Sunday, February 15, 2015

First 5 Pages February Workshop - Thompson Rev 1

Name: Meghan Thompson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: THE KEYS TO MIST AND LIGHT

Lockrey sat straight on her cushions, her heart pounding against her ribs.  She couldn’t see.  The light of the two moons that usually shaded her sleeping chamber a soft charcoal-rose was absent.  The embers in her fireplace dead. 
 
Instinct told her to scream, but she fought to calm herself.  She was eighteen star cycles old – not a child who called for her mother to comfort her after a bad dream.  And the tower gossips would be certain to hear – she refused to give them more reasons to talk about her.
 
Pressing her back against the wall, she slouched down against her pillows and held her quilt tight against her neck.  She blinked, then blinked again.  Nothing.  As she wiggled her fingers in front her eyes, desperately seeking their outline, she thought she felt something on the edge of her cushion.  Just a slight shift, as if someone had sat down.
 
“Hello?” she said, but the word was swallowed by the dark.  She tried again, louder, “Hello?”  Still, the sound disappeared.  Beads of moisture formed on her temples, her pulse raced. 
 
Then she felt the cold.  Tendrils of iced air touched her feet.  She kicked, curling her toes underneath her.  It touched her knees, like some small creature was walking up her body.  She slapped at herself and jumped up, then tripped on her quilt, falling hard on the flagstone floor.  Lying there, she felt like she had as a small child lost in the elvgrove forest. 
 
The prickling air found her again – her hands this time.  She scrambled to her feet and dove for her bed, just grasping the edge.  Pulling herself up, she jumped back onto the cushions as the icy air enveloped her. 
 
A wracking cough made her body shudder and her limbs thrash.  Inhaling, she felt something like smoke enter her body and she clawed at her face as if to remove a mask.  Whatever had been crawling on body now felt as though it was inside her, a cold breath seeping through her mind, her heart, the core of her being.
 
She fell back onto the pillows, scrunched in a ball, no longer able to move.  What was happening?  In her mind, she heard a voice, edged in hate.  It whispered, “Are you… Are you the Redeemer?  I will find you… your soul.  It will all be over soon…” 
 
Her room dissolved and images flashed before her, as though she was flying fast to another land.  Suddenly, she was in a cart next to a boy, perhaps four star cycles her junior and a girl, no more than eight.  Lockrey tried to yell, but nothing came out of her mouth; she tried to shift, but could not move.  She could see, though… and smell… and hear.
 
‘What’s happening to me?’  Her thoughts raced.  ‘Where am I?  Why can’t I see my body?’  She was no longer anything more than her mind.  Though she struggled to make her presence known, the children ignored her like a ghost in the wind. 
 
The boy, whose dark-green skin stretched taut over his body, sat tall, his chest puffed out, his eyes alight.  The tiny girl, who shared his features, watched him, her head tilted to the side.  Both children reeked of neglect: straggly hair, threadbare robes, distended bellies.  Brown dust kicked up by the army that marched all around them was ground into their every pore.
 
The army, Lockrey now noticed, consisted of cressl beasts, which stretched in every direction.  Their moss-colored bodies, covered in spikes and scales, required no armor.  Their five-clawed feet stomped the ground in time to a quick-paced drum.  These beasts served one purpose, destruction, and were the minions of the kings of the Eastern Edge, Oesma and Chenin. 
 
In the distance at the army’s head, Lockrey could just see the men who controlled them – the captains of the army of the East.  She tried to shut out the site of them, but had no eyes to close. 
 
Having lived her whole life in Mythenrock, Lockrey had never seen the land of the Eastern Edge before – this vast, empty plain, almost desert-like, inspired no thoughts of beauty or comfort.  This was a hard land, lived in by violent people and their deadly beasts.
 
She turned her attention back to the children in time to see the boy glance down at the little girl, his mouth curving wide, revealing brown, crooked teeth.  Reaching to the floor beside him, he opened a bag and pulled out a robe.
 
“Sister, put this on,” he said, handing her the heavy fabric.  She pulled away, wrinkling her nose against its bitter smell.  “Come now,” he said, “it’s not for very long.  And by wearing it, you will earn all the pleasures in the world.”  She hesitated.  He leaned in, adding to the incentives, “And you will see mother again!”
 
She accepted the robe with a hint of a smile.
 
“Look!” said the boy, pointing toward the horizon.  “That’s the village we’re going to.  We’re nearly there now!” 
 
Just as he spoke, the drumbeat increased to double time and the cressl began to run.  The synchronized pounding of their feet was too loud for the little girl, who covered her ears and ducked her head into her brother’s arm. 
 
