Monday, September 11, 2017

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Passerotti Rev 1

Name: Katie Passerotti 
Genre: YA Dark Fantasy
Title: Warmaker

Jennica shoved the captive forward. With his arms bound behind his back, he wasn't able to stop his forward momentum. He whimpered through his gag as his body sank into the thick mud of the stable yard.

Pressing her lips together, Jennica breathed through her nose. She preferred killing her marks to taking them captive. It was efficient. Captives meant listening to them beg for their worthless lives.

When he made no attempt to stand, she turned her face to the dark clouds stifling the mid-morning sun. Thick, cold rain drops hit against her skin, running down her neck and under her collar. She couldn't blame her irritation on him. It stemmed from something much darker.

Jennica dropped her gaze back to the prisoner, to his left hand. The gold ring he wore, stamped with the image of a ship and an eight pointed star, reminded her what she'd lost and she fought the pull of her past. She'd never intended to become this. What would her father say if he saw the wickedness that had grown in his daughter over the past year?

Sighing, she glanced sideways at William. His coat clung to his lanky frame and water dripped from his dark hair.

"Whatever Matthew wants with him had best be worth it." The irritation in William's voice mirrored hers.

He'd done nothing but complain since the moment they'd set out to retrieve the man. Her lips curled as she studied him. How much of her ire stemmed from being stuck with his company for the past five days?

He grabbed the man's arm and hauled him to his feet.  Their prisoner shivered. He hadn't been dressed for the weather when they'd taken him and Matthew never said anything about delivering him unharmed.

She shook off the lingering tendrils of the past and let her darkness slither through her. Cold detachment was all that kept her conscience from sinking its teeth into her. The mud sucked at their boots as they navigated the rest of the filthy yard. Jennica pulled open a door and William guided the man inside. She followed, a grey wolf slipping in beside her.

The wolf stepped closer to William and shook, sending water droplets flying from his thick pelt.

"Keep your damn mutt away from me," William growled, aiming a kick at the wolf's side.

Nakama dodged and snapped his jaws.

Jennica fought the urge to draw one of her knives. There was no love lost between her familiar and William and she took the insult personally. Nakama was a reflection of her and he was all she had left.

Jennica's fingers skimmed the wolf's head as he maneuvered past her in the narrow hall. You should have bit him, she spoke silently to the familiar.

And that would have caused more trouble for  you, Nakama responded.

Brushing back her hood, Jennica ran a hand over her damp braid. A spark of warmth kindled in her chest, pushing against her darkness. Her familiar was right.

She took several steps down the hall before realizing William wasn't following. She looked over her shoulder, raising an eyebrow. The rain, William's complaints, and the prisoner's incessant pleading had worn on her. She wanted to be done with this business, to be done with this man who reminded her so keenly of what she'd lost.

He gave the man a gentle push. "Surely you can handle him from here? You don't need me to keep him subdued, do you?"

Jennica whirled, her fingers tightening into fists. "You're the one who nearly let him escape."

"And I'm the one who caught him." He placed a hand over the man's wounded shoulder and squeezed. The prisoner winced, his knees trembling.

"If you were any good at doing your job, you wouldn't have needed to put an arrow in him," Jennica snapped. She backtracked and grabbed the prisoner's arm.

William shrugged and gave a mocking grin as he started in the opposite direction.

Wind and rain rattled against the windows as she pushed the prisoner through the halls toward Matthew's study. William's departure fed her frustration. He'd barely raised a hand over the past five days.

I hope Matthew's interrogation is quick, she growled to her familiar.

Nakama didn't respond, but she sensed his disapproval. The prisoner wasn't the sort of mark she usually went after. Most were criminals in their own right, not a principled businessman. Truth be told, the man's pleading had gotten under her skin. Two days had been enough time to learn more about him than she'd ever wanted to know. He had a family--two children with a third due in another month. Even threatening to cut out his tongue hadn't silenced him.

With each step, she distanced herself from who she was, who she wanted to be again. She didn't fight the cold embrace of her wickedness. Until she could find a way to escape the blood contract that bound her to this brutal life, it was easier to give into the darkness that lurked in her soul.

The door to Matthew's study was open and she guided the man through, pushing him towards the desk at the opposite end of the room. Matthew stood as they approached, a look of disgust on his face as he took in the man's soiled clothing.

Jennica dug her fingers into the tender flesh of the man's wounded shoulder. He moaned and collapsed, his knees striking the stone floor with a satisfying crack. She pulled the gag from his mouth.

"I expected you back last night." Matthew's assessing gaze turned to her. Dark hair framed an intelligent face and he was impeccably dressed, looking more a noble than the charlatan he was. He prowled around the massive mahogany desk with animal grace.

Jennica unbuttoned her coat, peeling it away from her lithe frame as she strode towards the hearth. Her familiar trailed after her and settled near the fire. She stepped nearer to the flames, her shoulders relaxing as warmth seeped back into her body.

"Blame Will," she shrugged.

Matthew's pale blue eyes were colder than the wind outside as he studied the prisoner. "Do you know why you're here?"

The man shook his head.

