Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Dragon
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Maay hummed as she worked at the old loom, the dull clack of wood like a lullaby to her ears. Sunlight blazed into the small solarium, its normally stifling heat cooled by the wind blowing through the open windows. Tall, potted plants screened the bulk of the sunlight from those first entering, their green leaves bright and inviting as they bobbed in the breeze.

She cocked her head to the sound of footsteps echoing through from the open door on the other side of the living barrier. Men. It had to be for their boots to hit the stone with such a racket. One pair punctuated by the clink of metal.

Maay frowned at the woven threads before her, idly looping another through the strands. Not many men came into this quarter of the castle, mostly servants with their soft shoes and irritating tendencies to blend into the background.

She glanced over her shoulder, gaze perusing the room before settling on the wide leaves overhanging the tiny foliage-crafted doorway. You’re imagining things again. Why earlier, she could’ve sworn she’d heard the flap of massive wings. Like a dragon.

Holding her breath, she strained to hear anything other than the tramp of boots. Birdsong drifted in on the breeze, the flit of tiny wings filled the void. No dragons. Maay exhaled gustily. Foolish to think there would be. Such mighty beasts hadn’t flown over Byron’s Peak since before her birth. Too busy guarding the kingdom’s borders to travel this far inland.


  1. This is good writing, but my first thought upon reading this was: Is this a prologue? Because it sounds like one of the prologues where some mundane, ordinary person who won't be important later on sees something odd or gets killed in a grisly way.

    If so, I'd recommend starting with your actual main character instead of a nobody.

    If Maay is actually your main character, you might want to portray why she is actually important to the story, as currently she seems like a nobody.

    There's hinted tension here, but Maay does everything in her power to deny it. Instead of saying what surely can't happen, show us what is.

    In short, I would have preferred less time spent on the loom and more time getting to why the boots are marching and what is really happening outside.

  2. I have to disagree with Chro. I don't think Maay comes across as a nobody and I think that a simple beginning like this one can be (and is) effective. I like the general flow of the writing and the setting you set.

    There are a couple small things that tripped me up. For some reason the whole second paragraph felt a little awkward. Also, I think that "tendencies" should be singular and I don't care for the line "Maay exhaled gustily".

    All in all I like it.

  3. I'm not completely hooked, but I would read on. I think contests like this are unfair to slow openings, which are legitimate in their own right. I get the feeling that if I read on, it'd grab me.

    I like Maay well enough, but not much is happening here. I kind of wonder why she keeps thinking these sounds are a dragon, when dragons aren't ever seen. That's a teeny-weeny, minor nitpick, though.

    Really, my only problem is that I have no idea how to say 'Maay'. I thought it was a typo, originally. Character names are massively subjective, though.

    Yeah. Really good work.

  4. I'm not sold on it, but I'd keep reading for a few pages to let you hook me.
    I think its a slightly boring start--the loom, the idle birds, the talking herself into believing what she hears isn't what she hears. I agree with the above comment--show us what IS.

    That aside, it's 250 words, the loom could be hugely important and maybe she's crazy and hearing stuff that isn't there. That's why I'd keep reading.

    You have very nice descriptions, btw.

  5. I feel like the surprise is out of the bag with the repeated notion of dragons. Clearly, she did in fact hear dragons. Maybe have something else be making the noise, so we get sidetracked for a little bit. I am curious about the men she hears. It seems like a lot of things are out of place on this day, but she's not alarmed nor show any emotional reaction.

    I'd read on, but only a few more pages unless there was a significant hook.

  6. I really like the feel and speed of the opening - if that's the pace of your novel in general, then it's a great way to start.

    However, I do think there is some awkward phrasing.
    'One pair punctuated by the clink of metal.'
    'She glanced over her shoulder, gaze perusing...'
    I find the lack of 'was' in the first one and 'her' (her gaze) in the second one distracting. I worry the rest of the manuscript is more of the same.

    I also dislike 'exhaled gustily'. 'Gust' is too fierce for exhaling.

    With a few tweaks I think this really would have pulled me in.

  7. I would keep reading. Adult fantasy has a slower pace to it--you certainly can't judge after 250 words! The idea of dragons is intriguing, though I'd like to see her actually hearing the dragon wings and being thrown off by it instead of telling us she had heard them earlier. That's the most interesting part of this excerpt, so I'd like to read it first-hand!

  8. Your title doesn't hook me like a title should. It tells me exactly what to expect--dragons--but I hope the ms isn't all about dragons. I like Maay. It's a bit quiet for an opening, but there are little things in here I like. "servants with their soft shoes and irritating tendencies to blend into the background." She doesn't like not knowing when they are there. It's a character quirk. And she rarely sees men--that makes for an interesting character. I have a feeling the next 250 might introduce her to some. There is no conflict here, but I can see where you can quickly introduce some soon.

    The first paragraph has a little too much description. I'd like to get to the footsteps faster rather than know exactly what her surroundings look like.

    I'd keep reading.

  9. I'm not bothered by the slow start. The prose is skillful enough that I'm lulled into the scene.

    I did think her after-the-fact reaction to thinking she heard dragon wings was a tad artificial. I liked an idea above about maybe having something else explain the sound... like wash women snapping out sheets in the courtyard or something. But it's a few too many mentions of something that's quickly dismissed because it's not expected and too little care about the unusual boots which are right there and can be dealt with.

  10. This doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Should I be worried about the men marching in an area of the palace they never go in, or should I worry that maybe a dragon has left its post and come closer to the castle? And how worried is she if she just sits there and listens and doesn’t even get up to look? Could there be a connection between the two events? Perhaps this starts too early. Perhaps start at the moment the men or the dragon actually arrives (if they will.)