Tuesday, August 5, 2014

1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Hedderly

Name: Kate Hedderly
Genre: New Adult, Romance/Fantasy
Title: A Beautiful Lie

Lena had no idea that her life was about to change when she pulled into the gravel lot of her family’s store. It was almost empty except for one vehicle, a truck. Not all that odd for a weekday but the CLOSED sign hanging on the door was odd since it was only midday. Through the big plate glass window she saw a strange man standing eye to eye with her grandfather. The man looked agitated and Lena’s grandfather, George, looked worried. Her grandfather wiped his hand across his face and she wondered why he was so upset and what could possibly have made the customer so agitated. George had always treated his customers with respect; he was such a gracious man, so patient and kind, a gentleman.

Lena watched as her mother, Nora, quickly came to George’s side and placed her hand on the strange man’s arm. It looked like her mother knew him but Lena didn’t recognize the customer and she was pretty sure she knew everyone her mother and granddad knew since she had lived in the small town her whole life and had spent most of her free time at the store. My second home, she thought.

Located on the main thoroughfare between the university and the center of the sleepy little town, her family’s business, Hanson’s Antiques, had been around for as long as Lena could remember. The front of it resembled an old general store, which given the timeworn treasures inside, seemed appropriate.

When curiosity got the better of her, she gathered her things and headed to the entrance.

“I barely managed to get through it! It’s getting weaker. It won’t hold for much longer George,” the man said. “Is there anything you can do?”

“I can check my calculations again, perhaps I can strengthen it.” George shook his head and worry began to crease his face. “Did you get it? We never received word.”

“Yes, otherwise I do not believe I would be here. It had to be the power from it that allowed me through.”

The man handed Nora a small package wrapped in burlap. She laid it on the nearest table and unwrapped the covering letting it fall to the side. Inside was an ornate wooden box and her hands shook as she lifted the clasp and opened the lid. She peaked inside not allowing herself to glimpse its entire contents in the open. These were dangerous times and it truly was not her right to behold it. By chance she happened to take her eyes away from the alluring piece and looked out of the window that overlooked the parking lot and her heart jumped when she saw Lena strolling toward the front door of the store.

“Lena!” granddad said with a bit too much enthusiasm, “This is Mr. Garrett Wymond,” her granddad continued with a nervous tick to his voice.

“Hello Mr. Wymond. It’s nice to meet you.” The man just nodded his head and muttered something inaudible.

“He just brought us a very rare piece. Could you go into the storeroom and inventory the most recent delivery? You will find it in the small box sitting on my desk. I’m anxious to get it out of the box and examine it. When you‘re finished please put it in the safe.”

“Sure,” Lena answered. She could feel the intensity in the room.

“Nora. George. “ Mr. Wymond acknowledged them and nodded. He put on his brown leather cowboy hat, pulled it low over his face and turned meeting Lena’s gaze. Immediately Lena’s body went rigid, her eyes fixed on his scarred face, a pink line ran from the middle of his forehead over the bridge of his nose to his left cheek. His reddish beard was trimmed neatly and starting to gray which made him look like a lumberjack. He smiled at her but Lena saw something else on his face, pity. Lena looked down at his hands, which were balled into fists, and saw a gold ring on the index finger of his right hand, some sort of signet ring with a coat of arms and something green in the middle. Through all of this he didn’t utter a word and he swiftly turned and walked out the door.

“What was that all about?” Lena asked after a moment of composure. “Who was that? It looked like you were all arguing when I came in.”

“It was nothing Lena,” her mother answered with a hitch in her voice. “He wanted to be paid for his delivery. We were trying to explain that he would receive his payment when we examined the authenticity of the piece.”

“What did he bring, the Holy Grail?” she asked and laughed nervously.

With the slightest flutter both of their eyes met. They didn’t think Lena noticed, but she did.

“What? What am I missing?” she asked and looked back and forth from one to the other.

This time her grandfather answered, “You’re not missing anything? Why?”

“Well, when I made the comment about the Holy Grail, you two looked at each other, like you know something but don’t want to tell me.”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about Lena. There was no look,” her mother replied but her tone told Lena something different.

“Uh-huh,” Lena said and looked at them skeptically. But she didn’t want to press the issue so she turned and walked quickly to the back of the store to where the office was located.

The small box was setting exactly where her grandfather said it was. Lena reached for her canvas apron with the burgundy Hanson’s Antiques emblem on the front, and fastened it quickly around her waist eager to see what was in the burlap wrapped package. Whatever was inside was the cause of the conflict, she was sure of it.

The box itself looked priceless. From her experience Lena could see that it was made of cedar. She recognized the warm amber wood and the faint scent which reminded her of the attic at her house which was also filled with small antiques and other possessions. It had an intricate coat of arms carved on the lid which was attached by two thick brass hinges. The carving was hard to make out, worn down from years of wear but it was a bit more archaic than she initially thought. What she thought was a coat of arms looked more like hieroglyphics or small plain etchings. It was certainly not something she had ever seen before. It looked more like something that belonged in a museum rather than an antique store.

