Wednesday, May 13, 2009

7 Secret Agent

TITLE: Winter's Discord
GENRE: YA Epic Fantasy

The morning started wet and dark as Ben Grange checked his father’s saddle and weapons one last time before checking his own equipment. It was still dark when his father, Duke Thomas strode into the courtyard of the manor dressed for that morning’s hunt. Several of his vassal lords, in their own hunting finery followed him along with Ben’s brother James. Scowling, Ben turned, trying not to make eye contact with him and moved to his father’s horse. The Duke smiled and said, “Good morning Ben.”

“Morning father,” Ben said. “Strider’s ready.”

The Duke nodded as he mounted and looked back to the others, “Are we ready?”

“I believe so,” Sir William Fields, the castle master-at-arms, said as he mounted his own horse. Ben mounted his own horse and moved it to his father’s side, trying his best to ignore James’s sneer from the other side.

“Then let’s go,” the Duke said, spurring his horse towards the gates, sending the party of nearly a hundred through the manor town and out into the countryside. The smell of winter filled Ben’s nostrils as a sharp, cold rain began to fall, stinging his face. Cursing his luck, Ben focused on the promise of mystery and excitement of the Yule Hunt. Only this time he was the Duke’s squire and a participant. It almost made him forget about the growing numbness in his cheeks.

It was closer to midday when they entered the hills of the western woods. The road narrowed so they could only ride two or three abreast.


  1. Start with the action, and then tell us about the weather. We should know it's the Yule hunt sooner.

    Overall this piece is vague.

    Dark and wet? At firs I think it's raining later we learn its snowing. Be more specific and the reader won't be confused.

    Weapons and equipment? What does this mean? A rifle, an axe, a halberd, nails and a hammer?

    Dressed for that mornings hunt? What exactly does one wear to a hunt, camouflage? Same goes for finery. I don't know what that means. I'm thinking this is a period piece so your going to have to research what kind of weapons and clothes. You can set the time and place by mentioning one item from that period.

    What are they hunting?

    Who is James?

    Why all the scowling and glaring? I know it's Ya, but these words need a context.

    A hunting party of 100 is really large. You probably know this but I'd suggest researching mounted hunts.

  2. Are you creating a world of your own here? If so, give me a hint. This could be merry olde England in the 1600's or the 1850's. Also, way too many dialog tags. The Duke said, Ben said, Sir William said, his father said again. Dialog tags are not easy, we all stumble over them. Let the character's emotions color their words. Often, dialog tags of any kind are unnecessary.

    Though I agree with Steven's points, I would read the next page, but it would have to give me a better sense of time and place, or I would stop there.

    Good luck!

  3. The biggest thing that killed me here was the word repetition.
    Paragraph 1: check, dark, hunt.
    Paragraph 2-4: mount (and the more specific "mounted his horse"), ready, side

    I agree that we need more of a sense of this world. Describe the finery, describe the weapons, describe the town and countryside. Paint us a picture.

  4. The word repitition got me, too. I can't read any farther at this point because I'm expecting more of the same. However, that is an easy fix.

  5. Watch your repeats: said as he mounted his own horse. Ben mounted his own horse...You did a good job of setting up sibling rivalry in a really subtle way.

    I kind of hate when people say, "My mother, Anna Duvalos, was a..." because it doesn't feel real. It's an obvious way to give the name to the reader, and you've shown that you are capable of using more subtle devices.

    I'm not an Epic fantasy fan, so I probably wouldn't read on. But I think there's a lot of good here.

  6. (Without reading other comments...)

    I'm afraid I'm not hooked at all. I think the biggest question I have, and would pose to you, is: What is this scene supposed to establish?

    The only thing that stood out to me was that Ben called his father The Duke. Fascinating. What's up with that?

    Other than that, it felt like Ben was just walking me through the scene introducing me to everything. This is my dad, that's the master-at-arms, that's the weather, etc.

    I suggest focusing everything you have on the reason you included this scene in the first place, or cutting it entirely.

    Good luck!

  7. This has promise (especially when compared with some of the others that I've seen today) but it needs some work, and isn't very attention-getting.

    Not hooked.

  8. Not hooked. It didn't DO anything. My impression is mostly of scenery.

  9. Unfortunately I'm not hooked. There is some word repetion and the details are vauge. Besides a hunt, there isn't much happening. I don't really know why a hunt would be mysterious, exciting I can understand but mysterious didn't work for me. I suggest chaning the first line to something else, starting out with the weather is not a strong beginning. I did like you line about the "smell of winter."

  10. Semi-hooked. Nothing wrong with the writing, I don't think. If anything the situation and beginning aren't hooky enough for me.

    If this were at the bookstore, I'd flip to the back of the book to see what this was about and skim read through the book to get a better idea.

  11. Ok, I am very much not hooked with this one.

    Your basic writing needs work. In particular, the use of commas around names. "Morning, father"; not "Morning father".

    Is a morning father something I should know about? Does someone father the morning? Has the morning been created from the seed of someone's loins? Or is he greeting his father? Do you get what I'm saying?

    Also, you use a great deal of word repetition, which doesn't have any benefit to the novel itself. By the time Ben is on his horse, I think there's some sort of double redundancy at him looking at James' sneer, but it's so confusing that I can't tell.

    Additionally, as others have said, I had no idea it was the Yule Hunt, and the setting is too vague. Start with the fact that it's the Hunt, and go from there.

    PS. I'm not sure "YA epic fantasy" is an actual genre, and I would caution you not to describe it as such in your query letters to agents.

  12. The first thing that struck me was the horse's name, actually. Naming somebody/something the same name as a hugely important character in a ground breaking fantasy like Lord of the Rings? Not a good idea. Why are they wearing finery on a hunt? Why is Ben acting as squire and groom to his father? Seems odd. Mostly, nothing's happened. It's a problem many of us have, myself included.

  13. Not hooked. Too much set up for me. What does Ben want? Why can't he have it? What's standing in his way? Make that evident in your first 250 words.