Wednesday, February 11, 2009

6 Secret Agent

TITLE: Legends & Heroes: The Last Mage
GENRE: Fantasy

With a forced swallow that felt like she'd just inhaled a fistful of sand, Lusa sent forth the invisible tendrils of Dark Magics. They reached out like groping hands to survey the temple, probing for life other than her own. The power filled her inner core and its tainted whispers tickled her ears, returning to her with no presence found.

The inside of the sandy stone temple was cold, vast and windowless. What little light that escaped into the foyer splashed over a simple set of stairs that led to the upper levels.

"Illumina." She waved a hand towards the nearest sconce and with her spell, summoned the other torches to flaming life.

Lusa choked back a scream and froze. There were five of them . . . five bodies sprawled lifeless across the far end of the foyer. They didn't look much older than her, fifteen or sixteen maybe. Torchlight licked orange hues over the bodies. Shadows slid between limbs, making them look like they were moving.

Her stomach turned into itself, an acidic taste tickled her throat. She'd have to touch the wall for answers. If she had anything to do with this place, any memory at all, it would come painfully rushing back to her mind. The urge of the Dark Magics twisted her will and pulled at her resistance. With held breath, Lusa placed a clammy palm against the rough temple wall.


  1. That's a powerful scene -- you've told us (without knocking it into our heads) that Lusa may have done this, that she can't say for certain what she's done in the past and that this is a world where the wrong sort of magic is dangerous to the user as well as the victim.

  2. I'm guessing that she's done it by mistake. I would read on to find out. So, yes, I'm hooked.

  3. You have a cause and effect backwards. First the bodies, then her reaction.

    "Her stomach turned into itself" is either awkward or a regionalism I've never heard.

    "The other torches" should be "all the torches" since none are lit. "Spell, summoned" should be "spell and summoned."

    And interesting start, though.

  4. I'm hooked. I want to know what happens after she touches that wall.

    I really enjoyed the writing here, too - the "invisible tendrils" and the play of the flickering light on the shadows. It's also seems a fresh and original.

  5. Interesting opening, I wasn't sure I'd like it, but I was really hooked by the end. Great twist with her wondering if she was the one who'd done it, really made me wonder about her magic and it's effect on her. Good job!

  6. Vivid writing, and you open with a bang. This is an exciting opening that makes me want to learn more.

    I had two problems with this...

    "With a forced swallow that felt like she'd just inhaled a fistful of sand..."

    It's impossible to swallow and inhale at the same time -- try it. (I did.) So that first sentence doesn't work for me. I'd suggest eliminating the part about inhaling and rephrase it to keep the impressing of swallowing sand (or swallowing with her throat coated with sand).

    "Her stomach turned into itself..."

    I see what you're trying to say, but the way it reads, doesn't make sense. Her stomach is already a stomach. :)

    Otherwise, this was fantastic!

  7. Hey, I recognize this... :)

    I like it! I'd read on to find out what Lusa will find out. Love the style!

  8. I had to re-read the first sentence - it didn't make sense, seemed over written. I think if you want a "grab you by the throat" first sentence start with "Lusa sent forth the invisible tendrils of Dark Magics." That's the hook.

    Other than that nit-picky, I really liked this and would definitely turn the page to find out if she had something to do with the five lifeless bodies.

    Good job.

  9. Hooked! Enjoyed the description woven in - I can visualize the inside of the temple very clearly. Great job of building tension here.

    I stumbled a bit over the line "torchlight liked orange hues" - nice imagery, but I stumbled a bit over the syllables jammed together.

    I really like your style, and the way you have introduced so much to the reader in such little time.

  10. A good opening. My only quibbles are with a few word combinations: "forced swallow" and "inhaled" makes me think of air (and power) going into her, but she "sent forth" the tendrils of magic, which seems more like a form of exhaling.

    "returning to her with no presence found" through me for a loop -- found where? Then I realized they were sent out looking for the presence of others/of lifeforms/life forces or something.

