Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#5 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Title: The Lonely Spy
Genre: Historical Fiction


The man in the corner of the tavern had not looked straight at Thomas even once. Observing someone without being noticed in a public place requires the discipline to seek incidental eye contact with that person. The lanky man lacked that discipline.

His eyes would flit past Thomas, or focus on a point right behind him. Thomas did not make the same mistake. He studied his watcher openly for a moment, and then smiled politely as their gazes crossed. The man's face flushed.

Thomas feigned not to notice. He scanned the rest of the smoky common room, searching for a second man. The lanky one was an amateur. He could be a decoy, used by a more experienced spy. The Holy See had many good spies, and assassins. Thomas was sure they were hunting him, eager to catch their former colleague.

A bald man, sitting at a table near the door, caught Thomas's attention. Broad-shouldered, like a soldier, he was watching a game of dice between some craftsmen next to him. Every now and then he would lift his head and take in the scenery. Only after he started talking with the men playing dice, Thomas relaxed a bit. The craftsmen all seemed to know the soldier.

"Looking for something, stranger?"

Startled, Thomas blinked. Then he grinned at the waitress, hiding his annoyance at being caught off-guard. He eased back his dagger into its sheath under the table. "Sorry, lass. Your beauty stunned me. I'll have another ale."


  1. You had me hooked right up to "Sorry, lass. Your beauty stunned me."

    IMHO it took away from the suspense that you had built. It also detracted from your voice, which was so strong and serious, at least up until I read that one line.

    Now I will say that not being able to see any further, if that waitress is to become a MC or even SC, there may be some reason for him to say or feel that way, but for just what was there, I think it detracts from such a well-written, fast-paced start.

    Good job though!

    :) Terri

  2. Not hooked, but I think it's because the pace feels too calm for the action it might be leading up to. As for the last bit with the waitress, it works for me but is over-written. I don't think you need to say he startled and blinked. The action of his putting the dagger away says it all. Why does he apologize? Did she see the knife and react? If so, you might think about including that reaction, which would get the attention of the guys he's spying on, and then we'd have conflict. I'd rather see that than read 200 words about him casually observing people in a tavern.

  3. Yes, I would definately read on.
    Somehow that last paragraph already seemed out of character. He seems too cool and steely, too aware of his surroundings, to be startled by a waitress. Unless there is something really odd about her.

  4. Hi,
    Sorry not hooked. You had to much back story for me and not much really happened.

  5. I’m drawn to this because my wip takes place in the sixteenth century as well. The first thing I noticed, however, was the tense slip in the second sentence: 'requires' should be corrected to 'required.'

    Your premise is interesting, but I’m not sure I’m hooked. You give us an awful lot of description and characters in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a bit hard to keep them straight.

    Having said that, I’d keep reading.

  6. I would probably not read further because I didn't feel connected somehow. A lot of staring around the room lost my interest, although I could picture the scene very well.

    I found myself wondering when the hook was going to come.

    But well written nonetheless!

  7. Hmm. This is why my job is so difficult as sometimes it’s not about what IS there, but what isn’t. There is a disconnect here and I think it comes from over establishing the scene but under establishing the atmosphere. I can’t really tell that it takes place in the 1500’s without the tag. This one just isn’t resonating with me.

  8. Probably not hooked. It seems like there might be interesting story here but the writing isn't as smooth as it could be.

    Also, I'm pretty sure "waitress" is a modern word and discrepancies on the first page of a historical novel tend to put me off (especially as this is in Tudor times and I'm obsessed with the Tudors!).

  9. Pretended rather than feigned I think...

    With some edits I could see this being a good story and I'm willing to read more.

    Yes, I'm hooked :o)

  10. I agree about the term "waitress"... maybe "bar maid"? I dunno... I'm not getting a sense that this happened in a completely different time period.

    I really liked the opening paragraph lines, though. :)

  11. Possibly - I liked it right up until the last part with the 'waitress'.
    feigned - the word caught me - it seemed out of context with the rest of the story
    Good luck with your writing.

  12. Not hooked. Some places need a polish. Some good set up here, just wasn't for me.

  13. Heh... I think I read somewhere about the danger of starting stories in bed (as in asleep) or in a tavern/bar. :)

    The other thing... why did the other guy blush when Thomas and he made eye contact? <- This is definitely my tired head. I read it a second time and get that the other guy's flush was an acknowledgement that he'd gotten caught.

    Hmmmm... for the sake of teasing, at first look it doesn't seem like he's a lonely spy, since he's sitting in a bar with a LOT of other spies.

    I do like the sounds of this guy. He sounds like a cool character, right down to his easy excuse to the waitress.

    So yes. This is a hook for me.

  14. I'd give this a tentative yes. I'm intrigued, but the passive voice throughout the selection threw me, and as the SA said, the language and verbiage just doesn't put me in the 1500s. I guess it just doesn't feel "authentic" to me. Also, beware the cliche "tavern scene" utilized by so many authors writing period or fantasy pieces. It's as overused as magic rings and elves, IMHO.

  15. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't buy this book if I saw it on the shelf...

    But for the purpose of the exercise was I hooked?

    Yep. I thought the voice was good, and I like a slow/atmospheric, but intriguing start.

    Some bits were a bit awkward or overly detailed, but I liked the mc, and thought you established the scene well (although I agree that it wasn't clear on the historical period).

    Good luck.

  16. Hooked.

    I like the premise, and the MC. Felt a little slow going, but I'd read on.