Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #28


He hid among a cleft in the desolate shoreline, a restive shadow in the darkness. An outsider often made an outcast, this night he exacted retribution.

Three partially sunken ships blocked the narrow channel opposite, the funnels and decks eerily illuminated by faint colored streaks of an intermittent aurora. The closest ship, angled by countless storms, left a gap just wide and deep enough at high water for a u-boat to enter, a u-boat he would guide. Past the block ships the channel opened into the broad depths of Scapa Flow, the hallowed anchorage of the Royal Navy and heart of Britain's naval dominance.

An ethnic German and veteran of the Kaiser's navy, he cared nothing about the new conflict with Hitler, lived quietly in Orkney eighteen years and did not think himself an enemy. Only when the government forfeited his English wife's modest inheritance simply because of her marriage to him did his mind change. Forced from a family cottage despite poor health, her long held hopes and dreams vanquished, she died despondent and destitute and left him angry and alone. He did not understand why a country so proud of law and fairness scorned its own.

The disembodied low churn of diesels wafted on the breeze, the mechanized sound of his fury and wrath, and two flickers of light signaled across the water. He responded with a shielded lantern.


  1. Not hooked. Too much description and backstory, and the voice felt a little too high-falutin' for my tastes. Honestly, I only skimmed the last three paragraphs, since the first one didn't hook me.

  2. I agree with Krista V. There's a lot of description, which would be fine if there wasn't so much backstory. The character's motivations matter to him and to the author at this point, not the reader. We can learn about why he's angry later on. For now, we need to know what he's up to.

    Show that he's up to no good, and let his actions tell us some of the why. Later, when we've become invested in the character, we'll want to know the why, but right now it slows things down and muddies the water. Good luck.

  3. This is so clinical that it's hard to connect. Consider starting with your MC's anger over his wife's death and lead into what he intends to do about it. If you'll give him a little heart up front, it'll be easier to sympathize with him. Your writing shows your intelligence...but to snare readers, you have to make them care (by showing, not telling) and justify his actions.

  4. There are some fantastic physical descriptions in this piece and I really like the way you have started it.

    I wanted to see some action though, and some emotion - to know why he is hiding. What is he doing here and what is going to happen next?

    Showing some action would really give this piece a lift. And showing your character's emotional responses would allow the reader to connect with him more and care about what is happening to him.

  5. I thought this could be really interesting, but it didn't work for me as is. In the second sentence, he's exacting retribution for being treated as an outsider and outcast. In the third parg, he's doing it because of what the English government did to his wife. Which is it?

    The 3rd parg is all back story and can be gotten in later, or a bit here and there.

    Perhaps also try to give us a sense of who this man is. You tell us basic facts about him, but we don't see him as a human being. What are his thoughts as he's doing all this stuff? When he responds with the shielded lantern is he thinking, "This is for you, love." or "Die bastards!"
    or "Now we're even." Let this guy react.

    And give him a name. That'll make it a bit easier to relate to him.

  6. The prose here is smooth if a bit overwritten, and the descriptions in the first two paragraphs struck me as too clinical. I didn’t perk up until the third paragraph, when we start to see glimpses of who this guy is and what he’s doing out there. Sure, it’s backstory, but at least we’re getting an idea of who your main character is and how he feels. Overall I wasn’t hooked.

  7. the part that hooked me was about his wife, but i had skipped over the descriptions to get to that.
    this may just not be my cup of tea.

  8. Although I thought the narrative could have been tightened a bit, I felt that you built tension well.

    The sensory descriptions were good, and I knew right from the start the MC was expecting to get retribution.

    So now I'm curious. Why does he want retribution? Who has crossed him? And as this puzzled my brain, you revealed the back story in one paragraph.

    And you left me wondering what would happen. Yes, I'd read more.