Sunday, October 15, 2017

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Hoover Rev 1

Name: Audrianna Hoover

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Princess of Darkness
The door crashed into the wall behind it as it swung open, letting in precious air.

Arielle pulled her face away from the tiny window, where her cheek pressed against it, and took a gloriously deep breath. The room wasn’t closing in any longer.

Creda limped in, clutching her walking stick. “The king wishes to see you,” she announced. Arielle only stared, stunned by the announcement. Her maid slammed the end of the stick onto the stone floor. “Now!”

Arielle jolted and hurried towards the door. A flare of hope tightened her chest. Maybe today was the day she would be set free.

Creda whacked the walking stick across the back of her legs, though Arielle’s gown protected her from the sharp sting it should have elicited. “Hurry, girl.”

Arielle mocked Creda silently, careful to hide the action, as they descended the stone staircase into the hall below. No matter how cruel her maid was, Arielle was sure to never let the hateful crone see her displays of contempt. If she noticed, no doubt Creda would slip enough poison into her every meal to keep her bed ridden for the rest of her life; or kill her.

With each stride towards the throne room, Arielle’s heart thudded in her chest. She crossed the threshold alone and slowed her pace until she stood at the foot of the throne. Relief thrummed through her, excitement following in its wake, as the man sitting on the throne regarded her. A moment of silence passed over the room.

“You will be presented for selection of the sacrifice tonight.”

She stared up at the king, unblinking. She could feel the despair pooling in her gut, even as the fear of what he had announced quaked through her. She wished for freedom and found death. Her eyes flicked to the king’s right, to the prince there beside him.

His hair was the color of spun gold, his eyes a solid crystal blue. His fair skin was tanned from his time outside, from training to be a warrior, which was where the lean, toned body came from. But discussing such a bleak subject, the prince’s expression held nothing but emptiness – not the slightest bit of compassion.

Her own twin did not care that their father was going to march her before a crowd of their own people and sacrifice her, should she be chosen.

If Aeron and her father were mirror images in their looks, she was the inverse. Her jet-black hair and eyes which were almost as dark proved it, but the difference of personalities between her and Aeron was the most apparent. While her brother obeyed their father without a moment’s hesitation regarding everything, Arielle suffered a terrible compulsion to rebel against each of his commands.

“Why?” she asked, drawing herself up to full height, eyes connecting with her father’s. She tossed her hair back over her shoulder casually, it’s purpose to hide the anxiety and anguish she felt. The iron bracelet around her wrist glinted in the light from the fire as she clenched her fists, the deep orange amulet inset into the metal gleaming. “You despise me so much, you would spill my blood?”

King Jerald gave her an icy smile. “You’ve been away too long. You’ve forgotten which rite this is, Arielle.”

Arielle’s eyes widened, her lips moving as she whispered to herself to count the days since she was last out – something she quit doing a long time ago. Only the castle knew of her imprisonment, the king not wanting the entirety of his kingdom to know of his daughter’s evil deed. Even then, those who knew could not say why she was locked away, nor why she sported the bracelet which kept her from hurting anyone.

She felt the blood drain from her face as her mind caught up. “The Spring Rite,” she choked out. “You’re going to give me to Haebor.”

“Of course not,” her father answered, dismissing her words with a wave. “I’m merely offering you for his assessment. If he were to choose you, it would be a way for you to redeem yourself.”

“I will not go,” Arielle said, gritting her teeth. “You cannot make me offer myself. It must be done freely.”

The king stood, menacing in his stance. The men who guarded her father stepped forward to each claim an arm. She kept her head high and proud as he approached, Aeron keeping at his heels. She glared at him and he returned the favor.

King Jerald appraised her, his lip curling. “Arielle, you will go,” he said, stepping close enough to make her want to retreat. His expression softened. “I’m only trying to save you, to save your soul. Someone must right the path you’re on. Please don’t throw away this chance to prove you’re not as you appear.”

Arielle felt the threads of apprehension wind tight in her gut as she took in the look – the one which almost seemed to say he cared for her and what might happen to her. If she could prove to him she wasn’t evil. If she could prove she hadn’t meant to defy him that day.