As Lockrey looked in the direction the boy pointed, she instantly found herself floating, it seemed, next to the senior captain of the Kings’ Army.  He wore a fine, deep blue cloak over his silver tunic.  His skin was lighter green than the boy’s, and it covered a body many times larger.  It was also accustomed to battle, judging by the scars that covered him like twisted ropes. 
 
He sat upon a raysol, a giant rodent with sunken eyes and hairless limbs, which he rode with abandon.  Racing ahead of the army, he entered the village the boy had seen.  
 
‘Where are the people?’ Lockrey wondered.  They couldn’t have been gone long – doors to tight-packed cottages swung loose on hinges and smoke still curled from chimneys. 
 
The captain glanced around the nondescript hamlet and said to himself, “They haven’t gone far.”  He looked down the length of the central road that ran parallel to the Mavornian Ocean, just visible in the distance, and whispered, “What are we meant to dig for here?  Warriors cannot work in riddles.  I need more information.”
 
He started to head back to the army when something caught his eye.  Lockrey noticed it, too: a reflection.  He lifted the reigns, leading his raysol toward the temple in the village green.  The captain’s jowls twitched and his eyes narrowed.  “Oh, they make this so easy.”  He rode back to his deputies.
 
“They have locked themselves in the temple,” he told them.  “Destroy it.”
 
“Shall we take the men for labor, first?”
 
“No.  Waste of time.  Just burn it.  I will request slaves from Vardra.  Unless we take men from Mythenrock’s army.”
 
“It’s made of crystal; does that burn?” one of the deputies asked, tentatively.
 
“That’s what the girl-child is for.  Let her brother handle it.”
 
With that, Lockrey was again riding in the cart, which sped along, throwing the children from side to side.  The cressl around them bawled, their fanged faces contorting with naked hunger.  As they reached the farmland on the outskirts of the village, the army halted, though the beasts were like coiled springs, scratching at the ground. 
 
Through their lines, a man, who appeared to be the captain’s second, approached the cart and said, “Is the martyr prepared?”
 
“Yes, Marshall Dregna,” said the boy, standing to attention.  “I have taught her what to do.  She is ready to be received by the eternal kingdom.”

12 comments:

  1. Meghan, this has come a long way. I really, really like the changes you've made to the opening. I find it flows much more smoothly and I can really feel the tension and get a sense of space in relation to Lockrey.

    The sentence: “The embers in her fireplace dead,” could be a complete sentence, but I think you meant to have it preceded by a comma. If not, you should add the word "were."

    As Lockrey is whisked out of her body, perhaps you should use italics for her spoken thoughts. Right now they are in quotation marks, which denotes speaking aloud, as you already know. Italics may give it a more dream-like state.

    Should she try to talk to the boy and girl? At least once, maybe, and then have them not hear her? That might help the reader get a sense of what is happening. I know you state that they ignore her like a ghost in the wind, but this could be a place to add more physicality.

    The army, Lockrey notices, has cressl beasts, so the reader now knows that Lockrey is familiar with this world. She also seems to know who the Kings of the Eastern Edge are, so this place is not totally alien. But you could probably completely cut this passage that follows:

    In the distance at the army’s head, Lockrey could just see the men who controlled them – the captains of the army of the East. She tried to shut out the site of them, but had no eyes to close.

    ***

    As Lockrey looked in the direction the boy pointed, she instantly found herself floating, it seemed, next to the senior captain of the Kings’ Army.

    How does she know he is the senior captain? Also, maybe use italics again where Lockrey says "Where are the people?" Using quotation marks here makes us wonder who is speaking, or if Locksley is speaking to the captain.

    ****
    The captain glanced around the nondescript hamlet and said to himself...

    Make sure to have the captain's observations filtered through Lockrey, otherwise it seems as if you are shifting POV. She needs to see or hear him do things and then relate it to the reader.

    I know there are a lot of small comments here, but fear not! I like the story. I think you're onto something very weird and magical, especially with the children. Also, what is up with Lockrey? Is she indeed the Redeemer? And what does that mean? And how does she leave her body?

    Lots of great mysteries for the reader to continue reading.

    Good job.

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    1. Thank you so much! To you, and to everyone. This is the first time in 5 complete redrafts of this book that I really like the first chapter and it's because of the feedback you all gave me last week. I feel so encouraged and fortunate to be participating!!

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  2. Wow, love this revision so much! I love the immediacy of the opening scene with Lockrey. I feel so much more tied to her character now. Brilliant job!

