Sunday, January 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Washington Rev 2

Name: Adana Washington
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy


In a world where all humans have latent magical abilities and live for hundreds of years, Dailia Lovo only wants to pay her debts, save up money and buy a house in Ageinor, the capital of Emthur. But when she finds an entire city slaughtered -- and her friends desecrated -- she sets out to avenge those that have fallen. In her search for information, she stumbles across some new ideas that are taking hold of the people.

But the harmony on the surface is only a facade hiding the awful truth behind the beliefs being spread through the city. And the more she learns, the harder it is to hide her own secrets when she realizes that there is already a battle brewing in the shadows of the palace.

Then, in one night, all of Dailia’s attempts to exact vengeance unravel and lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As her past comes back to haunt her, she will be forced to decide what she is really fighting for … and if keeping her secrets is worth forfeiting her power. 

She saw the twitch of her opponent's 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 everyone's eyes on her like a small wave of heat against her skin. Torch smoke filled the air of the tavern, carrying the shouts and jeers of  the stomping spectators. They all watched and waited for her to best the man, or get knocked down herself.

Her opponent finally shifted his weight and swung. She stopped herself from dodging and let his meaty fist slam 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, wondering how many more blows would make getting paid worth the pain.

Tamsin's voice rose over the roar of the crowd. "I said 'win', Dailia. Win!"

Dailia flicked a glance at her employer before she leapt away from her opponent's next attack. Tamsin's demand 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. This was the only way to make up for what she'd taken from Tamsin. 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, stretching the web of scars around his jaw. "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 stepped 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 and brothels of Porold, 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 been 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. No one seemed to notice that he'd kept her jaw from shattering. With all the flashes of light from the other Ecteniles in the place, her brother's energy hadn't caught anyone's eye. He inclined his head the slightest inch before she turned her attention back to the fight.

"Nothing to say, princess?"

"Don't call me that," she growled under her breath. She lifted to the balls of her feet.

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.

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 ignored 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 hip against the inside of his thigh. The motion triggered the latch on the side of her belt. 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, not ready to deal with Tamsin. Yet dragging it out would only make him angrier, and she still needed to get paid. She took a deep breath and cleared her mind. Then she rolled up, her spine stretching and settling as she got to her feet.


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  4. Hi Adana,

I like your pitch and it makes me curious about the story, esp after reading the first 5 pages. I wonder if there is a way to give a sense of how strong Dailia is in the pitch so someone could get a sense of her. Her presence is so powerful in the opening pages I would hate for her to sound "washed out" in the pitch.

I'm not sure Dailia's last name is needed in the opening. Is it important to learn this up front? I found it a bit distracting from the action.

I really like the making up for what she'd taken from Tamsin. It immediately makes me wonder and want to know more. Also, it instantly gets rid of all my questions about why she is there and fighting for Tamsin. 

I found the other ectintiles comment confusing. I don't know what they are or why they would have lights flashing. I can guess but the guessing breaks up the flow of the story for me. I also like the addition of his acknowledgement. It Dailia noticing him flow better as he is somehow no part of the action. I do like the added description of her brother.

I get a much better sense of how the belt blades work now.

I am still unconvinced about why she would throw the fight. It seems like killing the guy wouldn't be an issue and I haven't gotten the sense that she is warm and fuzzy and just wants everybody to get along. 

Does Tamsin know she could win? I got stuck on their relationship a bit. Of she is just going to throw the fight how is this paying Tamsin back? And the line about getting paid. It seemed like she was going to Tamsin to get paid but if she threw the fight why would he pay her?

Overall I think it is a gripping action packed beginning that will instantly draw readers in. 

Thanks. It was great to be able to read your work and get your feedback.
    PS still love your title

  5. Hi Adana,

    I’m looking forward to reading your whole novel someday. I was intrigued by so many elements of your pitch, and the interplay between what’s going on in the world and her own secrets. I wondered if you could be a little more direct in the pitch about what her secrets are and why she has to keep them hidden.

