Wednesday, February 11, 2009

53 Secret Agent

TITLE: Ghosts in the Shadows
GENRE: Commercial

Yídilchi′ Yáá left no room for misunderstanding when he swore to the
Eternal Ones he would die before accepting their indifference. All
that remained was to prove he meant what he said.

As he knelt among the sacred rocks clad only in a breechclout and
knee-high moccasins, not even the desert's heat could warm him. The
stone ledge beneath him would have blistered his hide if not for the
horse blanket between them. The pillar of granite at his rod-straight
back might as well have been a wall of flames. Dry air parched his
lungs with each breath, and the dark, board-straight hair that spilled
over his shoulders scorched the flesh against which it lay.

But inside he was cold. A block of ice at the center of his being
radiated frosty tentacles that sometimes touched every part of him,
sometimes shrank away. Just now glacial digits wrapped around his
spine, painting an arctic lining inside his ribs and stiffening his
arms and legs into brittle sticks that would shatter the moment he

He defied the ice, dared it to claim him. Drawing his arms to shoulder
height, elbows crooked, hands above his head, he turned his palms
inward, fingers splayed as if he held the Earth between them. Eyes
closed, he took in one deep breath and then let it out slowly as he
raised his face to the heavens and set his spirit on the wind.


  1. This opening is very rich with detail and the writing is beautiful.

    I felt by the end it was a little emotionally detached and I wanted to feel for him more. I definitely want to know more about his ordeal - is he in prayer or punishment or testing himself? I would definitely read more to find out.

  2. Intriguing. I would read on to find out why he needs to set his spirit on the wind and what happens to his spirit when it is released.

    Here's a few things that came up as bumps in the road when I read your story. I'd lose the sentence "But inside he was cold." You do a great job of showing this to us in the story. There is also a lot of what I'll call "positioning" information which I feel slows the pace a bit. I wonder if his orientation on the ledge could be described in with a broader brush so we can get to the spirit on the wind quicker? Just a thought.

    I like a character that defies the ice. Very unusual name for the MC too. Thanks for sharing,


  3. Very descriptive - and beautifully painted. But it slows the pacing and I skipped ahead to read what was happening to him, why he was on that ledge. Then, I went back and read the description.

    Good luck.

  4. Beautiful language, but I feel it's overdone at time. "Glacial digits" didn't connect with me.

    I'm curious--does this story take place in the modern world?

  5. I like this. It's dramatic, unexpected, unusual. The writing is lyrical. I had a feeling this was not the MC, but the set up for the problem the MC would face.

    In the paragraph about the ice at the center of his being, the phrase "sometimes shrank away" confused me. I'm used to reading sf/f, where this kind of personification could be code for a magic power, or a living symbiont. I think here you're just trying to say he's cold, sometimes really cold, sometimes not as much. Unless it's important, I don't think the "shrank away" is necessary.

    That's really a minor nit. I would probably keep reading, depending on what genre it is. I know some agents use the term "commercial", but it really doesn't mean anything to me, except "has an actual plot."

  6. I'm sorry... I'm not sure why I'm not hooked. This is well written with nice descriptions...

  7. I'm too distant from this character's problems to feel any emotion for him. His name also made it difficult for me, but that may just be me. I was intrigued by the opening paragraph, but the endless description made me skip to see what else was going to happen. Can you show the conversation/threats with the Eternal Ones first?

  8. There is some truly beautiful writing going on here.

    I'm not exactly hooked, though; I don't feel all that curious about our main character. I think part of the problem is that I have no idea what the setting is -- and if this were a book in a bookstore, I'd have read the jacketflap first.

    It reads almost literary to me, instead of commercial. ("Commerical literary," maybe?)

    I especially like this sentence: "He defied the ice, dared it to claim him." The compound-sentence-with-comma-and-no-conjunction, when used sparingly, is, in my opinion, very effective.

    Some very nice moments here!

  9. Sorry, but not hooked. One of my pet peeves in writing is starting with a protagonist staring off into space and contemplating their life, rather than doing anything to alter it. Only in the last line do we get any hint of action, but there's no sense of plot, and nothing really hooking me into the story.

    Also, I'd recommend avoiding using fancy accents and schwas (spelling?). I spent the majority of my first read through just trying to figure out how to pronounce Yídilchi′ Yáá rather than focusing on the story, which is really where you want your reader's attention to go.

  10. k'e'shiłchį́į́February 11, 2009 at 8:23 PM

    The name I used to post this comment means "I wrote it" in what, sadly, is a dying native dialect in the real world. The character's name is in the same dialect and can be translated into English. Although I know it will bother some people, I've made a conscious decision not to translate until later in the story. Like the character, I'm defying the ice (or perhaps just being stubborn). ;-)

    Thank you all for taking the time to read and post your comments and suggestions. :-)

  11. I'm not quite sure if I'm hooked, but I loved the last paragraph, so I would read on to find out more.

  12. Beautiful writing, but IMO, it's over done.
    I get that it's hot outside, and he's cold inside, but that's all the two middle graphs give me.
    I'd keep a couple of the sentences, and I'm not picking, because they're all done well, and move on to the story.
    does that make sense?
    I'm not hooked, yet.
    I think that I could be though.

  13. Some lovely description. I'm wondering what happened to his body once he set his spirit on the wind.

  14. I think, like the others, that the writing is lovely, but a bit overdone in some places. I do like the last paragraph quite a bit. I'd probably read on, but something would need to happen for me to keep on for a few pages.

  15. I thought this was well done (although one sentence was clunky "The pillar of grantie at his rod-straight back...")

    But ultimately just not my thing in terms of personal taste. Also, the writer called this commercial. Not sure I how I see this work fitting into that category.