“It is, of course, as you say. You must offer yourself freely.” He hardened again as he looked her over from head to toe, grimacing as if the stain on her sleeve from lunch was the stain on her soul he so abhorred. The King swept back to his throne of glittering gold and black diamonds and rich rubies, but Aeron remained in front of her. “But you must choose now,” he added, reclaiming his seat.

Arielle stared up at her twin, searching for any sort of sympathy or sibling bond. Aeron’s face was cold, his hand resting on his sword. There was no kindness on his face.

“Choose,” King Jerald demanded. He leaned forward in his seat, waiting for her answer.

Arielle felt herself breaking. Her desire for redemption was prevailing over her need to be released. But consenting to the selection for the sacrifice was not a light matter.

If she were chosen, she would be bred like an animal by the god Haebor. The coupling would result in a child, as it did every year, which would tear her to shreds in the process of birthing. She knew nothing of what happened to the Spring Rite children after their birth, but the mothers always died. However gruesome a death, being chosen was considered a great honor.

There were only a few doubts of being bypassed in Arielle’s head. Haebor would be drawn to her, as she had been inexplicably drawn to him during the times she watched the selection as a child.

Arielle glanced between her twin and her father, begging one of them to withdraw the request with her eyes. Neither conceded, tolerance turning to impatience.

“If I go,” she said finally, her voice hoarse, “I will be forgiven?”

Her father grinned, already victorious. “Yes.”

Feeling bile rise in her throat, Arielle gave a single nod, agreeing to give herself. She felt shattered as King Jerald sat back with a smirk of satisfaction and waved her away.

She let her father’s men march her from the throne room and through the main hall of the castle, down the steps. She drank in the sight of the sinking sun at the horizon as they pushed her into a carriage. Haebor’s selection would happen soon. She could only hope he would overlook her for another unlucky soul.


  1. Hi Audrianna,

    You made some awesome changes.

    To start, I LOVE the first line change. It's so much more hooky than dialogue.

    The paragraph about Creda and their dynamic also was also much clearer in this version.

    And this line: "Haebor would be drawn to her, as she had been inexplicably drawn to him..." So creepy. I love it!

    There was one line about her twin that I kind of missed from the original version. "Arielle looked at her brother, then down at the handle of his sword, his knuckles white with his grip." The first time I read that, I thought maybe Aeron wasn't as on board with his father's plan as we first thought. Like maybe he's doing it for a reason, all the while secretly planning to help his sister. Was I totally off-base there?

    Good stuff!


  2. oh wow. You've done a ridiculously good job on this revision. I get SO much more of a sense of the world and inter-character dynamics here. I'm immediately drawn in and compelled forward as a read.

    Ok- let's see if we can kick this up even more! Here's what I think you might want to focus on for the next revision: the importance of Haebor. She is definitely repulsed (the idea of being ripped apart in childbirth will have that effect)...but I almost want to know more.
    1) what is the spring right and its purpose--that is, what happens if it's not fulfilled? Who is this Haebor? Why do they sacrifice to him?
    2) why was she "drawn" to him? Can you give a sense of what he looks like OR what about him draws her?

    I would not do more than a couple of well-placed lines for either one of these points. Just a bit to fill it out a little more, to really help build the world.

    I also think you have two options:
    1) you can either foreshadow (is Haebor going to be a Beauty-and-the-Beast type deal where he's really not that bad and/or cursed?)
    2) or lay a red herring in here, that gives your reader a reason to expect the opposite of what you will later reveal.

    Either way, I think focusing in a bit on the world building around Haebor is what this needs to really nail the opening.

    Awesome work!! I'm always impressed when a writer is really willing to revise (rather than just edit) and you've knocked this one out of the park!!

  3. Hi Audrianna,

    Nice work on the revision! I'm impressed that you were able to reimagine the opening based on the feedback. That's a hard thing to do! I think it does add a lot of interest to have her begin in her prison, looking out the window.

