Sunday, June 11, 2017

1st 5 Pages June Workshop- Jachetti Rev 1

Name: Elisha Jachetti
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Concordia

“Do you ever think you could kill someone?” My best friend Harper Hadley asks me, lounging back in the deep green grass that matches her emerald eyes. It’s become tradition to visit the gardens during our breaks.

I give her a sideways glance. I’m used to her odd questions and incessant curiosity, but I’ve never appreciated the trouble that tends to follow. My first taste of it was when we were seven, and she got us sent to an all-girls school because she thought it was funny to pee in the boy’s bathroom. I was the lookout, but after we were repeatedly caught, it was clear I wasn’t very good at it.

“Why? Are you mad at Josef?” I tease. Josef’s the first boy she’s dated for more than a month. She says she loves him, but then again, she always says that.

“I mean for work, Quinn. Could you kill someone if it meant protecting the King?” Harper glances back at the castle, her auburn hair falling in pieces over her shoulders.

I follow her gaze. The castle somehow gets more beautiful every time I look at it, especially during this time of day when the sun is setting. The teal domes and spires pierce the sky, dripping gold over the extravagant balconies and arcades.

“It’s Concordia.” I shrug. I’ll never have to kill anyone, and even if I did, how would I? With my bare hands? It’s not like we carry weapons.

Harper rolls her eyes. “Everyone says that.”

“Because it’s true.” I laugh, flopping backwards. I love Concordia. I love living in a land of peace and I love that my job allows me to sit outside amongst the butterflies.

I’m about to change the subject back to Josef, when my thoughts are interrupted by the warning drums that signal Danger!

Harper raises one eyebrow. “I guess we’re finally doing that practice drill.” She mumbles as we both get up, brushing grass off our uniforms.

We take our time walking down to the central hallway, but from the distance, I can hear the shout of someone giving orders. It takes me a few seconds to realize the voice belongs to Sergeant Greyson. Though I can’t make out much of what he is saying, there is one phrase he keeps repeating. “Find the intruder.”

As we get closer, the once low din raises in volume until we’re right in the roaring thick of it. Maids and servants are running through the halls. Sentry members are organizing. Or attempting to. The whole place is in chaos, except for me, standing about as still as the royal statues.
“Earth to Quinn.” Harper waves her hand in front of my face, forcing my pupils to refocus. Josef’s standing next to her now. I blink, while she stares at me impatiently, strong and confident. “Did you hear anything Josef just said?”

I shake my head, causing Harper to relay the story so fast, her words blur together. “Someone broke in, and the only guards who maybe got a look at his face are unconscious at the front door.”

“That’s the drill narrative?” I ask, but before they can answer, a big crash from the end of the hallway causes me to jump. Two clumsy Sentry guards have attacked each other, probably thinking the other was the fugitive. When they start rolling around on the ground, still unaware of who they actually tackled, Harper curses and grabs my arm.

“Let’s go,” she whispers.

Her grip is firm as she drags me to the back staircase. Josef follows. Not many people know about this hidden gem. Harper and I found it one day when we were exploring the castle. She thought the only way we could truly protect the Royal Family from any problems would be if we became navigational experts of this place. I made fun of her.

Harper tugs on the familiar knot in the wall, moving the panel slightly to the side, and we slither through to the stairs, a secret passageway that can take us directly to any floor of the castle. I gulp in air as all has suddenly gone still around us. It’s quite the contrast to the swirling pool of people right outside.

“The King is on the third floor, which is where most of the Sentry went.” Josef shares.

“There’s a lot of them on the first floor too.” I manage to croak out. My throat is sticky as if I’ve just swallowed a mouthful of silver sap.

“Right, which is why I’m going to the fourth floor and you’re going to the roof.” Harper smiles at herself, pulling me along.

“I’ll take the basement.” Josef decides and disappears to the lower levels.

“Wait-” I stop in place. “We’re splitting up?”

Harper, who has started climbing the stairs, pauses and pivots around. “Yeah. That way one of us will get him.”

I nod deliberately, and begin to follow her upwards. I think of my training from when I first joined the Sentry. It was brief and left much to be desired. I guess I never minded until now.

