Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are You Hooked? #20

GENRE: Young adult speculative

Bastard children of Stiverian nobility are unwittingly punished for their fathers' crimes-of-passion by being forced to perform high wire acts five hundred feet above the circus floor.

Without a net.

Legion is an 'Acrobaste', naive to the origins of his station until one day when he uncovers the sordid truth. But, the Acrobaste Ringmasters have a far wider reach than Legion ever bargained for. Ultimately, he must decide whether to expose the underbelly of the Stiverian upper class and help the circus fall; an act which would free his fellow Acrobastes but could also plunge his country into civil war.

The girl placed one arched foot ahead of the other along the taut wire, five hundred feet above the circus floor.

Her brother, Legion, watched from the ring below. He pulled at tethers, one held in each hand, adjusting and readjusting the high wire as his sister, Chance, took each step. A fine mist collected inside the glass of his bigoggles from the effort and strain of keeping his sister's high wire path steady. But even with his clouded sightlines, he could still make out the tension in her legs, the gracefulness of her outstretched hands, the mixture of concentration and terror in her face.

The audience shifted and groaned with each of Chance's movements, yearning for the thrill which came with each fall. They filled the stands with whistles and jeers in the massive, towering circus tent, row upon row of rabid nobility, roaring at each misstep.

Excitement pulsed through the tent like the beat of a drum and with it came a snappish tone in the crowd's manner as they strained to listen and shoved to see. Tonight, the Wagery had posted the highest stakes since the spring before and while its floor was littered with stubs of paper from the earlier cockfight, that was only a mere distraction. The Wire was the thing to see.

A gentleman could go home quite rich tonight, should luck be in his favour.


  1. Oh my gosh. I want to read this. Right now.
    Awesome premise and beautiful narrative.
    "A fine mist collected inside the glass of his bigoggles from the effort and strain of keeping his sister's high wire path steady. But even with his clouded sightlines, he could still make out the tension in her legs, the gracefulness of her outstretched hands, the mixture of concentration and terror in her face."
    Beautiful. I see it. Can't wait to pluck this off the shelves and read it.

  2. Awesome concept!! My heart is racing - I hope she doesn't fall. I'm 110% hooked!!

  3. Thanks for taking me someplace I've never been before and I enjoy your technique (voice). It too is refreshing to me.

    Just a couple pickies.
    Bigoggles (in the States) should just be goggles.
    The earlier cock fight should be 'an earlier cock fight.' because you haven't introduced the sequence of acts yet.


  4. I am utterly hooked!

    Grammatical pet peeve: There are no commas around a single-word appositive. To wit:

    Her brother, Legion, watched from the ring below.

    NO COMMAS around Legion!

    Her brother Legion watched from the ring below.

    But that's a nitpick. I definitely want to keep reading. :)

  5. Fantastic opening. I love the premise, and I would keep reading even though this is outside my normal genre-of-choice. In fact, this excerpt makes me wonder if there's any way we can keep track of some of these Secret Agent submissions - because I'd really like to read the rest!

  6. Wow, I'm so terrified for Chance! And knowing what's to come for Legion has me terrified for him, too. Heart in my stomach - good job!

  7. I'm definitely hooked.

    ...posted the highest stakes since the spring before(,) and while its floor was littered with stubs,

  8. Well I guess I'm in the minority, but although I thought the writing was great on the first page, I thought the premise sounded way too bizarre (and I like far-fetched ideas usually). I also thought Legion was an odd choice of name, unless it's going to be significant.

  9. I'm there, definitely hooked! Great premise, but one question: What's the goal? Can Chance and Legion hope to escape; or might they force an uncaring society to admit (and repeal) the injustice of their certain doom? I suggest adding their ultimate motivation/conflict (beyond survival) to your pitch.

  10. Although the premise is pretty bizarre, I'm intrigued to know WHY such a thing happens. And that is before I start reading. The writing on this first page had me on the edge of my seat. Very vivid, very descriptive. I'm 100% hooked so far.

  11. Hooked.

    I loved the premise and I couldn't stop reading. I already have a lot of questions by the first paragraph.

    Love it!

