Sunday, April 19, 2015

First 5 Pages April Workshop - Ellie Rev 2

Name: Ellie
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Wicked and the Dark

Caetlin had had steadied her furiously beating heart as she rounded each corner, bracing herself for what would be there. It wasn’t like she wanted to find a body, but Jax had been missing after his patrol for far too long—even for him.

Jax liked to play tricks on his sisters, but he never disappeared on a patrol for longer than it took to scare whoever’s turn it was after his. He was serious enough about protecting their patrons that he wouldn’t pull a trick that would get in the way.

A frown tugged at Caetlin’s mouth. Something was definitely wrong. She didn’t want to jump to conclusions and scare Eloise and Peony, only to have their brother pop up later. Jax wasn’t just their older brother—he was their leader, the family’s first born, the strongest of them all. Caetlin refused to believe he could have been killed by a Shadeu or a rival guard.

"Damn you, Jax." Caetlin growled into the tunnel's dark crevices, the words muffled behind her face mask.

Not a single Shadeu, the flesh eaters that lived below ground, or opposing cabal member had been spotted the whole time she’d been on watch. It wasn't rare, but it wasn’t common either. There were nights when she had killed ten Shadeu in a single section, and other nights when there were none in any sectors—at least ones under the Three Bells, her cabal's, protection.

Still; there was something going on, her instincts were going crazy and her heart refused to stop pumping a frantic rhythm against her ribs. The air felt electrified with lurking eyes, watching her as she crept through the stone underground corridors.

She was kicking up black ash and dust as  her watch time crept to a close and she searched for Jax.  Her thoughts turns to her parents, up in Nahljie, looking into some orchards. Even if Caetlin wanted to, it would take at least three days for a letter to get to them. It was up to her and her sisters to find Jax.

The sound of shuffling feet broke the silence. A sound that would usually be soft and light echoed like grating chains. The scraping crawled through the dark tunnels, over the cobblestones and rocky walls, right under Caetlin’s skin. No one would make such a ruckus while traveling underground unless they wanted to be heard—or dead.

Hope soared in her chest. She sprinted around the corner, saw a shadowy human figure and stopped short.

A young man shambled towards her, slumped; holding the side of his stomach. All the hope in Caetlin’s chest crashed to her toes. The person in front of her wasn't Jax, he was a member of another cabal. He seemed to be around her age, maybe eighteen or so. Tall; then again, most people were taller than her five foot-almost two-inches. But he was still much shorter and leaner than her brother.

Caetlin’s hand hovered over the dagger at her side as her eyes skimmed over his weapons; two swords at his back and three daggers at his sides.

The stranger was dressed in a black and grey tunic, with a hood and matching pants. His face was covered by a metal mask, but she couldn’t make out the design on it with his head flopped onto his chest.

He lurched towards her, his hand going out. Instinctively, Caetlin palmed her dagger hilt and shifted her feet to root herself. “Who are you?” She demanded. Did he get wounded fighting Jax?Or was it a Shadeu?

The cabal guard didn’t say anything before he collapsed forward and crumpled to the ground.

Caetlin watched him for a few moments, noting how his back moved slowly and shallowly as he breathed. He was unconscious, not dead—at least not yet.

Usually the protocol for coming across a rival cabal member would be to leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu or—hopefully for the person—one of their own cabal members. But he wasn’t in his own section; he was in hers; she couldn’t just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory.

With a muffled string of curses, Caetlin stalked over to a broken stone pillar with their seal etched on it, and pulled open a hidden rock door. Inside the small hole was a wire. She tugged it three times and replaced the rock.

Eloise and Peony would be there within ten minutes. Peony wouldn’t mind as much, since her shift started after Caetlin’s, at one, but Eloise always had the early morning route from three thirty until sunrise, and wouldn’t get as much rest now. But they would both want to know about Jax and the mysterious loner.

While she waited for Eloise and Peony to show up, Caetlin crouched over the fallen boy. He was outfitted in typical cabal style; dark clothing with a hood, leather armor for his front and back, fingerless gloves. Shining metal armor overlapped each plate up his arms and legs. She pushed him over onto his back. His metal mask covered his lower face, delicately designed like a beast’s jaw clamping down and bearing its teeth.

Caetlin let a small smile lift her lips. Snarling jaws and sharp teeth were very popular mask decorations in the cabal, especially for men who wanted to look more menacing than they actually were.

