Monday, April 8, 2013

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Dover

Jeanette Dover
Middle Grade Fantasy
The Lost City of Atlantis

Adam swims after the small orange and blue fish. He realizes that he is deeper in the ocean than he has ever been before. He’s not running out of breath and for a moment he wonders how that is possible. Adam sees the fish swimming through a large gate just in front of him. He reaches towards the playful creature that has eluded him until now. His hand brushes against the gate. The water begins to swirl around him. I should have stayed on the beach he thinks as everything goes dark.

Every year Adam Smith’s 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 because he loves what he feels when he is on the beach.

When Adam picks up a sea shell and puts it to his ear he 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 is a pull he can’t resist.

Adam knows these thoughts are different from anything his family or friends feel. 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 is different than any other boy his age. Adam recognizes he is very different and it’s not something he wants to feel.

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. Quickly changing into his swimming trunks he rushes to the kitchen. He can hardly wait to go swimming.

“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 swimming 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 as he thinks 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. When you get back then we can go swimming.” Adam looks at his mom with wide eyes willing her to agree with him.

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 hugs her. “Thanks Mom!” He races out of the kitchen and 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 he thinks? 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. It feels so right. 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. What could be better? He looks down the beach at the contrast between the white sand and the beautiful turquoise water. Swimming in the water would be better he thinks. 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 silently continues this argument with himself as he walks down the beach. As the waves get closer his mother’s voice is drowned out by the sound of the waves calling to him.

Adam thrusts his feet into the fins and adjusts his 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. Many fish live in the coral reefs just off the island’s coast. Adam likes to watch antics of the fish as they play in the coral searching for food. As he swims in the clear blue Caribbean water he sees several kinds of angel fish and butterfly fish. There are the black and yellow rock beauties and the striped damsel fish Adam knows so well.

As he watches all the fish swimming below him Adam sees a flash of orange out of the corner of his eye. An orange fish with bright blue stripes darts away from him. Adam has never seen a fish like this before. He dives down trying to catch up with the mysterious fish so he can get a better look at it. As Adam follows the fish it seems like the creature is playing a game of hide and seek with him. Adam loses sight of the brightly colored fish only to see him pop up further away.

Adam has almost caught up to fish when again it dives out of sight. Adam swims up to the point where he last saw the fish. Looking down he realizes 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 sees the orange fish is swimming towards the gate. The fish turns and looks at Adam as if he is daring Adam to catch him. Adam swims down and reaches towards the fish. His hand brushes against the gate. The water begins to swirl around him.


  1. I get to leave the first comment on your chapter! Yay!

    This is a promising start. I'd love to go to Atlantis!

    Is the first paragraph a back cover blurb for the story? A prologue?

    It's repeated at the end of the chapter. (My apologies for stating the obvious). In any case, I recommend that you change this.

    Here's another way you could get the readers attention without revealing the end of the chapter at the outset:

    1. Adam wakes up after a vivid dream, but can't remember it, except that he feels the urge to dive into the ocean. Or he wakes up to find an unfamiliar object in his room, something Atlantean. He puts it in his pocket. Or some such hint at the adventure to come.

    2. Start the chapter where the action begins. I suggest the paragraph--Adam wakes up on the first day of his vacation in the Caribbean.

    3. Move the paragraphs about Adam's relationship with the sea to when he's actually standing on the beach with the sand between his toes.

    Nitpicky bits:

    Some of your sentences feel choppy. Look for opportunities to combine two short sentences into one longer one.

    Avoid repeating words in one paragraph as much as possible. For example, the word "fish" appears in the 2nd to last paragraph six times. If you combine sentences and think up different ways of saying things, you could cut this by half to two-thirds.

    Consider changing "He should've stayed on the beach he thinks" to "He wished he'd stayed on the beach."

    Consider adding tension by emphasizing Adam's struggle to obey his mom vs. his uncontrollable desire to jump into the sea.

    You use a lot of pleasing sensory details. Nice job!

  2. Hi Jeanette,

    I like the premise of Adam being otherworldly as shown by his strong attraction to the beach. It seems as though he's from the ocean more so than the earth. I'm always intrigued by otherworldly aspects in a story. =)

    You do offer great sensory description but include more details than necessary, I think. And it seems as if the 1st paragraph belongs at the end. Also, perhaps you can italicize his thoughts to differentiate them from the narrative.

    You can definitely empower this piece by shortening it. If you cut out repetitive wording and extraneous details, the middle graders just might gobble it up! In a good way of course. =) In other words, it has great promise.

    I hope I've helped. =)

  3. Hi Jeanette,
    What a cool premise. I like the idea of an underwater world.

    I think the first couple of paragraphs could be sprinkled through when he's on the beach thinking about going swimmming. They seem like more back story than the start. Where he wakes up on vacation seemed more natural to me.

    I think if you combine sentences and cut out repetitive words it would flow better.

    I like your sensory details. Good work there.

    I agree that the thoughts should be italicized because it threw me out of the story and also made me think you were switching from 3rd person to first.

    Other than what the others said, I think this has great potential and look forward to reading the revision.

    I hope this helps.

  4. Hi Jeanette,
    As I read further into the story I got up with your wonderful descriptions of how Adam feels drawn to the water. There is a great story here. Find a sentence that is telling us facts about the scene and make it a showing sentence. I loved the ending paragraph. It is a repeated scene and is much better at the end. Be careful telling to much at the beginning. MG readers like some action and dialogue to keep the story moving. Great idea. Keep working on it. Cut what ever words you don't need!!I can't wait to read your revised version. Thanks for sharing this story...

  5. Hi Jeanette! I love ocean stories and this one sounds so cute.My CP is working on a YA Atlantis story, so I'm really interested in reading this:)

    I would suggest watching out for repeating words. I had the same problem with one of my WIP's because it was about memories and I repeated that word way too many times.

    You did a great job making me feel like I was in the water, swimming with the fish.

    The one thing I would recommend is adding some action at the beginning to help engage young readers.

    You've got a great concept and great start. I can't wait to read your revisions!

  6. Hi Everyone! I’m sorry I'm so late posting comments this week. It’s great to see your input! You have highlighted all the issues I’ve been struggling with and given me some inspiring solutions! I’m looking forward to creating my revision – right after I finish my comments.

  7. I love Atlantis lore!! Cool subject. I don't like flashbacks or starting in the "exciting" spot to get attention and then leaving. Start at the beginning. That sounds obvious, but the truth is that's a hard place to find. Perhaps it's when his mother is leaving and he is pulled toward the ocean. You can explain the pull then as it's happening instead of using it as backstory.

    You are obviously good at description, so don't be lazy and use so much telling! :D Example? This whole paragraph:
    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 is different than any other boy his age. Adam recognizes he is very different and it’s not something he wants to feel.

    Instead of saying he likes to watch the fish, etc. SHOW us him doing that. We'll get that that's what he enjoys. Take your time introducing your MC to us. Make us love him. You don't have to throw us in Atlantis at the outset. his strange attraction to the water may be enough.

    Can't wait for the revision!

  8. Hi Jeanette,

    I really like your premise.
    The first five paragraphs read like a synopsis, too much telling and info dumping. I agree with the suggestion to start with the line where he wakes up on his first day of vacation.
    As a mother, I have a hard time believing that his mom would let him walk alone on a beach in a foreign country while she goes to town. Does she have to go to town? Maybe she's cleaning up after breakfast and let's him go out and plans to join him when she's done.
    I definitely think you should move the parts about his connection to the beach to when he is actually on the beach. He can pick up a shell and remember talking to his father about that.

    Great start. It just needs a little bit of cleaning up.