Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #18

TITLE: The Faithful
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Raine Morgan pulled a crushed pack from his front pocket, fished a twisted cigarette from it. Flame flickered then vanished. He took a drag, stared at the bars, the neon flashing, calling the shuffling drunkards and wannabes out into the dead of night for some faintly promised tail. He scoffed, leaving a fresh trail of smoke diving from his open mouth.

Grasping his watch chain with one hand, he tugged on it, checked the time, and shoved the piece back in his pocket with a sigh, letting the jacket fall over his olive vest.

“Mr. Morgan,” said a soft, earnest voice. The man fumbled with a sheet of paper. It crinkled as he flipped it over. He'd worn it thin from the sound of it. Leaning into the brick, Raine let his hand drop, replied, “Where to?”

“The Deserted Temple.”

“The target?”

 “Manal Ratula.”

 He nodded, flicked his cigarette into a mound of trash as he walked forward, bathed in pinks, oranges, and flashing blues. The heat of the bodies struck him as the night’s bitter cold played at his fingers. He rolled his fingers as if rolling a quarter along his knuckles, turning a corner, coming to a stop at a rundown dive. Its shattered windows glittered with candlelight, a whisper of wind creeping through the winking panes. Its door hung slightly ajar, ragged holes in the wood revealing all their secrets. He slipped in, letting the hot air waft over him. He peered over the warped wood, the remnants of the lower district.


  1. You had me until the last paragraph. It seem a little overdone in comparison to the rest of the piece.

    I desperately want to stick an 'and' in that first sentence. Or switch fished to fishing.

    "diving from his open mouth" was awkward for me as well. It's the use of diving that bothers me.

  2. Very atmospheric.

    You seem to have a lot happening in each sentence - that third sentence has five actions taking place (took, stared, flashing, calling, shuffling), and the next paragraph has seven in one sentence (grasping, tugged, checked, shoved, sigh, letting, fall). You might consider breaking those up to even the flow.

  3. I like the gritty feel, you can almost see the dirt under the main character's fingernails. There is a lot of atmosphere, it's thick and compelling. There is already a sense of tension and I'd keep reading.

    I'm not a fan of the smoke diving from his mouth, but it's an interesting image. Might be worth playing with it to see if you can come up with something that might work better.

    The last paragraph needs a few tweaks. I think if you cut a few words here and there it would flow better. "He nodded, flicked his cigarette into a mound of trash as he walked forward, bathed in pinks, oranges, and flashing blues." Maybe you could try, "He nodded, flicking his cigarette at a mound of trash, walking forward into the pinks, oranges, and flashing blues of the street."

  4. I liked the tough guy feel of this entry. The opening is moody and dangerous sounding. But there are a few places where too much detail or off-putting word choice undermines the voice.

    o He scoffed? A tough guy? How about he snorted, driving a trail of smoke...

    o Grasping his watch...A tough guy? How about he dragged or yanked it, checked the time and shoved it back in his pocket.

    o Olive vest? If the color isn't important, cut it. Tough guys don't notice clothes colors.

    o The last paragraph doesn't have the same crispness as the beginning. The flashing colors of the bulbs are great, tough guy would notice bar lights. But glittered, whisper of wind creeping, winking panes, hot air wafting? Way too girly. You need to man this section up to match the rest of the entry.

    I would definitely read more of this if the tone was more consistent.

  5. I made a comment on another entry referencing author Elmore Leonard. This is another piece that I think would benefit from a look at his style, and how he is able to convey what you are doing here in a succinct way.

    I like the atmosphere in the first paragraph, and editing this down will make it really crisp. Not every detail is needed. Please forgive my stab at rewriting, it's only to show a little of what I mean about a more sparse style:

    "Raine Morgan fished a twisted cigarette from his front pocket. Flame flickered, then vanished. He stared at the neon flashing across the alley, the drunkards shuffling into the the dead of night for faintly promised tail."

    That takes the sharpest details and condenses it to establish setting and shows how your character interprets his surroundings. I don't think the last line about scoffing and a trail of smoke is needed, as well as the mechanics of checking a watch, which drag this entry down. Moving to the dialogue gets something happening besides a man smoking and staring. It's a good image to start with, but dwelling for so long sucks the wind out of the sails.

    I think the reply from Raine needs its own paragraph. After that, I like the quick back-and-forth. I would establish after that "Raine flicked the cigarette" rather than he. The "bathed in ..." seems like an observation Raine would make on someone he is watching, not on himself. Unless you mean the "he" is the other man... I got a little lost on the heat of the bodies, which bodies? The rolled his fingers line seems like good imagery, but didn't quite fit for me if he's walking down an alley; ah, unless this means he's readying his knuckles for a fight?

    I think paring down that last paragraph will also help; show the most essential details, what is necessary for the character to observe to keep the scene moving. I really like the atmosphere set here, I'm intrigued if he is a mysterious hunter type (based on the UF genre). I would keep reading.

  6. The "He took a drag" sentence doesn't work. As written, he stared at the bars and the neon flashing, and I take it you want the flashing neon to be what signals to the drunkards. Change 'the neon flashing' to 'as neon flashed.'

    Diving usually means going into something, and the smoke is coming out of his mouth, so you may want to change that word.

    Why does he tug on his watch? HOw does that help him see the time? Include that, or cut the tugging.

    The heat of the bodies - what bodies? No bodies have been mentioned, and even here, where you do mention them, you don't tell us where they are. In the gutter? In an alleyway? In the back of a pickup?

    He rolled his fingers sentence doesn't work. He stops at the dive without ever having walked away from the bodies. You do have him turning a corner but, as written, he's not moving. Turning the corner is part of your description of his rolling fingers. WHat secrets is the wood revealing? Why is he slipping inside if all he's going to do is look outside?

    Perhaps rewrite for more clarity.

  7. I like what you are striving for, but I think some distracting description prevents you from attaining it. For example: diving smoke; paper worn thin--paper is already thin, and sound isn't going to convey how many times he's handled it; the cigarettes--if he's saved a crinkled package and a twisted cig, he wouldn't discard it after what is only one or two drags.

    I'm completely confused by the last paragraph. You describe the heat of bodies, but you are still outside which is bitterly cold and is the lower district really only one remaining building?

    I think this has potential, but I also think it would benefit from another pass.


  8. This opening is weakened by the emphasis on describing each action taken by this character, as well as an emphasis on descriptions of the surroundings. It ends up having a very noir-pastiche feel, which makes it hard for the reader to connect.