Sunday, January 3, 2016

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Washington

Name: Adana Washington
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

She saw the twitch of his leg just before his body twisted, and in the darkness of a blink Dailia Lovo debated on letting his fist connect with her face. She felt the heat of everyone's eyes on her like a small wave of heat against her skin. The din of their shouts and jeers filled the air and made the sand under her feet tremble. She shook out her hands at her side to keep from pulling up her hood. It would only narrow her vision and slow her down.

Her opponent shifted his weight and swung. She stopped herself from dodging and let his meaty fist pound into the side of her face. Pain exploded through her cheek as her head snapped to the side. Dailia stepped beyond the man's reach and flexed her jaw.

Tamsin's voice rose over the roar of the crowd. "What are you doing?"

Dailia flicked a glance at her employer before she leapt away from her opponent's next attack. Tamsin's instructions echoed in her mind. Put this brute down quickly so we can get out of here. She didn't know how much gemstone her boss had riding on the fight. She learned a long time ago that it didn't matter. She was only to concern herself with winning whatever fight he chose for her.

Dailia shook her head and focused on the man circling across from her. He stood a full two heads taller than her. His arms were nearly as thick around as her waist, yet he moved deftly for someone so large. The odds were surely against her, and she huffed a chuckle at the amount of gemstone the crowd could have bet against her winning.

She dodged another punch aimed at her temple and watched her opponent stumble past her. He regained his footing and distributed his weight into the loose sand beneath him. He snarled at her, showing his crooked and stained teeth. "If you're just going to dance, I'd rather you be naked."

Dailia pulled a corner of her lips into a humorless smile. She thought of seven ways to take the man down as she tipped along the perimeter of the ring. Yet her smile faded as she thought of the consequences. Fighting in the ring wasn't the same as killing in the field. Dead men never cornered her in a dark alley, demanding a private rematch. She was free to collect her payment and find a place to rest. 

Yet it never happened that way after she won Tamsin his money in front of the crowds. He would spend half his gemstone in the taverns, oblivious to all the unofficial challenges she faced in the streets. Every man who felt slighted by a stronger female would come at her. They all felt the need to best her, either in the streets, or on the cold ground. She couldn't count how many times she'd forced to kill the men she’d already beaten in the ring.

She spotted Tamsin just outside the ring, his greedy fingers clawed around the rope. His gaze burned into her, demanding that she finish the fight. Chirin stood at his shoulder, his face shadowed by his hood. She traced the staunch set of his broad shoulders and the sharp angle of his jacket. He inclined his head the slightest inch before she turned her attention back to the fight.

"Nothing to say, princess?"

A pair of soft gray eyes flashed in Dailia’s mind and she froze. She shook away the vision and growled under her breath. She lifted to the balls of her feet.

Then Dailia saw a possible ending for the fight in her mind. 

Running knee to the face.

She bounced on her toes as the man came at her for another swing. She dodged his fist and drove her own into his solar plexus. He grunted and bent at the waist. She took a step back.

I could hit him with an elbow to the top of the head.

Her opponent recovered. He threw out another punch and caught her in the chest. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying out in pain. His reach was far longer than hers. She would have to keep her distance if she was going to stay on her feet.

Kick his legs from under him.

Dailia leaned back on her left heel. She threw out her right leg, her bent arms coming up for balance. He leapt back a second too soon and backpedaled across the ring. Dailia let her foot fall, bending her knees into a wide-legged stance.

Beat him until he bleeds. Or passes out. Whichever comes second.

She smirked at the very different fight happening in her mind. But then she saw herself in a dark alley, her opponent having recovered from his injury. She saw him coming at her again and again, with no crowd to cheer him on or call foul when he fought dirty. She saw herself pull the knife from her boot and drive it through the bottom of his chin into his skull. She saw his body lying on the ground, bleeding as payment for his pride and arrogance. 

Dailia let the man charge at her.

His shoulder nailed into her stomach and knocked the air from her lungs. They both fell into the sand, Dailia taking the brunt of the fall along with the man's weight. Her spine collided with the hard ground beneath the loose sand, threatening to crack under the impact. Her opponent scrambled to sit across her waist. He let all of his weight do the work of holding her down, using his knees to pin her arms.

He bent at the waist and grabbed a fistful of her white hair. He brought his face within inches of hers. Dailia didn't bother to cringe at the rank ale and fish on his breath. "So I was right. You do look better on your back."

A bell clang over the noise of the crowd. The fight was over.

