Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Dram Halo
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

A rat scurried across the litter strewn pavement directly in front of Magnolia. She snorted at the desperate creature and couldn't help but compare it to the depraved human rats living around her in the Neith Clean Zone.

Most were just human scum, but some were much less.

Grimacing at the thought, she hustled past the scavenging rat and focused on the tense faces of the pedestrians she passed. She suspiciously regarded them, wondered who they were and where they went. Some had surely even crossed through the vampyr detectors, with a regular's ease, from the nearby Baba Quarantine Zone. Magnolia shuddered at the thought. Nothing could ever tempt her to do something so foolish as to willingly live in vampyr territory. Baba's citizens were constantly faced with the threat of a violent, bloody, ending.

Clutching her purse tighter, she reluctantly reconsidered. Vampyr contamination or no, there was no way a quarantine zone could be much sh*****r than Neith. Muggers, gang bangers, and the human vampyr pets known as Sniffers were always a threat to the citizens of Neith. Magnolia shook her head at the rancid thought of Sniffers and reflexively darted her eyes up and down the sidewalk. She knew they were here, but too many people jostled past her to differentiate any suspicious behavior.

Besides, did any of her caution really matter? Sniffers could be anywhere or anybody.


  1. I'm sorry but for me there is too much telling rather than showing. Too much mental summary and judgement.

    For me there's also way too much information right at the beginning. Consider slowing down, and telling us more about the character. Let us get to know her a little more before we are dealing with vampires and sniffers and two different locations.

  2. The first sentence doesn't grab me. When I read on, it's not until the second paragraph that I become emotionally invested with the MC. Magnolia obviously feels comtempt for humans, but is there a subtle way of introducing this idea, one that will form a bond with the reader?
    Why would anyone choose to live in Baba? There needs to be a motivation for the conflict to ring true.
    Perhaps you could place me in the scene with a sniffer, showing them instead of telling me about them. They seem like an intriguing concept.

  3. There's quite a bit of telling and info dumping going on here. You're introducing us to a new world, it doesn't have to happen in the first 250 words though. I think you've got some interesting ideas and there is an intriguing tone to your mc's should play that out a bit more. Let us connect to her that way. It's important for us to want to travel along with your mc...right now you haven't given us much of a reason to.

  4. Interesting world building here.

    That said, there's a lot of telling and not much action. By the end, I'm interested in the world but not engaged enough with the character to want to know what happens next.

    I'd read on for a page or two longer to see if I begin to connect with the character.

  5. Not really feeling this one. There's a lot of repetition in the beginning (human rats, human scum, scavenging rat), then a whole lot of terms, internal info-dumping, and very little that is happening to Magnolia.

    She's walking, thinking, and that's it. We're getting info but it means nothing at this point.

    Place us in the setting and give us something to ping off of, something that will give us a reason to care. I'm sure there are some cool ideas in here, but I'm not sure what they are just yet.

  6. My first reaction here is that there's too much going on, and it's too slow for an opening.
    You can make a lot of things feel sharper and more relevant by taking out extra words. In the first sentence, I'd start by taking out 'directly'. Readers still see that the rat is in front of her. Similarly, you don't need 'depraved' before human rats. Go through the rest and see if there are other extra words which you don't need, and could take out.
    "Suspiciously regarded them" would flow more easily if it was "regarded them suspiciously".

    To be honest, my main reason for not wanting to read on is that Magnolia comes across as a bit stuck up. She lives in the same place as these people she's walking past, she must see them every day, and she's looking at them as though they are so much less that her. She's not the sort of person whose head I want to be in for the entire novel.

  7. It sounds like a rich world is lurking on these dirty streets, I definitely get a visual. I'm afraid the intro is not very engaging though; the first line is passive, not always a bad thing, but do you really want a rat as the main focus to open your novel? Even flipping it so Magnolia is the subject of the sentence and she is reacting to it will show a little more of the character. The follow up line reads clunky, and I just don't feel pulled in by a street rat.

    Wherever Magnolia is walking to, whoever she will next engage in conversation with, I think the story might be better off beginning there. Then these world building elements can be layered in within an active scene. This feels very much like laying groundwork for the real story to start a few more pages in. I'm guessing that's the case here, that the story can being a little farther in. Good luck :)

  8. As others have mentioned, there's some interesting world-building (Baba Quarantine Zone immediately made me think Baba Yaga, which would be an interesting reference). However, it's too much, too soon. What really took me out of the story was "and the human vampyr pets known as Sniffers." That's not Magnolia's voice; she already knows what the Sniffers are and would not think of them as "the human vampyr pets known as Sniffers."

    You could work it in another way, something like "Muggers, gang bangers, and Sniffers were always a threat... rancid thought of Sniffers... she knew the vampyr pets were..." with all of your other text filling in the ellipses. It would at least eliminate the "known as" bit.

    But even so, that bit could come later. Right now, what's primarily needed is something to ground the reader with Magnolia. What's she doing; what does she want at this moment?

  9. This feels like you're trying to get too much info in at once. Who is Magnolia? Were is she going and why? What does she hope to accomplish?

    Perhaps get that info in, and whatever world building goes along with it. At this point, that's all that matters. You only have to carry it through a page to get an editor's/agent's/reader's attention, and by then, if they're invested, they'll probably stick with you.

    You've got a lot of cool stuff here, but most of it doesn't mean anything because we have no context for it. Let it come out a little bit at a time.


  10. There is a nice sense of paranoia here, but the information about the various safe zones is told rather than shown, and doesn’t give us much of an emotional connection to Magnolia.