Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #17

GENRE: YA Multicultural Fantasy

The dragon's piercing roar knocks me to my knees and I scramble to hide behind the mound of gold coins. The monster stirs at the other end of the cavern, concealed in darkness by a stalagmite ridge of crystal and the steaming glow of the furnace between us. The stench of sulfur chokes the air, as if the Gates of Hell have opened.

The roar's echo wanes and I hear the dragon's hard scales scraping across the gravel under its huge weight. I gag on the bile rising into my throat. I fist the silver Santiago medallion against my pounding chest. "Protect me, Saint James," I mutter with quivering lips.

I had devised a good plan, I was sure of it. Unarmed and not blessed with great strength, I used the best asset I had--my mind. With those nasty trolls gone for the night, the dragon was supposed to be asleep. The girl had told me so. I have a sack ready for the gold and a clear escape route. The dragon's treasure--the legendary Dracaurum--is all I need and I'm free to go back home. Home to my Mam and Pap, to my best friends Alejandro and Miguel Angel, and to my beloved potter's wheel.


Am I to die here in this Godforsaken cavern on a mountain? I just turned sixteen and would never have thought that would be my last birthday. It wasn't even memorable.

What had gone wrong?


  1. I liked the descriptions until he got into the laundry list of people that he would miss. Part of me thinks that this portion could be lost without much remorse. The premise of it is cute though and I would read more to see what was going on.

  2. I liked the first two paragraphs. There's a sense of panic and the action flows pretty well.

    And then the third paragraph pulls me out of the situation. Instead of continuing the story and telling the reader what's going on, it's backstory. I'd rather learn more about the MC and what's happening with the dragon. Or, start a few minutes earlier with the MC sneaking into the dragon's lair. You can tell the plan that way.

    Also, the part about the trolls threw me off. It seems interesting - too interesting to just be backstory. It seems like a whole lot has happened to the MC before the novel starts. As I said earlier, you might want to start earlier. Maybe even with the trolls or with the initial encounter with the girl who knows the dragon's sleeping habits.

    You definitely have the makings of a great story here and I'd love to read more and find out more about what's going on. The MC definitely has a lot to deal with and you write really well.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  3. Like duwarr I loved the first two paragraphs. The first is very evocative and the second visceral and emotive. After that, though, I started to feel that we were having "Tune in next week" cliffhanger feeling. Will our brave young narrator live to see his friends again?! It seemed less involved in the moment than those early paragraphs.

  4. "The dragon's piercing roar knocks me to my knees. I scramble..." <--I think by separating this sentence makes for a better opening. :)

    "I gag on the bile rising"-----I'm not a fan of the bile thing. And from what I've read, agents aren't either, LOL! :)

    I do agree that the third para takes us out of the action. I think this info would be better suited for later, after he's defeated the dragon. (in hope he does!)

    Good job with the visual in the action. I could see things nicely!

  5. Well, sneaking around a dragon seems like a pretty memorable event for a sixteenth birthday to me. :) I really like the fact that the characters are latino. It sounds like a fun story, although a few spots pulled me out as being too self-aware (the quivering lips, having to say that the potter's wheel is beloved). Or maybe I'm reading it as a guy and it's really a girl MC? Overall it sounds like a good setup, and I'd read on to see how it plays out (because you know things aren't going to go smoothly!)

  6. I agree with the others. The first two pargs grabbed me and then you fell into backstory, so you have your MC standing in a cave, a firebreathing dragon blasting him with its hot breath, there doesn't look to be any way out, and the MC starts thinking - Hmm. I had a plan. I thought it would work. And meanwhile, what's the dragon doing? Waiting for him to finish his pondering?

    Forget the backstory. Keep the action moving, and once the MC gets out of the situation, then he can think about how his plan should have worked better.

  7. I really love this. It gets into the story right away, and I am genuinely afraid for - and interested in - the narrator. My biggest problem is the tense. It seems like this would fit better in past tense. I know that this would be a lot of work, but I suggest you try putting the first couple pages in past tense, and read it through, and have a couple friends read it through, to see which one works better. To me, it seems like the story wants to be in the past tense, but you are forcing it into the present.

  8. Maybe a dragon fight isn't the best place to start - since we know nothing about the story and don't care about the main character yet. This reads like something that should come later in the book ...

  9. Ouch, the opening of this struck me as very cliche.

    It doesn't intoduce the MC very well, so I don't care that he's in danger.

    I don't mean that to sound harsh, but these are the first things I thought of while reading it.

  10. Visceral, evocative imagery. I'm not a fan of description. I love to jump into dialogue, but with your opening paragraphs, I can make an exception. :)

    The “mound of gold” and “Gates of Hell” feel a bit on the cliché side. Not terrible, but from your writing sample, I think you can do better. Love the MC fisting the Santiago medallion. It’s a nice visual.

    Overall, I think it’s well done. I’m okay with the third paragraph as it gives me more idea of the MC’s motive.

    Good luck! :D

  11. I'm hooked. I really liked this opening and I am intrigued to know more about this main character. I love the descriptions and sensory engagement here. I can see, hear and smell the scene; it literally comes alive off the page.

    You could cut the last sentence of paragraph three and it would keep the pace moving forward and keep me as a reader in the moment. To be honest, I didn't even realize it was in present tense when I first read it. Kudos! I think it is working well here for you.

    Best of luck to you! :)

  12. What I liked: Starting with action, the multicultural characters, the present tense. I felt the author was able to get a lot—a sense of character, a dangerous scene, some back story—in few words.

    What needed work: It was unclear whether this is the climax of the story and we were going to go back to see how the character found him/herself in this situation, or whether this is truly the beginning. I’m sure it would become clear as the story progressed.

    I worried, too, that the situation bordered on cliché. I couldn’t help but think of THE HOBBIT, with a dragon guarding a treasure, trolls, and a main character without many unique skills.

    Would I keep reading based on these sample pages? Yes.