"Get off of me," Dailia said through clenched teeth.

The man sneered at her and let his hand roam down her neck and chest. His hand went to grope her breast.

"Do it and lose your jewels." Dailia held the man's stare and let her intentions shine through her eyes.

The man scoffed and looked at her arms. "And how would that happen?"

Dailia twisted her wrist and triggered the latch in her gauntlet. She curled her fingers onto the slender piece of metal and pulled it once. The sliding of metal sounded at her waist. Dailia watched the man looks towards the sound. She felt his legs tense around her. He saw the sharp tips of retractable silver spikes peeking from the open spaces in her belt.

His eyes slid back to Dailia’s face. She let her lips curl into a smile. She didn't catch what the man mumbled as he lumbered to his feet. He dragged his foot and landed a kick to her ribs before stepping over her. Dailia stayed still and pressed the lever in her hand. The covers to the square holes in her belt slid back into place with a whisper. She took a deep breath and cleared her mind. Then she rolled up, her spine stretching and settling as she got up.


  1. Wow. Way to get us right in the middle of some action. We learn a lot about Dailia and her lifestyle from this intro. I think it's interesting that there are very few details about the setting of the fight, but I had no problem picturing it in my mind. The actions of the fight are more important than where it's taking place anyway.

    I like that Dailia is a strong female character. I also liked the mental fight versus physical fight. I'm interested to know what her boss is going to do since she lost the fight.

    I spotted a few typos as I read. You said she "tipped" around the perimeter. I read it as tiptoed, but I'm not sure if that's what you were going for. In the next paragraph, you said "she'd forced to kill the men". I think you mean she had been forced. Also, in your last line, you use up twice.

    Overall, I feel like this was effective worldbuilding, in the sense that I can picture what's going on, but I'm not bogged down with description. This fight could be happening anywhere.

    I'm excited to see where you take this!

    1. Thank you for those notes on word choice. I wasn't sure if that was the kind of thing to mention either, but I'm glad you did. With 'tipped' I did mean tiptoe, but I felt like it was too dainty. I'll have to look into that.

      Thank you so much for your feedback!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your first five pages — such a strong heroine right away, excellent pacing, and I loved the small details (paying with gemstone, for example) that show us that we’re in a different world.

    I found the mention of Chirin to be a little distracting without knowing more about him yet. Maybe either save him for later, or just a half sentence or sentence more as a bit more of a teaser? I also felt a little distracted by the “pair of soft gray eyes” paragraph. So this is a separate vision she has, before the vision of how she can win the fight? I would have liked another half-sentence or sentence indicating why this is going to be important later, or not mentioned at all.

    I was curious as to whether this was the first time that Dailia’s lost a fight purposely to avoid killing the man later. Is this business-as-usual for her, or a departure from what she normally does? Why is this time different? (All those other times she ended up killing men she’d beaten in the ring, did she have visions then too?)

    Looking forward to reading more!

    1. I'm glad that you liked it.

      I will say that we see more of Chirin about a page after this, so the mention here kind of sets up for that.

      I did wonder about including the "soft gray eyes" bit. Though it is part of what upsets Dailia, and it part of her backstory, it was something I added later. I meant it to be something of a reaction to a trigger, but I'm wondering if it's sufficient enough, or even necessary.

      As far as Dailia throwing the fight, I guess I could clarify that a bit, both in these pages and in the following ones where we see Tamsin's reaction.

      Thank you for your feedback!

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  4. Hi Adana,

    I agree with the others’ comments – it’s a very gripping beginning! At no point did I want to stop reading. I started rooting for Dailia from the very first paragraph. Your writing flows smoothly and sounds “true”.

    What was strange and frustrating for me was that I couldn’t fathom why the strong female character would let a foul-smelling brute beat her to a pulp. So that she wouldn’t have to kill him later on? Perhaps this is a valid motivation, but at this early point in the story it feels too altruistic for the circumstances and the scene. Is there a more clear way to let the reader know why she is taking the beating and defying her employer (which based on Tamsin’s reaction is happening for the first time)?

    I’m also not sure about the “technical” side of this fight. Wouldn’t her jaw or cheekbone break or be seriously damaged after the punch of a man twice her size?

    The three different men described one after the other is a bit confusing (assuming the pair of soft gray eyes belong to a man). I would remove the vision of these eyes at this point, there is enough going on in the character’s head as opposed to what’s going on around her.

