Monday, October 7, 2013

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Foley

Name: Kate I. Foley

Genre: MG Fantasy

Title: Fantasya: A Giant Problem


There are three different types of unicorn horns. They vary significantly, from the common white horn to the rare silver horn. It is, however, written that the rare golden horn is the hardest to come by. According to legends, a unicorn blessed with this kind of horn is destined for greatness. Only one unicorn in existence, up to this point, had it, which was the first unicorn on Fantasya. The golden horn allows the unicorn to produce gold out of water—but with consequences, as it lowers their speed and strength, causing their magic to weaken.

-The Unicorn Almanac, page 225

There is no “once upon a time in this book,” because that’s how a fairytale start, and this is not a fairytale. No matter what you humans may think, this is a true story about unicorns.

Camilla and Carter Day had been waiting for what seemed like forever for the birth of their second unicorn. As soon as Camilla began to feel the familiar pain in her stomach on November Fourth, she and Carter rushed to a Healer. The foal was coming.

The Healer used her magic—wind magic, which all unicorns had—to help ease the pain as the foal was born. Carter nuzzled Camilla. His mane tickled Camilla’s forehead, but she didn’t notice. Even wind magic was no match for the pain of birthing a unicorn. She began to sweat.

As suddenly as it had started, it was over. The pain was gone. The Healer and Carter both backed away. Lying in front of Camilla a foal. It was a girl, with spindly legs and a glossy, white coat. Her eyes were a bright, beautiful blue, like an ocean.

“She’s gorgeous,” the Healer breathed. “Beautiful.”

“What should we name her?” Carter asked his wife.

“Cassandra.” Camilla said this with no hesitation.
Camilla nuzzled her baby.

“You’re my Cassandra,” she whispered. “Cassandra Day.”

Their first-born child, Cindy, was galloping towards them as fast as she could at just two-years-old. Her silver horn bobbed up and down as she ran.

“Now be careful around the foal,” Camilla said to Cindy. “She can’t play rough games with you like you play with Dad—”

But Cassandra was already wobbling over to Cindy, whinnying and baring her teeth. Cindy smiled and began to play one of the wrestling games she played with her dad.

Camilla glanced over at Carter, her expressive blue eyes wide with shock. Newborns didn’t wrestle other unicorns. If they did, their little fragile bones would snap.

The Healer looked like she might faint from surprise. Cindy rolled over on top of Cassandra and then, just as Carter was about to intervene, Cassandra kicked and struggled and managed to roll over on top of Cindy.

“This isn’t happening,” Camilla muttered to herself. “This is not happening.”

“It is happening,” Carter said in a quiet voice, barely moving his lips. “Our little newborn is apparently very strong.”

Camilla chuckled along with Carter. The Healer just fainted.

Exactly one year later on Cassandra’s birthday . . .

“Happy birthday, my little Cassandra!” Camilla cooed as Cassandra stretched, yawned, opened her eyes, and smiled.

“’Appy day, Mommy!” Cassandra said, copying what her mother had said.

Camilla laughed.

“It’s your birthday, Silly.”

“Silly!” Cassandra said, galloping around the nearby trees.

Carter snuck up behind Cassandra and wrestled with her. Soon Cindy had joined in.

“Time for breakfast,” Camilla announced. Cindy jumped up and galloped away after her mother.

Cassandra galloped after Cindy and jumped into the air, hovering a few inches before crumpling to the ground. Cassandra giggled and shook the dirt off her legs, racing to catch up with everyone.

The family of four began to eat their breakfast of grass. Cindy finished quickly and ran off to play.
Camilla gasped.

“Oh my.”

“What is it?” Carter asked, swallowing a mouthful of grass.

“Her—her horn.”

Camilla’s silvery coat suddenly paled and turned white. Her face was a mixture of excitement and shock. Her blue eyes—that matched Cassandra’s perfectly—were wide and round. Carter bent down lower and took a look at Cassandra’s forehead.

There, in the exact middle of her forehead, was a horn. It was only half an inch long, and it was golden.

“Carter,” Camilla said in a very high-pitched voice. “Our Cassandra has the super rare horn. That’s not common! At all. Cassandra was also very strong when she was born. She wrestled Cindy. And she has started to fly a little and she’s only one. What do you think this means?”

Carter thought hard about this.

“You’re right. That’s not common.”

