Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Darkhaven
GENRE: New Adult Fantasy

As Ayla slipped through the door into the shadows of the square, a breeze touched her face for the first time in weeks. She tipped her head back, breathing the scents of a summer night deep into her lungs: aromatic pine, horse manure, the dragonlilies that grew outside the tower. Above her, the patterns of the stars were comforting in their familiarity. She hadn't been locked up that long, after all. It just felt like forever.

There will be no-one patrolling the square. She repeated her brother's words to herself. Go straight across. The postern will be open, and you'll find supplies there to help you. After that I can do no more.

She hesitated where she stood, skin crawling with tiny spiders of unease. The darkness on the far side of the square was too heavy for the moonlight to penetrate; anything could be waiting for her over there. Yet Myrren's instructions hadn't failed her so far. When she'd tried the door of her cell at the seventh bell, it had been unlocked just as he'd promised. And the two men in the guardroom had been deep in the oblivion of sleep, not stirring even when she crept past them to climb the flight of steps that was the only way out. Her brother's words were her compass. She had to trust them.

Straightening her spine, she stepped into the illuminated patch at the centre of the square, forcing herself to walk as though she were unafraid.


  1. I like the intrigue you're setting up with her escape.

    My only nitpicks are to take out "where she stood," because she's hesitating and it's implied she's stopped. And the "over there" at the end of the anything could be waiting . . . because the location is given in the earlier part of the sentence.

    Otherwise I like it! Best of luck with it.

  2. Ooh, an escape plot! Pretty cool.

    The thing that made me stop reading initially was the "tiny spiders of unease." For a moment, I thought there were actual spiders on her skin. As it is though, it feels unnecessary to say that. But I hate spiders, so it could just be me. But I think you have a good setup here and good stakes. Your MC seems like someone who's going to be fun and to move through the story with.

  3. This worked well for me. A couple of things you could improve;

    o 'She hesitated where she stood' seems redundant. Just say she hesitated.

    o 'Skin crawling with tiny spiders' made me stop to consider if she really was crawling with spiders. Clarify this by saying her skin tingled as if crawling... or something like that. In that way, the reader doesn't need to stop and think about what is really happening.

    Good job overall.

  4. It would be better to begin the story at "She hesitated." Any necessary information from the previous sentences can be woven in later on. For instance, her repeating her brother's words to herself can be added to the end of this current section.

    Such suggestions can seem off-putting, especially since you did such an excellent job with the sensory detail. But finding the right place to start makes all the difference on whether an agent or editor (or some unpaid intern) keeps reading after the first few sentences.

  5. A nice start. You've created a sense of intrigue and plotting.

    You might discard all the weather and smells at the beginning, because you start out with slinking and sneaking and, except for the horse manure, you're creating a pretty picture there when the actions of the MC are more about fear and danger.

    Maybe - Ayla slipped through the door and into the shadows of the square. She hesitated, skin crawling with tiny spiders of unease.

    Then add her brother's instructions, then continue on with the rest to keep the darker tone and mystery.

    I'd read more.

  6. This opening is good, and we can picture it. We don’t know that we’d stop and smell the air if we were afraid of being caught—we’d probably hurry as much as possible. The darkness sets up danger and suspense nicely.