Wednesday, August 19, 2009

51 Secret Agent

TITLE: Elysium
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Elysium had renovation down to an art. I'd seen construction projects
that took months or years to go nowhere, but Elysium could put a new
bedroom together in thirty seconds flat. I watched from the stairwell,
though after presiding over the asylum for sixteen years, I was no
longer impressed by such a show.

Floorboards shattered and reformed as the hall stretched longer, and
the wall burned red before a door appeared. I heard a muffled crashing
as the room took shape on the other side. Everything had just quieted
down when the doorbell rang. The bell had two tones: one for humans
who were stupid enough to stop by and another for prospective tenants.
The chord I heard now meant my newest unwanted guest was already here.
I growled obscenities under my breath and went downstairs to let him
in.

The house operated on permissions, which meant the front door had no
locks. If Elysium didn't want someone to stay, not even the strongest
magic could get him inside. The house had standards, even if we
disagreed on most of them.

Today was a perfect example of that. It took me two seconds to
realize my newest guest was human and one more to smell the
formaldehyde. I slammed the door in his face.

The door disintegrated, and the corpse and I were left staring at
each other once more. I covered my nose.

"Hello," he said, politely averting his eyes from my nightgown. "May
I come in?"

16 comments:

MarcyKate said...

I'm hooked. I loved this opening. You paint a great picture here and I can tell immediately that it's Urban fantasy. Nicely done!

Marilynn Byerly said...

You have too much worldbuilding information up front. I'd cut out some of the details about the growing hall and cut to the conflict ASAP.

I'm curious to see if anyone here who doesn't know about the Elysian Fields will "get" the setting.

Tanya Huff in one of her urban fantasy series uses a hotel called "Elysian Fields" as its main setting. You may want to rethink the name.

D. Robert Pease said...

I loved the last three paragraphs, but they took too long to get to. I'd see about starting it, in the first sentence, with something more active. It seemed like world building to me. Almost like you could reverse them order of the paragraphs... action, then world building.

Secret Agent said...

An animated corpse immediately makes me think of zombies, and they're a great trend right now, so I'd be interested to know where the author is taking this story. That said, the opening paragraphs didn't hook me and if this had been a query, I would have stopped reading at the end of the page and sent a pass note. The first paragraph doesn't have any real action in it (just watching), and it's not clear what the protagonist is actually seeing from his or her post in the stairwell. Clarity always comes first, and in this sample, I feel like the author is probably trying to cram too much information in too soon.

In the second paragraph, there is clearly some magic going on, but I don't feel ready to learn about it yet. Novels are about characters first, and I feel like I want to get to know the people populating the story before finding out about the various aspects of the world you've created. Also in that paragraph, when you compare the humans to the tenants, I wondered if that meant the tenants were alien, monster, or some other non-human entity and I felt as though you were unnecessarily withholding that information.

In the third paragraph, I wondered what "permissions" meant exactly, how they worked, if Elysium was the only person who could grant them, etc.

In all, I had too many unanswered questions and issues with clarity. I find this to be a fairly common problem, sometimes easily solved by cutting the beginning and starting the story farther down in the manuscript, at a place where you may have gotten your groove, or your sea legs, so to speak.

Jemi Fraser said...

I like the doorbell image :)

I agree with the above. I think you have some real potential here - a neat idea and an interesting voice. Just work on tightening it up.

Catherine Kariaxi said...

Not know what 'elysium' is kinda is distracting at first, and kept me from totally enjoying the snippet, until I caught on that it is some kind of power or magic running the house. By the end when the corpse knocks on the door - I was definitely hooked.

Biggest question that I'd read on to find out, even if I wasn't hooked: Is this some kinda asylum for the dead?!

annarkie said...

I agree that you went into too much description of setting and not enough of character. I'd still read on, though.
Oh, and check out the Keeper's Chronicals by Tanya Huff. Great books!

Merc said...

I love the concepts and hints of the world and character here (I'd read on), as well as the voice, but I agree a bit more clarity and hook in the first paragraph would help.

I still want to read the rest!

Xiexie said...

I liked this. I did like to see the machinations that the building went through; however, the permissions thing was my first flag of confusion. It took me a moment to put the "formaldehyde human" and the corpse as the same character.

I'd read on.

jennifermclaughlin said...

I like it!

Anonymous said...

The idea of the door was very interesting, especially the different ring tones for humans and aliens. Doors are such archetypal images. They can let so many things out and in, welcome or unwelcome. Or, they can symbolize a portal to enlightenment - or damnation, to name just a few examples. Your door intrigued me and I liked your voice. I want to know more about the origins of this door, who comes through it and why. To give the beginning even more pop, I'd start with the door. Greatjob.

Taryn Hook said...

Hi - The above comment was mine. Forgot to include my name. Sorry. Taryn

Mystery Robin said...

I really like this!

Bron said...

I liked it, but I do think there's rather a lot of information imparted in a small space. I think those above have some good suggestions on how to polish this.

beth said...

I found it charming, and would read on, but I agree with Secret Agent as well.

glovin said...

I'm curious to see if anyone here who doesn't know about the Elysian Fields will "get" the setting.

--
glovin
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