Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #27

GENRE: MG Fiction

Just as the morning star rose over Arezzo’s city wall, Bella jumped from her window into the back of the woolman’s cart.

She wriggled herself in between two firm sacks of wool, and pulled her knees up to her chin. It had been easy enough to leap out the window of Uncle’s house.

Had Papa passed as easily through heaven’s gate?

A tuft of wool tickled her nose and she sneezed. She held her breath.

Had the driver heard?

If he threw her off, she would never get to market and back before the bells rang for Terce. The cart slowed. Bella dared not breathe. The cart stopped. She pressed her hands over her mouth and nose, praying she wouldn’t be discovered.

The cart turned the corner and rumbled on.


The rush of Bella’s pent-up breath set stray wool fibers dancing. She caught them, rolled them into balls, and pelted the woolsacks until she stopped fizzling inside.

More carts rattled over the brick-paved streets and Bella sang under her breath. The third time through the Agnus Dei—backwards—she gave a soft bleat of amusement.
"Do all you woolsacks think I’m singing to you? Does every lamb think it’s the Lamb of God? Come, I’ll sing you a psalm.” She crooned three verses and stopped on the Paths of Righteousness.

Well before the Valley of Death.


  1. Am hooked and can already tell we're in for all sorts of excitement with Bella. Well done!

  2. I really enjoyed this. I'm interested to know more. Great job!

  3. I love medieval lit and there's no where near enough of it for kids. This looks really fun. I'm looking forward to seeing what Bella's up to.

    p.s. my prove you're not a robot was 1096, which I find hysterical. Miss Snark, did you do that on purpose?

  4. Great action-oriented beginning. The line "It had been easy enough to leap out the window" diffuses the tension, though, so maybe something like "It took all her courage to leap out the window". And the tension also goes down when she's fiddling with the wool balls. Instead, give us some sense of why she's doing this, of what she wants.

  5. I'm intrigued and want to learn more about why she needs to sneak out, what she plans to do or find at the market, and how she will return (and what might happen if she doesn't return in time).

    I thought the mood changed too much in this scene - it was hard to tell if she was more in real danger or imagined danger since she seems very childlike with the light joking and songs, yet her father recently died. I loved the way your description is incorporated into the story in a natural way. (I need to learn how to do that better!)

  6. I normally do not like a line like, "praying she wouldn't be discovered" early in a manuscript, because it's almost always impossible to know if we're to take that literally or if it's melodrama. And it makes a big difference. In this case, it's clear I can take it literally.

  7. I'd definitely like to ready more, but I find the many paragraph breaks distracting.

  8. I remember this opening, and I see that you've made some changes. It's smoother now, and I'm not so worried about her singing when she's supposedly afraid of getting caught. However, I think you've missed a chance to add tension to the opening. Instead of saying she jumped and then telling us it was easy, why not bring us along with her? If we see her poised on the window sill, taking a deep breath, and jumping, we'll be more drawn in, feeling her anxiety with her. Then when she lands lightly in just the right spot, we'll know it was easier than she expected without being told.

    Also, "fiction" isn't a genre. With the wool cart and the psalms, it feels historical, but it could also be historical fantasy or straight-up fantasy. It would be good for you to specify.

  9. Nice start, really showing the scene and building the tension. I held my breath with her after her sneeze. But then, all of a sudden she's singing? That diffused the tension that had been built up so well. I like this though.

  10. The Secret Agent has really hands-down put my feelings into words. The sneeze. It had me! I was worried. I was with the MC. But then the singing? There was no weight anymore to the scene.