Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Darkbeast
GENRE: YA Fantasy

There was an unfamiliar growl and a howl that was not her own. Her ears twitched at the sound of frantic paws. It was time to run but Panza hesitated, unwilling to leave her kill but hardly daring to face her enemies. The deer, lying bloody and broken at her paws, had been hard won and her stomach ached to be filled.

The scant seconds of thought had been enough to wrest the decision from her paws; snarling wolves filtered through the fungus stalks, surrounding her. None of them were more than half her size – she was small for a barghest, though much larger than any natural dog – but still she felt her muscles begin to seize up in fear. She growled back at them, turning her fear into aggression as only a canid can. Her ears lay back against her head and her shaggy black fur stood on end. She lowered her head to throw the bristled ridge on her back into sharp focus and peeled her lips back in what must have been a most unwelcoming smile.

“Mine,” she snapped, voice distorted by her growl. “Mine!”

But wolves were only dumb animals, unable to understand Mythic and with no language of their own beyond the bark and the bite. As they closed in on her Panza took an involuntary step back, only to yelp and skitter forwards as a wolf snapped at her from behind.

As their circle drew tighter she clamped down harder than ever on her fear. What was she, prey?


  1. If there was more, I'd continue reading.

    "There was an unfamiliar growl and a howl that was not her own." If this is from the point of view of the barghest, I'd think she'd know the growl was not her own. "There was an unfamiliar growl and howl." I may be off here. It's hard to get a feel at just 250 words.

    ". . . snarling wolves filtered through the fungus stalks, surrounding her. None of them were more than half her size . . ." I know you meant the wolves were half her size or less, but I stumbled and had to re-read because at first it sounded like the fungus stalks were half her size."

    Nice work. Keep writing. :)

  2. An MC starting off as a bargest is an interesting take on an opening scene. I thought you did a good job of depicting an animal reaction.

    Bill raises a good point, though, about "unfamiliar growl and a howl that was not her own." If it's unfamiliar and not her own, then it's not really necessary to point that out. Also, I had a bit of an orientation issue when it started with that, rather than the deer. I'd rather know what she's doing and then introduce the conflict.

  3. I was fully invested with the piece and it's not even a genre I typically read. The writing was quite good with the exception already noted. I think putting howl and growl together doesn't work. Are the wolves doing both? Why the howl? Seems a growl is sufficient for the beast and the reader to recognize danger.

  4. Definitely an interesting place to start a story. I agree with seeing and knowing what she's doing before introducing the threat.

    I think the third line confused me. I thought Panza was something else, not the MC for some reason. And I agree with the observations about the opening line.

    I would read on though.

  5. The first line wasn't as succinct as I'd like, and it left me puzzled. I'd simplify by using either growl or howl, not both.

    But most of the rest was lovely and unusual. I want to continue on. Just watch for awkward parts, like the repetition of "paws," and the "wolves filtered," which caused me to stop and try to picture half-dissolved wolves, filtering through something. With fantasy, you never know if it's real or just an overly creative verb.

    Lots of potential here!

  6. I'd keep reading to see where this is going.

    I agree with the above comment about the repetitive "paws". Also, since growl and howl rhyme I don't know that I'd use them in such close proximity to each other in the first sentence.

    I liked the tension and the descriptions. Off to a good start!

    Good luck!

  7. This seems like my type of novel. I'm instantly hooked. You could tighten up your writing and eliminate useless words like mentioned above, but other than that I think you have a great start.
    Interesting place to start the book.
    I'd read more! ;-)

  8. I looked up barghest and was pleased to see that this isn't about werewolves or shapeshifters. You establish her tension and fear well. I'd drop "as only a canid can," not only because the can-can repetition comes off as almost comic, but because turning fear into aggression is pretty common behavior, among humans and other animals.

  9. The writing could be cleaned up a bit. Your third sentence, for example, had two buts in it, and give your verbs more punch-- "she lowered her head to throw the bristled ridge on her back..." is wordier than necessary and the weight of her menace is buried with unnecessary action.

    Your last sentence isn't clear on voice. Is she being sarcastic? Or legitimately confused at the sudden role reversal?

    I was, at first, turned off by another werewolf story, but took the cue from comments above and Googled it to find out what a barghest actually is---I'm not a huge animal-story sort of person, but it'd be interesting to see how you translate a barghest tale into YA. You're definitely not following trends!