Wednesday, May 13, 2009

19 Secret Agent

TITLE: A Gentleman of Ill Repute
GENRE: Historical Romance

Prologue


Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see,
Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see,
Other eyes are watching you
To learn from what you do,
So be careful, little eyes, what you see.


Livia’s soft voice echoed hollowly across the cold, cracked
floorboards and rebounded from the dingy walls enclosing the room. Huddled
below a rickety table, all but the dirty toes of her bared feet hidden
beneath the edge of the overhanging tablecloth, she
rocked her rag doll in her skinny arms. She imagined herself in a
safe, secret world of her own, one where she could not hear the
shrill angry voices of Mamma and Papa arguing in the next room. It was a
pretence she was daily growing better at.

On the other side of the thin wall the shouts escalated. The words
exchanged could not be made out but there was no mistaking the accusation
in Mamma’s high pitched tone nor the drunken outrage in Papa’s deeper,
slurred responses.

Livia’s arms tightened about her doll and she rocked harder, to and fro.

Oh, be careful, little feet, where you go,
Oh, be careful, little feet, where you go,

A sudden, pained shriek split the air, instantly followed by a sharp
crashing sound. There was a brief silence and then a clumsy scuffling
sound, as of someone crawling across the floor. The door separating this
room from the next was thrown open.

Livia’s heart leapt, thumping hard against her scrawny chest.

20 comments:

Sandy said...

I'm on the fence with this one. Maybe because it's a prologue and, therefore, I think it's just background information? It's well-written, though, and I've recently become a fan of hist rom, so I want to see what the meat of the story is.

RM said...

I like it. The prose drew me in. The words are vivid. I felt Livia's fear.

RM

John Zeleznik said...

Nope, didn't hook me. It's good writing, I just couldn't get interested in the story.

Amanda said...

The poem/song put me off, sorry. There was a lot of description and it sort of lost my attention before the last two paragraphs. Then I got interested. Maybe you could move that closer to the opening and get rid of some of the starting description?

Mim said...

I love the last sentence. I would keep reading just on that.

This is just me personally, but I always skip poems and songs when I read, and so I don't like them at the beginning. If you started with the description, then did the verse of the song, and then more description I think it would work better.

I love that last sentence. Good luck!

selestial-owg said...

I wasn't hooked by this. I mentioned to someone else, I read limited romance, and historical romance not at all, so take my opinion with that in mind.

All the description with no real action had me drifting off by the end of the first paragraph. And the song didn't do anything for me.

What you have is written well, but most definitely not for me.

Omi said...

This needs more tightening, more polish. There are places where words could be rearranged for better effect, and an added comma here and there would make it smoother to read.

Other than that, it was relatively good, but didn't hook me.

HWPetty said...

I loved this.

You created an amazingly vivid picture, and the idea of the child's voice singing those words was almost creepy.

I seriously felt like I was there.

Other than a few missing commas and some tightening, I think this is really fantastic. Great job.

Jeannie Lin said...

Great suspenseful elements here! This has all the makings of the opening to a horror movie.

For historical romance, I'd want to get some idea of the time period early on and I don't get a hint here so I might be fooled into imagining a contemporary setting and then get shocked.

Also the language took a moment to get into. Almost every noun has an adjective -- some two. It starts to slow down the pace of the read. I would trim some of the more generic descriptors. For example, hearing shouts through the wall already indicates to me that they're "thin" so you can remove that adjective. Shrill voices are already "angry" in my head so that can be cut.

I enjoyed this and want to know what happens next. Tighten the writing and I'd be hooked.

Anonymous said...

The writing is good, but it is a tad overdone in the adjective department. Just a little pruning needed, I think.

I'm not a historical romance person, either, but IMHO, you have a good opening hook. It struck me as creepy, too, even though I tend to skip over poetry/music like so many others. I think Mim has a good suggestion there.

Megs said...

Eek. And poor kid... :S

Definitely hooked.

Lisa and Laura said...

I think this is fantastic. The writing might need a little tightening up (you've got a lot of description in the first paragraph), but I was definitely hooked.

John Zeleznik said...

Rereading my post, I want to amend it slightly...my "nope" read much harsher than I intended! Sorry.

Steven said...

Agents usually want pages from chapter one, so I'm curious about the prologue. Often they don't resemble the book at all and I wonder if this is our MC or someone else?

There are aspects to this that I really like, but they're buried. The adverbs have already been mentioned. But keep that in mind.

"Livia’s soft voice echoed hollowly across the cold, cracked
floorboards and rebounded from the dingy walls enclosing the room."

I think you mean the echo rebounded, but because voice is the subject, it reads like the voice echoed and rebounded. These two words have similar meanings, creating a repetitive idea. There's also way too many adjectives for on sentence. Also I don't know how a voice echos across floor boards.

"Huddled below a rickety table, all but the dirty toes of her bared feet hidden
beneath the edge of the overhanging tablecloth, she
rocked her rag doll in her skinny arms."

This sentence is missing the subject. I'm no sure who huddled. Was it the doll, the toes, the table, or she? Bared should be bare. Once again we have too many adjectives and this two sentences. (Something huddled under the table. She rocked her rag doll.)

"The words exchanged..." distances the reader from the MC. She heard the voices puts us in her perspective.

Notes:

We need to get closer to the character. I only critiqued three sentences, but the technical errors repeat through out. Use the comments as a template. There does seem to be a story here and the pacing is good. You've got half the equation. A good book on grammar will help you with the rest. There is promise here, and I don't want you to think I hated it. I see a work in progress, something that in time will be ready, but isn't there yet.

Barbara said...

I liked this, although I'm not sure why. If I were reading this without knowing it was a historical romance, I never would have guessed. In fact, this could be set virtually anywhere in any time period, real or unreal.

The echo sentence didn't work for me at all. Echos ring in the air, not across the floor.

I don't have an inkling of where this will go, what the problem will be or how this scene may matter. And yet . . . the image of that girl sitting under the table, rocking with her doll, singing to drown out the turmoil in the next room was so strong, that alone makes me want to read more.

Hooked.

Jada said...

I was hooked for the same reason as Barbara. Whether I would buy it in a bookstore would probably depend on the back cover copy, but the first page would be in its favour.

Cheryl S said...

I've not read any other comments

I'm not a big fan of using verse to preemp/ illustrate the story, but that's just me.

I found the main paragraph over endowed with adjectives and adverbs. The last sentence in that paragraph ended with a preposition too, which made it sound very clunky.

There was a lot of telling here and I felt distanced from the MC throughout, with comments about eg. skinny arms, scrawny chests all concentrating on the physical and not really telling me anything about her emotions.

I'd rather you used more of her senses to show us her terror or confusion at what is going on.

folksinmt said...

I'm almost hooked. The poem didn't grab me and the first paragraph was overly descriptive. But when you got to the meat of the story, it got good. Once you get into "on the other side of the wall..." the pace really picks up. You need to mirror that in your first two paragraphs. Don't put anything there that's not essential. I would keep reading though to find out what happened. Good job.

Secret Agent said...

This isn't hooking me.

I'm not against prologues, but I feel that the song lyrics are working against you here. I'm not that interested in Livia, and I don't really see how this is going to apply to the rest of the novel. I would start with chapter one next time, and see if that hooks the next secret agent.

CB said...

I would drop the prologue. The first sentence was confusing "echoed hollowly across the cold, cracked floorboards . . ." I would rewrite and get to what's really happening in this scene. Good luck.