Sunday, February 14, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Boyce Rev 1

Amanda Boyce
YA Fantasy
Dragon Slayers

A forest was ablaze with dragon fire, the air choked with belching smoke and the aroma of burning wood. Chaos reigned as people tried to find cover from the dragon's destructive wrath. Jayde almost missed the six Slayers below the trees until they began shouting orders, trying to protect as many humans as they could. They stood their ground as a blood red dragon the size of a small house came into view, its spiked snout and shiny scales glimmering in the moonlight. Jayde was having one of those odd moments when she knew she was dreaming, and watched the scene play out beneath her with a detached sense of alarm. She had no idea where in Celedonia they were; the wooden structures that peppered the trees like ornaments, connecting tree to tree were unfamiliar to Jayde. A pang of shock coursed through her when she recognized one of the Slayers, his radiant grass green eyes that rivaled her own shining up at her, but her unconscious mind remained unfazed as the dream continued without interruption.

Each Slayer took aim with an arrow just as the dragon shot a torrential jet of flames in their direction, blocking all from Jayde's view. Screams of pain and horror resounded in her head as she woke with a start, lurching upright and gasping for breath. Her heart hammered painfully in her chest like she really had been in that forest, dragon flames blasting at her face. She shuddered.

Normally she relished her dreams of dragons (which wasn’t something most Slayers would admit to), but this one, oh, Gods. Micah’s appearance had to be a coincidence. He'd been on her mind almost daily after his letter a month ago, and she'd dreamed of him plenty of times before. Unable to bear the thought of anything happening to him, she shook the horrible vision from her mind and took a deep breath thankful the morning air smelled fresh.

Her heart slowed as she focused on the mountains in the distance bleached of color in the pre-dawn light, Gabriel’s house a short walk away, small plumes of smoke emanating from the chimney, peaceful in its familiarity. A sparrow announced the day from one of the trees overhead; she always slept near trees when she could. It was a habit she formed early on when Caius began her training even though her mother liked to remind her she had a perfectly good bed in her room. Caius never asked her to, but he slept outside so she slept outside. Now she almost felt claustrophobic sleeping indoors.

She closed her eyes and dug her fingers into the damp earth--one of Caius's remedies to ground her after a nightmare. Moments later her eyes snapped open to the sounds of Gabriel and Matthias approaching, their soft voices carrying across the field. They both stopped at her feet, tea cups gripped in their hands, and Gabriel's brow furrowing with worry.

"Anther nightmare?" he guessed as he knelt down beside her and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. She nodded and explained about the red dragon and the Slayers. Matthias's eyebrows rose when she mentioned Micah. "Cathal's team."

"That fits if they were in a forest," Gabriel said. "It must be U'Aste."

Matthias and Gabriel exchanged a look that contained more worry than Jayde thought appropriate. It was, after all, only a dream. But then, Jayde didn't have normal dreams.

"You don't think it's real, do you?" she said. "I mean, a dragon attacking U'Aste; it's not possible, is it?" The idea of a dragon openly attacking and burning down a city anywhere in Celedonia seemed absurd. Such an event hadn't happened in a century. There were still occasional sightings, of course, but the last one had been over eleven years ago when it killed Jayde's father.

"Why is it," she asked Caius once, "that we have to be trained as Slayers if there aren't any dragons to slay?"

He didn't respond immediately and Jayde thought she might have insulted him somehow. To her relief he set aside his bow which he had been polishing and he answered, "There will always be dragons, good and bad. There will always be some sort of threat, and humans will always need protecting and guidance. Slaying dragons is not our only duty." He paused, picked up a small pebble, and began smoothing it between his fingers brushing away the dirt, his pale eyes gazing ahead lost in some unknown recess of thought. "Do you remember what your mother said about her crops yesterday?"

"That they lost their taste," Jayde said immediately. She only remembered because she hadn't noticed a difference in the taste of the potatoes and vegetables on her plate until her mother said something.

Caius looked down a the pebble in his hand. "There may come a day when not just the people of Celedonia need protecting, but also the land itself. It might require magic only the dragons have to heal this land, and we'll want them on our side. They'll know whether we've passed on our knowledge generation to generation, whether we've used these gifts we've been given. Do you think they'd appreciate the waste of not using the strength and the speed and the healing abilities that their blood passed along to you?"

Jayde had never thought of her abilities in such a way before and she did well never to forget the blood of dragons ran through her veins.

Daemyn woke up next to her, interrupting her thoughts. "What's going on?" he said groggily, his dark hair sticking up at the back of his head.

Gabriel explained Jayde's dream to Daemyn and Jayde, suddenly aware of how disheveled she must look in her tangled blanket, quickly ran her fingers through her long auburn hair and secured it in a neat plait that reached her waist.

"Even if it hasn't happened," Daemyn said, "it might still happen in the future, right?"

Jayde shrugged. "That was Caius's theory." She pulled parchment and a quill that contained a store of ink (one of Caius's inventions) from her bag and began recording her latest dream.

