Thursday, July 17, 2008

#85 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE (Crystal Mountain, Turtle Pond)
GENRE (literary fantasy)

The long, low tolling of a bell flowed over the wooden buildings, and its mantra floated out into the surrounding forest. In the dawn light, the air around the sacred Bo tree was moist with the memory of rain, and heart-shaped leaves glistened with water droplets.

From the walkway beside the main temple, Ar-Shen watched his companion, Kiana, return barefoot across the wet cobbles from her meditation. She wore a travel-stained tunic and pants of faded aquamarine.

Ar-Shen’s meditation was still clear, and his path seemed as obvious as the muddy North-South road that ran past the Temple’s outer gate. He stepped from the walkway.

With a warrior’s sixth sense, Kiana turned her head in his direction.

“Master.” She pressed her palms together and bowed. “I will be ready to leave soon. I must roll my bedding, and say my farewells.”

“Later. Come sit with me for a moment.”

He led her across the courtyard to a small open-sided pavilion. Incense sticks bristled from a copper urn at the door and filled the air with the perfume of sandalwood. A stone seat ran beneath the wide window, and the interior was watery with green light as morning filtered through the surrounding bamboo.
She looked uncertain as they sat. He took her hands in his, and her fingers were delicate and pale against the darkness of his skin.

"Tell me, do you wish to continue on the quest?" he asked.


  1. I liked the first three paragraphs--I got the sense that something interesting was going to happen, and the picture is clear and peaceful.

    I'm not sure the rest of it works as well for me. It needs something--maybe some action, danger, humor, something. Some sort of contrast from the beginning.

  2. Although I'm not normally a fan of fantasy, I do have to say that your description is beautiful. It flows very well. So for that, I am hooked.

  3. Very well written. Did it hook me? Uh... Though the descriptions of the setting are lovely, these kinds of openings usually turn me off. It doesn't grab me. Sorry.

  4. Yes (with reserve).

    I think this is very well-written - eloquently so.

    My problem, I think, is I feel somewhat shoved to a distance, like I'm watching a movie and not reading a book. If that makes sense.

    My best way of explaining is - when I watch a movie, I get to see what everyone does, what they say, and what they look like. But when I read a book, I get to see what they thought and felt as well.

    That said, I would read this - particularly because your worldbuilding and description are so complete and there for the reader.

  5. No, this didn't hook me, but I'm a hard sale when it comes to fantasy. For me, it had too much description and not enough action.

  6. Absolutely yes. The language is beautiful and the characters already appear to be painted very well. The conflict is subtle, but still intriguing, and there are already wonderful elements of world building going on. This is definitely in the top 5 of what I've read thus far.

  7. Yes, I've read it beofre...and still love. Look forward to seeing more of this!

  8. Hmm ... I might read more with caution. The descriptions are beautiful, but the genre isn't one that appeals to me right off. The writing is tight enough to keep me turning pages a little longer, but unless the plot hooks me fast, I doubt I'd stick with the book.

  9. Your writing is beautiful, but so far very little is happening. I would read on, but if I didn't encounter action and conflict soon, I wouldn't continue beyond chapter one.

  10. A puff of fresh air. The poetic descriptions are tight, well paced and novel. I'd read on, even if I'm thinking, no, not another quest story as each unique turn of phrase suggests otherwise.
    Thanks for sharing this different twist to start a lovely book.

  11. No, sorry, epic love, fragile beauties, and classic quest cliches just don't grab my attention. Epic quests tend to follow set patterns and are usually fairly easy to figure out. I really hate reading books where I can guess the ending by chapter 3, and this sounds like it could easily shape itself into that kind of book.

    The one redeeming quality you might have is very likable characters. The epic quest books I do read, I read for the characters. I could care less about the plot (which, I know, is bad) but I like spending time with the characters. In this case though, I don't see anywhere to connect with them. I know it's page 1 and harsh to judge like that but if the MC continues being so sappy I won't like him and I know that already.

  12. No, but I've already told you why. ;)

    Good luck!


  13. Just_me wrote:
    epic love, fragile beauties, and classic quest cliches just don't grab my attention. Epic quests tend to follow set patterns and are usually fairly easy to figure out.

    Curiously, this is exactly what this book is not about, but thanks for your first impression.

    I guess this is why back-cover blurb/query letter are important in combination with the first page.

  14. Hooked.

    Already read this and I still love the opening descriptions/tone.

  15. Yes, definitely hooked. There's a lovely atmosphere to this that drew me in. I love fantasy with a deeper thread - ie it's not all sword fights and dragons (though I don't mind them being there). It's beautifully written. Well done.

  16. Yes.

    Polished, and I like the sense of space and tranquility that this evokes. However the following two lines stand out for me

    "its mantra floated out into the surrounding forest."

    "moist with the memory of rain"

    and I would caution you to use such devices sparingly. It's not that they're out of place in this particular example, but it's attention grabbing and doing so too often will detract from the flow of the story.

    Also, please get rid of "She wore a travel-stained tunic and pants of faded aquamarine." It just seems like a totally incongruous detail that we don't need to hear about.

  17. Here's the thing. If you (this is "you" general, not just this author) put the word "literary" in front of a genre, any genre, I expect you to Bring. It. In a big way.

    Think about it--they don't have two sections, Literary Fantasy and Fantasy, so there's no market reason to make that distinction on your end, so why create that heightened expectation? Tell me it's fantasy and then let me be wowed by your facility with language--that makes it a beautiful discovery I get excited by rather than an expectation to be fulfilled (or not). In this instance I think it hurt you because it made me look that much more closely at the symbolism and imagery, and while there are some really nice moments, I didn't see the consistently transformative, sweeping writing that "literary" moniker makes me anticipate.

    In the moments that really sing and in the overall rhythm of the piece, you've created a quietly meditative mood--it has a nice sense of breath--but since we're talking hooky first pages here, I think there are places you could entice us more or clarify. I wondered if the "and" in para 3 should be a "but" (the ideas seem opposed?); the pants of aquamarine made me think of the stone first instead of the color, so take another look; I also thought the 1st para (it's a lot of passive to be the first thing we see) and ending description of the pavilion could be tightened (keep the green light image, though, which is gorgeous).

  18. This is beautiful, quiet, elegant writing, and it sets a distinct mood right from the start. Oddly, I'm not sure whether I'm hooked. I'd probably read more just because the phrasing is so lyrical and the way the words flow creates such beautiful images.

  19. Seen before. It's beautiful, but just not my thing. :)

  20. Wonderful, beautiful writing, but since the question asked is if one is hooked on the first page, I'd say not.

    However, I would read at least another page because someone that writes this well must know what they are doing.

  21. I like this a whole lot, especially the picture painted in the second-to-last paragraph. It's beautiful, and I like that you're working in an Eastern, Buddhist-inspired setting as opposed to the more conventional European one. I'd read more just for that, but in terms of being hooked by the text or action, I'd say "no". Over all, though, I think it's great! :)

  22. I'm sort of on the fence, but I'm leaning toward yes. I love the beauty of the prose, and (for me) that's almost enough to keep me reading for several pages before making a definite decision. But I still would've liked to know just a little bit more about what's to come in this story to really solidify my interest.