Sunday, November 1, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Makin

Name: Devyn B. Makin
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy

No matter how Jake looked at it, he had to disagree with his dad. Asking questions was not being defiant and, at seventeen, he wasn't a kid anymore. His dad’s curt no, as he would put it, wasn't acceptable. Jake needed to know why…. Why, couldn't he go and stay with his grandfather?

The question punched Jake in the gut. He couldn’t stop thinking about his grandfather’s letter that came last week, inviting him to Ireland. Sure, dad’s argument that Jake knew his grandfather as much as a random stranger off the street, was technically correct. He hadn’t even heard his grandfather’s voice on the phone, but if Jake’s dad wanted to argue about technicalities, they were still linked by blood and that technically made Artemis L. Dorian, not just any guy off the street.

“I said no. Blood may be thicker than water, but if you let it, it stains for life.” Jake’s dad’s stabbing voice echoed in his mind.

“So damn bullheaded. And why does he always have to talk in riddles!” Jake yelled up into the heavy, graying sky an unusual sight for California’s sunny summer standards. He picked up his speed, every step pounding hard on the cement, jarring his anger, exploding down to his marrow. His exhausted muscles ached and burned with every stride but Jake reveled in it. He wished he could just run forever, but home was inevitable.

He glanced at his watch. Crap. It was five past six; he was late again for dinner.
“Dad’s going to kill me.” He broke out into a flying run. His breath growing hot, turning thick and heavy, creating puffs of white smoke like a mad dragon in the chilled air. When he finally got to his front doorstep he blew one last wild, gasping breath, pulling his hoodie off. His dark overgrown mop of hair spilled over his eyes in a jumbled mess, which his dad called unbecoming. Jake’s flat out refusal to get a haircut was his first taste of not stepping in-line with his dad, which to his own surprise, he enjoyed a bit more than he knew he should.

“That’s it.” Jake decided. He swore to himself that he would follow his dad like a damn shadow until he tells him the truth. The truth of why he loathes grandfather so much.
He reached for the door when a loud voice jerked him back. It belonged to his dad. His voice struck him again, ripping through the air like a sonic boom. "Dad! This isn't your choice!"

Jake’s dad’s words paralyzed every muscle in his body down to his breath.

He said dad.“Grandfather’s here?” The odd old man that had been sending him, odd old relic-like-birthday gifts since he was five was standing in his living room. A flood of excitement swooped through Jake’s body like a burst of feverish chill. His pounding heart lurched into his throat and he froze -listening.

"How dare you have the audacity to barge in here and expect me to roll over and give you my son?”

Jake couldn’t help notice, even when his dad was angry, he sounded like a guy from another era, uptight, rigid, and way too proper. Who uses audacity?

Bells went off in Jake’s head.

Take my son? Are they talking about going to Ireland?

He pressed his ear harder on the door, making the hinges creak. The wood groaned, like it was resisting the pressure to indent a permanent cameo of his profile into it.

A heavy graveled voice, way too laid-back to be in the same confrontation spoke. "Look, it's just for a few months. The kid's gotta’ know. It's not like I'm a stranger." He laughed a low chuckle.

"You are a stranger.” Jake’s dad rebuked. “You haven’t seen him since he was born. And, that kid hasn't even gone out of town with his school because he doesn't like being away from home. How do you think he's going to do, to hop on a plane, fly clear across the Atlantic… and what? Stay in a dilapidated castle with you?"

"Whoa…you grew up there just fine and I've done some upgrades.”

"That’s not the point! And you know what I mean…. None of this is any of your concern.”

“How’s this not my concern, Frederic?”
It was strange for Jake to hear someone use his dad’s full first name so casually, but yet he always thought Fred didn't seem quite right either. Dad or Mr. Dorian seemed proper. Proper just like his dad.

"Family matters are for people with family that matter, and that for us, only includes a son and a father.” Jake’s dad’s voice vibrated with something unfamiliar. It was something deep and scarred, searing with enmity. Jake knew that phrase too well from past arguments. But this time something felt different. His dad’s tone cut into Jake deeper, sprouting doubt. Doubt that his dad’s over protective behavior may have not been without merit.

"Look,” His Grandfather’s voice fell into a slow murmur like an idled engine. A rich Irish accent, blooming stronger in this new slowness. “I'm not here to start trouble but just because you dropped your post doesn't mean he shouldn't be given the same chance you had. It's his birth right."

"I said no!" Jake’s dad’s tone was short and pithy, the complete opposite of his grandfather’s long swayed manner of speaking. The striking contrast pivoted Jake’s attention to his dad’s perfect American accent. He never imagined his grandfather being anything but American. Who was faking the accent?

