Wednesday, January 13, 2010

34 Secret Agent

TITLE: Song for Aino
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Aino turned toward the fur merchant’s table, wanting to cover her head with a silver fox pelt and disappear. Sure, the old wizard who’d just stepped into the town marketplace was the most lauded in the land—said to be the most powerful magical singer ever born—but did Aino’s mother have to be so embarrassingly girlish at seeing him? Would to the gods the wizard would go away—or that her mother would suddenly go blind or mute. Either option seemed a reasonable solution.

“Look, daughter, oh, do look!” Her mother, Leena, patted Aino’s sleeve incessantly. “It’s Väinö. Väinö, I say!” Other women acted just as foolishly, falling over themselves to catch a glimpse of the legendary wizard. Their behavior seemed disgusting and coarse to Aino.

“Yes, Mother, I see him.” She obediently peeked from the fox pelt, face hot with humiliation. Forty paces away stood an old man with a gray beard as big as a bush and likely as scratchy as one. He stood beside a booth piled high with fruit. The old man took a handful of blueberries and popped them into his mouth. No one, including the merchant, said a word about payment.

Adoring villagers surrounded him, all begging for one just one of his magical songs. Leena grabbed Aino’s arm, rather rudely working their way through the jostling congestion.

“Make my sister howl like a wolf,” a young man called, gesturing toward a girl about Aino’s age. The girl’s eyes went wide.


  1. The dialogue seems a bit too rigid for me. There isn't a fluidity to it that a novel needs.

    I know that this is supposed to take place in another time and place, but there still needs to be a flow for the dialogue not to become daunting to get through.

  2. A great feel for the setting and time right away.

    I would not start the book off with a MC's age, however. But rather find a way to work it in subtly. Her age is not going to matter right off the bat. It is enough to know she's old enough to be embarrassed and young enough to have to shop with her mother.

  3. I'm intrigued. I'd read on.

    The first paragraph is telling. Then in the next ones you show it. I'd drop the first paragraph and work in the little details below.

    This type of thing is a relatively easy fix. Like "Look daughter" and then you tag it as 'Her mother'. Removing these will tighten up your writing and make it flow smoother and faster.

    I'm interested in the magical songs and what this guy can do as well as why he's adored by the older generation, but not by the MC.

  4. This has a nice tone, but something about it isn't connecting with me 100%. Why is everyone so taken by this wizard, and why is she not? I see that she despises those who are fawning over him, but what makes her impervious?

  5. I agree with the suggestion that you completely cut the first paragraph. You don't tell us anything there that isn't shown in a more interesting way in the later paragraphs. (Except for her age and that needs to be worked in more naturally anyway.)

  6. I like that the kid's embarrassed by her mother and her actions. Most people have experienced that so there's an instant connection with the character. By cutting the first paragraph, you can incorporate more dialogue and action to show her embarrassment and make the dialogue flow a bit more. Good luck!

  7. You've used Finnish words and names, right? Was this inspired by Kalevala? That has a great wizard and gods.

    I think this is funny, and I might read more (especially if it's inspired by Kalevala). I so get why the mother is practically drooling over this wizard and her daughter isn't.

    I didn't understand the sentence, "Would to the gods the wizard would go away?" Was that a typo or what? Or maybe I'm just dense.

    Good luck with it!

  8. I liked the idea that Aino is embarrassed by her mom. Very YA. I think you show this with the dialogue and can weave some of the first paragraph in later.

    I did get confused with the sentence that Stina quoted above.

    You paint vivid images of the scene with the wizard in the market and the villagers. I liked the last dialogue of the young man because it showed us what the wizard can do without telling us through narration.

  9. I think this might work better if started at "Adoring villagers..." There's intrigue and action at that moment. Everything leading up to it feels like backstory and infodumping. Ditto that the dialogue feels stilted, even for a high fantasy.

  10. I loved this, and not only because you used Finnish names. ;-) I'm very intrigued about the wizard and Aino's dislike of him, and would definitely read on!

  11. I really like this. I can't quite place it geographically - seemed Japanese to me, until I noticed Anna's comment up there - but wherever it is, I can see this marketplace. And this singing wizard is intriguing (he sounds a little like Gilderoy Flockhart (or is it Lockhart?) from HARRY POTTER). I'd definitely read on.

    One small suggestion: The abundance of long dashes in the first paragraph was a bit overwhelming. I'm a long-dash fiend myself, and always have to snip dashes in my later drafts. You just might want to check that.

  12. I liked that the girl sounded and acted her age and I'm intrigued by the old wizard. Like the comments above though, I didn’t understand this sentence>>'Would to the gods the wizard would go away.' I thought it was a typo too.

    I liked the way you wrote the rest of it and I would definitely read on to see why the wizard is so special.