Wednesday, November 4, 2009

32 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Midnight Queen
GENRE: Fantasy

Gray toiled in the hot afternoon sun, on his knees among the rhododendrons, for what might have been a month. Beautiful though Callender Hall's gardens might be, he was beginning to conceive a passionate hatred of them, and of flowering shrubs in particular. Bewildered and far from all he knew, sweaty and desperately thirsty -- eyes stinging, knees stiff, hands scratched and sore -- he had rarely felt so thoroughly miserable.

He had just begun to think, implausibly, how much pleasanter going home for the Long Vacation might have been -- as though there had been any choice -- when, glancing up, he saw the girl.

She was of middling height, straight and slim; she wore a plain gown, sturdy boots and a man's straw sunhat, battered and overlarge. From a distance, her determined stride reminded Gray forcefully of his sister Jenny -- of late, his only ally in the family.

The girl stopped in front of Gray. After a moment during which he stared blearily at her skirts, she dropped to her knees in the grass, bringing her face level with his. A faint breath of lavender and rosemary briefly displaced the overpowering scent of compost.

"You do look most dreadfully tired," she said, and he blinked at her: was this the manner of Petite-Bretagne, then, for young girls to speak so casually to strangers? Well, and he had often enough heard his tutor call it backward and uncivilized …

"I beg you will come indoors and have a drink," the girl went on; "else you shall certainly collapse into the shrubbery. And the Professor, you know, is most particular about his rhododendrons."


  1. Hate to say it but this moved me not at all. He hates gardening and talks to a girl who speaks like she's from another dimension. I've got no interest in reading any further.

  2. I'd keep reading. Curious about the girl and the Long Vacation, and sympathetic with the gardener; and I like the descriptions.

  3. I wanted to like this, but the first paragraph had real problems. Why doesn’t he know how long he’s been in the flower bed? Just say if felt like a month, don’t get fancy. It doesn’t help that you also have the word ‘might’ in the third line, too. Stuff like this drives me nuts.
    Also be aware that if one of your characters speaks very strangely, it’s going to make it hard to like her, and it might be hard for you to do consistently.
    Good try. Keep revising.

  4. Too many adverbs.

    I'd also cut the dialogue and push it back a page or so. Give more background of the time period so our minds can prepare for the typical dialogue spoken in that time.

    Do that, and I would read on. Good luck!

  5. I had three issues with this one. One was the month in the garden bed--doesn't he know? Two was the "She was of middling height"-- what is middling height? I feel stupid. Three is the Petite-Bretagn--I don't know what that is, either.

    However, I like the hint of the premise. I think some tightening of the action and making it clear she's from another time would be great.

  6. I like it, particularly the last bit of dialogue. I'd read on.

    I'm not sure how I feel about some of the puncuation. As a rule, I like dashes and I realize they add to the voice, but I'm not convinced they are the best choice in the paragraph where he sees the girl for the first time.

  7. I'm not entirely sure what is going on here, but I am interested enough to want to know what comes next.

  8. I like it. I'd read on. I'm intriued to know where he is and why the customs are unfamiliar to him.

  9. Hooked. I have faith there is a reason Gray doesn't know how long he has been there. I'm dying to know who the girl is.

  10. This feels overwritten to me. Part of this might be the style, but I think it could be tightened and smoothed overall. Also, watch out for overusing -ly adverbs.

    I liked the description of the girl and her dialogue.

  11. Hmm . . . I think there might be something going on here, but the first paragraphs are so wordy that I lost interest. I skimmed through it and read the ending then had to go back and read the rest because the ending interested me. LOL

  12. I agree that this feels over-written. I would try to cut back on the descriptors - they tend to distract the reader from the action.

    I also felt that some of the sentences were phrased awkwardly.
    The very first line is a good example.
    'Gray toiled in the hot afternoon sun, on his knees among the rhododendrons, for what might have been a month.'

    This just didn't roll off the tongue smoothly.

    Be careful of your punctuation too. I'm not sure that you are using colons and semi colons accurately. Some of the sentences seemed unduly complex.

    Not much is happening yet, but the appearance and speech patterns of the little girl are sufficently intriguing for me to read on a little more.