Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Secret Agent #17

GENRE: YA Speculative Fiction

The man in the cobalt hat and his marmoset stood against the far wall of Tristan’s room. They’d perfected stillness, but their eyes followed him after dusk.

Tristan pressed his spine against the cinder block wall and watched them back.

The man offered the marmoset an almond. Thick spectacles encircled his eyes, which were as gray as the paint that coated the room. Beneath the cobalt hat, his face fell in deep wrinkles. He stood a foot taller than Tristan, and his hat scraped the ceiling.

The marmoset dug his toes into the man’s shoulder and pressed one paw onto his cheek. Fine black fur covered the marmoset’s face and body except for white tufts that grew from its ears. Golden flecks danced in its eyes.

Tristan’s vision blurred with exhaustion, but when the marmoset reached for that almond, he was alert and tense again.

The almond remained untouched between the man’s thumb and forefinger.

He knew it was all in his head. He should have felt glad about that. Some of them didn’t even know that much, but somehow he couldn’t feel glad.

The marmoset would never take the almond, never be able to reach it. The man would never shoo the animal from his shoulder. They couldn’t get him; they were painted on.

But paint or not, they watched him. Their eyes tried to worm into his skull and read his thoughts. His thoughts weren’t a page they could take from him. They existed only between his ears.


  1. This is definitely different, so points for building up a creepy intro. This reads like a prologue, but I would turn the page to see where this goes. I would need to find some concrete details about Tristan on the next page to stay with the story -- what is his conflict besides a creepy wall paintig and why Tristian is seeing things; what is his deal and hints of his central conflict.

    Good luck with your writing!

  2. I will turn the page. The concept of something "painted on" (which I'm assuming are tattoos at this point) that troubles him so much is certainly intriguing.

    The psychic distance on this piece is a bit far, making it feel almost like a news report. I'm not even sure at this point who the MC will be as all the characters are kept at arm's length.

    If this were my piece, I'd start by trying it in the "I" first person voice and see what comes out of it. It may not stick, but it would certainly cut down the distance between the reader and characters :)

  3. There is a dreamy, ethereal quality to this that I like, it keeps me guessing. At the same time, I wanted more clarity with what was happening. I would take a look at the opening paragraph. Is the fact the coat is cobalt necessary or can it be deleated? Is the coat necessary? The word "stood" is a weak word.

  4. I admit I had to look up what a marmoset. Thanks for teaching me something new.

    What is it about the story that's made you start here? I'm seeing only a tiny glimpse at the end of something maybe happening, going to change/is changing for him, or is some type of conflict. Right now, it's all description, and while it's interesting in it's own sort of way, I don't feel connected to it. I want a reason that makes me care about this interesting tidbit about the painting on the wall.

    When we finally get to the last two lines, I think we might be getting a glimpse at something. Is he worried about someone taking his thoughts? Is he glad they exist only between his ears? The descriptions before this are interest in their own way, but I'd like to see it condensed and getting to these bits sooner.

  5. Watch for word repetition. In 250 words, you've said Marmoset 6 times. It stands out in a bad way.

    Other than that, it's creepy and interesting.

  6. i was distracted by the round spectacles in the third paragraph; i kept thinking harry potter. very interesting and great details.

  7. You have some great descriptive lines (like "Golden flecks danced in its eyes"), but I don't know what's going on here. Who is our main character--the man in the cobalt hat or Tristan? I should know right away, but it took until the end for me to guess that Tristan is really the MC.

    Also your use of pronouns is confusing. I can't always tell who the "they" and the "he" is.

  8. A lot of color going on in this sample: cobalt, gray, black, golden, white.

    And, oh, man, I'm not getting this whole marmoset and his man and their almond thing. Sort of a David Lynch kind of thing?

    Which all means I might read a page or two more to see where this was going ... but maybe not.

  9. I have to agree with the Prologue comment, it does read like one. You have great word choice here, I just felt confused, which only left me frustrated. I read on, only to figure out what really was on is shoulder???

  10. I don't know what a marmouset is--guessing a dog? I'd find a way to let readers know what it is. Also, the word marmouset was repeated way too many times.
    Other than that, very creepy--I want to read more!!

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  12. Marmoset is a monkey - it's a good idea to bookmark ... A free dictionary and great resource.

  13. Umm... I don't have a whole lot to say because I have absolutely no idea what is going on. I probably would have stopped reading around the third or fourth paragraph. I wish I had better news, but it's so lost on me, I have nothing to critique. Perhaps you need to realize that your readers aren't in your mind, and they are not going to be able to read your thoughts and process what is happening the way that you can.


  14. You've spent considerable creative energy creating an eerie atmosphere, and I applaud you for that, however there's no sign of what Tristan's feeling, or what he wants. He's reporting what he sees, which appears to be his impression of a painting in his room. But it's too vague to be compelling. How does this painting affect Tristan? I think you've set a nice foundation for tone, but now you need to go back and fill in the blanks to encourage the reader to want to know what happens next.

  15. Don't despair, author, I found it intriguing, (for what it's worth). The way I read it, Tristan is creeped out by a picture in his room, and imagines movement and activity and keeps himself awake because he is too scared to take his eyes off it.
    Although I could be wrong.
    Nevertheless, it could benefit from a polish. On my first read I found the change in POV a little confusing. Maybe get into tristans head more.