Sunday, June 19, 2016

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Tran Rev 2

Name: Teresa Tran
Title: Fortox
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The world of Realiswefn, a world where some people are gifted with the ability to rouse elements, is divided into six nations:

Aethers: life, creation, and light

Violets: air, wind, and dust

Cyans: water, storms, and seafoam

Emeralds: earth, fissures, and riches

Scarlets: fire, auras, and heat

Fortoxes: death, destruction, and darkness

It has been eighteen years since people have last seen the Fortoxes, a race of mysterious warriors and spies that live behind a hidden Veil, preventing anyone from entering or leaving, save for their Compeer, Imara. But one year, when natural phenomena, controlled by a mysterious benefactor, begin to wreak havoc on the citizens that live on the Emerald, the leaders that rule Realiswefn try to reel out the Compeer of the Fortoxes to help them figure out a solution. With a surprise attack on a neutral nation and the kidnapping of two royal members, an unlikely group of rogues and rousers, each with their own harbor of secrets, must come together to embark on a heist to rescue the two royal members back before the natural phenomena threaten to consume them all.

Imara believed there were three types of dawn.

The first dawn came when twilight just began, the perpetual blanket of darkness touched again by a hazy cascade of purples and blues. The catalyst to Imara’s race against time, as if the day was already running and she was panting, panting, panting to catch up, all the while trying not to trip on her own two feet.

The second shade of dawn was a shy pale light peeking through the folds of the Cyan sea and a sky full of stars, a sudden flare of energy and brightness that shined over the entire world of Realiswefn as if saying, I am coming. Prepare for me.

And last, though she told no one, the third shade of dawn and Imara’s favorite was the one that bathed the world in orange light, with soft strokes of yellow, gold and red, where it blended with the jungles that wrapped its vines across the realm. It somehow always made Imara feel restless and alive like she had better spit out words before they got caught in her throat or accomplish something grand and spectacular. Fleeting moments became something more –an ocean of possibilities.

However, the dawn that greeted Imara that morning twisted everything she had come to believe. The sky was clouded in diluted gray fog, cleverly hiding the sun. In its place were messy streaks and flashes of green and onyx. Rays normally cast by the bright sun had turned into sinister shadows that came out to play—grasping greedily towards where the sun should have been with its fingers. A rebellion with itself.

“There is something wrong with the sky, Compeer,” said a woman next to Imara. Imara and the woman were standing at the highest point of a citadel carved from one of the many tall mountains that surrounded their people’s lands. Where windows should have been, the arches that gave the fortress its structure framed out to open space.

Leaning on one side of a black stone arch, Imara felt a cold breeze whip at her skin, causing her to shiver slightly. Yet, she did not draw her cloak tighter around her. Instead, she let the wind rustle her dark locs, billow the midnight fabric behind her, and clear her head. The woman standing next to her, sheltered in leather flaps and a similar cloak, was waiting for Imara to acknowledge her.

“Spit it out, General,” Imara said.

“We received a few letters from one of our neighbors. This was the latest.” Imara’s second-in-command handed over a piece of parchment laddered with whiplash marks as if it had traveled through a very bad storm. Imara read through it. Then she read it again. She looked up from above the top of the letter, widening her eyes slightly.

“Is she being serious?” Imara asked.

“She might or might not be, but they do call her Kosher Kepi for a reason.” her general replied.

When Imara did not shift her expression, her general straightened. “We have two options, Compeer. One: We can ignore the plea. Or two: we can send one letter back, made of shadows and reeking of death—”

“That seems a bit dramatic,” Imara interrupted, moving her gaze to look back at the letter. She began to pace atop the citadel, her mind processing the words.

“Those bastard leaders have been trying to glimpse a Fortox for the past eighteen years, Compeer! These letters could be no different.” Her general gestured to the letter in Imara’s hand. “Another desperate attempt to reel you out from the depths of the shadows and to come out into the light. It would not be wise to help them.”

“You mean it would not be wise to risk our people,” Imara said.

“There will always be risk. If the reputation that precedes the Fortoxes has any say in how people treat us. But if is indeed a trick, bait made especially for you…we will not be wholly unprepared in the manner of defense. You have assured that, have you not?”

Imara looked down and flexed her hand, a ring gleaming on one of her long fingers, the black band a shade darker than her skin. Etched into the band was a symbol of two hands covered in shadows outstretched from a gray mountain. Her reminder. Her promise.

When Imara looked back up, her general was looking at her with hard, analyzing eyes; tracking Imara’s every single movement. The way she had looked at her ring.

“And the third option?” her general inquired. Imara raised her eyebrow in silent question, for she had not been the one to come up with options one or two. Her general looked back with an equal appraising expression. “I am no fool, Imara. You have already made up your mind, despite the consequences.”

Imara turned away, knowing that if she had her way, she would shed her cloak and leave for the nearest town where responsibility did not exist and adventure awaited. “The third option would be to go. These letters are different. Something is wrong, something not even our spies know about. If the letters do not lie, then it is my duty as Compeer of the Fortoxes to do whatever I can to help. I leave now.” Her general hesitated, and then nodded in resignation.

