Monday, October 7, 2013

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Awe

Chris Awe
Young Adult historical fiction
Goliath: Deus Ex Machina

Chapter I

Well hidden from the guards’ prying eyes, in a place most unlikely, a little boy of very peculiar nature and fashion hunkered in the thick shadow behind a balustrade.

Now you might, and with good reason wonder dear reader, how on earth I come to the preposterous assumption you would agree to my proposition, namely that the boy indeed was to be described in the like manner and fashion. Maybe you are of most peculiar nature yourself and might feel offended by any of my findings, maybe you are not. In either case please accept my dearest apology. You have to understand, that from my very limited insight into his innermost being at this time and my strongest belief that indeed only a very few of you have been, are or will be in circumstances anywhere near the one I am going to disclose on the following pages, I can only but tell you the effect his appearance caused with me when I first lay eyes upon him, which was that of a boy of very peculiar nature and fashion. So bear with me a little longer and let me in modesty and with seriousness continue telling you of this wondrous tale that, as it is my strongest conviction, will be highly entertaining for those of you who seek mere pleasure and most instructional for those who seek guidance and wisdom, or both or nothing at all.

Who I am to set these claims, you are asking? A fair question. Tiresias is, or more precisely was my name, for I am the deceased son of Everes and Chariclo. I am ... errr ... was a sage of old and I am dead, as it were, which is for me equally unresting as it surely is for you. But I must say it is also the best and most extraordinary thing that has ever happened to me. I might find a few honest lines to introduce me properly in the near future, but for now there are more pressing matters needing my immediate attention, and so let me return to my story and give account of the whys and wherefores of the boy’s most curious circumstances.

The boy, I was in the beginning speaking of looked young. He probably wasn‘t much older than ten years of age, and his face, as far as could be seen under the big, shiny cauldron on his head, was chubby-cheeked with a podgy nose right where it belonged. A mop of messy, jet black curly hair bristled under this makeshift helmet and a pair of dark marbly eyes impishly flashed here and there. From his waist to his awfully skinned knees stretched a skirt of coarse yellow flax tagging him as a scullery boy. Over it a ragged moth-eaten cloak, held together by a simple string, fell down to his bare and surprisingly smutty feet and a small wooden sword, his every pride and most precious belonging, was dangling from his hip. His thick-set, short-necked and rather portly figure, especially around his middle, revealed the boy’s weakness for substantial and solid meals and completed his somewhat out of tune appearance. There were whole bunches of little slave boys almost quite like him hustling and bustling through the palace‘s halls day in day out and thus he would have been nearly a common sight, if not at this most unreasonable hour and in this very unusual place. Breathing noisily he pressed his back flat against the cold, hard, marble stones.

‘Thousand thundering centaurs.’ gasped he when the night dew soaked through the thin layers of his tattered clothes, adding to the sweat that was already coursing down his back. An unpleasant shudder crept down his spine and he shivered heavily. He ignored the cold for once and closed his eyes. Taking another deep rasping breath he counted to three, slowly pushed himself up on the low wall and cautiously peered over its edge. He had chosen his observation post most meticulously and with the same consideration and thoughtfulness that dominated some, but certainly not most of his actions, but the scenery was beyond his wildest dreams. One whole night he had tried to find the perfect spot for his adventurous and by all means audacious plan, and the gods be praised, it had been worth all the effort.

And this further proves the truthfulness of my proposition from above, namely that this was really a boy of exceptional character, because no one, at least no one I know of at the age of ten would dare venture to a place like this, risking his very own and very only life.

The bedlam of the early morning hours had provided the necessary cover to sneak here. Two of the other boys, Eli and Festus, unbearable browbeaters, outright the most rotten miscreants you could possibly imagine and his sworn arch enemies had predicted he’d never make it out the kitchen wing. As usual they had tried to play their stupid tricks on him and locked him in the cellar, but blast them. There was no lock he couldn’t pick and nobody, really nobody had paid attention to him. Not the guards and not even Pothinus, Ptolemy’s beefy warden, who was patrolling the long corridor leading to the royal chambers, a viperish look on his fat face. Fortunately he had been too busy yelling at one of the poor souls bustling up and down the corridors, something he seemed to relish beyond all comparison, and the boy had gratefully seized his chance and used the one unobserved moment to slip inside.

