Wednesday, May 13, 2009

50 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Blessed Demon
GENRE: Fantasy

The statuesque woman prowled gracefully between the flower-laden tables at the Governor’s Ball. Despite the many guests moving around the tables, she wove without pause between the countless gilded chairs. An invisible marker guided her past the jazz band, to a table near the back. There, she found an old man quietly admiring an ornate centerpiece. A cold smile broke across her beautiful face as her hollow eyes forced a startled breath from the man. “Ah, Gustav Bellinger, how are you?” she queried slowly, in a gravelly but polished voice.

The old man shook his head in disbelief. “That is not my name, madam,” he insisted. The woman remained resolute, however, and as her smile disappeared, she retorted, “But Gustav, of course it is – I would know your face always and anywhere.” An old lady with grey hair piled atop her pallid visage, spoke adamantly in the man’s defense. “This is my husband, Georg Schmidt,” she explained proudly. The woman laughed with a mixture of malice and mirth. “No, my dear lady, this is Gustav Bellinger” she calmly insisted, “I never forget his sort of…person. You are my very favorite sort of person, dear Gustav.” With that, her voice dropped as she seethed, “How could I ever forget you, Gustav?” The old lady scowled while her husband shuddered and the bow around his sweat-soaked collar shook faintly. “Anything you want to tell me about a book before you go, Gustav?” the woman taunted.


  1. Yes, I am HOOKED!

    A nice, genteel opening, but I feel the storm's a-brewing in this world....

    The line “I never forget his sort of…person" was the hook I needed!

    Keep tightening this could be even more incredible!

    EXCELLENT!! Bravo!!

  2. Overwtitten, in my opinion. Way, way, way too many adverbs and adjectives.

    And I don't know if its just formatting, but the second paragraph dialogue needs to broken out some so it's easier to follow.

    Not hooked at all, sorry.

  3. (I wrote this comment before reading any of the others.)

    50 - sorry, not hooked. This felt overwritten, with far too many adjectives - 'A cold smile broke across her beautiful face as her hollow eyes forced a startled breath from the man' - and bordering on cliched. I had no idea what an 'invisible marker' was.

  4. Hooked! I think the statuesque woman is about to inflict damage and I want to know why!

    Yes, the language is flowery, but it works for me. Not everything has to sound like the same book all the time, IMO.

  5. I'm hooked enough for the next page, for sure.

    But I do think it's overwritten a little. Just a few tweaky edits and it would be fantastic.

    And I'm going to assume that the second paragraph being bunched was a formatting issue. But if not, you need to read about dialogue structure a little.

  6. I like the compelling scene here, it's filled with tension and the threat of harm to poor Gustav. I did find it overwritten with a combination of rather bland adjectives - "old," "beautiful" "cold eyes" and then some rather confusing ones - "hollow eyes," a "gravelly but polished voice"- I don't know what that sounds like.

    I would read on to see how this scene ends.

  7. I think you have an interesting premise and are leading up to a possibly intriguing plot. I do feel like you need to go through it for grammatical errors, and edit out as many adverbs as you can because the writing feels heavy and doesn't flow well for me. I really enjoyed the line "The woman laughed with a mixture of malice and mirth." I am intrigued, but not hooked.

  8. Personally, I love the premise. I agree with the others that it needs to be pared. For example, I'd lose the "gracefully" in the first sentence. "Prowled" tells me all I need to know and it draws me in, no other adverbs needed there.

    So once you've removed some of the adjectives and adverbs you'll be left with solid writing.

    Overall, yes, I'm hooked and I would read on.

  9. Not hooked - Which person am I supposed to be paying attention to? The statuesque person doesn't seem relatable, but the old man doesn't feel like an MC.

    I also stumbled over the copious adjectives.

  10. Not hooked. Immediately, I was distracted by the excessive use of adjectives. I haven't read the other comments so I don't know if this has already been brought up. It is possible to paint a picture of a scene without overly flowery description.