    I did find myself wondering how she would react to being let out. It felt very rushed and we didn't get much in the way of what she sees and feels. How long has she been locked away? Also, I wonder if she's been looking for redemption, what has she been doing all this time in her room? I'm not sure if you will want to start the story with it, but if it were me I would write a full scene of her in that room. What does she do? What does she think? What is she hoping for? I know that we spend a lot of time stressing quick openings and jumping into action, but I almost feel like you need to slow down. I'd like to get to know Arielle--see whatever is happening out the window. (Maybe something with Haebor) and then end the first chapter with the door opening and the announcement that the King wants to see you. Again--not sure if you need that full scene, but I think it's important for you to write it so you know. Right now, I feel inconsistencies with her character. She wants to prove that she's not bad, but she's also defiant and angry. I'm still working to get a handle on her. A little mystery is just fine, but I don't want to be confused.

    Another smaller comment: She mentions that she's drawn to Haebor and he drawn to her--I really liked that. So then I wondered why, at the end, she's pinning her hopes on him choosing someone else. What is her goal there? Does she want redemption? If so, is she willing to die for it? That's pretty darn which case she's going to her death. (I think that could be really great--if that fits her character and your story.) If she's more interested in survival then might she be agreeing to this and already looking for a way out?

    Great job moving the story forward. The hints about her and Haebor are definitely peaking my interest! As is the idea of her going to her doom. Oh--and I really liked the idea of the bracelet and how it keeps her from hurting anyone. Very cool!

    Good luck as you keep working on it!

  4. Audrianna,

    LOVE the changes. Love having a little taste of what life has been like for Arielle (Creda is a piece of work!). Love that the king is now harder—I think it ups the tension.

    My concerns:

    “Arielle mocked Creda silently, careful to hide the action…” Not sure what you mean here. Facial expression? Some kind of gesture? Even though she doesn’t want Creda to see her displays of contempt, it would give the reader a glimpse into her character if the reader sees it.

    I said this before so call me a broken record: I want to know Aeron is her brother right away. I read his description, and I always think she’s attracted to him, then I realize he’s her brother (and I’m creeped out by my assumption). What if it went something like this:

    “Her eyes flicked to the king’s right, to the prince there beside him, her twin brother. Even discussing such a bleak subject, her brother’s expression held nothing but emptiness – not the slightest bit of compassion. He did not care that their father was going to march her before a crowd of their own people and sacrifice her, should she be chosen.

    “If Aeron and her father were mirror images in their looks—hair the color of spun gold, eyes a solid crystal blue—she was the inverse. Her jet-black hair and eyes which were almost as dark proved it, but the difference of personalities between her and Aeron was the most apparent. While her brother obeyed their father without a moment’s hesitation regarding everything, Arielle suffered a terrible compulsion to rebel against each of his commands.”

    “You despise me so much, you would spill my blood?” This line makes me wonder what the “normal” sacrifices are. Maybe a line that explains them? Why they have them and to whom?

    I agree with Lisa that knowing a little more about Haebor would raise the tension. Do they worship him? Does he hold them prisoner? What happens if they don’t sacrifice to him? I’m totally intrigued that she was drawn to him. It feels like she might be different, might survive the birth because of this connection. Has she felt a connection like this before? But “drawn” is a bit imprecise. Was she attracted to him? Compelled by some emotion? Is there magic involved which could be described by sensation?

    Great work!


  5. Hi, Audrianna,

    GREAT job! This is definitely the right place to start and I love the changes you've made.

    Going forward, I'd love for you to go just a wee bit deeper, put yourself even MORE in your MC's shoes. It may be because you felt you needed to get to a specific point within the first five pages, but it feels like you've rushed through some of this and taken a few shortcuts. Really ask yourself what she's feeling and thinking at every particular moment and then choose the unexpected, the intriguing.

    I love that you have many of your emotional reactions do double duty as world-building, like the dress covering her knees, but that's one of the moments that feels rushed to me. I think you could also illustrate her spunk in an intriguing way at that moment--what does she do? Does she jump out of the way in spite of her dress providing a buffer? Does she hate that the dress makes it hard to jump out of the way at the same time that it saves her from cuts, if not the bruises? Does she refuse to give the woman the satisfaction of reacting? All of this would tell us a LOT about her character and set us up for what's thrown at her in the throne room.

