Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #50

TITLE: The Princess's Treasure Hunt
GENRE: MG Fantasy Adventure

Princess Cassandra let out a loud whoop as she thundered ahead the green path on horseback. Glancing behind her, she saw her commoner friends falling behind, so she stopped her horse. "Come on, Kylie, Vance! You're too slow!"

"It's not fair," Vance grumbled. "Our horse has to carry two of us. There's no way we could ever beat you in a race."

Cassandra giggled. "Excuses, excuses."

She weaved through the trees and pulled back on the reins once she reached her destination. Even though she had seen the Falls countless times, the sight always stole her breath away. The sapphire blue water was so peaceful at the top, yet so desperate and churning at the bottom of the cliff. The jagged rocks carved by their ancestors eons ago were covered with symbols that the water tried to erode away. The fish that leaped and danced and—

A large tail broke the surface of the water at the bottom of the Falls. It flickered toward her, as if waving, before disappearing beneath the waves again.

Cassandra gasped. Could it be? A mermaid?

Without thinking about the danger, she guided her horse down the rocky terrain. It would be a steep descent to reach the bottom, but she was determined to see the mermaid up close. Many small rocks scattered away from her horse's hooves.

"Where are you going?" Kylie called.

"There's a mermaid!"

"Mermaids aren't real," Vance scoffed, but there was a hint of excitement in his voice.

"I've always wanted to see one," Kylie exclaimed.


  1. Yes, I'd like to read on.

    The verbs of being need to go - try replacing "was", "were", "would be" with strong action verbs in their place. That will propel your narrative forward.

    The fact that Cassandra referred to her friends as "commoner friends" made me not like her instantly - if that's your intention, by all means keep it. If she's someone you want me to like, maybe that sentence needs revision.

    Good luck!
    (I want to see the mermaid too!)

  2. Hm. This is why reading just the first 250 is hard for me sometimes. Am I hooked by these first 250? Not exactly. But if I had the entire first chapter in front of me, I'd be more than happy to keep reading.

    The tone feels a little older than MG to me. Not sure why. Maybe the "Excuses, excuses" part of Cassandra's dialogue.

    I already like her, though!

    Good luck :)

  3. There's a lot to like in this beginning - I really enjoy the slightly uncomfortable contrast between the princess and the commoner friends, and the MC's energy. But I agree the way the commoner fact is brought in is a little jarring. It felt a bit like "telling not showing" - I think you could put that information in the context of Vance grumbling that a commoner horse with two passengers would never keep up with a royal mount. In addition, there's a lot going on here - the introduction of 3 characters, the landscape, the mermaid. I'd slow down and let it build a bit more. Take some time to give us their friendship. I, for one, wanted to know more.

  4. I liked Cassandra. She's obviously higher class in this caste system and probably runs on impulse. The first sentence stumped me though. "ahead the green path"

    Good luck.

  5. i agree that calling her friends commoners made me dislike her a little bit

    Also- the other thing i immediately thought was that Cassandra is also the name of the princess from the Ranger's Apprentice series

  6. Agree with previous comments about the "commoner friends" phrase. Makes me not like your MC.

    Love the description of the waterfall and pool- this is when your writing really began to shine for me and pull me in.

    You say "Without regard to the danger..." and then spend the rest of the paragraph telling how carefully she guided the horse past the danger.

    And yes, I'm hooked because I want to see that mermaid but think you need to work on some awkward phrasing throughout that steals the wonder.

  7. Mermaid was a great hook! I also loved your description of the waterfall.

    I think you could possibly start closer to the mermaid scene. Perhaps they are already at the Falls when the book begins. The beginning didn't grab me enough, but the end was better paced.

    Good luck!

  8. I like this. :) The "commoners" reference doesn't bother me one bit because this is fantasy and calling someone a commoner is like identifying the neighborhood they live in. It's not a slight, it's a simple fact, and Cassandra is their friend. Nuff said.

    I'm not especially wowed by this beginning only because I think more could be done to flesh out Cassandra's character. The fact that she's a princess who isn't snooty about social class gives her points. But I'd like to see how the details of the water falls affect her emotionally. They're pretty, but the emotional shorthand of using a cliché like "stole her breath away" ruins it for me. Maybe the peaceful blue water calms her, and the contrast of churning water at the bottom reminds her of what her life is usually like (if it's like that. I don't know, but I'd like to). And then a mermaid tail pops from the turbulent water.

    Anyway, this is okay, but it doesn't stand out. I don't feel compelled to read more, but it's still a great start. Good luck!

