Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #44

TITLE: The Challenge
GENRE: Young Adult

“Liviya, wait!” Ruth called. “Will you take this?”

Ruth staggered under the weight of the tray balanced over her left shoulder. She tilted her head toward the closed door at her side.

“King Herrick is in his study and wants more food.”

“Take it,” Liviya encouraged. “Your fear only grows when you avoid him.”

“Please,” Ruth pleaded.

The sound of hurried footsteps echoed down the dark corridor. The captain of the guard walked past the maids and stood by the small oval window at the end of the hall. Silver beams of light shone from the black sky.

“Beautiful moon tonight,” Captain Minel said.

“It will be full tomorrow,” Liviya replied.

The soldier smiled sadly. “Take a moment to enjoy its beauty. It is unlikely I will see it. Excuse me,” he whispered, motioning toward the door.

Captain Minel disappeared into the dark room.

Liviya peered through the crack in the door and watched the man bow before the king.

“The army of Asad is approaching,” the captain announced. “They are traveling with supplies for our people.”

King Herrick continued eating. The weapons that were usually stacked on the table had been pushed aside. In their place were platters of food. Herrick reached forward and ripped the leg off of a peacock. He brought meat to his teeth and removed a large piece. As he chewed, he scraped his fork against his plate. The noise was piercing in the nearly empty room.

"King Josiah has finally decided to apologize," Herrick said with a full mouth.


  1. There's a lot going on here. I think too many characters are introduced, and I'm not sure who I'm following as our MC. The Captain of the Guard's appearance is so sudden, and before that, I hadn't gotten to know Livya or Ruth, and now there's someone else thrown in. You could draw out the scene between the two women. Also, I think Ruth is a maid delivering food, but the king already has food since he's eating at the end of this section. I do like your descriptions of the king. It's very easy to discern his character through that one paragraph. Good job!

  2. I agree with Writergirl that there is a lot going on. I was thrown at the beginning because I thought Liviya was carrying the tray and Ruth was calling after her. I needed to reread, which could be my fault, I admit.

    Captain Minel's appearance was very sudden. I was still trying to decipher between Ruth and Liviya and their objective.

    I like that Liviya tells Ruth that her fear only grows when she stays away from the king. That says a lot about the king and their relationship, but keeps the reader wondering at the same time. What has he done? I immediately assume he's not a nice king.

    I guess with so much going on, it might be better to add a bit more description to the scene. There's a lot of dialogue, but I don't get much for the characters or the scene. Tell us a bit more (no overboard) about Ruth, Liviya and the Captain and I think that will hook the reader.

    I do get a good sense of the King. I assume he ordered another tray of food to add to his current selection. I just see a giant man eating with absolutely no manners. yuck!

    Good luck with this.:)

  3. Hmm, I think the biggest issue with this opening is that it’s unclear who the MC is, and if we are supposed to be following a certain person, or just getting a general overview of what’s going on. There are a lot of names to take in, but I’m not sure who I should be paying most attention to. Is the reader in the “nearly empty room” with King Herrick, or “peering through the keyhole” with Liviya? Are the maids throw away characters just guiding us into the real story, or are they MCs?

    You’ve set up King Herrick very well. Since the maids are scared of him, he must be a tyrant! The description of him eating is very strong and focused. If you start your story with that same focus put on the MC, I think you’ll have it!=-)

  4. I like this, however I'm unclear if Ruth and Liviya are there just to establish that the King is feared, or if they are going to be on-going characters.

    If they are the on-going, central characters, give us a little more about them. If not, I'd have the starting jump straight to where the Captain enters the King's room, and then have a scared maid hurry in and out to show the King's hold over his people.

    I guess I have a few unanswered questions, but being only a 250 word extract, I'm sure you go on to flesh everything out.

    But overall well done, this is something I would definitely read more of, which is why I chose to comment on it! Good luck! :)

  5. I am in agreement with the others that I'm not sure who the main character is; I thought Ruth mostly because she was mentioned first. Maybe slow this down to show more narrative from the MC to ground the reader whose story this is, and show how the character is taking in what's going on around them.

    The other is more a writing mechanic: be mindful of dialogue tags that variety can be a little distracting. Said works in most cases, and a good goal to reach for is to reduce the tags overall and instead show the character doing something or thinking something to indicte speech. Instead of Liviya replied, you could show what the character is doing, is smiling and engaged in the situation, or is she standing with arms crossed, scowling, etc. Instead of "Please," Ruth pleaded, you could show internal narrative of why Ruth is pleading, what she needs from this interaction that goes beyond the conversation.

    These are easily remedied!

  6. It sounds like this is historical fiction, even though it doesn’t say in the genre description. We like that we get mention of kings and maids right away, so that we’re aware of this world we’re in. We like the details that give us a sense of who the king is. The last line about apologies is good, because it sets up the question of what is King Josiah apologizing for, but we’d like to know more about the main character.

  7. Going in, I have no idea who the main character is. Nothing roots me into a single viewpoint as the protagonist's.

    Also, there are a lot of characters introduced before I get a decent feel for just one, or maybe two. There's also a lot going on activity wise, which isn't the same as action. A lot to absorb in the first 250 words.

  8. I think it is difficult to garner a connection with an MC when the story starts with dialogue. I'm not really certain who the MC is. I like the descriptive manner you wrote in but I don't feel a real connection at this point. Best of luck!

  9. I agree that I was a little thrown, because there's a lot going on in this first 250. Starting with dialogue is also pretty tricky because whenever you begin a book with straight dialogue, you're initially giving us voices in a black void, so to speak, because we don't know anything about the setting or the characters—we just have a voice. I think you could probably benefit from slowing things down a little and making it clearer who your MC is. I feel as though this could be a really interesting start, if it was just clarified a little better so I wasn't so lost.

    Hope this helps! And good luck! :)