  12. This is fantastic. Consider me hooked!

  13. I'm hooked by this; lots of tension! At first I thought the 500 feet was a typo, unless by bigoggles you mean binoculars. It might help convey the enormity of the circus if the audience also needs binoculars.

    Great start!

  14. Nice! I like the idea for this a lot. I was a little put off by the fact that both named characters are named after nouns (is this the style for all illegitimate children, or are these two special?) but on the whole, the tension and stakes are high.

    I think maybe the conflict could heightened by zooming in on a random member of the audience, maybe saying how one person is particularly drunk or rowdy, etc. and how Legion reacts to this to provide more of a personal conflict.

    Still, nice work! I am very interested.

  15. Beautiful writing! The writing drew me in at once-but surprisingly the hook and explanatory paragraph didn't. This is one of those cases where reading the first page would sell me the book.

  16. I'm hooked. I've never read anything like this and would definitely pick it up if I saw it on a shelf. I wouldn't change a thing.

  17. Interesting premise, for sure. I don't know why but an image of 'chitty, chitty, bang, bang' popped into my mind. Strange, I know, but remember the kids in the cages with the pointy nose guy? Anyway, I loved the idea, wanted to know where you were going to go with it. Didn't like one description amongst the other beauties...'massive, towering circus tent.'
    And that was just being picky!

  18. Crimes-of-passion of their fathers? What about adulterous mothers?

    I enjoyed your writing. In this very short intro, you convincingly showed the tension of the participants and the macabre curiosity of the audience. But, I'm not convinced the premise would hold my interest - there's been adultery since time began, so why would this civilization be so harsh? And why would they put their bastard children in a circus on a highwire without a net? Then again, I wasn't entirely taken with the premise for The Hunger Games (which strikes me as somewhat similar to this storyline) and that turned out rather well, didn't it? :-)

  19. I liked it a lot, there was just one little area that I thought was a smidge awkward:

    "...with it came a snappish tone in the crowd's manner..."

    There was something about that phrasing that I couldn't reconcile...I think it's that I can picture a snappish tone, and a snappish manner, but not a snappish tone manner.

    Nitpicky, I know. But I did stumble over it.

  20. I'm definitely hooked! This idea is wonderful. There's so much tension in this scene that I'm sitting on the edge of my seat right now!

  21. Loved this! My only nit to pick is that you tell us Legion is the brother of the girl on the wire, so you don't need to reinforce in the next sentence that he's adjusting the wire for his sister. You could say "as Chance took each step."

    The premise is intriguing, and I can feel Chance's fear and the audience's malicious hope for her death in this snippet.

  22. Hooked!

    It looks like it's from L's POV, though, so I wish he had been introduced as the subject, first, rather than "the girl" which sounds oddly distant for his sister!

    Love the premise.

  23. This didn't grab me, and part of it was the description - I had trouble believing that these kids wouldn't know full well pretty much from the start that they are the bastard children of nobles. (And it seems an odd concept - er, why? Are noble's children talented at aerial feats?) Their names threw me ... and this didn't pull me as it should have. It was a good description from the outside, but I wanted to be inside - feeling what the main characters felt, seeing and hearing what they saw - not the viewpoint of an onlooker.

  24. This didn't grab me as far as the premise goes. Too many suspension-of-disbelief issues popped into my head right away. If there's no net, how do they practice? What is the turnover rate on bastards (I don't mean to be cheeky)? Are there lots? Not so many? I'm not seeing how the failure of a circus would cause a civil war. Maybe just iron out the premise details to make things more clear. I think with such a highly charged drama, you really need to ground the readers in the characters before they go up on the highwire. Make me care about them and then I'll care if they fall down. Just a thought.

  25. I think you can make the first line much stronger. Maybe Chance wobbles, or she's crying? Also, if you prolong mentioning your characters' names I believe it would build the tension.

    Great description! I would keep reading.

  26. The name "Chance" confused me at first. But maybe you could play on that, using it in place of "the girl" in the first sentence? That would grab me in a way that the current start does not; as it is, it sounds somewhat generic.

    Agree with Sara Henry that an acrobaste would probably know about his own origins from early days, unless there's something you're leaving unexplained.