Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Harletia: Rise of the King
GENRE: YA Fantasy

April 15, 2163

“I don’t care who your parents are, what you think you have that makes you special, or if you’ll never pick up another sword again post-graduation! If you can’t handle a blade, you are in-sig-nificant,” Mr. Henderson, our dueling teacher, enunciated. Holding a clipboard, he paced back and forth as two of our classmates fought. In my wrinkled white shirt and long blue pants, I half-observed the match with the rest of my class while tapping my nails against the mats on the ground. It wasn’t that I was disinterested; the battles hyped up my adrenaline as much as the next girl’s, but this whole class period had been spent watching instead of actually practicing. I liked practicing. Surreptitiously, I glanced at the clock and noted that there were fifteen minutes left before school ended and we were allowed to go home.

Mr. Henderson was an ex-White Guardsman in his forties who’d been the dueling teacher at our school ever since I’d attended, probably longer. Gym class as a whole was purely optional after sophomore year, but any student expecting to graduate had to have four stamps of dueling on their transcript before being allowed to walk across the stage. Blowing air out the side of my mouth, I watched the girl get flipped on the ground by her male opponent. Mr. Henderson wasn’t fazed by gender, weight, or height ‘because you never knew who would be sizing you up’. His words exactly.


  1. I really like what we see of the main character here! I love how you ground us in the familiar feeling of waiting for school to end while establishing a bit of character and world as well.

    I wonder if you might want to start in a slightly different place than with Mr. Henderson, unless he's important to the plot. If you start with the MC, grounding us immediately in who she is and what she cares about, we'll get involved in the story much faster than if we start out with a gym teacher who may or may not be central to the story.

    I know the first 250 pages is very early, but it might also be nice to slip in some hint of stakes beyond "When is this class going to end?" It doesn't have to be earth-shattering, but even a hint at her goals and drives, or at some conflict, would give us more reason to keep reading and be invested in the character and story.

    I'm definitely curious to know more about the school -- who they are and why they're there -- and I like what we see of the main character! If you get in more about her and less about Mr. Henderson, I think that'll make this even better.

    Good luck!

  2. I agree with all of Melissa's comments.

    I'd also like to add that I am not a fan of starting the first scene of the book with dialogue, especially a long line, without knowing who is talking.

    otherwise, solid writing.

  3. A fun entry. I like your Prot.'s attitude, what I've seen so far, and the idea of the dueling is fun.

    I would suggest tightening up things a bit, getting rid of some unnecessary words (like "surreptitiously"), and seeing how you can say things with fewer words.

    Example: Put a period after "in-sig-nificant." Then go right to "Mr. Henderson, our dueling teacher, held a clipboard and paced back and forth..." You don't need to say that he "enunciated" because we can see that with the way you wrote the dialogue. (You were already showing and not telling! Yay!)

    I don't think you need that she blew air out the side of her mouth. Her watching is good enough.

    Of course you are the final judge on these things, since it's your baby! ;)

    Congrats on the book, and good luck!

  4. Fun opening! A high school where fencing is required? Pretty cool.

    I agree that you can tighten some of this up. You show things well enough that some of the words (as pointed in the comments above) aren't needed.

    I also would have liked a bit more internalization from your MC. After Mr Henderson's first words, what's her reaction? Does she flinch at his military-esque attitude? Roll her eyes in annoyance? No ruffled feathers because he is like this every. single. day.? etc etc. You show us her action well; I would have liked more thoughts/feelings from her so I could get a better idea of who she is. Granted, that could be the very next paragraph, and this is good enough that I would keep reading.

    Loved the "you never know who would be sizing you up" part. Great set up--I want to know more about your MC!

  5. I love that fencing is required at your school.

    Starting with dialogue is always hard. I like the idea of your story, but the hard nosed drill sergeant opening is a little cliche. When I see something that is cliche, I usually think there's a better place to start. There's nothing wrong with it--and it does set the tone nicely--but if you find a lot of agents passing, that's one thing you might want to take a look at.

    I did really like that the instructor made a point of letting his students know that you don't get to pick your opponent. Such good advice.

  6. This sounds like a fun story! And great job in showing your main character's personality. I already feel a connection toward her. I would agree with the above comments about tightening up a bit; get rid of enunciated, surreptitiously. I am fine with starting the story with Mr. Henderson's dialogue. It gives the reader a sense of setting and his personality. I would add in the MC's thoughts/feelings though right afterward. What's her attitude toward him? And you could sprinkle in a bit about his physical appearance through her thoughts. I'm also curious about the world they live in. You've done a great job of hooking me and I'd definitely read more!

  7. Interesting opening. I like that the narrator is a girl. I actually expected it to be a boy until I reached the "as much as the next girl's" phrase and said, "Oh." lol

    I'm not sure if the last 2 lines give a strong enough punch, but the rest does, so it's good enough for me!

    I'm also curious about the date, but that's me thinking in Our World Time and not the story's.

  8. I really enjoyed the voice here, and I'm curious about the importance fencing plays 150 years in the future. I'm not sure about starting with dialogue--I had to read past the opening couple of sentences to orient myself as to where we were and what was going on.

  9. I would make this the first line: "If you can’t handle a blade, you are in-sig-nificant."

    I would start a new paragraph with, "in my wrinkled…"

    I loved realizing the MC is a girl. Got more interesting to me then.

    Over all, I think this could be interesting and that might make me keep reading. But, for me, it feels like a lot of telling that could be better converted to showing.

  10. I love the idea of a girl who’s practicing dueling, and am curious about this world. But, I’d see if you can start without the dialogue. It’s a rather long line, we don’t know who is talking, or who this line is addressed to; then we learn that the speaker is talking to a group – so we’re half a paragraph in and we still don’t know who out MC is. My favorite line in this opening is “I liked practicing.” I want to know more about that.