Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Wishlock
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Dart knew the hour was late. Guttering candles set high up on the walls threw shadows as he scurried along the hallway. Dragon-shaped sconces held the candles, and their birdlike eyes followed him as he neared Boddington’s office.

Pushing open the door, Dart saw Boddington seated at his desk, dressed in his finest suit, blond hair combed into a side part. He didn’t look up, not immediately, but his nostrils flared briefly.

Turning the page in front of him with a spindly finger, Boddington addressed Dart in a clipped voice. “Well?”

“I’m finished,” said Dart.

Boddington sniffed. “All of it?”

“I – um…” Lowering his gaze, Dart took great care to avoid staring at Boddington's neck. It was difficult not to of course. A vivid burn in the shape of a handprint covered most of the exposed skin, as though someone with a hand of fire had grabbed him by the throat.

“I’m waiting!” snapped Boddinton.

“Um…I scrubbed everything…” Dart’s voice faded as he heard the front door of the building swing open. The sound was faint, beyond the reach of normal hearing.

Boddington’s voice began to rise. “Scrubbed?”

Dart kept half an ear on Boddington, while directing his attention back toward the front entrance. He detected the telltale scrape of heels against concrete - the Ruling Witch’s heels. Glancing at the forbidding portrait mounted above Boddington's desk, a chill ran up his tail.

Curly writing at the top of the frame spelled out the Ruling Witch’s name, Aphelion.


  1. Oh I love the setting! Wonderful descriptions, I feel like I'm there!

    I didn't realize Dart was an animal until the second to last sentence that mentions his tail :) If that's ok with you then it's ok with me!

    Love the descriptions of Boddington...very clear! He has skin and a neck--is he an animal too?

    One question about a word: guttering? Guttering candles...did you mean glittering?

    Very interested to read the rest!

  2. Yes - I agree that the setting is very enchanting, and you've set up what I'm sure is to be an interesting interaction with these three seemingly fascinating characters.

    I would've liked to know that Dart was some kind of animal sooner - even if just a hint. I know it's still just the first page, but I imagined a human boy up until I heard about the tail, so it threw my visuals a bit and therefore pulled me out of the story a bit.

    Also, I think you mean "foreboding" portrait, right? Plus, what about the portrait is foreboding? Show us what it looks like and why Dart is perceiving it that way rather than just telling us. We don't even have a visual of it at this point.

    The writing can be tightened a bit too. Don't need to include that Boddington "didn't look up immediately." Just tell us when he does if it's even important. You don't need "Lowering his gaze" as another example. The sentence is fine without it.

    But, yes, intriguing setting and potential interaction between characters. I'd read on.

  3. I really like this. My only quibble is with the last sentence. Rather than giving us the witch's name, I'd prefer more description of the chill-inducing portrait. Tell us it's HER portrait, then show us what makes her appearance so unpleasant.

  4. Oh, I love this creepy setup! Such a cool scene, and the characters are fascinating. I would read on. Nice job!

  5. Wow! I don't usually enjoy fantasy, but you completely hooked me from the beginning. Your description was wonderful, from the dragon sconces to flaring nostrils. It was vivid and intriguing. Would love to read the whole story!

  6. You've set it up nicely for conflict. The scene is well described and I get the feeling Dart is nervous and anxious to get out of there.
    I don't mind not finding out he's an animal until a few paragraphs in.
    Really interesting opening!

  7. I like the tension up front. I feel like Boddington's name is used way too often, a good many times in the first 250 words instead of using pronouns though this may be to keep from revealing that Boddington is an animal or part animal.

    I'd suggest starting with Dart in the room with Boddington. Because we're getting more exposition rather than emotion or tension from Dart it really starts when Dart is shy and scared of Boddington which is when I get really hooked.

    A really intriguing world and I'd read more of it.

  8. I liked the setting a lot. Dart's supernatural senses are interesting, too. And I like the added tension of the witch on her way. It's creepy and fun.

    I think the writing could be tightened a lot. For example, the words "Dart saw" are never necessary since he's the POV character. Just show us what he saw. Also, the reader can infer some actions by the ones that come after. For example, unless the act of pushing open the door is important, we don't need to see it. We can infer Dart opened or walked though the door as soon as we get the description of Boddington in his office. Finally, I'd watch starting sentences with clauses like "Pushing open the door," "Turning the page" or "Lowering his gaze." This sentence construction is almost always awkward and difficult to follow.

  9. I agree with Jenn that you should just start with Dart in the room with Boddington. The first paragraph to me was fine, but not really necessary. I also found the line "Dragon-shaped sconces..." a bit awkward.

    The rest of it is stronger, although I found the dialogue a bit dry. I did really like the line about the handprint-shaped burn on Boddington's neck.

    With a little tightening, I think this will be very good.

  10. What a terrific set-up! The handprint on Boddington's throat immediately suggests a larger conflict-- some villain or malevolent force that will come to menace our hero perhaps?

    There's clearly a detailed world here, and I like the way bits of information are metered out. Rather than stating Dart is some kind of creature, you reveal this through context with a chill running up his tail. So cool!

    I do think the prose could be tightened in places- "Dragon-shaped sconces threw shadows as he scurried" might be a bit punchier, for instance, but overall very well done. I'd like to read more.

  11. No, no! Don't leave out the first paragraph, which sets up the spooky setting and the urgency. I really liked this! Great writing and wonderful details. I get "guttering" and "forbidding". I agree that you might describe the witch rather than name her.

    My only nit-pick: We don't get the idea that Dart isn't human until the end of this passage. Boddington certainly seemed to be, but maybe not. I'm thinking we need a hint sooner.

  12. I really loved the setting and I think you set up the world very well for such a short passage. I finding out the MC is an animal or at least has a tale after coming to picture him as a human bothered me a little, but that just be my own personal bias.

    I would like to see a bit more incite into the protagonist. I don't feel like I've really got a sense of him yet.

  13. Congratulations on being a winner!