Monday, May 13, 2013

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Noser Rev 1

Name: Ann M. Noser
Genre: YA fantasy
Title: Desiderata

Prologue – To Find the Perfect Girl

Wesley’s hands trembled as solutions in glass flasks percolated. Yellow, orange, and green fluids coursed through tubing and collected in glass beakers.

Please be a match.

The collected samples of hair from the prince and the maiden in question curled together in a small cauldron upon the tripod. Wesley carefully added the distilled concoctions, turned up the flame underneath, then stepped back.

The cauldron steamed in the sweltering laboratory. As the experiment rose to a boil, Wesley’s heart raced. His unruly hair fell into his eyes. He swiped the damp strands away before extinguishing the flame. He watched the solution cool as sweat ran down his neck.

Please be red. Put an end to this.

The fluid continued to bubble for a long while, turning from purple to pink to...

It’s going to be red! She’s the one! I am saved!

With a loud belch, the solution curdled and turned black. And stayed that way.

Wesley dropped his head in his hands.

I better warn that sweet girl before Duncan gets a hold of her.



Chapter One – The Prince Needs a Wife

“Oh, my dears,” gasped red-faced Mother Leon as she burst into the library. “I have such news for you!”

Her nap interrupted, Maria rubbed her eyes and glanced around the wood-paneled library. Her younger sister Anna leaned over their father’s shoulder as he sat in his favorite forest green chair. She giggled and pointed towards the book of maps which lay open on his massive wooden desk.

“Girls?!” Mother Leon’s eyes bulged as she flapped her hands.

Maria yawned and stretched in the window seat. “Yes, Mother?”

“The prince is coming!” Mother Leon gasped.

“Here?” Maria eyed the cluttered bookshelves, worn furniture, and faded tapestries. The prince had been touring Desiderata for the last two years in search of a suitable wife, but Maria had never thought he would come to their home.

Mother Leon sighed. “No, of course not, dear. He’s been invited to the Pekipsies’ estate for their annual Summer Festival.”

Father Leon glanced up from his large book of maps. “They’re the only family around here with enough gold to impress royalty. Your mother almost married into the Pekipsie family. Did you girls know that?”

Mother Leon shook her head. “No need to dig into the past, dear. I’m more concerned about the girls’ future.” She turned to her daughters with a gleam in her eyes. “Anna’s fifteen, the perfect age to be presented! And Maria…well, you’ve already attended several functions, and everybody’s seen you already…” Mother Leon cleared her throat. “Maria, step forward, please.”

She left the window seat and stood before her mother, trying her best to hide a stain in the back of her dress from where she’d sat in the damp grass earlier that morning.

“What on earth happened to your dress?” Mother Leon shrilled. “You’re more careless now than you were as a child, I swear!”

Maria’s cheeks burned as her mother dismissed her and turned to evaluate Anna, who somehow always looked perfect.

“Anna, my dear, your hair glows like the sun and your waist is smaller than mine was at your age.” Mother Leon circled her youngest daughter like a cat. “Let’s see what we can do to make you look your best at the Festival.”

Anna turned frightened eyes towards her older sister. “Help me,” she mouthed.

***


An hour later, Maria crept along the hallway to her parents’ bedroom. She carefully pressed her ear to the door.

“We’re not in the poor house yet,” Mother Leon pleaded. “We still have our pride. This is Anna’s chance at a royal marriage!”

“Where do you think we’ll end up, if you spend the last of our borrowed gold on gowns for the girls?” Father Leon grumbled.

“Then we shall only get a new gown for Anna. If she marries Prince Bane, it will put an end to all of our troubles.”

Maria hurried down the hall. She burst into her bedroom, slammed the door shut, and fought back tears. Bright afternoon sunlight fell through the window to catch on the vanity mirror. Maria moved towards her reflection and took a deep breath. In the mirror stood a girl, almost a woman, with long auburn hair and intelligent blue eyes.

But all Maria noticed was the smudge of dirt on her cheek, the leaf stuck in her hair, and the scrape on her elbow. She frowned and moved away from the vanity. As she passed by the window, she noticed Anna working in the garden.

***

The blue skies cheered her spirits as she hurried outside, but one glance at her sister’s face told her she didn’t feel the same. “Anna, are you okay? You look like you’re about to cry.”

“Maria…” Anna took a shuddering breath. “I don’t want to go to the Summer Festival.”

“Why not? It was loads of fun last year.”

Anna shrugged. “For you, maybe. But there’s so many people there, all staring at me and expecting me to say something clever. I never know what to say to them.”

“Then stick by me, and I’ll be clever enough for both of us.” Maria grinned.

Anna attempted a weak smile, but she faltered. “Besides…I don’t like the way Mother looks at me, like I’m the fattened pig about to be slaughtered.”

Maria chuckled. “It’s better than the way she looks at me—like I’m the spider she forgot to kill before important company came over.”

“That’s not true! Mother loves us both the same!”

“Believe what you will. Now move over—you over-trimmed that arbor vitae.”

“No, I didn’t.” Anna shook her head. “The deer got in here again.”