    I'm wondering if the first paragraph could even be taken up a notch further in terms of tension. You mention that she can't see, but given that it's night, that's not so surprising. Is there an unatural-ness to the dark? I'd love to see/sense her fear and the reason for her fear a little more before the second para. Otherwise, I'm left wondering what is so scary about a dark room that she is fighting back a scream. [[ I have the same problem in my MS too, lol! ]]

    I am truly in love with this revision right up until the paragraph that begins "The room dissolved" After that point, I feel distanced from the story because we're seeing everything filtered through Lockrey's eyes. The immediacy of the scene as perviously written is lost. Does she really need to see this as a vision? I'm not so sure ... I think it might be stronger if there was a scene break right after the Mist tells her "It will all be over soon..." and then we simply jump to the green-army/martyr scene without her seeing/filtering it. I loved that scene before. Plus seer-visions/dreams are a tricky thing to have in fantasy these days it seems. At least, that's the impression I got from agent feedback on querying an MS with a "vision" in the opening chapter last year.



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    1. Hey Carissa - thanks - this is all so helpful! I was worried the "vision" would be controversial. In my head, it happens because the mist is a demon and when it invades her soul, trying to kill her, it leaves traces of its consciousness in her, which transport her (pensieve-like) to what else is going on in its world. I know none of that is in there, but just by way of background. My question is if I make a scene break, will you -the reader - feel enough connection to Lockrey to be satisfied? I certainly appreciate your warning re: feedback from agent! And the two scenes is how I had it in version 1, so it wouldn't be hard to do. Just want to make sure it's not going to feel like, "but what happened to Lockrey?" if I start talking about the Eastern Edge separately. Thanks again!

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  3. Hey Meghan --

    Personally I feel like semi-frequent POV changes are to be expected in High Fantasy, so I wouldn't mind it at all. I feel much more connected to Lockrey now. You might be able to expand that scene with a few more tidbits to get us even more invested ... perhaps she lights a candle and we are able to see some of the things in her room to get more an idea of her story ... and then the candle is snuffed out by the black mist. But I really like it as is too!

    I think the martyr hook is still so strong, and that is another reason, as a reader, I would totally not mind getting a bit of that early on!

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    1. I love the candle idea! :-) Cool... I'll give it some more thought! Really appreciate your help!

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  4. What a great revision! It's so different, and yet underneath it's the same great story. It was an inspired idea to make her visions specific instead of the hazy recollections that they were in the first draft -- a great link to the other stuff that's going on, and a way to provide the reader an opinion/explanation by way of Lockrey's observations. In contrast to Carissa's response (see, you can't please everyone! ;) ), I think that you can use it to tie us to Lockrey more, but I do think that an explanation somehow would indeed help if it's not coming right after the scene. Maybe right before she gets whisked away, she thinks, "oh no, it's a such-and-such demon!" and then rather than trying to figure out *why* she is where she is, she can be trying to figure out how to get back, because she knows she's being sucked into the demon's vision (or something, for example). Also, you wouldn't want it to be an extended scene -- it would get too confusing to have her POV and the stuff that's actually going on. So perhaps near where this ends or soon after, you can have her pulled back to her room and thinking about what she's observed, should she alert someone, react to it in some way.

    I love the hint of Lockrey's personality in the second paragraph -- someone who cares what people think of her but only because she wants to be grown up, and she has the mastery to stay calm. And I love the hint that people are talking about her for some reason.

    OOoohh, that boy is so evil! Yet I love how his poverty makes him a little sympathetic, too. Many people do desperate things to escape poverty.

    A few nit-picks:

    "whose dark-green skin stretched taut over his body" -- without the commentary that this indicates he grew fast (i.e., a tall and lanky teenage boy is what I'd picture), the stretched taut part confused me. Also, Lockrey could react to the color here, since she's serving as our narrator. Is the green totally normal (and so she wouldn't comment)? Does she instantly jerk away (or try to in her bodiless state) because it means the green-skinned people from the east are invading? It would help me as the reader figure out whether all people are green-skinned, whether they're in fact people (as I assume because Lockrey thinks 'boy'), or what.

    It's totally up to you, but I prefer (as you've no doubt noticed ;) ) to give thoughts in a less direct way. So rather than, for example, "‘What’s happening to me?’ Her thoughts raced. ‘Where am I? Why can’t I see my body?’" I would write "Her thoughts raced. Where was she? Why couldn't she see herself?" You don't need to change the way you have it, but I feel like having someone think specific sentences can be awkward (although not always). Putting the specific thoughts in italics is also usually how it's done, to make doubly sure they're not confused with spoken words (although in this case if she was trying to speak them...? but it sounded like she was thinking them)

    "reeked of neglect" I usually think of 'reeked' as strictly associated with smell.

