Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #3

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Ebba’s soaked dress clung to her skin as she ran through the moonless night. The lake water left from her near-drowning had crystalized into icicles. If she fell, she might not get up again. Keep moving. Get far away from the witchfinder, may he be reincarnated as a drunkard’s chamber pot.

Heedless of direction, she climbed up the mountain, away from her village. A wolf’s cry pierced the air. Ebba froze.

The forest was dead silent again, eerily devoid of owls or bats. An ancient demonic invasion had left this place magic-cursed. Ebba shivered. Most wolves avoid humans. Except for the red-eyed ones living deeper in the forest. Anabiel help me.

She refused to be devoured like her mother. Perhaps she could sneak back to steal a knife and some food. She’d been too panicked in her flight, afraid the witchfinder might wake up…

First, he’d poked pins into the mottled red birthmark covering her left cheek. Giant hands had held her down, his nails filthy and his liver spots as big as spiders. His too-close breath had reeked of onions.

“Confess,” the witchfinder had ordered after every pin. Each time, she’d refused. They’d kill her once she confessed.

The second day had been the hot iron. This morning, the dunking. Through a blur of watery suffocation, her most distinct memory was, peculiarly, the smell of the sausages. Mad Gill had sold them to bystanders. Her pleas with her neighbors had been met with disdain or bloodthirsty fascination.

No, she wasn’t going back.


  1. This is great! I love the language. It's very visceral--the description of liver spots as big as spiders and onion breath stands out in particular. You've very cleverly given us three important things in this excerpt mostly through showing, not telling: who our heroine is (a little snarky, determined), her backstory (a witch whose mother died in the woods, presumably also fleeing the witchfinder), and what the world is like (full of magic and plagued by superstition). I would absolutely read more pages.

  2. I love this! Very descriptive, you show key information about the character without telling anything. I love the world you've built here. I would definitely read more. Good luck!

  3. I liked the details, but IMO, I'm not so sure that the flow works in the best manner. Here's some of the things that struck me.

    o It struck me weird that Ebba's at risk for hypothermia and running for her life, but she's telling herself in her mind she hopes the man hunting her being reincarnated as a chamber pot.
    o I didn't feel she was heedless of direction. She intended to go to the mountains, away from the village. I also found it contradictory about how she thought about sneaking back and stealing a knife / food.
    o I liked these details surrounding the flashback about why she cant go back to town, but felt it could have been brought up prior to mentioning her fleeing from her village.

  4. I thought this started out well, but then you went into flashback. You gave me a girl running for her life in a magic cursed forest with red eyed wolves that might eat her. I was hooked. Then you took me away from that to stick me in a flashback.

    Perhaps start with the dunking and show us her escape. Then you won't need a flashback, and that opening could work better than the current one because the current one, while exciting, has been done a heck of a lot, and with the dunking, we get to see what's happening instead of being told about it after the fact, and it could show us a bit of the MC's character.

    General rule of thumb - no flashbacks or backstory in chapter one, and certainly not on page one. All it does is take the reader away from the story when you want to draw them in.

  5. This is a really cool opening. You create a great urgency and intensity with Ebba running for her life. I wanted her to keep on running, to watch her stay alive and survive this moment. I felt as though the mention of what had been done to her slowed the pace down a bit. It would be one thing to tell us of the pain left behind by the torture as she tries to run or how what was done to her is making it more difficult for her to move, but the description of the pins and iron almost felt like a change in tone for the section. Again, really neat set up

  6. I liked everything except your first paragraph. Running in an icile-soaked dress at night she would be cold. I didn't get that sense at all. I wanted to feel and experience how freezing she was, the pain, the teeth chattering, something.

    And line about being reincarnated as a chamber pot...was that supposed to be funny? It seemed like kind of a trivial and silly thing to be thinking while running for your life. Made the threat to her feel not that serious.

    The rest of piece is good, with good atmosphere!