Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #37

GENRE: YA Fantasy

While illusion was the circus’s mainstay, three truths tethered Quinn to reality: corsets were torture, cosmetics hid a person’s face but not his guilt, and Jaq would reject the Menagerie’s invitation. Yet some tenuous hope had him trying all three anyway.

By the time he found his tentmate—swigging from a flask by a hoop dangling from a tree—the words filled his chest, his mouth, gritty like gunpowder and burning.

“I’m moving forward with my Queenie performance,” he announced, and sighed. The gunpowder turned back to butterflies. Swirling.

A match snicked.

Jaq expelled the accelerant. Fire whooshed.

Quinn closed his eyes against the blast of heat and coughed delicately.

“And the world will see you as you truly are: visionary.” Framed by the blazing hoop, Jaq’s eyes caught the firelight—feverish, like she’d been birthed by flame.

And she thought he was melodramatic. “Yeah, and eyebrow-less, if you don’t watch it.”

Jaq scoffed.

“Also, the Menagerie’s having dinner tonight,” he said. “We’ve been invited.”

She spat out the residual. “You were invited. You should go. They like you.”
“Rina asked after you specifically.”

“A kind gesture. The kind that doesn’t mean anything.” Jaq crouched by the tree and searched through a bag.

Quinn sidled closer. “They were your friends not that long ago.”

“That’s not my problem.”


She shoved a newspaper at him. “Got that from the capital. It’s today’s.”

His hand, and the paper, dropped to his side. He was sick of reading the news. Nothing good ever came of it.


Grimacing, he unfolded the paper.


  1. The dialogue here pops nicely, and there is a ton of information being laid out for the rest of the scene. Perhaps watch how many names you drop, it can be overwhelming to some readers, but I think you have a very interesting 250 words and I would love to read on!

  2. I love the opening to this- the first line is great and i like the image of Jaq blowing fire out after Quinn spits out the declaration.
    I got caught up on "swigging from a flask by a hoop dangling from a tree" and had to reread it to try to figure it out, as it was so close to the beginning that I thought I ought to pay special attention. I was a little confused at who was talking- a re-read made it clear, but I think tagging Quinn instead of he would be helpful, especially with the Menagerie and Rina and the Queenie show thrown in.
    Overall, it's very interesting. I'm interested as to why Jaq no longer talks to the king's people and why she's insistent that Quinn read the paper. I'd definitely keep reading.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I wasn't thrilled with the first paragraph, which felt to me more like a hook than an opening. The rest is better, although it might help to have some more description grounding us in the world before all the dialogue.

  4. I really like this, but I would prefer to know where we are at the very beginning. Is he thinking this while looking at something or someone? Or is he already looking for Jaq? It feels like he finds her but we didn't know he was looking for her.

    It's great otherwise. Love the world!


  5. Oooh, ok I really LOVE this world! And I LOVE this opening sentence. So much great insight into Quinn as a character. The second sentence may need some tweaking to make sense, but I get the sentiment that is being conveyed. I’d also like to know why the Queenie performance is something that was potentially controversial? Or why he may not have been doing it in the first place? Not too much, but just a line so I can understand a bit more of the tension in the scene. I’d also like to know who Rina is upfront. Again, just an extra line. Nothing too extravagant. The pacing and dialogue are fantastic and I wouldn’t want to upset the flow, but you are giving the reader a lot of information and a few more small, well-placed details could make sure readers are keeping up. Really nice job, though! I’d absolutely read on.

  6. It's an interesting opening and world, but I feel like it didn't grab me the way it did others. I feel like it gets stronger as we move on and I'm more interested in what the newspaper says than the snit they are having.