“Will you need me?” her general asked.

“I’ll always need you.”

“You know what I mean.” A hushed rise of emotion in her general’s voice was clear.

“I will call for you when necessary. I think it is best for me to go alone. Two Fortoxes on foreign soil so early in the morning cannot be good for the digestion,” Imara said.

One corner of her general’s mouth twitched. “No, perhaps not.”

As the two women stood there in comfortable silence observing the range of mountains that lay in the far distance, cutting through gray fog, Imara’s general did not need to remind her to be careful. Leaving the safety of their fortress to eavesdrop on the workings of Realiswefn was one thing, to reveal that the Fortoxes were active this entire time was quite another.

“The Fortress will hold?” Imara asked.

“The Fortress will hold,” her general repeated quietly. She stepped back to give Imara room.

Looking back one last time at her land, her home, a coil of unease clenched Imara’s stomach. And yet, there it was, beneath the fear, a thrill of anticipation.

I am coming. Prepare for me.

Without another word to her general, Imara rolled her shoulders. Her shadow began to writhe and expand before it wrapped its’ entirety around her body, blending in with her cloak, and Imara vanished, the letter propelling her forward.

‘To the Compeer of the Fortoxes, my most reverent greeting,

Because you know and I know that the Fortoxes have never been one to be forward. Or to bother taking part with the rest of Realiswefn. But let me not mistake your people’s idleness these past eighteen years as an ample version of generosity.

Our world has changed and a great danger approaches; one that will affect your people and all of Realiswefn if we do not stop it. If you have any care for the world you live in, that you are a part of, meet me before sunrise tomorrow, as time has made me a very impatient person.

You know where the wind is harsher and the dust is thinner.

Queen Kepi of the Violets, the people of air.’


  1. Imagine the letter at the end in italics; apostrophes can only do so much.

  2. Hi Teresa,

    I like the addition of the darker dawn. Your description of the other types of dawn were beautiful, but the extra description also makes them more relevant. I think I also like the placement of the letter, at the end of the pages (though it probably also depends on what comes next).

    As always, I love the relationship between Imara and the General. However, I think some of the dialogue in this revision seems a little out of place. For example, the General starts by saying, "Something is wrong with the sky." But the first thing Imara says back to her is, "Spit it out." And I feel like she's talking about something entirely different. But in the paragraphs between the General's statement and Imara's reply, there's not much indication that Imara thinks her General is holding something back, or waiting to speak. Then, later on, the General gives her two options, but asks about the third. It doesn't quite read naturally for me.

    I think this revision has drawn us gradually but inevitably into the world you've created and it has definitely intrigued me. Nicely done!

    I like the dynamic in your pitch regarding the different elements and how they might interplay. Regarding your pitch, I enjoyed it but I liked the large paragraph better than the explanation beforehand. I think that showing a strong sense of your story is more important in a pitch than ensuring that we get all the details.

    Thanks for all your comments in the workshop, I've really had a good experience here and learned so much with your help. Best of luck with the novel, and with everything else!

  3. Hi Teresa,

    Thanks so much for your help and comments this workshop, they've been incredibly valuable.

    I'm glad I got to read another version of your draft! I think this is probably your strongest in terms of drawing us in gradually. The three types of dawn paired with the dawn Imara is looking at in this scene is really powerful, and it slowly grounds us in the opening scene. Great job!

    I agree with Claire's comments about her conversation with the General. I was quite confused throughout their exchange, because I didn't quite know what their thought process was and no indication that they wanted to speak in the first place, etc.

    I find your pitch really compelling - yay elementals! I like how you've broken down the world in the beginning, but similar to Claire, I didn't find it the best way to begin a pitch where the beginning is the most important in drawing an agent or reader in. In regards to the larger paragraph at the end of your pitch, I would recommend really focusing on what Imara's specific role is in the story to make her more active throughout the pitch. Also, when you can provide more detail you should do so (I thought 'natural phenomena' was too vague and brought up more questions than it answered).

    Thanks again for all of your feedback and your wonderful writing. I wish you the best of luck and hope to see your stories on the shelves one day!


  4. Hi, Teresa,

    Wow, you're really finding your story in these pages. As others have mentioned, I think the relationship between Imara and the general is super strong and that makes me want to read about them. The sentence "Something is wrong with the sky" could be a good opening line--it suggests conflict, and wouldn't prevent you from including your poetic passages about the three kinds of dawn.

    Along that line, I would suggest you either move or trim the mini info-dump about the different races and instead focus on the main character and the conflicts she will face. She's the heart of your book--and a great character. Put the spotlight on her from the get-go!

    Your powers of description are impressive--your word choices were lush and evocative. I wanted to fall into this world and stay there.

    Great revision! Onward.


  5. Hi Teresa! Love seeing each stage of your revisions. It keeps getting better with each one. Your pitch needs work. You should to start with a solid hook. The query should be enticing and not have any backstory or explanations about the different nations. I’d delete everything from the first paragraph to the Fortoxes description.

