Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Dragon's Treasure
GENRE: Fantasy Romance

Olivia trembled with fear.

She scurried alone through a forest shrouded in a dark cloak of shadows, carrying nothing but the tattered dress on her already bruised and scraped body. Olivia gave thanks for the cloudless sky as she glanced at the full moon above, whose beams fought through the branches, shining down on her path.

With hands wrapped around her quivering form, she was not only scared, but the chill of the night had her shaking as well. Her sky blue eyes kept darting about, searching for a safe place to hide. Every little sound the night creatures made spooked her. Even the noise of her own steps crunching the twigs and pine needles under her leather boots added to her unease.

I hope my fortune will finally change, Olivia prayed.

She had run away the previous night. At first, Olivia was glad for the rain because it concealed her tracks and scent. It would have been difficult for a search party to follow her, presuming her parents had guessed she fled towards the forest and not the city. The trickle, though, soon turned into a heavy shower, making Olivia’s nighttime escape a miserable endeavor.

The day hadn’t been any better, but she did welcome the warm sunshine. Olivia had set up a small camp where she ate and rested during the morning hours. After freshening up in a nearby stream, she returned to her makeshift camp only to be dismayed by the sight that greeted her.


  1. Hmm, not sure if your first line really does it for me. Anyone, anywhere, could be trembling with fear. This doesn't do the uniqueness of your story any justice; doesn't tell me what it's really about. I get runaway, but that's all I get so far.

    Beautiful writing, though. I like the details!

  2. Hmm. You do have nice flow, but as an opening, this just feels like any given runaway scene. It could also be any genre -- you don't give us enough of a strong sense of setting to put us in a specific location. More importantly, I don't get a sense of your MC. If there were some sort of hint as to why she ran away, I'd probably be intrigued. But with no hint at all, it feels a little directionless.

    Backtracking in the fourth paragraph also seems like a questionable choice. I wondered in the fifth paragraph if we were still 'back in time,' or if you'd jumped ahead again - it makes the narration unclear.

    I'd guess you could probably start later in the story, when her running away turns into something unexpected. This seems like a serviceable bit of backstory rather than a gripping opener.

    Just one opinion, of course! Best of luck.

  3. There is a lot of "telling" going on in the story, instead of "showing". I'm not feeling connected to the main character's fear because I'm not in the scene. Backstory does not belong in the introduction section.

  4. I enjoyed this. It's been awhile since I've read a more 'epic' type fantasy, and this makes me hungry for more.

    Unlike what others have said, I actually DO feel like I'm right there with the character. This doesn't read like backstory to me ... but ... I would like to get a teeny bit more of her inner turmoil, not just her external struggle. It's fantasy, so I am comfortable with it happening after the first 250. But soon after.

  5. The writing seems solid. The individual sentences are good. But I'm having trouble connecting to this because of the way it's arranged, I think.

    First of all, without any sort of connection to this character--I don't know much except that she's a frightened runaway--the constant dire language seems melodramatic. I think you should back off that some and provide those details within the context of the character's perception. Show the fear. Show the cold. Show the spooking. Right now, you're just telling it in summary. This is a very tense moment in her life; we need to feel it.

    In a tense situation, backstory bogs things down and dissolves the tension.

    There also seems to be some inconsistency. She's shrouded in shadows even though the moon is shining down on her. She's carrying a dress that's on her body (odd phrasing). She's looking for a safe place to hide (which implies immediacy) but her audible footsteps merely add to her unease. That sounds too light. If something's following her and she's looking for a place to hide, then she should be cringing with every footstep. If she's not currently in immediate danger from whatever she's fleeing, then make sure we know what's frightening her in this moment and that she's looking for a place to bed down... rather than hide.

  6. I'm sorry to be blunt - but please don't 'tell' me she's afraid in the first line!

    I also had some problems with the visuals here. "Carrying nothing but the tattered dress" immediately made me think she was carrying it in her hands. Why not wearing? 'Her hands wrapped around her quivering form' How big are her hands?? Why not wrap her arms around?
    'shining down on her path' Is there a path through this forest? I'd be expecting her to be tripping over dead branches and undergrowth.

    "Whose beams fought through the branches" didn't work for me either. I feel like you are trying to be clever with your descriptions, but, for me at least, it's pulling me out of the story, not sucking me in.

    The first two paragraphs are all description about her fear, the second two are all background telling. I don't get any sense of why she's running away, or what she's afraid of. I wonder if you are starting in the right place?

  7. I agree with many of the comments. There is definitely a lot of "telling," which didn't really allow me to become invested in the character. For instance, why did she run away?

  8. Yeah, the first line is "telling" (I know, I hate when people say that about my writing too).

    You could try "Olivia trembled, her eyes darting around." Or something similar.

    Also, you could just describe the trees and landscape around her, and the reader will know she's in a forest without you telling it.

  9. I agree that there's a lot of telling going on here. And the only reason that bothers me is that I feel very distant from the Olivia, where I would like to be connecting with her. More showing on the physical details, her emotional state, etc would really make this shine. :)

  10. I'm confused if she's scurrying through the woods because she thinks she's being followed or is she just headed back to her camp? I don't think you need 'alone' at the beginning. The reader will realize that.

    It feels like you wanted us to get an exact physical description of the MC in this short section. You mention the torn dress, battered body, blue eyes, leather boots. These details seem too obviously placed. You could condense the part about the tattered dress and battered body by saying that "her tattered dress revealed the bruises on her body." In the part about the leather boots, you could just say that "her leather boots crunched the twigs despite her best effort to step lightly." By rephrasing it, the leather boots don't seem to stick out as much. Not sure that I would mention the blue eyes here. That would be better in a scene with another person perhaps? There's no one to notice her blue eyes here.

    "Shrouded in a dark cloud of shadows" seems a little overkill. Shrouded in shadows is simpler. If there is a full moon, would it seem that shadowy? Also, I would think the MC wouldn't want a full moon since someone could be searching for her.

    Is the MC familiar with the woods? You can hint at this if she worries that she went the wrong way. What are the sounds from the wood creatures? Be specific. If it becomes eerily silent, it could indicate that others are in the woods.

    I would strike the first line because it's too telling. You can evoke that with the following paragraphs. It would be intriguing to start with the line "Olivia gave thanks for . . ." and possibly introduce the moonlight being good and bad (someone could find her). That would add tension.

    Directly show the pros and cons for the rain the previous night. She was drenched to the bone but it obscured her tracks. Rain would have made a fire impossible as well as not wanting anyone to see smoke.

    I'm curious how old the MC is if she's worried about her parents. Your writing makes me wonder what happened to her to make her run. Why was her dress tattered and why was she bruised? Did someone hurt her?

    Shorter phrases would add more tension to indicate her fear. That's also why I wouldn't bother with so much physical description. The MC should be focused on running and the noises around her.

    These are all just suggestions/opinions. I think that your writing flows really well and it sounds like an intriguing start to the story.