Thursday, July 17, 2008

#77 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Black, White, and Shades of Gray
GENRE: Historical Fiction

The rhythmic sound of horse hooves and wagon wheels made twelve-year-old Patrick Warrington's stomach flutter. A rickety, weatherbeaten rig with wooden side rails pulled around the curve of the road toward the main plantation house and stopped in front of the ornate porch on which Patrick stood. Patrick hated the sight of the wagon and despised the old driver from his scraggly gray beard and rotten teeth, to his worn out boots and filthy overalls, because together they meant only one thing: Slave day.

With a hooked forefinger, the driver lifted an old jug from the seat next to him, supported its weight on his forearm and took a long draw. His face tightened and he jerked his head. His frayed straw hat slid off his mess of gray hair, but he managed to grab it before it fell.

At the foot of the steps with an expression of haughty disgust stood Patrick's father, dressed to perfection. Patrick knew his father's thoughts couldn't be kind.

"Mr. Wilkins. If you please," Mr. Warrington said.

The wagon creaked as the unkempt old man made an awkward descent. He wiped his face with a red cloth he had taken from the front pocket of his overalls.

"Patrick," the old man said, and tipped his hat.


Mr. Warrington cleared his throat. "Patrick, you know better than to address an adult by their given name. Apologize to Mr. Wilkins."

Patrick felt his face flush. He would rather hit Mr. Wilkins.


  1. I found this interesting and would probably read on. I'm a little unclear on what "slave day" is - is this an auction day or something like that? The lack of clarity initially made me unsure if Patrick is a slave or not.

    Overall, though, I think it's a solid beginning.

  2. I'm hooked. I like the conflict set up through Patrick's defiant use of an adult's name, and I'd like to know what's behind it.

  3. Like your writing style. Story set up was interesting. A good beginning.

    I'd definitely read on.

  4. The opening line made me wonder why the noise of a wagon would make his stomach flutter, and you follow through well with the explanation.
    You could tighten this a bit and add some clarity as to how Patrick is involved with slave day, as a slave or a seller. But that may come on the next page so, yes, I think you've got a great start.

  5. I'm on the fence. I'd open with "Patrick hated everything..." (though it's a bit long) to see how it works. The stuff before that sort of bores me.

    Best wishes,


  6. No.

    Something didn't seem right to me. I kept wondering why the father (upperclass and posh as he was described) would come out and meet the scrungy guy in the wagon to deal with him personally. Wouldn't he have an 'overseer' do that?

    And if the guy was so haughty, why would he treat a scrungy guy with such courtesy and demand that his son do so as well?

  7. Yes, I would read on to see what "slave day" was, and I like the boy's voice. Good job.

  8. Absolutely yes. I loved the way you painted the historical backdrop of the piece without being obvious about it, and the sensory details you brought in were vivid and well done. I like your MC's voice, and his sense of dread and disgust comes across loud and clear.

  9. I had trouble getting past all the description in the opening line. I'd recommend shortening the first 3 paragraphs and getting into the action of the scene as quickly as possible.

  10. Yes! I would definitely read on! Already there is mystery.

    "An expression of haughty disgust" is beautiful. You know without being told that this Mr. Wilkins has come on slave business, and that Mr. Warrington is a master.

    The only thing that I would personally take out is all the description of Mr. Wilkins drinking. I understand how you're setting the character, but it felt a bit wordy to me.

    Well done!

  11. Not for me. While I find the writing smooth and the descriptions well drawn, I'm not feeling pulled to keep reading. I think it's a preference of genre, rather than a problem with your characters or plot.

  12. Yes, for a few pages more. It depends on the plot, but I did like the conflict and am curious what is going on and why Patrick doesn't like slave day.

    Good luck,


  13. Yes, I liked your descriptions. I can understand the father not wanting to call any adult by their first name. Things were different back then.

    Good luck and thanks for posting.

  14. Hooked.

    I liked the premise, and the immediate conflict. The setting, era, and Patrick's pov also drew me in. You have great imagery especially the contrast between the sloppy drunk and the dressed to perfection father; plus the irony of the two men having to do business together.

    I'd want to read on.

  15. Yes. Everything here is firing on a technical level and I think you opened very strongly with Patrick's emotional conflict well portrayed and some deft dialog. This is very polished and professional and I think you'd find readers keen to keep on with this story. I'd be interested to see where the story goes from here and if we're seeing Patrick first as a young boy, laying the seeds for his later actions (does this book involve the abolition movement? if so I might rethink the title before submitting, as it's a little clunky--does a disservice to the writing, which isn't).

  16. Yes, although Katie made very good points about why would the father see to this himself and why treat a man like that with pure manners, etc. I'd like to see that clarified, but I'd still read on.

  17. I'm interested, but not entirely hooked... I'm not sure the boy would really use the man's first name when his father just called him by his last name... it seems much too presumptious for the time period.

  18. Like Ardyth, I'm interested but not completely hooked. Historical fic isn't really my thing, so I'll forgive the dense paragraphs ;) But what's really making me wary is why Patrick seems to disapprove of keeping slaves in a culture that appears to approve of them. If you give me a solid motivation for his beliefs, fine, but if not...

    So, based on the blurb, I'd probably give it a few more pages :)