Monday, May 12, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Griffin Rev 1

Kelly Griffin

Genre: Young Adult

Title: The Reckoner

Chapter 1

The white invitation was glaring in the warm sunlight, the edges starting to wear from the touch of skin. The paper felt smooth underneath her fingertips, the imprinted design and words bringing life to the document. The filigree inlay dressed up the words, but the invitation was plainly written. The edges flickered in the air they traveled, the paper almost fighting to take flight. She folded up the document again after studying it for a moment, the words pouring over in her mind. She tucked it away carefully in her bag, sliding it into a pocket to shelter it from the oppressive wind. She was going to need it; it was her ticket after all.

“Evie!” a voice called out, though the sound seemed to slow as it reached the reader’s ears. She was surrounded by a bubble, the outside world kept at bay as she thought. But a few more calls seemed to burst its skin, sending her senses back into reality.

“Yes!” Evie cried, standing up from the bench. She fumbled a moment to maintain her footing, though the boat was gliding serenely across the water. The young woman who was calling for her was hanging from the boom of the vessel, one arm stretched out so she was practically dangling over the water. She was dressed in colorful vestments, a patchwork dress and purple short coat. Her hair was a curly mess because of the wind, but Evie could still make out the mischievous golden eyes beneath it. Her worn boots clung to the ship in desperation, but the woman cared very little for their plight. “Adelaide, you’re going to get yourself killed!”

“I highly doubt that,” Adelaide responded, turning around so she could jump back down onto the deck, her steps springy and light. She grinned wildly, the hoop earrings jangling around her face. “I’ve got you and luck on my side.”

“I’m not sure I should be your fall back plan,” Evie said, crossing her arms. She was a little taller in stature and her long blonde hair fell below her shoulders. Her white jacket and skirt had seen better days since she was given them in Revilian, but memories couldn’t tear her from them. It had been over a year to the day since she left that city behind, following her hopes and dreams into the great unknown. She shook her head, not wanting to get lost in a dream. She had plenty of time for that once she wasn’t preparing for one of the biggest moments of her life thus far.

The sails billowed and rustled in the moving wind, pushing the boat quickly over the rough surf. The water crashed against the sides, the white caps fighting for a taste of the deck. “I think you’re a lot more powerful than you think you are. I mean, you’re a maritara, or really the very specifically powerful one. Why else would the Order ask for you to come to Nevvara?” Adelaide added, one hand on her hip. She had shifted her weight to one side and looked as if she was sizing Evie up.

Evie smiled at her warmly, looking out at the horizon. Small dots of green had appeared, growing in size as the vessel approached the direction of the Southern Islands. “I think if they thought me to be a master of my craft they wouldn’t have invited me to be a guest student,” she said simply.

“What did I say to you the day you saved my life?” Adelaide asked her, putting a hand on Evie’s shoulder. Her fingers were clad in jeweled rings, all of different stones.

“You mean the day you tried to steal from me?” Evie laughed, shaking her head. “You said that I was capable of great things.”

“I think this voyage to Nevvara is just the beginning. Adventure is beckoning to us, leading us into the fray,” Adelaide mused, dropping her hand to move back towards the front of the boat.

“And with a little luck I’ll be ready,” Evie told Adelaide.

“You’ll be fine, you’re a natural,” Adelaide responded, spinning on her toes. Evie thought she was vibrant and vivacious and it seemed as if her entire life was moving. She was a Wanderer, one of the lost people. They didn’t consider themselves lost though, that was a colloquial term for them. Instead they were what the name suggested, a nomadic people that was always on the move, no place to call home.

“Tell that to my parents, I think there isn’t a single thing that isn’t broken in the Zarn household. My mind does funny things on anger,” She laughed, an infectious smile spreading from ear to ear. She returned to her bench, sitting down next to her pack. The wind blew her beautiful hair out of her face, her eyes squinting against its strong current. The islands were coming into view, growing from green specs to defined masses. She took in a deep breath, the air laced with promise. Her nervousness lay in wait in her stomach, hiding for the moment as the awe of it all took over. She was full of emotion, just waiting to burst.

