Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #43

TITLE: Witch Way Down
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

The choking stench of burnt flesh filled the air. It sat on the back of my tongue and slid down my throat. Standing with a hand clenched over my nose and mouth didn't help; it just made me look like I didn't belong. Eyes watering, a sheen of sweat coated my skin, but it was the hollow throbbing sound in my ears made me take a step back. The numbness of shock was slowly sinking into my muscles and I didn't want to take a header into the greasy pit of ash and human remains at my feet. If I passed out, maybe I wouldn't have to touch it. That was my happy thought.

"Grace, you okay?" March asked without his usual sarcastic tone. March was Sergeant Robert Marchand of the New Orleans Police Department, and I blamed him for the acid churning around in my stomach, threatening to spew all over his crime scene.

Nodding, I didn't say anything, because I didn't trust what would come out of my mouth. Nearly a year since I'd been roped into helping with monster-related investigations, it should've gotten easier. If March could stand here looking all calm and collected, I should be able to do the same. I needed to work on my magic, figure out a spell to make a rotting corpse smell like strawberry jaw, or pine trees, or dog shit—anything else really. "Can we just get this over with," I demanded.

18 comments:

Tory M said...

I really like how you built in all the senses there, and the very normal humanish reaction to the burnt corpse. Your last paragraph makes it clear that this is an alternate reality, which helps when you can establish that right off the bat.

Small typo (I think) "strawberry jaw"...though I read it as jam originally b/c that's what I think it's supposed to be. And I absolutely LOVED the fact that you went from jam to, er, poop in the same sentence as preferable smells.

Right on and I'd definitely keep reading.

Bluestocking said...

Thought there was some great details here. Love the second line: "Standing with a hand clenched over my nose didn't help; it just made me look like I didn't belong." Thought "March" was a good name too. The line for using a spell to make the rotting corpse smell better was amusing. I'd keep reading.

Huntress said...

This. Is. Excellent.

Er….hooked.

The only thing I see to change is maybe lay off some the descriptions in the first paragraph. Say what you want to say or evoke and get out of it.

I want to see what this is all about, who this person is, and why she came to be in this situation.

I love this entry.

Joel Q said...

Hooked.
The first two sentences made me want to gag...excellent!

Good voice of the MC.

Typo...strawberry jaw? or jam.

I didn't care of the introduction of Sergeant Marchand, but other than that great job.

Jamie said...

Great voice -- I grinned at the list of preferable smells and the nodding "because I didn't trust what would come out of my mouth."

I agree with Huntress about the first paragraph -- it'll have more punch with less. "Eyes watering, a sheen of sweat coated my skin, but it was the hollow throbbing sound in my ears made me take a step back" is also grammatically awkward: "My eyes watered and a sheen of sweat coated my skin, but it was the hollow throbbing sound in my ears that made me take a step back" would work better if you want to keep that. (I liked the first two sentences of the first paragraph best -- evocative.)

I'd definitely read on!

Ashley Girardi said...

I like this. I would maybe trim down the first paragraph a little bit. I feel like you're beating us over the head.

I especially like that you start to set your world up from the very beginning. There's not a ton of information being thrown out but I get a good sense of the type of world this will be.

They only thing I'd watch for is similarity to other works. When reading this I immediately thought of Anita Blake and Rachel Morgan. Female investigators with a paranormal edge are a familiar trope.

SARA J. HENRY said...

I think with gruesome descriptions, less is more - a little goes a long way. You can say "The stench of burnt flesh fills the air" and that's enough. Your next sentence obviates the need for "choking."

Second graf: March can ask "without his usual sarcasm" - no need to say tone. In the next sentence, consider if you need churning, threatening, and spew or if you can pare down.

Someone else has probably pointed out typo: assume it's strawberry jam.

And here's a thought: What if this started with: "Nearly a year since I'd been roped into helping with monster-related investigations..." - I think this would grab readers immediately. A trimmed-down first paragraph could be moved after this.

But regardless, I'd want to see what comes next.

Angela Robbins said...

The title is catchy and cute.

I think some of this is a little overwritten and /or clunky:

Eyes watering, a sheen of sweat coated my skin, but it was the hollow throbbing sound in my ears made me take a step back.

suggest:
My eyes watered. Sweat coated my skin. The hollow throbbing in my ears made me take a step back.

The numbness of shock was slowly sinking into my muscles...

Shock numbed my muscles.

I think I would drop the without his usual sarcastic tone and work in that he's sarastic somewhere else when he's actually being sarcastic.

I would almost lead in with the:

Nearly a year since I'd been roped into helping with monster-related investigations, it should've gotten easier.

That's a nice, hooky line, in my opinion. Then bring in the sensory details.

Just a thought.
I'd probably keep reading because I think the premise is good. With some tightening it would be great.

Barbara said...

I liked this and I think the few issues it has (all technical and pointed out already) are easily fixed. I liked that you saved the mention of monsters for the end of the piece. It was a nice surprise, and the beginning already has a strong pull with burnt bodies. Hooked!

Secret Agent said...

This section really used all of the senses, which hooked me right away.

The smells, from rotting corpses to strawberry jam (fix the typo) were all encompassing. Also, the magical elements are introduced quickly, giving readers an idea of what type of world this is.

I also like the set up of the relationship between Grace and March. I want to know more about this.

The first paragraph is a bit overly descriptive. Focusing on the main reaction or just a few senses would help condense the language and keep the pace moving, getting to the characters of Grace, March and why they’re in this situation.

I’d definitely keep reading.

D. B. Reynolds said...

I'd definitely read further!

The prose needs some serious tightening, but I love the slightly humorous voice and the set up of the scene.

Good luck!

Guinevere said...

Really nice set-up. Graphic descriptions. Is Grace the last name of the "investigator" or is it a she? I just re-read... they talk about casting a spell... is he/she a witch/warlock? Lots of good information in the first scene. One small discrepancy... they say they are afraid of talking for fear of getting sick and in the next breath bark a demand. Maybe re-work that a bit. Good job... I would continue to read.

Blodwyn said...

I would read on, though I'm horrified. I agree that some of it feels overwritten, so I think you could lose some of the physical reactions at the beginning. I also wonder if this is a female narrator and if so I hope that it plays somewhat with the male/female dynamic between the police-people. I loved the last paragraph.

KylieQ said...

Love the title and the first sentence. I think you could ease off a little on the description in the first paragraph though - it becomes a little overdone.

Elena Solodow said...

This is the sentence where you really show us, rather than tell us what's going on:

I needed to work on my magic, figure out a spell to make a rotting corpse smell like strawberry jaw, or pine trees, or dog shit—anything else really.

From this, we know:

1) He can do magic.
2) He's around a corpse.

The amount of explanation earlier in the paragraph is then unnecessary. Allow the reader to discover the situation gradually. When the Segeant talks to the MC, we'll know this is some kind of police matter. Then you make mention of magic & a corpse, the reader will figure that this is some kind of paranormal investigation, a la the Dresden Files.

RubyRed0 said...

Like Joel Q said,"First two sentences wanted to gag." The description was too good, I almost did. As for the typo, we all do it. I thought it was well written. Hooked Good Luck ;-)

Joel Q said...

After looked at all of the entries. This is my favorite.

Author of #43 said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback. You've given me a lot of great ideas on ways to tighten up my opening. I appreciate all the help. And thanks to Secret Agent for all the hard work.