Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #21

TITLE: The Island of Legendary Monsters

Nico Etheropolis huddled inside a dark cave on the edge of a foggy Greek island. He dug up black clay around at his feet and patted it onto a sculpture as fast as his hands would go. A crash of water broke his concentration and he flinched as he saw the sea filling the mouth of the cave.

He gawked at the three Imaginators working beside him, all acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. How are they not freaking out when we’re about to drown? How am I supposed to create a legendary monster with this kind of pressure?

A gaunt man splashed into the cave, his white toga flowing about his legs. “Hurry, low spring tide will only last a few more minutes!” he yelled. “One of you better have made something incredible. Zeus expects extraordinary creations from the League of Imaginators–the King of all Gods will torture us if we fail.” Nico’s hands began to shake out of control, and he knocked his sculpture over. He snatched it up just before a wave sloshed over his toes and shot a chill up his legs.

The man raised his gray caterpillar eyebrows, then knelt down to look the boy in the eyes. “Nico. Don’t make me regret my decision to promote you out of the ranks to become an Imaginator. Remember: this isn’t training any more. This is real. This is life and death.”


  1. I really love the way your last paragraph sets up the super high stakes so naturally.

    I feel like you might be able to smooth out the lead up to Nico's hands shaking and him knocking over the sculpture a bit more. Right now, it feels a little abrupt. I wonder if you switched out your verbs at the beginning that are currently quite calm (huddled, dug, patted) for images that are a bit more frenzied. Also, the use of "gawked" felt a little funny -- because it's like he's only just now realizing they're there and I don't think that's the case.

    I think this is a great set up for a story, though. Great drama! Good luck!

  2. This is fun! Love the idea of having to create "incredible" sculptures for Zeus within a small amount of time. The fact the stakes are piled pretty high right from the get-go make me want to turn the page.

    My major quib would be that you have some "As you know, Bob" dialogue here, especially pertaining to the "gaunt man." Would he really say this to Nico and the other men: "Zeus expects extraordinary creations from the League of Imaginators - the King of all Gods will torture us if we fail." I would imagine everybody, including Nico, knows this already or else they wouldn't be working so hard. Try adding some internalization on Nico's part to make it smoother. For example, after the man says, "One of you better have made something incredible," have Nico think TO HIMSELF something like, "Well, obviously! Zeus expects extraordinary creations from the League of Imaginators. If we fail, he'll torture us all!" That way, a character isn't stating what everybody already knows.

    Same thing with the line, "Don't make me regret my decision to promote you out of the ranks to become an Imaginator. Remember...BLAH BLAH BLAH." This is all stuff Nico already knows, so it feels stilted and unnecessary. If anything, use Nico's thoughts to fill us in on the details, like my example above. That's my two cents, anyway.

    Other than that, I'd keep reading. Good luck with it!

  3. I love the idea here, but I agree with Chris. You're explaining a lot to the reader that your characters would already know, so it makes the whole thing feel stiff and unnatural. I'd focus more on what Nico is feeling, internalize things, really let us into his head.

    You've got a great idea here, just pull me in more! Good luck!

  4. I agree with the above comments. And they all put it better than I could, so I'll just add a "I concur!" and leave it at that :P

    This is a nitpicky thing... but since this sounds like a story that will have lots of Greek gods in it and such, I would think about whether you want to keep the name Nico. There is a pretty big character in the Percy Jackson series named Nico, and it was hard to detach that character from my mind while reading this. Nico is a pretty uncommon name and sticks with you. Just something to think about!

    Good luck!

  5. Having never read Percy Jackson, I loved the name because my nephew's name is Niko. However, my son...10 has most definitely read Percy Jackson and would probably feel the same as the reader before me.

    That being said, I LOVED THIS. I'm a geek for all things Greek. *snort..I do love my puns* anyway, I would read on. Being familiar with those pesky, petulant gods I feel for Nico immediately. Plus I love imaginator's, it makes me think of Disney's imagineers..and yeah, this just seems like a whole lot of fun. I'd definitely want to read more.

  6. The second line may have a typo - 'He dug up black clay around at his feet...' Around at his feet?

    Agree that it's a bit too much telling, but I like the idea of imaginator as a profession.

    I think I'd read on:)

  7. Liked the first line but would suggest giving the Greek island a specific name.

    Also like the idea of imaginators at work- especially kids because they'd so be good at that.

    But there is too much telling of things the characters would already know. Showing it would be better.

  8. Thanks so much for all the comments so far! They're spot on; useful for me to keep in mind as I tackle my next revision. Chris V, you nailed it. Thanks for articulating a problem I couldn't quite figure out.

    On that note, I'd love to find a few more beta readers to exchange with, especially if you focus on MG too. I learn something new from each reader, especially the ones who aren't afraid to tell me when they see problems or why they stopped reading.

    Please leave a comment or get in touch with me at jeffchen1972 (at) gmail (dot) com!


  9. Hey, Jeff. I like the premise. I do agree w/Chris' suggestions. Would like to read more.

  10. Intriguing on the spot tension. The dialogue was a problem for me as well (nice crit Chris V!) but I liked the competition feel to this and I liked the growing dread about the sea rising and Nico is obviously being pushed past his limits.

    And I love the title.

  11. Thanks for the positive comments, secret agent! Very much appreciated.