Sunday, July 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Smith Rev 2

Name: Christian Smith
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Ashmore Unbroken

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Ashmore had always suspected his family was
different, maybe even insane to the point of hearing voices and seeing
“ghosts.” All of that begins to change after the plane crash, when a
mysterious otherworldly girl saves him from his untimely death.
Following the accident, Gavin begins to see and hear things just like
the rest of his family.  Gavin learns that an ancient spirit named
Cain has been searching for him and now that he turned sixteen, Gavin
is in grave danger because he bears a centuries-long family curse.
This curse is what keeps Cain stuck between the living and dead
worlds, thus imprisoning him in-between worlds.  However, there is
still one provision to break Cain free - that lies within the very
heart of Gavin Ashmore.

To survive, Gavin must learn to fight Cain. He can only do it with the
help of otherworldly beings named Seraphs. As Gavin trains, he learns
that he has his own unique ability to manipulate spirits, a talent
only one other in history has possessed - Cain. Gavin himself must
decide if he will destroy Cain or take his place as one of the most
powerful beings on the planet.


Chapter 1 – Turbulence

I choked against the thick smoke filling the air. What little oxygen I
could grasp just burned in every inch of my chest.

Glancing up the aisle, the only thing I noticed was sheer panic as the
other passengers sitting single file in front of me gulped and snorted
for oxygen – That is, except for the old woman who sat in front of me
quietly humming to herself as she wore an eerie smile and calmly
looked out the window with glazed eyes.

A man and woman sobbed a few seats in front of me, telling each other
how much they loved one another while holding hands between seats. One
of the businessmen yelled fiercely at a shaking flight attendant,
desperately pleading for a way off the plane and offering money for a

I was going to die. I wasn’t even sixteen and I was going to die.

I shut my eyelids. The smell of gasoline and burnt steel twisted in a
sickening, pungent combination. My stomach lurched and my fingers
burrowed deeper into the armrests.

The seat belt light overhead blared at me angrily. Like that little
piece of fabric was going to help.

I looked to the front of the plane where the smoke had come from. I
wondered what happened to the pilot.  He had been yelling something
just minutes before the smoke crept under the cockpit door.

The engine sputtered on my right side as it completely gave out.

The plane dropped ten feet.

The flight attendant fell sprawled on the floor, spilling a box of
masks she was about to hand out. A tall figure reached down for her,
pushing her hastily to the vacant chair in front.

It was as if someone had taken the fastest roller coaster in the world
and placed it on top of Mount Everest. My stomach was sitting on the
ceiling by now. The plunging motion sickened and exhilarated me all at
the same time.

I looked down at my Ramones t-shirt. My dad had introduced me to them
– And for a split second I just breathed heavily as realization and
acceptance sunk in. At least I would go out of this world wearing my
favorite shirt...

I felt a wrinkled old hand wrap itself around my leg, a dry, creaky
voice piercing through the din. It was the old woman who had been
sitting in the seat in front of mine, muttering prayers or chants.

“Give me your hand my boy,” the woman said. “Such a sweet child like
yourself shouldn’t have to die this way. Beautiful brown hair, just
like him…”

She trailed off.

As her hand reached through the air, her sleeve lifted and I saw a
faint outline of a tattoo, now worn and wrinkled like an old map. A
large emerald ring on her finger glinted with metal serpents wrapping
themselves around the green glowing gem.

Something about her – the voice, the texture of her wrinkles, the
smell of spice cake and flowers - had reminded me of my own nana, for
whom I had boarded this deathtrap to help out after she had fallen and
hurt her hip.

Even though old people creeped me out I gripped her hand tight and
whispered back. “Thanks…I think..”

“What’s your name young man?” She asked dryly.

“Gavin. Gavin Ashmore.”

“Ah yes,” replied the old woman with a sense of recognition.
“Ashmore…Ashmore...Something special about that name…Can’t remember
though…it’s been far too long for my memory. I’m not- I’m not who I
used to me.  You see, I am -”

Another loud crash rang through the air as something mechanical failed
and stole my nerves away.

More screaming.

More crying.

More shouting.

A loud voice rang over the speakers, struggling to eek out words.

“Errr…This is…your captain. “I – errrr,” he gasped. “I will not give
in…AHHHHHHH….they are coming…HE IS COMING….I…I am sorry Gavin Ashmore.
YOU WILL DIE…I-I-am sorry…we will all die…”

Then nothing but static.

The captain mentioned me by name. I wanted to gasp but the suffocating
air bore down on me.

The other engine sputtered and gave out, replacing the tumult with a
grave silence that reverberated death.

No screaming.

No crying.

Not a single shout.

The plane tipped downward, and I felt weightless. The steep motion
thrilled my senses, but at the same time crushed the remaining breath
out of my lungs.

The other passengers must have passed out by now, or given up I figured.

I would die soon also.

I tried to gasp one last breath out, but it was stifled like a flame
choking out. Rolling my eyes back into my skull, I gave into the
darkness that welcomed me.

I heard one more deafening crash.




