Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #44

TITLE: The Faithful Son
GENRE: Adult Fantasy Fiction/Myth retelling

The man was startled to find himself nearly naked, sprawled face down on the banks of a frozen river. Someone was probing him, urging him to get up, a low grumble and pop mixing with the echoes of a dream. A blinding ray of sun exploded over a rock outcrop, but the air bit cold.

A shadow hovered over him, reaching to him with a long stick: “Get up, man. Get up.”

The man squinted at the shadow who spoke to him. It was a barefoot old shepherd covered in ragged skins, clutching a crook that he now held out, perhaps in an effort to help him get up. “The ice,” he said, pointing upriver. “My man, you must get up.”

The grey, frozen river had splintered, ice turning transparent in places, black in others. How he had gotten here, on his knees on the ice, he couldn't fathom. He was cold and damp, and the state of the loincloth he wore was even worse than the old shepherd’s skins. The ice beneath him gave a few shudders and a loud boom, followed by a crack and a pop that made him leap to his feet.

“The ice is breaking, see?”

The man felt the urge to rush to the forest, and to find a tuck to hide in, an old dead tree or a large rock. He didn’t know why. Certainly not for the ice, nor for this old shepherd with the scraggly beard who still poked him.


  1. The visuals of the scraggly old man and the cracking ice come through clearly. However, this draft is on the wordy side for sure.

    I'll play with your first paragraph to give you some ideas. -->

    The man awoke to find himself nearly naked, sprawled by a frozen river. A low rumble drowned out the echoes of a dream. Sun blinded him but the air bit cold. And someone was prodding him, urging him to get up.

    I'd encourage you to pare your descriptions down so the scene can move more quickly. This way, the reader's imagination can also intuitively fill in details. I moved the old man to the bottom of the paragraph because he's such a good transition to what happens next.

  2. You need to vary your sentence length more. This is all medium-length sentences, which makes the whole thing feel sluggish and dull.

    I'm sure you've got some intentional reason why the man is just called "the man," but all it does is keep me from caring about him as a character, because he isn't a character, he's a generic man.

  3. In general I like this. I do agree you could vary your sentence length a little more.

    There's nothing that jumps out at me as terribly troublesome. I would keep reading.

  4. I'd cut that first paragraph out. It doesn't feel necessary. Go straight to some action. I'm trying to reconcile the loincloth and a shepherd with the dialogue though. The dialogue sounds more contemporary than the character descriptions. This is an intriguing start.

  5. That last sentence confused me. On rereading it, I think you might have meant "Not for fear of the ice..." As I first read it, it seemed as if going to the forest might help the ice, but he didn't care.

  6. I think your description is detailed and appropriate for your genre. The pacing felt natural and easy to read. I was confused by the dialogue of the sheppard. i.e. "My man" It sounds almost like slang possibly?

    Hope this helps.

  7. I echo the sentiments of some of the other commentators. This feels really wordy to me. I know its super hard to cut words out--they are "our precious-es" after all ( : But just bite the bullet and do it! You'll be thrilled at how much more clean things sound when you finish with a good word hacking.

    Also, there seems to be a lot of telling. "He was cold and damp" is just kind of boring. Try instead "The cold stung like a million tiny wasps"… okay… or maybe not wasps. Haha! But you get the idea. This just needs more action!

    Good luck!

  8. I liked the fact that you played on the contrast between those two people. Your MC seems to be coming from far away and he is in danger. Intriguing. It makes me want to read more. However, I do not like the last paragraph. You repeat that the ice is cracking when you have already established that and you go on with what the man wants. It does not work for me. Last lines should be about the dread, the confusion of the man in loincloth (possibly a slave).I suggest you find a name for "the man" otherwise it sounds awkward. After all, he is your MC. And maybe describe the world a little more.

  9. I find some logistics problems that can easily be solved. At first the man is sprawled face down on the banks of a river. Then he is on his knees in the ice. Also someone was "probing" him. Did you possibly mean prodding? Probing has a different meaning--possibly related to Sci-Fi--is that what you meant.

    Maybe change "The man squinted at the shadow who spoke to him" to "The man saw" a barefoot...

    The last paragraph about his urge to rush into the forest is somewhat mysterious. Yes, he would want to escape. What else does it imply.

    Of course, I am interested to learn how he got into this situation and what it means and how he'll get out of it.