Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #43

GENRE: MG Contemporary with a touch of historical fiction

245, 246, 247…248.

Did counting sheep really work for anyone?

Kenna Giles threw her pillow to the side and climbed out of bed as the clock on the dresser continued to tick away an eternity of seconds. Outside the window, the world was etched in predawn light—the time when it was neither dark nor light, and the eyes played tricks with the mind.

A mist hovered over the lake and against the forest, veiling its secrets.  Kenna rested her fingers on the cold window pane and squinted through the glass.  Hidden in the shadows of the woods stood a coyote. Kenna blinked, not trusting what she saw, but when she looked again, it was still there.  Its dark figure emerged from the trees and moved across the clearing to the edge of the lake.  The still water reminded her of a mirror and she watched the coyote stare at its reflection.  The coyote tilted its head, and its low yips grew louder, braiding into a chorus that matched the eerie darkness.  The hair on Kenna’s arms prickled and rose as a chill ran down her spine.  The landscape outside her grandmother’s house was haunted with secrets.  Ones Kenna wasn’t sure she wanted to learn. 

She shifted, and the floorboard sighed beneath her feet.  Shaking off the shiver, she stepped away and slid back into bed being careful not to wake Addie Harper who slept cuddled up on the love seat on the other side of the room. 


  1. The writing here is nice, but doesn't quite hold up when reading it in context.

    You have a mist veiling the lake and forest, yet Kenna can see, at a distance no less, a 'hidden' coyote, and that the lake looks like a mirror. She can also see that the coyote can see it's reflection in the lake. And then the coyote, which hasn't yet made a sound, suddenly yips louder. It can't yip louder if it hasn't yet yipped. And how do the coyote's yips match the darkness? In what way? What does that mean? You might, perhaps, rewrite that section to make more sense. It does create a nice, eerie mood. You might also let us know from the start that Addie is there. More attention to details could make this stronger.

  2. Wow this was stunning! So atmospheric and I'm just pulled in immediately. I felt the chill of the pre-dawn air and almost looked out my window expecting it to be misty. Seriously, remarkable world-building.
    I did feel a little pulled out of the narration by the mention of Addie at the end (why does she refer to her by her full name? why is she sleeping in the same room as someone who isn't family? is your MC in foster care? is this just a sleepover?) I do realize, though, that this is only 250 words, and there is a reason novels are longer than 250 words. I'm sure you explain that soon after, but as this stands it pulls me out of the text a bit. (:

  3. I agree the coyote should yip before it yipped louder. Also, you don't need to state the lake reminds her of a mirror. You have good sensory descriptions, but in my opinion, you can tell us what she's feeling inside when she realizes it's a coyote. Yes, telling versus showing works for some emotions.
    Otherwise, you've established a good atmosphere.

  4. lovely and atmospheric. One space after a period only.

    I want to read more!

  5. The description's lovely. Definitely sets the mood. You might consider the first sentence for a beginning "Outside the window ...." Then, the second is Kenna Giles .... Maybe you could insert the part about counting sheep somewhere else. I agree with if the mist is veiling the lake and forest how could she see the coyote. The paragraph about the mist and coyote could be broken up into shorter ones. Are there other paragraphs on page two that could be used on page one so it'd be more of a page turner at the end of the page? Our first page is so important with MGs.

  6. suggest change did to does in opening line. revise opening lines for order clarity: she gets out of bed, then goes to the window before you can see the descriptions outside through her eyes. If the coyote is hidden in the shadows, then she couldn't see it. Have the coyote step out of the shadows first. She can watch it creep to the lake and yip. Then the yips can grow louder. Ah, secrets.Wondering what they will be!

  7. Once I get to the first full paragraph, I really like this one, even though it starts at the beginning of the day which is seen as a big no-no for so many other agents and editors. Normally I agree, too, but having a middle grade kid throw her pillow in frustration before her alarm goes off makes me immediately wonder why this child can't sleep, so I already feel invested to know more about her.

    I'm not sure I'd call a coyote in predawn light an eerie darkness with haunted secrets, but I can appreciate that the middle grade reader may feel that way.

    I want to know what's going on, but I'm not having the same sense of connection in the second and third paragraphs as I was with the first full (I don't think the first two lines are necessary on their own, by the way, but they do act as a nice contrast for the pillow frustration, so I would need to give more thought to this waking up opening and its impact on the marketability and then whether those should stay or go). As we go into the final paragraphs it seems to be trying to set up a sense of fear rather than continuing with the potential insomnia theme.

    I'd want to read more of this, but I'm hoping my initial assumptions and reason for emotional investment with the character carries through.