The boat slid over the water with ease, the water parting as though it was sliced in half. The crisp sea air penetrated everything, leaving a salty smell behind. Evie dreamed of possibilities, of the things she would find in Nevvara , the capital city of the Southern elhuman Islands. Her thoughts ran back to the small dreams that she kept always. She wanted to be stronger, to reach the hopes her parents had for her, the ones she had for herself. But she needed help, and help was finally offered. She was determined to make her stay in Nevvara worth her time. There was no greater honor than to be a student of the famous Order, the scientific conclave known throughout the world. It was easily the ultimate nod of respect for a young mutation. If she was going to be able to use her mind differently, to manipulate the world with it, she was going to have to put in the work. Besides, the Order had asked for her, no one else. She wasn’t about to let anyone down, that was her resolve.

Only a few more hours passed before they reached the shore, the boat brought into harbor by a small dingy. They docked and made their preparations to leave, gathering their scanty belongings. They traveled light at all times, Evie and Adelaide had grown used to living without much to their name.

Adelaide was quick to jump off the deck onto the wooden platform, with Evie in careful tow. Evie couldn’t help but give a wistful look back at the sea, a look back at the mainland she had come to know. Resolving herself she breathed in deeply, checking to make sure the invitation still sat in her pocket.

The short walk up the creaky wooden dock led to a single individual, a man dressed in long white robes with a circular pendant hanging from his neck. He nodded as Evie and Adelaide approached, a sign of respect. The girls nodded in return, though an awkwardness was pervasive. They came to a halt after descending down the stairs, waiting for some kind of direction. Evie felt a surge of sickness welling up inside her, spurring on a faster heartbeat. This wasn’t a dream anymore.

The man bowed towards Evie, but the feeling in the pit of her stomach did not disappear. “Evelyn Zarn, you honor us with your presence. I am Ricard. Please, I have come to escort you to the temple where the High Priest awaits your arrival,” he said, doing little to dissuade her from the nausea.


  1. Hi Kelly,
    As before, I really enjoyed reading this. Imagery still remains very strong.

    The main thing I noticed this time was the use of dialog tags.
    “Evie!” a voice called out - is one that certainly requires something a bit more lengthy since this is doing double duty of introducing the reader to the MC's name and because the reader doesn't yet know "who" is doing the calling out.

    “Yes!” Evie cried, standing up from the bench - is an example of one where the tag can be more forward moving as an action tag, i.e., "Yes!" Evie stood up from the bench...

    “I highly doubt that,” Adelaide responded, turning around - This is another example of a dialog tag that could be more forward moving as an action tag, i.e., "I highly doubt that." Adelaide turned around...

    Other than the dialog tags, things read smoothly. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Ahhh yes, now we’re getting somewhere with the “The boat slid” paragraph! I like what you added to make clear the purpose. Do you need “that was her resolve” at the end of the paragraph though?

    Also, I like the nerves reaching Evie at the end though perhaps add more after the "The man bowed towards Evie” sentence, continuing to make it clear that it’s the journey she’s nervous about - not anything the man is doing. If the man is part of everything she’s soaking in and getting overwhelmed by, detail that. Also, I love that the man doesn’t even acknowledge her nerves. But does Adelaide notice or is she busy focusing on the man, herself, the setting...

    Nit picky things:
    1) I’m personally not a fan of “oppressive wind” in the first paragraph. Maybe use “harsh” or something other than “oppressive” to describe wind.
    2) I also think there’s a sharper way to say, "I mean, you’re a maritara, or really the very specifically powerful one.”

    Favorite line:
    She took in a deep breath, the air laced with promise.

  3. Love the revision. Your POV is much clearer and you keep the imagery strong.

    Specific comments:
    “I think you’re a lot more powerful than you think you are. I mean, you’re a maritara, or really the very specifically powerful one. Why else would the Order ask for you to come to Nevvara?” Adelaide added, one hand on her hip. She had shifted her weight to one side and looked as if she was sizing Evie up.

    You could change that last tag about Adelaide to "Adelaide shifted her weight to one side, sizing Evie up." Instead of including "Adelaide added."

    Also, " Evie felt a surge of sickness welling up inside her, spurring on a faster heartbeat. " could be "A surge of sickness welled up inside Evie, spurring on a faster heartbeat."

