Monday, July 22, 2013

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Miriam Rev 2

Name: Miriam
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Nightfallen

The men in the clearing look lost, far away from home knowing they will never go back. The light filters through the trees casting green shadows on the ground. It should smell clean out in the middle of nowhere, but instead there is an overwhelming stench of decay. The infected are gathered in a loose circle getting ready to set up camp. Some of their bodies can barely move, the disease has spread so far.

My father leads our team of fighters, signaling men to move around the clearing. They are silent as they tread carefully into place. We should be able to stop any of the infected from escaping as long as the men hold the perimeter.

I step next to him. With his hand on my shoulder, he leans in next to my ear. “Lexy, there are twelve in the clearing. They may have reinforcements.” My role is to step in and draw their attention to begin fighting. If they do not attack me, we move on. They aren’t far enough gone to kill yet.

I nod and grab my katana in one hand, my knife in another. I peer through the trees assessing the situation. My first rush of adrenaline shows my anticipation for the next few minutes. A group is gathered around a small fire. The infected look tired. A few have the gray bubbles spreading up along their faces. They shouldn’t be able to fight back as quickly as the others. I watch as each man from our group steps into place, blocking any escape path.

At my dad’s signal, I step into the clearing alone. I walk until the talking stops and everyone in the group is staring at me. Twelve sets of eyes, and still no one moves. I wait expectant. I’m ready for this. But I dread it, too.

“Are you lost?” one of the infected asks. His voice is rough. He doesn’t have any gray bubbles that I can see, but there is a nasty looking bite mark on his arm, with dark streaks of red running up it.

“No.” His concern surprises me. I’m not used to anyone worrying about my safety. I hold my hands steady, shifting my weight slightly as I take in the clearing around me, looking for holes in the ground or things I might trip on. It’s all I can do to hold myself back from the attack.

“You should probably go then,” he says. “I can’t guarantee that they’ll leave you alone.” He waves his arm around him, and the other people in the group just look at me. Most of them settle back down on the log and ignore me. But one of the younger men stands up. He grabs a knife next to him, and rushes toward me. Finally, we can begin.

I bring my sword up to block his downward swing. His blade bounces off my sword, but his other arm grabs my wrist. I move back, and away from him. For the first time in a long time, I stumble. I forget about the men in the clearing around me backing me up. All I can feel is his iron grip on my wrist. All I can hear is the heavy sound of his breath, and all I can see are his cold blue eyes as he comes towards me. Fear washes over me, slowing down the scene, making every second last longer than it should.
I twist away from him, pulling back as he swings his knife again.

One of the younger men from my father’s group crashes into the clearing. The sound momentarily distracts me from the infected in front of me. No one moves to help him as four of the infected stand up and begin converging on him. Four against one is not a fair fight.

The infected grabs me again, and I manage to pull back and down so he misses my throat, but the tip of the knife still slices across my cheek. It happens so fast that at first it doesn’t feel like anything. Then the stinging starts.

The pain snaps me out of my daze. The fear of infection surges through me. I have to get away from him to protect myself. I thrust myself forward, swinging my sword wide. I can’t reach his neck, so I settle for a sharp jab at his middle. As I pull my sword out of his stomach, he leans forward clutching his middle, and I move quickly slicing off his head.

The sound of my blood rushing through my ears fades, and around me I hear the shouts of the men, and the sounds of guns rushing forward. The man who stumbled in the clearing is close to being overwhelmed. He is carrying a pump action shotgun and no knives or sword. Although he has blasted away one of the infected, his next shot goes wide. The other three are too close, and one grabs him before he has time to reload and fire again.

He screams, high pitched and wild as he writhes trying to break free, and avoid being bitten. If you become infected, you slowly lose your mind until you begin to attack and feed on others. We kill those who have reached that point to prevent them from damning their souls further.

I pull my knife out of the sheath on my thigh and swing it forward, hitting the infected who has him just below the base of the skull. The infected drops, and the man keeps screaming. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t have any injuries. Two more shots go off while I reach for my other knife and the two infected near him drop to the ground.

Dennis rushes forward, grabbing me. He puts me in the truck and pulls out a compress soaked in alcohol and presses it to my check. My eye begins to water. The fear of infection makes my hands shake. The adrenaline should be leaving me now that the fight is over, but it is still zinging through me.

The rest of the men are in the clearing, cleaning up. After we kill the infected, we try to save their souls. Since their bodies were unclean from the disease, we burn them and my dad prays for them. The ceremony takes some time.

“We need to get you back to the infirmary and give you a booster shot,” Dennis says.

“Emma’s not going to be happy about this.”