    I like that she doesn't actually scream, though she wants to. (An actual scream would have felt too melodramatic). Clever how you slip in her age.

    The whispers tickle her ears in the first paragraph, the acidic taste tickled her throat in the last paragraph. It didn't bother me -- maybe the repetition was intentional -- I'm just pointing it out.

    It's interesting that she uses Dark Magics, but doesn't seem to be an evil person. I suspect this is a conflict, and this, above all, even more than the dead bodies, is what hooks me.

  11. I was wondering, since the MC is 15 or 16, if this is actually YA.

    BTW (from a physiologist's point of view) swallowing and inhaling are not the same action, so I found that first sentence a little off.

    And splashed has a different imagine than what I would expect for light. Splash some paint on the floor and see for your self. Light doesn't behave the same way, so I also had a hard time with this.

    But other than these picky have me hooked.

    Good luck!

  12. I liked the imagery in the first sentence, but I agree with the inhaling v.s. swallowing thing. Maybe 'With a forced swallow that felt like she'd just eaten a fistful of sand...'

    I found the word 'Illumina' a little cliché for summoning light, but maybe that's just me.

    Torchlight licked orange hues over the bodies. Shadows slid between limbs, making them look like they were moving.
    --This made it sound like they were on fire for a moment, so maybe 'The torchlight danced in orange (and yellow?) hues across the bodies, and shadows slid between their limbs, making them look like they were moving.' I like the flow of this better when it's one sentence.

    Her stomach turned into itself, an acidic taste tickled her throat.
    --This was a bit confusing, because the imagery makes it sound like her stomach is turning into her stomach, which doesn't make sense. From experience, acidic tastes don't 'tickle' your throat, they burn, so maybe 'Her stomach turned on itself, and an acidic taste burned/scalded her throat.'

    All in all, I'd read on, giving this at least the first chapter to hook me. The premise is intriguing. Good job! =)

  13. The 'swallow and inhale' thing threw me too.

    I have a few other things though. If he needs to survey for other life forms, then I'm guessing the light you describe in the next paragraph is not enough for her to see by which makes me ask the question; how did she know there were sconces on the walls? She comments later she has no desire to touch the walls. So that's contradictory.

    Also, if the temple is windowless, where is the light coming from?

    Do you see where I'm going with this? It seems like a trivial thing now, but it's an easy mistake to make that tends, by some authors, to be compounded as the story goes on. You, the author, knows where the light is coming from. You may even explain it later, but the reader doesn't so you either have to give a bit more of a hint, or not mention it to stay in line with the fact that it's so dark, she has to use Dark Magics to scope out where she is.

    Which then creates more problems. How does she know it's a temple? How does she know there's a foyer there?

    This is, overall, a great opening as far as leading the reader into the story goes, but at this point, let the reader wonder as much as Lusa is, where she is and what's going on. She knows too much and if she has to touch the walls for answers, it makes no sense why she does.

  14. First, I want to say that this really draws me in. I would totally read something like this.

    The first sentence would read better with "eaten" instead of "inhaled". "Her stomach turned into itself" is very awkward, and acid doesn't tickle.

    I don't think you need "with her spell". Simply "waved a hand towards the nearest sconce and summoned the torches to flaming life."

    My impression is that Luna is very mature for her age. You describe the magic very well. Lots of conflict here, and story questions. Good luck with this!

  15. This feels over-written to me. I think some of it is simply that I don't read much fantasy -- I understand that descriptions tend to be more fleshed out there than in most other genres -- but not all.

    There's a lot of sentences that are in the format something comma something that may benefit from being broken into two shorter, clearer sentences. You also have a modifiers that could be removed to make the prose move more briskly. Let's just look at the last sentence:

    With held breath, Lusa placed a clammy hand against the rough temple wall.

    Compared with:

    Lusa held her breath and placed her palm against the wall.


    Holding her breath, Lusa placed her palm against the wall.