    "kings of the Eastern Edge" -- just leave it at that unless their names are important soon. Lockrey thinks of them as "the kings" in a group so she might not tag their names in her thoughts.

    beware of homophones: site/sight, reigns/reins (Stupid English)

    "I will request slaves from Vardra. Unless we take men from Mythenrock’s army." Do you mean 'unless' here, or "or else"? I was just confused.

    Great work!

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  5. Hi Meghan,

    I'm going to throw another wrench in the comments. While I enjoyed the changes you made to the scene with Lockrey and the mist, I was really pulled in with the Para. that begins "Her room dissolved." She's on the move, so to speak, and I like it. I don't mind opening with the chamber/mist scene, but I think you can pare it down to a Para. or two. A lot of the imagery feels unnecessarily drawn out to me (she's on the bed, moves to floor, moves back to the bed.)

    A few nit-picky items in this scene: I found myself a little confused at first about the cushions, vs the pillows, vs the quilt. Small things, but you don't want the reader confused in your first few lines over simple details. What do you mean by "sound disappeared?" Is she really slapping herself? You mention her choking on smoke before it actually enters her throat. Maybe try reversing the order and perhaps she tastes the smoke, rather than "feels it enter her body" which seems difficult to do. Further down, Lockrey knows the army is from such and such kingdom. How? Are they wearing an emblem or uniform that she recognizes? Show us.

    I really like your descriptions, imagery and actions in the battlefield scene. The interaction between the boy and sister is sweet and then what a twist - love that. Love your descriptions of the beasts and the language "coiled like springs, scratching at the ground." Great stuff. One other minor thing, you mention drumbeats continue, but I don't know that you mentioned drumbeats before? Double check. Sorry to be so nit-picky, but every word choice stands out. These are just my opinions, do what feels natural to you and your story. Keep going!

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  6. What a great rewrite! I don't read much fantasy and on my first read I was confused. But this revision you had me reading every word and I wanted to pull my legs up under me. The tension is tight and quick and scary.The italics will help on internal dialogue and if she's speaking. The only part that I questioned was: I think you were trying to convey the man's large body covered in green skin, but by saying his green skin covered a body many times larger, I reread it and wondered if his skin sagged.and didn't fit his body? I enjoyed reading this and am impressed with your changes!! Good job!

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  7. Wow, this is a fantastic revision! You’ve really done a full overhaul here, while still building on your strongest scenes. Well done! I love the smooth transition from Lockrey’s room to the scene with the marching army. And the added info about the girl being the martyr was done so wonderfully. The tension builds throughout, and then bam! You hit us with that ending. So, so powerful and good.

    My comments are on the small, sentence level side. Pretty nit-picky stuff:

    In the opening paragraph, the "light of the two moons” sentence felt slightly long to me. At this moment of terror, I think just the bare details are more important than the two moons that shade her room in tones of charcoal-rose. These kinds of details will be great as the story moves forward, but at the start I feel like that much detail is slowing you down.

    The scene with the mist felt a bit drawn out at times. I think you could cut this entire paragraph: “The prickling air found her again – her hands this time…”

    And go right into “Inhaling, she felt something like smoke enter her body and she clawed at her face as if to remove a mask.” After the elvgrove line.

    Great descriptions of the boy and his sister. I could see them really clearly.

    Loved this line: “It touched her knees, like some small creature was walking up her body.” So creepy, and such a great image.

    Site should be sight in the line: “She tried to shut out the site of them, but had no eyes to close.” Otherwise, I loved this line. Very eerie to think about being forced to look at something, and not be able to escape even for a second.

    I might say “The girl pulled away…” in the line “She pulled away, wrinkling her nose against its bitter smell” since up until now, “She” has always been Lockrey.

    Killer final line. Very strong and tension-filled. Would definitely make me read on!

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  8. Meghan - Whoa.... What a fabulous revision! Your hard work is quite obvious. Love the opening lines. They plop me right in the scene and direct me that I'm reading a different world. Nice! I also like your transition to her vision. I still believe that image of her brother sacrificing her is so strong and will make the reader care about her. The way you incorporated more world-building into that scene was really effective. I'm a major fan of world-building, so kudos!

    The only thing I'd be cautious of is using a few too many descriptive words. It's definitely much improved, but I did find a few spots. Other than that or the few items others have already mentioned, I think you've upped the tension dramatically in this revision. I truly was captivated. And I'm still all fangirl over the title!

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    1. Hi Sheri - I wrote a question for you, but it doesn't appear to have posted. In case it does, I will ask again in a briefer form here (apologies if you get this twice). I've just sent in my last revision, but I'm afraid I might have missed the "too many descriptive words." This is a problem I'm just learning to identify and I wondered if you could pick out a few specific examples for me when the next draft is posted? I really appreciate your help and encouragement! (And here's to New England! My family is in MA and CT...)

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