Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #22

GENRE: YA Thriller

We killed him in the forest where the girls went missing and the silence covered up their names.
We stabbed him first, one by one and then over and over again until there was more blood in the moss and the soil than in his body.

And then we dragged his body through the forest as he had dragged ours, night after night, and this time it felt like going home.

There is a small shack in the wild green outside the town where we all see faces in the dark.
It was there we cut him up, limb by limb by limb. We used his saws, the ones our bones once felt, and we wept—but not for him.

Never for him.

We wept for us, girls who vanished into silence as if we had never existed at all.

We buried him where he always buried us, under the looming, all-seeing oaks who groan and mumble in the wind.

He had buried all of us there.

So now he lies among us, and we dare you to find him.

Come looking for him, if you can bear it.

Come, uncover our crime, and see what we have done at the heart of the forest—but before you reach his bones, you will find ours in rows of teeth and narrow shoulders.

Before you find him, you will have to face us.


  1. This literally gives me chills. In all the best ways. I know we are supposed to find something to critique but I don’t have anything to say other than this voice is one of the strongest I’ve read in such a short amount of words and it’s hauntingly beautiful. Well done.

  2. This is such a great opener. I didn't want it to end. It reads like poetry. I'm wondering if you might want to change the second "silence" into "darkness" or something similar just because it's a repeated word. Not really necessary but just a thought. Great job! I want to read more!

  3. This is fantastic. I have no critique to offer. But I love the chills from the last sentence.

  4. This is hauntingly beautiful and really sets the YA thriller tone! The only sentence I found myself stumbling on was: "There is a small shack in the wild green outside the town where we all see faces in the dark." Perhaps you could break it into two? Is it the town where everyone see's faces or the shack? That's really the only area I could find. Otherwise is a wonderful opening!

  5. Wow, this hooked me. I was in shock at the brutal opening line and absolutely compelled to read more... and more. You had me HATING this murderer and cheering his death barely a few lines in. So, I'm going to try very hard to not just cheerlead :)

    From this short scene, I had the impression something supernatural was at play. This man is killed by people (teenage girls, right?) who he has already killed -- no? Which didn't bother me -- I was happy to roll with this not being immediately clear. In fact, the ambiguity around his killers made me *want* to read more.

    The almost sentient oak trees enhanced the faint sense of something supernatural. I loved them. But, given that this early own you've basically given the trees agency as witnesses, I wondered how the natural environment will function as a character in this story. (Not an objection at all -- just a mood that you seemed to set here, so I'd be disappointed if this mood dissipated.)

    I was a little confused by the direct address challenge at the end. The narrator invites "you" to come and find him, but then threatens "you" ("Before you find him, you will have to face us"), which implies that whoever's looking for this guy is worried about him, thinks well enough of him to search for him, and so on. And that doesn't mesh with the monster serial killer we meet immediately before this. So, I guess this has me wondering who the protagonist/s of the story will be, and who the antagonist/s are, too -- the serial killer? The (dead?) girls?

    None of these questions stop me wanting to know more, though! This is an incredibly compelling start and I want to know what happens next!

  6. Wow. I was scrolling through and this stopped me cold. HOLY COW I want to read this.

    The "shack" sentence is a little awkward. I'm not sure how to fix it, but it's a snag in the flow.

    Moving to second person pulled me out of it, as if I would be searching for this murderer. It's creepy, but again it breaks up the immersive effect you've created. Maybe talk about "they" and "them" instead of "you."


  7. I'm confused, but SO intrigued. Great mystery and creepiness. Love the descriptions. My brain is trying to decide if they're a collective 'we' and some are still alive to carry out killing him and maybe station themselves afterwards, or if they're all dead and somehow doing it....but ooh I want him found so those girls get justice!
    Great opening!

  8. This opening gives me CHILLS! it's raw and impactful, I can really picture the creepy forest and some of the details you've included like 'narrow shoulders' and the repetition of 'limb' make me shudder. I really like the description of the oak trees. My one piece of feedback is whether it's possible to match the raw, punchy quality of what's happening to the rhythm of the sentence structure? Could some of the sentences be shorter, more punchy? such a small piece of feedback, I just love this!

  9. Your opening line is one of the most powerful I've ever read. Fantastic job! The entire passage had me on the edge of my seat, and I couldn't read fast enough. Once I got to the end, I cursed your unknown name because I wanted more.

    I can offer only one piece of advice, you awesome author, you. On sentence three, eliminate 'And then' it's not needed. Also, since 'body' is used twice in this sentence could one of them be changed to 'corpse?' The second 'dragged' could be changed to 'as he once did to ours.'

    Anyway, I'm in love and wish I could read on.

  10. Okay, OMG, where is the rest of this? I have goosebumps! The tone is set so perfectly. Two super nit-picky things from me... cut "and the soil" from the second sentence to tighten? Also, don't need the "And then" to start off the third sentence. I would love the beginning of the first three sentences to be "We killed..." "We stabbed" "We dragged"

    But seriously those are tiny things and if you don't change them this will still be a powerful, thrilling, haunting opener that make me want to read on.

  11. Great first line, great opening parg. I'm immediately pulled in. And you've created a nice tone and mood that works great, too! The question I had was could you sustain it all for the whole novel? There's a part of me that feels this is a prolugue, and when the chapters start, the writing will revert to a more 'normal' voice, that of a live teenage girl.

    A few things did trip me up that others have already mentioned. The line about the shack, the oaks 'who' groaned, as opposed to 'that' groaned, and the last three pargs where you suddenly start talking directly to the reader. Each of those lines stopped me, and the last three pargs totally destroyed the mood for me and took me out of the story.

    I don't think any of that will hurt you, but revising/rewriting those sections could make this even stronger. However things go, this is a great piece of writing. Best of luck with it!

  12. Oh my god. So creepy! I'm definitely getting The Lovely Bones vibes here. I love the setting as character ("the oaks who groan") and the call to action at the end that seems intended for the reader. It gives it a very poetic vibe that I think is great for an opening section.

    The only thing I was confused about is that at the beginning it talks about "the girls went missing", suggesting someone outside the narrator, and then switches to "we wept for us, the girls who vanished", meaning the narrator. Are they all dead girls, or dead and alive girls? I wasn't nearly confused enough to stop reading. I'm incredibly intrigued.

    Great job!

  13. creepy in the best way. more YA books need this...I feel we have a mystery of who he was and why he killed all the dead girls. I'm concerned if the rest of the book is told by a dead narrator, but if this is the prolog, BRAVO!

    I assume someone living will come along and try to solve the mystery of the bones...I'm so in with this ms!

  14. Ha. I love how you open up with the mystery solved... and then it keeps going and I'm not sure how deeply we're going to get into the nitty gritty details.

    It's amazing really, because in 250 words you end up with a sense of completion. It's like there is no more. That's the whole statement, left there for someone to find.

    I would definitely keep reading.