Wednesday, May 13, 2009

15 Secret Agent

TITLE: Mourn Their Courage
GENRE: Fantasy

Liu Jie left his wife and son to their bedtime rituals and closed the door of the room they shared. The clamor of voices from the inn's first floor enveloped him in an instant. It was twice as loud as when they'd arrived last night.

The Peach Orchard Inn was a two-storied square, hollow in the center with rooms along opposite walls. Latticed windows blocked most of the autumn wind, but let in sunlight during the day. The servants had already lit the paper lanterns tonight. The fragile lights swayed as he passed. He stared over the railing at the crowd below and grimaced. The room was packed. Too many people vied for the innkeeper’s attention.

All he wanted was a cup of rice wine. He sighed and went downstairs.

Jie stepped off the landing and was accosted by the smells of heated wine and steamed vegetables. He wound his way to the bar. Flashes of conversations accompanied him.

"Who’d lead?"

"My parents are too old to run the farm themselves. . ."

A wall of blue and tan hemp robes, many patched and worn, blocked his path. He stood on tiptoe to try and see over the crush of men crowding the bar. At last, he pushed between two of them and looked for the innkeeper.

An unrolled silk scroll mounted on the wall caught his attention. The weave of the ivory fabric was intricate and the Imperial Chop blazed like a crimson brand in a corner.


  1. It's well written, but there's not much there to hook me. Looking for the rice wine isn't too exciting. The silk scroll is interesting, but it doesn't give enough intrigue yet. I might read on to see if the next part gives me enough of a hook.

  2. I'm interested and probably would read a little more, if for no other reason to find out about the scroll since it obviously has so many people concerned at the inn.

  3. I loved the writing, but the scene didn't hook me.

  4. I'm not really hooked. I don't get a read on the character with what's given here or an idea of what is going on. I will say that I have a personal issue with books that go into a lot of description, especially if it isn't "necessary" description. To explain the difference, the scroll is important, we need to know what it looks like, but do we really need to know that the inn has two stories and an open area between the rooms? Unless something is about to happen there where the set-up matters, my eyes just glaze over.

    I might read far enough to find out more about the scroll, but I might not.

  5. I got a little bogged down in the description. I would keep it focused on the scene at hand.

    I liked it. It was simple but well written.

  6. Choppy sentences detract from the reading, and you'd be better served to look up the actual words themselves for the things you're describing; rice wine is sake, to begin with, and there's probably a proper word for the paper lanterns. If you have to, state the word and then describe it: "All he wanted was a cup of heated sake; the rice wine would go down well about now. Instead he sighed and made his way downstairs."

    With some more polishing, it could be good. I'm almost hooked, but not quite.

  7. Not hooked. I'd give it another couple of pages though. Not every story can comfortably start with "Bang!"
    The writing is good, so I'm a little more willing to read further to see if something good is coming. If the whole first chapter is like this though, I'd probably pass.

  8. As someone who's seen a full two chapters of this, and who recommended that you cut the original prologue, I hate to agree that this doesn't quite have a "wow" factor.

    I think bringing the big, raucous guy (who's name, I'm ashamed to admit, escapes me) in a bit sooner could help add a little more conflict/intrigue to the very opening. But, knowing what's going on, I'm hooked. ;)

    Good luck!

  9. Nice job, and I'm semi-hooked. It has quite a literary feel to it.

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  11. I suggest you start with "All Liu Jei wanted was a cup of rice wine."
    That's a good sentence. Most everyone can relate to that and then you can start in with something like- But he could see from the light of the lanterns that the room was packed, too many people....

    and as he goes downstairs he hears the snatches of conversation- I liked that.

    If its important that his wife and son are upstairs (like somethings about to happen to them) maybe you could work it in a bit later.

  12. Thanks for the suggestion, Susie! I've had a real problem putting a better hook into this alternative beggining. That at least would help bring up the scroll faster.

    Good to "see" you again, Sam! I didn't expect to see anyone familiar here.

  13. I'm interested enough to keep reading, and not just because I like fantasy that has a real-life "historical" feel to it.

    You gave me enough hints to suggest that there are more interesting things to come:
    -obviously the MC and family are traveling; where? why?
    -the inn is very crowded: why?
    -conversations seem to hint at strife
    -the Imperial Chop denotes a message of some import...maybe related to the tense conversations?

    Anyway, you get the idea. Maybe I have an over-active imagination, but even for such a low-key opening, I saw enough to make me at least want to turn the page.

    Great writing!

  14. Not hooked. There just wasn't enough here that grabbed me. It's clear the scroll will be important. Perhaps start with him noticing it.

  15. I'm hooked. Normally description bores me but I liked it in this case. The crowd and the scroll flag that something interesting is coming soon, so I'd keep reading.

  16. Victoria,

    I just saw your comment declaring you wished to squash the idea that fantasy cannot be literary. Amen! Thank you. I couldn't agree more.

    I always say that Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell is like Jane Austen. One of the MCs just happend to be a magician.

  17. Thanks, Susie. I'm glad I've found one more believer! Have you ever read Guy Gavriel Kay or Juliet Marillier? Kay's my favorite. I just discovered Marillier, but like what I've read thus far. Thanks for the 411. :)

  18. There was a lot of description here and not much action

    My first reaction would be to cut the first two paragraph and start with the sentence beginning with 'Jie stepped off..'

    I liked the conversation, but you lost me again with the description of the scroll

  19. This one has a lot of potential and would hook me with a bunch of strategic cuts.

    The first paragraph is fine. The second paragraph can be substantially trimmed, but with the essence of some of the description being kept. The rest of the piece can be similarly trimmed. I would change the last paragraph to emphasize that the scroll is more important than anything else, and tell me what's on it. What's on the scroll is the hook.

    I'm pleased to see a non-Western fantasy though. I want to read more.

  20. I liked the writing a lot because it flowed without too much description. Very well done. I'd read on.

  21. I like this a lot. I don't like 'enveloped' and 'accosted'. Maybe just the latter. The 2 together sound forced. Love the paper lanterns bit, the cup of rice wine paragraph, and 'the crush of men'. You've done a nice job of creating an Asian feel without explaining every little thing (with the exception of the building-- I feel your pain, here. How do you give a sense of place without the description of the building, right?).

    Well done.

  22. I like the idea of a non-western fantasy as well.

    I like it, it flows nicely, and while I'm not a huge fantasy fan I think an Eastern fantasy would be more appealing to me. The writing flows nicely.