Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #49

TITLE: Menagerie
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Ooof. Thud. Victory landed hard on her tailbone as her teeth clacked together and her wooden sword went skipping off over the sandy practice courtyard. She lay on her back for a moment, staring up into the deep blue, late afternoon sky. At this rate, she'd be a warrior sometime
around her eightieth birthday.

"Get up. That's enough for today. Put away your gear," Haran, the gruff training master, said.

"Yeah, come on lazy bug. Get your sword." Leo had left off doing drills with Kalrin and now sneered down at her. He had a smudge of dirt going all the way down from his right cheek and onto his lips.

Tory hoped he'd eat it. She got slowly to her feet and looked around for her stupid sword.

"I think it went into the next kingdom," Kalrin teased.

"Stuff it," Tory muttered. She stomped over to the edge of the courtyard and snatched her sword up. It wasn't fair, she told herself as she stripped off her banda and put her blade away. At thirteen she was two or three years younger than the other three trainees and much smaller. But
her mother was Captain of the Royal Guard and expectations ran high for Victory Samadi to follow in her mother's footsteps.

She slipped around the backside of the west wing of the palace and through a side door into the kitchens. The delicious smells from the preparations for the Princess's birthday feast made her tummy gurgle...


  1. I like the name "Victory" . . . especially how it's in direct opposition to her situation. However, the change from "Victory" to "Tory" threw me. I had to go back.

    I might cut the "ooof" and "thud" as the first words. They didn't get me into the story as well as the next sentence.

    A couple of sentences seem long, and could benefit from breaking them up and taking out a few extra words(like the 3rd sentence: "Victory landed hard on her tailbone. Her teeth clacked together and her wooden sword skipped across the sandy courtyard.")

    You do a great job giving me a feel for Victory's character, and I LOVE that her mom is the captain of the Royal Guard.

    But good job #49! I'd read on. :)

  2. I too like the name Victory. However, I feel like I've read this scene before. Many times. This is just a preference but I'm a bit tired of sword training openings with the gruff arms master.

  3. I agree about dropping the Ooof. Thud. But it's a nit.

    Nice pacing and good voice.

    The first 'Tory' threw me, too. Maybe if the training master had said "Get up, Tory." we'd know right away who the nickname belonged to. Since you're introducing so many characters in one spot, it's easy to think Victory and Tory are not the same person.

    Missing some apostrophes. Maybe an e-mail glitch?

    I'd read on.

  4. The only thing that threw me was all the names, and it took a minute to realize Tory was Victory - but I really like the name Victory.

    This sounds like an interesting premise for MG. I have no particular problems with it.

  5. Thanks for sharing your work in such a public forum. That takes guts.

    My comments are just a quick impression, as if I were browsing in a bookstore.

    Like: The opening paragraph and the character's name. Also like the feisty female warrior idea, and the humor of "eightieth birthday."

    Wonders about: The # of characters in the scene and the # of names to keep straight.

    You lost me during the "stuff it" paragraph. Victory came across as whiny with "it's not fair." Also the story slowed with the exposition about age and the mother's position.

    Not totally hooked, but I'd read a bit longer to see if there was a pressing "outer" conflict coming along.

  6. Most of my impressions have already been said; my only other comment is that there are too many characters too soon. We don't know any of them, so it feels disorienting. But I like Victory/Tory, once I got used to it.

  7. I also like the name Victory, and that she is at a disadvantage due to her age but is still feisty. I agree that it is too full of characters for the very beginning, especially when all she does is leave them to enter the palace. I believe you should introduce one of them now, and the rest later so we can learn to care about them, or at least care who they are. Still, it was vividly done; I could see everything taking place. Good job.

  8. I'm a little tired of women warriors, even those in training.

    Be that as it may, you've started with a nice scene that shows your MC nicely.

    In these 250 words, you've introduced us to: Victory (which I thought at first was a winged symbol), Haran, Kalrin, and Leo. Also her mother.

    I've been accused of the same by some of my critters, throwing in too many characters at once.

    Is it absolutely necessary to give the training master a name here? And who are Leo and Kalrin, and what's their relationship to Victory? Could they also be anonymous here and introduce them a bit later?

    Decent writing. Keep at it.

  9. I like the story, but I think the writing needs some tightening. You're missing an apostrophe in "she'd" and there's an extra 's' in Princess. I would cut down on the use of dialogue tags - there's nothing wrong with using "said". :-) And don't tell us the training master is gruff, show us. I also agree that there's too many characters in this beginning. I'd drop either Kalrin or Leo. They're both playing the same role in this scene.

    Despite my suggestions, I really did like this and I think you have a good voice. Good luck with this story.

  10. The voice was strong and appropriate, but I wanted to see more of an "unusual" problem for Tory. Loved the name Victory, but using a fairly common name (Tory) with made-up names (Kalrin) slowed the action and flow.

  11. I'd probably read on because this is a genre I like to read, but I did think it needed more.

    We know she's not great at swordplay. We don't know if she wants to be. She's expected to follow Mom's footsteps. Does she want to? Maybe she's a lousy swordswoman because her heart isn't in it. Give us a hint of her internal thoughts.

    Also, perhaps introduce her as Tory, because that's what everyone calls her. Then when she ends up in the dirt, the sword master can call her victory, and your other characters can make some snide remarks about her "victory.'

    And if you find yourself putting in things so the reader will 'get it,' that's a sure sign that it doesn't belong in your story - re: the gruff training master said. Make his gruffness visible in his words and action. Get out that he's the training master thru dialogue.

    It's a good start. Perhaps give it another revision or two.

  12. I love women warriors in training stories, and am a total Tammy Pierce addict... so I would definitely keep reading.

    But I agree with commenters above. I have to know VERY SOON how this story is going to differentiate itself from other similar stories.

  13. I also love this type of story, and I thought the writing was solid.

  14. Hmm, it seems the lack of apostrophes is a problem in other entries too, so I think it must be the automatic formatting. So I take back what I said about them!