Wednesday, September 9, 2009

23 Secret Agent

TITLE: Other
GENRE: YA fantasy

Robert Ferrald of Eschenburg had a good heart and very poor business sense. He also had three sons, children of the wife whom he had buried amid many a tear after the birth of the youngest. He had not remarried, a choice that was criticized almost as much as his business dealings, and for better or ill the sons had grown up motherless.

The oldest, after unofficially managing most of the complicated details of his father's trade, was now poised to become a partner in his business. The middle son spent much of his time courting several young ladies at once, and the youngest, hopeless at most everything and prone to waste his days in reading, would be sent off that autumn to the university, where he could at least acquire the title of scholar, whatever good it may do him.

Alain, the youngest, had no strong objections to this plan. He was reluctant to live so far from his family, at least a hundred miles west of Eschenburg, but he looked forward to discovering what sort of knowledge the professors could offer him that he hadn't already taught himself. When less than a month remained before he would depart for Delafontaine, he began counting down the days – so he’d know when he needed to start packing, if nothing else.

On the morning of the seventeenth day before his departure, Alain left his bedroom and came downstairs to discover that he was nearly alone in the house.


  1. I'm not entirely hooked. I think you could trim out a lot of background information and get to Alain sooner.

    Personal Note: Why do these guys always have three sons? Why not five or six... and why not daughters? :]

  2. I was hooked. I like your writing.

    Some may be critical in that you are 'telling' instead of 'showing'. This is written in an older style that, from what I've read, is no longer sought by publishers.

    Consider revising this to reflect the view from your protagonist, rather than the view an outside party.

  3. It didn't have any tension. It was all telling.


  4. I wasn't hooked. I'd rather get to Alain more quickly.

  5. I could go along with the telling in this piece because it seems to be following the pattern of a fairy tale, which was usually told.

    You have the father with three sons - one business like, one a philanderer, and one who won't amount to anything (but who actually will.)

    Still, I do agree some of it could be cut down, and if you are going to tell it as it a fary tale type story, you may want to impart some wit and dry humor on the part of the narrator.

    If you're not going for a fairytale like story, then this is definitely too telly and you should get to Alain's story much quicker.

  6. I like the voice, but I think you need to start off with Alain right away. The backstory in the first two paragraphs can be fit in later.

    I've also seen a lot of comments about waking up, starting the morning by leaving the bedroom, etc. Maybe you could start with 'On the seventeenth day before his departure, Alain discovered that he was nearly alone in the house.' Or something like that.

    Good luck!

  7. Not hooked. I guess I'm in the school of needing a bit of action to hook me in.

  8. It read like an information dump instead of a story. No hook for me either.

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  10. Hmm...not even the slightest hint at why this novel is fantasy. I honestly don't know if I'd continue reading or not. Nothing has happened to lure me in.

  11. I'm hooked.

    I like the voice and I think the transition from the fairy tale beginning to Alain's pov works well.

    However, I could change my mind if this beginning doesn't match the feel of the rest of the story.

    Good solid writing.

  12. Too much background for me, I want to know whats going on rather than all the characters being introduced in 250 words. I can't tell if it's Alain or Robert who's the main character, it's all kind of lost in the info.

  13. This reads like a summary, not the beginning of a novel.

    Not hooked. Frustrated. Nothing to grab me.

  14. I would also start this with Alain and find another way to tell the backstory, or give us an active chapter or scene where you explain it.

    The first few paragraphs don't grab my attention.

    Like someone else said, I would start here: "On the morning of the seventeenth day before his departure, Alain left his bedroom and came downstairs to discover that he was nearly alone in the house."

  15. I know there's a lot of telling, but I kind of liked this. It had that fairytale feel to it. Not sure how well that will go down with today's agents and editors, but I guess we'll see when SA comments.

  16. I like your writing. Critics of "telling" need to be reminded that Michener's novels often begin in primordial ooze, so to speak. It's the beginning of a novel, for crying out loud. If an entry is well written, I'll surely stick with it for more than 250 words. I think your voice is good, and the plot has potential.

  17. I'm not a fan of telling, but I have to say, you do it well. It gives the feeling of an older fairy tale type story and I'd read on just to see what happens next.

    That being said, I'm not sure if YAs would be drawn to the older type voice you have going here.

  18. Close.

    It has a fairytale quality to it, as others have mentioned. Almost a Beauty and the Beast one, but with sons instead of daughters. And I'm curious to see where it goes.'s not grabbing me for some reason. I think if this is to succeed as a fairy tale, the writing really needs to grab me. What I'm seeing is serviceable, but it's not wooing me.

  19. Hooked! Your voice is great, and I already feel like I have a good grasp of your characters. Screw the never-start-with-back-story rule. I think you do it well (I can already imagine Morgan Freeman or Ian McKellan doing the voiceover work).

  20. I like the voice and am drawn in by the story telling. It looks like the action is just about to start.

    I'd suggest possibly cutting down the introductory "telling" just a little to bring the action just that much earlier.

    I was partially hooked and would read on another page or two, but if there wasn't something to engage me and make me really care about the MC, I would probably wander away.

  21. The writing here is very polished, and flows well. I'm just not that interested in what I'm hearing about. I'd keep going another page or two, but if nothing had happened, I'd stop reading.