As usual at the first stirrings of an attack, the princess and her servants had been evacuated to a secure underground location and the chamber lay completely deserted, as expected. Everything was just as he had planned. Only Isis, the princess’s cat had lain sprawled out on one of the fluffy cushions. Yawning and stretching she had been rather annoyed about this unexpected disturbance of her peace, had whipped her tail from side to side and then had gracefully retreated into a dark corner of the room. The princess hopefully wouldn’t return anytime soon, for if she did, he would be in trouble, and this time real big trouble. Trouble of the hands cut off, your tongue ripped out and feet burned to charcoal kind. At this thought he felt panic rise in his throat and he dipped back down to cast a reassuring glance at the balcony door. Nothing! Just the panicky rattle of his own breath and the curtains lazily flapping in the breeze. Bit by bit his thumping heart slowed. He snatched a handful of dried dates from his pocket and shoved it into his mouth.

‘Blood and guts! Pull yourself together now and calm down! Everything will be alright.’ mumbled he, gulping down the sticky lump in whole. He shook off the little worry that had begun to niggle at the back of his mind, got up and peeped over the balustrade again.


  1. I love the narrator. :) Right off the bat I could hear his voice clearly in my mind. Your descriptions are also very vivid. You have great voice.

    The only thing I didn't like as much were the long sentences/paragraphs. Shorter paragraphs make for easier reading, and long sentences are very hard to follow. Take this sentence, for example: "He probably wasn‘t much older than ten years of age, and his face, as far as could be seen under the big, shiny cauldron on his head, was chubby-cheeked with a podgy nose right where it belonged." That alone is thirty-eight words long. Substitute some of those commas for periods.

    Great job. :)

  2. I agree that the sentences seem too long. I had trouble reading this entry because I don't usually read books with a narrator telling the story. That being said, I thought it was well thought out.

  3. Nice opening sentence.

    Not a fan of 2nd POV and addressing the reader, even though I have seen it done by big-time authors. But it is different. And if done well, it will stand out.

    Also not crazy about a dead narrator.

    Lottttts of telling here

    Narrative voice is distinctive, to say the least. But the sentence structure is odd... thinking it's mimicking historical speech patterns.

    In any case, it's extremely narrative heavy and the paragraphs are quite lengthy.

    I think there's a lot on your plate to think about here. It'll be interesting to see what gets altered.

    Hope this is helpful.

  4. Thanks for the entry! I think there is a great voice, story and world-building in there, but it's buried under too much description and exposition. There are long passages of description that aren't crucial to the first five pages--the sentences about how the main character looks, for example. Also, the narrator breaking in to explain the scene really took me out of the action. As a reader, I kept getting confused as to what was happening.

    There is implied tension in the opening pages, but it gets lost between the descriptions and the narrator addressing the reader. There are also a lot of characters mentioned--are all of them crucial to your opening? I would suggest focusing the first few pages on just the main character and the action, rather than the description.

    Also, it read a little closer to middle grade than YA. With a main character of ten, I think it is more in the MG universe.

    Like I said, I think there is some good stuff there, it is just a matter of honing it and really focusing on the tension and main character. I look forward to reading the revision!

  5. I agree about the good stuff being here. The paragraphs are heavy and I know you have put a lot of work into the description and the world building but there are a few places where you're descriptions can be reworked. "There were whole bunches of little slave boys almost quite like him" for example. This threw me off.

    The narrator is difficult sometimes but if you pare some of it back I think you will have the opportunity to pull out the story you are really trying to tell. And you will have more words to tell it.

    Alos the sentence ‘Thousand thundering centaurs.’ gasped he when the night dew soaked through the thin layers of his tattered clothes, adding to the sweat that was already coursing down his back. I had a hard time with this one as their were too many descriptive words telling us something simple.

    Also age ten is MG and if that's the case some of the words may be a little too old.

    I look forward to reading the revisions and what you have done with what seems to be a promising story.

  6. I totally get what you're trying to do here, but personally, I am reticent. I don't like being pulled out of a story by the narrator, just not my thing, but I have seen it done. I feel like your careful attention to the language of the time is so overbearing that it distracts from the story and voice. Can you cut back? Sort of like with an accent. Hints of it are enough to put us there. It's a tricky balance, but if you get it, it'll be great. I also am not sure about YA. You're MC (or what we believe is your MC) is MG aged, but the language is definitely not... Hmm... Focus on one person. Set up the problem or A problem to focus on and immerse the reader. That's goal #1. Then go back and sprinkle in the voice and language. That would be my suggestion.