    You should start with the character. Introduce the character whose story we’ll be following. As is, your query is focused on the people and not Imara. It should be what she faces and what she has to do to accomplish her goals in this story. Come up with a hook paragraph, and then add an enticing mini-synopsis that includes the conflict and stakes. I have a post here about queries that could help you:

    I like that you moved the letter and put it as a whole instead of breaking it up between the dawns’ descriptions. I won’t remark further on the opening pages since I’ve already given my thoughts on that before. Except for, it feels like there is actually four types of dawns than only three to me. I love your writing. I’m still not pulled into the story with the many paragraphs of the dawns., but others may feel or do feel differently than me. This is your story, and you should always tell it the way that feels right to you. Wonderful job! I’m crossing my fingers it does well in the next round!

  6. Teresa,

    As a whole this is an awesome revision. It flows and it’s easy to let the narration paint a picture in my head. However I do feel like you use too many adjectives and adverbs, and so many of them stop wowing me and instead start annoying me.

    The dawn opening is sweet. I like it :). It gets a little lengthy though. I feel that the first sentences of each of the dawn paragraphs are really good, and they’re also good standalone. If you trim the explanation of Imara’s view of dawn to just those few sentences, then not only would we get a glimpse of beautiful writing, but we would also start the interesting part of the story sooner. The fourth dawn paragraph leaves me wondering if there’s magic involved in the way the sky looks that morning.

    I agree with Nancy, about the opening line “There is something wrong with the sky, Compeer,” being really interesting. It could be your opening line and you’d have me reading, asking for more.

    Why is the general saying that they want the Fortoxes to come out of “the depths of the shadows”? It doesn’t seem to me that they live in darkness. Imara just described four dawns. The way it’s presented here, it sounds more literal than a figure of speech. Maybe consider clarifying that somewhat, to not mislead your reader too soon, since we’re still trying to get a hang of the story.

    I really like the little details you sprinkle through. With each little detail I get a better sense of this world. You do a great job in that regard.

    And regarding your pitch, I’d recommend to rework it entirely. Start it with a hook and with your important character. Don’t give us backstory. Give us motivation and stakes and maybe even make us fear of the consequences. But really your character should be at the forefront of the pitch.

    So thanks for joining me in this critique workshop! I learned a lot from your comments and everyone else’s. I hope my critique was of some help :).


  7. I'd love to read this book, I'll be honest with you. The revision is coming along great! The one thing I'd definitly suggest is reading your work out loud at this point. I noticed a few rough spots, especially in the dialogue. (Which is totally normal. My flow always suffers when I've been revising a lot.)

    Let's look at your pitch. As much as I'm fascinated by the different races, it's not really the best place to start. As Nancy said, the spotlight should be on your main character, and I'd add that's especially true for your pitch.

    Basically a short pitch or query letter should answer the following questions. 1. Who is your main character? 2. What does she want? and 3. What is stopping her from getting it?

    I'm assuming Imara is your main character, since that's who you started with, and if she is, we're already know the answers to these questions. We know she's the Compteer of the Fortoxes, fairy folk with powers of darkness and shadow and death. We know she wants to keep her people safe and secluded, but also secretly wishes for adventure. We know that her goal of staying isolated is being prevented by this letter and the growing threat it represents, which draws her out and forces her to make choices she might otherwise have avoided.

    (At least that's everything I've gotten from your first five pages, haha. If I'm way off base, you may want to tweak some things.)

    In my opinion, that information should be the heart of your query. The breakdown of the other races is cool, but not really needed here. We know Imara and her people are one kind, and the Violets are another, and that there are other leaders besides. The existence of more kinds of fairy people is already hinted at.

    Basically, narrow the focus and tell us about Imara and you'll have a much stronger pitch. :)

    I really enjoyed reading and critiquing your work, Teresa. Good luck!

  8. Hey, Teresa! First, I apologize for my late comment. I've been dealing with a bit of an emergency this week!

    Second, I love what you've done with this opening! I think adding the letter at the end was a genius revision rather than dispersing it through the beginning. As I've said before, I think your descriptions of dawn are flawless and your prose is gorgeous, and now we're able to appreciate them without any confusion.

    I am interested what Imara's relationship with her general is exactly. They seem to have more going on than just a leader/general hierarchy--why does Imara get so emotional when the general asks if she needs her? If there is more going on here, I think it would help to see a little more of that on the page, even this early. If this relationship is something important to Imara and it would devastate her if it was lost, I want to feel those stakes--what if Imara never comes back and never gets to see the general again? This type of groundwork very early can make us really invest in the MC's journey.

    I felt the beginning of the pitch was strong. Opening with a description of the nations really helps set the stage and flows nicely. However, I thought the second paragraph was difficult to get through as a pitch. In my opinion, there was too much set up and not high enough stakes. It might be stronger if you listed the nations, and then explained what the MC must do to achieve her goal, and what stands to be lost if she does not. Imara is such an interesting and powerful character; I want to know about her!

    All in all, I think this is great and I would definitely read this book. Thank you for sharing your work with us! I hope you are hugely successful with this.