“Huh.” There was one thing missing that all cabal members wore: His crest; the insignia of the cabal he was a member of— usually worn with pride on the chest or somewhere else easily seen— was nowhere to be found. Was this boy a loner? Someone without a Cabal? He didn’t look like a tunnephile; one of the rich and bored who came down into the tunnels for fun during the day.

There was a tuft of dark brown hair covering one of his eyes. Caetlin’s fingers itched to push it out of the way. She wondered for a second if he was handsome, if maybe she knew him somehow from a party or ball, but disregarded the thought. Wondering if everyone she met in the city was a member of a cabal would just make her paranoid.

The light sound of approach pulled Caetlin from her thoughts. She stood and spun around as she palmed her dagger hilts.

“What happened?” Eloise’s voice vibrated through her mask, making it rough and indecipherable. She landed on the rocky ground next to Caetlin with the grace of a dancer. A thin blond braid escaped her hood that she quickly tucked back inside.

She must have taken the upper caverns to get here so fast, Caetlin thought. Some of the upper caverns weren’t stable, with the constant cave-ins of rocks and water leaks from the surface. They were Eloise’s favorite routes through the tunnels.

“It’s a boy.” Peony breathed through her own mask as she followed behind Eloise, not quite as graceful as her sister, but just as swift. “Did you kill him?” She asked excitedly.

“No.” Caetlin rolled her eyes. “I was looking for Jax when he stumbled out of the eastern wing there,” She pointed in the direction he came from. “And fell, right here.”

Eloise’s attention whipped from the unconscious man to Caetlin. “What do you mean you were looking for Jax?”

11 comments:

  1. You’re doing a great job tightening the opening. It’s much smoother now than it was in its original form. A couple of suggestions:

    While I like the content of the first paragraph the ‘had’ removed me a bit from the story because it tells me that all of this has already happened, that I’m not yet reading the current story. I suggest remove the ‘had’ from the first sentence to make it immediate, so it’s happening right now: Caetlin steadied her furiously beating heart as she rounded the next corner…

    That second paragraph is telling and doesn’t seem to be critical, beyond the bit about Jax being something of a prankster. I would remove that paragraph and incorporate the important detail into the paragraph that follows: A frown tugged at Caetlin’s face, shifting the metal mask that covered it. Jax was fond of practical jokes, and she didn’t want to jump to conclusions and scare Eloise and Peony, only to have him pop up later. But his pranks didn’t typically run this long, and he would never do anything that would leave their patrons unguarded…

    I know I'm repeating myself, but the only things that stood out to me from this opening were the telling parts. Without them, the story would flow more smoothly and the pace would be snappier, so I'm going to point them out:

    * Still; there was something going on, her instincts were going crazy and her heart refused to stop pumping a frantic rhythm against her ribs. The air felt electrified with lurking eyes, watching her as she crept through the stone underground corridors.* This is good information, since it shows her emotion very well. But it would flow better if this info were distributed throughout the existing story, without a paragraph of its own.

    * Usually the protocol for coming across a rival cabal member would be to leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu or—hopefully for the person—one of their own cabal members. But he wasn’t in his own section; he was in hers; she couldn’t just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory. * That first sentence is telling and doesn’t seem to be necessary for the reader to know at this point. Consider cutting that sentence.

    * She must have taken the upper caverns to get here so fast, Caetlin thought. Some of the upper caverns weren’t stable, with the constant cave-ins of rocks and water leaks from the surface. They were Eloise’s favorite routes through the tunnels.* Consider rephrasing this to show it instead of telling it.

    And lastly, I was a little confused by this sentence: *Wondering if everyone she met in the city was a member of a cabal would just make her paranoid.* There hasn’t been enough info shared on this for me to understand why this would make her paranoid; because that info doesn’t seem to be critical for the reader to know right now, I would vote to cut this bit about wondering if she had met him.

    All in all, you’ve done a great job with this opening. Thank you for sharing it with us. Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Becca,
      Thanks so much for all the work you put into critiquing. This has helped me so much and I really appreciate it!

      Delete
  2. Hi Ellie!

    Wow – what a fabulous revision! You’ve gotten to the mystery and kept the tension high, while weaving in the world building without the dreaded info dump. Great job! I agree with Becca – if you pull out the “telling” bits (and you only have a few now) you will be in great shape!

    The part with Ellie coming in from the unstable parts – I’d cut completely. I’d also cut Jax being a prankster – it deflates tension since the reader isn’t as worried that something happened. I’m also still confused about the protocol in finding rival cabal members. How about something like this:

    Caetlin watched him for a few moments, noting how his back moved slowly and shallowly as he breathed. He was unconscious, not dead—at least not yet. She squinted into the dimly lit tunnel, but found it empty. No one was going to come to his rescue. And now instead of searching for Jax she had to deal with him, even if he was a rival cabal member. She couldn’t just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory.