    These are just picky things since we don't need to have Evie's sickness filtered through "Evie felt" because if she's getting sick we know she's feeling it. I do the same thing too when writing but in my (non-expert) opinion, I think it's best to keep the words "BLANK FELT" for when you aren't sure who is feeling that emotion/sensation.

    Overall, I loved this, it's a very strong beginning and is only getting better :). Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Kelly,

    Like last time, this is great. I love the sensory details and the vivid descriptions that bring everything to life. The POV was much clearer too.

    Some little things that made me pause…

    “Evie!” a voice called out, though the sound seemed slow as it reached the reader’s ears…sending her senses back to reality.” In this paragraph there’s a lot of work happening to keep Evie/Adelaide’s names a mystery. Instead of “She was surrounded by a bubble…” maybe use Evie’s name to keep it clear.

    I agree with the earlier comment about the sentence, “I mean, you’re a maritara, or really the very specifically powerful one.” This is a lot of words to say she’s powerful.

    I didn’t really notice the dialog tags until everyone else pointed them out, but I think that could be an easy fix. I guess there are a lot of “Adelaide asked, Evie told, Adelaide responded” tags that could be changed to an action tag, especially since the action is already plugged in there.

    Other than those very little things, this was great!

  5. Hi, Kelly!

    So sorry I missed reading last week. I had an email snafu.

    There are many parts of this scene that are LOVELY. You have an obvious talent for world-building and tone, along with juxtaposition of imagery. You also end on a positive note by introducing a character, and leaving us at the point of arrival so that we're desperate to read on.

    My feedback centers on the opening and the dialogue exchange.

    The opening isn't quite there yet. I would try to prune it back, and find a quicker segue into the world by leaving out a bit of the description until we've settled in. Let us open in her mind.

    For example: The invitation arrived in a crisp slip of parchment wrapped in a red ribbon. (In this type of sentence, we are already in Evie's mind. She is letting us into her private, secret perspective. It is intimate and enthralling, and then you can easily segue to how the invitation has changed over time, and what that means, but briefly)

    An opening with an invitation? Perfect! I want to know what it's FOR. Give us a couple more lines that establish a blush of the world we are in, then launch into that dialogue.

    Regarding the dialogue: I recommend writing it with ZERO dialogue tags and interiority, as an exercise. Make sure it POPS. Let the words sing, let the characters say everything they might possibly say, in rapid fire. Then only add a few key bits of physical description or stage direction. Leave most of the dialogue clean and unfettered. Let it build pace and interest...and then launch into Evie's interior thoughts once she gets into the boat. That is the perfect moment for introspection, and quiet anticipatory thoughts. That paragraph is golden, whereas the interiority within the dialogue seems out of place, as though the characters are standing around thinking and waiting to speak. Dialogue should happen in real time, without pauses for thoughts or information. Save the information for the introspective moments, when the reader is eager to take it in.

    You're well on your way to a very interesting opening.

  6. Hi, Kelly,

    As I wrote in my email, I apologize for not getting in a critique last week, but I will be happy to read an extra week if you mail me the pages once the workshop finishes.

    I adore straight up fantasy, and you are starting with a journey and there are some intriguing hints of things to come here. Your world-building is excellent, and you have a way of painting images with words and creating a sense of uniqueness--your perspectives and word choices are very fresh.

    That said, I'd encourage you to consider where the worldbuilding and uniqueness serve your story most critically. With each sentence, ask yourself not only whether the information in that sentence is needed by the reader, but also whether the reader needs the information at the moment that you are providing it.

    In addition, balance the information with narrative momentum to help you decide whether your emphasis is on the right things. For example, the sentences about the invitation, while lovely, are bit much about information that could be conveyed more quickly.

    I would recommend trying to see how you can convey the information more quickly, while simultaneously putting us more deeply into your characters point of view. At this point, I think your biggest goal should be to decide what's important for us to know right away, and then get it moving. It might even be that your starting point is when she is about to disembark, because that would let you really jump the reader into action and give her the incentive to consider the invitation again.

    Also, focus on varying your sentence structure. The first sentences all start with "the." Mix up not only word choice but also length to help you underscore what the mc is feeling and experiencing.

    Really looking forward to seeing more of where you're going with this!