  9. This is cute! I agree with most of the above, and just want to add this little thing:

    " loud whoop" -- you could just say "whooped", since there's no way to whoop quietly.

    Really nitpicky, though. ;)

    Good luck!

  10. Yes.

    Paula has some great points. However, what put me off to your MC was her blatant misunderstanding of fairness. When the boys stated their horse couldn't keep up because they were both on it, her reply made me raise an eyebrow. I know she's just a kid, but even children have qualities to admire and dislike. As is, I do not like this MC very much.

    Another thing I want to comment on is your, ur, misuse of the em dash at the end of paragraph 2. I know what you were trying to do, but it kinda failed. Here's why: You wanted to disconnect the flow with that device and jolt the reader a bit, but if you read it aloud the very sentence is awkward. Not to mention, you can't even tell there was an abrupt pause.

    This sort of "jolt" works better when the narration is followed by dialogue and vice versa.

    (Kyle knew he forgot something but he couldn't remember what. Maybe it was his hat or his dog...or maybe--

    "It was my soul." Kyle said in realization.)

    Something like that. However, there are instances where it works well with narration.

    (The sapphire blue water was so peaceful at the top, yet so desperate and churning at the bottom of the cliff. The jagged rocks carved by their ancestors eons ago were covered with symbols that the water tried to erode away--and then a large tail broke the surface of the water at the bottom of the falls.)

    The reason why yours didn't work is because of the sentence that breaks the flow. It is too short and has too many "ands." When using an em dash to break narration you want the sentences to be a tad long so the reader understands it is a "tack on" sentence and not an abrupt pause.

    Nonetheless, you have a wonderful story and a very easy, breezy, beautiful (Covergirl) writing style. :D

  11. I agree that the em dash felt wrong there, mainly because it's supposed to show a moment of wow..lost my train of thought, was that a?..yes, oh my gosh, I think it was!

    But...I didn't get that because to me you're telling not showing. If you hit this through deep pov, you'll really convey that sense of wonder that scene is supposed to make us feel. Also the mermaid came totally out of left field. I kept thinking, how is a fin coming at her? What kind of fish does that, then suddenly it dawned on me..oh, it's supposed to be a mermaid. Maybe a mention of: rumor said the lake was full of mer people, of course..rumors were just that, rumors...and then..boom, fishy tail and it's like..ahhh, so maybe it's true then. Just something more to hint at the fantasy aspect of it.

    I actually would keep reading though for the simple fact that I'm a mermaid junkie. So you'd hook me there.

  12. I probably wouldn't keep reading. I do like your MC. She's a princess for crying out loud, of course some people are going to be put off by her attitudes. But she's not so snotty that she won't be their friends.

    But the mermaid thing just came way too abruptly and shattered my suspension of disbelief. Hey it's a mermaid! Try building us up to it.

  13. I agree with the jarring nature of the "commoner" friends reference and it does not make me like the MC. Also, the point about the "excuses, excuses" line likewise paints her in a bad light. I have always thought of mermaids as rather sexual so for a young girl to see one is not to me as interesting as if it had been seen by a boy. It just falls flat -sorry.

  14. I agree about the use of "commoner" unless your intention was to make Cassandra unlikeable. I think I would be more inclined to to read on if you eliminate the word. The fact that her friends are commoners actually makes her likable, it's just not something you need to reveal right off the bat.

    Good luck! :)

  15. I'm usually hooked by a horseback riding opening, so that's a plus.

    The "commoners" reference is not needed right off. I don't see the princess thinking of real friends as "commoners". Maybe can be a reveal later on.

    The waterfall has so much potential as a setting, but I feel it's underdeveloped. It sounds like a fairly normal waterfall. A fresh twist on a waterfall would be welcome here to usher in...

    ...the mermaid plot. I didn't see that coming. Mmm, interesting development. Unfortunately, Vance's comment about no such thing as mermaids pulled me out of the possibility.

    I think your princess has so much potential. I'd like to see more of her slowly developed in the first paragraphs so that I can be invested in how she reacts to the mermaid's arrival later.

    Good luck! :-)

  16. I'm not sure this Princess would survive very long if she keeps calling her friends commoner. I'm thrilled to be a commoner myself, but it makes me wonder why she sees them this way.

    I think the dialogue could be improved. It's stilted and languid in many places. Not really telling me anything or helping to move the story along.

    I would like to know more about how the Princess views the world (other than her view of her friends) when she sees first the falls and then the possible mermaid tail.

    A lot of this beginning also seems cliche, so a new beginning would help this story a lot. What is this Princess's flaw? What does she want that she can't have? Some answers to these questions may be a good starting point.