A faint light danced in front of my face. I would’ve reached out and
grabbed it if I even had an arm. It felt like my consciousness was
just floating somewhere in –between worlds. Time had no meaning – I
could’ve been staring at this thing for the past century and I
would’ve had no idea.

The light exploded in the darkness where I now existed, only to be
replaced suddenly by a small figure - a girl in fact.

A glowing, fiery ring appeared before my view. The girl held it
without getting burned.

She must have been something from another world, because she was
singly the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. In stark
contrast to the chaotic rush before the darkness, she stood calmly
looking down at me. Her skin was porcelain white, while her hair sat
in tight, jet-black ringlets on her head. Her eyes were the purest
blue that could have been created. Flowing white wisps surrounded her
as her dress enveloped her body.  She looked down at me, frowning with

I tried to reach her, but without an embodied hand, I just watched
silently. She spoke, almost singing as she did so. Though she looked
in my direction, it didn’t seem like she was speaking to me, but
calling out to something…or someone.

It sounded like some kind of Latin to me.


She repeated it over again, as she reached out her gentle fingers. A
glowing ball of light appeared at the tip of her index finger, and she
placed it where my forehead should have been.

She spoke again, “I have been watching you Gavin Ashmore…you must not
die. You are far too important for this world.”

A blast of radiance engulfed my consciousness. I was instantly sucked
back into my body like a vacuum.

My eyes shot open, but it was still pitch black.

I labored to breathe – something stifled me like a plastic bag. Sweat
trickled down my forehead, making my eyes sting. I could hear distant
voices muffled through whatever was wrapped around me.

I reached out my now embodied hand and pushed the plastic away from my
face. I scratched and pinched at it until I felt an ice-cold metal
object against my hot skin.

I closed my fingertips around it and pulled the zipper down hard–
Daylight exploded into my vision and blinded my eyes like a flash

I bolted up from a black body bag, thrashing and kicking at it to free myself.

“Over here!” Someone shouted. “There’s a live one!”


  1. Hi Christian. Wow. I wasn't expecting Gavin's story to be what the pitch said! Sounds like it's going to be exciting.

    About your pitch: When writing pitches, you want to keep sentences as concise and strong as possible. It should never feel wordy or convoluted. You should make sure you introduce your character, what he or she wants, what's in his or her way, and what's at stake if he or she loses. Pitches should sound like the "movie trailer" narrator. Every sentence should be on point, leading to a hook that makes the reader want to know more.

    There are places where your pitch gets wordy. For example, I would cut "maybe even insane to the point of" from your first sentence. As well as lines like, "All of that begins to change after the plane crash..." Instead consider lines such as, "After a mysterious, otherworldly girl saves him from an untimely death in a plane crash, Gavin begins to see and hear things, too, just like his family." I conflated a couple of sentences there, keeping all of the necessary info, but paring it down so it's tight.

    For the rest of that first paragraph, cut down the length, focusing on the necessary points. Instead of hinting at the answer, just name it outright. "To break free, Cain needs..." That puts the conflict front and center.

    I would start the second paragraph with the Seraphs, saying something like, "But Gavin isn't in this fight alone". Then explain who they are, talk about his training, and his newfound abilities. This should all lead to this crisis decision point: whether he will destroy Cain or take his place. I'm not sure what that means, or why Gavin would want to take his place. Which means I don't really know what Gavin wants. That needs to be in there. Whatever he wants is going to hinge on this crisis point. I also need to know what's at stake. What happens if he loses? Those two things are missing right now. When you incorporate them, keep it concise and tight. Remember to hook your reader, making them want to know what happens to Gavin.

    About your pages: They’ve come a long way! You've done so much work on them, and it shows. You've made a lot of good decisions both in what you've taken out and what you've added in. I like how consistent and authentic Gavin’s voice is, and I like the mysteriousness of the old woman. The contrast of screaming and crying to silence after the engine goes out is good, too.

    The second paragraph is one long sentence. I think it will read more smoothly if it's broken into two or three.

    "I was going to die. I wasn’t even sixteen and I was going to die." would work really well after the first paragraph.

    The tall figure still confuses me a bit. I'm not sure if I should read it as human or supernatural.

    I would cut "I figured" at the end of the sentence about others being passed out. It's stronger without.

    Because the first section ends with "Then, nothing" I would cut the "then nothing but static" after the pilot's lines. So it doesn't echo.

    In the second section, I would cut "in fact" after "a girl". The sentence is stronger without it.

    There are some echoes of "to me" and "at me" in the interaction with the girl. Cut any that you don't need. For example, "It sounded like some kind of Latin" doesn't need the "to me". Be sure to read your pages out loud and listen for any echoes or places that you trip over.

    "Like a plastic bag" from "I labored to breathe…” gives too much away, I think. Leave the word “bag” for the ending.

    I'm so impressed with the changes you've made and how much you've polished these pages. You should be really proud. It's been a pleasure reading your work this month. I hope my comments have been helpful. Best wishes with Gavin's story and with your writing journey!


