Wednesday, September 9, 2009

32 Secret Agent

TITLE: Sea of the Vanities
GENRE: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Shaw clicked his pocket watch shut and set off again at a brisker pace. His evening appointment could prove interesting, and if it proved dangerous, so much the better.

He walked through smoke that drifted from oil lamps, curling like sinuous snakes into the pink and blood red bougainvillea that trailed down walls and festooned trellised windows. The flowers tickled Shaw’s nose as he brushed against them, and his walking stick beat a rat-a-tat-tat across the bricks.

An evening stroll through the business district of Rio is discouraged for most Europeans wearing jewelry and fine haberdashery. Shaw had no worries. He carried nothing of value. Marching along, he was accompanied by the now familiar feeling of being stalked. A sheep in a herd of faceless and silent wolves would feel the same.

As he neared the water, the lamps appeared less frequently and the streets shortened and twisted into dead ends. He would have been lost if not for the sounds of activity coming from the harbor and the increasing stench of fish and decay emanating from the docks.

Rounding a corner at full steam, he collided with a smarmy old man who reeked of something worse than the bottom of a ship, or the inside of a barn. Shaw apologized and made to go around, but the man grabbed his arm.

“Yes, err--?” Shaw felt in his pocket for a coin, expecting to contribute to the evening’s wine consumption.

“Mister Shaw?” The old man’s voice dribbled from a toothless and foul mouth.


  1. I am not hooked, but...

    I would read more to see if something develops. It seems bland.

  2. I like it. I feel like I'm there and the writing is solid. I'd read more. My only complaint is that I don't get as good of a feel for Shaw as I do for the setting.

  3. Smooth writing, excellent setting, and nice voice. However, like Melissa, I didn't get a good feel for Shaw. If I'm not mistaken, bougainvillea has thorns, and if the flower brushed him, he would be scratched.

    I would read more.

  4. A herd of wolves? Do wolves herd? Do you mean a pack of wolves?

    Too much generic scene-setting, not enough story for me.

  5. Didn't really catch my attention, but like I said on another comment, I'm not really a SF person.

    Good luck!


  6. I wasn't hooked. Nothing jumped out to catch my interest.

  7. I am not hooked, but:

    Great imagery.

    This is sci fi fantasy, but I didn't see any indication of that. I also did not see any question that I needed answered, nothing to encourage me to keep reading except for your well done imagery.

  8. There's a switching of tenses in the third paragraph.

    Also, if he held nothing of value, would a possible thief know that? He seems as though he might be well-dressed and he reaches for a coin in his pocket when he bumps into the old man so he does have some money on his person. He also has a pocket watch, perhaps not something of value to him but worth something to a thief, if only just a little bit.

    A note on the bougainvilla: the plant itself does have thorns but the flowers bloom at the very ends of the branches. He has a chance to get by without getting scratched, but the other comments are correct, he's more likely to get scratched.

    Overall, there is good imagery but not a unique feel to the story just yet. I also have a hard time understanding how this is science fiction or fantasy but perhaps there is a significant change, a transition from the Ordinary World and a hero's call to adventure, maybe?

    I'd read on another page or two to find out how this turns into science fiction or fantasy.

  9. I'm not hooked, but then again, I'm not really into SF.

  10. I like the writing. I'd keep reading to see where it went and what happened with the old man.

    Unlike other commenters, I feel like I have an idea of Shaw. Pocket watch implies gentleman to me, as does appointments. He wants something interesting...and dangerous is better. He also describes setting like a mad thing. (This is totally a plus for me.)

  11. One thing that brought me up short was the statement of Shaw not being worried because he carried nothing of value. After reading the first paragraph, I'm assuming he can take care of himself, but that's a little different than looking as if he's not worth the trouble of robbing. A little tweaking of the third paragraph will make things clearer.

    Overall, nicely done. I'd keep reading.

  12. Not quite hooked. I too got more a sense of place than I did of Shaw. The imagery is great. But nothing compels me to read on.

    Perhaps add a hint of what the appointment is about, or if he doesn't know himself, maybe a hint about the person he's going to see, and if he doesn't know that because he's never met the person, tell us that. It's adds a sense of mystery.

    The 1st sentence of the 2nd parg. -- the oil lamps are curling like snakes, not the smoke. Perhaps two sentences would work better there.

  13. This is intriguing. I would keep reading, but would tone down the description a little.

  14. I'm not sure. I'm inclined to say hooked, but with reserve.

    I couldn't tell when this was supposed to take place. I'm guess this is a steampunk? Because of the pocketwatch and oil lamps... ?

  15. This has potential- not completely hooked, but also not giving up on it. I might recommend less generic descriptives for a more unique ones. It felt like things were put in their for ambience-but they weren't really felt. I get no feeling for Shaw aside from a general external vibe. The beginning felt very steampunkish to me-which is a hot trend ya know :)- with some more work could be very nice.

  16. I'm hooked by this beginning.

    what threw me was when he's walking along with oil lamps, I pictured him all of a sudden inside. say something about the oil lamps being along the street. Starting big and zooming in to details usually works well to prevent the reader from making the wrong big frame pictures and then having to change them to fit the story later.

    I also don't understand the dialogue "Yes, err--?” Is this shaw? what is this communication? Why is there a question mark at the end?

    I love the rest.

  17. I'm very hooked.
    Excellent development of charcater, scene, and tension.

    A picky: I think you can drop the double description of bottom of ship or barn...keep the gives a better focus. By offering alterantives, it to me says the author likes to share both of these with you rather than leaving the reader alone with one sharp image.

    Good've got a winner.

    p.s. I was just curious why he brushed his nose along the bougainvillea. A gentleman might sniff in passing...but then again perhaps its got something to do with the scifi...I'll assume it's a subtle hook and read on.

  18. This was interesting. :)

    It may be worth working on the sentence talking about sheep and wolves though. 1) Wolves run in packs; and 2)Sheep would panic and bolt if they were in the middle of a pack of wolves!! The feeling of being stalked would come while they are still in their flock. The sheep on the outside of the flock will be the more nervous/alert.

  19. Hooked. I was intrigued by the fact that Shaw knows he's being stalked and yet doesn't care. However, there were a few sentences (i.e., "He walked through smoke...") that seemed too long and cumbersome.

  20. The opening graf is a bit bland - and you start losing me with the walking stick and the rat-a-tat-tat

    What if you start with paragraph 3 and move paragraph 2 after it? (You likely can lose the first graf.)

    Then I'm getting hooked - and then, aarrggghh! you go and have a voice dribbling from a mouth. No, no, no! (Forgive me; I used to be a book editor.) I'd keep reading, but promise me you'll never have a voice dribble again!

  21. I'm hooked! Strong writing and nice imagery. I especially like the 4th paragraph "increasing stench of fish and decay emanating from the docks." And I, too, dig that he's being stalked and doesn't care.

    Well done, I'd definitely read more.

  22. The voice is a bit self conscious for me. I'd not keep reading.

  23. I was swept along by the descriptions of the location, but the part about old man were problematic.

    I don't think smarmy was the right descriptor, and the voice dribbling didn't work for me.