Monday, May 19, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Griffin Rev 2

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. It was smooth underneath her fingertips, the imprinted design and words bringing life to the document.

Miss Evelyn Zarn, you have been accepted into our mentorship program for the mentally gifted. We are pleased to...

The edges flickered up and the paper fought to take flight. She gently regained control and folded up the document, tucking it away carefully in her bag, sliding it into a pocket to shelter it from the relentless 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 Evie’s ears as though 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 turned 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 crossed her arms, frowning a little. 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. “Evelyn. You’re a maritara, one of the best. Of course they want you to come to Nevvara.” Adelaide 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 shrugged.

“What did I say to you the day you saved my life?” Adelaide put 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 shook 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 let her voice drop a little into a quiet ending.

“You’ll be fine, you’re a natural.” Adelaide spun 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. A surge of sickness was 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,
    I really appreciate the revisions you've added. There's much more movement from moment to moment, dialog to dialog, with fewer "said" tags. As I read, the more active dialog tags kept me moving forward while also projecting imagery in my mind from your great word choices.

    Two small things stood out, so minor in the scheme of things and just for you to consider:
    - "approached the direction of the Southern Islands" - you could remove "the direction" and this would read much smoother.
    - "scanty belongings" - I'm wondering if it should be "scant"? Each time I read it, it feels odd.

    Otherwise, your revisions had added so much more depth and given me so much to work with, although what you started with was wonderful :-)

  2. Hi Kelly,

    This is a much stronger opening. I never had a problem with the last version and actually liked that one quite a bit too, but I think this introduced Evie sooner. I’m glad you kept this one line: “She was going to need it; it was her ticket after all.”

    Also, the POV and dialog has gotten clearer. There were still areas in the last one that caused me to pause, but it was smoother this time.

    I wish there was more for me to comment on, but there really isn’t. Great job!

  3. This has improved greatly and my notes are very minor as well.

    I think you can cut "thus far" in "She had plenty of time for that once she wasn’t preparing for one of the biggest moments of her life thus far."

    I read the “I think if they thought me to be a master of my craft they wouldn’t have invited me to be a guest student" line as bitter, not as having low faith in herself and I think the latter is what you're going for? But then later on there's the sentence, "She wasn’t about to let anyone down, that was her resolve" so is she confident in herself or not? It's okay to go back and forth here, that's life, but this early in the story... I don't know, I want to be more grounded here.

    In the "Evie thought she was vibrant and vivacious and it seemed as if her entire life was moving" sentence, I'd replace SHE or HER with Adelaide's name so the sentence is more clear.

    That's it. That's all I got! Great job.

  4. Great revision. :)

    " She gently regained control and folded up the document, tucking it away carefully in her bag, sliding it into a pocket to shelter it from the relentless wind.."

    I find this portion of that paragraph a little bit awkward. Maybe change it to, "she gently regained control and folded up the document, tucking it carefully into a pocket in her bag, to shelter it from the wind."

    However I love the concluding line of that paragraph ("She was going to need it; it was her ticket after all.”)

    "the girls nodded in return, though an awkwardness was pervasive" could be
    "the girls nodded in return, cutting through a pervasive awkwardness" or something else that gets the meaning a little bit clearer. The awkwardness comes out of the blue, maybe show us how it's awkward instead?

    That's just my preference though.

    Other than that, this revision was amazing and I hope one day to read more! Great job and thank you for sharing!

  5. While the writing has a LOT going for it, and there is a world opening up in front of us, I am not drawn to read more about Evie. Yes, the prose is beautiful, but also a bit cluttered.

    I still feel there is too much back story and interiority shoe-horned into this scene. The action is limited to sitting on a boat, and although arriving is of course super intriguing, having little action gives your character an active demeanor. I would much rather see her actively engaged with her setting, and making choices that already show me what she's about. Her friend's daring is much more interesting to me as a reader. Why doesn't Evie pace the deck, showing us her anxiety? Why doesn't she stumble, and nearly fall overboard, only to be righted by a stranger (who may be a friend or a foe)? Why doesn't she get into an argument with the Captain, or perhaps want to turn back? I would like to be shown more about her through her actions.

    I recommend the opening of THE WINNER'S CURSE, or THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, as comparisons for openings in which the heroine is in actively engaging with her world.

    My opinions of course, are subjective, so feel free to take or leave them as you wish. Best of luck with your manuscript!


    1. Sorry, that should read "little action gives your character a passive demeanor."

  6. Hi Kelly,

    This has definitely improved, and you truly have many beautiful turns of phrases. But that in itself might be the problem. I'm aware of the writing and never really connecting to the character. At the same time, the backstory overloads the forward movement so that I never really "get" the playful notes between Evie and Adelaide.

    This truly would benefit from paring down. Try stripping away everything but the action and the dialogue and the sentences that establish setting and movement. Then start adding things back in to provide only the information that we're not going to get anywhere else or in any other way.

    Two small additional notes:

    1) Be careful to establish who is speaking and POV as soon as possible. Get "Evie" or "Evelyn" into the first paragraph instead of she.

    2) Be mindful of repeating information the reader already knows. "She was going to need it," for example, is a great line. But "it was her invitation, after all," doesn't add anything new. If you're meaning *it was her ticket into XXX (something that will establish her goal)* then you need to be more specific. If your intent is to establish that she is Evelyn, then we would have that in the first paragraph once you did item 1 above. Or as soon as Adelaide calls to her.

    Honestly, I think the biggest issue here is that you need to get your character doing something -- this is going to be an adventure story, clearly, but in the first five pages she doesn't *do* very much. Get her in motion. Show us who she is and what she's all about. Show us. Don't tell us. Trust in your writing and don't worry so much about whether it is beautiful. It is. Trust that and just get on with the story. : ) You'll do great.

    Can't wait to read again!

  7. Hey Kelly -

    You sure did clean up the POV issue! Great job tackling that because when a reader is introduced to your story, you want no extraneous questions or confusion to keep us from being fully engaged. Every choice is crucial.

    That's something I touched on with another writer here and think you might benefit from it. When I write (ESPECIALLY when revising) I subject every chapter / paragraph / line / then word for necessity. I'm getting at "economy." If I can delete it and honestly say that my story loses nothing from deleting it then it doesn't belong and has to go. I think you can economize some.

    I read the other comments as well and agree about action. You've set the scene beautifully, established the rapport between characters very well, and unfortunately Adelaide is stealing the scene a bit. I'd try to find a way for your quieter, more introspective character to star in her own scene by using action to showcase what's unique about her. Action/Internalization/Setting/Dialogue are the crucial balance of good pacing and I think a bit of action is missing here. She doesn't have to have a sword fight or anything :) but the main character should stand out among the stellar setting as a backdrop. Push her to the front of the stage.

    Great revision!