Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Divine

The dust is high today, the air impossibly dry as I scan the swarms of bodies packed tight in the streets, suffocating from the heat.

Another sandstorm is coming.

I try to focus on the crowd as an airship slinks over the street from where it’s tethered at the top of a building, blocking out the sun. My fingers itch as muted glints of silver flash on one side of the street, then the other as I stick to the shade of a massive building. People rush past, and I’m careful to keep to the edge of the crowd and out of sight from the redcoats on patrol.

My head pounds from the cries of barterers and I search for flashes of crimson. Today everyone in Cidy will be on the streets to trade what they have for what they need. Meaning the Service will be on high alert for pickpockets.

Like me.

A man chases after an Insan vendor dressed in a bright green button down, too busy to notice me. I reach forward and slip a silver chain from his pocket and stuff it into my bag.

Everyone is supposed to play nice with the tradesmen from Insa, the Moroccan nation to the west. The monthly mass market, our so-called Vendita Day, is how Syd and the Insan Council keep up the façade that Cidy and Insa are good neighbors. After Europe fell to shambles nearly two centuries ago, good neighbors are hard to come by even in your own country.


  1. I am intrigued by the description in just 250 words. You totally brought me into a strange new world, one that I felt compelled to stay in for awhile. Would love to read more!

  2. I think this is a good set-up with an interesting futuristic world. I personally wanted to know a little bit more about the main character. Not info-dump stuff, but how they're feeling about this pickpocket business. Are they nervous because it's their first time, or are they relaxed and confident because they've done this sort of thing a lot?

    In general I'd like to know more about the character. Are they male or female? What do they look like? How old are they? I know it's only the first 250 words, but we've been in this character's head without knowing their emotion/physical description and that makes it tough for me to be fully invested. But otherwise, I like the setting and what promises to be an interesting scene with the pickpocketing. Good luck!

  3. I agree with Chris. There is some interesting world-building here, but I would sacrifice some of that to tell us more about the main character. I would also like to see more immediate jeopardy. Maybe put a redcoat in the scene, instead of just saying that the MC needs to watch out for them.

    On the picky side, I found some of the sentences in the first few paragraphs difficult to parse because you use the word "as" so many times. You might look at rephrasing so that the actions happen sequentially, rather than all at once.

  4. Theres definetely a lot of info here. I agree with Chris and Rebecca. Need more of the character. This give me a firefly vibe and just for that alone, it's a win.
    I love pickpockets and street uchins and sci-fy. Aladdin+Firefly= Insta-win.
    I'd read on.
    Good luck!

  5. I also thought of Firefly when I read this. Good description for such small amount of words.

  6. I want to know what's at stake here for her. We get that there's a sense of danger because of the sandstorm and the crimsons, but what will happen if she gets caught, or doesn't pick enough pockets? How deadly will the sandstorm be? What am I dying to find out when I turn the page? I didn't quite get that here.

    Consider starting with "I scan the swarms of bodies" and then get to the dust and the sandstorm. That way, we immediately know whose POV we've got.

    Love the description of the world and definitely get a sense of where we are, but I'd almost shift the world description later and try to get some more action in here.

    Love "my fingers itch" to hint that she's a pickpocket.

    Not sure what was going on with the "muted glints" though, would glints be muted? Also, this made me wonder if this was a disco ball. It only makes sense that this is money/jewelry after we hear she's a pickpocket.

    Tighten a bit--try "I keep to the edge of the crowd" instead of "I'm careful to keep." Or "I slip a silver chain" instead of "I reach forward and slip a silver chain."

    Does her head really pound from the cries of the barterers? This might be an opportunity to take the advice of earlier comments and show how she feels. Does she thrive in the crowd as a pickpocket? Or does it drive her crazy and give her a headache?

    She definitely sounds sympathetic--I love stories about outsiders and thieves!

  7. What a great start to a story! I love that the protagonist is a pickpocket, and the red and green coats, the sandstorm, the transporting futuristic foreign world, I'm immersed in immediately. The last paragraph too helps anchor it in a tumultuous time and place, so we know there's more intrigue to come. Great beginning. (BTW, I don't really need that much more of the main character yet). I think the setting, and knowing that s/he is a pickpocket is good enough for me to continue to want to read. Just my opinion.

  8. This is an intriguing opening. I’m not normally a sci-fi person, but can be drawn in by a well-written story, which this is. A couple of thoughts…

    If the airship is blocking the sun, how can there be a shady side?

