Monday, April 15, 2013

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Dover Rev 1

Jeanette Dover
Middle Grade Fantasy
The Lost City of Atlantis

Adam wakes up on the first day of his vacation in the Caribbean. He bounds out of bed excited that he will be going to the beach with his family. Every year the Smith family spends a month at their home in the Caribbean. It’s a time everyone in the family enjoys; they spend many hours at the beach near their house. For Adam, it’s a magical time.

Adam throws on his swimming trunks. He stops for a moment to pick up the sea shell sitting on his dresser; he puts the shell to his ear. Adam not only hears the ocean, he feels the ocean waves wrap around him; the smell of the sea water engulfs him as an intense surge of energy races through his entire body. What he experiences is beyond his ability to describe. The beach calls to him, draws him like a magnet attracts a piece of iron; it’s a pull he can’t resist. Adam smiles as he drops the shell into his pocket. He rushes to the kitchen eager to get to the beach.

“Eat your breakfast, we’re going shopping in the village this morning,” his mother announces as Adam sits down at the table.

“Oh No!” Adam exclaims. “Can’t we go to the beach first?”

“It won’t take long. We’ll go swimming after,” assures his mother as she passes behind him and ruffles his light brown hair.

Adam’s shoulders slump. I don’t want to go shopping. I need to go to the beach. Why can’t I go to the beach?

“Mom?” Adam pauses as his mother turns and looks at him with one eyebrow raised. “Can I go for a walk on the beach while you go into the village?”

“By yourself?”

“Just for a walk on the beach,” Adam looks at his mom with wide eyes. “When you get back then we can go swimming.”

She looks back at him with an expression that suggests she is not sure what he is up to; Adam smiles. With a stern glare she says, “All right. But don’t go in the water.”

Adam jumps up and races out of the kitchen. “Thanks Mom!” He yells as rushes through the back door.

Adam wanders down the path heading to the beach. He looks down and sees his fins and mask in his hand. When did I grab those? Maybe I should take them back to the house. Nah, I wouldn’t want Mom to change her mind I’ll just keep them with me.

As Adam steps onto the beach his feet sink into the sand; the warm, granular particles squish between his toes. The energy flows in warm waves up his legs, into his body and arms; the wave reaches his brain and he sighs. He has come home; it feels so right.

Adam knows these thoughts are different from anything his family and friends experience. When he was younger Adam tried to talk to his dad about the strong feelings he has at the beach. His dad just laughed and said he enjoys the beach too. Adam knew that his dad just didn’t understand what he was trying to explain. If his dad couldn’t understand Adam knew his friends wouldn’t either. They would probably just think he was being really weird. Because Adam knows the way he feels is not normal at all he hides it from everyone.

Does any twelve year old boy believe he’s normal? They think some pretty strange things and do some weird things too. Their families often wonder why they think and act the way they do. The people in Adam’s life don’t seem to notice that he’s different than any other boy his age. Adam recognizes he is very different and it’s not something he wants to feel.

Adam looks down the beach at the contrast between the white sand and the beautiful turquoise water. What could be better than walking on the beach? Swimming in the water would be better. I can look at the fish and the world beneath the waves.

The sounds of the waves lapping on the shore whisper his name. His mothers’ words replay in his head “… but don’t go in the water.” If I just swam for a couple of minutes who would know?

There was no one else on the beach so who could tell his mom. Besides she always said he swam like a fish. It wouldn’t hurt anything and it would feel so good.

Adam continues this argument with himself as he walks down the beach. As the waves get closer his mother’s sensible voice is drowned out by the sound of the waves calling to him.

Adam thrusts his feet into the fins and adjusts the mask on his face. He takes exaggerated steps allowing him to walk with his fins and heads for the water. When the ocean is up to his waist he begins to float face down in the water kicking his legs to propel himself forward. As he moves away from shore he can see the coral reef begin below him. Adam likes to watch the fish as they play in the coral searching for food. As he swims in the clear Caribbean water he spots many of the fish he knows so well; there are angel fish, butterfly fish, black and yellow rock beauties, and striped damsel fish.

As he watches the natural aquarium below him Adam sees a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. An orange fish with bright blue stripes darts away from him. I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Adam loses sight of the brightly colored creature only to see him pop up further away. He’s playing a game of hide and seek with me.

Adam races through the water trying to get a better look at the little fish; he has almost caught up to it when again it dives out of sight. Adam swims up to the point where he last saw it and pauses. I’m deeper in the ocean than I’ve ever been before. I’m not running out of breath. How is that possible?

Looking down Adam sees he is at the edge of a small ridge. Below him are two large stone statues standing on either side of a massive iron gate. The statues are lions with wings on their backs, each lion has a front paw resting on a globe; they seem to be guarding the gate. Adam notices the colorful fish swimming through the gate. It turns and looks at Adam daring him to catch up. Adam dives down and reaches towards the fish. His hand brushes against the gate. The water begins to swirl around him. Everything goes dark. I should have stayed on the beach.