"Your brother-in-law wants you dead. Something about taking over the shares you own in a shipping company."

The man blanched. "He wouldn't--"

"But he does."

Jennica untied a leather purse from her belt and tossed it to Matthew.   "His brother in-law's payment."

Matthew caught it and weighed it in his palm. "However, it seemed only fair to offer you the chance to outbid him."

Jennica raised her eyebrows. Matthew didn't need the wealth. What could the prisoner possibly offer that would justify this ruse?

The man's expression glimmered with hope. "Name your price. Anything."

"What do you have to offer me?" A quiet smile tugged at Matthew's lips.

She bit back a warning. The man didn't know Matthew well enough to recognize the malice in his eyes. To know that the kinder he became, the more cruel his intentions.

"I can give you double whatever he paid."

"It's going to take more than money. What else?"

The man licked his lips. "I have ships."

"How many?" Matthew considered.

"Fif-fifteen. I'll sign them over to you."

Jennica raised an eyebrow and glanced sideways at Nakama. When did Matthew decide to take up piracy?

Why not? Her familiar's voice rumbled through her mind like thunder. It would be a step up for him.


  1. Hi Katie!

    This is a lot better! I can tell you really worked on showing us her character and inserting her more into the conversation she is observing. Already, I'm feeling a lot more empathy for her. Great job!

    I think, however, the ring in the fourth paragraph is a little bit too much telling and too much self-awareness too early in the story. I feel the hand of the author here, and it takes me out of the story. I think you want to pull back a bit here and be more subtle.

    You also mention her darkness several times through this entry, and it feels a little repetitive.

    So, you've started to give us some understanding about who the character is. I think the next step -- and the focus of your next revision -- is to make us like her and go on this journey with her.

    Great job clarifying the characters and grounding us in the details of the story. I also love the interaction between her and her familiar. Perhaps a small pet-the-dog moment here would help in upping our empathy with her? (That just means showing us the kindness she feels or the deep affection she has for her familiar).

    I think you could also show her exhibit a moment of weakness toward the captive. Maybe give him her raincoat to protect him against the rain, that kind of thing. The fight with William still isn't doing anything for me because without knowing more, it just sounds like they are snipping at one another. Maybe they can fight over something she does for the prisoner, rain coat or otherwise. I think if you can make the source of the fight more substantive, it's an opportunity to allow us a deeper glimpse into her character and give us a reason to empathize.

    Feel free to ignore my specific examples of how to create empathy! I just wanted to give you some ideas to start the brainstorming process.

    Good job and good luck!

    1. Thank you! And I agree, several of my additions were heavy handed. I tend to overwrite first and then narrow it back down. Hopefully I've managed to be more subtle in my final revision. Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions.

  2. Katie,

    Great job! I like that you’ve inserted more internal dialogue/thinking on Jennica’s part – we’re seeing more of her personality and just how she’s feeling. I would watch for ‘telling’ us that internal dialogue instead of letting it come naturally.

    I think you could do some smoothing out to the parts you’ve added detailing Jennica’s inner thoughts and her empathetic moments – what I mean by that is it was a bit of a roller coaster. Opening lines she’s being brutal. Then she has an internal moment of being remorseful. Then she does something cold/brutal again. Then we have more remorseful thoughts, specifically within the fourth paragraph. The paragraph sort of stuck out to me like a flag, as it just doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ and rather took me out of the story – it seemed a bit too much/too soon of a reveal.

    If you can adjust how Jennica is presented in these opening pages. I think she might draw more readers in if she’s more ‘cold’ instead of cruel. If her focus was ‘I’ve got a job to do, I want to do it and get out of here’ I think you can accomplish what you want, while making her interaction with William make more sense rather than just arguing with him.

    1. Thank you! yes, she does go kinda back and forth and I've worked on making more consistent, but I really struggle there. But her character does live in extremes, she's either 100% peeved a lot of time, or 100% who cares, there isn't a lot of in between at the start. I'll keep working at it so that it isn't so jarring.

  3. Wow! So much better! I love the bit of info about the blood contract. That really intrigued me and made me feel for her. As Pintip said, you can pull back slightly or use other ideas than the darkness. Don't drop it completely, just a bit less. Maybe William is the one to push him forward in the mud and she has to stop herself from helping him up and get's upset at herself for caring? IDK just another random thought. Also don't go too overboard. It's great to present her conflict and make her more empathetic, but I do understand she has an ARC to fulfill. ;)
    In any case, I still love the familiar as well. One thing caught me on her boss. She refers to him as a charlatan, which makes me think she doesn't respect him (probably true) but also that she's not afraid of him or anything. Is she? I know it was internal but that really caught my attention. Maybe just qualifying it with a mention of what his reaction to that would be?
    William. I'm intrigued that he reminds her of what she lost. Perhaps you can build on that just slightly to give us a hint about their relationship/her past. Is he going to end up a love interest or close friendship? If so, maybe have her hurt for a fraction of a second when he leaves wondering if she reminds him of what was lost as well? Again just trying to think of possibilities that would make his presence more important/intriguing in the opening.