    Also, this may not be your fault, but the last paragraph needs to be broken up. When someone new speaks, you start a new paragraph for the sake of easier reading.

  11. I like it. It's kind of creepy, but in a good way. I'm in the ballroom with the statuesque woman and the pitiful Gustav. You use the name "Gustav" too many times in the last half of the second paragraph, however. Easy to fix. Hooked.

  12. It's interesting, it sounds like an ex-girl friend? I'm curious as to why the wife is asking about a book?
    Nice Job!

  13. I'm not hooked, sorry.

    This is incredibly overwritten, for me. After the first sentence or two I was anticipating the appearance of yet another adjective or adverb and kind of counting them in my head as I encountered them.

    Why refer to the first character we meet as "the statuesque woman"? 250 words in and I still don't know her name. There's rarely a good reason for keeping a character's name from the reader, and it tends to annoy me. It just feels coy.

    The second paragraph should have been several paragraphs. It's possible that the formatting got lost during submission. If not, you've definitely got some brushing up to do on how to properly handle dialogue and paragraphs, etc.

    What the heck is an invisible marker?

    Sorry, for me this one just isn't ready for prime time. You seem to have intrigued plenty of other commenters, though, so keep at it!

  14. Not hooked. It's much too confusing; I feel like I'd have to read the whole thing to understand any of it, and that not good. I don't want to be forced into reading a book to understand what's going on, I want to be coaxed into reading, lead from one thing to another.

  15. I'm sorry... I think this may be overwritten and too much setup. Not hooked.

  16. I am intrigued enough to want to know more about the people involved. Why does she recognize him? Is he really who she thinks? If so, why is he pretending not to be? But overall I was generally put off, especially by overuse of the man's name.

  17. I think you have an intriguing premise but I agree with many others that there are too many adjectives and adverbs that weigh the piece down. An easy thing to address -- chose only the most important adjectives and get rid of all the adverbs, using stronger verbs to show the action.

    Forex: in the following passage, you have a rhythm going that makes this sound plodding in my head as I read.

    A cold smile broke across her beautiful face as her hollow eyes forced a startled breath from the man.

    What is the most important image you want to convey here? Her coldness when she realizes how the sight of her shocks the man? She takes pleasure in his shock. I'd cut the beautiful and hollow eyes and the forcing a startled gasp part:

    A cold smile broke across her face when he gasped.

    It's just a suggestion and just one opinion but if you were to cut out a lot of the adjectives, it would make your writing much tighter and you'd be able to get more story in. As this is now, there are so many descriptive elements that we lose the action and get little story.

    I would look at every adverb verb pair and try to chose a stronger verb to do all the work.

    Forex, "the bow around his sweat-soaked collar shook faintly."

    How does a bow shake faintly? Here, you are squishing two things together, but it ends up muddying the image. His collar being sweat-soaked -- I don't believe I've seen a man with a soaked collar or with the bow tie shaking -- it seems a bit over the top. He might gasp, his eyes might widen, he might turn away, etc.

    Here is another example:

    An old lady with grey hair piled atop her pallid visage, spoke adamantly in the man’s defense. “This is my husband, Georg Schmidt,” she explained proudly. Her words and actions should speak for themselves without the adverb telling the reader how she said the words. Show us her proud demeanor, don't tell us she is proud. Is it really important to the story to tell us her face is pallid? Decide what the most important thing is that you want to get across about her and cut the rest.

    Here is a possible revision:

    A older woman pushed her way through the crowd to the man's side. She took his arm in hers and brushed a strand of grey hair from her face. "This is my husband, George Schmidt," she said, her chin raised high. Again, just suggestions and just one opinion. I'm always frustrated when I receive a crit that says I could improve by doing something but which fails to show me what might be done.

    Good luck!

