Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #16

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Nara pushed her way through the soup of darkness. Her shoes clicked against the marble pathway towards the royal palace. Blackness covered her like a heavy cloak, weighing her down; even though it was only lunch time. The absence of daylight still gave Nara the creeps. It had been like this for three weeks. But she knew how to fix it.

And she would tell her stupid cousin, even though he hardly deserved it. Anything was better than living under a dark cloud all day, every day.

It was strange coming to the palace without her maidens and royal guardsmen. But now that Nara and her mom were no longer palace residents, the entourage was gone.

The guardsman at the palace gate, a fellow by the name of Warner who Nara had known since birth, bowed his head slightly as he pushed open the heavy iron gate letting Nara inside. “Good day, Lady Nara,” he pronounced.

Nara, with a dismissive flick of her wrist said, “Day? Is that what this is? I can’t tell anymore.”

The oppressive darkness covering the kingdom of Chernadova indeed made it hard to tell day from night. For three weeks, since the death of Nara’s father, it was as if the Gods decided it would be a good idea to cover the kingdom with a large, dirty, dishrag. And every day the dishrag grew dirtier.

“Yes, my Lady. It certainly is a strange phenomenon.” Warner paused for a moment, shuffling his feet before continuing.


  1. There are a couple of mysteries here that immediately sucked me into this opening - What is the darkness hanging over the kingdom? How does Nara know how to fix it? Why doesn't Nara and her mother live in the palace anymore? I'd definitely keep reading to find out more.

    Just one comment, I'm slightly confused about Nara's age--the genre is MG and language like "gave Nara the creeps" and "stupid cousin" has a young feel to it, but when she's interacting with the guard, she seems older, or possibly precocious. It feels a little inconsistent?

  2. The idea of it being dark all the time, and the girl knowing how to fix it intrigues me. I really like the 2nd to last paragraph where you describe the darkness as a dishrag.

    I think you could delete a few small things and rearrange a little to make this even stronger. I might get rid of the paragraph about no longer being palace residents, since it feels a little out of place, and rely on the guard knowing Nara as a clue to her belonging there. Later, you could bring in the real truth of her situation.

    I might also consider bringing that great 2nd to last paragraph closer to the front and then, maybe, her ability to fix this and tell her "stupid cousin" could come near the end.

    I do find this interesting and would read on to find out where the darkness is coming from and why.

  3. Nice first paragraph descriptions, I am definitely feeling the weight of the darkness. She knows how to fix it--I want to know how, also why she was kicked out of the royal palace. Sounds really interesting.

  4. You've got some great lines that suck me right in - I love the first line about the "soup of darkness."

    Not sure you need the semicolon in the second sentence of the first paragraph. I might tighten that sentence up to say: ...cloak even though it was only lunch time.

    But otherwise I think you've built a lot of questions in my mind, and I would keep reading. Best of luck with this!

  5. There's a lot of info dumped here, including too much telling and repetition, to the point that the story is bogged down.

    For example, the first paragraph mentions the darkness three times. And a quick count shows eight references to the darkness within the first 250 words alone.

    With so much stuffed into one short opening, the reader doesn't know what to focus on. So I suggest cutting back quite a bit to the info that readers need to know right now, and then intersperse the rest of it through the opening chapters.

    And only one or two direct references to the darkness. Really. It's hitting readers over the head and does nothing to move the story forward.

  6. I really like that this is MG and not YA. I also like that Nara is a total brat. It hints she'll have a lot of growth and I think that's pivotal for MG.

    You've got a lot going that would interest me: A fantasy setting that could also cross-genre as a historical. A heroine with attitude who is smart. Writing that harkens back to MG fantasists like Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia C. Wrede.

  7. I think the interesting thing here is what she can do to 'fix' the darkness, and why, in three whole days, she hasn't fixed it. Why wait for her cousin to do something? Her reason not to act (if you mentioned what it was) would let the reader know what kind of person she is.

  8. Thank you all for your wonderful comments. They are so appreciated.

    Secret Agent - I do see your point about hitting the reader over the head with the image of darkness. Great feedback! Thanks for taking the time to review this.