After he started training Jayde, Caius took some time before he voiced the suspicion that her dreams were prophetic. Over time they both realized that like Caius, Jayde had visions of the future. Though less intrusive than Caius's abrupt visions, Jayde's dreams were also less obvious and not as easy to remember, so Caius had instructed her to keep a record of her dreams. Each of her collections of parchment were a testament to the fact that most of her occasional prophetic dreams were personal in nature--how their cat died, Aiken getting caught for stealing at the market, Caius coming to visit when she and Aiken were eight. (At the time she thought he was there to train Aiken. No one was more surprised than she was to learn she was the first female dragon Slayer.) She was not accustomed to far-reaching dreams involving places in Celedonia she'd never seen and people she'd never met. She had to admit, however, that a prophetic dream of Micah was just as personal as one of her brother, and as she finished writing all she could remember her stomach twisted painfully at the thought that there was a possibility her dream might actually happen.

She hoped to the Gods it never would.


  1. Wow! I liked the first draft, but this was much better!

    It really helped me to have the background on why she was sleeping outdoors, and more info on what they did.

    I liked the explanation that she has the blood of dragons, I presume most dragon slayers do. It helped to see you separate her kind from the humans, by saying it directly, "There will always be some sort of threat, and humans will always need protecting and guidance. Slaying dragons is not our only duty." this brings in intrigue (what kind of threat, what other duties?) and helps to ground the story.

    I still wonder where they are: a farm? A training arena? her Mom's house? Sounds like she ate dinner there... But the kid their training was her friends kid, so is it his house?

    I look forward to seeing this in print. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Colleen! I really love your 2nd draft as well! I'll work on explaining where they are better.

  3. I maybe wouldn’t let on that this was a dream so quickly.

    I’d rather really get into the meat of the scene, then have her wake up.

    Say ‘admit’, rather than ‘admit to.’

    I like her reasons for sleeping outdoors.

    The mention of Jayde’s father’s death seems almost an aside. I’d give it a little more emotional impact.
    I found Caius’s speech about dragons a little confusing with a lot of run on sentences. Read it out loud to yourself and see what seems natural and what does not. Also, if they’re Slayers, why is Caius so protective of the dragons?

    Not sure what she means about Jayde and the blood of dragons. I know you’ll explain later, but it left me confused.

    In the final paragraph, you repeat the words ‘time’ and ‘less.’

    I’d like more descriptions of everyone, especially Caius. Is he young and virile or old and grizzled? Is he more of a big brother or fatherly figure?

    I really feel that you’re on the crux of creating an amazing universe, but we’re still getting a bit of info dump here. Right now, I’d concentrate on Jayde, Caius and Micah, and introduce Gabriel and Matthias a little later. You don’t want everyone to dissolve into a mental blob in your readers’ minds.

    And maybe not in your first five pages, but very shortly, we need an explanation of what the dragons are and what the Slayers do, exactly. Obviously this is the major point of your novel and your readers need to be on board immediately.

    Thank you for letting me read this compelling beginning.

  4. Thanks so much for your feedback Brian! I'm going to work more on the characters and their descriptions, but I'm trying to get across that they are not fully human, they're half human, half dragon. Do you think this is something that should be explained more, or giving clues as I go would be enough?

    1. Now that's interesting! I didn't catch that, but I only read a few pages.

  5. First paragraph was excellent. I like the description. It must take guts to use arrows against a dragon. I'm visualizing the movie scene from the many levels. Comparing something as simple as air during the dream and after waking up help to connect me to the story. I like this version because now I get why she sleeps outside and why she digs her hands into the ground when she wakes up. I personally can appreciate the sentiment. A character in my MS sleeps out in a snow cave in the middle of the suburbs of Chicago. I found the discussion about the good and bad dragons interesting. The fact that they are trained as dragon slayers, yet they haven't had any action builds the stakes for me. I also enjoyed the concept that they may need something from the dragons. Very interesting direction. Thanks

  6. I liked this version! I think your descriptions and explanations helped ground the reader as to what was going on. I agree that the dream scene could be more powerful if you got into it a little more, making the reader feel like and think that they were there, before revealing it was a dream. I was also a little confused by all the names- maybe focus on only the most significant ones. All in all, I think this is an excellent revision! Nicely done and good luck in the final round!

  7. Hi Amanda!

    Wow, great job of making this opening scene even more dramatic! I liked the old version, but this is much more vivid.

    I like Brian's idea of not letting on that it's a dream right away. You draw the reader in, grabbing their attention with the descriptions and the action. If you do decide to do that, there are possibilities: you could move the sentence where Jayde is aware she's dreaming to the end of the paragraph or the beginning of the next, or you could begin your second paragraph with her waking up.

    This version flows a lot better, and I have a better sense of the characters. However, I didn't catch on either that they're half dragon. You mentioned they have dragon blood flowing through them, so maybe just elaborate a bit more. Is this a physical part of their make-up? Is there a transformation that happens? Perhaps you tell us about that later on in the story, but it's an intriguing idea.

    Overall, great job. I'd definitely read more

    Good luck!