Monday, November 3, 2014

First 5 Pages November Workshop - Romano

Name: Karina Romano
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Title: The New Bargain

Slowly opening eyes, adjusting to the light, I became aware of my surroundings. I gasped and sat up. This was not where I doused off.

Oh crappers. I was back at the manor, in my room. Hearing the door open, I turned to face my dad, the king, and his gaze was stone cold just like his personally was. I waited for him to say something. But he just continued to stare. I dared not look at him and just kept my face down.

“Do you know such stupidity that you do not care for your own safety?” I sighed. He was going to lecture me again. Here we go again. “I expect an answer when I speak Eileen.” I rolled my eyes and hoped he didn’t catch it.

“I know, father.” I simply said, still not looking up at him.

“You know what?”

“I know what I did was wrong but I just can’t do this arranged marriage. Not to him. Not to a werewolf! They killed mom. You do not care that you are handing me off to live with mom’s killers?” I gazed at him.

“This is not a about you,” he said, his face composed but still held an angry expression. “This is about the good of our realm, our kingdom. You will not bow out of this.” He gritted.

“What about my wellness! Don’t you care about my happiness? That I’m marrying someone I don’t know and love. Someone who already detests me because of who I am?” I said, my eyes were starting to get glassy but I held it in.

“You need to stop focusing on yourself and start thinking about the good of our kingdom and of the people,” he was changing the topic as always.

“You have a duty as a father!” I yelled, getting more impatient by the second.

“Do not dare tell me what my duties are! My duty is to my people! Unlike you, I know what my responsibilities are! You have yet to learn your place.”  I winced. That stung me like a bee’s needle. It was moments like these that made me realize how much I missed mom. How could she have married such a cruel man? “This discussion is over. You will marry the mongrel whether you like it or not.” He pointed his finger at me. “The maids have packed your stuff and are being brought to the plane. You leave in fifteen minutes.” He turned to leave.

“Wait! I have to say goodbye to Mia. It’s the least you could do, don’t you think?”

“Oh, I almost forgot. Mia’s been confined in a cell for the atrocity she committed.” What was he on about now?

“Atrocity? She didn’t do anything.”

“On the contrary, she kidnapped our princess and broke the law. That girl must be punished,” he countered. He couldn’t. I had to save her but I was leaving in fifteen minutes.  I’d never reach her in time. Not with all the guards around. “She had no right to take you out of the manor. You could have run into rebels who would have surely killed you.”

“Please father,” I begged, crossing my hands together. That’s not something I do lightly but she was the only closest thing I had that I could call family. “Please set her free. She’s my friend. Don’t harm her.” I begged with my eyes.

“I already knew it would come down to this. You care too much for this commoner. You will do what is necessary to keep her out of harm’s way. I will release her.” It was not a secret that my father harbored bad feelings towards lowly commoners. He didn’t like me being around Mia. Yet he agreed so quickly.

“Thank you,” I sighed, not quite sure what he was up to.

“On three conditions,” he said, giving me a warning look. I nodded. “You will leave willingly. You will marry the prince. And when the time comes…” I did not like where this was going. “You must be ready to please the prince.”

I jumped out of my bed and onto to the floor. I threw my hands in the air and then fisted them.

“That’s preposterous! You make me sick! How can you say that to your own daughter? Fathers are supposed to be protective!”

My right cheek abruptly turned sideways and it stung. I stroked it. I turned to gaze at my father. I inhaled a breath and held it before letting it out. He turned to leave and slammed the door with so much force that I was sure it would fall down just like I did.


With my backpack slung over my shoulder, I climbed the stairs to our private jet and stopped at the entrance. There was nobody here to see me off.

I have no one. In a way, I had no home. My mom was dead and I loathed my father. Mia was my only friend, who was probably being released this very moment. But she would not make it in time to see me. Or be allowed to for that matter.

I was going to be surrounded by werewolves. Soon, I would be married to one and supposedly sleeping with him as my bastard father said that I must “please” him. The very thought made me shiver with disgust.

I turned around one last time for old times’ sake and walked into what would be bringing me to my impending doom. But not before making a pact to my deceased mother that when I stood a chance, I would reign in my personal hell. I would let no werewolf seek control over my body. I would find a way out and travel where no man would ever dare enter and create a place I could call home. I would not be used like some meddling fool stop an endless war that has gone on for centuries between my kind and the mongrels.


  1. Hi Karina,

    Welcome to the workshop! Here are some comments on your first five pages:

    The opening sentence reads awkwardly to me.

    “Crappers” feels young. What’s the age of the protagonist?

    “ “Do you know such stupidity that you do not care for your own safety?” I sighed.” Does she say this? Or her father?

    “Don’t you care about my happiness? That I’m marrying someone I don’t know and love.” Feels a touch stereotypical. I don’t know anything about this character or this world. I feel for her that she’s being married off to someone of the species who killed her mother, but this feels like too much of a stereotype to open with.

    “You will do what is necessary to keep her out of harm’s way. I will release her.”
    It would be stronger to have her reaction right after this. As a reader, I had the same reaction: Wow, that was a fast change of heart! I’d like to feel her similar reaction right after this.

    “private jet”
    Wait, really? I thought this was a medieval time period before this moment!

    Overall: Be careful to keep paragraph breaks between dialog and the other person's reaction. This will help keep the reader from thinking she is reacting to something she also says. (For example, "I winced. That stung me like a bee’s needle." should be on its own line, because it's not the same person as the dialog that just occurred.)

    Hope this helps!


  2. Hi Karina,

    Thanks for sending in your story. That’s a great first step in getting constructive feedback.

    This seems like it could be a fun fantasy. I think it’s interesting that it feels traditional but there is a reference to a plane and maids. Very curious.

