Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #18

GENRE: Women's Fiction

In front of the café Amanda visited often, a plump woman in blue jeans fiddled on a cracked violin. Her dark hair danced and jerked with the movements of her playing. A boy, no older than fifteen, sat behind her beating a drum, and a man whose face had been baked in the sun provided harmony with his accordion. In his yellow and crimson tunic, he was the only one who wore the traditional garb of his people. Amanda had read Gypsy bands had gone out of style, yet this group of musicians gathered an audience on the corner of a walking path in Pécs, Hungary.

A gasp drew Amanda’s attention to a man who somersaulted out of the crowd. He must have been lurking among the spectators, waiting for his cue. He wore a gold vest over his bronze muscles, reminiscent of idol statues often seen in India. His quick steps moved to the music, and he slapped his body in a rhythmic percussion. The audience clapped as the music escalated faster and louder as the dancer kept in time. The fevered pitch consumed every movement and every thought on that corner. Everything in sight had become the song. Then at its crescendo, the song ended.

After brief bows, the musicians started another tune, this one slower and more purposeful. The dancer raised his arms and snapped while he moved with precision through the gathering. He selected a couple of women, a few children, and a man and brought them to the front.


  1. I like this as an excerpt--your descriptions are really vivid; I had a clear picture of the dancer. On the flip side, I don't learn anything about *her*, only the Gypsies. I think it ought to start with her. Then again, 250 words doesn't give us much to work with; if your next para starts with her reaction and introduces her conflict, I'd be fine. One thing to consider: the description of the dancer makes me think he's going to be a romantic lead, and honestly it read more like romance description, albeit toned down.

  2. I agree w/ Kathleen. You've got nice descriptions in your scene, but readers need to care about Amanda first or the Gypsy band and dancer won't matter. Focus on her, let readers taste your "voice", and then describe the scene through her. It's a really fun one.

  3. I concur with the other two commenters. Even with only 250 words, the reader wants something about the MC. This was all gypsy music.

    The tone and flow of your writing are nice. But I'd watch the adjective string: plump woman, blue jeans, cracked violin, dark hair. It disrupts the cadence.

    Also, citing the city and country together popped me: as if you (the author) were telling the reader, "This is where the action takes place." You can keep Pecs and then use Hungarian to describe the garb.

    Good luck.

  4. It's tough for me to crit women's fiction because it's not really where I live, you know? So, these are just observations that might be way off for this genre.

    I do agree with the others that I'd like more information about the MC. The description of the gypsy scene was nice but I'd more like to know how the MC feels about it. Her observations seem detached. It's distancing.

    I also got a little distracted by some of the language and the logic.

    This is a cafe Amanda visits often... but her knowledge of gypsies comes from what she's read. I expect that if she visits often, then she's been here a while and would have seen gypsies for herself and know whether it's still a draw. Maybe this group showing up here is unusual, though, in which case, I think she should be surprised to see them.

    Bringing India into the description confused my mental image. Is it really a vest from India, or does it just remind her of India? I'm assuming the mention is there to show she's traveled (if so, I think the mention should be more personalized--"reminiscent of the ones on idol statues she had seen in India last summer" or something. If India has nothing to do with this, I'd suggest not bringing a completely different culture into the description.

    The dancing descriptions are nice. I could see all of that pretty clearly.

    There were a few phrases that gave me weird images:

    "A boy, no older than fifteen..." seemed odd because fifteen seems to be on the older end of "boy."

    "whose face had been baked in the sun" made me cringe for a minute because... well, I won't describe what I saw in my head.

    Women's fiction is more descriptive and the tension "quiet" compared to what I normally read, so this might be completely fine... but I'm not getting any tension or story questions from this excerpt. She's just standing there watching something that seems normal. Maybe if she was one of the people picked from the crowd...

    The writing is pretty, but the lack of MC perspective and tension probably wouldn't lead me much further. Then again, I'm not the audience for this.

  5. This start shows the setting well, but like the others said, it doesn't show much about the character. Overall, it feels passive, like scene direction in a screenplay. I just needs some life infused in it! What does the character think of what she sees? Why is she there? What is her goal? I know you don't always get goal/motivation/conflict in 250 words, but those things can be hinted at. Best of luck to you. First pages are tough.

  6. For the most part, I like the voice, and you do a nice job with the setting.

    I would agree with the other comments, however. We don't really know much about the MC.

  7. L, thanks for leaving a comment on mine. I do have to echo some of what the other commenters say, and admit I felt a little divorced from the MC. I think it would be an easy fix though to weave in some of her emotions/reactions to what she's watching, so not only we do get this great intro to the setting, but we are moved along with the MC. I'd keep reading if I had pages for sure.