Maria sighed. “We’ve gotta fix that gate. Come on and give me a hand. Or two.”

Both girls grappled with the broken gate. Finally, after much sweating and swearing (both on Maria’s part, Anna did nothing of the sort), Maria gave the gate a final heft and slid the bolt back into place.

Maria grinned. “That’ll keep those thieving buggars out!”

“They’re just hungry—you know how that feels.”

“I don’t care. They have to find their meals somewhere else. We’ll be the ones to starve if they don’t.” Maria swiped at the newest dirty spot on her gown.

“Look at you!” Anna gasped. “You’ve ruined another dress! Mother will have a fit!”

“Don’t I know it! Oh, bother, there’s no point.” Maria stopped fussing with her dress and moved over to examine the sparse arbor vitae. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and brushed her open hands slowly back and forth across the branches. Soon, fresh greenery filled up the gaps.

“Stop showing off, Maria.” Anna glanced around. “What if someone sees you?”

“Who would see me? We can’t afford gardeners or stable help anymore. There’s no one out here but you and me.”

“I hope you’re right. You know what they say about us in town.”

Maria snorted. “You worry too much, Anna. What could they possibly say? That it’s a pity to see a noble family reduced to selling berries to get by? That it must be magic we can grow anything in here with our fence in shambles and a broken gate?”

Anna smiled. “At least that much is true.”

“You know what they say about us, Anna? Absolutely nothing. No one even notices us anymore. That’s what comes from being poor. Now come on, we’ve got work to do.”

***

12 comments:

  1. Just to clarify: I must've screwed up something when I sent this, because none of my inner dialogue is in italics.

    I apologize and PLEASE BEAR WITH ME!

    I'll try to do better next time!

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  2. Ann, you did a wonderful job with this revision. Taking out one (or more?) of the inner dialogue lines in the prologue made a big difference, and what follows as the story begins is just so engaging and well-written! The character seem to reveal themselves effortlessly and the action just plays out so much more smoothly than it did in the first draft. Nicely done.

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  3. I also wanted to add that I love the way you handle the complexity of the girls' relationship: despite being viewed/treated differently by their parents, they love each other too much to fall into competition with each other.

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  4. Thank you! I really appreciate the suggestions I got last time.

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  5. I do like the changes of the flipping around, it feels like we're now directly in the action, which is great. I am kind of missing getting to know the girls and who they are before we meet their mother, I felt like I had a great sense of them the first time. I like how you throw in the little details, like her hiding her stain on her dress and how her sister is perfect. But their relationship is great and becomes obvious quite quickly--I like that Anna doesn't like being the center of attention.

    So the one thing that I'm missing from these new changes is knowing the girls pretty well when their mother comes in. But I'm not sure how to fix that without ruining the rhythm you have going on. Maybe just a few small details or something to let us know Maria's mindset?

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  6. I really like having the library scene first!

    Here's my only nitpick -- the struggle with the garden gate seems superfluous now. Maria can get dirty and sweaty in the garden, and show off her magic, without the gate. And you describe the fence as being in shambles, which means the deer don't need no stinking gate to get inside (I live in a wooded area with hordes of deer!)

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  7. Hi,

    SOOO much better! I love the way you've ordered this, and it flows very well now. I do think that if the story is really Maria's, that I would love for you to get us in Maria's POV, perhaps give us a brief paragraph deep in Maria's though and actions to set the stage before her mother comes in. Would she call her mother "Mother Leon" by the way?

    I love the fact that Maria gets herself dirty all the time, but I do wonder if that's enough to keep her mother from assuming she has any chance of attracting the prince? What makes her prone to get dirty? I'd love for that to feel a little bit more real, as real as the wonderful relationship between the sisters.

    The setup here is great, and you've done a great job. I'm truly looking forward to seeing this next time!

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  8. Loved the pig verses spider description. Got stuck in the description in front of the mirror. I love the hint of magic to come with the delivery of greenery. Enjoyed the story, parallel universe with a fairy tale.

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  9. Thank you to everyone.
    I need to mull over these comments for a while before I decide what to do.

    One question: any issue of starting with a prologue vs. calling it chapter one? I truly feel that it IS a prologue, but I've read many agents are biased against them....so...

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  10. I looked up the definition of prologue (because I realized I didn't know it), and one definition is "an introductory chapter." So I say call your prologue chapter one! Especially if Wesley's actions are close in time to the library scene. I tend to think of 'true' prologues as events that happened long before the chapter one action -- e.g. an explanation of the MC's illegitimate birth twenty years ago.

    Cheers and happy writing!

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  11. Hmmmm...I'm still considering. In my head, I picture the "prologue" happening about six months BEFORE chapter one. To be honest, I might "modify" the title of the chapter depending on which agent I send it to...isn't that devious of me? :.)

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  12. I reread everyone's comments before revising. I hope I managed to address all the concerns WITHOUT losing any of the gains I'd made. We shall see!

    AND, as a bonus, it looks like it's formatted right, so I should have italics next time!

    Have a great weekend, all!

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