Wednesday, February 10, 2010

22 Secret Agent

TITLE: Where Angels Tread
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

“You’ll never be good enough to grace the halls of this University,” the dean sneered, turning her back to me.

I stormed from the office, muttering “B****,” under my breath. It was an insult to canines everywhere, but I didn’t care.

A low growl escaped my throat when everyone turned to stare my way. Damn it. I’d hoped this late in the evening most students would be out partying, like usual.

It was my own fault, really. I’d known today was the next installment of the Dean’s periodic sermons. She had no power over my presence, so enjoyed lecturing me. In her mind, a non-magical freak like me wasn’t suitable to be in such a prestigious place.

So what did I do? After a night full of torturous, pain-filled nightmares and waking to ominous, pressing storm clouds—I’d dressed my best. Just to piss the woman off.

In a short, black tank-top which showed off the navy Celtic band around my left arm, low slung black jeans enhancing the stamp on my back—wisps of lines and a dark jaguar, the spots barely visible—and my black boots, I could almost pass for a Goth student.

Until they looked at my face. The four stud piercings above my right eyebrow were mostly hidden by the red bangs sweeping over my forehead. No, it was the imposed branding tattoo, light blue swirling tri-circles on my left cheek, beginning just below my eye and ending above my jaw line that had everyone staring.


  1. Though I liked the insulting caninies line, the next mention of growling made me wonder if these characters were actually dogs or something similar. While the character description is well done, the fact that she is different from the others wasn't enough entice me to read more.

  2. This started out interesting but then got bogged down in all the description of her clothes and appearance. I would try to find a way to weave some of that info in rather than two full paragraphs of description. I would've rather read more about the world and her being non-magical.

    This is just personal preference but in general I don't like to read long descriptions of outfits unless I really, truly need to know it for the plot. Otherwise I just skip it.

  3. I'm... confused. The writing is good, but there's a bunch of things that I don't understand.

    Why is he/she so upset that everyone's around? Does "periodic sermons" mean this is a religious college, or something else?

    What does "no power over my presence" mean?

    Why in the world would dressing her best piss the woman off?

  4. This left me slightly confused. I first thought that the narrator is a werewolf or -dog but then she fussed so much about her clothing... I don't believe a human with a canine part would bother.

    I liked the idea of her being non-magic in a university of magic and was wondering how she got there. That would have been more interesting than the lengthy description.

  5. I'm confused as well, not that I mind within the first 250 words.

    What I did mind was the MC's description. It was too... too much this early in the game. I think the tattoos could be mentioned by other characters, or something similar, but having the MC mention it made it feel forced.

    I am hooked though. Good writing, and a solid start.

  6. I agree with the other commenters. Solid start, but I'm getting tripped up with the clothing descriptions. Also, this (and a few other spots, but mostly this...) "After a night full of torturous, pain-filled nightmares and waking to ominous, pressing storm clouds..." seemed a little overwritten to me. A little paring down might help a bit. The premise is interesting, though.

  7. It's probably best to get rid of that first paragraph. The second one about the insults to dogs is what will make readers bust out laughing, so find a way to start there. I agree with the other critiquers -- cut out all that self-description from the start and find a way to weave the important parts in later.

    Mark in the Seattle area

  8. I had the same problem as someone else. When you mentioned her growling after the canine remark, I assumed she was a werewolf.

    I don't get why she's so upset about the other kids seeing her. If it's a University, they probably see her all the time.

    And I wondered why, if she has no magic abilities, and the dean believes she'll never be successful, why was she let in in the first place?

    What does - she had no power over my presence - mean?

    Is the tatoo new? If she's had it all along, everyone would have seen it by now. What does it mean? (that might come later?)

    I guess there is too much that is unclear for me here. Perhaps build on what you have, flesh it out a bit more so that we at least get a hint of what the problem is. (Yes, she has no magic, but she's had no magic for as long as she's been there. What makes today different?)

  9. I've read several people say not to start your books with dialogue, and after reading a couple dozen of these things, it's clear why. It's hard to do it well.

    The dialogue you add here doesn't tell us anything, and it doesn't seem that important to the overall story. It just starts us someplace that we're not going to be involved again (in that she's leaving the person who's talking, and we don't see the insultor again. So, having her in the opening paragraph is useless. Wha't more important is the alienation and difference your MC feels.)

    Also, this was not compelling enough to get me to read more. There's not enough conflict, intrigue, enticement here to make me want to read more. I don't feel like there's anything at stake. Maybe if you moved up what's at stake for her, you could open it there. Right now the mc seems fairly apathetic about what's happening. Something like worry about gettin expelled, about this being the last chance, would make us feel something was at stake and want to keep reading. Right now, it's just too abstract. Nothing really ties us to the character.

  10. First thing I thought once I'd read this was - is your character male or female and what is his/her name?

    Technically, this writing is solid, strong - the first person POV comes across clearly. No doubt your character has attitude - the way he/she phrases sentences, the anger and frustration underlying the scene, the way he/she perceives him/herself to be in relation to others.

    There's potential conflict - "In her mind, a non-magical freak like me wasn’t suitable to be in such a prestigious place." AND "After a night full of torturous, pain-filled nightmares and waking to ominous, pressing storm clouds"
    but what I think is not yet hinted at is your character's goal or motivation.

    Why is your character at this university? What purpose is served putting him/herself through being the "outcast" as he/she appears to be? What does your character need to achieve by being here or putting up with the dreams, the torment and the sermonising b****?

    Even just giving a hint would satisfy a reader's initial curiousity and keep them reading on to find out more.

  11. I loved the voice in this piece, but was left confused on a number of counts.

    Firstly, it took me a few re-reads to get the second paragraph, especially in conjunction with para #3. Like others here, I thought the MC was canine, but couldn't square that with anything else so went back and worked out what "I" had actually said. For me, it would help to spell out the word rather than coyly using asterisks. It would be more authentic and dispel confusions for intellectual sluggards like me :-)

    Another big question in my mind was the "non-magical" reference. I'm guessing this is a magical university a la Hogwarts? If not, then I'm terminally confused.

    Final confusion was over the last paragraph and the tattoos. Presumably the circles hold some special significance that is not clear yet?

    I know this is only the first 250 words so answers may be forthcoming shortly. I hope so.

  12. This was an interesting start. She sounds like a fun character. Like the others, I was confused at the growling and not crazy about the description of clothes and tattoos. But I'd read on to find out how she got into this magical college. Nice start!

  13. I heart snarky goth chicks! I'd definitly read on.

    Nice work :D

  14. It took me a while to figure out that canine line. I actually started out thinking the narrator was a dog, especially since that's followed by a "low growl." I also found some of the writing sloppy "She had no power over my presence, so enjoyed lecturing me" and I wasn't understanding the narrator's plan that dressing nicely was going to insult the dean somehow.