Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Soulseeker
GENRE: Speculative Fiction

The worst part was hearing Varali's cries. He'd never been able to stand them. Loud, obnoxious -- just like her. They ripped through his spine like nails down a chalkboard.

And that was probably the closest to empathy he'd ever gotten, that scratching feeling down the spine when Varali cried.

She'd cried the night they'd been brought here, waking half the asylum, and again when the mentalists had decided to move her into a cell down the hall from his.

Now she cried as they marched her brother past her cell for the last time.

"Lykus!" she bawled, her bony fingers grappling at him through the bars. She caught the backs of his rags and he felt them rip as his guards tried to push him onward.

He resisted their pushes, looking over his shoulder at her. Kid was ugly as hell, with those strings of raven hair licked to the sides of her face, a face grimy except where tears cut an ivory path down each cheek. But there was beauty in that dirty, emaciated, swollen-eyed ugliness. It was love.

Or so he'd heard. Love was just another abstract concept like altruism. He would never find out what it meant. People had tried describing it, but they'd vainly used other ambiguous terms. Feelings. Caring. Lykus felt pain when the guards beat him. He cared to make Varali shut up for the sake of his pounding eardrums.


  1. Is the POV character Varali's brother or an observer? I think that needs to be clear from the outset. Maybe use his name in the first sentence to clarify that.

    This sounds interesting. It's probably read more to see where it goes.

  2. Loved the way you described the absence of feelings in the character. It really gives the idea. I agree with the previous comment that the POV could be clearer. I would definitely continue reading.

  3. I really liked this, but I do agree that the POV should be cleared up a bit.

    I also stumbled a bit on the word "grappling"... I'd suggest using grasping or something because grappling envokes a picture of two people actually grappling each other closely.

  4. I will admit, this isn't my genre of choice so I won't comment on whether I'm engaged or not BUT I will say that there are some very nice images and lines in here. I liked the "raven hair licked to the sides of her face" and tears cut an ivory path" lines. : )

    POV does need to be much clearer. Even the first couple sentences had confused and me questioning it already.

    Best of luck to you in your writing journey!

  5. I had some confusion with the POV too but the writing was tight and the images you used hit really hard. I find this character interesting and I would read on.
    Good luck!

  6. Emotionally distant characters are tricky because it's difficult to care about them. I like the seed of the story here, but I'm not feeling much connection to Lykus and I would probably not read any further.

  7. Based on the names, I wonder if chalkboard is appropriate for this piece--it struck me as an anachronism and may be a tad cliched. Considering the strength of your images, I imagine you could write something more evocative in your voice. I think you did a superb job setting up their relationship.

  8. I had no problem at all with the POV. It's close third person, which is a nano-breath away from first, and I don't think everyone is used to reading that. I am and I love it. :)

    I really like the feeling of his non-feeling, the way he doesn't know what caring is but still cares nonetheless. The unreliable narrator is tough to pull off, but you nailed it for me. Good job! I would absolutely read more.

  9. You know, it's really hard avoiding seeing other people's comments so I'm not influenced.

    Here's my best shot:

    While I like the hard, biting character, I did not like the initial lead in with the crying. Nothing is really said about the crying other than it is just that. It's not fear, sadness, etc. I get no feel for what we're supposed to be hearing, like deep sobs or just screeching.

    There's a bit of repetition with cried along with her name.

    Also (this is just a pet peeve of mine), I hate using "felt" to try to show something. It makes it a passive sentence that he doesn't really experience them ripping, he's just reporting on it.

    Final thing, I didn't like the stepping back to explain his lack of feeling, altruism, etc. I think we get a good picture of that with his disgust for her showing any emotion. There's real strength in the prose leading up to that, but it falters when you tell us what we already know.

    That all being said, I love his description of her, the set up with the guards marching him past her cell. If we can get to that quicker, I'd be a whole lot more enchanted.

    In the end, yes I'd read more.

  10. I like how your opening, the description of her cries. I think the main place I got confused with POV is when it says she cried as they marched her brother past her cell. If the POV is Lykus' then I personally would change that so it shows clearly POV is from his point of view. Maybe use his name or something. I like how descriptive your writing is and how you describe love. I would definitely read more to find out how and why they are in an asylum.

  11. I really like the voice on this piece. You definitely get the sense that your POV character lacks the capacity for emotions. That being said, I think you don't need to spell it out quite so much this early on. We get the feel for him even without the explanation that he doesn't get it when people try to explain love.

    Also he's just finished calling the girl ugly. But then says there's beauty in her. I don't know if he'd be able to see the beauty when it supposedly comes from love and he can't feel love.

  12. I was thrown with the very first sentence. 'The worst part was . . ." The worst part of what? Being in the asylum? Being separated? Not understanding emotions? Tell us.

    I wanted some reaction from him to his situation, but on the other hand, he's unemotional, so you really can't do that. Still, I don't know if I could stick with an unemotional character for a whole novel (but perhaps he isn't unemotional all the way through.)

    The rest of the piece dwells on the crying and his inability to understand it, but you make that inability known in parg. 2, so you might end it there and move on to something else, like why they are where they are, or what exactly the asylum is, why they want Lykus and his sister, etc. The explanation jus seemed to go on too long.

  13. I've never read speculative fiction before, but your beginning really hooked me.

    I did want to see more of the asylum, more of what the hall looked like that Lykus was marched through.

    Very interesting beginning!

  14. Though Lykus seems like he's being set up to be an "unlikable" protagonist, he is nonetheless compelling and these opening paragraphs are quite tense--I definitely want to know more about these characters and why they're in this asylum!

  15. This sounds like it could be a very interesting story but the emotional side of this opening is told in a very abstract way. It sounds like the POV character has some supernatural abilities, and they're being described, but not in a way that I can understand what impact it has.

    Also, the main character's disgust with the girl crying doesn't make him very sympathetic to me. I think hearing more about his own suffering before hearing about him being annoyed by another's cries of desperation would make me dislike him less.