Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Secret Agent #12


Seville, Spain

April, 1669

With a crack of his whip, the stone-faced driver urged on the straining horses. Hooves thundering, their carriage crashed through the town square, heading right toward Isobel de Toledo.

Isobel gasped and jumped back. Breathless, she watched the cart speed past and careen to a halt in front of the Casa de Ayumtamiento, the most imposing building on the square.

Frowning at the driver and shaking his fist, Xavier stepped beside her and regained his hold of Isobel"s arm. “Stay close to me or you'll be hurt. See what almost happened?” His voice was commanding, frosty.

The spicy smells of hot sausage, unwashed bodies, horse dung, and oranges faded from her mind. No matter what her intended said, she must find out more.

A heavy woman with droopy eyes peeked from behind her lacy fan. “It can't happen here.”

The woman's companion pawed at his mustache. “You're so naïve.”

Isobel tugged at the arm of Xavier's waistcoat. “What can't happen here? Can't we get closer? I want to hear everything.”

Xavier turned his stern voice and disapproving eyes toward her. “Isobel, we must leave now before something really bad takes place.”

Isobel tugged harder on his sleeve. “What bad thing could possibly happen here?”

Xavier turned to his sister, a thin woman whose head poked forward. Raefella reminded Isobel of a rabbit, with a nose that always seemed to be sniffing the air.


  1. I like the dialogue and the feel of the first few paragraphs, but I got really confused. It seems (upons rereading) that we switch back to a memory. I think it is too soon to do this. I don't feel grounded enough in who the mc is and where we are to switch to more information. I wonder if you could merely hint at what Isobelle is worried about without pulling me out of the scene...

  2. I liked the sensations you used to invoke the setting, but I found this passage a little confusing. Was the woman with droopy eyes in the cart? Or is she part of a flashback? Where was Xavier when the cart almost crashed into Isobel? What is the Casa de Ayumtamiento? Is it a private residence, a place of business, a city building? Where did Raefella come from? I'm afraid there are too many questions for me to be intrigued here.

  3. I like the atmosphere, but I found this extremely confusing even after reading it twice. Her intended says to "stay close" and her thought response is "no matter what her intended said she must find out more." That doesn't fit with what we saw him say. And then "The woman's companion pawed at his mustache"? Whose mustache? "The companion's?" and he "pawed it"? What does that mean?

    I feel like I'm trying to figure out who's who and what is important and not having much luck. There are many people here who are all taking part in something but we don't really know a single thing about any of them.

    I'm way too confused to be hooked, unfortunately.

  4. Your writing is beautiful, and you convey a lot about the setting, but not much about what's going on.

    We've got the driver, Isobel, her intended, the heavy woman, her companion, Xavier, who is probably the intened, but I'm not sure, and Raefella, who is probably thin. That's a lot of people in 250 words!

    Why is Isobel so intrigued? Just becasue the driver was whipping his horses? I don't see anything intriguing going on.

  5. The writing itself was pretty good.

    The scene was confusing. I really couldn't follow the various characters.

    I had a problem with lumping together the smells of hot sausage, body odor, oranges and horse poop under the single category of spicy.

    I liked the image of the sister -- sniffing at the air like a rabbit. Nice image.

  6. I found this confusing. There are far too many people here with no context to place them all in their relationships to each other.

    You start with the carriage, which makes me think the MC will be in the carriage, then we meet Isobel, and I have to change my perspective. Perhaps start with Isobel and the people around her, so we know who is who, then have the carriage come?

    And then perhaps take your time with the rest. Describe things more fully so we know who and what they are. What is the Ayumtamiento? Who are these people? Who is Isabel? A little more scene setting could help this a lot.

  7. You are using the "camera" (AKA omniscient) technique better suited for movies.

    I recommend having her fiancee next to or near her (written right up front) when she observes the stone faced driver whipping already straining horses (or something like that). Stay with her, most agents prefer this.

    Later you have Isobel"s... should be Isobel's. Minor, very minor.
    Best of luck.

  8. I love the setting, but I definitely got confused as to what was going on. It might help to limit the number of characters in the scene and get inside one of their heads.

    Good start!

  9. I'm also confused and can't sort out the people, so I'm not really hooked. I would drop some adjectives and lose some dialog. I did really enjoy the scent description-- hot sausage, unwashed bodies, horse dung, and oranges stuck with me.

    Dr. Krog

  10. So I also thought this was a little confusing. I think you need to focus on what's really happening in this first scene and what is critical to the plot.

    If the carriage almost knocked them down, say it. Otherwise, get rid of it. Why open with that? Also, think about how you are portraying the emotions. Frowning at the driver and shaking his fist feels very silent pictures fake angry to me. You have to get in your characters' heads and figure out exactly how they would respond in any situation and then show us.

    Who is this heavy woman and why is she pawing at her companion's mustache? You actually have the woman's companion pawing at his mustache--is he pawing at his own/ I guess that makes more sense, like a thoughtful gesture?? But I read that totally wrong and it was gross and weird. Who are these people anyway and what are they adding to the scene? Nothing that I can see.

    Basically, I don't have any real sense of the characters or their motivations or what is going on. Clearly something exciting/dangerous has just happened. Is Xavier protective? Abusive? Caring? I can't tell. Where did the sister come from.

    Isobel seems to have some spark but maybe Xavier doesn't like that. Let's see. We don't get enough information. there's too much scattered bits.

    I think you need to focus here and it can be fixed.