    As far as the throne room goes, and throughout, I'd love to get the descriptions of people and places more specifically when we need them. You sometimes withhold so that it doesn't feel like we're there in the moment with her. A deeper POV would have us searching the king's face to determine his mood--what does this summons mean? Forgiveness? More punishment? Does the prince's expression offer a clue? Are his blue eyes hard in the face that everyone admires, etc.? There are thousands of ways to make those descriptions non-intrusive but deliver them to us when we would first be encountering everyone. Paint the picture for us of the throne room, the distance from the tower, whether people watch her with curiosity.

    The Haebor reference from her childhood is intriguing. Can you use that to help us get a context of how long she's been in the tower? Is her being locked up the reason that she's going?

    And why does it follow that because she was intrigued by him, he would be intrigued by her? Did he notice her even then? Since we haven't really had a head-on story question moment up until this point, can you give us enough description of Haebor or context for him that we have a clue what to expect when they meet? Is he truly a monster, or will this be a love story?

    And even beyond that, I'd still love to know her inner need by this point. What's her wound? The weakness that will hold her back until she pulls herself out in the dark moment and resolves to fight a different way?

    Eager to see what you do from here. Superb revision!


  6. Hi Audrianna,

    You made a lot of great changes! I liked the opening line and the use of "previous air." And I liked Arielle's reaction to being able to leave the room. You used a lot of good language earlier that gives a good idea of how glad Arielle is to be out of that room. And the final line would defintely keep me interested.

    I do agree that this scene could used a bit more description of her surroundings. How does the tower compare to being in the throne room? How FAR is it from the throne room? Right now it feels like the two are relatively close to each other, is this the case?

    Also I was confused about the comment of Creda being mocked because it doesn't really say Arielle mocked her for. But overall I think the tension is still good here and I really like where this is going.

  7. Audrianna,

    Great revision! I thought the earlier version was great, just not for an opening scene. This makes a much more compelling opening!

    To me, the core of this scene is Arielle has been locked in a tower for a long time, and her only hope for freedom is to present herself to this assumedly awful Haebor. That's an intriguing hook, and the more you're able to pull from that premise, the better. Even if you have to chop away at some of the stuff about Arielle's brother, who pulls me out of the scene every time I'm reminded he's there.

    So in the beginning, I need a bit more of a sense of how long Arielle has been locked in the tower, and what her conditions have been like. Not a long description, because I like that the king's summons appears so early. But just a little more than we have here. That way it will give more weight to the later line about her desire for redemption versus her need to be released.

    I like the hints about her past deeds. They are all well placed and make me want to read on. The line about earlier being drawn to Haebor, and him to her, is intriguing, but also brings up a lot of questions for me that I'm not sure you can answer in this short time frame. Or maybe there's just a better way of saying it. With the current wording, it doesn't compute in my head that her being drawn to him would equate to him being drawn to her.

    Is there more to Arielle's compulsion to rebel against her father? Is it a personality trait, or are we to infer that it's what led to her imprisonment?

    I agree with Martina that this may feel a bit rushed to get it all into the 1250 word mark. Reading it up to the last few paragraphs, I've already got a great sense of the conflict--so much so that I can sense the resolution is coming soon, but I don't need it to arrive this soon. If I'm reading these five pages and I don't get to her decision by the end of them, I'm okay with it because I feel like the premise is so strong, you've introduced the conflict so well, and I can tell Arielle's decision is impending.

    And if you go that route, you can use the extra words to describe Arielle's imprisonment and also to give us a better idea of Arielle's motivation. The line about her desire for redemption feels more tell-y than show-y here.

    Great job on the changes! You're setting up an intriguing story!


  8. Thanks guys! Your comments are helping me a lot - not just with these pages, but all of them.

    I don't know why I got stuck on ending my first 5 in the same place! Reading comments on my revision, as well as the others, I realized I was trying to squeeze everything in, instead of writing it all and then taking just the first 1250. It'll definitely be different this last revision!

    Thanks again!