Thursday, July 17, 2008

#99-B SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

TITLE: Spirit in Defiance
GENRE: Historical fiction set in Persia (became Iran circa 1935) from the 1920s to the present

So lost in the exhilaration of play were my brother and I, we noticed not that our reckless meandering had taken us into the salon of our father’s house. The forbidden room.

English teapots and fragile glass vases shuddered on skinny-legged tables. Dignified bookshelves rattled as we heedlessly raced. Napping on child-sized rugs just moments ago

in the garden, we'd awakened to the whispers of the lonesome house, beckoning us inside. We treated the rules as amnesiacs and played no game in particular, save

chase and run; the more obstacles, the better.

Around we darted, two wheels of energy, reeling in giddiness and joy, shadowy feelings of late. I prayed our fun would not end. But end it did, when Cyrus’ elbow struck out and

knocked a fragile teacup over. With all the bossiness of an eight-year-old, I blasted,

"Look what you did!"

My words snatched Cyrus’ smile away. He fixed his gaze on the teacup and blinked back tears. Carefully, I righted it. No harm done. Cyrus’ stare shifted back to me.

Deflated by the sudden stop of our game, I ventured,

"You can’t catch me!"

It took only a moment for the game to begin again. If only…. How many times have lives been mercilessly reshaped thanks to ears closed to those two small words? If only we

regarded the almost accident seriously and returned to civility or merely stepped outside, would our lives have stayed the same?

GENRE: Historical fiction set in Persia (became Iran circa 1935) from the 1920s to the present.


  1. Yes, I'm hooked.
    Hmm, I like the subtlety of this moment where a teacup knocking over is symbolic of childhood ignorance. A lot of the other first pages have some huge event like murder or catastrophe but this small happening has a resonance with me. I also like the introspection of it.
    The fact that it's such an exotic setting gets me even more intrigued.

  2. Yes, I'm in!

    I enjoyed this opening. Your writing is lyrical and your MC's voice is clear. The passage ends with a wonderful foreboding.

    That said, I did have one reservation: Some of your sentences are confusing. I noticed this right away in your opening paragraph. You shouldn't have to sacrifice clarity for voice.

  3. Whether intentionally or not, the author has used slightly off-center sentence construction to imply someone from another generation, or someone for whom English is not their native language. "We noticed not," "as we heedlessly raced" rather than "we raced heedlessly" which would be more common today. Because the book is set in the past, in a different culture, that worked well for me. So did the fragile glass vases and teacups (although I probably wouldn't repeat the word "fragile") and the game "chase and run." Many nice touches provide clues that this writer might be talented.

    Therefore, I'd have to read on. My only hesitation is that the voice is clearly an adult's, and we understand the incident in the distant past, so we may have a challenge bridging the gap between living a story and remembering a story.

  4. I can't say I'm really hooked. Yes, the language is lyric and beautiful, but the passive voice and sentence constructions don't pull me in to the MC's POV. Plus, there's not really much conflict going on to hook me into reading further. Sorry.

  5. This is a period of time I would love to read about. I'm not hooked on the voices or the child POV, but I might stick it out if I thought the summary was worth the effort.


  6. Not for me. The voice is unique and beautiful, but the opening itself fails to hook me. I think it's a preference of genre, because the writing itself looks good.

  7. No... I like some of the descriptions, but the narration didn't match the dialogue and it just came across as a bit affected.

  8. I would read on and I'm guessing (because I like guessing) we soon get to where the 8yr old MC is an adult in trouble. Smiles.

  9. I probably wouldn't read on. There are some lovely turns of phrase but the slightly archaic voice would irritate me over the long haul. I do like historic fiction but I struggle with overly ornate expressions like "we noticed not" (and that does seem a lot older than the 1930s). Also, this didn't give me any sense of the overall story line.

  10. I'm not sure whether I'd finish the book, but I'd definitely read beyond this introduction. "...[W]ould our lives have stayed the same" just begs for further exploration. :-)

  11. Maybe. The writing is lovely and fits the period and place, but there wasn't enough mystery or tension to hook me. A first page contest doesn't really do manuscripts such as this justice, since more literary pieces often need a little more time to build.

  12. Cautiously hooked.

    I don't know about the genre, but I lover the voice so far, and the setting. I'd be willing to read a little further to see if anything interesting happens. There's something different about this opening...not sure what it is but it's unique.

  13. Sorry, not hooked. Also, I don't think there's any need to say "(became Iran circa 1935)"; I'd cut it.

  14. I'm interested - can't call it hooked yet. While your voice is lyrical, it sets an emotional distance between the reader and the children and I want to feel their innocence and not just see it. You did the play/knock the cup/play believably. There were some confusing moments: vases shudder before I know why and that popped me out of your tale. Bookshelves were napping? Are they in a stranger's house? If so, that should be more obvious. I'd take out the 2nd fragile as it made me believe the cup broken, in which case she couldn't right it. Liked the closing line, but there is a distracting distance to it, too. I hope to see this someday on the shelves. I'd read it.

  15. The voice is lovely and sounds fitting for the kind of novel, but personally I'm not hooked, sorry. Just a matter of taste.

    Good luck,


  16. I love it. Would love to

  17. I'd like to see the affectation in the structure/style pulled back one notch in a few places. Keep the inverted structure. Watch the overly portentous points like "I prayed our fun would not end." Really?
    Maybe also consider losing "If only. How many...two small words?" I think this kind of rhetorical sentence from a narrator breaks the lyrical flow of what you've got going, especially two of them back to back.

    But overall there is some good stuff going on here and I think you've hit on the right tone for the genre, and the writing's strong, so if I liked the pitch I'd be eager to continue.

  18. Interesting sentence construction - I expect soem people would find it off putting, but personally I like it.

    The issue I have with the opening paragraph is that it tells us something essentially outside the POV current realisation, which distances us from teh character a bit.
    This distancing is maintained with teh comment 'with the bossiness of an eight-year-old' - I don't think eight year olds realise they're bossy.

    And my 8 year old (who is called Cyrus - I have Persian ancestry) certainly doesn't, although I can see these words coming from him exactly.

    hooked? Maybe - I'd read on, but that might partly be because of personal interest. ;)