Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Dragon's Treasure
GENRE: Fantasy

The most heated arguments lead to the dumbest choices.

The thought struck Olivia's heart as she recalled the argument she had had with her father. Did it really happen only the night before?

A bone-deep tremor shot down Olivia’s back as she stumbled through the unfamiliar forest. The boughs creaked above, parting only briefly in the intermittent breeze to allow a glimpse of the tiny, brilliant stars. Olivia glanced up at the cloudless sky and gave thanks for the full moon above, its beams fighting through the branches to illuminate her path. She picked up her pace, seeking shelter in the folds of the forest, lost and no longer sure whether she was running away from home or back towards it. With her arms wrapped around her quivering body, she wondered if she had done the right thing after all.

Maybe marrying Sebastian wouldn’t have been so bad... What was I thinking? I could be at home, where it’s safe and warm. Such a stupid, impulsive decision from an irresponsible spoiled brat.

An owl’s screech pierced the night, through the song of crickets and birds. A hair-raising chill had Olivia glancing over her shoulder as a muffled crunch drew her attention, making her stay her feet. It was no hedgehog bobbing along through the undergrowth, nor a cricket, for she had heard plenty of those chirping in the moonlit shrubs. But now, they too were silent. The quiet tension enveloped her in an ominous cloak and squeezed her tight


  1. I LOVE the first sentence and the third paragraph. But I want to shake you for "The thought struck Olivia's heart as she recalled the argument she had had with her father. Did it really happen only the night before?"

    What is that doing there??? The 'dumbest choices' bit is intriguing. Lead right into the stumbling through the forest thing, which I assume (better be) the dumb choice bit. We can wait to find out about the argument later. That paragraph about the forest is golden. Waste no time and cliched reflections getting right to that.

    I usually hate internal monologue, and the "maybe marrying Sebastian" bit isn't the worst I've seen. I can see someone actually thinking that first part out in its entirety in this situation. Less so "Such a stupid..." She's thinking about herself. How do you refer to yourself in your head in the rare times you actually think out a full sentence? Especially if you're berating yourself, you're probably not doing it in a complete sentence. You're trudging through the cold, scary forest muttering 'idiot. moron. so stupid. what a brat.' Not 'You're so irresponsible and impulsive, Leah.'

    Are there really crickets and birds making noise now? If it was dusk I could buy the crickets. This sounds like full night. That's not when birds and crickets are singing.

    I'm not sure I understand what "A hair-raising chill" is supposed to be. Is it a blast of cold wind? Has something just scared her? I'm assuming it's the crunching sound in the bush. Just say that. Don't waste words in an opening when you're trying to capture our interest, especially not with cliched phrases like hair-raising.

    Work this out so there's no purple prose, no dilly-dallying before you get to the point, and be really careful with internal monologue. Say it out loud to yourself and make sure it's something you could imagine spelling out in a complete sentence to yourself in that situation. Nine times out of ten you're just using it as a way to convey information and the reader's going to hear it that way.

  2. I really like this, especially your opening line! I think the second paragraph is unnecessary at this point. Overall, this could tightened a little bit. There's a repetitive feel to how many times Olivia wonders if she had done the right thing.

    I would definitely read on, though, if only to find out why she thought the forest was a better choice than marriage.

  3. This may be a pet peeve, but I think I've seen too many openings exactly like this - woman running through the forest from something.

    Aside from that, it' well written, and you have clear conflict and suspense.

  4. I'd start with the bone-deep tremor; the beginning is telling and is not continued. Then the new topic is started. Suggest you delete the first part.

  5. Honestly, I could do with the third paragraph being the start of the story and all the thoughts eliminated. Without them, the story moves so much quicker and gives a sense of tension without explaining immediately.

    The first two paragraphs do nothing to establish setting or character, other than Olivia had an argument.

    Cut the unfamiliar at the beginning of the third paragraph. Also, you have bone-deep and hair-raising on the same page. Neither is bad, but it does stand out when in so close proximity.

    I'd read more, though I'd lament the thoughts cutting into the delicious tension.

  6. Great first line, but the momentum sinks with the second. I would suggest cutting that line altogether.

    Skipping to the next section, the writing is nice, however I've seen a lot of openings with characters running through a dark forest. I want to say this very contest this month has one, being chased on a dark path. I feel a lack of context for the scene, why is she running, and from what. The setting details seem extraneous because I don't feel grounded in the character; just one line would suffice--she's running from her father, or running because x and immediately needs to get to y or else.

    I really want to like this, but I'm wondering if starting at a different place might be to your benefit. Show a scene that isn't as expected with the character engaged in the world that is uniquely yours. Maybe right after that argument, or in the middle of it... if that scene is pivotal it might work to include it.

  7. I thought this has some issues, which Leah Peterson has already commented on, but overall, I think it works.

    You might do something more with that crunching noise (and maybe you do, maybe that's what's coming up.) But if you could get something on the first page, you could add more tension and suspense which may be a bigger draw than a dark forest.

    All she has to do is imagine what or who is making the noise. Maybe it's an enchanted forest and she wonders if some monster or magical creature is after her. Maybe she wonders if it's her father or Sebastian.

    If it's just a noise, the reader wonders what it is. If she wonders if it's Sebastian (or someone or something else) the reader wonders if he'll catch her or will she get away? What will he do if he catches her? How will she escape him? The reader has a lot more reasons to stick with you.

  8. I admit, my first thought when I saw the names Olivia and Sebastian was to think of the characters in Twelfth Night and how they do end up together at the end. Made me wonder. :)

    I like your first line, but I felt like the second line was too telling. Could you maybe incorporate it into the third paragraph?

    Love the last line! Good luck!

  9. I enjoyed this and would read on, I want to know what's stalking her in the woods - even if it is cliche.
    I agree, I would delete the first two paragraphs, or maybe incorporate how the argument with her father made her feel as she's running alone in the woods.

  10. I would recommend cutting the opening rhetorical statement, which doesn’t tell us much about the protagonist. The emphasis on atmosphere and “suspense” in these opening paragraphs don’t give me a sense of Olivia as a character or the setting/world, and the references to things that happened before the story started feel like precursors to flashbacks, which drag the tension down.