Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Withering Spring
GENRE: YA Dark Fantasy

A nightmarish sight lay in front of her – corpses littering the ground like broken dolls, some missing limbs, others just appearing to be in deep sleep. The stream nearby was red with blood. The stench of rot invaded her nostrils, and it took Liane all her self-control not to retch into the earth. To calm herself, Liane remembered the cardinal law of the Universe: life is a circle, and everything that happens to you has happened to someone else at least once before. No one is unique in their existence, and a person’s journey through life is nothing but stolen events patched up from stories of long ago.

“I know it’s hard, little snowflake, but we have to do this,” said Arlene, one of the Wise Women.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Liane nodded. She didn’t want to do this anymore than the other Chosen of Isamilli did, but they had to nonetheless. Find the corpses of Eksian soldiers, say a prayer for them to send them on their way, mark the body, and move on. Afterwards, the battlefield would be set on fire so that the god of summer, Verem, would purify the souls before they reached the Garden of Eden, the realm of the Gods, where final judgment would be passed down on them.

Liane stepped forward and began her rounds. It wasn’t the first battle she’d seen, but it was the first massacre.


  1. There are elements here of a compelling world and magic system. I think you can reveal them more gradually, through the character's actions.

    Also, I'd like to get a better sense of character. The gory details are more effective if I feel I'm seeing them through the character's eyes - for that I need to know her first, at least a little.

  2. A strong visual to begin with. I love the softness of the dialogue. I sense a familial relationship between Arlene and Liane. So I think I'd like to know a little more about Liane or feel a little more of her emotions here.

    The second big paragraph feels like a little too much information for the first 250. We're given a lot of proper nouns right off the bat, and it can get overwhelming.

    I do like the last line here, too, the tragedy of a battle lost before it started.

  3. I like this and I understand that this girl is special, but I'd personally prefer a more gradual introduction to what's going on. I'm just a bit confused with the setting at this point. I gather from the last comment that she witnessed the battle, but for some reason I first had the impression that she appeared on the scene afterward. Not that I don't really like the last sentence, I do, but did she actually see the battle as she says?

    Other than that, I feel the very beginning could be tightened just a tad - your writing is quite good overall. Perhaps rather than 'lay in front of her' maybe 'lay before her'. And you can rid yourself of that 'was' with the stream 'ran' with blood.

    Thanks for letting me read this!

  4. This is interesting, but there's too much information up front. I think it can be weaved in as she's making her rounds, to lighten the information load for the reader.

  5. Some parts of this are intriguing, but not enough for me to want to read on. Plus you have committed one of my pet peeve grammar mistakes. Please try to reword the sentence that has a singular pronoun subject followed by a plural pronoun object. "No one is unique in their existence..." How about No one's existence is unique? I'm not sure I understand the meaning of this sentence anyway.

    Sorry I couldn't be more positive, but then I'm not an agent or an editor. And my grammar isn't perfect either. Good luck.

  6. Lots of great showing detail and sensory images. I would suggest moving the character's name to the first line rather than "her" since we don't know who "her" is yet. It may also help to put in context for the reader who the Wise Women are; for example, by introducing Arlene by another tag, "my friend Arlene, one of the group of Wise Women who xyz" without getting TOO explainy.

    I wonder if a line or to from the bottom chunk of text could be moved up to replace the calming herself part. A little context of who/where/why helps a lot; then we can feel for her predicament more.

  7. I think the detail and the world building is great, but it's a little too much for me so fast. It felt like I got pushed right in the middle of a scene with no explanation of how I got there.
    First, I'd refer to "her" as Liane earlier.
    Then, I think I'd lead with the last sentence. "Liane stepped forward to begin her rounds. It wasn't the first battle she'd seen, but it was the first massacre."
    That sentence is so strong and it pulled me in as soon as I read it. Then, you could add all of your great detail. That way it's understood she's looking at a massacre.

  8. Even with your descriptions, I felt out of place. At first, I didn't realize they were outside in a field or forest or wherever they are. When you mentioned the stream, I got a slight sense of the surroundings, but no enough.

    I think there is too much explanation of back story here to really connect with the mc. It just didn't pull me in.

  9. I liked this. My suggestion would be to start with your last paragraph. It's short and clear and lets us know immediately where she is and when she is.

    Then go into your first parg, but rewrite it so you're showing it instead of telling us everything. For instance --

    A nightmare lay before her. Corpses littered the ground, some missing limbs. Others appeared to be in a deep sleep. The nearby stream ran red with blood.

    Take your words ending in 'ing' and change them to 'ed' words. And replace the 'was' in a sentence with a better verb and you instantly change passive writing into active writing. Let her do what she's doing, rather than telling us she did it.

    I'd read more.

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  11. I like how you ease the reader into this horrific moment through your MC's eyes. She didn't witness the massacre, just the bloody aftermath, so the reader can take time to see how Liane responds to what she sees.

    You've created a rich, intriguing world for your story. The Chosen and their need to help Eksian solids move on is interesting. I wonder, though, if you can show Liane actually doing this (going through her rounds) grater than telling us what she will do.

    I'd keep reading.

  12. This is a powerful opening, and I like how visual and visceral your descriptions are. I can picture this. I’m also intrigued by the idea of a life made of “stolen events from stories,” though without knowing more about this world, I’m not sure if that’s literal or figurative.

    Powerful as this is, I’d like to know more about your character before I’m thrown into this scene. Then I can see this through Liane’s eyes, understand why this matters to her, and how it affects her. It's in knowing her that I become invested in your story.