual presentation and subtlety. This is my kind of tale.


  4. The opening line, which does a good job creating uncertainty, makes me think she is in a dark place or walking. In fact, her name makes me think she is in a haunted house. So you need to set up that, from the rest of the piece, they are sitting somewhere. I envision folding chairs but then she would know if Luke was sitting next to her and brushed her elbow. I like the way you tell about her jobs and consequences in just a few words. You present a lot of information in an interesting way without making the reader feel like it's an info. dump.

    For 250 words you've told me a lot and I'm interested.

  5. I really enjoyed this. Great world-building, great character introduction. The fence, the animal, the risk of passing a note, all great details. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

  6. Really liked the world-building. Intrigued to find out why Spooky is at this place. Also, really love the notes/paper are forbidden things here. I was only drawn out of the story once with the line: Luke had thought ahead about giving her this. It seemed to read as if it were coming from Luke's POV instead of Spooky's. Easy tweak though. Hope that helps. Enjoyed your post!