    I loved the line about what she’d taken from Tamsin. The additional detail about Chirin is also interesting, that he’s her brother, and that they seem to both have magical powers. I found the mention of the Ecteniles’ flashes of light distracting, but maybe there’s something here that’s not as much about the other Ectenlies, but her feeling not just grateful about her brother, but also worried or even angry. Does he put himself and her at risk by using his energy to help her? Is she always stressed because his magic is a lot more visible than hers?

    Good luck! Thanks for all your great feedback throughout this workshop!


  6. Hi Adana,

    On the whole, your pitch is solid, providing her current world, tension, conflict, and goal. I just think it could be tightened a bit more. For example: the last sentence of the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second paragraph repeat part of a thought. See if you can combine those to give a more drastic feel. I take it that this new idea taking hold of people is making them ignore the slaughtered city. If I'm correct, use that. It's really good and makes me curious. Using the word palace also threw me off. It kind of comes out of nowhere. But the tension you've created at the end of the pitch is great!

    Once again, you've done a fabulous job revising. I really don't have much to add. Only a few nit-picky things. Look for places you can still tighten by eliminating unnecessary words. (Ex: 1st paragraph you begin with 'she' and the same in the next sentence, when you really don't need 'She felt.')

    I like what you did with Tamsin's voice. The words you chose to have him say tell me so much more than he actually says. That is a win in my book! And you've really cleared up her motivation and need for fighting. You've done a great job being more direct. :) Adding the bit about Chirin and the Ecteniles ... ooh, I like that! I'd love to know a little more about why her brother is there and how she thinks he feels about her fighting. More depth. It's awesome.

    Thank you again for letting me read your work. Best of luck with it!

  7. Hi Adana,

    So I’m a fan of your first pages. I like your character, who is strong enough to win, but doesn’t want to because she doesn’t want to kill them later, and I’m intrigued by the world you’re creating. There’s a lot of tension here, and so much more clarity now after these revisions. (Chirin is her brother! So glad you told us this, so we don’t get the wrong end of the stick and have to say “Ew!” later. Ha!) I think the writing in these first pages is really close, and more comment from me would probably stray into the subjective. So I’m going to focus more on your pitch.

    You talk about some huge goings on in your pitch, which is good. The slaughter of a city, the bodies of friends dishonored (this is what you meant, right?), and a mission of revenge. But I’m having a hard time seeing how all that relates to the second paragraph. The first sentence of that paragraph with “harmony on the surface” seems to contradict the slaughter of a city in the first paragraph, and I think this is just because I don’t know enough, or know the right details quite yet.

    I wonder if all this would be solved by focusing your pitch more on your strong character, and more on the specifics of what she is fighting against. Who is the villain, what is the villain trying to do, and how is Dailia trying to stop them? The pitch only mentions your MC. Clearly showing Dailia’s conflict in the pitch, and who she’s fighting against, would really strengthen it, I think. And if there’s a love interest in your story, that should probably get mentioned, as well, even if it’s not the focal point of the story. Love and conflict are big hooks!

    Great work on your first pages, Adana. I wish you all the very best with your writing!

  8. This is Erin commenting for Laura because the blog was giving her trouble!

    PITCH: It’s difficult making fantasy pieces stand out from others. Many times the theme of the Chosen One can feel so saturated that a pitch like this could potentially get lost. What’s unique about this one is that your protagonist is a self-proclaimed Chosen One. No one asked her to exact vengeance – she’s motivated to do it herself. So now my question is this: what’s her purpose? Why should she care so much about an entire slaughtered city (apart from the deaths of her friends)? The very beginning of the pitch suggests she simply wants to lay low. So why does she want to come out and fight – and who is she fighting? I think if those questions are answered within the pitch, it’ll make this stand out on it’s own without falling into the Chosen One trap.

    STORY: Great opening line! It’s very hard to write action scenes as well. But it certainly drops the reader in a pivotal moment, right into the mess of the protagonist’s life. What brought Dailia into such a low situation? What happened between her and Tamsin? Is Dailia’s latent magical ability her physical strength, or is it something more subtle like Chirin’s healing abilities? This was tight, calculating, and quite revealing of Dailia’s character. Having read these pages, though, I would go back to the pitch and try to flesh her out a bit more: her purpose, her strengths, what’s holding her back and what propels her to do some lasting damage in her world.

