Sunday, November 13, 2016

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Forrester Rev 1

Name: T.K. Forrester
Genre: Young Adult: Fantasy
Title: Milka & the Ice Dragon

Milka’s hands sliced through the water. Ahead by an arm’s length, she could feel him gaining.  Adrenaline spiked through her with every fervored last stroke. Lifting her head for a final breath, she glimpsed a shadowy figure darting among the bushes.

Milka jolted mid-stroke. The hem of a cloak fluttered through the shrubs beside the odd-shaped giant rock in the clearing by the water’s edge. She blinked, and in an instant it was gone. The smooth limestone pebbles at the bottom of the stream rubbed against her feet, sparkling as she stared intently at the bush.

"Did you see that?” She turned to Xander who'd stopped swimming abruptly.

“What?” Xander wiped his eyes. “I don’t see anything.”

Milka panted heavily, her pulse still rising. Someone’s over there, someone’s spying on them. The two friends stood waist deep in the stream that zigzagged through the trees, down to the fields behind the village, momentarily halting their daily swim challenge. Milka could tell Xander’s annoyance by the frown flitting across his face. His elfish features scrunched together as he looked towards the embankment.

Leaves rustled to her left, “Did you hear that?” Milka spun her head around, but saw only the clearing, with its soft grass and sprinkles of bright wildflowers, surrounded by tall pine trees.

“Nope.” said Xander,

“Come on you must have heard that?”

“No, I didn’t! Christ, you’re jittery today. How you even heard anything amidst the gush of the stream and usual forest noise is beyond me ... maybe it was just your imagination”

Milka opened her mouth for a snarky retort but closed it after another rustle caught her attention. It’s definitely coming from over there.

“Shh.”Putting her finger to her lips, she emerged from the water and crept toward the bush beside the large rock. Xander trudged behind her, shaking his sagging mop of curly red hair so droplets of water splashed against her skin. Milka shivered, not from the water but by the unsettling feeling they were not alone.

On the bank, she peered into the bush cautiously but was nudged away by Xander who stuck his face in before pulling it out just as fast.

“Well, there’s nothing there.” He proceeded to front flip onto the rock where he hand-walked to its edge. “And ... there’s nothing around here either.”

“Hmm.” Milka nibbled the bottom of her lip, looking beyond the clearing where the green tops of the pines towered against the backdrop of a cloudless sky as if an artist’s brush had painted it so. The scent of the pines tickled her nose. Where did the person disappear to? She brought her focus back to the bush, taking in every little detail.

“I could have sworn I saw someone move back there, he or she was watching us.”

Xander turned about slowly, his gaze roaming over the clearing."I doubt your Grandmother would send a search party for us whilst there’s still sunlight.

Just then two squirrels scurried from the trees, fiddling with some dried pine cones lying on the ground.

Xander lifted his brows, “your ‘mysterious’ culprits.”

 “I think I’d know the difference between a squirrel and a person.” Milka snapped.  However, his words had gotten to her.  Am I imagining things or was it a shadow? The light is fading after all. Yet the prickly sensation on the back of her neck refused to go away. She sighed, “Perhaps I am jittery today.”

Xander glanced from Milka to the squirrels then back again. “Look, all I know, is you stopped our race moments before finishing and you’ve yet to fully explain yourself.”

“What are you taking about?”

Xander held out his palm “It’s that McKinley streak of yours, you just couldn’t face losing could you?”

“Lose, you say?” Her eyebrow raised in contradiction.

An hour earlier the two friends dove into the challenge of swimming three times up to Brook Knells and back. Petite and athletic Milka enjoyed these games; not because they brought respite from her increasing manor chores, but she was good at them—especially swimming.

 “Yes. I said lose.” Xander smirked.

She wanted to give him a good twat. If she conceded a loss she’d never hear the end of it.

“Alexander Mayfield, you know well and good I beat you twice since evening and was on my way to winning for a third time. A thousand arms couldn’t have helped you to beat me.”

“Is that so?” The grin started first at his mouth, then slowly spread to his freckled nose, making its way up to his hazel eyes alight with mischief. “By my calculations, I was about to swim past you when you supposedly saw someone. Am I to believe this person up and vanished into thin air? A rather flimsy excuse, if you ask me.” A snicker escaped his mouth.

Milka wasn’t impressed. The gall of him! She lifted a finger to give him a good telling off but was side-tracked by something close to where she’d seen the squirrels.

“Look!” Milka sped over to the spot. A huge mark imprinted into ground.

“Well, it’s not a shoe mark," Xander said pointedly,

“A bear’s claw perhaps.” Milka suggested.

“No, look at the size of this thing.” Crouching low, he placed his palm in its center. "There isn’t a beast in Pashdom big enough to make this mark. It’s likely a trick of the recent rains and mud.”

“Hmm.” Milka furrowed her brows. “I don’t know ... first a figure in the trees and now this. Something strange is happening here today, I can feel it.”

"Right, a person who vanished and a mark made by the rain … my friend, what you have, is an overactive imagination.” Xander scoffed. "Admit defeat and I'll forgive you ruining the race earlier."

“I'll do no such thing. You’re lucky I’m not an Orgait, or I’d have you spinning in the air for such stubbornness.”

Though Milka spoke lightly, Xander’s whole demeanor changed; familiar sympathy evident in his eyes. “It's only been six months since your fifteenth birthday, I’ve a feeling my luck will run out soon. The left side of his mouth curled into a half-grin. “But until then, I’ll just as soon continue to hassle you.”

“Quite optimistic of you to think I’ll ever be able to do magic.” Milka sighed.

“Hey, you know me.” The grin broadened.

“Well, more fool you.” For his sake, she put on a smile. “Anyway, I don’t care about all that anymore.” Milka tossed out the words, careful to avoid looking at him. She knew from experience his gaze missed nothing.

For as long as she could remember, the Miller’s son had been her best friend, partner in crime, fellow sleuth, or trouble companion as Grandma Esme liked to call him. Though he drove her crazy, he always knew what to say; she just didn’t feel like talking about her magic problems today.

“Come on, we’ve stayed long enough,” She moved towards their meager belongings pausing to gaze at the stream. The water, the trees, and even the gigantic rock—this was truly her favorite place in the world. Here, she could forget about her parents’ death. The fact she barely remembered their faces bothered her. Sometimes she’d stare at the stream, hoping if she looked long enough she’d see her mother’s reflection instead of her own. Needless to say, it never worked. Milka’s blue eyes would pierce back, her oval face clouding with sadness.


  1. I like the part you added at the beginning. It puts us in the setting better. The conversations are crisper also. I don't see too much change but it felt like it flowed.
    Watch when you italicize. At the beginning you said 'someone's watching them' but if it's in her head, she'd say us.
    The addition of the black cloak was a nice touch too. I could see it in my mind.

    I'd go through it for 'filters' like she heard or she saw (even synonyms). I saw a couple of those throughout. So good revision, just tighten a little more and you should be good.

  2. T.K., nice job revising. The setting up of the action in the first paragraph makes a huge difference. Your opening really pulls me in quicker. Nicely done.

    You kept the light/casual feel of the dialogue, but it feels more grown up and tighter than before. I feel like we’re getting more information in fewer words. The pace is much quicker.

    Like Toasha pointed out, I too noticed the filter words. When I read them, I see the character watching something rather than just seeing the world through the character’s eyes. In the same vein, I don’t think you need quite as many adverbs as you have (e.g., “stared intently,” “stopped . . . abruptly,” “panted heavily,” “peered . . . cautiously.”) A lot of these are already implied by the words around them. Also, I’m pretty sure you have one typo. I think you meant swat.

    A bigger issue is that I feel like the tension sags a bit when we get to the squirrels. I recognize that is the moment when we’re getting character development. Maybe the problem I’m feeling is that there isn’t any real tension between the two. I’m not sure. I do think Milka staring into the water hoping to see her parents is interesting, and I’d almost prefer to see it higher. Maybe it’s playing in the background a bit while she’s talking with Xander? I have no idea. Sorry to identify something only vaguely and have even less idea what to do about it.

    Last thing, a small thing, you describe Xander as having elfish features. Is he actually an elf? Given that this is fantasy with dragons, I had thought he was. That seemed likely since he is doing front flips and walking on his hands. The characters’ last names threw me, though. They didn’t sound like standard fantasy elf surnames, so now I doubt it. Anyway, I thought I would throw that out as a tiny bit of confusion on my part.

    I think you’ve done really great work here on your revisions.

  3. Thanks for your comments.

    @Toasha I'll try to cut down on the 'Filter words. I did breakup the description of the place, interspersing it with dialogue as you had suggested.

    @ Kyle regarding the word 'twat' I meant it as a good slap or strike but can change if it causes confusion.

    In terms of tension... remember Xander doesn't really believe Milka saw anything and is annoyed at her cutting the race short . Milka is conflicted and wonders if it's her imagination. I did however add the claw mark shortly after the squirrels to add intrigue/mystery.

    Very observant about Xander, he is in fact part elf, his father is human hence his regular surname 'Mayfield'... but of course I can't give it all away in the first scene :)
    The part about Milka's parents is crucial but I don't think I can play it any higher because it sets up the following scene. I don't want to risk putting too much background so high in the tale. This is another thing Milka will have to figure out during her journey.

    Again many thanks


  4. Your first paragraph opens nicely now and has a good rhythm to it. I would suggest changing “him” to “Xander.”

    Do you mean every fevered stroke? Fervor is a word but it doesn’t work here.

    In the first paragraph, perhaps identify “Xander” is gaining on her, not the neutral “him.”

    If she is staring at the bush, how do we know that the limestone pebbles are sparkling? Perhaps have her look down after she looks at the rock.

    Speaking of rocks, a bush and a rock are both very ordinary. Why not use those nouns to convey something more sinister? : A rustling bush; a giant rock that resembles a toad… See what I mean?

    Does this fantasy world have a Christ-like figure? The mention of elfish features would make one think that this is a fantasy world and has its own deities.

    Someone’s over there, MILKA THOUGHT, someone’s spying on us.

    Did you know that Milka is a German chocolate? It is.

    This is coming along nicely. I do think that you may be able to cut their banter a little short. We see that they are the best of friends and you have conveyed that well.

    Nice job on this revision.

  5. Ron I like how you think! I've been searching for a shape for the rock and could only come up with rabbit, it didn't quite fit so I omitted. However, toad will work quite nicely. Will also take your other suggestions.
    On the matter of deities, as it stands now their religion mirrors ours on earth. They often say stuff like... 'God's beard lad!' but in truth this is the only time I've used the word Christ so I'll lose it. I'll find something else to convey the Xander's annoyance.
    Also I didn't know Milka was a German chocolate! But I've come to really like the name, I think I'll keep it :)

    Thanks again for your input, appreciate it.

  6. I too like the addition of the cloak, it makes it clear that she did see something and isn't losing her mind. :)
    I agree with the looking at the rock and somehow seeing the pebbles issue. I honestly feel like the pebbles description slows it down a bit there. I'm drawn into the action of her maybe seeing something and adding that bit right there seems a little forced and distracting.

    When you use the italics the first time, for her saying she saw something, I feel like that should just be said.

    I feel like the last two sentences of paragraph five (his scrunched up features and annoyance) could easily fit together into one sentence. The seem kind of repetitive as they are, even with the added info of the second.

    At the end of paragraph ten when she says, it's definitely over there, that seems like a thought so I'd expect it to be italicized like the other thoughts but it isn't, which throws me off a bit.
    The changes to the part where he looks into the bushes and around the rock really helped me picture it better. Good work there.
    I feel like by the end of the scene you've lost the urgency of it. Maybe add something at the end, when they're leaving, that mentions how that day's events have scarred the place she loves so much, or at least clouded it? I'd imagine this mystery person/thing will return in the story so you don't want to lose it's grip on her.

  7. Hi, T.K.! I agree with the comments above; you've done a terrific job tightening and also adding some important details. Yay!

    I do agree about the filter words. Taking them out would make things feel more immediate and real and like we're in Milka's head

    And yes, I would replace "twat" since it has an anatomical meaning that might confuse readers.

    Regarding the issue of creating even more urgency and tension ... I wonder if you might throw in a brief, intriguing clue or two of what's about to happen, or what may have happened before this, to make Milka so jittery. Is this the first time Milka was followed or thinks she was followed? Why does she feel that she is being followed, versus there are some kids playing in the woods? Is there an event coming up soon that has her feeling nervous and maybe a bit paranoid? Something like (and apologies for my lame examples):

    However, his words had gotten to her. Am I imagining things or was it a shadow? The light is fading after all. Yet the prickly sensation on the back of her neck refused to go away. And just last week, there had been that strange incident at the fair.


    Yet the prickly sensation on the back of her neck refused to go away. Although maybe it was just her nervousness about the town meeting tomorrow. So much was at stake.

    Anyway ... great job, and I'm excited to read your next draft!

    1. Thanks Nancy!

      Again appreciative of your insights. I see what you mean about adding intrigue. I tried to add something that i think might work.

      Oh and I lost the word "twat!"

  8. I'm sorry I didn't get this in sooner! I feel really bad about it.

    That said, WOW! What a vast improvement from the last version. I love the addition of the region/country's name that adds to our knowledge of what this might turn into.

    I wouldn't use the word Christ unless this is an alternate world, which I don't think it is since dragons and elves live there.

    More voice would help. Words or phrases that bring us to our world should be eliminated. Maybe turns of phrase that are more unique to her or to this world.

    That telling paragraph trips me up.
    An hour earlier the two friends dove into the challenge of swimming three times up to Brook Knells and back. Petite and athletic Milka enjoyed these games; not because they brought respite from her increasing manor chores, but she was good at them—especially swimming.
    I don't think any of this is stuff we need to know now, and we already know a lot of it from the showing you've executed well. Add it into dialogue. "You're so small," or "The only reason you beat me the first two times is because you carried less buckets than me during chores," etc. These kinds of things can do double duty with setting and characterization.

    Really lovely job!

    1. No worries Heather,

      I saw your comment just in time to try and apply it to my final draft. i was having problems with that paragraph that's why I had shortened it but losing it altogether makes total sense.

      lost the word "Christ." but failed to come up with something specific to my fantasy world in time for the final draft submission... maybe it will come eventually.

      Again, thanks for your extremely helpful comments