Monday, May 20, 2013

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Noser Rev 2

Name: Ann M. Noser
Genre: YA fantasy, 61,000 word count
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

Maria heard the front door slam. Her nap interrupted, she 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. Anna’s finger trailed a great river across the map which lay open on his massive wooden desk.

I love this room. It’s so quiet and peaceful here. Nobody’s yelling at me: “Maria—sit up straight and fix your hair!” or “Maria—tighten your corset before Lady Peafowl tells everyone you’ve gained weight!”.

Maria tensed as footfalls approached the library door. Oh no, here she comes…

A few seconds later, Mother Leon burst into the library. “Oh, my dears—I have such news for you!”

Maria yawned and stretched in the window seat. “What is it, Mother?”

“The prince is coming!” Mother Leon announced.

“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, all of the young men have already seen you and…nothing’s come of it.” 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 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 golden 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 will 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 and caught on the vanity mirror. Maria gazed at her reflection. A tall girl, almost a woman, with long auburn hair and intelligent blue eyes stared back.

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


Blue skies cheered Maria’s 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 waiting for me to say something clever…but 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 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!”

“If you say so. 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 smeared the newest dirty spot on her gown, making it even worse than before.

“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.

“Be careful, Maria.” Anna glanced around. “What if someone sees you?”

“Who would see me? There’s no one out here but us.”

“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 really say about us, Anna? Nothing. No one even notices us anymore. That’s what comes from being poor. Now come on, we should fix that hole in the fence, too.”


  1. Ack! Italics didn't work again--but they did in my email because I checked. So sorry again.

    Also, there are a few repeats as posted and we're missing Roy, I think.

    And on to commenting...

  2. Lady Peafowl! I can just picture her, all plump and bustling about, being nosy.

    I truly enjoyed this. The characters, the interactions, the premise -- Brava.

  3. I like that you put that extra context in about Maria- how she feels safe in the library. That was an easy way to let us know about her.

    I think this is coming along really well, a few little things-

    The description in the beginning bugs me a little- the wood paneling and the green chair because I feel like it's description for description sake. When you talk about the worn tapestries and that description works because it's telling us something about where they live and economically how they live.

    Also when she goes to listen at the door- why? Does she hear their voices so she goes to investigate. I would put a quick line in.

    Now there might be one too many references to how disappointed the mom is in Maria, how disheveled Maria is, and how much she loves Anna? Maria seems a little more discouraged in this one and I'd like to see just a touch of her spirit come out.

    But it reads very smoothly! Good work.

  4. Hi Ann,

    We don't generally leave the italics because we pop everything in through the HTML interface so the rich text comes out.

    That said, this is so much stronger than the beginning. I love the premise and the characters, and I can see this shaping into something really fun.

    Going forward, I agree with Dayna completely.

    I also think that you can smooth the lead in by leaving her thoughts in third person, and making them more fully her thoughts. Get deeper into Maria's POV and give us what's going on in her head, what she sees and thinks instead of what you the author want us to know she's thinking. The deeper you get in, the easier it will be to pick out the details in the surroundings that really speak to the personality of the person who is noticing what is there. :)

    Good luck with this. It's going to be very strong!

  5. I can't believe it took me this long, but I just finished utilizing these last comments. I did read them (over and over again) many times before today.

    Thank you all so much!
    I've recommended this workshop on my blog and to my writing friends that are interested in YA.

    I really appreciated this!