    Or even:

    Lusa inhaled and placed her palm against the wall.

    A case could probably be made for keeping "clammy", if one really wanted to, but there's no reason to mention that the wall is part of the temple, or that it's rough. The reader knows these things already.

    It seems like a small point, but when you multiply that by the thousands of sentences in your novel, those extra words really start to add up. You don't want language to get in the way of the story you're telling.

    Despite my misgivings about the prose, I'd be tempted to read on. I like the set-up with the bodies, and the tension of a seemingly good character using Dark Magics.


  16. You have a lot going on here, so making good word choices is key. For instance, using the image of her swallowing sand in the first sentence made me think she was at the beach. But no, she's in a temple. And then it's a sandy stone temple (huh?). My mind is jumping all over the place and I'm left with a confused sense of setting.

    Another example is, of course, the "stomach turning into itself". Do you mean "turning in on itself"? -- like flipping inside out?

    The last paragraph confused me, I think because I don't have enough sense of what this world is like. So when you say, "If she had anything to do with this place, any memory at all, it would come painfully rushing back to her mind," I'm completely confused. Those phrases are meaningless to me at this point.

    One more small thing. "With held breath" is awfully passive. Would "Holding her breath, Lusa..." be better?

    Good luck! Hope this helps.

  17. The first sentence totally confuses me. How can you send forth something, when you are swallowing. Wouldn't it be better if she's exhaling or spitting?

    The first two paragraphs could be tighter... possibly. And through the rest of this, there might be some lines I'd cut (like the choking back a scream and freezing bit).

    Those are nits, and I'm not sure if I feel connected enough with your protagonist as I'd like to be, but I'd at least turn the page to see what's going on.

  18. I like the concept of what is being presented here, but feel that the phrasing conflicts with itself, making it feel stiff and over-written. Others have already pointed out the wordings that fight one another so I won't repeat them.

    Having said that, enough is here to make me read on to see what is happening. A little word tightening would make all the difference. Hope this helps some.

  19. Yup, definitely hooked! I think I remember the previous version you posted here, and this one is much stronger. The sense of foreboding and danger is great and intriguing, and Lusa’ voice is much more vivid. I’d definitely keep reading

  20. I thought the set-up was interesting, but it felt overwritten. I'd look at every adjective and see if it's necessary to convey what you want.

  21. Interesting start to the story, but a bit overwritten. I agree with everybody else's suggestions on tightening this and making the first sentence less confusing.

  22. I like the idea behind the opening here, but I agree it's a bit over-written. Even for the high/epic fantasy genre, purplish prose is not the easiest to read (IMO).

    If you can clean it up, tighten it up, I think you'll have a good hook here with the situational set up.

    Good luck!


  23. This is slightly overwritten. Perhaps you should try focusing on Lusa's actual emotions as opposed to her physical reactions? A lot of the preposition phrases can be taken out, e.g. "with a forced swallow that felt..." and "with held breath."

    Tighten the writing up and keep working at it!

  24. The beginning paragraph needed a lot of tightening so it's a NO right from the start with me.

    Opening sentence should read more like this: "Forcing a swallow, gritty like sand, Lusa sent..."

    And do people "sent forth" things?

    Luckily, these types of things are easy to fix so get to it!

    I read on to see if it would smooth out. The fourth paragraph was the best. Really put me there.

    Fifth paragraph--back to tightening the prose.

  25. I was a little confused as to what was going on. The appearance of the bodies grabbed me, but I'm a little lost as to what's happening.

  26. Like the premises, needs some cleaning up.
    my nit pick: "Illumina." She waved a hand towards the nearest sconce and with her spell, summoned the other torches to flaming life.
    If she waves her hand over the sconce and summons the light, we know it's magic, you don't need spell.

    "Illumina." She waved a hand towards the nearest sconce and summoned the all the torches to life.

    Okay, I agree with the comments about the sand/swallowing.

    but I'd turn the page. ;)