  18. Too many adjectives & adverbs, screams over-written. Having said that, it sounds like you have an interesting premise. With a lot of tightening, it might hook me, but as is, I would put it down.

  19. I believe it is creepy, so you've got that going for it. But it's overwritten, too. When I'm reading, I like the writer to be invisible so it doesn't interrupt my immersion in the story. All those words started to poke at me and remind me you were there.

    Not hooked, sorry.

  20. I was turned off by the descriptions and the use of adverbs.

    Needs some rewriting.

    Thanks for posting.

  21. Sorry not hooked. I agree with the others. Too many adverbs.

  22. I'm afraid the first paragraph nearly stopped me reading. What is an invisible marker? I'd suggest leaving it out here as it doesn't seem neccesary. IF you can be gravelly and polished at the same time, I'd suggest finding a word that implies both.
    The second paragraph shows much more polish, but your dialogue must be broken out. You've got two blocks of black here that do not show on first glance that you have any dialogue at all. That's a red flag to an editor/agent. BUT, your dialogue is marvelous and intense. You need no adverbs or adjectives with it. Dialogue must be a strength of yours. Play to it and try to curb your instinct for adjectives. When needed, find one that fills multiple purposes.

  23. I think the real problem here is that this excerpt is written in either cold, third person narrative which isn't really used anymore, particularly in genre fiction, or omniscient viewpoint which is as unusual.

    This reminds me of Flaubert for some reason.

  24. Not hooked. The premise seems like it could be intriguing, but not intriguing enough for me to wade through the writing.

    It's not only that there are too many adjectives, they just seem thrown in because you wanted a word. How does one prowl gracefully? How do you laugh with malice and mirth?

    Try acting out your scene, making sure to do everything your characters do. You'll see a lot of this is impractical.

  25. Sorry, I found this overwritten: try fewer adverbs and adjectives. Also, the tags need work. Sometimes you don't need a tag if you have a character's action right before it.

    I hope these suggestions help and good luck!

  26. I like it. It's a bit formal for my taste and a few adjectives could be removed, but you paint an interesting picture and do a good job building tension in the opening.


  27. I'm sorry but I'm not hooked. This is overwritten, far too many descriptors that take me away from what might be an interesting story underneath. With much editing, I'd give this a second chance.

  28. I agree that the first paragraph is overwritten (and I tend to like more description than most). The sentence "A cold smile broke across her beautiful face as her hollow eyes forced a startled breath from the man" is a perfect example. Which descriptions are essential to communicating your plot/characterization? Get rid of the rest.

    The second paragraph needs to be broken into many. That will make it much clearer who's saying what.

    I could be hooked, since the first page takes this story in a much different direction than what I would have expected from the title. As it is, however, I'm too distracted by the writing to be interested in reading more.

  29. Not hooked so much.

    You are telling the reader how to interpret each line of dialogue, when the dialogue itself is more than enough.


    *spoke adamantly

    *explained proudly

    *laughed with a mixture of malice and mirth (I don't even know what that means)

    *voice dropped as she seethed

    *calmly insisted

    *woman taunted

    I'm worn out keeping up with all the mirth, seething, insisting, and voice dropping. It makes the piece feel melodramatic.

    I used to be guilty of this same type of overwriting but the good news is that it is really an easy fix, just start cutting all the adjectives. Let the dialogue pop without telling the reader every minute emotion.

    Good luck!

  30. Sorry, not hooked. It read like a pastiche, and made me giggle, but I don't think I was meant to.

  31. I think you have the bones of an interesting story here, but it's been obscured by your writing. You have too many adverbs and adjectives in my opinion, and it slows your writing. Some writers have more than others, and that's fine, but I think this crosses into the 'too many' territory. If you trim them down, you'll be left with a descriptive and interesting story.

  32. I'm not hooked by this.

    It's rife with adjectives, and while I get what you were trying for with the voice... it's not quite working. I'd go back and see if you can say things in a simpler manner, so that your actual story shines through.