"It's not your choice.” His grandfather growled. “He's of age and he’s bound to find out sooner or later, and who knows...maybe, he's even started visions of Dream Sequences. You started them about his age. But you probably don't know because you haven't asked the boy."

"Don't you lecture me…"

"Like it or not, it's going to happen. So why not show him, before he finds out by himself…before it's too late."

Silence fell into the room. Jake thought he could hear his dad's heavy breathing, causing his own to follow suit almost in harmonious fashion.

"Or maybe, the Paladin Council will drop him a line..."

"Don't you threaten me!” Jake’s dad yelled.

"Frederic…. Look, let's let the kid decide."


Jake couldn’t bear their odd argument with their odd words--Birth right, Paladin, Dream Sequences?--the words jumbled in his mind. It seemed to be nothing but nonsensical references to only what Jake assumed was an on going family feud between his dad and grandfather. A past so deeply wronged in Jake’s dad’s life that Jake only figured out moments ago they were Irish. He thought how odd it was, his dad was so determined for Jake not to know his Irish roots, he went as far as completely getting rid of his own accent.

But none of that mattered right now. Whatever their battles with each other were, all of it was bitter things that Jake had nothing to do with, but yet, it was the very reason for his life’s lonely exiled childhood, keeping him away from his only living relative. Or maybe, the problem is that his grandfather isn’t the only relative living?

Old drama. Who cares. All Jake wanted right now was one thing, to go to Ireland. He was exhausted of drowning in his dad’s fears. Jake was tired of being the good son.


  1. Hi Devyn--I'm excited to work with you this month!

    First reaction: What's in Ireland?!? Who/what is the Paladin Council? Let Jake decide what? I need to know!

    In other words...I was hooked! :)

    The dialogue was great between Jake's father and grandpa. And the nuggets that you dropped about his need to know, birth right, etc. was good and still left me questioning! I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but I'm curious to read more! Nice job!

    Few things I noticed for you to consider:
    1. I didn't realize that Jake was out running until the paragraph that starts, "So damn bullheaded." It would help to set up the scene a little bit in those few opening lines (at least for me, anyway).

    2. The "Who was faking the accent" line was great! And I wondered that too! But then at the end of the submission you say, "...only figured out moments ago they were Irish." So that begs the question: if he didn't think he was Irish, why would his grandpa be there? Up to that point, I assumed he knew he was Irish. Is it worth putting that into the first few pages without it being an info dump? I don't know. Maybe?

    3. I loved the line about the castle. "I made some updates." Ha! But it's interesting that Jake doesn't catch that tid-bit and have an internal comment about it.

  2. Hi Devyn,

    I enjoyed reading this! I really liked your imagery and you have a very interesting title!

    I think I also would have wanted to know what Jake is currently doing/where the story is set a bit sooner. I’m also wondering how the first pages would read if you started off with another one of your fabulous sentences such as “The question punched Jake in the gut.”

    The transition between Jake talking about his dad disliking his hair to him swearing to follow his dad like a shadow felt a little disconnected for me. It also took me some time to figure out that Jake’s dad was yelling at Jake’s Grandpa since I guess there are two people called Dad in this exchange :)

    I agree with Kelley that the dialogue between the grandpa and dad is great! I really want to know what Jake needs to find out before it’s too late! And what will happen to him if he doesn’t find out in time!

    I did think it was strange that Jake would voice certain things like “Grandfather’s here?” instead of just thinking them to himself. While reading some of Jake’s reactions to Grandpa’s presence, I wondered why the bells didn't go off sooner in Jakes head right after he hears his Dad talking about handing him over to his Grandpa (instead of focusing on his Dad’s tone first). It’s also interesting to me that the Dad is talking in a very proper way while the Grandpa uses more casual terms like “gotta” or “woah.” It makes me curious why that is and leaves me wanting to know more about the relationship they have!

    Can’t wait to read again next week!

    1. Hi Christy,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I also had posted on the Facebook group for 1st pages workshop but I thought to post it here ask you regarding my title (since you mentioned it in notes). Overall I had some mentions that it felt too MG which made me rethink my title. Wondering your thoughts on a few I came up with below: (I thank you for any thoughts you may have. ��)




  3. Hi Devyn!

    Cool premise! I like it. I’m a big fantasy fan, so this is right up my alley! I have a few suggestions.

    1. I’ve heard that a good rule of thumb in writing is two long sentences to one short sentence, just for rhythm. In the beginning, ie. paragraph 2 (and a few other paragraphs), there are a few pretty lengthy sentences connected together without a short one to break things up and allow your reader to breathe. I would maybe try to add some shorter ones throughout the paragraphs, or create two short sentences out of a long one, especially the longs ones that are back to back.

