Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Air Pirates
GENRE: YA Steampunk

"You've been here every day for a week, boy," the shopkeep said.

"Good stew." Sam tugged his hood, keeping his smirk carefully shadowed. He had thought he could say it with a straight face.

"I ain't seen you in town before. You waiting for someone?"

Sam just slurped his pepper stew. Though if there was pepper in it, Sam hadn't found it. Probably the spice had boiled off long ago--Sam suspected his stew had come from the same pot all week.

The shopkeep eyed him warily. "You ain't a knocker are you?"

"Wouldn't be a smart question if I were, aye?" Sam glared like a hungry wolf. He was only eighteen, but he could make an imposing figure when it suited. The sword at his hip didn't hurt either. Sometimes it was best to let folks think you were dangerous, as showing them only caused trouble.

Other times--and the way the man fidgeted with his greasy apron told Sam this was one of those times--it was best to play it friendly. Sam smiled. "I'm just drumming you, baron. I ain't gonna kill anyone."

"Course." The shopkeep laughed nervously. "But you are waiting?"

Sam slurped again. The silence stretched to discomfort, and the shopkeep soon found he had other customers to tend to.


  1. Some disparate and confusing elements here - the "boy" and the smirk make me think this is a 12- or 13-year-old - only later do we see that he's 18 with a sword at his hip.

    I think this is the wrong place to start your story - a boy eats stew; a hint is made about "knockers" who kill people. Not enough is shown of Sam to make him intriguing or engaging. It isn't enough to make most people want to turn the page.

    (And does pepper "boil off"? Seems to me that pepper is pepper - it doesn't go away if it was ever there.)

  2. Sam seems cool! I feel like I know him right off the bat which is fun. I bet he's a great character. Is there an action scene you can start with? I'd love to see him in action right off the bat.

    "Sam slurped his pepper stew." <----I cut out the 'just', reads better without it.

    Also, "The shopkeep laughed nervously"--this seems out of character for the shopkeep from the impression I had of him. Seems more like he'd say something like, "Good. You better not stir up any trouble" or something like that!

    Fun, though. Nice work!

  3. I liked this one. The writing is strong and consistent and puts you there (as opposed to Generic Fantasyland). I have a great sense of character here. Not sure about the smirk at the beginning, but the rest is great. I'd read on!

  4. I liked this one as well, but I agree that I thought Sam was a 12 year old at first too, because of the "boy," but I didn't mind accepting that he was 18. This was also a case where I didn't mind that we weren't starting with an action scene because the elements you have are intriguing enough as it is, even if he is only eating soup. I would definitely keep reading!

  5. I like the banter - it already gives a feel of a different place and time. The wording, too. It all just seems appropriate.

    A nit-pick, but I agree about the pepper stew. Not sure it's a spice that can be boiled off.

    I'm intrigued though. I'd read on. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I had the same issue with his age. I first thought he was a boy and was surprised to find he was 18. Also, the shopkeeper says he's been in every day for a week, then he says he hasn't seen him around town before. And is he a shopkeeper - implying goods or an innkeeper - implying food and rooms.

    I liked Sam as a character, but I agree this probably isn't the place to start. You haven't presented a problem or raised any suspense. It's a kid eating soup. Give us something bigger.

  7. Hooked, this is right up my alley!

    Couple of nitpicks - if he's sitting down eating stew, I picture him in an inn rather than a shop - which is it? Might be better to have 'barkeep' instead of 'shopkeep'. "Wouldn't be a smart question if I were, aye?" Aye means yes, so it sounds off to me here.

  8. I agree with Girl Friday. "Shopkeep" is catchy in the narration, but it doesn't seem to apply to the scene.

    I did like this, though. It creates intrigue, and I'm a sucker for mysterious figures in cloaks. :)

  9. I like the characterization, and I thought the tension rose during the scene. I'd keep reading. However, the adverbs aren't necessary. The first (carefully) adds confusion to a confusing sentence, and instead of the second (nervously), it would be far better if you described an action. You missed a comma here:
    The shopkeep eyed him warily. "You ain't a knocker (comma) are you?"
    Also, your wording is a bit repetitive. I think if you clean up these technical aspects, it would be better.

  10. You need to watch out for all the "had, was, were" in your story. I found them a little distracting.

  11. I'm interested in this. I'd keep reading. :)

    Best of luck!


  12. I think there is some potential here, but little happens. I love some of the characterization, although I agree with others that the age comes late.

    I think a little reworking of the order here could catch more interest. I like the line about "knockers," as that introduces intrigue.

    I think I'd be hooked better if you started the story with: "Sometimes it was best to let folks think you were dangerous, as showing them only caused trouble." and then get into the shopkeep asking him if he was a knocker.

    In the end, I'd like to see something really happen to haul me into the narrative. We get mostly some character, but not enough forward momentum.

    Basically, this tells me he's waiting -- not very action oriented.

  13. I liked this. I had a concern about the way Sam is characterized, though. His smirking, his patronizing attitude doesn't make me care for him (if he's the MC). I also didn't get why the shopkeep would call him 'boy' in the beginning and get all nervous at the end. He saw the sword all along.

  14. What I liked: Sam’s quick characterization through his actions. He’s coming across as cunning in only a few short words.

    What needed work: As some others noted, I thought Sam was younger. When he turned out to be 18, I was surprised, and wondered if 18 is even young where this story takes place.

    I didn’t necessarily feel there needed to be a scene of significant action, but I’ll agree with the sentiment that eating soup isn’t the most compelling beginning for a scene in what I’m assuming will be high adventure. Keep the quick characterization of Sam, but perhaps concoct a more engaging first scene.

    Would I keep reading based on these sample pages? Yes.

  15. Hmm...I think I've seen this before. *winks* And I'm glad Secret Agent wants to read on, because he/she is in for a treat! :)