Wednesday, February 10, 2010

46 Secret Agent

TITLE: Triptych
GENRE: Science Fiction

Kalp was dead on the living room floor.

Oh, god.

Basil was torn between jerking backwards - revolted by the sudden coolness of the limp fingers still wrapped around his hand, from the already waxy feel of the skin under the bristles on Kalp’s cheek - and surging forward to try to shake Kalp back into breathing. The purple-red blood was still pumping out of a fist-sized wound, growing ever more sluggish as the seconds ticked by. Basil jammed his hand over the blooming injury, pushed in his fist in an effort to stop the flow. Limp blue fur tickled his knuckles, dark cooling skin made goose pimples burst upwards along his arms.

Basil called to Kalp long after it was obvious that Kalp could ever respond.

Basil looked up. Standing in the fore of the small phalanx of Special Ops soldiers from the Institute, Agent Aitken had gone ashen. Her gun was pointed at the ceiling, her finger still on the trigger, knuckles white. Basil imagined he could see smoke curling out of the barrel.

"What did you do that for?" Basil shouted.

Aitken swallowed and her composure cracked. "The hostile was-"

"My husband was-"

"You don't understand. He had to be-"

"Shut up, shut up!" Basil shrieked, forgetting about staunching the blood flow (it was so cold against the backs of his fingers, the beds of his nails, god, cold already, too late). He lunged up to wrap clawed fingers, purple as Kalp's blood dried, around Aitken’s neck.


  1. This starts too soon. Or not quite in the right place. I got the impression that you're trying to paint this scene, and slowly feed us information about going on. But, it feels like too much. Kalp is furry, his blood is purple, etc. Given that there's a lot we need to be introduced to about the world, i'm not sure the middle of this emotional scene is it. The emotion of having your husband murdered before your eyes is enough for an opener. Trying to do the explainer stuff, too.

    I don't know. For me, it just didn't read well. I think it might be better to start somewhere else. Maybe slightly before this, where you can get a little sense of the characters first.

  2. This was very confusing. I'm a SF gal, but this did feel like it started in the wrong place and with way too much description. Read that first long line outloud-"Basil was torn-" it puts the reader off as we try to imagine it. Starting with a dramatic spot is great, but we need something to hang onto.

  3. I hate to admit, but I'm with the others. I felt this started a moment too late. A lot is happening at the same time I'm trying to orient myself in their world.

  4. I would agree with the other comments too. This has good action, but it's hard to ground the scene without an intro to the world. Even just a paragraph might help to give the reader a footing.

  5. The 'oh, god' line made me think this was in first person, so when you switched to third person for the next paragraph it really confused me. I thought for a second the MC was describing what they were seeing, and 'Basil' referred to the herb. Then I realised it was third person from Basil's point of view.

    I also agree with the others that there's a lot to take in here, and starting a bit earlier might be helpful. The first line had me picturing the MC as walking into the living room and seeing Kalp's dead body, but Basil was obviously in much closer contact if she's touching Kalp.

  6. I didn't know enough about the world or characters to care that someone was dead.

    I might have liked this if you began it a few scenes earlier, so I could know a bit about the main character before being thrown into the unique world and characters.

  7. Yeah, not hooked. I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters (and who/what they were), and since I'm not emotionally invested in Basil yet, I had a hard time relating to him (him, right? Basil's a boy?).

    And I'm with ChaoticOne on that third line: Its complexity is tough to follow, especially since it's introducing so many concepts and characters.

  8. As others said, this starts a bit too late. When you first mentioned the fur, I thought Kelp was a pet, and when you mentioned a phalanx of soldiers I wondered how they would fit in a living room. There is next to no information about the setting and the characters. So why should the reader care for them? If you start a few minutes earlier you can give us a reason to care.

    But I do like the fact that Basil has a husband and not a wife.

    Kalp could ever respond - should be
    Kalp could never respond

  9. I found this to be extremely confusing. I thought there was too much going on in that 3rd paragraph, and I got lost. I couldn't connect 'living room' to a whole phalanx of soldiers standing around.

    I think it might be the asides (the one between dashes in the third para, and the one in parenthesis at the end) that break up the flow of action, leaving me turned around.

    I also didn't understand why the Agent was pointing her gun towards the ceiling or if that details was necessary.

    I think it needs more background to the situation so we can get some footing in the scene and gain some empathy for the characthers involved.

    Not hooked. As is, I wouldn't read on.

  10. There's some good writing here but it's a little confusing to the reader and some sentences are too long or have too many adjectives.
    There are though, original ideas expressed which just need clarification.

  11. That long third line was a big turn off for me, along with the three paragraphs in a row starting with Basil. However, I did like the revelation that Basil and Kelp were both men. That adds something different to the story.

    I wouldn't even mind starting at this point as long is it was clear what was going on.

  12. I like and regularly read SF but this was confusing for me as a reader. I couldn't make out who was the POV character and what the POV character was. So many objections -- blood pumping out despite hands already being cold seemed an impossibility and took me out of the narrative. I wasn't clear what was happening. Needs some reworking to hook me.

  13. Normally, I'm a fan of starting in the action, but this felt like it started in the middle of the scene. I feel much too much like I just got thrown into the deep end of the pool without a swimming lesson.

  14. This feels like it tries just a bit too hard, and I had a very hard time unpacking this sentence: "Basil was torn between jerking backwards - revolted by the sudden coolness of the limp fingers still wrapped around his hand, from the already waxy feel of the skin under the bristles on Kalp’s cheek - and surging forward to try to shake Kalp back into breathing." I think this needs to be dialed back quite a bit, even if it does lead with a dead body.

  15. I get a sense of interesting stuff going on here that might turn into a good story, but right now it doesn't quite hang together for me.

    It feels to me a bit like you've got some images in mind that you need to write about, whether or not they really work together.

    Two big issues of credibility stand out for me:

    The "torn between" conflict doesn't quite ring true to me. I think one or other reaction would have the clear upper hand. In this case, maybe surging forward *despite* the revulsion? Usually extreme emotional stress doesn't leave much room for dithering.

    But it was the description of cooling that really got to me. Too quick! This scene could only be a minute or so long, not long enough for a body to start to cool unless you've rewritten the laws of physics :-)

    You expect a dead person to be cold, so staying warm is emotionally counter-intuitive and rather creepy. Maybe you could play on that image instead?