    2. In the beginning I wasn’t sure where to picture the scene. It’s not till the end of paragraph four that we know the setting. It would be nice to have a visual right from the beginning to ground the reader. I think paragraph four would be a great paragraph to start with. Then continue with paragraph one, etc.

    One caveat: I’ve heard it’s not the best to start with dialogue, so if you choose to start with paragraph four, I’d take out the quotations and simply start: So damn bullheaded. And why did he always have to talk in riddles? (great two lines btw! Great use of words, and intriguing!) Then you could continue the paragraph just the way it is, which would give us the setting right away: Jake yelled up into the heavy graying sky… (he could still yell out in frustration, rather than yell those words.) Then continue with your current beginning: No matter how Jake looked at it, he had to…

    3. You have several of Jake’s thoughts in quotes. I wonder if changing them to italics would make the story easier to follow.

    4. I was a little confused about grandfather’s accent. You mention that the accent is heard, but not till later in the dialogue. Was he speaking with an American accent in the beginning then changed it in the middle of their conversation? That was a little confusing for me. Maybe just clarify.

    5. Sometimes I got confused about who was talking. Maybe it would help if you tagged a few of the dialogue sentences so we know who’s talking, especially during the long back and forths.

    In general, way cool beginning! I LOVE fantasy, and after reading this I would definitely be excited to find out what awaits in Ireland and at the castle!

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  5. Devyn-

    I enjoyed what I read so far and I totally wish I could read on.

    I'm usually more comfortable reading in first person but you did a good job with third person here. The narrative and dialogue is well-balanced, although I think you could use a few dialogue tags during grandfather and dad’s conversation just to make things clear about who’s speaking.

    Still, I liked the way you described their voices and way of speaking. I think you properly evoked the emotions going on in the conversation and even Jake’s as he was listening to it.

    I noticed that Jake kept on speaking to himself- is that an intended character quirk? If yes, I think you should point it out. If not, I think it’s much better for him to let these thoughts just run through his mind instead.

    So far, your narration is compelling and I enjoy your descriptive writing. I like Jake and can understand why he felt the way he did. I think he’d be a relatable character in the long run and I honestly would love to read more about his story.

  6. Devyn!!

    Okay, so, first of all: an Irish castle? A new birthright?! Magical abilities?!? A secret society?!?! Have you looked inside my head and decided to write EXACTLY the kind of book I'd most want to read? Well done, you.

    You've done a great job of jumping into the meat of the story early enough to pull us in - posing enticing details and threads we're going to want to chase just as much as Jake does. The imagery you use is powerful and unique, and the dynamic between Jake, his "talking in riddles" father and his clearly more devil-may-care grandfather is already strong - a feat unto itself!

    I do see some clarity issues here, though, that if addressed could really make this story pop from the very beginning. I tend to favor openings that jump right into physical action, rather than interiority. Jake is running - why not start with him running? You describe the action of it so well - it might be a nice way to hook the reader right away, making them wonder why he's running so angrily. His thoughts about his dad and the letter he got can follow on that (or whatever action you choose to lead with).

    Other clarity points: I got a little confused about how much Jake knows. He's gotten presents throughout the years from his granddad and has just received a letter inviting him to Ireland. To visit? To live? Why is this a point of contention between he and his dad? I wasn't clear whether they'd actually had an argument about it or if Jake is just assuming his father would say no. Another question: if he got a letter inviting him to Ireland, why wouldn't he have assumed his grandfather was Irish? I also wonder if some text from the letter his grandfather sent might make it feel more concrete, less backstoryish. Maybe he's got it in his pocket? Or it's burned into his memory - calling to him in some way he can't explain? (Bc of his birthright?)

    Small notes: Be careful of doing things that take you outside the immediate POV of Jake, like capitalizing "Dream Sequences." He wouldn't know it was something that needed to be capitalized just from overhearing it. And - you might already do this, but... - try reading your pages aloud, just to see if there are any words that sound superfluous or a little stiff or that you just stumble over for whatever reason. I think you can pare this down to the bare minimum word count and STILL get in all this awesome backstory and dialogue.

  7. Hi Devyn!

    You have a very interesting set up here! Lots of great intrigue in these first 5 pages and I certainly am interested to know more! Right off the bat, I wonder if the opening– overhearing this entire conversation – is the best way to go. You mention dream sequences – that is interesting – but if Jake has them we don’t know about it. You could start by showing us how Jake is struggling – not sleeping from strange dreams, but when he mentioned it to Dad he freaked. You tell us that Jake is rebelling by his hair – but then he worries about being late for dinner. And if he is late, wouldn’t his father be worried he would come home and overhear the conversation? Maybe Jake could find out some by doing some snooping. Or calling his grandfather or some such. If you keep this, I’d have Jake return home unexpectedly for some reason, so that Dad wouldn’t be expecting him.

