Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #29

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Horses and sailors crowded the public docks. The sleek beasts sidestepped down the narrow gangplank, tossing their heads, giddy to be free of the ship. The sailors dodged the hooves with a wariness earned through smashed toes. Despite their unruly cargo, the sailors had the jovial gait of men and women who’d sailed through the jaws of a monster and lived to tell the tale. Without asking, I knew they’d sailed across the deeps to make the harbor. Even the horses smelled of the waters where Kryannians lived.

My mother leaned against a post, talking to the captain of the horse ship. He wore a black coat trimmed in silver, but instead of a sash of office, a bandoleer with two pistols crossed his chest. A curved sword hung from his hip. My mother smiled and canted her hips. Without interrupting, I loaded the wooden crates into the dory boat without complaint. I’d already worked a full shift, but if we took too long, we’d have to drag the boat across the mud to get home.

“You bloody Kaeber!” My mother’s shriek cut across the docks, and I spun to see the captain with his grubby hand around my mother’s wrist. Fire raged across her face, and his sky-blue eyes blazed.

I drew the derringer from my pocket. The hammer cocked noisily into place, catching his attention even over the clatter of horses. “Unhand her.” The captain leaned away, eyes on the barrel.

“No need to go off yer riggin’ boy.”


  1. I love the bit about "wariness earned through smashed toes."

    The mother's actions seemed inconsistent. At first she seeks conversation with the captain, smiling and canting her hips. Then she's enraged that he touched her.

    Overall though, this is a nice mix of characters, setting, and conflict.

  2. Enjoyable! I love your sense of place and the atmosphere of the people and horses coming off the ship. I also like your protag's protection of Mom and work ethic.

    A couple suggestions:

    Is there a way to put your protag in the first sentence to get us identifying with him immediately? Something like "Horses and sailors crowded the public docks, where I was loading wooden crates onto our dory boat." Just to get us in his head right away. Otherwise it feels a little distant.

    In 2nd par. you use "without interrupting" and "without complaint" in the same sentence. I would suggest cutting one of those.

    I'm not sure about saying "fire" raged across his mother's face, especially since the captain's eyes "blazed." Could you just use "anger" or "fear" instead?

    Derringer should be capitalized.

    I think there should be a comma after riggin', before boy.

    I don't mean to sound critical. I really, really like this entry. I'd love to see it go far! Good luck. I hope this is helpful.

  3. I like this and I love the busy scene you have started us with. Of course, I'm a horse lover, so that sealed it for me.

    I like his reaction to the danger he senses for his mother, but up to this point I wasn't sure if this were male or female. For some reason I felt the MC was female from the beginning. Weird.

    Only two suggestions from me. Isn't it redundant to refer to it as a dory boat? That just jarred me a bit.

    The other thing was the faces of his mother and the captain. At first I thought they had actually burst into flames, especially since this is fantasy.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed it and would read on.

    Good luck!

  4. I'm afraid I had a hard time following this since you start out saying so much about the horses and sailors. I didn't feel grounded in who the observer was.

    Then you went to the mc pov and that was jarring that now it is in this one person's pov rather than omniscient as it seemed earlier.

    when you mention the mom, you only say she's leaning, but you go on to describe the captain in great detail. this was a bit jarring, too. I still felt ungrounded.

    after 250 words, I really have no sense of the mc. I have more sense of everyone around the mc.

  5. I feel like I'm in the hands of a writer who knows what she or he is doing. There's a great balance of description and character, and some conflict and tension immediately.

    The set-up is strong in the first paragraph, although I had to pause at first because I wondered if "sleek beasts" was also referring to sailors. Obviously it's not, but I still paused.

    The worldbuilding has already begun with references to ths place across the deeps, and I'm already hooked. Really, though, what hooks me is the puzzling relationship between the main character and his mom, that he sees what she's up to with the captain and continues on with his work, but then is quick to defend her, and is calm about it like he's used to such things. That pulls me in more than anything.

  6. I love the setting in this! I can smell the horses and the sea and the sailors.

    I have to disagree with the omniscient POV comment, because it's clearly in 1st with the "I knew", and even before that it really seemed to be a character describing their surroundings and not an omniscient narrator.

    My tiny nitpick is that maybe you could consider cutting "without interrupting" for two reasons:

    1) because in the first paragraph there's a "without asking" and it sounded a bit too similar for me

    and 2) I think her actions make it clear that she doesn't interrupt. So this feels a bit redundant to me, because you're showing us that she's not interupting, so you don't also need to tell us, if that makes sense.

    GREAT Job, though! It was super fun and interesting and had tension and conflict right away. Good luck!

  7. I enjoyed the world building here, and am interested to learn more about what’s going on with the mother and the captain. I am missing the MC, who seems a bit lost in everything that’s going on. As much as I liked the opening paragraph, perhaps you might want to make it clear from the first line that these are observations through the MC’s eyes and give us more of his voice.