I just nod. The cut is starting to throb more, and tears burn my eyes. I blink them away making sure my dad doesn’t see me. Tears aren’t worth the anger he will direct at me if he sees them.

Over the sound of the men in the clearing, a wolf howls. Suddenly it is silent. Everyone is frozen, when the sound is repeated back on the other side of the clearing. The echoing sound pushes people forward. The men stop what they are doing and pick up their weapons.

My father runs towards us, then we hear a third howl. My father starts the truck and begins pulling away before the door slams. Men are still in the clearing scrambling into the other truck. Smoke is rising from the fire we set, but no one is stopping to put it out. I’m dizzy, and my stomach lurches along with the truck.

“Travis, how did they find us?” Dennis asks. He is still dabbing at my cheek.


  1. Miriam,
    This is getting there. Its very exciting, but I think thrre is still room for improvement.
    There are three lines strung together starting with it is my job... they want to start a fight, but maybe kill and maybe not and then elsewhere you say there is no hope they will progress. I am confused.
    Fear washes over her, fear rages and she gets an adrenaline rush, but what does she feel /heart lungs mind...
    If the ceremony takes some time, shouldnt you describe something about it?
    Tears arent worth the anger he will directvst me...could be simplified to tears arent worth tge anger.
    Good job!

  2. Hi Mariam,

    Much better details with this one, especially about the infected and why she’s going into the clearing alone and why they need to attack her first. Good good good! :)

    And the added fear of infection when he slices her with the knife. I wonder if these are like zombies and they have to bite, or if their weapons are poison tipped. Or maybe she’s afraid that if his blood or something gets too close, it would infect her?

    I’m wondering a bit about the poor guy that gets ganged up on by the infected and why no one in the group helps until it’s almost too late. Did he get into a truck and get away? I’m worried about random dude! :P

    I still feel you could have some sort of comment about her being so used to this that it doesn’t faze her. Maybe something like ‘The familiar feel of steel in her palms and the rush of the fight.’ Or maybe something like ‘someone without as much experience as me might have been bit right then.’ So we know she’s totally bad ass and used to this kick butt type of fight and danger.

    All in all this is such a great improvement from the first posting. =) more focused and more informative without being confusing.

  3. I love the details you added!! That's great. I feel more connected to her now. One question though. If you've explained it's her job to do this and why (which is awesome) then why is she afraid for the first time in a long time? What's different?? That's the missing detail I think.

  4. Hi Mim,

    The action is great and I like that you deepened the scene with good detail.

    I too continue to be concerned with 'random dude', and feel that his entrance throws the reader off and breaks the action's pace.

    I liked the intensity of the ending before when you had the wolves running along the truck, with one jumping in the bed. It ended the scene with a crescendo. Now, your hard ass, kick-butt MC comes off kind of wimpy. However, I wonder if you've ended here to show a dent in her armor. Hmmm.

    Definitely an action-packed opening that will find readers eager to know what happens next.

    Good luck with your story!


  5. YAY! Love this revision! Just three quick comments:

    "katana" (The use of the word 'katana' doesn't really work in a fantasy world. While reading through the rest of your work, consider phrases and words that wouldn't make sense in a fantasy world. For example, Adam's apple wouldn't work, because the fantasy world don't know/recognize Adam and Eve as the first humans. The story of how their world begin is different.)

    "I’m not used to anyone worrying about my safety." (What about her dad? Doesn't he care?

    Lastly, where did the truck come from?

    Other than that, GREAT JOB! This is a huge improvement.

  6. Hi Miriam,

    This revision is so much clearer! Great job!

    Going forward, a few other things to consider:

    Look at making the relationships even clearer, because THAT is where you hook us.

    One concept stood out for me that was actually far more interesting than your first paragraph as a place to begin: she is the decoy. Consider telling us that before you describe the clearing. Then as you describe the clearing, we have TENSION. As it is now, we have nothing to anchor that description and connect us to a reason for wanting to know what happens next.

    I would also love to know more about how she feels toward her father for putting her in that position.

    A couple of other niggling things.

    Be careful of using bodies in that first paragraph the way you have. Or at least, if you want to use the word in its current context, be sure that it is because the bodies are actual bodies. Otherwise, make it clear that you are talking about people who are losing control of their limbs.

    For me, the killing is still happening a little too fast and easily. Cutting off someone's head is hard. You haven't given us any sense that she has superhuman strength, so really put yourself into her shoes and see what she sees, feel what she feels, do what she does. Then pick the details that will help the reader share that experience.

    Overall, this has REALLY come along, and I am excited by where you are heading. Good luck with it!

  7. Just wanted to say a big thank you for all of your comments. You've really helped me know what I need to do to take this up to the next level. Thanks so much!