Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #44


The soft tinkle of Christmas music threaded its way through the house and up the steps. Ellie paused on the landing and gripped the banister until her knuckles turned white. She swayed and her eyes lost focus as memories of Christmas mornings played like a movie in her mind:

Early, even before the first birdsong, before sunrise, when the world was still a soft gray, she would hear bells dinging downstairs. A deep, hearty voice would rumble,"Ho, ho, ho, Mer-r-r-r-y Christmas."

Frozen in dread of seeing and not seeing, of hoping and being afraid, giddy with anticipation she would shake her two brothers and her little sister and hold her finger to her lips. Like a row of stalking Indian braves, they would creep down the stairs where she now stood.

The creep would become an all-out run halfway down and the four would burst with bright eyes into a living room that had been turned into a fairyland. Paper streamers hung draped across the room. Balloons in bright colors floated across the floor and came to rest on chairs, tables and lamps. Confetti in gold and silver was strewn across the floor, the tree and presents and formed a pathway through the house. An empty glass of milk and cookie crumbles on a small plate stood evidentially by the fireplace. Dangling, bulging with toys and sweets, their stockings stood legless sentry. Strings of rainbow pixie lights on the fragrant, fat tree twinkled on piles of gaily wrapped packages.

Now, without warning, never again.


  1. I'd read on.

    Nice descriptions of Christmas, yet I'm waiting for the MC to reveal why Christmas is no longer a happy time.

  2. You've got this great moment when her knuckles turn white, and I'm hooked, wondering what about Christmas would cause thei reaction. Then vivid discription, (beautifu) - but the last line throws me. Santa isn't coming any more, and she's that upset? I don't get it. I was expecting a real tragedy.
    I really hope that this become clear in the next line or 2.
    In order to get a faster "hook" you should probaby cut the discription of Christmas morning in half, at least.
    Hooked, but just barely.

  3. Like Joel, I think your description of Christmas morning is really great - lots of specific details. But I don't think this is a particularly strong opening just yet. I don't really know what's happened with the mc AND I don't really know who the mc is just yet. If that comes in the next couple of paras, you are probably ok.

  4. There's a lot of very beautiful description. I especially liked the image of the discarded of the stockings standing sentry.

    But it did leave me wondering what's going on right now. I won't debate the effectiveness of using flashback as an opening but this is just confusing. She's hearing Christmas music now there's still a celebration of some kind but the last line says "never again."

    I would consider starting in a different place. Save the reminiscing about the past until the reader knows and cares about the main character.
    I assume that someone has died and that things have changed for the worse. But having experienced tragedy isn't enough for me to care about the MC. Obviously this is only page one but you say this is urban fantasy. If this is one of those - orphan girl survives the accident that kills her family only to discover it gave her super powers - then you're going to have to work hard to make this stand out.

  5. The title makes me wonder what this is about. They sound creepy to me... The Tree People. Makes me think of dark ominous shadows of gnarly trees against a backdrop of lightning flashes for some reason.

    But then we get to a serene description of Christmas morning, which in itself is a very pleasing, concrete image; however, it almost distracts from what the heart of the matter is.

    I'm not sure what's going on yet.
    Not quite hooked.

    There is some good stuff in here, though.
    It's hard to get all this stuff done in only 1 page, isn't it?

  6. Good last line.

    I will admit I'm tired from work as I'm reading this - but I expect an agent would be, too. And my brain (no matter how well done the scene might be) is just going ho, hum, another memory of kiddies anticipating Christmas time. I think it's way too early in the story to slow things down with a detailed memory, especially one that's sort of hackneyed simply because so many people have experienced it, or wished they had, or seen it on television.

    I wish you had posted your SECOND page!

  7. You have a great beginning. It starts out with instant suspense. It's Christmas and there's tinkling Christmas music and (in my mind) everything is lovely. And then she grabs that railing and her knuckles turn white and I know this isn't going to be a nice Christmas after all.

    But then you go into past Christmases, and all that tension and suspense I felt just withers away while I wait for you to get back to the story.

    I think this would probably be a stronger opening if you cut out the whole reminiscing bit and just stayed in the present. Let us know what she sees now. Let us know why this Christmas is awful, or sad, or scary, or whatever. The backstory doesn't help this at all.

  8. I loved the writing and the description, but it isn't a great beginning. It's pretty much a flashback to Christmas pasts. I would keep reading, but something in the present better happen soon to keep my attention.

  9. I agree with some of the previous comments. And I would keep reading because the descriptions are grabbing me, but I need more than flash back. Can you keep her more in the present with just a hint of what was lost? It might make it stronger.

  10. I like the description of Christmas, especially how there are unique details and yet an overarching understanding of Christmas traditions/emotions. While the memory is full of nice images, I’m curious why Ellie’s Christmases are no longer as happy.

    I’m not hooked though because the majority of the introduction has focused on the past, not present. Though, well written, I feel like I'm still waiting for something to happen.

    I’d read a little further to find out what has changed.

  11. I was hooked by the idea that Christmas had changed, but like the others I got a bit bogged down in the backstory. I wonder if you could shorten that up a bit.

  12. I agree with Bluestocking, the description of Christmas morning was very good. It made me think about my X-mas when I was little. The title of your work is what hooked me from the begining. I'm curious to find out. Good Luck ;-)

  13. Sorry, last line should have read-I'm curious to find out if there are little people living in the tree. I'm hooked.

  14. Thanks to everyone for their comments. It's a tremendous help. Thanks also to Secret Agent and Authoress for giving us this forum for our work. Great feedback.