    You have caught my attention with this unusual setting – and I love the masks! – and would definitely keep reading. So great job and good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Erin,
      Thanks so much for the critique and comments these past weeks, they've been so helpful!

      Delete
  3. Hi Ellie,

    I agree about the “telling” parts, and the contrast is all the greater because your "showing” is so strong. Your in-scene writing is compelling and reads quickly — the writing disappears and I’m experiencing events alongside the characters.

    I’d go through and remove or change anything that is more directed at the reader than a natural part of Caetlin’s thoughts. For instance, *Caetlin refused to believe he could have been killed by a Shadeu or a rival guard* — I don’t think she’d specify who might have killed him, since this is something she already knows. You introduce the idea of Shadeus and rival cabals a little more naturally later on. In fact, I think *Did he get wounded fighting Jax? Or was it a Shadeu?* would be a good spot for the reader to first encounter the name of whatever it is she’s been dreading down here.

    It might seem like withholding information, but I think if you root the character (and the reader) in the scene as it unfolds, the reader will follow along, wanting to find out what’s going on.

    Other thoughts:

    *He lurched towards her, his hand going out.* He’s coming towards her, so is his hand extending towards her, too? If so, then maybe “his hand coming out” or “his hand coming up.”

    I like the detail of how she shifts her feet to root herself. Realistic, and gives us the impression that she knows how to handle herself in a fight.

    *“What happened?” Eloise’s voice vibrated through her mask, making it rough and indecipherable.* It’s not indecipherable if we know what she said. Maybe “barely decipherable?”

    I like our intro to Peony. “Did you kill him?” :)

    I really enjoyed reading this opening. I hope you get it published someday so I can find out what happens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anthony,
      Thanks so much for all the great feedback you've given these passed weeks! I hope our books can meet in print someday! :)

      Delete
  4. Hi Ellie!

    Just read The Wicked and the Dark and was impressed by your scene-setting skills. I do, however, agree with Becca’s suggestion about making the story more immediate – it will help to keep the reader connected to your narrative.

    But I want to disagree with Erin’s suggestion to drop the fact that Jax is a prankster (sorry, Erin!) – I think it helps to build suspense because it keeps the reader wondering. Will Jax jump out and surprise Caetlin? Was she worried for nothing? Or is their a problem and something bad has happened?

    Also, I have to say, I love the last line! The sudden realization that this body in front of them is not their main problem – a great hook!


    Some line edits:
    “Caetlin had had steadied her furiously beating heart as she rounded each corner, bracing herself for what would be there.” -- Drop extra “had” if not both.

    “It wasn’t like she wanted to find a body, but Jax had been missing after his patrol for far too long—even for him. Jax liked to play tricks on his sisters, but he never disappeared on a patrol for longer than it took to scare whoever’s turn it was after his.” -- This second sentence is a clearer statement of what you’re saying in the first. Can you try: “It wasn’t like she wanted to find a body and Jax did like to play tricks on his sisters, but he never disappeared for longer than it took to scare whoever was on patrol after him.”

    “Caetlin growled into the tunnel's dark crevices, the words muffled behind her face mask.” – “by” not “behind.”

    “Still; there was something going on, her instincts were going crazy and her heart refused to stop pumping a frantic rhythm against her ribs.” – I think you need a comma not a semicolon after “Still” and a period instead of a comma after “going on.” Stronger if thought lingers on in 2 sentences.

    I would suggest cutting the line “She was kicking up black ash and dust as her watch time crept to a close and she searched for Jax.”

    “Her thoughts turns to her parents, up in Nahljie, looking into some orchards.” – I think you should stick with the past tense – “turned.” Also, “looking into some orchards” is vague.

    “The sound of shuffling feet broke the silence.” – sentence feels truncated. Maybe “…broke the silence that surrounded her” or something to complete the thought.

    “No one would make such a ruckus while traveling underground unless they wanted to be heard—or dead.” -- I think you need “or to be dead” otherwise it sounds like they’re already dead.

    “A young man shambled towards her, slumped; holding the side of his stomach.” – can you create 2 separate sentences here? Draw out the drama.

    “He lurched towards her, his hand going out.” – maybe “his hand extended?” “going out” sounds awkward.

    “Did he get wounded fighting Jax?Or was it a Shadeu?” – I think “Or was it a Shadeu” is a little vague. How about “Or did a Shadeu do this to him?”