“At all,” Camilla emphasized. “Only one other unicorn in history had it!”

Carter smiled.

“Well apparently our little Cassandra is special. She must be destined for greatness.”

“But those are just legends,” Camilla said. Her voice was light and airy, as if she couldn’t get a proper breath in. “You don’t think—you don’t think—”

“That she’s going to save Fantasya one day? Yes, I do. The first unicorn on Fantasya had that horn and she stopped the elves from nearly burning down the whole forest! I think Cassandra is destined to do the same thing.”

“I can’t believe she has it.” Camilla shook her head and watched Cindy tackle her sister. Cassandra laughed and leapt three feet into the air before toppling over again. “I can’t believe it.”

“I’m excited to watch our children grow up.” Carter nuzzled Camilla and watched the two foals play in the grass. “They’re both going to be amazing unicorns. Not to mention they’ll have the boys chasing after them by the time they can fly.”

Camilla chuckled.

Exactly one year and three days later.


The high-pitched shriek of Camilla rang all throughout the forest. The sound of other unicorns screaming and whinnying in terror was deafening. Carter ran to find his wife and children. Cassandra, who was only two, and Cindy, who was now four, saw their dad and ran to him.

“What’s going on?” Cindy asked.

“I don’t know,” Carter said gravely. “But we need to run.”

Cassandra had no idea what was going on and just galloped next to her sister and father.


This time the shriek was louder and strained as if she was trying not to cry. Carter rounded a dense stand of trees and saw what was going on. His breath left him.

Trolls and elves of all shapes and sizes (the trolls typically being medium sized, bulky, and burly and the elves typically being short and squat) were stampeding across the meadows and the forest. Unicorns lay dead across the ground, blood stained the pure white trees, trolls swung their clubs and shot water sprays, and elves burned trees to the ground and shot their magical arrows. Carter could not believe it. They hadn’t had a war for thousands to millions of years. Fantasya was normally a place of peace, not war.

Carter searched frantically for his wife. But as soon as Camilla’s cries for help couldn’t be heard anymore, he knew something was terribly wrong.

Carter searched frantically for his wife. But as soon as Camilla’s cries for help couldn’t be heard anymore, he knew something was terribly wrong.
And there Camilla lay, dead. Her skull looked as if a club had smashed it in and three arrows protruded from her chest. Carter stumbled in disbelief and tears streamed down his face. Cindy, who was just old enough to understand what had happened, roared in anger and stamped her feet, looking around for the murderer. Cassandra stared at her motionless mother, too young to understand what had happened.


    Critique by: Kathleen S. Allen

    What I loved about this work, and why:

    I love that it’s a story about unicorns, from the unicorn’s POV

    What caused me problems, and why:

    Although this is MG, I don’t know if a birthing scene is appropriate. Why not start with Cassandra’s golden horn showing up?

    You don’t need to label the meaning of the horn as a prologue. This can be at the start of the chapter, but again, I’m not sure MG readers would read it.

    I didn’t feel like they lived in a place called Fantasya, only in a forest. Show us more of the characters other than the unicorns and possibly elves and trolls.

    The characters:

    It starts a little flat, I feel like this story is more about the parents rather than Cassandra. Start with her, if she’s the “chosen one.”

    Instead of calling the mother, the wife, why not say mate instead?

    The action:

    So the unicorns only wrestle? Maybe show them galloping through the forest, near a lake or stream or some other action.

    The dialogue:

    Feels stilted and stiff.

    The background:

    They live in a forest, so give us more sensory details of where they live. I like the mention of the elves nearly burning down the forest but maybe an explanation of how the unicorn with the golden horn stopped them would give us more of an idea about Cassandra.

    The theme:

    The “chosen one” theme, according to some agent’s blogs I’ve read is overdone unless it’s different. I think that having a unicorn be that is different enough. But besides being strong, what other qualities does Cassandra have that make her “the chosen one”?

    The technical details (spelling, grammar, scientific, historical, etc.):

    Change the line: The healer just fainted to The healer fainted if you decide to keep this part.

    Final comments:

    This feels like it could be different enough but start the story with Cassandra, have the unicorns do some other things, gallop, race, drink at a stream, get lost or whatever you come up with. Put the danger close to the beginning. This feels more like a younger MG and if so, the death of the mother may be bit much. If it’s meant for upper MG, it would be all right.

    Hope this was helpful.