Harper starts to chuckle. “Woah, you need to relax. Your face is as red as the Crest.” She shakes her head, opening up the wall on the fourth floor. “I’ll see you when we’ve got him,” Harper winks, and with that, she’s gone.

I turn and force myself to continue. I have such a tight grip on the railing that my knuckles are white. By the time I reach the top of the stairs, I’m having the irrational thought that this could be real, but why on Earth would somebody break the peace now? And for what purpose?

As I pull back the passageway, my muscles tense a bit in anticipation of the “intruder” being on the other side. But there’s no one. I step through into the only enclosed space on the roof. The King likes to visit this room by himself sometimes. I know, because occasionally his guards are stationed outside of it. As far as I’m aware, it’s never used officially for matters of state though.

The walls are made entirely of glass, ribbed together with strips of wood. It’s not a great place for hiding, but I still take a glance around. The room is sparse, except for a few clunky pieces of mahogany furniture, its glossy sheen illuminated by the light falling in through the windows. Had it been two hours later, I would be standing in complete darkness.

A desk is jutted up against the wall with a red velvet chair tucked underneath, a matching sofa sits directly across from it with a short, bookstand to the right, and a tall, imposing, wardrobe in the back of the room.

I guess the King likes mahogany. Or perhaps hates it, since he sent all this furniture up here where no one can see it.

I approach the wardrobe first, bracing myself as I fling the doors open. 


  1. First, I read through this so much faster than the original. It's improved by leaps and bounds. And it was incredibly cruel of you to leave me hanging right there! What's in the wardrobe? You've done a great job of creating this sense of disorientation the MC feels. And I love that even at this last point, we/she's not 100% sure it's real.

    In the first few paragraphs, we are asked a question by Harper, and then there's a long time before Quinn answers. By the time I got there (Perhaps my own deficiency), I didn't really see how what Quinn was saying related to what was happening. Maybe it's because it wasn't actually an answer to the question. It was Quinn teasing Harper. But I had to go back and see. And then I was like, oh, that's funny. But by then, the joke had lost some of it's punch. I'd suggest just rearranging that so we have the two dialogue lines closer together.

    I think you making Quinn vulnerable is excellent. My caution would be to do it too much. We need to see a bit more of that hero potential rather than her always being less ready or less courageous than Harper. And in the things you have set out, Quinn could be not as good at them as Harper, but I'd like to see a glimpse of the strengths that Quinn has that Harper doesn't. A glimmer of that thing that's going to help Quinn save the day in the end.

    You've done amazing work this week.

    1. This all makes sense! Thank you so much. The notes really helped.

  2. Elisha,
    I love what you've done. Now we actually get a change to meet the characters before the chaos descends. And the way you have it now (through dialogue) is a much better way to tell us about Concordia being peaceful. I also think that an initially confused Quinn works much better than a terrified Quinn. It's logical. Living in a peaceful land, Quinn and Harley would at first think it was a drill. The reality wouldn't sink in until later on. I'd like to make a suggestion though. I feel like you should move the realization that this may be real up a paragraph. Right before Harley makes a comment about Quinn's red face. If it's red, she's already nervous. And that means, she's considered the fact that this 'drill' may not be a drill.
    My suggestion: 'I nod deliberately, and begin to follow her upwards. I think of my training from when I first joined the Sentry. It was brief and left much to be desired. I guess I never minded until now. I’m having the irrational thought that this could be real, but why on Earth would somebody break the peace now? And for what purpose?'

    Great job on this revision. I really don't have anything else to pick on :)

    1. Let me give it a try! I was struggling with the right place to put that realization so that the audience also feels the tension.

  3. I like the changes you’ve make, it clears up a lot about where and when in the scene we are. From an artistic standpoint, I’d like to see a more creative segue between the idyllic scene and the warning drums beating the danger signal.
    The rest of the action is excellent and certainly on the right track, but I feel a bit of disconnect between some of Quill’s reactions and thoughts. In some places, she’s convinced it’s just a drill, and in other places she still seems to have nervous panic reactions.
    Currently, the sequence is:
    She stands still as a statue (seems like real panic)
    Says "That's the drill narrative?" (only a drill thought)
    Never minded her brief training "until now" (because this is the real thing?)
    "Having the irrational thought that this could be real." (so this is the point where she clearly begins to accept it's not a drill, which makes me wonder, why all the dry throat, red face and white knuckles before then?)

