Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #27

TITLE: The Meddler
GENRE: YA fantasy

I had reluctantly taken inventory of my kidnappers’ weapons. Two were armed with daggers while the other two carried bows and fully stocked quivers.

Maybe they would cut me open like a sack of flour or snap my neck like a fattened, frantic chicken. Maybe they would leave me to freeze to death and I wouldn’t be found until spring thawed the snows. As we navigated the bleak fields, the thought of the first two fates sounded preferable to the last; my neck would crack like solid ice or my blood would spill like freezing water, and then it would be over. But the cold would seem to last forever.

Each icy gust bit me to the bone. A daydream of roasting next to a fire in the kitchens while eating fistfuls of my favorite foods made the cold feel even harsher, the wind wetter, and my stomach all the more empty. But the thought of death made me coldest of all.

“You’ll get no ransom, if that’s what you want,” I said to Hagan, the redheaded gardener. My arms were wrapped around his freckle-spotted neck, numb from taking the brunt of the snowy gusts. My teeth chattered so often I could barely prize them open to force out the words. “You ought to have kidnapped the lord and lady’s daughter. You could have asked a fine price for Hazel.”

Hagan snorted with laughter. “Aye, if I managed not to kill her in the meantime. I wouldn’t go to that trouble for a thousand aurions.”


  1. Your entry pulled me in -- great job setting the scene!

    The first sentence might be stronger without "reluctantly." It would be snappier like this: "I had taken inventory of my kidnappers’ weapons." My preference would be even shorter:
    "I TOOK inventory of my kidnappers weapons."

    I wondered about "favorite foods" -- perhaps there is a specific food that would evoke more emotion? Maybe, "...the venison my mother smoked slowly over the fire..." Or not, just a thought. : )

    One tiny suggestion is to switch "prize" for "pry," to imply a more gritty effort.

    Best wishes with this! It sounds like a compelling story.

  2. I was drawn in right off the bat! I agree that "prize" isn't the right word there. I had not realized that she was on his back, so I had to readjust my image. I, too, wished for you to describe those favorite dishes rather than just allude to them. Overall, I would be eager to read more.

  3. Great work here! I can really feel how cold she is, and you've got some lovely figurative language about coldness in this excerpt. I can tell it's overwhelming her. I would also certainly want to read on. Why is she captured, I wonder? What makes her situation so hopeless that she is seriously contemplating which mode of death she would prefer? Doesn't need to be answered in the first 250, of course.

    The only thing that tripped me up was "the thought of" in the second paragraph. Broke the flow of the otherwise well-written paragraph for me. Otherwise, good luck!

  4. I agree with the other comments, especially changing the first sentence to "I took inventory of my kidnappers' weapons." And the use of "prize" threw me a little.

    Also, I think this will be stronger if you can give a hint of the setting and the mc's position in that setting in the opening paragraph. At first, I pictured her sitting down, watching her kidnappers. Just a thought. :)

    Overall, sounds interesting. I'd keep reading. Good luck to you! :)

  5. You start at a great spot, being kidnapped. But I think you can liven up that first. I took inventory of my kidnappers weapons-two with daggers, two with bows. Or something more like that.

    The third paragraph took me out of the urgency I felt at the beginning. I don't think you need it.

    Drop the were inMy arms were wrapped...should be My arms wrapped.

    Great place to start the story. I'm intrigued and would read more. Good job and good luck :)

  6. You set the tone of the story very well. Your medieval details told me everything I needed to know about time and setting. The word "reluctantly" confused me in the first sentence. Also the MC doesn't seem to be resisting his fate much. He's having a conversation with his abductor and even imagining how he's going to die. It didn't endear him to me. Also, how does the MC know the kidnapper's name and that he's a gardener? Has he seen him around? If so, I think he would refer to him that way sooner.

  7. The opening 2 pargs. makes it sound like the MC is in a really bad situation, and that pulled me in. But after that, her situation doesn't seem so dire.

    She thinks about food instead of dying or escape, we only see one captor who is someone she knows, and a gardener at that, and he's not willing to risk kidnapping someone who could bring him lots of money, which makes him seem less threatening. The bit of conversation they have make it almost seem like they're chatting, and all the tension dwindles away.

    Maybe keep the danger in her situation.

  8. Great concept.
    I agree with the others about the opening line. I would go even further and suggest you omit it altogether and start with "two of my kidnappers were armed with...." and go from there. It drops the reader straight into the action.

    I wonder who the kidnapped MC is if not the daughter of the manor. And, as the MC has actually identified one of the kidnappers, I fear for his/ her eventual fate. This is a good thing, I'd keep reading to find out.

  9. I like it but also think that you drop the tension after the first two paragraphs. The gardener doesn't seem to be very threatening, and the dialog makes it clear that he kidnapped her for a different reason. A hint of that (preferably one that hints at an even greater danger than dying), and the scene would snap into place.

  10. Nice depiction of the imminent danger for your main character. I was confused about what was actually happening once I got to the fourth paragraph, though; at first it seems like your main character is watching her captors (or is at least unable to fight them), but then we realize she is attacking one of them. If you can clarify where she (I’m assuming it’s a “she?”) is from the start, your opening will be much clearer.

    The reveal that one of her captors is a gardener also dissipates the tension a bit – perhaps that could be mentioned later, or in the character’s internal monologue. The intensity of your opening seems at odds with what is actually happening to your MC, so it might be more effective to ramp up the stakes with her kidnapping so that there is more drama for your reader. Right now, your heroine seems poised to win the fight already!