Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #25

TITLE: The Thoughtmaker
GENRE: YA Steampunk

Jessamine swung one arm above her head, trying to make the awkward sleeve of her oversized trench coat slide down to her elbow, while holding a crystal ball in the other.

The man in front of her, bright goggles atop his head and a top hat clenched in his fists, peered eagerly at it as she fluttered her slender fingers in the air. She could tell he was desperate and that made everything easier.

Reading people’s minds was effortless enough, but only after they opened up. The more they listened to what she said, the deeper into their minds she could crawl.

Harumke pilious veriphone stati,” she tomed in a serious voice. It was her own created language. At first, it had been gibberish, meant to provide atmosphere for her customers. But after twelve years of performing the same ritual since she was five, she had come to make the words mean something. Harumke pilious veriphone stati was one of the most familiar phrases she uttered, and it meant “You are a stuffy goat head.”

She closed her eyes, and saw pictures of a woman, dressed in blue silk, her hair rolled up in a turban. The man’s mind was opening to her. She wiggled her pinky underneath the crystal ball to flick a switch on its belly. She felt the movement of a spring inside the golden base as it began to uncoil, swirling a tiny gyroscope to disturb the confetti inside.


  1. I love how Jessamine is both parts actual mind-reader and a bit of a fraud, with the crystal ball and everything; it gives a really interesting dynamic to her character. I'd definitely read on. However, I also think your first sentence could be stronger--it feels a little wordy and forced. The first sentence of your third paragraph is what really drew me in--if you could find a way of either moving that up, or restructuring your first sentence to make it grabbier, it'd be great. Good luck!

  2. I would definitely read on to the next page. I totally agree with what Julia says, and I especially like that Jessamine is both a mind reader and a fraud.

    I feel like this has some great voice, and the writing is really tight. The only paragraph where things get a little wonky is when she's talking about her made up language. That could probably be rearranged so it reads more naturally.

    This is good stuff, and I really want to know why Jessamine is a fraudulent mind reader/con artist.

  3. I do love the world you've created here, and the character seems very quirky.

    Wasn't quite clear on the made up language and why it was necessary, but the rest was great. I think it's meant to be something fake to make people believe it's magic? Might help to clarify.

    I'd turn the page :)

  4. This is an intriguing concept and I would love to read more of it. It's well-written, but I agree with the others - I'm not sure about the necessity of the made-up language. That said, I laughed at the meaning of the made-up words. I could hear one of my friends saying them and that made me really smile. :)

  5. I love this and would definitely read on to find out more! :)

    My only nit is that your MC is 17 (I take it based on starting at 5 and has been doing her thing for 12 years) yet “You are a stuffy goat head" sounds like something a 10-12 yr old would say. But that's it.

    Good job on this and much luck!

  6. I think you've put together a compelling character here. I want to know more about her.

    But I was having some trouble visualizing the blocking of this scene. I'd like to take a little more time to set the scene. Maybe start with "she could tell the man was desperate" rather than the description of her actions, so we have some context for the actions.

    With a little rearranging, this is a promising opening.

  7. I enjoyed this a lot, and love the interplay between the truth of what she can do and the conjurer's tricks that she uses to make it seem "magical." I like the made-up language, but don't know about this particular translation. It reminded me of a scene in a Parks And Rec episode when a Native American "un-curses" someone by throwing dust in his face and saying "Here, dummy" in his own language. I think you should maybe mature the insult, like someone else suggested.
    The character really captured my interest, though, and I'd love to know where this plot is going, what the larger conflict will be. Spectacular start!

  8. Very intriguing, but I agree the opening line does not do it justice. A commenter in another thread suggested to read the sentence out loud, listen to how it sounds and the cadence. This first line could probably be fine as is buried later in the chapter, but the first line has so much work to do to pull a reader in. This type of story you can probably craft a first line with some humor or mystery, something that really entices. Maybe an internal thought of Jessamine about the crystal ball, or how easy it will be for her to manipulate him (if that works for the character). Good luck with this!