    I’d also like to point out how impressed I am with this action scene. YA in third person sometimes feel like a rarity, especially in fantasy. It’s difficult to write! Well done.


  9. Great revision, Adana! Love the added detail. It's exactly the right amount, IMO. You set even more hooks with details like the Ecteniles lights and magic, and you give us reason to care with context like Chirin being Dailia's brother. Win! I think you have a very strong opening here.

    The pitch is a little problematic, I think. To me, it reads too vague. Consider adding more specifics like names, relationships, and places for us to grab onto. I was moved at the idea that her friends were desecrated and that she wanted revenge, but then you lost me when you got to the part where she stumbles across some new ideas taking hold of the people. What does that mean? The best I could come up with was that some people had formed some sort of utopian society that turns out to be a dystopian society ("only a facade hiding the awful truth"), which is all a big distraction from her main goal of exacting revenge.

    I agree with Sharon that I want to know who your antagonist is. Who is Dailia trying to get revenge on? Who desecrated her friends and why? What is her/his/their motive for doing so? Also, what are the stakes if she fails? Just losing her power? Is anyone else she loves at stake?

    You definitely want position your pitch so that you're teasing your audience about what will happen to your protagonist--don't give away the ending and don't throw in every tiny subplot and detail. But I think your pitch teases a little TOO much. Throw in a few more character names, be a little more specific about Dailia's dilemma in the last sentence, either say plainly what you mean about 'new ideas taking hold of the people' or skip over that part and stick to the meat of the revenge plot. I think you have the basic idea of how to structure a query, you just need to tweak the language to make it more specific. And if at all possible, inject some of Dailia's voice into the pitch to make it really sing.

    Here's the pitch for my first book TRUST ME, I'M LYING as an example:
    Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn't even her real name. She's a grifter, a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at St. Agatha High. The downside of St. Agatha's is that its private-school price tag is a bit higher than Julep's father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, can afford. So Julep makes up the difference by running petty scams for her classmates, while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

    But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and a missing dad, Julep's carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha's resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, Julep struggles to trace her dad's trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has left at stake, Julep must tap all her resources and use every grift in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her.

    You see how the "(okay, A-)" and the "golden ticket" and "St. Agatha's resident Prince Charming" all sort of showcase the hardboiled, snarky voice my protagonist uses? Try and get Dailia's voice into the pitch more to make it sound like her story.

    Also notice that I mentioned not only Julep, but also her dad, the dean of students, Tyler (the love interest), and even alluded to her dad's "mark" (the antagonist). I fit all those people into two paragraphs, and it really gives a sense of solidity to Julep's situation. I also describe her world more concretely by referring to her school by name, describing things that happen to her along the way, like hit attempts, stalkers, and following clues.

    Anyhoo, I hope this is helpful! I really love your story idea and think it would make a great addition to the YA shelves!

  10. I am late on this, for which I really apologize, but wonderful job on the revision! That is exactly the kind of detail I had in mind, and the part about torch smoke in the tavern was an awesome sensory touch. I actually don't have anything to say about the pages, I think they sound great!

    I do have some suggestions for the pitch though. It feels very full to me, and because of that, it gets a bit meander-y and hard to follow. Since your writing is more spare and direct, there's a big disconnect.

    My suggestion is to pare it down. Who is this girl, what does she want more than anything and what, or who, is stopping her from getting it? Those are the questions a query should answer. It doesn't have to be much more than that either. It's a teaser, to make people want to read the book.

    I would also warn you about getting too abstract. For example I found the part about new ideas and harmony on the surface very confusing. What does that mean, that new ideas are taking hold? It could be anything from revolution (peaceful or otherwise) to some kind of new magic, or new religion or like, idk, everyone quit their job to pet puppies all day. :D What harmony on the surface? Where is she? A gated community? The hideout of a resistance? Who's being harmonious?

    You don't necessarily have to give us ANY of that information in the query, but if you do, I'd suggest being very concrete and specific.

    I think if you simplify a little and let your voice come out in the query more, it'll be just as awesome as your pages are. You did really good work, and I wish you the best of luck!