Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Child of the Night Guild
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Viola huddled in darkness, shivering, arms wrapped around her knees. The sobs and whimpers of the other children echoed in the close, stale air.

Her back ached from sitting on hard stone. How long had it been since Iltair threw her in here? It felt like an eternity. She wanted to leave, but what awaited her beyond the door? Her stomach twisted as horrifying images played in her mind.

Confusion drowned out her fear. How could Papa abandon me?

Viola hugged her knees tighter. "Bright Lady, hear me and protect me in my hour of need."  Rocking, she whispered the prayer over and over, clinging to the litany like a lifeline. She wouldn't succumb to her terror.

The door swung open, and she shielded her eyes from the harsh light.

"Up, little 'uns." The voice was gruff but not unkind. "Time to meet your master."

Viola tried to stand. Her legs refused to cooperate. She'd eaten nothing that morning, and Iltair hadn't given her food before leaving her here. She swallowed. Her tongue felt thick and coarse, her throat filled with grit.

"Up, I said!"

Viola lowered her hands and blinked back tears. A bearded man stared down, the fire in his eyes matching the torch in his hands. She shrank back.

The man snarled. "Are you deaf, child?"

Viola shook her head.

"Just stupid and useless, are you?"

Again, Viola shook her head. Her parched throat refused to form words.


  1. I think this is a really strong start. Two things I'm confused about are - is she in a cell with other children? I'm confused about this as the man speaks directly to her alone. And can she leave? 'She wanted to leave. But what awaited her beyond the door?' - this implies that she could leave (but is afraid to). Is this the case? Aside from those things it's a strong start.

  2. Thanks, Joy!
    1) He says "little 'uns"--plural, so he's talking to all the kids. When he sees her hanging back, he targets her. What could make that more clear?
    2) Should I make it clear the door is locked and she CAN'T leave?


  3. I think you should make it clear that she can't leave, because I questioned that too.
    After the line 'Viola lowered her hands and blinked back tears'. you could add something like 'She realised she was the only child left in the cell' to clear up any confusion.
    Otherwise, an interesting start.

  4. Interesting start, and I'm curious what lies beyond the cell. A couple of things made me stumble. I thought Viola had been in the cell for days or weeks rather than hours. This line " How long had it been since Iltair threw her in here?" is what brought me to that conclusion. The guard went from not unkind to snarly really quick. The first bit made me think he might be sympathetic to their plight, so the shift in tone bothered me.

  5. Good point. That "gruff but not unkind" is out of place.

  6. Interesting, dark opening. I really felt for the heroine.

    I was a little confused about whether Iltair and her father are the same people or different ones. If they are the same, she should probably consistently refer to him as "father". If they are different, without giving readers a total info dump, I think a little more explanation is needed about who is who.

    I'd like a little more sense of how old Viola is - are we talking a tiny child or nearly a teenager - and how long she's been in there.

    Like others, I felt "gruff but not unkind" to "shouting abuse at his charges" didn't really work. If he has moodswings or puts on a friendly act until he loses his temper, I'd say something stronger than "gruff but not unkind" (kindly voice perhaps).

    Finally, I know this is only the first 250 words, but I'd like a tiny bit more of a hint about where she is or what is going on. Perhaps the guard could say something like "you work for X now."

  7. This is intriguing, I want to know what is going to happen, though at this point it feels a bit more like YA or MG fantasy.

    I'd like to know how old Viola is and maybe a little bit about what she looks like. I also feel like I'm missing more description of the setting, is she in a dungeon? What does it look like? I don't know where we are - time? City? Even though this is fantasy I still would love some kind of clue here as to where and when this is set and where she is, how wold she is, what she looks like. Right now it feels a bit too generic without more telling detail.

    I'm intrigued though and I'd read on!

    Thanks for entering!

  8. Secret Agent, does all that need to happen in the first 250 words, or will it suffice that all those details are explained in the rest of the first chapter? I wanted to use the first few paragraphs showing you the bleakness of Viola's situation (automatically putting you on her side), and filling in more details as the chapter goes on.

    I appreciate your feedback immensely!

  9. I'm curious because you've started an adult fantasy story with a child. It's making me wonder where you're going to take it because usually you open with the main character, so I'm thinking either there's a massive time jump from this moment to her adulthood, or you're doing something experimental and new. This is the sort of opening where I flip ahead a few chapters to see if a time jump happens. You pulled me in. I dig it.