    If you can get rid of some of the “as”s in the first and third paragraphs, I’d suggest one here: My head pounds from the cries of barterers AS I search for flashes of crimson.

    The “rush” made me pause, as this usually indicates an immediate attraction or danger, rather than just shopping, although we do say the Christmas rush.

    Why is the man chasing after the vendor? Do the venders not have stationary stalls of some kind?
    Some might wonder who is too busy to notice, the man or the vendor?

    There was quite a bit of info to absorb in the last paragraph. I kinda got stuck on “Insa, the Moroccan nation to the west,” trying to work out how it’s got one name but it’s a nation called something else (that exists today). Then there’s Syd and Cidy, which sound alike. Syd is normally a person’s name, so now I’m wondering if Syd is a person, like a dictator, or a governmental entity, like the Insan Council.
    Enjoyed this, though! I got enough of the main character to like her (is it a her?) and read on

  9. I enjoyed this. You've set the scene marvelously, and now I want to know what's going to happen. I don't personally enjoy being thrown into the middle of a scene that I know nothing about. Someone running, someone shouting, someone slapping someone--I don't know who they are, so I don't care what's happening.

    I already feel like I'm in the world with this brief introduction.

  10. What Pam said....I don't need more character development at this point either, except that I'd like to know the sex of the MC fairly soon after this if I were to keep reading. (I would!)
    I also noticed the confusion around the shade in the midst of the airship's shade.
    I think you have effectively eluded to a character who is a survivor and has been picking pocket successfully for some time.

  11. Your MC picks a pocket and the rest is all set up. Perhaps start with her picking a pocket, and as others have suggested, give us a bit of why she's doing it? You can work in bits of description as she roams the market place, but perhaps also let a red coat see her, or watch her-something to add some conflict and tension.

  12. You've done a fantastic job building your world, weaving so many layers of tension throughout the story. Capturing my attention is what really counts, and you have succeeded.

  13. I was confused about the shady part and the airship too. Otherwise, great opening. The airship caught my interest because I love anything steampunkish.

  14. Hooked - very descriptive ... can almost feel the sand heavy in the air. As far as the "shade w/out sun" comments - I got it, but thinking a clearer word might be "shadow" rather than shade. Other than that - I wouldn't change anything!

  15. The first three paragraphs here set a great scene, but then we slide into an info dump. I had already gleaned from "my fingers itch as muted glints of silver flash" that there was a good chance the protag was a pickpocket. Don't assume your reader is so stupid that you then have to 'tell' us, just to make sure we get it. I'd drop the lines "Meaning the Service will be on high alert for pickpockets. Like me" You might also like to clarify in the second paragraph how silver flashes on the street - it can be as simple as 'flashes around necks' because currently it almost reads like the street itself is glinting.

    I did struggle visualing how the protag (I have no indication of genre for our protag) managed to slip a silver chain from a pocket when the man/vendor was running past them? I'm also not sure if it was the man or the vendor in the bright green button down that had the chain swiped?

    The last paragraph is all info dump and I started to fade out. I'd cut the dump and get back to the stealing and try and build some tension to keep the reader turning the page.

  16. Other than the final paragraph that comes too soon at this stage of the story, your first page is extremely well done. I love the immersive technique of your world-building as you make action and description work together to fully engage the reader.

    I recommend not using the word "bodies" in the first paragraph because my immediate impression was that all the people were dead.

    I suggest you take out the line: Like me. It's jarring and telling, and you show this through action in the next paragraph so you don't need it.

    For me, the character is revealed through his or her observations as the world is described. The threat of a sandstorm puts this character on edge and its obvious he or she is not relaxed. Itching fingers, hiding in the shade, being careful, are all clues to who this character is. You shouldn't have to hit the reader over the head with a two-by-four to do it. Bravo!

    Though the last paragraph is interesting, it could be too convoluted at this point to try to summarize the world's politics. The summary is a fairly good one, but it's not in the right place. Stick with the inciting incident that will kick-start your story. Good luck with this!

  17. Overall, this is a decent start. There's a bit of an info-dump in the world building and not enough info on our main character. I'd like to know a smidgeon more about whose voice we're hearing (although I love that line "Like me." Tells us so much, and in only two words!), and I don't need to know this much about the political conflicts yet.

    Also, careful with that opening line. "Bodies" is a bit misleading, seemed initially like the fallout after a massacre.