    You may want to find a way to acknowledge the disconnect between her visceral reactions and her belief that it's a drill. Maybe she always reacts this way to a drill. Or maybe she has the "irrational" thought earlier and then reassures herself that it's a drill to combat her panicky feelings.

    I'm sure one of those scenarios is what you were going for, but it felt a little off to me.

    The action and pace are good, just a little more attention to the details will help the reader follow the action as Quinn experiences it.

    And you're still leaving us with that cliffhanger, but even better, I'm primed now to expect someone or something to be hiding behind that door!

    1. You're right about everything. I couldn't find a great way to segue. I need to think on that more.

      As far as the drill goes, it's not typical that they have a drill and it is Quinn's first one. Hopefully making an effort to point that out will help clarify some of her performance anxiety.

  4. Hi Elisha,

    I really love this edit. The way you opened the story was much easier to follow and very interesting, too. I don't want to expound on what the others have already touched on so I'm going to ask because for some reason it's unclear to me, what time period is this set in? Is it modern because that's what I'm getting when I read it?

    What a cliffhanger! lol So rude to leave it there. But great job all around, I can't wait to see what you do with it.

    1. Hey Kristina. Actually the book is set about 100 years in the future, but it should almost feel as if the society has gone back in time. This is a reactionary society built against technology and modernism.

  5. Hi Elisha,

    Hey, I’m loving your opening! I liked the old one too, but now that you have this one I really understand how much improved it is! You did a great job! It’s breezy and casual and then BAM! Stuff hits the fan. You turn the whole reading on its head, and I thought that was great! I also like the girls’ history with the boys’ bathroom and the girls’ school. Funny stuff.

    I think you could rephrase things just a little down where Quinn is talking about Concordia being the land of piece—it sounded a little on the nose to me. Maybe rephrase or the question could be if she’d ever want to leave (because nothing exciting ever happens there)? I don’t know—that stood out to me.

    Also, I lost track a little bit of Josef after he made his appearance, for some reason I thought he left them immediately. I might be the only one and it could be my ADD kicking in.
    Maybe when she hears the drums it could be re worded to alert instead of danger, or really, based on Harper’s following comment, that part about danger could just be deleted as we get it through Harper’s dialogue.

    Lastly, It seems like you have some conflicting opinions of setting among us readers: I picture it as an old castle, medieval type setting, while Kristina gets an image of modern times. Unless that’s intentional, please give us a clearer timestamp. You talked about a boys’ and girls’ bathroom. That could be a case for modern times, while the the secret passages and halls and towers could be a case for medieval. Be subtle about it, if it’s modern times throw in a tv (or Concordia’s equivalent), if it’s yesteryear, have them see horses and buggies or some such.

    These are the only things my eyes picked up on. I really like this concept, I get the scene of them running down the hall in my head and my pulse actually quickens!

    All the best

    1. Great. Will take into account all of these notes. I'm not sure I can address the time period in the first five pages, but will consider.

  6. Wow. I think this beginning is much improved. I get a sense of feel for both Harper's and Quinn's characters, their dynamic, and Concordia.

    The opening line is great, IMHO.

    I think I'd like to slow the scene down a little when Quinn and Harper realize it's not a drill. What I mean is, I'd like to zero in on the chaos. For example, we see maids running everywhere, but if we zoom in on one maid, see the fear in her face, see what she's grabbed in her arms and how she's running from (where) to (where), that could help create a moment of time stalling in the fear. I'm suggesting this because Quinn is standing frozen, but we don't get the sense of that until Harper says, "earth to Quinn." Make sense?

    I think they're going to know it's not a drill--or at least Quinn is--when she pays attention to the others' faces. Maybe she thinks it's really good acting this time? But she's got to know something is different.

    You do a really good job of exposing Quinn's weakness. I'd like to see a little more of her strengths, though. Give me something to root for. A glimmer of the bravery that is to come. :)

    I look forward to your next revision! You're doing amazing!