Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #17

TITLE: Other
GENRE: YA Romance/Fantasy

Robert Ferrald of Eschenburg had a good heart and very poor business sense. He also had three sons, children of the wife who was 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 worse the sons had grown up motherless.

The oldest, who had been managing most of the details of his father's trade for years, was now poised to become a partner in his business. The middle son spent much of his time
courting several women 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 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.

All of his plans meant nothing after the knock on the door.

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. Hi!

    To me, the 1st three paragraphs were backstory, so I'd consider starting the story where the action starts. I have a feeling it starts right at the end there, so I'd start with the last paragraph and cut the first three.

  2. Not hooked, sorry. Too much backstory and description.

  3. This is written in a very "old-fashioned" voice--pretty removed, somewhat omniscient--and I actually kind of like it, despite the excerpt being heavy on exposition and very, very light on action. It seems polished, and I'm intrigued by the "Young adult/romance/fantasy" label.

    Still, I wanted to see who our central character was going to be, and I do think you need more action/conflict right off the bat; the rest of this can wait.

  4. I love the first line, but then I get bogged down a little. Alternating short sentences with long sentences would increase the readability. The second sentence of the second paragraph is 53 words long! I probably would not keep reading. Sorry.:)

  5. Suggest you sprinkle this back story amidst the action and dialogue. Keep working at it!

  6. It was too much explaining for me. Perhaps put your characters in a situation that shows us everything you've explained. It does seem the story starts in the last paragraph.

  7. I appreciate knowing all about this family and their dynamics, but I think it would best be saved for a later chapter. The story really begins seventeen days before Alain's departure to the University. THAT is where your first page should begin. The backstory, while very interesting, needs to be weaved in later on. With YA, we need a character, a reason to care about that character, and a problem almost immediately.

  8. Too much telling!

    I'd start with
    All of Alain's plans meant nothing after the knock at the door.

    Then I'd be hooked!

  9. As others have already said, too much telling! Start the story where it starts. Then once the reader cares about the character, provide necessary back story.

  10. This feels like the beginning of a very old-fashioned sort of fairy tale. Which there is nothing wrong with, if that is what it is supposed to be... but is it?

    I agree with the others who think the story starts with the knock.

  11. I remember this from September's contest. Still has a nice voice and a nice flow. This time, I'm not as wild about it as I was before. It's probably one of those things that will be a matter of finding just the right agent.

    Or you could play around with some of the suggestions people have offered and see if you can come up with a more action-oriented opening. What's the worst that could happen? You decide you don't like it and go back to this one? But it might be worth trying.

  12. I agree with the above comments- too much backstory in the beginning. Can you start the story with Alain opening the door? That seems to be where the action and intrigue starts.