Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #14

Title: Dragon Scales
Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy

The first time I saw my violin, she winked at me from the top shelf of Sorić's Violin Shop. Opened her bright yellow eye, flashed a smile full of needle-sharp teeth and squinched shut her eyelid.

Violins don't wink, you say. It's impossible. They're made of wood and varnish. They have four metal strings, stretched over a wood bridge and wound around pegs in a box by the scroll.

The scroll doesn't morph into a dragon's snout when adults aren't looking. Their mouths aren't full of tiny, razor sharp teeth and they don't nip at you when you miss a note playing scales to warm up.

Enormous bat-ears don't pop up and swivel to listen to you play.

They don't have long, thin tails that whip out of the tailpiece button and curl around your neck when they tuck into your chin. And they don't help you keep time in the music by thumping their tails against your back.

You can't count on their back paws gripping your shoulder and pushing to the perfect height on your chest.

They don't speak in Italian musical terms.

They most certainly don't have paper-thin wings that fold into their C-bouts, the C-shaped curves on both sides.

And they never, ever fly.

You're 100-percent right.

That's what I thought a violin was, too.

Until I met Zora.


  1. What an interesting opening! I'm immediately intrigued by this dragon violin (love the title, by the way). I also wonder who the "you" is that the MC is addressing.

    The list of things that normal violins don't have is an interesting way to describe the MC's instrument. I like it, but it feels a bit too much like a list, rather than part of a story. Consider just giving a few details now, and interspersing the rest as the MC gets to know the instrument. Also consider starting with a bit more emphasis on the MC - why is he/she looking for a violin, how does he/she react when the violin starts doing odd things, etc. Put the MC and the violin in a specific scene in which the violin does something, MC says something to it or tries to get an adult's attention, etc. This will help me to feel more invested in the MC right off the bat.

    Overall, your concept is very original!

  2. I agree with Wendy's comments. I wondered about whether this was contemporary fantasy since I think about dragons being from another era. But your mention of the metal violin strings (instead of the type of strings used hundreds of years ago) gave the reader the clue that perhaps this was happening now. Also, where is this happening? Hungary? The name of the violin shop could be in Europe but I wanted to have a better idea of the setting as well as why the main character is there, are other people in the shop, such as a parent or sibling. If so, the MC could also interact in the beginning of the story to give the reader more about the MC's personality.

  3. I love this premise! What fun! That said, I'd shorten the list of things violins don't do, and add more to the list of what this particular violin does do. The second to last line threw me. Because you never said exactly what a violin "was" (just what it didn't do) that line doesn't agree with what you've written above. Simple enough to change: "You're one hundred percent right. That's what I thought too." Great story.

  4. This is a great opening. I love the humorous voice. I do have to echo what others have said about the list going on a little too long. But I still absolutely loved it. Best of luck!

  5. Totally and completely intrigued. My knowledge of violins is scant at best, but the your explanations, hidden in the descriptions were easy to grab a hold of. The character's voice is clear and relatable, and I can see the what Zora does in my mind's eye. Is there someway for you to make Zora's characteristics/description more compact? Perhaps join descriptions that fit together, like the tail and wings and liken it to a dragon or other creature? My kid would love this story, and I would love reading it to him.

  6. Like the other comments, I found this first page could go much quicker without the long list. I wanted to feel your MC's response to finding out about this special violin and some of the cool things it can do. Letting your audience share that experience as the MC experiences it could really enrich this first page.

    I'm intrigued and want to know about this violin named Zora and where it will take your MC.

  7. I love the premise and dragons. I think the way to go would be to show what the violin - dragon can do. Put us in the shop maybe buying the violin and have the mystery unfold in real time.

    Either way, I'm intrigued and would turn the page. Great idea and thanks for sharing!

  8. This is wonderfully weird! Some phrasing on the list of things violins shouldn’t do felt a little unwieldy and the list overall feels a little long - I'd trim it.

    What I find most intriguing about this passage is that the clues don’t indicate some sort of monster-instrument—its properties actually seem to help the musician play better. This fact actually gives me a clue about the MC’s identity: someone who is really passionate about music (anyone else would stay the heck away from this creepy, toothed contraption). I don’t know much of anything else about the MC yet or about the world we’re in, and would definitely need to get more grounded in these essentials in the next pages--but I’d absolutely read on.

  9. Thank you, Secret Agent, and everyone else for the feedback. The agent nailed it. Interesting to see how others interpreted the opening. This was a great experience, and I'll definitely try again with another MS, Miss Snark. Thank you, all!

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