    1. I tried to go back through and be more subtle about everything, hopefully I at least somewhat managed it. Thank you so much for your feedback! Several of the questions you asked are answered by the end of the chapter (9 pages total) so I'm not sure if they warrant moving up? I want there to be as much as needed in the first five pages, but I'm also afraid of putting too much there. Thank you again for your suggestions!

  4. Hi Katie,

    Great work on your revisions here! I love that you're showing us where her coldness/brutality comes from and that it makes us question what happened to her before now. The pages are also more focused and have a little more deep POV to them.

    I do agree with Pintip's comments, especially about making us like the character and feel empathy, and those moments where we can see the hand of the author instead of the character.

    My biggest comment is that there's a lot of telling here, which holds us back from feeling what the character is feeling. It's being handed to us, instead of letting us read between the lines and immerse ourselves. Some examples of this: "She couldn't blame her irritation on him. It stemmed from something much darker...reminded her what she'd lost and she fought the pull of her past. She'd never intended to become this...She shook off the lingering tendrils of the past and let her darkness slither through her. Cold detachment was all that kept her conscience from sinking its teeth into her."

    There are some really great explanations of how to solve this in these two articles here:

    Can't wait to see the next version! Thanks for letting us read!

    1. Thank you so much for the links, they helped clarify some things and I really hope that if nothing else, I've managed to get a grasp on the telling issue in my final revision!

  5. Yes, agree re telling, esp the part concerning her father. not sure about Jen or Will characters leaving a 'mark' with a gold ring, but some memento of her 'better past' might be an idea. But maybe something small like a sense of her distaste about her actions - rather than the relentlessly contempt for all n sundry. ;)
    On the positive, the communication tween her and the wolliff, is a lot clearer. :)

  6. I connected with Jennica a lot more in this version. Knowing that she is under a blood contract made me a lot more sympathetic to her actions. That was a great hint to drop.

    While I like that we see more of her emotions here, it did feel a little heavy handed. Even something as simple as having her wince along with the prisoner when Matthew grabs his wounded shoulder would show her softer side. I'd like to see her emotions through her actions and reactions here.

    I love the interaction between her and her familiar. I hope he's in a lot of scenes because I think he's my favorite character!

    Great job on incorporating feedback! I can't wait to see the next version.

    1. Thank you!! I appreciate your feedback. Hopefully I've managed to be more subtle in my second revision. :)

  7. Great job clearing up the setting in this revision. I also liked you showing more of Jennica’s thoughts in this draft.

    Personally, I think you went a bit too far in making Jennica have second thoughts about her job in the 4th paragraph. I realize I’m disagreeing with the feedback you go last time which is bound to be annoying. However, from my perceptive I assumed Jennica was meant to be an anti-hero, a somewhat unlikeable character who perhaps will soften later, and I enjoy morally complicated heroines. I liked the hint you dropped about her past and this job bringing up memories. (I also liked how later you showed her caring for her familiar and how you revealed she has a blood contract.) However, I thought it might be a little too early in your story for her cold detachment to slip, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to happen later. Again, I know I’m giving you two contradicting critiques, sorry. Since readers won’t always agree, I think you should feel free to listen to whichever opinion best fits the book you want to write.

    Overall, since I like Jennica-type characters I was really drawn into this story and curious what would happen next.

    Minor points:

    Grammatically, I think “Captives meant listening to them beg for their worthless lives” should be “Taking captives meant listening to them beg for their worthless lives” or “Captives pestered her by begging for their worthless lives.”

    “He'd barely raised a hand”: usually I read “raised a hand” to mean hitting someone. Perhaps you mean “lifted a hand”?

    1. LOL, I feel like you summed up my struggle this week pretty well. I love anti-heros as well and love reading about unlikable characters, so I'm trying to find a balance between keeping her dark here, but offering a few thinks to pull in those readers that don't particularly like the an ti-hero character. I'm starting the story at a place where she's about to take action on her dislike off the life she's chosen/fallen into so while she realizes she doesn't want it anymore, its still a big part of who she is and she will, throughout the course of the story, change. Hopefully I've found more balance in my next revision!

  8. Great job on the revisions! I like that we're able to get into Jennica's head a little more.

    I still find the beginning a little jarring. It could just be me, but it doesn't feel (forgive my made-up word) "beginning-y" enough. It seems as if we're kind of coming into this in the middle and there's no segue into this world or this scene, it's just dropping us right in. While very to-the-point, it can be jarring.

    Also, it seems as if you're trying to push Jennica's darkness a little too hard. By simply portraying who she is, you'll be able to let readers form their own opinion of her. I would suggest a more subtle approach.

    Good luck with the next draft!

    1. Thank you! I tried to be more subtle in my final revision, so fingers crossed I managed. This one was a bit heavy handed in spots.

  9. Not too muddy the waters...but I like that you've started 'midway' and not in a 'beginning-y' place. :)

    1. thank you for your comments and suggestions :)

      I think I could maybe make the beginning a bit better if I tied in some better "environment" type details, like painted the picture to make it more visual (a super-mega weakness of mine) and then it would still be actiony, but less jarring? More things to work on!