Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #31

TITLE: of oak and daemons
GENRE: urban fantasy

"Sir, you cannot walk these halls without an ID."

The authoritative tone of the male voice sifted belatedly into my brain and with a jerk of my head, I looked at the closed door leading to the classroom hallway. My movement blew the dust on the worktable in the archeology room and made my eyes water. I buried my face into my sleeve to stifle the sneeze that threatened to would follow.

"You have to have permission to be on this college campus, sir," the voice continued.

The other male voice had a note of familiarity. It was a British accent, cool and placating. Asking a question.

'Leah' was the only word I could make out.

A groan escaped my clenched teeth. His cultured voice was not much different from the recording on my answering machine at home.

The rat had found me.

He argued now and security answered with no-you-cannot authority. I heard a radio voice asking if assistance was required. I tried to squelch the hope of cuffs, a scuffle, and the sound of struggling feet dragged along the hallway floor. At least I didn't cross my fingers and say a blasphemous prayer.

If it would help though.

The voices became indistinct, murmurs of questions, answers, and conversation as I hid in the empty workroom. I glanced at the wall clock.

Three wonder my spine was trying to gnaw out of my back. I stretched and felt the complaining joints pop.


  1. I thought "you cannot walk these halls without an ID" was directed at the main character at first, which left me befuddled until it became clear that the MC is a woman in a classroom and the "sir" in question is a man in the hallway outside.

    It would be clearer (and faster!) if you start the second paragraph along these lines: "I heard the security guard's voice outside my campus workroom, but I was too involved with the archeological specimens to pay it much mind. Until the man without an ID responded."

    Well, it's a thought, anyway. If I'm the only confused reader, you shouldn't change it on my account.

  2. This confused me too. I had to read it twice to figure out what was going on. I think part of the problem is there's a lot of little grammar issues.

    I would cut out: "'Leah' was the only word I could make out." We get from the next line that the man is looking for her. Also, "If it would help though" isn't a sentence.

    This is kind of a passive opening. I don't think it's a good idea to begin your novel with a conversation that the MC isn't a part of and can't even completely understand.

  3. I was very confused as well. I thought the protag was being spoken to. Since that's the first thing the reader sees perhaps make it clear the protag is hearing two male voices?

    There just didn't seem to be much going on here and I agree there may be a problem starting with a partially heard conversation.

  4. The title made me excited to read it, but now I'm just wondering what the title has to do with the story.

    I couldn't tell who the POV character was until I read it through again, and I'm still not sure I'm right. Without knowing straight off that the first sentence of dialog isn't directed to the MC, my brain assumed it was and pictured a man and that's where it stuck. Not sure if this is the best place to start especially since we don't even get to hear all of the conversation.

    Other things that stood out:

    what's a classroom hallway? Do classrooms have hallways?

    turning her head stirred up dust?

    there's an added word at the end of the first paragraph, and "If it would help though" doesn't make any sense to me at all.

    Instead of showing her hiding and (maybe about to be caught) could you start with action? I find it too hard to get invested without knowing anything about her.

    Not hooked.

  5. I was completely lost and only got it after reading other people's comments, then I went back and read it again, and while I could then see what the real situation was, there were still parts that confused me. The - I tried to squelch - sentence didn't seem to make sense, nor the two that came after it.

    Perhaps set your MC up in the room and say she is hiding, and from who, and why and then have the voices in the hallway? And give some thought to grammar and sentence structure.

  6. I also was confused. It's a good setup, but I didn't understand what was happening until I read other people's comments. I agree with Barbara that some context with showing us her inside the room would help.

    I love the premise.

  7. Sorry, but I'm just confused. I thought the MC was a guy, then we find out it's a girl and she's hearing this from inside the classroom. Some reworking of this would clarify and strenthen this.

    Also some of this seemed a little stilted to me:
    The authoritative tone of the male voice sifted belatedly into my brain and with a jerk of my head, I looked at the closed door leading to the classroom hallway.

    And there appears to be a typo in: I buried my face into my sleeve to stifle the sneeze that threatened to *would* follow.

    I love: the rat had found me line. So funny, and makes me wonder if this someone from her past.

    Again I think you have a good premise, but it just needs some clarification.

  8. I found this one really confusing. I wasn't sure who was speaking, who was being spoken to... Only when I read the other comments did I realize there was another person involved, and no one was actually speaking to the narrator.

    This needs a lot of cleaning and clearing up. There needs to be no question what's going on -- at least in terms of who is involved and what they're doing.

    Set up the narrator in the classroom first. Show the sounds of the scuffle outside, maybe the other students' reaction to it. Just ground the reader in the MC's head, keeping in mind we don't know *anything* about what's going on. We're totally relying on you to tell us in a way that makes sense.

  9. I'm sorry. I'm just super confused by this.

    I think you need to make it more clear who the narrator is for starters.

    Also, I think if you edited it again you might be able to fine tune it. Just adding a few details here and there would probably do wonders.

    I do think it has promise though --the premise is intriguing--but you need to tighten up the writing.

  10. I was really confused by this at first; after re-reading I realized the MC was hiding in a classroom while two men argued out in the hall, but at first I thought the voice was speaking directly to the MC.

    I think it would help if instead of telling us the second man spoke, you show it with an actual line of dialogue. Or maybe just tag that very first line with: an authoritative voice said to someone out in the hall. Then lead off the next paragraph with: From the other side of the door... to give us more of a picture of who is where and how many people are in the scene right from the beginning.

    Other than being confusing, that second paragraph is also much wordier than it needs to be.

    Is the hallway argument really going on for 3 hours? That doesn't seem realistic.

    I like the rat line and that this is about an archaelogist.

  11. I was very confused by this opening. I thought the first line was directed at our main character, and then the "other" voice is mentioned but we never hear it so I had to reread several times.

    Could you actually just start with "The rat had found me" and in the following paragraph stifle the sneeze while listening to him argue with security?

    Then I was also confused with the time stamp - was she in the workroom for three hours?

    I'm not hooked and probably wouldn't read on.