Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #23

TITLE: Deathless
GENRE: YA Fantasy

It is often said that condemned souls do three things upon the approach of their executioner – tremble, plead, and finally, rage against all those present. Today I will discover if there is any truth to the saying. I am in Ayos, a town half a day’s ride from my village, and on the platform before me, two redcloaks – the red and gold armored emperor’s guards – restrain a wildly struggling woman. Though she seems mad, what with her straggly red hair and garbled speech, she trembles upon sight of the approaching executioner, quickly proving the first part of the saying true – the condemned do quiver in the face of their impending death.

Would that I were younger, and did not have to watch what was happening on the platform. Sadly, I am six winters now – much too old to behave the spoilt child (at least, according to Father). He has reminded me long and repeatedly that I must watch the execution with all the gravity required my age, and has even put me upon his shoulders, so as I have the best view of the platform for miles.

Assuming gravity is yet another of his complicated words for dignity, I fail to see how I could possibly have any – I do after all, require the extra height his shoulders provide.


  1. I'm torn. I'm hooked and then unhooked.

    Your first few sentences drew me in, but then you backed up and gave me back story, which pulled me out. I couldn't figure out if 6 winters meant he was 6 years old or if time was different in this world, but if he's six, he seems oddly wise and then I'm unhooked as I have too many questions, but not the kind that draw me forward.

    I would be totally hooked if you continued the story that you started in the first few sentences. You could definitely hook and rivet me with that.

  2. I was pretty confused by this one. The first two sentences made me think this person was on the chopping block ready to experience the truth of the saying. Much later on, I realized she is only watching the action. That stopped me and I had to go back and re-read to correct the context. I think it is the word soul. I took it to mean the internal soul rather than people.

    o Consider breaking the sentence about where she is, after 'village'. Then talk about the redcloaks. The sentence is overly long with two entirely different ideas.

    o The last sentence is also a run on. Consider cutting it in half.

    o In fact, most of the sentences are very long and a bit hard to follow. Consider breaking some of them up into multiple sentences.

  3. I am definitely intrigued by this. The tone is very unique, and I think you do a good job without it being overbearing.

    I think you could cut out the back story in the first paragraph. Instead, bring the reader immediately to the present. You could say something like "I wonder if that is true. I will soon find out."
    I think the use of the dashes makes that sentence too lengthy and too "telling". Just say "the red and gold armored guards restrain a wildly struggling woman". That's all the info we need at the moment.

    The "six winters" part did make me pause, but I was more intrigued that a six year old would narrate in that tone with such seriousness. It made me want to read further to learn more. However, if this is set in a world where the character is not a literal six years of age, I would advise changing it since it pulls the reader away from the story.

  4. The first two sentences pulled me in, but they made it sound like the MC's life was at stake. Through the end of the first paragraph, I even thought he (I'm assuming the MC is a boy) was up next, forced to watch the executions before him. So when it wasn't the MC condemned to death, it pulled me out of the story.

    Also, I like the matter-of-fact tone of the voice, but six winters made me stop and think because, to me, the voice sounds too old for a six-year-old. But maybe six winters means something else? Then again, he's on his father's shoulders, so still small. Not that a six-year-old can't have a more mature voice, but it's a little jarring in such a short space.

    It's possible you're starting in the wrong place--this feels a little prologue-y with the MC being six instead an appropriate age for YA--but it's hard to say without seeing the rest of the ms. If this is a prologue, you might consider cutting right to the present and weaving in the backstory as you go. That generally makes for a stronger opening. Just a thought. :)

    Good luck to you! :)

  5. I have mixed feelings solely because the MC seems to be 6 years old, and neither his language or his insight seems like that of a 6 year old. I read and re-read several times to see if the MC was older and looking back, but he says 'I am in Ayos,' which puts him in the present moment, so he really is 6. If he was as young as ten, I could believe it, but not 6.

    But then, it's labeled YA Fantasy, so I started wondering if this was a prologue, and do 6 winters really make him 6. As you can see, I'm hung up on his age. I also assumed he was on the scaffold and waiting to die.