    And I know we are not supposed to comment on word choice or spelling mistakes, but I noticed a couple of cases where the word choice actually tripped up the smooth flow of my reading:

    1. “Dailia didn't bother to cringe at the rank ale and fish on his breath“ – sounds a bit artificial, to me cringing at a bad smell is not something that happens intentionally. Maybe just “Dailia didn’t cringe at the rank ale and fish on his breath” would be better.

    2. “She felt the heat of everyone's eyes on her like a small wave of heat against her skin” – rethink the double usage of “heat”.

    You’ve done a great job with the beginning of your book. You’ve made me care and want to read on. Looking forward to reading you again!

    1. Thank you for pointing out those word choices. Definitely something that I need to fix.

      I do need to flesh out Dailia's motivation in this seen. It would better explain why she's willing to lose the fight rather than deal with the man later on.

      As far as the technical side of the fight, I'm not sure if it would necessarily break her jaw. However, that does make me think of adding more detail about the special "features" of the characters a bit earlier.

      Thank you for the feedback.

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    1. Hi Adana,
      I love the title and how it sets up for Dailia and her being such a strong character. I know you can't judge a book by its cover but I would pick up this book based purely on the title.

      I like that y are dumped immediately into action and Dailia's thoughts about it. I agree about the grey eyes and Chirin being distracting. With The grey eyes I was wondering is this a flash back or real? And that distracted me from the flow of the story, which is very strong.

      I did wonder about "trembling sand" and then the hard ground under the sand. It didn't seem to ring true for me. But I agree that even though there is not a lot of description of the setting I still had a strong sense of it. So I wouldn't necessarily go into more detail perhaps just rethink those details.

      I did wonder about Dialia's motivation. I was wondering is she psychotic and these are things she thinks she can do but really can't. I had a hard time believing that another fight down the road would be worth letting this guy off the hook now and taking a beating, I also think if a man whose arm is the size of my waist his me full on the jaw, the jaw would break. Fighters avoid this because they know how to move to let the blow slide off of deflect the full force of it. So it might be worth a statement about turning just enough to avoid the full on jaw breaking impact.

      The last thing I was wondering is how the gauntlet switch/ belt blades all worked. I couldn't picture it so again it interrupted the flow for me.

      Overall I really like the start and am looking forward to reading more,

  6. Oh yeah, one more thing, with her throwing the fight I was wondering about the repercussions with regard to Tamsin. In boxing the image I have is you can't just throw a fight without serious concerns from your manager or numerous other nefarious characters-so is she really letting this guy off the hook so she wont have to fight him later in order to take on direct threat to herself from other forces that she is somehow tied to?

  7. I have a question: Are we supposed to be revising these pages as if there are no other pages after them? Everyone is commenting on wanting to know more about things (which makes me super happy), and those things are answered within the rest of the chapter. So should I change these things in these five pages simply for the sake of this workshop, or leave them as they are?

    I will say that Dailia's motivation for throwing the fight is that she doesn't want to have to deal with the opponent later on. If she beats him, she's giving herself twice as much to do. Whereas, if she simply lets the guy win, she can get paid and go on her way. I should try to make that more clear in the pages.

    But she faces the consequences of that decision literally in the next paragraph. The reader will also learn why Tamsin doesn't punish her more harshly in the rest of the chapter.

    It's also established that these characters are all special in the rest of the chapter. If the reader were to keep going, they would begin to understand how Dailia is able to take that punch to the jaw without getting seriously injured. It also explains why Chirin is being pointed out during the fight.

    There are things that I do need to think about. Like the gray eyes, which are a flashback to the last person to call her princess, and a bit of foreshadowing for Dailia's backstory. (Does that even make sense?) I could take that out, and simply express that being called 'princess' bothers her. And no, Jessica, she's not psychotic :). She's a skilled and highly experienced fighter who is good at seeing solutions in her mind -- even if she doesn't always use them. That is what I was trying to go for.

    But for the other things that bring up mini story questions, should I change those, or leave them as they are so that the pages fit with the rest of the chapter and the book?