    1. Thanks for your critique! :) I'll keep this in mind during the revisions.

    Critique by: Chris Awe

    You picked a very difficult theme here, but since "The Last Unicorn" everyone knows that this can work well.

    I have to point out that I do not write for children or teenagers and I rarely read anything written for them. So I can only give you comments on how I felt reading your story.

    My initial thought before reading was that you say this story is for children. I can see where, in parts, you have tried to appeal to children - the opening, using active descriptions etc. - but there are also other parts where you’re trying to appeal to teenagers - the last part - and then there are other parts that I’m not convinced would appeal to either - the narrative summary of the background or the birthing scene. These are just my thoughts for what they’re worth but I do feel the piece lacks focus on exactly who your readership is and the pace is hampered as a result.

    Also I would be careful attributing too many human traits. After all they are unicorns and might have completely different ideas about having breakfast, giving birth, playing games, etc. But this is also your best chance to create something different (which is, as Kathleen has already pointed out, pretty hard). For example: If I were a unicorn, fencing would be my favourite pastime.

    I also feel that you should add more details. Children love that, at least that is want the world's most successful editor says (

    All in all I'm impressed, and I wish you well in finishing it. I think you will have something pretty special once you are done.

    1. Thanks so much for your critique. :) I think I'll add fencing of some sort in the revisions!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I think your concept is very unique and has the potential to be something really different in the crowded marketplace. I do have a few suggestions to help you strengthen your opening pages. I hope they help!

    I don't think the beginning is a true prologue. I think you can begin the chapter with that passage as a quote. It confused me at first, though, since I thought it was the narrator speaking, rather than a quote from a book. I think, primarily, because it states, "It is, however, written that..." An almanac might state it a different way, maybe, "It is rumored that..."

    Also, I think the first paragraph can either be cut or reworded since it came off a little confusing. The lines suggest a first person narrator, but it is told in third. Just a suggestion (and I know it's not a small one!), but maybe consider changing the POV to first person. You might start with something along the lines of, "We are unicorns, and we are real."

    The pages also felt very told rather than experienced. We don't get a sense of what the forest smells, sounds, looks like. Same with the burning down of the forest. The dialog also seems to, at time, simply reinforce what we (and the unicorns) already know. For example, "Our Cassandra has the super rare..." Also, would that be the first time they noticed the horn? Does it grow in exactly on their first birthday?

    To that point, I was a little confused about the world-building, with regards to the way the unicorns eat, drink, spend their time. It seems awfully close to humans, which is fine, but just make sure it all fits into the narrative.

    Finally, I think the jumping around of the birth, first birthday, second birthday feels a bit jolting. You might consider opening the scene on the second birthday, with the horn already in place, and make references to the fact that Cassandra's horn is very rare, and then jump right into the action.

    Good luck with the revision! I'm looking forward to seeing it.


  4. I wouldn't open your story with an almanac entry. Try to find another way to work in the most necessary of those details.

    I hope I read this correctly, but it felt like the everyone in the story is an animal or fantasy creature of some measure. No humans, right?

    To me, the voice is okay... but at the beginning it read below MG... then jumped to the blood and gore parts which jolted me a bit. Hard to tell what kind of story it's going to be from here.

    Definitely not any characters like this one, I don't believe.

    The dialogue runs a little on the heavy side in terms of balance with narration.

    I think it is probably a unique story once it's written in the correct age range. MG readers like fantasy... but do they like unicorns as MC's?

    Hope these were helpful.

  5. I think you have the start of a good story. Some things need to be addressed, some changed. You may need to set up the rules of the world you are writing for. For example, I understand that the Healer has magic, but why only wind magic and how does wind magic help with the birth of the new unicorn?

    I think the description of the characters can have a smoother transition. I actually have a lot of questions about description and the way the story advances but I'm looking forward to the rewrite to see where you go from here.

  6. I love unicorns. I had posters everywhere growing up. But I didn't realize we were dealing with unicorn characters until about paragraph 3. I think you can start there. Also, I want more details, more description (all five senses) of your fantasy world and the characters. I recommend not using the same letter for all characters because it quickly becomes confusing to tell them apart. Who is your main character? Usually it's someone slightly older than your target audience... How old does the baby get before the big story is started? I'd start at that age actually. You can sprinkle in info about how she got there and how she feels at that point. It almost feels too young for MG right now.