Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August Secret Agent #38

TITLE: The Girl From Everywhere
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

It was summer in Calcutta and the year was 1774, although only for a few more hours, and we had just loaded a pair of Bengal tigers into the hold of The Temptation when I realized we might be in trouble.

I could say the trouble started in the market, when Kashmir, moving too quickly to be careful, bumped into a British Company officer, causing the man to drop the mail he’d been carrying. After picking up his letters, the Englishman checked his pockets. When he found his gold watch missing, he grabbed the constable who’d been standing close by and set off after us. Hearing their shouts, Kashmir dropped his mangoes and ran. What could I do but follow?

Perhaps the trouble started earlier, though, with the tigers, although I’m not trying to blame them for it. Indeed, I was rather proud of them, as acquiring them had been my idea -- and my responsibility. I had negotiated with a local soldier-turned-hunter for two magnificent specimens -- the likes of which can no longer be found after centuries of poaching -- to be delivered alive. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been as clear regarding the rest of the details of the delivery; they were dumped on the dock in flimsy wooden cages heavily drugged, although not heavily enough. They were twitching their tails as we wrestled them onboard with the help of several men hired from the dockside. The sun was panting in the sky, and Kashmir and I were sweating beside the locals.


  1. This is well written, but I feel like there is a lot going on in the first 250 words. Between the MC, the British officer (also called "the Englishmen"), the constable, the soldier-turned-hunter and Kashmir. For me, that's quite a few people to be presented in the first couple hundred words. If you can omit or delay some of this until later, I think it will help the exert read a little clearer.

  2. To me it reads a little like an info dump. I'd prefer a little more scene set-up.

  3. Yes, I'm not sure about this. This is EXACTLY the kind of set-up that should have hooked me - I love colonial India as a setting, and I love historical fantasy! But I have some misgivings about your execution.

    I have no sense of the MC. Age, gender, race and occupation are all a complete blank. The MC seems adversarial to the British, so maybe (s)he's Bengali? But the name "Kashmir" sounds like an affectation - Kashmir's a province. So I don't really have a clue.

    The first sentence is too much of a run-on for me. Split it into two, at least.

    I also don't have a sense of chronology here. Did the thing with the tigers happen before or after the encounter with the Officer? I thought the Officer thing had been earlier, as we start with the tigers (suggesting they are in the present), but then you say "Perhaps the trouble started earlier, with the tigers..." so here's me, disoriented.

  4. I love the setting, and that's why I read this particular one--the first line got me. But this reads like a history book, and while I love history, that's not what you want to go for. There's nothing wrong with it--it's just that right now what's hot is the glimpse of the here and now and the stakes in the here and now, not the trouble that happened with the tigers then. What I mean by that is this: can we get a scene really focusing on the stakes for the character, the tension of the tiger now, or the fear of running into the British constable? One scene--then we're invested and ready for a little info dump, maybe. The writing's solid, but it's just not "grabby" without that.

  5. The voice is not bad at all and the premise is interesting, but I have some agreement with the other comments. I don't feel quite grounded in the character and have some confusion s to what is happening.

  6. I like your first line. The setting is interesting. The tiger smuggling is a great hook. Like the others I think there's a bit too much. Focus on smuggling the tigers and trouble they might bring. You can bring in the other trouble later.

  7. I enjoy the voice here and the writing is smooth. I think giving a glimpse into the character would help given we don't know who "I" is yet--and I'm guessing this isn't a storytelling device to have an unnamed narrator looking in on things.

    This may be frustrating since someone else likes the first line, but it feels forced to give the setting and year so outright like a title. You could put Calcutta, 1774 as a heading prior to the first line if you wanted to establish it plainly, but stated in narration doesn't quite work for me. But the visual is great, and of course a pair of tigers spells trouble. Seems like a lively story.

  8. Calcutta in 1774 has such potential fora rich and vibrant setting! I would concentrate on bringing the setting to life through the use of small detials - sights, sounds, smells, dialect - and avoid telling the reader rather than showing them what is happening. You could have a wonderful story if you master the setting.

  9. The setting caught me, but then it turns out it's only Calcutta 1774 for a few more hours, so I'm guessing this is a time travel story and we'll be leaving Calcutta for somewhere else soon. EIther that or it's New Year's EVe.

    It also irked me that it all started in the market place, and once that scene is over, then it suddenly all started with the tigers - so why did I need to know about the chase through the marketplace?

    In the end, I don't know who your MC and her friend are or what they want, or why they are smuggling tigers.

  10. I like the setting and voice of this one, but this is clearly two story beginnings here. I'd pick one and run with it. There's so much potential to get into one of these two beginnings if you completely immerse the reader in one of them. I'd love to see what you do with this one. Good luck!