  8. I think we should revise in the context of the entire book, in order to create the best possible beginning for it and make the reader want to keep reading. I realise it's not possible to answer all our questions in so few words. Although I do wish the workshop was 1st 10 or even 1st 20 pages (which is closer to what I give a book before deciding to put it down) :)))

  9. I think we should revise in the context of the entire book, in order to create the best possible beginning for it and make the reader want to keep reading. I realise it's not possible to answer all our questions in so few words. Although I do wish the workshop was 1st 10 or even 1st 20 pages (which is closer to what I give a book before deciding to put it down) :)))

  10. Hi Adana,

    I’m so glad I got to read this! I really liked being dumped right in the middle of a fight, and the fact that you completely tricked me, since I was just positive Dailia was going to think of all her ways to take the guy down and do it. I like being tricked! I had a very clear vision of her surroundings as well, and thought your pacing was spot on. Well done!

    My thoughts on this really have to do with very small issues of clarity, changes that are probably one or two words or maybe one sentence changes, not huge overhauls. Sometimes those can be the hardest!

    First is the issue of Dailia’s expectations in the opening paragraphs. Is she merely defending herself, or is she supposed to kill the man, or just “win?” This becomes clearer later on, but the first sentence tells us she is having a debate. It might add even more tension to know at that moment what the debate is about. Without knowing what she thinks she is supposed to do, the reader can’t feel the weight of her decision to do it (or not!). We just know that there is a decision to be made. (And by the way, I think it’s great that the reader does NOT know her decision until later, I’m speaking more about the reader understanding at least one of her options more immediately.)

    The next small thing is a bit of a time lag between the first and second paragraph. In the first sentence, her opponent’s leg is twitching and his body twists, like he’s about to throw this punch, then she debates, thinks of the crowd, shakes out her hands and decides not to pull up a hood. Maybe a little too much body action, or do we need one tiny phrase to show that the punch is still coming, and that she’s an exceptionally fast thinker?

    Adding onto my first comment, in paragraph four, I assumed (because my dark mind works that way!) that “winning” meant “killing” and was then surprised when Dailia was trying to avoid that very thing. So I had a moment of confusion and went back to reread. Clarifying that decision, or at least what Dailia thinks she’s going to do, in paragraph one might solve that issue.

    I wonder if one tiny reaction or description of Chirin’s incline of the head would help set up their relationship. Was it a nod of acknowledgement, or was he giving her permission to throw the fight? That would give me an idea of their relationship, just a hint, which would be awesome.

    When the fight is over, should Dailia have one quick thought, or exchange one quick look, that would tell us what she risked by not winning the fight for her employer?

    Please take what is helpful here and discard the rest, Adana. I think you have a fantastic start! Thank you for sharing your work!

    1. Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you liked it.

      I completely get what you mean about clarifying Dailia's goals and options for the fight, and what she's risking by losing the fight.

      I also like the idea of giving some clarification for Chirin's nod. Given that his presence is the reason she was able to take the punch to the jaw, maybe I could mention that. It would also help bring the introduction of the magic system forward in the chapter.

      This is super helpful. Thank you so much!

  11. Thank you for letting us read your work, Adana! I'll write my comments as I read.

    Your title seems to be a play on words. I'm intrigued to see what it all means. Okay, so the opening is definitely action-packed, and initially I couldn't help but keep reading. But there are a few things I kept thinking while I read. Firstly, I don't know where she is or the time period this is happening. If you added a bit of information that would ground the reader more and bring the scene a more visual sense. Also, even though she seems clever and like a great fighter, I'm not sure I care about her yet. Yes, from the onset, I'd like her to win; she's a strong heroine so Woot! Go girl. But how long will just action keep a reader reading? Tell me something that makes me want to know why she's fighting other than for her employer. It doesn't have to be much. Just a detail that belongs to Dailia and only her. I also agree with Lily's comment about the technical side of fighting. Just make sure you have it correct and you'll be all set.

    My other comment has to do with her thoughts in italics. I read over that section twice and I just don't think those are necessary. They really don't tell the reader anything new. She thinks it and then she acts it out. For me what would be more effective is if those thoughts gave me an inside clue to who she is and how she really feels about what she's doing.

    Your writing flowed nicely and did have a sense of urgency about it, which kept the pace going. :) My favorite part is that you're creating a strong female character is an uncharacteristic role. Got to love those! I look forward to reading your revision!

    1. Thank you for reading, and for your feedback.

      The title will make sense more towards the end of the book. Also, more of the location and time period is revealed after the fight.

      I think clarifying her motivation for getting through the fight may be in order. But since she's only in this fight to get paid (which is made apparent after the fight), I'm not sure that it would add much at this point.

      As for her thoughts in italics, she doesn't act on those. Those thoughts show that she knows that she could take the guy down, but she doesn't act on any of them.
      I'll have to consider ways to clarify that.