Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Talassio
GENRE: Dark Fantasy

They walked single-file and surefooted through the dark woods, their bare feet moving lightly over the damp carpet of earth and leaf and needle, their shifts knotted above their knees so as to clear the brush just coming into blossom. It had been a bitter winter and a rain-filled spring, but now the sky was clear and filled with stars so dense as to cast a glow on the new green leaves. The moon was high and small and when again she could let herself remember that night Elisabeth would realize that it was a sickle, unusually narrow and bright: a tool for reaping, and she should have taken it for a sign.

But that night there had been no thought of signs or much else; there had only been their brisk movement up the hill towards the lake, the soles of their feet black with soil and their calves flashing white from beneath their yellowed, wrinkled shifts, and Mary singing at their head:

Ombra mai fu

di vegetabile

cara ed amabile

soave più

Sweet and clear, a pure contralto her sister’s voice, the Italian curling from her lips to cling to the very air, caught in the breeze and echoing faintly in the valley that fell away beneath them; and Elisabeth found herself humming along, feeling her own soul rising towards the black outlines of oak and elm as if to embrace them.


  1. The writing here is beautiful, but openings that begin with a lot of description are tough. I found myself wishing for a bit of conflict or character to get me invested in Elisabeth and what's going on around her.

  2. I agree with Andrew that the scene is described beautifully, but I would like to see something more happen than two girls going for a walk. You hint at danger to come. Can you get us there faster?

    I was also confused by the timing. It appears that Elisabeth is remembering an event in her past, but there is no indication as to how long ago it occurred or where she is now. I've seen a lot of advice counseling against opening with a flashback, which makes me wonder if the story is starting in the right place.

    Finally, and this is minor: the untranslated Italian annoyed me. If the words of the song are important, please tell us what they mean. If not, this might just be taking up space on your first page that could be put to better use.

  3. I love it when a book is written like a poem, and that's how this struck me. I agree with the commenters above that there's not enough tension here, and no hook.
    But it would only take one sentence to provide that and then I'd definitely be ready to take in some more of this style of writing.

  4. Sorry, this didn't work for me. There is great description here but the thoughts from the future/present day in the opening paragraph and then the untranslated song were both a turn off. I'd like to see more happening than people walking and singing on an opening page. Maybe if we knew why they were out walking at night in the woods it would be helpful or perhaps move closer to the point where something interupts their walk.

  5. I liked the opening. There is a bit of foreshadowing, but not enough. I think if you added a bit more purpose to the scene, you would get a better hook. Great writing though. And the Italian did not bother me.

  6. I have to admit, in fantasy a description like this doesn't bother me -- especially because the scene was somewhat creepy already, and with the added foreshadowing I'm confident conflict is going to come soon. I also liked the Italian as a hint of the worldbuilding -- in fantasy especially I think it's so important to set the scene. But you could perhaps shorten the description in the first paragraph a little; maybe start with Elisabeth's recollection of the moon and then move to the description?

    I'd read a little more to see where this goes. It has the feel of a prologue to me, so I'd look at it (if it's short) and then at the first chapter to get a sense of the voice.

  7. The images are poetic and flowed nicely. The writing would draw me into the story.

  8. Thank you everyone for your feedback! It is much appreciated.