Lena put on her gloves and gingerly opened the ornate box. It was lined with thick purple velvet and in the middle was a small pillow encased in the same soft material. Her breath caught as she registered what she saw. A small gold medallion, the size of a half dollar piece, was placed securely in the middle of its resting place. It was round with what could only be described as thin delicate spokes, like the wheel of a bike, spanning the circumference of the circle. The spokes attached to another small circle which surrounded an emerald about the size of a dime. Immediately she thought of the ring the man was wearing. Could that possibly be real? I’m no expert but the size of that rock has to be worth a fortune.


  1. Kate, welcome to the first five pages workshop! Your opening pages were intriguing and full of mystery. An excellent start.

    I'll mention a few things that caught my attention.

    Your opening line tells us that Lena's life is about to change. This threw me off because I feel like that's implied in a story. A character's life is about to change, and we're along for the ride. Perhaps you can jump right into the action and show us how her life is changing.

    The opening paragraph TELLS us that granddad and the other man are "worried" and "agitated." This is an excellent place to show us that they're worried and agitated. For help on showing emotions, I highly recommend downloading the craft book "Emotion Thesaurus." Lots of great ways to show this to your reader.

    When Nora opens the box, there's a short head hop out of Lena's point of view. It says "...dangerous times" and "...not her right to behold." Lena wouldn't know this yet, right?

    When Lena greets Mr. Wymond, her words are followed by his actions. This confused me for a bit and I had read it a couple of times to figure out who said the words.

    When granddad says,"...not missing anything?" it seemed like that line should end in a period. Then you follow it up with, "Why?" where the question mark is appropriate.

    Where it says "...small box was setting" could be changed to "...small box was sitting" or even "small box sat"

    When Lena wonders if the box was the "cause of conflict," it threw me out of the story because I felt like that was something an author would say--not Lena. Perhaps she can wonder if the box was what caused granddad to freak out or act so weird.

    My main issue with these pages was when granddad sends Lena to inspect the antique box. We know from his actions that this is not an ordinary box. It's probably the main part of the story. He tells Lena that the box isn't anything unusual, but his actions speak otherwise. Until this moment. Why would he send Lena away to inspect it? Instead, you could make this a great place where his words say one thing but his actions say another. For instance, he can tell her it's nothing special, but then he'd gingerly carry it into the back office where he'd lock it in the safe. Or he'd hold it at arm's length, as if he's afraid of it. Then later you can add a scene where Lena sneaks into the office, tip-toeing on a creaky wood floor in the darkness, and secretly inspecting the box. Something along those lines would definitely add tension and would make that part more believable.

    At the end when it says, "I'm no expert" I was thrown off. The rest of the pages were in third/past tense and that part was first person. This is an easy fix by just changing it to "Lena was no expert."

    Overall, these pages were a great start with lots of intrigue and unanswered questions. Well done!

  2. I like the promise you make with your first line, but I'd like a little more. I took a writing workshop last year and listened to literary agent Lara Perkins (of Andrea Brown Literary Agency) talk about the power of your opening line. I think the talk was called, "Alpha and Omega." We studied some of her favorite opening lines in novels, and how they tied in with an equally strong and important closing line. I'm not going to sit here and say I hit mine out of the park, but "Henry had thought about killing his dad before" definitely suggests a strained relationship with his father in a big way. For all intents of purposes, my story is about a son finding his place in his father's world and, by the end of it, coming to love this father he wants dead. That's the theme I offer from my first line.

    I understand Lena's life is going to change, but that should be an unspoken promise of every good book we read. That should be the answer you provide when someone ask you why you started your novel right here - because today is the day everything changes.

    The opening paragraph feels ominous already, and I like it. Show me what makes her grandfather worried and the stranger irritated. What about them looks this way to Lena.

    Would Lena really think to herself, my second home? That seems to be to be something she would just know, a thought she would exist in. Show me the ways that shop is her second home. Shortcuts, hiding places, sounds that only someone who has spent most of their life their would know.

    What makes Lena open this package from a strange man without question? Is this typical of her behavior or her place inside that shop?

    When you say she can 'feel the intensity in the room,' I want to feel it, too. Put a tangible experience on that feeling and it'll draw all the readers deeper into your world. Maybe the shop feels like it would explode if someone lit a match, or it felt like the walls were slowly crushing everyone inside the shop.

    I like this stranger character, but I would narrow down some of his describing details when Lena looks him over.

    At the close of the piece, I was left wondering about the 'fantasy' aspects, as promised at the top. I don't think you need to spell everything out, but this far in I should be teased with magic, if there is to be any of that in the story. I would also like a little indication as to what's so dangerous about the times of Lena's world. Overall, great tension/mystery throughout the sample.