    I’m tempted to say that werewolf stories have seen their heyday, but I am sure there is always room in the marketplace if the story is truly good.

    I have to say, I think there are many places for improvement in your writing. There are several instances where we need to see clear paragraph breaks to define who is speaking. Take a look at some of your favorite books and read the dialogue passages. See how they are set off from the rest of the text?

    I’m afraid there are some awkward turns of phrase here, such as:

    He gritted.

    …his face composed but still held an angry expression. Should be: his face WAS composed but still held an angry expression.

    My right cheek abruptly turned sideways and it stung. How can this happen? Do you mean she turned her face?

    Beginning a story with someone opening their eyes is usually frowned upon. It’s a bit of a cliché.

    You want your first paragraph to work really hard to get an agent or a reader’s attention.

    In the second paragraph, you have the word “begged” twice.

    I think you should go back and really think about each paragraph. Take a look at some of your favorite passages in books and see how they are constructed. I see some potential here, in its raw form, I just think you need a little bit more help on the mechanics of writing.

    Please keep going, though. The best advice is to read as much as possible in the genre you love, and also other types of fiction. I think for your first revision, perhaps concentrate on those paragraph breaks and dialogue tags. See if you get these pages in an easier to digest format. Good luck!

  3. Hi Karina - thanks for sharing! I don't know that the world will ever get enough of runaway bride stories, however, I think we need to know more about this place to get a handle on how this story is different. For me it really starts at "With my backpack". As she's looking around from the plane steps you have a good opportunity to do some world-building. What is this strange place? What's the time period? What does it look like and smell like here? Can she see the jail window where her friend is? There are some pesky typos and grammatical issues, remember that spellcheck is a Machiavellian friend at best, one who will overlook doused when you really mean dozed.

  4. Hi Karina,

    You’ve done a great job of setting up conflict right away. Between daughter/father, daughter/husband to be, and two races that are sworn enemies. You will have a lot to work with to keep tension high, which is great!

    There is a lot of explaining and telling, rather than showing, in these pages. When you rely too heavily on exposition, you pull the reader from the story. Some sentences were a bit clunky and the tense at times seemed to shift. I find that reading my pages aloud several times (I drive everyone in my family crazy!) really helps with this. Your ear will pick up when the tense changes, or when dialogue sounds artificial. For example, in this paragraph:

    “Do you know such stupidity that you do not care for your own safety?” I sighed. He was going to lecture me again. Here we go again. “I expect an answer when I speak Eileen.” I rolled my eyes and hoped he didn’t catch it.

    That first line is confusing, I think the verb choice is the issue. Also you have echoes – again is said twice within a few words.

    I also did not get a physical sense of the characters, or the setting. What is “my kind”? Ron gives great advice – read as much as you can. I re-read books that I love, so that I don’t get caught up in the story and action, but pay attention to how the author creates suspense, gives a sense of place, describes characters so that they are vivid, avoids clichés, etc. It is so helpful!

    Good luck revising, I look forward to reading next week!

  5. Hi Karina - You have some great elements of fantasy in your story, but I didn't get a sense of the characters or the setting. At first I thought it was a once upon a time type of fantasy that took place in medieval times, but then you mentioned a jet. Even though the father and daughter didn't get along, there wasn't enough tension for the reader to feel their discontent for one another. The narrative tells so much, but shows very little.

  6. Hi Karina - Your character is interesting and the conflict is clear and compelling. Great job setting that up!

    Here are a few suggestions as you edit going forward. Fantasy is a genre in which your world-building has to be top-notch. While you are strong in other aspects, setting up your world in this section needs some work. We have a society with a monarchy, werewolves and some more archaic language...but it's mixed with things like "Crappers" and an airplane. These types of things, if used properly, will make for a very interesting and different setting for a fantasy world, but as it is, they don't easily fit together and are somewhat jarring. We need some setup around this action and dialogue to help us understand where we are and what is normal here. Then we'll understand better what she's doing wrong and where her flaws are (as well as her fathers) because we'll understand their society better.

    We're essentially in a "white room" situation here. We know she is in "her room" and that is the ONLY detail we have. This kind of setting isn't good in any genre, but in fantasy, it can be the kiss of death. Use their fight to give setting. Have her clutch or toss one of her twenty satin pillows on the floor. Have him squeeze the back of the chair with his fingers hard enough to leave dimples in the brocade fabric...know what I mean? Give us bits of setting while also moving the scene forward and amping up the tension.

    We don't fully understand the consequences here. We know he wants her to marry the werewolf for the good of the country...but what does that mean? Give us more to help us understand what will happen if she fails to do this. Will wolves ravage the countryside? Will it break a pact they made centuries ago and be considered a declaration of war? What is hanging over her head?

    We discuss her mom being killed by werewolves and this seems like a perfect place to insert a few key details about that into the dialogue. Have dad defend it "it was just a misunderstanding" or explain it away "you know very well that he claimed she fell from that cliff, we don't know for sure that he pushed her." Or whatever...just give us a couple of insightful moments of clarity into that crucial detail.

    Good luck! Can't wait to see what you have next week! :)

  7. Hi Karina, Nice concept! Dead mother. Arranged marriage, and to a werewolf, no less. A medieval sort of setting, but with a private jet. Intriguing.

    On the whole, though, you are telling your story, not showing it. I think you could start with the backpack and the jet and what I think is going to be her flight from an unjust father and unwanted marriage. Then show us, in scenes and backstory, all the detail you’re currently offering in dialogue and exposition. It’s too much information too fast. And you haven’t opened the doors of your story world to us as yet. So it’s difficult to see.

    Your conflict is clear. Have fun exploring where the story should best begin!