Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #23

TITLE: Revelation
GENRE: YA Historical Romance

Masks cover only so much. I twirl the silk-wrapped stick and watch the attached mask circle above my hand like a bird. Flawless dove feathers rise from the right corner. I brush my fingertips along the edge. It tickles, and I smile. I used to adore dressing up, pretending I could be whatever my imagination desired. I raise the mask over my face. It has been years since I believed I could have anything if only I imagined it.

Still, I cannot stop the music that rises in my head or the image that forms in harmony with it. Me sitting at a beautiful piano as I press down my left hand to sound the chords that open the second movement of Schubert’s Fantasie, the Adagio. Somber clouds of sound expand and pull me from the tedious present until my fingers clench. The stick propping up the mask cracks in two.

“Angelique,” Maman says, my name sliding like silk in her perfect French marred only by a hint of disappointment. She accepts the broken pieces. Her lips pinch then ease as she turns back to the seamstress and waves her hand up and down the dress. “It looks exquisite.”

Maman requires no mask. She has perfected the art of pretending we are better off than we really are.

Thick raindrops plunk on the banquette. I hear more than see them beyond the front window of our cottage on Dumaine.


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  2. There was nothing to indicate that this a fantasy, yet something about the way these masks works sounds magical. Is that intended? The description can be a little bit heavy handed in places: "Somber clouds of sound expand and pull me from the tedious present until my fingers clench." I actually started visualizing clouds over the piano...
    I do like the character development of the speaker and her mother. Especially how the mother has perfected the art of not needing a mask. And I'm curious why she needs to pretend they are better off than they really are. I'm also curious of the time era. I would read on.

  3. Thanks for the critique, Ely. Actually, the masks are just masks. The story is set in early 19c New Orleans, thus the masks and costumes for which the city is still famous.

  4. I really enjoyed the voice and the imagery your words bring to the page. Nicely done,solid writing.

    Loved the line -- 'Maman requires no mask. She has perfected the art of pretending we are better off than we really are.'

    Thanks for sharing and I wish you good luck.

  5. OK, I know I'm cheating since I've read this whole amazing manuscript, but I have to say that I love the way this scene has grown and strengthened since the last draft I read--nice work! The first line is evocative and gives such a great hint about what is to come in the story. I also really love the music reference in the second paragraph--you're making all the right promises to the reader about what's going to happen to Angelique. And I love, love, love the bit about Maman not needing the mask--again, these small added details are really bringing this to life!

    Only two tiny nitpicks: "stick propping up the mask" seems like an odd way to describe this, especially when the important bit is that she accidentally cracks it in two. You've already told us the stick is attached to the mask in the second sentence, so I would cut "propping up the mask." And second, I think readers are not likely to know what the banquette is, so I wonder if you could describe it just a little bit. We know it's outside since she's looking out the window, but it's key to really grounding us in New Orleans circa 1800, so just a few words would really help set the scene.

    1. Thank you, Julie! Your comments are always so helpful, especially in terms of streamlining my writing.

  6. Your writing is nice, as is your imagery, but I had a hard time following the first two paragraphs. I felt that I was working too hard to place myself in this setting and understand the action. I just couldn't visualize this. (Which is certainly a subjective experience, but do see if others have felt the same.)

    I was intrigued, though, by the last three paragraphs and would keep reading from there. Consider revisiting those first two paragraphs.

  7. The writing is very beautiful, each sentence relating well to the ones around it. I feel like the first sentence should be its own paragraph, since it is not completely connected with the rest of the paragraph (masks-as-a-metaphor v. actual masks). Plus, I think it's a really strong sentence and deserves to be set apart. The emotion you portrayed was fantastic--just enough for us to get a hint, but not enough for us to feel like you were really *trying* to give us a hint.