Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Ciara's Tale
GENRE: YA Historical

Ciara didn't want to be a druidess.

She dragged the comb through the tangled masses of her hair and sighed, knowing she could never speak of it to anyone. Certain death waited if that fatal secret escaped.

Her maid gasped behind her and Ciara flinched. Had she spoken the dreaded words aloud? But Eabha had only uncovered a field mouse cowering in a dusty corner. She whisked the intruder out with her broom and bustled about the sleeping chamber, humming while she straightened the fur blankets.

Ciara finished plaiting her hair and repressed another sigh. She had hidden the secret for as long as she could remember. No one knew, not even her beloved father, and she had never kept anything else from him. And now in a shrouded corner of her mind another seed of doubt had swollen like the plump green buds of spring's primroses -- what if the gods weren't as all-powerful as she had been taught from her childhood?

Ciara shivered. She could never let the secrets escape. But winter's seed had rooted as the feast of Beltane approached to celebrate the returning sun. Its tiny head pushed toward the surface of her mind like the shoots that sprouted from the awakening earth outside. At any time it could burst out of her, like bodies in the great bog suddenly surfaced after years hidden below its treacherous skin.


  1. Interesting. There is something very mysterious going on with this young woman and I want to know what it is.


    Good luck with SA!

  2. A nice opening. Some good description and a strong dilemma.
    Three paras opened with 'Ciara' and one with 'She'. Consider changing one or two for variety. E.g. 'Plaiting her hair, Ciara repressed another sigh.'
    Good luck!

  3. Not entirely hooked. I liked the idea, but the wordiness and overuse of nature analogies bogged me down a bit. I also found you used the same sentence structure too often. I.e., ‘She dragged the comb...”, ‘She whisked the intruder...’, ‘Clara finished plaiting...’, ‘She had hidden the secret...’. Try something like ‘Dragging the comb through her tangled mass of hair, she sighed...’
    Is this really historical fiction? It seems more like fantasy to me.
    Good luck!

  4. I got derailed with your third sentence, because of the redundancy of death and fatal.

    But where you lost me was the seed and plump green buds and primroses - for my taste, a bit too much, especially when followed by winter's seeds, rooted, tiny head, shoots, and bursting out. Just way too much budding and sprouting going on.

    And if you were to get some of that out of the way, we could get to more of the story faster.

  5. I'm interested because I love stories with Celtic themes but I agree with the comments above - it became a bit heavy particularly toward the end. If winter's seed remains a metaphor for her doubt, it feels a bit overdone. Also, I'm not clear if her secret is that she's destined to be a druidess or that she doesn't want to be.

    Having said that, I'm still intrigued to see what will happen to her.

    Good luck!

  6. Hooked, except for the last paragraph, which felt overwritten. Overall, though, I think this is pretty solid. Good writing, good voice, and good opening conflict.

  7. Not quite hooked. I think it could use some tightening. You had me in spots and lost me is some of the description (that I felt was unnecessary).

  8. Not hooked. Nothing happened. You started with a great opening sentence, but then didn't give us anything about being a druidess. Is being a druidess being forced on her? Was she just born one and wishes it wasn't so? What's the secret/secrets? We're supposed to know what your MC knows. If we share the secret along with her, we become cohorts, of sorts. We have a reason to root for her. Her secret shouldn't be secret from the reader.

    You might also cut a lot of the nature comparisons and instead, show us the mouse scaring the maid, and her trying to smash it with broom. What would you rather do? Spend 15 minutes watching a woman chase a mouse, or spend 15 minutes watching a woman think?

    The material is here. Perhaps consider a different way of presenting it.

  9. I thought the seed analogies were overused in the last two paragraphs. Or, at the very least the descriptions were overwritten and became too convoluted.

    Ciara does a lot of thinking in this passage. The most exciting event is the appearance of a field mouse. I'd rather see Ciara do something rather than get lost in her thoughts and muddle through some analogies. The opening does more telling than showing.

  10. I love that this is a unique historical time and place. I haven't read much about the Celts. So I really think this has potential. But as you can see from other samples, the historical fiction opening with the maid dressing the MC while she silently ponders (and we get her physical description) is a little overdone. Also, would her servant actually be called a maid in this time period?
    If the conflict is with her father, maybe he should be in the opening scene.

  11. I agree and disagree with the general comments. I perhaps find sentences like "She dragged the comb"
    can be written in more show and less tell, but not in the way suggested to you which I personally find overused and unexciting. I like the use of short sentences. "Her hair was knotty. She'd have little hope of dragging a comb through it's tangled mess without pain.' That type of thing. Dragging the comb through her tangled hair -comma - she..."is widely used today but I just find it very boring and clumsy, but that is a personal thing.
    I do like your voice. And using phrases like "winter's seed" is for me a definite use of putting us into the head of somebody who would reference things like that in those days. Of giving it an historical feel different to the way we modern people think. That is important to writing history with conviction and convincingly. I didn't find the last para heavy and overdone so now you ain't gonna know what to do (Sorry) :-)

  12. Ciara sounds very interesting. I think you can take out "fatal" in the first para.

    The last para is a bit too flowery. Sorry, not hooked.

  13. I found it a little wordy. All I've been told so far is that she doesn't want to be a Druidess and if someone were to find out, she'd be dead. Perhaps instead of the over-description you could explain WHY she's getting dressed? is it for a special occasion? If not, perhaps start with a different scenario?