Wednesday, August 19, 2009

35 Secret Agent

TITLE: Harpy
GENRE: Urban Fantasy


The trouble with wings is that they're hard to hide.

Surviving in a city involves long coats, creative wrestling of fabric over feathers, and serious muscle cramps by the end of the day. Molting season is particularly mortifying, all the sidelong looks as feathers drift out the back of my coat. Normally, though, it's just a few raised eyebrows when people spot what they assume are extraordinarily wide shoulders on an extraordinarily short woman.

Usually I can handle it. Usually people gape, I notice them, and they look away. Which is fine, really. I get it.

But sometimes they say something. And sometimes, in my lifelong war for calmness and control, my inner harpy wins a battle.

One summer evening, I was heading downstairs to one of Scarletsburg's underground bus stations when a guy on the platform whistled so shrilly it stung my ears and echoed through the fluorescent-lit tunnels.

"Hey, dwarf babe!" He and his friends laughed, drawing the attention of ten other commuters. Newspapers rattled, and cloth rasped against the iron benches where forest green paint peeled into curls and flecks, and stained the concrete where it landed.

My first instinct was to hit him, even though I'd never been in a fight. The harpy package included the urge to do random violence, but I wasn't all harpy, only one-quarter. I clenched my jaw and pulled my coat tight over my wings and shoulders and chest, searching the crowded benches for a place to sit.

19 comments:

pebbleintx said...

This didn't grab me. Basically it was 250 words about hiding wings. I need something more to keep reading.

Catherine Kariaxi said...

Humored. Good thing she isn't 100% harpy, considering then she'd have to hide her entire body except for her head. :]

I like the setup. Would read on.

Elise said...

I like the voice and I really like your first sentence. Might suggest punching up the inner harpy winning battles . . . it's a great, suggestive line. The bench and all the green paint slowed me down a bit, but I tend to love to hear the character's voice and see action, and focus less on place descriptions. I'd read on!

Maggie Forsythe said...

I definitely like the voice and I liked the first line but it didn't segue into the second graph. Maybe it needs a connector? -- but it made me stop. I'm wiggling on the line, but not completely hooked.

Valerie Geary said...

Intrigued...but was confused by "And sometimes, in my lifelong war for calmness and control, my inner harpy wins a battle." compared with the reaction to the man who whistled at her. It seemed like you were setting something up, but then it didn't happen. I would ask for more, however.

CassieK said...

I thought the voice was great but despite that, I just wouldn't read more. The whole harpy bit brings to mind nasty looking bird women and that is totally not what I want to read about - even thouse that are only one-quarter. Maybe it would help if I knew what the other three-quarters was - otherwise, this was just unattractive. It didn't help when the guy calls her a dwarf babe. Sorry - I really do like the voice.

TereLiz said...

Great opening line, but I, too, was expecting a little more "punch" when the character starts with "One summer evening, but maybe it's still coming. I'd give the benefit of the doubt that it is and read on.

Frankly I think this whole sentence:"Newspapers rattled-" can be removed. It's distracting and slows down the tension.

Other than that, this is actually one of my favorites so far.

Good luck!

Kathleen O'Keeffe said...

I like the setup, I would read on, but I would need some exciting action to happen soon to be really hooked.

Marilynn Byerly said...

I'd get rid of first paragraphs because they are telling, not showing. Put your heroine on that platform, give the reader a sense of what she's seeing and hearing, then start the action with the rude comment.

For what it's worth, I'm short and have wide shoulders for my height. I have never been called a dwarf. A hobbit, midget, munchkin, Muppet, and a shrimp, but never a dwarf.

meg said...

cut, "Molting season is mortifying.." no way! Humor is on a par with it's reverse of #37. So the premise I like, less sure of this as a strong beginning. I would read further or spend some time on your synopsis.

I'd come up with another word than dwarf as well. sensitivities...

Merc said...

I enjoyed this one--if you cut "One summer evening" and just get right into the action, I'd definitely be hooked.

redqueen1 said...

You could probably cut the first four paragraphs but I'm definitely interested in reading more. And, wow, a harpy! That's definitely original and make me curious to see how you handle the myths.

Alexia Reed said...

I love the first half of this. Especially the first line. You've set it up well and that made me want to read more. But then it jumped to 'One summer' and that's where you've lost me. I would have to say that this should be skipped because it's in the past. Show me now. You can do the past/flashback later when I'm completely hooked and unable to pull out of the writing. The exception to this, however, would be if you were working your way up to something by purposely showing me that and you probably are... but with the 250 words, it's kind of hard to see that. As an excerpt, I wouldn't be hooked by the last half. Even in a book, I might skim over it but I might not necessarily put it down.

Anonymous said...

I really liked it. This isn't my genre but I would definetly keep reading. I wouldn't change the first paragraph.

bubbles said...

I really enjoyed the voice and the premise. Don't think I've read anything starring a harpy before. My suggestions are minor. "One summer evening" pulled me out of your narrative and is too vague. The "newspapers rattled" sentence could be cut. The last sentence was too wordy, i.e., "wings and shoulders and chest"-- you could cut one of the nouns. All in all though, I'm hooked.

Secret Agent said...

Oooh, a harpy! I'm excited to keep reading because I haven't yet read about harpies in contemporary commercial fiction and I'm almost always up for learning about a new paranormal creature. The writing isn't perfect but good enough to have me hooked. I love the first line but think there's a little too much information-dumping in the second paragraph. You could save the brilliant little detail about molting to give us later in the story. Even if you decided to keep it as is, I'd want to read more and would likely request the full manuscript based on the harpy hook alone.

Krista G. said...

Hooked! Love the voice, love the idea of a (conflicted) harpy. I'm just hoping that this incident turns out to be something important.

beth said...

Hooked!

Watch your over-use of adverbs, though.

Bron said...

I had the same reaction as Secret Agent: oooh! I liked this and I'm hooked.