Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #25

TITLE: Redwing
GENRE: Fantasy

Claire wanted to fly.

It was an overcast day but the clouds were high in the sky and the air was calm when she walked out onto the River City Base tarmac for pilot tryouts.

Claire had joined the Ladies Division of the Avaline Air Guard to work on the hangar deck refueling and towing aeroplanes. Working alongside men who flew the machines that sailed among the clouds was the closest she might ever come to flying them herself.

But even that wasn’t enough for her any more.

The concrete airstrip stretched out to her left, bright white in the diffused sunlight. The dreadnaught Omnipotent hung in the sky to the west, black and angular. The hangar deck crew were there in their canvas coveralls, but the fly-boys wore their leather flight jackets like badges of pride. None of them knew that the C. Genaille who'd signed up today was a woman, but they would in a moment.

Someone called out names. “Sebastien Sine, Quentin Chevalier, Rene Dufont, C. Genaille.”

Three young men stepped out towards the training planes taxiing onto the ramp. Claire steeled herself, held her head high and followed them, flight goggles in hand.

Across the ramp, the first to notice her was the Admiral's bastard son, Michel Prideaux. Ace pilot, call sign Redwing. He liked to play with people like a cat plays with a mouse, for no other reason that he was bored. Claire's stomach turned to ice at his gaze.


  1. Interesting opening. I'm not sure about the whole "closest she might ever come to flying" part, especially since, at the moment, her appearance among the other fliers doesn't seem to have many consequences. Is it absolutely forbidden for a woman to fly in this society? Or is it just something that hasn't been done before?

    I do like this, though.

  2. I like this premise. Having said that, I think you need to re-arrange your opening.

    Consider opening with the paragraph that starts "The concrete airstrip stretched out to Claire's left..." There are so many interesting things in this paragraph and it sets up the place and her attitude so well.

    Then make the dramatic statement about Claire wanting to fly. Next, follow with the snipit of backstory.

    Draw us back to real time with the flight instructor calling the names and all the rest of it.

    Finally, instead of telling us that Redwing noticed her, consider showing what he did when he noticed her. That way you can let us understand whether he is happy or not about it.

  3. I love the premise of a female wannabe pilot up against an all-male system, but I think this excerpt could be a lot stronger.

    I'm not a 'you must always SHOW and never tell' proponent, but in this case you're really diffusing the tension and taking the wind out of your own sails, particularly when you tell THEN show the same thing, e.g. "None of them knew that the C. Genaille who'd signed up today was a woman, but they would in a moment."

    Try trimming out most of the telling stuff, I bet it would read much tighter. I would also love if you teased in a little more worldbuilding to ground the sense that this is fantasy.

  4. I really like this.

    It's not just that you give a stated purpose, you set the scene bit by bit while giving the character a feeling of movement and place.

    I'm completely trepedatious at how this is going to turn out.

    I also love the introduction of Michel, though I think the name Prideaux is a bit on the nose.

    Can't wait to read the full thing.

  5. I love this premise--it immediately engaged me, and I like the voice. I agree about maybe starting with "The concrete airstrip" and rearranging the elements, and also not to tell then show, pick one. They could announce the names and then she could watch their reactions as they realized she is a woman. I think it would also be beneficial for her to internal think on why this is remarkable; given this is a fantasy, I don't want to assume their society is patriarchal (that would be sad; in fantasy I want to assume the world is different, and if it isn't then showing that is essential).

    The last thing that caught me up was "bastard son." I suppose if she knows this and it's integral to the story, keep it. It just gave me pause, is all.

    Good luck with this! It sounds like an engaging story.

  6. This is engaging and the writing is strong. However, I feel there's a strange amalgamation of modern and olden elements in this world. The air strip and the planes are obviously modern, but the notions of women never being pilots and men referred to as (literal) bastards struck me as olden. Is this on purpose? Is this a modern world in which they still uphold olden traditions?

    Nice job with clarity and description.

  7. Perhaps cut the first four pargs, which are backstory, and start with the fifth parg. You might also cut the last sentence in parg 5 because it ruins the surprise of learning the female MC is going to be a pilot. ANd you might put more showing in the last parg.

    I did wonder why everyone's full name was called out, but only Claire's initial. I'm guessing it's to hide the fact that Claire is a woman, but unless there's a legitimate reason for it, it's a cheat. The easy solution would be to just have last names called out.

  8. I think this is a good opening, with a nice sense of stakes and tension, but I would be interested to see what would happen if it were made first person instead of third person? I’m not sure if there are other POVs in the novel, but the 3rd person narration has the effect of holding the reader at arm’s length here, and telling rather than showing the importance of becoming a pilot to Claire.