    Overlooking the age issue, you've created a unique voice, and I wonder why his Dad feels it necessary for him to witness a hanging. I'd read more because I feel like there's something here and I'm willing to wait and see.

  6. I agree with the other comments in that the age of the MC confused me... I'm assuming 6 years old, especially since he/she is too short to see the execution. So is this a prologue? If so, I'd do past tense to match the adult voice, or I'd make the voice a LOT younger to match the present-tense age of the MC.

    My first question is — who says that about condemned souls? (Not that many people are aware of the reactions people have to impending executions.) If this is common knowledge in this world, I definitely want to know, because that says a lot about the society. (Of course, if the MC+father traveled half a day to see an execution...)

    Also, nothing much is happening here. The MC is just sitting on the dad's shoulders, watching guards prepare an execution. As-is, the order of the first two sentences made me think the MC was set to be executed, but with the actual situation, I'd recommend starting with the view from on top of dad's shoulders, so where know where to physically place the MC in the scene. It would be jarring imagery, because you imagine kids sitting on parents' shoulders to see a parade or something.... and if the spectacle is an execution, that's quite disturbing. (I also got no impression that they were part of a crowd of onlookers, but I'm assuming there is, with the "best view...for miles" comment. What is the crowd doing? Jeering? Laughing?)

    Also, if it's possible, I think it would be good to make the condemned woman more meaningful to the MC. Does she remind the MC of someone? What was her crime?

    In this incarnation, I don't think there's enough here to entice me to keep reading, though with a title like Deathless and it somehow tying into executions, I can definitely see that a rewrite might get me to keep going! (What can I say, dark topics are intriguing!)

  7. Paragraph one- Love! Although I'd cut the last em dash part. There is no need to repeat that the condemned quiver. It was a little disappointing that the MC wasn't "the condemned" (that's much more interesting) but I'm still down for what you have here.

    However, I was most definitely thrown when I read the "6 winters" part. This does not read like a 6 year old-- at all! It makes me wonder about this book too. It's YA so that means teen protagonist. Is this a prologue with a different character? Or is this years before the story actually starts? Or maybe it's a split POV (I wouldn't mind that, personally)? So it means I have serious question about where this book is going all together. Questions you don't want an agent or editor to have (though I'm sure a query would clear it up a little)But even besides this, I don't buy that this is a six year old talking. Just doesn't fit.

    I love the tone and style here, but I love it as a teen or adult. Not a child.

    So other than that I really love this. I like the idea, the language, the writing. Good luck!

  8. Great hook with your fist line. Your language threw me right into the story. However, this language does not fit a six year-old child--regardless of the time period. I know 250 is not enough time to explain things. Is she older and flashing back to this memory of when she was a six year-old? If so, it would fit better, but as it stands the language feels contrived coming from a child's POV. I think your writing would be stronger if you took out the words inside the dashes and parenthesis.

  9. Torn. The voice is lovely but there are too many hickups (the boys age and the fact that it's not him on the scaffold) for me to keep on reading. Maybe start at a much later date when the MC is older (fitting the YA genre).

  10. Forcing a child to witness an execution is a confronting way to open the novel. I expect your world to be a callous one, aand I'm not sure I want to spend much time there. Then again, our world only developed the concept of childhood as being distinct from adulthood a few hundred years or so ago, so for all I know, there may well have been kids watching beheadings here, too.

    I wonder how often winter comes around in your world. Coz if it's a 365 day cycle as it is here, then a six year old voice, as others have pointed out, strains credibility.

  11. Dark and unusual premise. I’m a bit confused about your main character’s age here, though. The fact that your character is only “six winters” old and has to sit on her dad’s shoulders to see made me double check the genre. If this opening is a flashback, I would recommend clearly stating that the main character is six here.

    While I’m interested to see where your story leads, it’s hard to believe that a father would make his young child watch an execution (let alone travel half a day to see it.) If your MC or her dad had some connection to the person being executed (or the executioner), I would buy into this premise much more.

    With the more formal, old-fashioned storytelling voice you’re using, it would also help to see your MC’s emotional reaction to the woman struggling, the executioner coming up on stage etc. This is heavy stuff, and I don’t get a sense of how your MC feels about any of it yet.