Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #39

TITLE: The Keepers
GENRE: YA Fantasy

It was the nameless hour between evening and night. Darkness was threatening to descend upon the frenzied market. Everyone walked with a purpose, but they were anything but oblivious to the creature that loomed high overhead, a vulture prepared to envelop the Earth under its deathly, dark wings. Women held their purses close, and men hurried to sell their final products. Pickpockets trailed after careless customers, stealing anything they could get their hands on, only to afford a meal for tomorrow. Shop stalls had already begun to light up with lanterns, oil lamps, and hanging light bulbs, warding away the threat that nightfall carried. Their gaudy glow attracted mosquitoes and other insects with beating wings. A melody of sharp buzzing could be clearly heard.

An old shopkeeper felt a feathery touch as one landed on the base of his wrist. The pulsing of his blue vein could be seen beneath the translucence of the man’s worn skin. A riverbank of blood and temptation had caught the bloodthirsty eye of the mini-beast. Agitated, the man cleanly swatted it away with the grace and speed of a predatory cat.

Getting back to work, he grunted as he lifted the elegant mahogany table from his donkey-drawn cart. His muscles tensed beneath the bleak, sweat-stained grey of his shirt. He did this every day, yet it never got any easier. In fact, he was getting older and his strength was beginning to leave him. He balanced the weight of the table precariously between his two arms.


  1. You set the scene well here; I love the imagery of night as a vulture, and I giggled when I realized the mini-beast was a mosquito! My only suggestion would be, I like to know my characters right away. Can we know the shopkeepers name? And besides packing down for the night, is there some other danger we should be worrying about? I get a sense of urgency, but I don't know what they're afraid of. I would keep reading to find out, but if there's a way to drop a stronger hint on this first page, it could really heighten our concern for the shopkeeper.

  2. I have to agree with Nat. I like the writing, but most of what you have on this page is a description of your world. I would like to know more about your MC, in fact, have we even met your MC? You say the shopkeeper is old, and this is YA.

    Also, like Nat, I get the feeling we should be afraid of something, but I'm not sure what.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

  3. You've got some great descriptions here but I wish I knew more about where you were headed with the story.

  4. This reminds me of a movie opening: starting out broad (with credits rolling), then zooming in further and further until we finally reach the starting point.

    Unfortunately, while your scene setting is vivid, I felt the story was too slow in coming. We barely see any inklings of character (assuming the shopkeep is actually an important character), which makes it harder to relate.

    I would challenge you to do this: describe the scene through the eyes of your character. What your character notices, and how they react to it, will reveal a lot about their personality. For example, when they see the pickpockets, do they shrink back and fear, grin with amusement, or suppress the urge to beat the thieves senseless?

    Right now, the only viewpoint we see is yours, the author's. While I'm sure you're a very interesting person, if I pick up your fantasy novel, I'm doing so to read about the characters who live in this world you've created.

  5. As a reader, I didn't feel connected to the story. The first sentence is a little passive and it didn't hook me. I recommend starting with your MC. Are you going for the omnipresent feel?

    The description is beautiful! You really make use of poetic prose.

  6. For a brief moment I thought the mossie that landed on the shopkeeper's wrist was actually one of the nameless threat things. I think the reason is that you describe them as being like vultures, and then describe the mosquito as "feathery" without actually saying what it is. I don't imagine mosquitoes to be feathery. Bitey and splatty, maybe. :p

    Your descriptions are really good. I'd keep reading this, although I'd be a little confused that the only character I'd met was an older man given it's a YA. I hope the MC appears shortly after where this ends.

  7. I agree with the above commenters. Great writing, vivid description, but I'd love to see the MC in the setting. Maybe describe the scene through his/her eyes - is the MC at this market? Why? Does the market play heavily into the story? So , yes, while great writing, it leaves so many questions.

  8. Of course this is only the first 250 and the word 251 may give us everything we need to know, but I agree with Nat in that the descriptions put me right in the scene and there's urgency and the hint at the conflict, just need slightly more about the character, unless, like I said, we learn that in soon or it is integral to the beginning. Good start!

  9. I think setting the scene works, but perhaps pay more attention to the words you are using.

    Darkness ‘was threatening’ to descend – it isn’t threatening. It’s going to fall. No one can stop it. So perhaps a simple ‘Darkness descended?” Then you call it a ‘frenzied market,’ but no one is acting frenzied. They’re all going about their business ‘with purpose.’ And then you throw in the ‘creature’ overhead, and imply it is dangerous and the people are fearful of it, and then it turns out to be only a vulture that doesn’t threaten anyone, and that no one is afraid of. The mosquito you mention later is, in fact, more dangerous than the vulture. And then, if there are all these threatening things going on, and the night is so scary, why are shopkeepers lighting lanterns and prolonging their business hours? Why are people still out shopping? Why isn’t everyone hurrying to go home? And can sharp buzzing be a melody?

    Then we meet the ‘shopkeeper’ who doesn’t seem to have a shop and has been driving a donkey cart. Might he be a peddler instead? Would a mosquito see ‘a riverbank of blood’ when seeing a person? Would it think in those terms, or would it simply smell or sense food? And is the man balancing the ‘weight’ of the table in his arms, or the table itself?

    Perhaps consider a rewrite for better clarity.

  10. This omniscient POV is not pulling me in at all. I’m just reading a description, not being drawn into a world and a story. If this is a YA, there should be a teenage protagonist, and the story should be from his or her POV (whether 1st or close 3rd person). Instead, this omniscient narrator tells us about an old man. I’m curious to find out where this is going, but I’m not really hooked.

  11. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 19, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    I'm not a fan of omniscient point of view so I found this difficult to read. I would have refrained from commenting at all, but thought you might want to know why I skipped yours.