  1. Looking at my first revision I can see that the beginnings of some paragraphs are too repetitive; I'll have to fix that on the next revision. I'm looking forward to all the helpful comments.

  2. Jeanette,

    Hi! Don't be nervous (easier said than done I know) we are all here to help. I don't want to give you conflicting advice, but I HAVE to tell you that starting with waking up is not good. It's way overdone and a lot of agents/editors will give it an automatic pass. You have to find that "moment" when things start to happen for your character. I'm not talking about action necessarily - I'd rather get to know your MC first. But the reader doesn't need the waking up part to do that. Maybe start with him on the beautiful Caribbean beach while he's fighting between being drawn to the water and his mother's words. Make it more of a internal battle for him. Also, I'd like to see you develop his character a bit more. I recommend trying first person. Don't panic. You don't have to change the whole book unless you find it better. BUT it will not only help you get into his head and therefore us too, but it will clarify between his thoughts and your narration, which may be getting a little mixed up. Give it a try as an exercise and see what happens...

  3. Thanks Lisa! Your input has made me think! Where to start this chapter (the all important first chapter) is a major struggle for me; I can’t seem to find an attention grabbing place to start and add back story so the reader can actually understand what is happening. I’ll keep playing and see what I can come up with for the next revision.

    I did consider using the first person approach and decided against it; in later chapters I like the flexibility of being able to get into the thoughts of other characters. I’m not sure I can get my head around starting out in first person and perhaps switching narratives in later chapters.

  4. Hi Jeanette,
    I do think you may want to think about a different place to start. The beginning is more backstory to me. So, maybe something like Lisa said, where there is a conflicting point in his life. A struggle. I also think there are parts where it seems like it jumps to first person. I think it's supposed to be his thoughts so make that more clear. It threw me a little.
    I know you said your sentences start the same. Some do, but I wouldn't worry about it until you do edits.
    You still have great desciption. Good work!
    Bravo for putting your work out there. Keep going, you can do it.

  5. It may be because the italics are missing, but if not, it's confusing to be reading about Adam in the 3rd person and suddenly read about him in 1st person. If these are his thoughts, they should be itslicized.

    Also, I agree with Lisa. Starting the story with him walking the beach, struggling with his mind words might add some great inner conflict.

    Can't wait to see how you revise this. I still live the sensory details!

  6. I think the italics disappeared when I put it in the post. Sorry about that!
    I agree that you should try starting with him on the beach being conflicted about going in the water.

    I will post more thoughs tomorrow. We're having terrible storms, and doing this on my tablet is harder than I expected!

  7. I did put Adam's thought in italics - I didn't notice until the comments started happening that it hadn't translated in the post. I really enjoy all the comments; it's inspired me to make some dramatic changes this week. Thank you everyone!

  8. Hi Jeanette,

    You did a lot of work on this piece, and it shows. I agree that starting with him on the beach, debating whether or not to go in would improve the story.

    All publishing houses have different rules. That said, I believe that putting thoughts in italics has gone out of style. I suggest putting the thoughts in third person, instead.

    You've done a lot to stamp out the word repetitions. Still, there's a little more to be done in that department.

    Don't give up! This promises to be a fun story.

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  10. I had to delete after reading my words!!I used the same words repeatedly!! So here it is again..

    Hi Jeanette,
    I love the premise of your story!

    I got hooked towards the end of your first pages, around your last three paragraphs. You pulled me into the ocean and what was happening. Be sure to use the sentence: The beach calls to him like a magnet attracts a piece of iron. A great visual.

    Watch your dialogue. Make it sound real, moves the story forward, and not just telling information.

    I do agree with all the others. Don't give up on your wonderful idea. Just keep working at these pages and it will fall into place. Can't wait to see your next revision...

  11. Hi Jeanette,

    This revision is much better, so great job! As mentioned before, your sensory details are very good.

    The most important facet of writing (to me, anyhow =) is that you LOVE what you're writing w/ such intensity that you feel, breathe, and taste every word while you're writing. Don't analyze it. Just fearlessly throw yourself into it and I think you'll do wonderful!! Everybody's different of course. That's just my silly way. =)

    Like Lisa, I think if you rewrite these pages from 1st perspective w/ crazy passion then you'll find what you're looking for. When finished, you can return to it and make 3rd perspective again. =)

    Since Adam is the sole focus, you don't need to mention his name as often as you do. Referring to him as 'he' is fine.

    If choosing to start w/ the paragraph you have now, then perhaps you can start w/ something like, 'For Adam, the beach is a magical, breathing creature.' Just my silly little suggestion. ;) But I say make the ocean come to life. You can always sneak family vacation time within one sentence. Don't dwell on it.

    You have an appealing concept. All you have to do is hone it. I'm excited to see your next revision! =)

  12. Wow! Thank you everyone! Your input is inspiring. I believe it takes a village to write a book - thank you for being part of my village :)