Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Secret Agent #13

TITLE: The Cracked Slipper
GENRE: Fantasy/Women's Fiction

In a ballroom packed with those who live their lives governed by strict decorum, a harried woman elbowing her way through the crowd attracts considerable attention. This is doubly true when the woman in question has been on the arm of the crown prince for most of the evening. She does not bother excusing herself; she plows on regardless of who blocks her path, be it a strapping soldier or a frail grandmother. Her corset is a tight fist around her chest, and she fights for a clean breath through a hundred conflicting perfumes and the scent of burning candles. The spell is slipping through her hands. She trips over pieces of tulle dangling from her petticoats and is jerked backwards as others step on what trails behind. It seems inevitable she will be left standing in the middle of the ballroom in her servant's rags.

The tide of her luck changes as the very person who seeks to prevent her from leaving unwittingly allows her escape. Trumpets blare, but the poor buglers are so suddenly and unexpectedly called upon that their normally synchronized fanfare becomes the braying of a troupe of confused donkeys. Callers bedecked in the royal colors of purple and green shout commands through golden megaphones.

"Fall back! Make way for Prince Gregory! Make way for the prince!"

Like hundreds of trained dogs the assembled guests retreat to the far sides of the ballroom. She finds herself alone in a wide aisle, a stranded bride in the heart of a great chapel.

9 comments:

Ammy Belle said...

The story has me hooked - Cinderella with Twist - but it is only the beginning of the story, and I find your sentence structure a tad awkward. Some lines are choppy and other don't fit. But the words you use to describe things are imaginative and ought to be applauded!

Thanks!

Bridget Baker said...

I really liked it--in spite of the beginning paragraph moving from omniscient to third person. I'm also confused by the "servants rags" comment. Wasn't she in a ball gown if she was on the Prince's arm?

Break up the first long paragraph so it's not so dense. It's kinda hard to want to get through that kind of narrative without knowing what's going on.

Would it work to have an onlooker be the POV for this scene? Then you could add some texture to the descriptions--give it voice.

Just a thought.

Bethany said...

Wow. I'm simply wowed by this imagery.

"Her corset is a tight fist."
"She fights for a clean breath through a hundred conflicting perfumes"

Seriously. This is great.

Secret Agent said...

RE: title—Like! Definitely a good one.

As for the text—

In a ballroom packed with those who live their lives governed by strict decorum, a harried woman elbowing her way through the crowd attracts considerable attention. This is doubly true when the woman in question has been on the arm of the crown prince for most of the evening. She does not bother excusing herself; she plows on regardless of who blocks her path, be it a strapping soldier or a frail grandmother. Her corset is a tight fist around her chest, and she fights for a clean breath through a hundred conflicting perfumes and the scent of burning candles. The spell is slipping through her hands. She trips over pieces of tulle dangling from her petticoats and is jerked backwards as others step on what trails behind. It seems inevitable she will be left standing in the middle of the ballroom in her servant's rags.
I really like the images—“Her corset is a tight fist around her chest, and she fights for a clean breath through a hundred conflicting perfumes and the scent of burning candles.” That’s lovely, and I think it most definitely sets the scene. Also really like “The spell is slipping through her hands.”

I guess the one thing that kind of bothers me about this is the distance from the character. I’m not getting a good sense of her as a person—not getting a sense of voice—and that is what intrigues me to read stories with romantic elements—and this kind of Cinderella retelling definitely has element. There’s a wall between her mind and me.

The tide of her luck changes as the very person who seeks to prevent her from leaving unwittingly allows her escape. Trumpets blare, but the poor buglers are so suddenly and unexpectedly called upon that their normally synchronized fanfare becomes the braying of a troupe of confused donkeys. Callers bedecked in the royal colors of purple and green shout commands through golden megaphones.

"Fall back! Make way for Prince Gregory! Make way for the prince!"

Like hundreds of trained dogs the assembled guests retreat to the far sides of the ballroom. She finds herself alone in a wide aisle, a stranded bride in the heart of a great chapel.

All of this is good—nice writing. Again, love some of this imagery—“a stranded bride in the heart of a great chapel.” I would keep reading, but one reason I would pass on this is the continued feeling of distance. That may be a personal quirk, but I couldn’t stand reading an entire novel from this POV without having the opportunity to access more closely the thought processes of your main character.

I did not catch any POV shifts—sorry if I’m missing something obvious . . .

Overall, therefore, this is good writing, and I’m hooked enough to keep reading—intrigued by the story, the implied promises of the title, and the imagery—lovely writing with great potential for depth.

Anonymous said...

Hello! Thanks to everyone who responded. I just wanted to say one thing: this is a short prologue, and the distant feel/anonymity of the protagonist is purposeful (it wraps up tightly although I know that doesn't help you with this 250 word excerpt!!)-- The book is written in a restricted third person POV. Very helpful feedback!! Thanks so much!

Barbara said...

I thought this was well done, but told from a narrator's POV does distance us. My initial thought was that, in spite of the good writing, why read when I already know the story? I'm not seeing the twist to the fairy tale, although I'm sure there is one. Perhaps work that into the first 250 words?

On the other hand, if you were submitting this, you'd get more than 250 words, and the quality of the writing would carry a reader through, past the prologue, I think.

Sarah P said...

The title makes me think that we're going to get an updated/modernized Cinderella story with a twist. I'll take that leap.

Present tense is going to be tough to keep up for an entire novel, I think, and is potentially exhausting for a reader who's probably more comfortable reading third or first.

In addition, this reads like you've got an narrator telling the story, rather than the story being acted out by your characters. It works well in visual media, but I don't know that it will work that well on the page.

I do like the writing, for the most part. You set the scene well. I'm just tripped up by the POV.

Good work, though.

Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

Hooked. Definitely! Can I be your critique partner so I can see the rest? ;)

Jon Athmann said...

I'm stoked that you touched on multiple senses, the way the corset felt, the way the perfume and candles smelled, the sound of the trumpets, and sight from the scene.

The only hiccup that caught me was the first sentence "considerable attention." To me it was a show/tell battle that I would enjoy more if it was a show.

Excellent descriptions though!