Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January Secret Agent #48

TITLE: The Witch and the Demon
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Ebba’s soaked dress clung to her skin as she ran through the moonless night. The lake water left from her near-drowning had crystalized into icicles. If she fell, she might not get up again. Keep moving. Get far away from the witchfinder, may he be reincarnated as a drunkard’s chamber pot.

Heedless of direction, she climbed up the mountain, away from her village. A wolf’s cry pierced the air. Ebba froze.

The forest was dead silent again, eerily devoid of owls or bats. An ancient demonic invasion had left this place magic-cursed. Ebba shivered. Most wolves avoid humans. Except for the red-eyed ones living deeper in the forest. Anabiel help me.

She refused to be devoured like her mother. Perhaps she could sneak back to steal a knife and some food. She’d been too panicked in her flight, afraid the witchfinder might wake up…

First, he’d poked pins into the mottled red birthmark covering her left cheek. Giant hands had held her down, his nails filthy and his liver spots as big as spiders. His too-close breath had reeked of onions.

“Confess,” the witchfinder had ordered after every pin. Each time, she’d refused. They’d kill her once she confessed.

The second day had been the hot iron. This morning, the dunking. Through a blur of watery suffocation, her most distinct memory was, peculiarly, the smell of the sausages. Mad Gill had sold them to bystanders. Her pleas with her neighbors had been met with disdain.

No, she wasn’t going back.


  1. I love how this starts with action. Lots of great sensory details-- her soaked dress, the sound of the wolves, the smell of sausages. Those details really pull me into the story.

    Right away I get the genre of fantasy. I also get the stakes-- she's running for her life. So good job getting those in there right from the start.

    I also liked how you gave us some sense of the things the witchfinder was doing to her and why she couldn't go back for food or a weapon. It's a nice way to weave in backstory without dumping it on the reader.

    I kind of want a little stronger sense of her fear and pain. When she thinks about the things they did to her, she feels very objective, almost stoic about it. Maybe give us a brief sense of the pain in her cheek when he stuck the pins in or how she dealt with the pain. It doesn't need to be long--just a sentence or so.

    The same is true when she thinks about the wolves-- again, maybe show us her fear a bit more so that her choice to keep running towards this danger feels like it has high stakes as well as the possibility of going back.

    Great start though.

  2. Great intro! I feel like I'm up to speed about what's going on.

    Some people say they don't like openings with the weather/moon in them, but I personally don't mind and I like the moonless night opening line.

    Maybe it would be nice to have more physical actions, like "She shook her head and started to run again. No, she wasn’t going back."

    Very exciting and I want to find out more!

  3. I'm pretty sure internal dialogue is treated the same as regular dialogue in that it gets its own paragraph. That being said, this is all really good. I was a little confused about her worrying the witchfinder would wake up if she went back. Sounds like he was in the process of dunking her in the water when she escaped. Not sure how he's sleeping now. Intriguing story. Nice way to casually tell what happened to her mother.

  4. I'm intrigued! I like the high stakes right up front and there were lots of little tidbits to further catch my interest (e.g., witchfinders, red-eyed wolves, the fact that her mother was eaten by wolves). There might be some room to add a few more sensory details to immerse readers in what Ebba's feeling, but I'd read further. :)

  5. This seems like a really strong premise, but the last four paragraphs are backstory. Maybe if you started a little earlier, like with her escaping from the witchfinder and then moving to her fleeing through the forest. The story is engaging and I like the little details, like Mad Gill selling sausages. I'd like to see that happening in real time, not as backstory and see her reaction to that occurring. This definitely has promise.

  6. This is an exciting start, with a great premise, but I feel there is more telling than showing. And it also seems a little disjointed- you go from an escape, to mentioning wolves, to telling a background story in succession. Try slowing down the pace a little, and saving the backstory to sprinkle throughout the rest of your tale.

  7. I feel like stories beginning with someone running through a forest to get away from something is very, very common.

    Your character is interesting but it would be cool to see something other than on the run and thinking back to her captivity.

    Your descriptions are vivid though.

  8. I think the writing is very solid.
    The divergence to wolves and bats and owls, etc., was a bit distracting for me.
    If she’s panicking, why does she have time to make a silly “may he be reincarnated as a chamber pot” aside? It almost sounds like a joke, and we only find out later that his attack was actually quite serious.

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