Please click below to view the chapters Flames of Herakleitos
by Bob Lockhttp://www.youwriteon.com/books/bookdetail.aspx?bookguid=cdeb24c4-ad41-45d1-88ff-93f2efe75335
Below is the literary agent critique of the chapters by literary agent Joanna DevereuxFLAMES OF HERAKLEITOS
by Bob LockAGENT’S CRITIQUE
Firstly, many congratulations on your chapters being selected as one on the top three of the month. Looking at the wide selection and standard of entries, this is a great achievement and a good indication of your potential to become a successful author.
This report aims to show you where you are going right and direct you to areas that can be improved as well as giving advice on the market and this novel’s commercial potential. Naturally this is only based on the three chapters I have read. As an agent I generally also ask to see a one page synopsis so I can see how the author intends for plot and characters to develop and I would advise you to send this with the sample chapters to your selected agents.PLOT AND STRUCTURE
The story told so far is surprising and gripping. The pace is particularly good, keeping the reader hooked with a horrific scene early on. It is often difficult for an author to maintain this pace when switching from the real world into a fantasy world. You’ve done well here not to have too many quick changes between worlds and not to stay too long in one world so that the reader has forgotten the relevance of the other world. I also like the way that you end each scene from each world at a dramatic point. It will be interesting to see if this pace and level of drama can be sustained throughout the whole novel.
Establishing the dynamics and setting of a fantasy world is not easy as the reader can very easily become confused and frustrated by alien words and concepts. I like the way that you straightaway continue the story so that at the end of the first fantasy scene we understand that the reaping of souls necessary for making the golems is the cause of the internal combustions in the real world. I do think you can improve the clarity of this opening fantasy scene, however. You start with Krell in his workshop preparing work on a golem (thank you for explaining what this is) then it quickly moves to a flashback to why he is doing this in a hurry (a scene in an inn) then back to the workshop. Each time, however, the reader could easily miss this change of timeframe and setting. The writing could be stronger at these points. You need to remember that the reader has just gone from one world into another so will already be a little disorientated. I had to re-read this scene as I thought it all took place in his workshop. I don’t think you necessarily need to change the structure just see if you can make it clearer that both timeframe and setting change. It is possible, however, that you could start with the drama in the inn then move to Krell in the workshop. I also wondered why these three golems and their handlers were intent on attacking Krell and Sarreg. This is never explained. As Krell seems the only one who can make these golems then the golems must have been made by him. Is this scene crucial to the plot? The name on the tile seems significant to Sarreg - can the reader know it?
Another minor point, in the hospital Boothby takes the doctor to another room. Why? What does he talk to him about? The emphasis shifts to Murphy when she talks to Lucy’s mother. Why not just have the two of them talking to her?
Without a synopsis I don’t know what the focus of the story will be. Is Davvid’s motivation to become as renowned and powerful as Krell and because he now knows Krell’s secret final ingredient (the plant) the killings in the real world will go on? What about in the real word? Now Boothby is dead, who will head up the investigation when the burnings start again? Will Murphy still be around? It’s important to establish where the story is going early on and because it feels like you’ve killed off your protagonist (Boothby) is chapter 3, it’s hard to see where this is going to come from but I’m prepared to be surprised. Bearing all this in mind, I would suggest that you perhaps group the first three chapters together, excluding the final scene of Lucy 30 years on, and separate it from the rest of the story, whether this be part 1 or a specific heading because it feels almost like a prologue to the present day drama. Whatever you decide, I would start chapter 4 will Lucy 30 years on. CHARACTERISATION
You introduce the characters well, they come alive for the reader and feel real. Boothby’s character is rather stereotypical for a detective - hungover and jaded but this is forgivable. I wonder if Boothby will somehow feature later in the other fantasy world as he does feel like an important character even though you’ve killed him off? Why mention the shotgun scene twice if he isn’t important? I’d say it was pretty unusual for Murphy to be Boothby’s boss in those times, I’d look into this. She doesn’t really have the feel of a late 1960s woman.
If Lucy is to be an important character then I think you need to end the scene where Boothby dies with something more from her to indicate the lasting damage this will have on her. She is only three when this happens, this is an age when such events could be forgotten. I’m wondering, bearing in mind also that she is able to get a glass of water from the kitchen sink, that she could be a little older (or make her get a glass from the other side of the room).
I think you could make Davvid’s character more distinctive and give the reader a clue early on as to his importance in the story - his envy towards Krell, his deceitfulness. He appears rather a periphery character at the start. SETTING
Is there a way of introducing more a feel for a late 1960s setting? The only clue is the tv programme (was the first walk on the moon broadcast in the morning? Why wouldn’t Fenton’s wife watch it, I thought everyone did? Or is this a repeat - make this clear) and Murphy’s car. You could easily overlook these two things and think it was set in modern day. I would introduce a few other elements to convey historical period.
I am presuming that the setting for the fantasy world will reveal itself in subsequent chapters. At the moment it’s hard to picture. How are they dressed? Is it like our world? LANGUAGE AND WRITING STYLE
The real world scenes seem more fluent than the fantasy scenes, where there are some stilted sentences and confusing sentence structures on a few occasions e.g. ’Many potential mages, or thaumaturgists as they liked to be called, due to the fact it invoked images of miracle-workers or life-givers, made animated beings, but none had …‘ Do you mean ‘or thaumaaturgists as they liked to be called because it invoked an image of a miracle-worke or life-giver, made animated beings but none had yet …‘ Beware also of unnecessary single line paragraphs. In general, however, there is a good use of language, but don’t feel tempted to use difficult vocabulary and sentence structure when simpler phrases will explain something better.
I spotted a few errors throughout, nothing terrible, but it would be worth another careful read through before sending out e.g. all on page 12 ‘He knew that Krell could exists’ ‘He held no illusion as to the cost if would extract’ ‘he looks scare few years older than I’. There is also a slight contradiction on this page with Davvid thinking about the cost of the folded wings - cost to his essence and body. But then it says ‘a cost he could little afford on the poor stipend that he received’ so then talking about money and also it later says his payment is in knowledge, not monetary. Little inconsistencies and minor spelling and grammar errors will annoy a busy editor or agent so it’s best to have your sample text 100% perfect. THE MARKET
The adult fantasy market has increased in popularity in the last few years, which is evident from emerging specialists lists from publishers. The crossover market has also been heavily influenced by fantasy titles of late, which widens the audience. Combining a real world with a fantasy element or another world in particular appears to be in demand from publishers at the current time. Although there is are incredible stories of debut authors receiving five figure advances, in reality the publishing market as a whole is a tough one for new authors, which is why quality, marketability and originality are more important than ever. Publishers have in recent years cut their lists and prefer to stay with household names rather than take a risk with a new author unless it is something outstanding. Saying this, there are still plenty of opportunities out there and publishers are hungry for the next big thing. COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL
I would definitely advise that the author consider the points I have made and make any necessary revisions before sending this out to agents with a synopsis and a brief introductory letter. Accuracy and consistencies are particularly important. You’d be surprised how an editor will reject a script on a fairly minor point simply because they have so many to get through. The potential of the writing here, story concept and genre should elicit a positive response. It would be worth him finding out if there are any agents who specialise in fantasy - within larger agencies there often are.
There is much to commend here and, as an agent who reads hundreds of scripts in a week, I was pleasantly surprised to be thrilled and intrigued by the page-turning drama. I very much hope the rest of the manuscript lives up to the promise of these opening chapters.
This post was last edited by YouWriteOn, 11 Apr 2006, 17:02