Thursday, July 17, 2008

#81 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: The Search for the Charm Keepers

GENRE: YA Fantasy

The clouds, billowing and gray, raced low above the Keahlah harbor where four passenger ships swayed in the icy depths. Charaka stood on the pier watching the tide crash against the distant cliffs. Foam hissed against the jutted crags.

Restless, Charaka turned his gaze from the sea and scrutinized the crowded shore. One by one he scanned the faces of his fellow islanders; friends, family, neighbors and strangers alike, as they dashed about the dock. With calloused hands and mournful hearts, they loaded the ships with crates crammed with their every possession.

Charaka searched until his eyes rested on his wife, Marris, and their two small children as they waited to board The Kayan Memory, the largest of the fleet. He smiled a solemn, pensive grin as Marris fidgeted with the lace on her skirt. She’s nervous. He thought. She always does that when she’s afraid.

Meanwhile, his children; five year old Aphra and three year old Layelle, ran among the frenzied bustle unaware of the danger ahead; void of any thought beyond the moment.

Aphra chased his sister and yanked her long golden curls. Three-year old Layelle stuck out her bottom lip and smacked her brother’s shoulder, which only made Aphra howl with laughter.

Charaka frowned at his son’s thoughtless behavior then a gentle hand fell upon his shoulder from behind. Startled, he turned.


  1. Fantasy is not my thing which is why I chose it. I really like your writing style and descriptions. You chose really strong words that help to invoke an image. My one suggestion is that if this is the 1st page of the story, it needs to pack a bit more of a punch.

  2. Sorry, no hook. I think you've described things wonderfully, but it's all just vague description. There isn't anything that immediately pulled me in.

  3. A couple of nits to pick:

    1) Ships don't sway in the depths unless they have already sunk.

    2) Waves crash, the tide doesn't, really.

    This is only really a problem because they are in the first two sentences.

    Otherwise the imagery is good. I don't really expect a "hook" this quick. I at least want to know why these folks are fleeing their homes.

  4. Love the names of the family members but can't identify cultural identity. I suspect that you will give us an idea of where they are other than seaside.

  5. I was just on a ship and it did sway in the depths. So did I. I think the author paints a very clear and colorful view of the opening scene. Character personality are already being established. Very good.

  6. I'm going to say... "Not hooked." Too much description, not enough tension or action, etc., to draw me in.

  7. No sorry.

    I had a problem with swaying in the depths too.

    Also, you started with ominous weather, presumably presaging a storm. You had people packing all their possessions.

    I was interested in why they were leaving, if they were running from something, yet this isn't developed or followed up. We have no sense of what Charaka thinks about all this. Instead, you go on to describe in detail his family, in a way that doesn't advance the action IMO.

    I feel the children's paras punctures the tension... but perhaps this is supposed to be a juxtaposition of children's carefree behaviour and the adults concern. Not sure.

    Also, some of your wording was a little awkward.
    "scrutinized the crowded shore"
    "until his eyes rested on his wife"
    "solemn, pensive grin "

    Anyway, JMO

    Good luck.

  8. Yes.

    Nice character details and "visible" descriptions<:

    And yes, I want to see who's grabbing Charaka -

  9. Not just yet. One of my immediate turn offs in a first chapter is when the MC is just staring off into the distance, pondering things. If this started with the kids running around and your MC watching them and his wife, then I'd probably want to read more.

  10. No, for a couple reasons. There's a shift in tone that jarred me. The opening sounds serene and beautiful, yet the dock is a mass of chaos and noise. I'd suggest starting there, and skip the serene descriptions.

    Also, why are they on the boat? What dangers lie ahead that his children aren't thinking about? A tiny clue would definitely make me want to keep reading. :)

  11. No, because it doesn't have a YA voice and the POV character is an adult with a family. Also, the POV is mixed with omniscient: With calloused hands and mournful hearts... It's presumptuous for him to know what's in their hearts.

  12. No, although I am intrigued about what's going on, I don't care enough for the amin character (I agree and adult in YA is strange..)

  13. What Karen said.

  14. No. I'm not feeling YA vibes at all. The descriptions feel too long to catch the attention of a teenager -- at least for the opening page. I also got no sense of plot, nothing to hook me into reading more. If the protagonist is someone other than Charaka, I'd suggest starting with them instead.

  15. This should've been labled as the prologue, which is all back story. the protag doesn't show up until chapter 1.

  16. No. You have a character standing and watching things happen. I'd rather see him doing something. Nothing is going on that hooks me, and for that reason I wouldn't read on.

    Good luck,


  17. I'm waffeling. I think you have a lot of potential but I don't think this is the best this scene could be. I'd like some action, and I'd like sharper writing. Right now the style is almsot lyrical, very soft, which makes the reader very distant. I want to be right in the middle of everything.

    I do like the word crag though and your description of the sea.

  18. Cautiously hooked.

    It's got potential and I want to know why everyone's packing up and leaving. There's a hint of urgency but it seems more like a way advanced hurricane warning where there's plenty of time to get away from whatever danger is coming.

    I think you need to be clearer about the danger and what is at stake here. Is the danger coming? Are they headed out to it? Why is the MC so calm about it?

    I agree with merc that the Mc's got to do something. Is he the Captain? Shouldn't he be helping or something? You probably get into that next, but I think it should be bumped up to the first 250.

  19. Not quite hooked. Charaka just seems very distant to me; I don't really understand who he is as a character. The description is very good but I think some needs to be trimmed, at least from the beginning. This imagery might be better used later on in the scene.
    Good Luck:)

  20. Sorry to say it's a no for me. So many names here. I'd never know this was YA without checking, and the telling of emotions by the narrator observing actions short-circuits the idea of conveying emotion through action. Unless the query hook was killer, I'd move on.

  21. I didn't get YA from this, mostly because the story starts in an adult's POV. There's also quite a bit of telling instead of showing here -- but I suspect that's something the writer could smooth out without much trouble.

  22. Lovely writing, but feels more adult that YA. Perhaps if this was labeled as a prologue that would help. I might read one more page because I love the genre.

  23. Yes.

    I enjoyed the variety of names. Also loved the line: "With calloused hands and mournful hearts." Helps me know that they are not willingly going, so I want to know why.

    This doesn't seem to be for young adult readers, and I don't see the fantasy part yet, but I would read more.