  3. Hi Kate,
    I really got the sense of mystery that is happening in your first few pages. I definitely want to know what's in the box! I also think that the comments that you have already gotten are spot on.
    One way that you might be able to address some of the points that Garrett and Julie make is to concentrate on having your sentences be less passive. FOr example, looking at one of the final paragraphs:

    Lena put on her gloves and gingerly opened the ornate box. It was lined with thick purple velvet and in the middle was a small pillow encased in the same soft material. Her breath caught as she registered what she saw. A small gold medallion, the size of a half dollar piece, was placed securely in the middle of its resting place. It was round with what could only be described as thin delicate spokes, like the wheel of a bike, spanning the circumference of the circle. The spokes attached to another small circle which surrounded an emerald about the size of a dime. Immediately she thought of the ring the man was wearing. Could that possibly be real? I’m no expert but the size of that rock has to be worth a fortune.

    Instead of saying "it was lined", could Lena do something to the lining--run her finger over it, pick up the small pillow, trace the edges of the medallions? I think that the more that you can remove the passive voice and linking verbs, the stronger the piece will become. You could have a lot of fun with Lena's actions and reactions even weaving in some dialogue. That would help us as readers get to know and interact with Lena, rather than just watch her.
    Looking forward to how it develops, as the why here, and why now is so clear!

  4. I want to know what's in the box and what it does! You grabbed my attention but maybe opening with Lena hearing the conversation between the strange man and her grandfather would be a better place to start. I agree with above comments, why would her grandfather ask her to do something with the box. It might make it more interesting to have her sneak in and open it without anyone knowing. Just a thought. Good luck!

  5. This is a nice opening to what promises to be an interesting story - time travel perhaps? The descriptions are good, of the man, the ring, the box. Nice connections between the three.

    The most glaring problem I see right off the bat is the shift of point of view from Lena to Nora in the 8th paragraph. This is definitely Lena's story and needs to stay in her POV. She can certainly walk in the room and observe her mother's reaction as she unwraps the package. And she should also be close enough to overhear the conversation between her grandparents and the man, but I felt as though she was really too far off to hear them that well.

    A few things troubled me - Lena meets the strange man and it is natural for new acquaintances to note scars on the face, but Lena makes other observations that seem too specific for this very brief encounter, particularly seeing all the detail on the ring. His hand is in a fist at his side, well below eye level. If you met someone for the first time and were drawn to scars on his face, would you be able to make out such intricate details of a ring in that position? I doubt it. The fix for this could be a couple of possibilities. First, the man could lift his hand to bring it closer to face by removing his hat, shaking her hand, scratching his face. So Lena can't miss the ring. Or second, mention that as an antiques dealer, Lena has been trained to notice fine details like that and is more perceptive than your average human being. Just some suggestions.

    Another problem is the overt look shared between her grandparents. They can certainly share a look which Lena thinks odd, but the conversation about it, Lena pushing the issue, is like waving right in the reader's face - "Look here! See! This is really important!!!" Too obvious. This is one of those clues that ought to be more subtle.

    Finally, the opening line, actually the opening paragraph, feels a bit cliche. "Lena had no idea her life was about to change." While its okay to allude to the fact that we're embarking on a story that will change the protagonist, this particular sweeping statement is too broad and too general. The first line needs to grab your reader's curiosity. Lena has just pulled up to her grandparents' store. The Closed sign is out, yet they are speaking animatedly with a stranger. (Note: would they really be carrying out such an important business deal outside?) What is odd about this scene that stands out to Lena? What does she notice that gives her & the reader a reason to be worried? Make that first line really count. And then make that opening paragraph just as interesting.

    Overall, A Beautiful Lie sounds intriguing. I'm looking forward to seeing your revision.

  6. Strong advice above, particularly issues with POV, word choice, and the sense that the "life about to change" is probably not your strongest start. That said, I love this premise, love the antique store setting, love the multi-generational cast of characters. And I get the feeling that you've got a strong internal hold on your story--it's just not quite on the page yet. My best advice to you would be to try writing an opening chapter very tightly from Lena's POV. Keep us truly inside her head--not describing everything she sees through a window but what she is wanting/doing/thinking at every moment. In the current opening, LENA is not an actor in the story but a reactor--she is merely observing, being told, being left out. This makes us, as readers journeying with her, feel a little bit left out of the story, too. I want to be in NORA's head--what does she know about the box?--or GEORGE'S--what power does he wield, what is his failure? You need readers to want to be inside LENA's head. It seems like she is about to discover a new power/insight but that's why it's even more important that we truly get to know her before. Where is she coming from as she drives up? Has she just been dumped by a boyfriend? Stolen something? Give her some dramatic set-up that will make her "life change" evern more intense--and help you understand how she'll react to the new stuff that's thrown at her. I think you have a technical issue that you've got too much exposition (e.g., describing closed sign, grew up in small town, family store--stuff that we don't need to know on p. 1 and stuff that's implied without so much description) BUT I feel like some of that will become less problematic if you get more comfortable writing from inside Lena's head. Good luck with writing this week!