Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #29

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Nara squinted through the murk as her shoes clicked against the familiar marble path towards the royal palace. A mist of darkness surrounded her, even though it was only midday. The absence of daylight still gave Nara the creeps. It had been like this for three weeks.

But she knew how to fix it.

And she would tell her stupid cousin, even though he hardly deserved it. Anything was better than living under a dark cloud all day, every day.

It was strange coming to the palace without her maidens and royal guardsmen, but now that Nara and her mom were no longer palace residents, the entourage was gone.

The guardsman at the palace gate, a man Nara didn’t recognize—this angered Nara more than it probably should have—bowed his head slightly as he pushed open the heavy iron gate, letting Nara inside. “Good day, Lady Nara,” he pronounced.

Nara, with a dismissive flick of her wrist said, “Day? Is that what this is? I can’t tell anymore.”

The oppressive darkness covering the kingdom of Chernadova indeed made it hard to tell day from night. For three weeks, since the death of Nara’s father, it was as if the gods thought it would be a good idea to cover the kingdom with a large, dirty, dishrag. And every day the dishrag grew dirtier.

“Yes, My Lady. It certainly is a strange phenomenon.” The guardsman paused for a moment, shuffling his feet before continuing. “What do you make of this oddity?”


  1. Really interesting premise. I'm intrigued to find out how Nara can fix it. I think this is well written and I would read more. Just a few small things:

    You mention the three weeks of darkness twice. Once is enough.

    I found it awkward that the guard 'pronounced' his greeting to Nara. That may just be a personal choice, but you don't need the action at all, since he just said it.

    In the beginning of the story, I envisioned the darkness only surrounding Nara. Later, I realized the whole kingdom was in darkness. Perhaps instead of saying the darkness surrounded Nara at the beginning you could say the darkness covered the kingdom.

    I have a very good sense of Nara's story already and I like this choice of a moment in time when former royals have lost their seat.

    Even so, I find it strange that the guard would presume he can now have a conversation with Nara, as if she were any commoner entering the palace.

    These are all small details, which indicates a good story. Nice work!

  2. I love this image! "For three weeks, since the death of Nara’s father, it was as if the gods thought it would be a good idea to cover the kingdom with a large, dirty, dishrag. And every day the dishrag grew dirtier."
    But, I would suggest varying your sentence length more. You have many long sentences one after the other and that really slows the pace. As this is the beginning of the story, you may want it to move a tad faster or at least at a steadier pace.
    I hope this helps. Good luck :)

  3. That's an interesting idea, intriguing.
    But how do they know it is only clouds covering the sun and not the sun that disappeared? You also suggest that the gods did that. What are their relationship with the gods? Why would the death of someone create darkness?
    I liked the deserted palace peopled with guards she does not recognize. Chernadova sounds so much like Chernobil, I picture (wrongly, I'm sure) a nuclear catastrophe at the base of the problem.
    The heroine sounds courageous and determined, but also superior in a wrong way. I am not sure I like her. You might give her a compassionate trait. She could speak more nicely to the guard, say something nice. She is the princess and needs to reassure her subjects, not make them feel even worse.
    However, I was confused at the beginning. Is she followed by an individual dark cloud or is the entire kingdom plunged into darkness? You seem to imply both when you say "A mist of darkness surrounded her" and "living under a dark cloud" then "The oppressive darkness covering the kingdom".
    How can the people see where they are going? You do not mention any light, torches, candles, etc.
    The entire premise is about the sky being dark. It's not a hook. The hook should be the character's arc, not the setting. Your hook is the MC trying to find a way to fix it and why she thinks she can fix it. Frankly, if she knows how to fix it, what is she waiting for? She sounds like she does not care. Show her fix it or what prevents her from fixing it, her dilemma.
    Good luck :)

  4. I like the idea that the kingdom has been dark for 3 weeks, but I agree with Sussu that the MC seems a little haughty. The guard says 'good day' - which is polite - and she gets all snarky and sarcastic. Also, why does she get mad because she doesn't recognize the guard? I understand what you're implying (or I think I do - that she's mad because she and her family aren't living there anymore, and maybe they're making a bunch of staff changes), but it makes her seem a bit immature. It's not the guard's fault he's new.

    I also found the use of 'pronounced' awkward ("Good day, Lady Nara," he pronounced).

    Overall, an intriguing start -- I hope Nara's personality improves with time. I might read on a bit further, with the hope that it does.

  5. I like this premise of forever darkness since Nara's father passed. It has me invested because she thinks she knows how to fix it as well.

    I think in the fifth paragraph that insertion of Nara being angered by not recognizing the guardsman could be forgone as it takes me out of the immediacy of the scene and right now we as readers are trying to get established in the hear and now.

  6. Interesting! You've managed to convey a lot of story in just a few words, which makes me want to keep reading.

    A couple of things:

    In the first paragraph you don't need the last sentence. That will be revealed later.

    The inset into the sentence about the guardsman ("this angered Nara more than it probably should have) was awkward to the pacing and took me out of the story. And if it's not necessary to the story I'd drop the bit about her not recognising him, too. Plus the speech tag. It's clear who's talking. So I guess what I'm suggesting is: "The guardsman bowed his head as he pushed open the heavy iron palace gate. 'Good day, Lady Nara.'"

  7. An interesting premise, but I thought it could use more reworking. For instance, in sentence one it's murky, in sentence two, we have a mist of darkness, in sentence three, there's an absence of daylight. Instead of telling us the same thing three times, find a way to explain the situation by only saying it once.

    In parg 4 when Nara gets angry, show her anger instead of telling us she was angry. You identify the guard before he speaks to her, so when he does speak, the tag's not needed.

    You could replace all the 'Nara's', except for the first one, with either her or she

    The situation itself works. Work at tightening up what you've written.

  8. This is an interesting set up. I like the idea of a darkness descending over a kingdom with the death of a king. Though, at least in this passage, Nara doesn't seem particularly upset about her father's death- she seems mildly annoyed more than anything else. As such, I'm not quite sure how to take her. I like her haughtiness (makes her fun to read), but I worry her apparent lack of feeling for her father's death might make her seem a bit cold.

    Two small language notes: 1) "Mom" feels a bit off-voice here. Perhaps "mother" would feel more in keeping with the medieval milieu? 2) Watch out for the echo of "gate" in the fifth paragraph.

  9. This sets up an intriguing world that MG girls will like!

    Being a hiker and a path person, I got stopped on "marble" path. Don't know what else you could say without knowing more about the setting. Is it through a wooded area?

    Seems like you want to say: Although it had been like this for three weeks, the absence of daylight still gave Nara the creeps.

    "But she knew how to fix it." I wanted at least a little hint of why she let it go on for so long?

    There are some places where you don't have to say Nara's name: this angered HER more than it probably should have // letting HER inside.

    The next to last paragraph is just more description of what you said in the first paragraph. Combine, tighten, and keep at the beginning.

    I agree about the "mom" comment. "Mother" sounds more in voice.

    I'm curious why she doesn't live at the palace any longer. She and mom got kicked out just because father died? Dad must have been king or someone else important for the gods to make it dark for 3 weeks. Guess I'll just have to read on!