  2. Amy, you're awesome! Thank you so much for the feedback these past couple weeks. I wish I could have you on my shoulder like a little conscience angel telling me what I need to cut out. Thanks for your help:)

  3. From Tanusri:

    PITCH: YA fantasy is such a crowded genre and it is often hard to make a pitch stand out. You have an interesting idea here and there is a lot of scope to polish this pitch to hook the reader. We don’t need to know everything that happens, just enough to make the reader intrigued enough to want to read on. I would suggest paring down the detail a bit.

    FIVE PAGES: Opening with the air-crash scene is a bold choice and props for that! I wonder though whether a slower start would help you pace the book? You can build up the pace as the reader learns more about Gavin and his family. It would be so interesting to see why Gavin thinks his family is different (can see ghosts etc.) with some incidents in his daily life to begin with and then you could go on to more exciting developments. Also the captain’s message was a tad over-written and gave it a bit of a parody-like feel, so you may want to reword a bit to maintain a sense of seriousness and danger. Keep at it!

    All best,


  4. Christian,

    Great job with your pitch and revision. I enjoyed reading both. For you pitch, my only advice is to boil it down to the essence of your story by writing a tweet-length (140 characters) pitch or synopsis of your story and then work from there to add a few more details. Less can be more in a pitch, and I agree with Amy that word economy is essential. I need to do the same with my own :)

    I like the changes you made to this revision. Your writing and scenes are tighter. I like opening on the plane, but I do wonder what it would be like if you opened a minute or two before the crash. You might be able to give the reader a little bit of information (without it being an info-dump) that would add weight to crash scene.

    Your plot sounds very interesting and unique. I would love to read more.


  5. Christian,

    I really enjoyed reading this second revision and your pitch. I have noticed such a change in your first pages. Your descriptions are much tighter and you have removed many words that acted as filler and slowed down your pacing. I think you are right to have added more detail to the beginning, even though I’m sad that we didn’t get to read more of chapter two. Reading your pitch though, I think there is more you could add. I didn’t get any sense of Gavin’s family and that he feels they are strange. Since he is going to visit his grandmother, that could be a way to drop in a line (maybe he’s dreading she’ll bring up all that “mumbo jumbo” spirit stuff).

    Even though you tightened things up quite a bit, there are a few places I thought could be tightened even more. For example, the last three lines before the section break could be omitted and leave us with more of a sense of suspense. Also, in the early part of the chapter there are a few unnecessary adverbs and adjectives that weigh down some sentences. For example, “One of the businessmen yelled fiercely at a shaking flight attendant, desperately pleading for a way off the plane and offering money for a parachute.” It could be rewritten, “A business man thrust his wallet at a flight attendant as he pleaded for a parachute.”

    Lastly, I noticed a few places where you give reactions before your actions. One place is when the girl speaks. I would state her words, “Sanetus,” first before giving Gavin’s reaction. You also could leave out the part about Latin (the reader can make that connection) and just show us Gavin’s confusion.

    Again, your pitch sounds so exciting and I really enjoyed reading your opening pages. You have a great premise and I wish you the best of luck!

  6. Christian! Your revisions are so good! I was completely pulled in and immersed in your story while I was reading. You've added just the right amount of detail to build your MC and slow down the scene so that I feel like I'm watching what's happening all around! Your writing in these first 5 pages is so much tighter and cleaner - really, really great job. I also love your premise. It sounds dark, exciting and full of action and suspense. Best of luck to you as you continue on your writing journey Christian! I really enjoyed reading your work and working with you. Your story is exciting!

  7. Hi again, Christian!

    First of all I have to applaud you -- your writing has gotten so much cleaner over the workshop that the opening felt more riveting than the first time I read it!! There are still a couple of added words that can go like "by now" at the end of sentences -- remember less is sometimes more dramatic.

    This now ends in the perfect spot I think for the first five pages.

    The pitch: Really interesting premise but to me the standout was that his internal arc ended with a choice between embracing the power or getting rid of the bad guy. I think it would be sort of cool to see someone who considers giving in to that temptation for once. I agree that it should again be smoothed down a bit. Again, less is more. Set up the character, his goal, what's in the way, and the stakes.

    Best of luck with this!!

  8. Christian,
    I really enjoyed reading your revision! I think your opening is suspenseful. I like how you reworked the old women so that Gavin notices she is acting strangely. The woman has piqued my curiosity along with the captain and I'm wondering what is going to happen to Gavin.

    I like the contradiction of the old woman having tattoos and a servant ring with the spice cake. It makes her unique.

    The only comment I have is when the girl arrives to give life to Gavin, maybe have Gavin start off recognizing he is dead and nothing but a floating conscious (but in your words ha).

    Otherwise, your pitch and premise are interesting. I definitely look forward to reading more of your work. I wish you the best of luck!

  9. Thank you to all for the comments and feedback! I'm really happy with how this all turned out. I wish you all the best of luck on your endeavors. Make friends with me on the Twitter so I can stalk you when you're famous:)