Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Rites of Flesh
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

I wandered the streets of Houston like a dog without a home. Restlessness slithered under my skin, a snake playing hide-and-seek in my guts. I let my breath out in a hiss, fingers digging into my belly as if I thought I could catch the serpent and cast it out. Lately, I'd found it impossible to sit still for more than a few hours at a time. Only walking took the edge off. I let my feet go wherever they wanted, a moving divination which yielded answers too vague to interpret.

Tonight my feet had brought me to the miles-long asphalt path edging Braes Bayou. Cloudy with silt and algae, the bayou oozed along its cement-lined bed. Less than a foot deep now, Braes would turn into a raging river when the next hurricane hit. The city's massive pumps and extensive sewer system wouldn't prevent the bayou from overflowing its banks and inundating nearby streets.

Coming to a bridge, I rested my forearms on the railing, careful not to lean far enough to see my reflection in the water. I'd only inhabited this body for three years, and it didn't feel like mine any more than the others had. I didn't think of myself as short and pale and blonde. I didn't see a point in getting used to it, either. No telling how soon I'd have to become someone else.

13 comments:

Bridget Baker said...

I liked it. A little too much inner monologue (without action or dialogue) for an intro in my opinion, but it was interesting.

Hurricanes don't his Houston that often. I lived there for 10 years and none actually hit us, ever. (Only one scare), so I'm not sure about the reference that the "next hurricane" will turn it into a raging river...

I like your metaphors and stuff, but I can't really tell where you're going. There's no action yet. I'd infuse some action...

Sharla said...

I grew up and live east of Houston, and while I agree they didn't USED to hit here much, the last years have been very different. Lots of flooding. We have to evacuate every time now. So this rang very familiar to me.

I like that the character doesn't want to see her (his?) reflection, that's a neat reveal. The first paragraph has a few too many metaphors...dog without a home, snake playing hide and seek, casting the serpent out.... One is fine, but too many together is distracting, especially in the opening para.

Good job though with the set up, and I'd keep reading!

Ammy Belle said...

Loved this! Absolutely would continue reading - this has me hooked. I love the descriptions - I can feel the squishiness of the guts and the press of air - amazing!

Please keep writing!

Thanks!

cdowdy said...

I agree with above that the writing is good but maybe you need to kill one of your darlings and get on with it. Course, easy for me to say because the writing is really well done. "Lately, I'd found--- at a time," might be one that could go. You explain what is happening in the next sentence anyway. You really summed up restlessness in a way I've never thought about before but sounded so right in my head. Also like the way you revealed the character. I'd read on no doubt. Well done.

Joie said...

I agree that there are a few too many metaphors in the first paragraph. It actually made me skip down to the second one to get to the action.

I really like what I found there, though. Totally hooked. I'd read on.

rhea said...

I like the voice and the last para completely hooked me.

Barbara said...

I wasn't very interested until I got to the last paragraph. The first is heavy on the metaphors and the second on description that we could get when and if it really matters. If he has to wander the city, maybe tell us why? Why can't he sit still for more than a few hours at a time? What has changed in his life?

The last paragraph is where the hook is, and if you perhaps started with that, you'd have more room to fill us in on who/what he is. Perhaps more plot and less explanation?

SARA J. HENRY said...

A bit overwritten, but damn, if you dumped the first two paragraphs and started with the last one, I'd be panting to turn the page.

jenn said...

I agree with the above post. I would start with the third paragraph.
I felt like you extended the simile about the serpent too long and the "dog without a home" was a bit cliche. I just didn't like the way the first paragraph read. Maybe I didn't care yet how the MC felt. After reading the third paragraph though I was much more interested.

Leah Petersen said...

I'm hooked, the last paragraph is really awesome (though I have a narrator describing themselves, I have to admit this was well done. I still would have been OK without it. After all, it seems like that's likely to change?)

I think it takes too long to get to the awesomeness, though. There's some great writing in the first two paragraphs, but I think it needs to be shorter by half.

joankr said...

I agree with many of the other commenters--the third paragraph hooked me totally, but the first two didn't engage me.

I loved the metaphor of the snake in the first paragraph, but I think it would be more powerful coming after the third one. And I'd suggest dropping the "dog without a home" line. I also didn't care about the hurricane threat--it means nothing to me, the reader, at this point.

Great writing!

Secret Agent said...

RE: title—it’s okay, but I think it could be a bit stronger; does convey some possible fantastical undertones.

As for the text—

I wandered the streets of Houston like a dog without a home. Restlessness slithered under my skin, a snake playing hide-and-seek in my guts. I let my breath out in a hiss, fingers digging into my belly as if I thought I could catch the serpent and cast it out. Lately, I'd found it impossible to sit still for more than a few hours at a time. Only walking took the edge off. I let my feet go wherever they wanted, a moving divination which yielded answers too vague to interpret.

Tonight my feet had brought me to the miles-long asphalt path edging Braes Bayou. Cloudy with silt and algae, the bayou oozed along its cement-lined bed. Less than a foot deep now, Braes would turn into a raging river when the next hurricane hit. The city's massive pumps and extensive sewer system wouldn't prevent the bayou from overflowing its banks and inundating nearby streets.

Coming to a bridge, I rested my forearms on the railing, careful not to lean far enough to see my reflection in the water. I'd only inhabited this body for three years, and it didn't feel like mine any more than the others had. I didn't think of myself as short and pale and blonde. I didn't see a point in getting used to it, either. No telling how soon I'd have to become someone else.


It’s clear to me that you’re an excellent writer, so high five, on that note. I really like the voice, so I’m engaged.

I do have some concerns, primarily that you’re getting bogged down in unnecessary details. In my opinion, everything in the first two paragraphs could be expressed in one (or less).

I also think that you’re starting in the wrong place; you’re using internalization to set up the character and the world, but you can do all of that later—the goal is to weave these details in once they are all necessary, so at this point my suggestion would be to cut and move down to the point in your text that gets us into the immediate action, the part of the text in which there is a feeling of urgency and tension.

The story, for me, sort of got started—or at least, I sat up straight and started to pay very close attention, as I was intrigued—with the line, “I’d only inhabited this body for three years…” Potential first sentence? That entire third paragraph is EXCELLENT.

Also, don’t convey physical description via introspection, even if you think there’s a unique reason for it, as it’s dull.

I’d most definitely keep reading—as I really like your writing and your voice—but there’s a lot here that can be changed.

Secret Agent said...

Forgot to add -- in the third paragraph, the use of physical description is fine (because it's necessary for what you're saying). I said that as a general warning for future text.