    Also, several things are contradictory. As I previously said – Jake doesn’t seem all that rebellious besides the hair. You tell us Jake wants to go to Ireland, but his father tells us he won’t even go on a school trip. And his father’s speech isn’t very formal in dialogue. I think you can cut the reference – which accent is real – his grandfather lives in Ireland, it would be expected that he might pick up a brogue even if he was American. In general, you overly describe voices, tone, etc., which is too telling. Let the dialogue speak for itself. There are several instances where you tell instead of show, For example: It was something deep and scarred, searing with enmity. Jake knew that phrase too well from past arguments. But this time something felt different. His dad’s tone cut into Jake deeper, sprouting doubt. Doubt that his dad’s over protective behavior may have not been without merit. The dialogue is short, but this explanation is long and too telling. I don’t completely understand it, either. Who are the past arguments between? And why would such a simple line of dialogue – albeit biting – give rise to so much doubt? It struck me as strange that after Jake has doubt, he completely dismisses the strange words he hears as odd words from an old argument. I would think here is where his doubt would really kick in - that there is more to this than what he thought.

    Also, when you finish revising read the whole thing aloud. Some sequences were confusing, such as when he first comes home and finds his grandfather there. I had to re-read it a few times to figure out what was going on. I hope this is helpful! I look forward to reading next week!

  8. Hi everyone,

    Sooooo I have been trying to wrestle with my opening with everyone's smart writerly advice of how I can improve my pages. And so far this is my new opening... Love to hear what anyone thinks ... Stronger? Weaker? So not the right direction??��


    A storm was coming. The heavy, graying clouds was an unusual sight for sunny California summers, but it was no match for what was brewing in Jake’s mind. Jake pulled out the half crumbled envelope stuffed in his jean back pocket. His fingers wet—from the half gallon of soy milk his dad suddenly had to have him run ten blocks for—smeared the ink of the New York return address.
    He tucked the soy carton under one arm opening the envelope. His fingers trembled, even though it was the hundredth time he opened the letter in one week. He read the few lines again by memory.

    Hey Kid,
    I think it’s time for us to meet. You can stay with me in Ireland for the summer. See you soon.

    Thank you in advance for comments ��

  9. Hi, Devyn! Love the new opening you put in the comments. I get much more of a sense of immediacy than in the initial post. Great revision! As for the rest, I agree with what most people have said already, especially Erin's comment to read it all aloud after you write it. You'd be amazed what you come up with organically while you're speaking the words.

    A couple of additional thoughts:
    1. When I read the title, I immediately thought it was a middle grade story, but then you say the protagonist is 17. If this is truly a YA story, consider cutting down the title and making it more metaphorical rather than literal. That being said, I wouldn't mind seeing this story aged down to a middle grade story. It has a lot of elements that are very popular to the middle grade crowd, so it would be quite successful in that realm, I think.
    2. I think you're overemphasizing Jake's emotions a little bit. He might be mad that his father is blocking him from seeing his grandfather in Ireland, but I don't think it would 'punch him in the gut' for example. You need to build up to this level of angst so you have somewhere to go when the you-know-what really hits the fan.
    3. Be careful your premise isn't too cliche. The teen that's unaware of his birthright and magical powers until someone comes to tell him is pretty general at this point. It might be tough to sell to editors (and thus to agents). That doesn't mean you can't do it, just make sure you twist it some way into something new, fresh, and original. Like, maybe his birthright is actually terrible--he has to babysit the bratty child heir to some magical throne or something. Or maybe he doesn't actually have any magical powers, and he's hiding it from everyone in the new magical world he's initiated into. Something like that.
    4. Sort of along the same lines as the overemphasis of emotion, be careful that your pace isn't too fast. You want to build up to a fast-paced middle. Give us more of a feel for who Jake is as a person before we get to your inciting incident of grandpa paying a visit. I want a glimpse of what's special about Jake internally before I know what's special about him externally. Does that make sense? It doesn't have to be much, maybe just a chapter of him interacting with others in his "normal world" before we get to dad's argument with grandpa. In fact, ending the chapter with Jake's realization that grandpa came to him would be a great way to get me to turn the page to chapter two!

    You're definitely good at getting the reader to ask questions and want to know more! Good luck with your revising!

    1. Hi Mary Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much for all your wonderful notes. You really have me thinking. Also, your comment regarding my title rang so true! I really does feel more MG... but my core story is YA to the core, so I thought of a few. I would love to know if any of these titles sound like something you would pick up and peak interest 😄 thank you again.