    “Caetlin watched him for a few moments, noting how his back moved slowly and shallowly as he breathed.” – I think the adjectives “slowly” and “shallowly” describe the breadth itself, not the movement of the back – a back can’t move shallowly.

    “Usually the protocol for coming across a rival cabal member would be to leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu or—hopefully for the person—one of their own cabal members.” – “Him” not “them” and “his own” not “their.”

    “With a muffled string of curses, Caetlin stalked over to a broken stone pillar with their seal etched on it, and pulled open a hidden rock door.” – “…pillar with her cabal’s seal etched on it…”

    “While she waited for Eloise and Peony to show up, Caetlin crouched over the fallen boy.” -- If he’s 18, is boy the right term? You use it in several places.

    “A thin blond braid escaped her hood that she quickly tucked back inside.” – “…her hood and she quickly tucked it back inside.”

    Hope these notes prove useful as you continue writing. Best of luck with the project and please respond if you have any questions about my notes!

    Amaryah

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ellie,

    Three drafts and i'm still a fan of your style. The improvements you made cutting out the over-descriptions have transformed your first five. There's probably no better example than the alarm:
    With a muffled string of curses, Caetlin stalked over to a broken stone pillar with their seal etched on it, and pulled open a hidden rock door. Inside the small hole was a wire. She tugged it three times and replaced the rock.

    Eloise and Peony would be there within ten minutes.

    What else do you need to say? It's so much tighter without describing the mechanics of the entire alarm system. Well done.

    You also did a great job of combining the explanation of how everyone was related:
    She didn’t want to jump to conclusions and scare Eloise and Peony, only to have their brother pop up later.

    All you had to do was say "their brother" and we now know all three girls are his sisters. Much tighter.

    I believe someone mentioned above:
    Usually the protocol for coming across a rival cabal member would be to leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu or—hopefully for the person—one of their own cabal members. But he wasn’t in his own section; he was in hers; she couldn’t just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory.

    I got confused on the protocol being to "leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu" when she thinks it's a bad idea "she couldn't just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory". Maybe they should change the protocol? Or you could just remove the first part of the paragraph and go right into her concerns about not wanting to leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory.

    It was a privilege to read your story and watch it progress. It's original, creative and very captivating. Send me a copy when you get it published.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ellie,

    Three drafts and i'm still a fan of your style. The improvements you made cutting out the over-descriptions have transformed your first five. There's probably no better example than the alarm:
    With a muffled string of curses, Caetlin stalked over to a broken stone pillar with their seal etched on it, and pulled open a hidden rock door. Inside the small hole was a wire. She tugged it three times and replaced the rock.

    Eloise and Peony would be there within ten minutes.

    What else do you need to say? It's so much tighter without describing the mechanics of the entire alarm system. Well done.

    You also did a great job of combining the explanation of how everyone was related:
    She didn’t want to jump to conclusions and scare Eloise and Peony, only to have their brother pop up later.

    All you had to do was say "their brother" and we now know all three girls are his sisters. Much tighter.

    I believe someone mentioned above:
    Usually the protocol for coming across a rival cabal member would be to leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu or—hopefully for the person—one of their own cabal members. But he wasn’t in his own section; he was in hers; she couldn’t just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory.

    I got confused on the protocol being to "leave them to be found by either a lurking Shadeu" when she thinks it's a bad idea "she couldn't just leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory". Maybe they should change the protocol? Or you could just remove the first part of the paragraph and go right into her concerns about not wanting to leave him as bait to draw Shadeu into her own territory.

    It was a privilege to read your story and watch it progress. It's original, creative and very captivating. Send me a copy when you get it published.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Ellie,

    You've done so well with your revisions. I've loved seeing the way this opening has progressed and how well you've taken the feedback. Good job!

    The first thing that really stood out to me about this piece was you've done away with most of the info dumps. Good job! That can be so difficult in a sci-fi piece because you just want to share this awesome world you've created with your readers! You've done really well with sprinkling the necessary information in when it is needed.

    There are just a few places where you slipped a little too much into 'telling', but they've all been pointed about in the other comments, so no need to rehash :)

    I definitely agree with Becca about removing the 'had'. I think the opening will flow a lot better and the reader will be more drawn in with the sense of immediacy and urgency.

    This story is so interesting and unique. I wish you all the best on your journey to be published and I can't wait to head to a bookstore and buy the whole novel one day!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I liked your your edits; much more smooth. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete