Sunday, May 21, 2017

1st 5 Mages May Workshop - Stryker Rev 2

Name: Elisa Stryker
Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy


Seventeen-year-old Sasame’s city is at war. The enemy is horrific; tentacle-tongue, zombie-like mutants with leathery skin and violent impulses threaten everyone’s safety. But unlike “everyone,” Sasame can actually make a difference. As an Immunity Hunter, she does the dirty work for her agency, kidnapping those immune to the mutation virus so they can create a stronger vaccine. 

Though she doesn’t love the work, Sasame trusts her boss, Omi, and his vision for the future of their city. But that's before she meets Konan, a persistent teen desperately trying to figure out why people are vanishing. Sasame shouldn’t be attracted to him—her boss forbids romance and caring leads to heartache—yet his dedication to the city reel her in. As the missions leave her with horrible nightmares, she uses Konan as a distraction from the madness. That distraction turns into wanting more than a quick fix.

Omi isn’t pleased with this turn of events. His Immunity Hunters are well-oiled machines, and petty romance is just gunk in the gears. After forcing Sasame to watch the murder of another hunter's secret girlfriend, Omi presents her with a choice: kill Konan to prove her loyalty to the cause, or face the same fate.


As soon as this guy looks up from his phone, I’ll knock him unconscious. I’ve followed him through these deserted streets for what feels like a mile. His face has been glued to that small, bright screen this entire time. This’ll be an easy hunt. Forget sneaking. Short of yelling his name, he won’t notice me. 

Downtown turns into a ghost town this late at night. Few people live close to the oversized buildings towering just high enough to see the top of the wall surrounding our city. Most people are locked away in their cozy beds. 

Luckily for me, my target is an idiot. I follow him past decorated storefronts with painted windows and dull office buildings. The faint scent of pastries and coffee still lingers in the midnight air from another busy day. As far as prey goes, he's terrible. Usually, they notice, or at the very least care. He hasn’t turned around or taken his eyes off the screen. I could’ve taken him down at any point during this seemingly endless trek through the empty downtown streets, but his attentiveness to the phone has me intrigued. Does he know I’m here and is he leading me into a trap? No, there’s no way this fool could tell I’m following him. I made sure not to wear any perfume or use the fancy soap that makes me smell like roses. A good hunter doesn’t leave an identifying scent.

His file states he has no special abilities. Perfect for me, the last thing I need to deal with is someone that can easily fight back, like a Lightning Rod. They already have electricity running through their veins. My stun gun won’t faze them. 

A chilly wind blows between the empty skyscrapers, picking up the day's litter and swirling my hair. Everything is silent and dark, with the fresh scent of death on the breeze.

I take a slow breath; hold it and then release. A hint of regret crosses my heart as I visualize this poor soul's fate, but I erase it. Regret will make me lose focus, and I can't afford that. 

I jog up behind him before he passes a set of knickknack shops and jab the spikes of my brass-knuckle-shaped stun gun into his ribs, the power up as high as it'll go. His phone drops to the ground as his body stiffens.

After a swift kick into the jagged brick wall, he's knocked out cold. The kick was harder than I expected. Hopefully, the impact of his head slamming into the concrete doesn't kill him. The Organization needs him alive, and I refuse to let someone die by my hands. I kneel beside him to make sure I didn’t end his life. He's still breathing—for now.

“Idiot. Pay attention to where you're going,” I mutter, standing over his limp body.

The distant rumble of a truck engine gets closer. That’s when I realize we’re on the route of the after-hours produce delivery. I could slap myself for not following my own advice and watching where my target was leading me. With both hands and every ounce of my strength, I grab my prey by the foot and drag his limp body into the alley next to us before headlights appear on the street. This mission would go a lot smoother if my bra strap weren't cutting into my skin. Almost exhausted, I sit on a flat, dirt-covered piece of cardboard beside him, stun gun at the ready in case he wakes up.

I take my phone from my backpack and lean against a stack of water-stained crates. A rat crawls out covered in grime and scurries away. Gross. I dial the three-digit code for The Organization's extraction team. As I wait, I stare up at a metal fire escape doodled with graffiti, trying to convince myself that of all this is for the better. All these hunts are wearing me down, but I can't stop now. The antidote is more important than my mental state of mind. 

The pungent smell of rotting garbage and old motor oil drags me back to reality. At least it covers the constant stench of rotting flesh from the Konadai outside the wall.

Right on schedule, the extraction team shows up in an ambulance to collect the target. Two men, dressed as paramedics, climb out of the front seat and rush over to the unconscious guy and me. They lift him onto a gurney and wheel him into the back of the ambulance. Neither of them pays me any attention, they hardly ever do. Within seconds, they're gone. 

Another name crossed out of my notebook and The Organization is one step closer to finding a stronger antidote to the Konadai virus. They better be happy. I've worked for them for two years, yet they always seem to need more donors.

“Good job, Sasame.”

I spin around to see an Insider—one of The Organization’s spies—standing behind me.

“Is there a reason you’re following me tonight? I did my job,” I respond.

She grins with her long, tight curled lizard green hair covering one eye. “That mouth will be the end of you one day. What would your parents think?”

I ball my fist as fire burns in my eyes, but I control it. Fighting an Insider is stupid, there’s a reason they’re The Organization’s snitches and not out here doing the dirty work. As quick as they are, she’ll dodge any attack I throw at her.

“Leave my parents out of this, snitch.” How dare she bring them up? They sacrificed themselves for the city just as I’m doing now. I swear if she wasn’t a direct line to my superiors—

She shakes her head and chuckles. “Oh little girl, The Organization never could fully break you.”

“Whatever,” I mumble. I remove my backpack, unzipping it to put my stun gun inside. She vanishes before I look up. They’re supposed to watch all Hunters, but I’m their favorite. I get it; The Organization wants devoted Hunters. I’ve proven my loyalty before and will continue until I finish my assignment. My parents are off limits. 

I sling the backpack over my shoulder and walk out of the alley erasing any thought of that Insider—and my parents. As I walk home, my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attend tomorrow afternoon. Lynn—my foster mother—thinks it’s a good way to help me blend in more with ordinary people. Just because she raised me these last few years doesn’t give her the right to change who I’ve become.

It takes a while to get back to my townhouse, but the quiet walk makes up for it. Being alone with my thoughts can be scary; tonight it’s sort of peaceful in a way. As I enter the front door, I’m greeted by cheerful Lynn. 

“Welcome back. So how did your mission go? Well, I assume.”

Without speaking, I jog up the wooden staircase to my bedroom. Why is she so happy? My missions aren’t jolly walks by the ocean. If it weren’t for my training, I would’ve broken down months ago.

My wooden bedroom door creaks as I push it open. I throw down my backpack and kick off my sneakers. Within seconds I’m out of my street clothes and into a soft, long shirt. My tired body slumps onto my plush bed. I lay there, still and quiet, lost in my thoughts.


  1. I feel your pitch has a lot of great elements but should be shortened to no more than two paragraphs. How about this for a start:
    Seventeen-year-old Sasame is a dedicated Immunity Hunter. She wants to make a difference in the war against the zombie mutants. Unfortunately, to do so, she must kidnap those immune to the virus. She trusts her boss and his vision for the future of their city until she meets Konan who…
    I’m not in love with the opening of this version. Some parts are repetitive, and it just doesn’t flow. Also, you keep referring to the guy looking at a small, bright screen or the screen. Do you mean a cell phone? If so, just say that. Here’s an option you can play with.
    Lucky for me, my target is an idiot. Forget sneaking. Usually, by now, they notice me. This guy hasn’t taken his eyes off his cell phone the entire time. As soon as he looks up, I’ll knock him unconscious.

    The faint scent of pastries and coffee still lingers in the midnight air as we pass a closed coffee shop. Downtown is a ghost town late at night with the buildings this close to the wall occupied by businesses. Very few people live here, so where’s this guy heading?

    A chilly wind blows between the empty skyscrapers, picking up the day’s litter and swirling my hair. Perfect timing. With my brass-knuckle stun gun powered on high, I jog up behind cell-phone guy and jab him in the ribs. His body stiffens and he and his phone crash to the ground.

    After a swift kick into the brick wall, he’s knocked out cold. The kick was harder than I expected and a hint of regret crosses my heart as I visualize this poor guy’s fate. The organization needs him alive. I kneel beside him to make sure he’s still breathing.

    I shortened your first 8 paragraphs down to 4 that just include the important information, in my opinion. I feel it just feel it takes too long to get to the take-down, so this is just an idea.

    I think you could still tighten the rest up somewhat, but I like what you’ve done and how you introduced the festival she has to attend. I would like more introspection on how she feels about what she’s doing and how she is helping the war against the zombies.

    I’m interested in reading more of your story.

    Catherine Garrett

    1. I was just following what people were asking of me. Thanks for the comment

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thank you :)
      The dialog about the festival actually comes on the next page after she gets home. I rewrote that entire scene to where she's talking to her foster mother instead of just hearing a conversation. But with everyone wanting more detail...well it just didn't fit anymore.

      Also I kept all the magical abilities until the festival scene, but again "more detail" caused me to bring it up earlier. I'll probably just remove that bit with the Lightning Rods (who by the way are people that can conduct electricity/use electric based attacks)

      I don't overload the reader with specfici details about the magic system. The zombies are easy to follow. They're ugly and nasty. The magic system only has 4 factions: Electric (Lightning Rod), Energy (Energizers), Fire (Pyro Dancers), and Psychic (Mind Chasers). No extra detail is needed to explain what each faction does since I gave them easy-to-follow names. Or, at least that's what I'm going for.

  3. I like that you keep us more in the action in this revision. I feel like you still maybe be trying to weave in too much of the backstory, and maybe the first chapter could be almost solely action. Maybe the second chapter could pick up where the snitch shows up, or when she gets home. You're introducing us to the virus, the organization, a snitch, her parents, etc., all in the first paragraph. I think each of those are like little holes that drain a little bit out of what is a powerful, visceral action scene.

    I think your query is a lot better than mine, so clearly I'm no expert having only recently tried to attempt writing one. I can see how the other comments on this make sense. The first paragraph is a little bit of a mouth full - maybe streamline it a bit.

    I think you present a clear and major dilemma, a character that I want to follow, and a suspenseful situation. I would definitely keep on reading!


    1. Thanks!

      I guess I added too much description. I was trying to build my world as asked but maybe I went overboard.

      She finishes her hunts fast. It usually takes three paragraphs for her to take someone down, but I was asked to elaborate so I did. I can't see this being stretched to an entire chapter. You think I have too much backstory now, just wait until you see me try to turn three paragraphs into 5-6 pages.

      I'll try to remove some detail about the zombies in the first paragraph of the query. I wanted to show they aren't the normal, slow walking boring zombies on TV.

  4. In your opening lines, you wrote, “As soon as this guy looks up from his phone, I’ll knock him unconscious.” When I read it this time, I was wondering, would I say that to myself? I think it might feel more natural to say, “As soon as this guy looks up, I’m going to knock him out.” Just an idea. Another question—if the prey is such an idiot, why does Sasame have to follow him “for what feels like a mile?” As I read on, you answered that she questions whether it is a trap of not. I like the faint smell of pantries, but the building descriptions distract me. It might start off a lot more exciting and intense to begin with her tasering him. Plus, I feel like there is a lot of explaining. Maybe rework it so the reader gets information, like the Sasame hears the night delivery truck and she moves his body. The reader will get it. I don’t know that it is necessary to know it is on a delivery route etc.
    Good luck, Julie

  5. From Hillary:

    Elisa, this is such a strong query! I don’t have many notes, although I do think you could be more specific in the pitch about what these zombie-like mutants are doing to threaten everyone’s safety. Are they more killing people or infecting them? How powerful of a threat are they to society? In this vein, while we know the stakes for Sasame, that she must kill her love or die herself, I would love to know: what are the stakes for the world? If there is already this horrible zombie enemy, is there a possibility to defeat them or a chance they will overpower the humans? Regardless of these small quibbles, I love that we already get such a strong sense of Sasame’s character from just these opening pages.

  6. Hi Elisa!

    I love your pitch - great job! I agree with Hillary, emphasize the stakes and it will be even better!

    I also love your revision! I can see the world more clearly, the descriptions are great, and I have a better sense of Sesame and why she's a hunter. In this version, I am on her side and I'm rooting for her - so great job! The new beginning needs a bit smoothing out for flow, but you are definitely on the right track. Maybe start with, This will be an easy hunt. I can't help but be a bit disappointed, .... or some such. Start with a line that will grab the reader's attention, and then give us a sense of your strong, sassy character.

    I do think you can slow it down still - love the idea of these Insiders with special abilities! Tease it out a bit more, and your readers will be hooked and dying to read more! The bit of dialogue you added between the insider and Sesame was terrific, too!

    It's been a pleasure reading your pages! Good luck and keep us posted!

    1. Thank you so much for all the help :)

      This workshop has been a lot of help. I went with the romance stakes because Sasame has a problem opening up to people. Her parents were killed and she thinks caring leads to heartache. The zombie stakes covers the series but it still plays a part in the book. I was told to write the pitch/query for the book I'm pitching so in this book the stakes are "kill or be killed". It also goes with the other character POVs (I have six total). Each character faces challenges involving the zombies but also must choose between killing or dying (or watching their friends die).

      All of that is laid out within the full manuscript and hopefully I wrote it well enough for readers to understand.