Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #46

GENRE: Historical fantasy

"My Lord." The man prostrated himself on the floor before the altar. Despite the heat of the day, the grey stone beneath his body was cool. He pressed his face into the floor and prayed He would be pleased. "It is done."

His heart thudded as he waited, lying on the temple floor, trembling with fear that his Lord was displeased and would not come. Thud, thud, thud. Each heartbeat marked another moment that he waited. The candles on the altar flickered, sending ghostly images along the floor. Thud, thud. Then He appeared out of nowhere, as was His way. There was no sound or warning. One moment He was not there. And then He was.

"Are you sure?" He asked.

Pressure around the man's throat blocked his breath. His heart beat faster as he fought to stay calm. It was just a test. His Lord was on the other side of the altar, too far away to touch. The solid stone walls of the temple extended the length of three men between them. Yet the feeling was real and He could kill without touch; the man had seen it himself. "Are you very sure?"

"Yes, my Lord," he choked. His body screamed out for oxygen. Sweat trickled down his back as he pressed his face further into the cool stone, smooth beneath his fingers. He tried to have faith that He would not kill him. "I did it myself."


  1. Nice set up. Good use of internal and external conflict.

    I don't like the thud, for the heart beat. It's too far off to make the paragraph flow for me. I kept thinking, that's the wrong word instead of accepting the description (total opinion)

    The pressure on the throat, I assume it's b/c of the master, but wasn't totally sure.

    Liked the description of hot day/cool stone, but you used it twice.

    I'd read more.

  2. I think this is fantasy, not historical fiction.
    You have a character who is referred to as "my Lord" and who rates a capatilized pronoun. Sound vaguleu like Darth Vader. If this person can strangle someone from accross the room, you seem to have magic going on.
    I think, if this is actually historical, you have to give us something right up front that tells us where and when we are.

  3. I really hope this isn't a prologue. If it is chapter one, then I'm not sure it's the best place to start your novel. You have two characters, he and He. We don't care yet about either of them. There are also three other men. That's a lot of characters and no sense of place. I'm not even sure who the main character is.

    I know everyone says openings should grab but you have to be careful of coming too far down on the other side. In the middle of the novel a scene like this might be attention-grabbing and full of conflict. But right now all I'm thinking is wait...what's going on now?

    JK Rowling got away with an opening like this in Goblet of Fire but that's only because the reader was already familiar with the world and characters. There's no sense of place in this.

  4. Ooh, creepy and captivating all at once. Really liked this setup - of course I want to know what he did for his lord and learn more about this world they are in. Nice job.

  5. Love the use of the feeling of the stone, and wonder if you could work in a smell there to really bring it to life. I like the nervousness about what he did, and that he did it himself and what He is going to do about it. Couple of thoughts: could cut "that his Lord was displeased" - you already said that he was praying He would be pleased, so this seems like a waste of your precious first few words. Then I didn't like the word "sure." Not sure (ha) if that's just me, but it seems colloquial for a Lord. Like he should say, "certain" or something like that. And maybe be more threatening.

  6. Some of this I did enjoy, the descriptions-- I could feel the hot day and the relief of the cold stone.

    The he/He does get a little confusing even with the capitalization. I don't know who "he" is. I would like a name or something. It becomes difficult to be vested in this passage if "he" doesn't have a name, or something that distinguishes him in this book.Is there a reason "he" is not identified? If this is our MC, then we need to know somehow.

  7. I thought you did a great job with the mood and tone of the piece. It definitely has a creepy feel to it.

    I did wonder why you used he and He. The capitalized He must be called something, even if he doesn't have a name - like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Harry Potter. The other he would have a name, too, although if this is a prologue and he's going to die, then I would agree he doesn't need a name. But if you want the reader to connect with characters - good or evil - you might give them names.

    The thuds didn't work for me, and I didn't get a sense of his being strangled. You made it clear that's what was happening, but I didn't feel it. Maybe more showing there as opposed to telling?

    And I wondered why this seemingly all-powerful He couldn't do whatever he wanted done himself? Why trust it to a minion if it's so important? And if we knew what this something was, it would give us a clue as to what the story is about, which gives us a real reason to read on.

  8. Unless there's some compelling reason to do so, I'd like to know the man's name, especially since we're in his POV.

    A heartbeat is much shorter than a minute, so one can't be used to mark the other.

    What does this Lord look like? I'd really like some detail here. And if this is how he reacts when someone obeys him, I'd hate to see what he's like when he's displeased. ;)

    There was no sound or warning. One moment He was not there. And then He was.--Since we know the Lord appears out of nowhere, I don't think you need these lines.

    I think you did a good job of showing us the man's fear. I'd read a little farther, hoping to learn what "it" is.

  9. I agree with Ashley 100%. I think she hit the nail on the head.

    I just can't connect in a scene where the POV character - and the first character I encounter in a novel - is only "the man." Sadly, I'm not hooked at all because of this.

    And as Ashley also said, I think a scene like this could be more effective if it wasn't the opener, and I had reasons to share the fear.

    Good luck!

  10. This is a good set up.

    I’m curious to know what had been done.

    While the title indicates the historical time period- Ancient Egypt- the only detail provided in this section is a “temple,” which does not give the reader any indication of when and where the novel is set. Historical details need to be provided sooner.

    I didn’t like “thud” for the heartbeat because it made me think (incorrectly) of footsteps of the God approaching. The “he” and “He” make it difficult to keep track of the protagonist verses his Lord, especially when readers do not know anything else about either character. Names would be really helpful (but it's early).

    I’d keep reading.

  11. A bit slow and repetitive and the he/He doesn't work at all.

  12. If his face is pressed into the stone, how does he know the Big Guy has arrived? We aren't given any indication how he knows - sound, movement of air, flash of light, stink of brimstone... how does he know Big Guy appeared out of nowhere? He's faceplanted on the floor. And he keeps his face planted in the stone, even pressing it further down ... so how does he know *ANY* of this is/has happened?

  13. If you cut out all the times that you tell us how nasty He is, I think you would have a good opening passage here.

  14. I really liked this, but had one problem: how does the guy speak if he's being choked and can't breath? Maybe the god needs to release him temporarily at that point so he can talk.

  15. Great description. I have to admit that the He capitalization bothered me, because usually it only refers to God, capital G, not god, other deity.
    Good build-up but didn't really make me want to read more, although there was definitely a Darth Vadar feel to it.