Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Protectors
GENRE: YA Fantasy

His eyes resonated judgment and cruelty. Though the only judgment he should’ve been making was his black and white streaked hair. He looked more like a deformed skunk with chubby cheeks than the royal King of the Light Kingdom.

A scroll of aged parchment hung on the black cast iron gates, blocking the view of the gleaming Light Kingdom palace. And at the top of the parchment was the drawing of skunk man, bearing down at any of those who passed by with a nasty smirk curved on his lips.

Light Kingdom Decree Authorized by King Orion Zalen

  1. Royals and Protectors have permission to put to death anyone they deem appropriate
  2. Citizens have no power or authority
  3. Black-winged angels must die
Three little rules, a whole lot of confusion. Though the fantasizing imagery of a black-winged angel was quite amusing. I pictured a large, squawking feathery bird with a long beak, hopping on one straggly foot towards its prey.

It was a snickering thought. No wonder the King didn’t like black-winged angels. Birds particularly have a hunger for rodents.

The crowded streets stammered all around. Everyone’s head looked toward the ground, avoiding the massive white structure. It was as if they were avoiding the palace altogether. I would too if a citizen had no power and could be put to death in an instant. It was rather infuriating.

A startling, cracked voice rang my eardrums. “Step away from the gates!”


  1. Concept-wise, I like this a lot. You express that the king is insane very succinctly and in an original way.

    The problem is that you both imply the king is present and that he isn't. I'd make it a little clearer that it's a drawing from the start. Also, the first paragraph appears to be more third person from the POV of the king, making the sudden "switch" to first feel like head hopping. I know it's the main character's view of him. (And citizens have no power is a little more than infuriating, but that may just be that the MC is on the arrogant side - at least that's how he or she is coming over right now).

    I'd actually cut the first paragraph. Just take it out. You'd have a much stronger start without it. Everything else looks pretty good.

  2. Here you go! I hope this is helpful!

    Unfortunately, I didn't understand the first paragraph the first time I read it. It took me until paragraph 4 to realize why I was so confused--this story is actually told in 1st person! The "His" in the first paragraph is a drawing!

    And that was terribly confusing! I thought the "his" in the first paragraph was the main character, and I was trying to understand why his eyes were "resonating judgement and cruelty" (which is confusingly worded) or what it had to do with hair or skunk cheeks.

    So I would definitely rework this so the first paragraph starts with the main character right off the bat. Talk about *him* looking at the declaration before describing what's on it.

    It also sounds like you're totally ready to move on with the story without saying anything else about the "black winged angels." This particular item is important enough that it's mentioned in two separate paragraphs, but not with enough context that the reader knows *why* he finds it so amusing.

    Overall, I think you really just need to establish the importance of this declaration--at least in some simple way--before moving on. Why does the main character find the angel thing so funny? Is it because angels don't exist (or aren't believed to exist)? Is it because the king is crazy, and weird proclamations come out all the time? What is this thing, anyway? Why is it so important that you're opening the story with it? You don't have to info dump (please don't!) but we need a few clues before going on to the plot.

    It's also jarring to have the MC go from being amused to (in the 2nd to last paragraph) finding a tyrant "rather infuriating." Not only does that sound like an understatement (and "rather" makes it sound like the MC doesn't REALLY care that much anyway) but we don't have any context for why the MC went from being bemused to mildly upset.

  3. I also didn't understand that the description of the king applied to a drawing and not an actual person. (In fact, I didn't get that until I read the other comments.)

    I'm a bit worried that the idea of an ruler who's evil purely for the evil's sake might be a turn-off. There's so many big, bad kings in fantasy fiction. If this king has good reasons for these rules that he believes will protect his kingdom, maybe that would be a better starting point?

    I do like that the narrator is smirking at something that sounds like it should be scary. That says a lot about your character in a small amount of space. Best of luck!

  4. Although I had to read this a couple of times to make sure I understood it, I think the humor is good. The impossible living situation for the citizens is being commented on by an outsider (I think.) But it might help to set the scene with just a sentence or two so that the reader knows that the narrator/MC is looking at a poster of the dictator/king/ruler. Perhaps you could take the first sentence from the second paragraph and use that to open the story. Start with: A scroll of aged parchment... then go into the bit about his eyes. I liked the funny comment about the angels being like birds of prey and that the ruler is like a rodent which makes them natural enemies. It was a funny observation. I also think you may want to consider condensing these 2 paragraphs, the one that begins with: Three little rules..., with the paragraph that follows it because you could get to the punch line a little faster/tighter. I'd keep the 3 little rules sentence because it sets out the problem but the stuff about the angels could be summed up into one sentence. But overall I think this seems like a cool story.

  5. It took me a couple reads to fully grasp the opening scene. What created a lot of confusion for me was the lack of a name or some kind of signifier for the narrator. At first, I thought *he* was the one who looked like a skunk and that he was looking at a picture of himself - the king.

    When I got to the line "no wonder The King didn't like black-winged angels", I returned to the beginning and after another read figured out that your narrator is just a passerby looking at a note. I feel like if you opened with the scene of a bustling city street first, therefore marking the 1st person narrator as a passerby looking at a sign first, it could clear up some of this confusion.

    Best of luck. :)

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  7. I'm another one who didn't register you were describing the picture on the parchment and was confused.

    Overall I found the opening too negative for my liking. All heavy handed doom and gloom before I've got to know the protagonist.

  8. The tone of this comes off a bit more like MG than YA to me, at least from this sample, especially with the emphasis on “Skunk man.” The rules also don’t feel as dark and hardcore in their wording as they could be, if he’s supposed to be an oppressive king. It’s not clear until after reading the second paragraph that the first paragraph is in reference to a drawing. Also, just something to keep in mind, if angels play a big role in the book, make sure to bring something new to the table angel-wise, since angels have been done a lot already.