Saturday, October 7, 2017

1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Hoover

Name: Audrianna Hoover
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Princess of Darkness

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

She stared up at the king, unblinking. She could feel the anger pooling in her gut, even as the fear of what he had just announced struck a chord in her. Her eyes flicked to the king’s right, to the prince there beside him.

Golden and beautiful and perfect, he was everything she was not. His hair was the color of spun gold, his eyes like a never-ending pool of crystal blue water. His fair skin was tanned from his time outside, from training to be a warrior. That’s where the lean, toned body came from, too. Even now, discussing such a bleak subject, his face showed no glimmers of hesitation or fear for her.

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.

Aeron was indeed everything she wasn’t. If her jet-black hair and eyes that were just as dark didn’t prove that, their difference of personalities certainly did. While Aeron obeyed their father without a moment’s hesitation regarding everything, Arielle had 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, a movement that hid the anxiety she felt. The iron bracelet around her wrist glinted dully in the light from the fire as she clenched her fists, the deep orange amulet inset into the metal gleaming brightly. “Do you really despise me that much? That you would spill my blood?”

King Jerald gave her a sad shake of his head. “You’ve forgotten which rite this is, Arielle.”

That set her back. Her mind whirred through the calculations.

It had been nearly four months since she’d last been allowed out of her tower, her maid her only company – a hateful old bat that begrudged Arielle the last four years of constantly caring for her. They had an understanding. Arielle would not speak to her and Creda would not slip enough poison in her every meal to keep her bed ridden for the rest of her life. Or kill her.

She spent her days watching the training grounds and the men who trained there from one of the three tiny windows, including her twin. She yearned to be out in the open air again, to be out of the room she was held in.

Only the castle knew of her imprisonment, the king not wanting the entirety of his kingdom to know of his daughter’s evil deed. It was why she was locked in her tower most of the time, made to wear the bracelet, and why Aeron seemed to hate her so much.

She felt the blood drain from her face as her mind caught up. Nearly four months. That would make tonight’s selection…

“The Spring Rite,” she choked out. “You’re going to give me to Haebor.”

“Of course not, my daughter,” her father murmured, fingers caressing the arm of his chair. “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 slowly, wearily. The men who had dragged her down the stairs from her room stepped forward to each claim an arm. She kept her head high and proud as her father approached her, Aeron keeping at his heels.

“Good dog,” she snarled at him. Aeron glared back at her.

King Jerald sighed as he came to stop in front of her. “Arielle, you will go,” he said. “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 that you’re not as you appear.”

Arielle felt the threads of apprehension wind tight in her gut. If she could just prove to him that she wasn’t evil. If she could just prove that she hadn’t meant to defy him that day.

“It is, of course, as you say. You must offer yourself freely.” He looked her over from head to toe, grimacing as if the stain on her sleeve from lunch was the stain on her soul that he so abhorred. The King shuffled 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 looked up at her twin, searching for any sort of sympathy or sibling bond. Aeron’s blue eyes were cold on hers, his hand resting on his sword. He would kill her himself if she tried to harm their father.

“How fitting,” Arielle said snidely, “that you would be the one to kill me if he gave the order. Did you give our mother a choice before you murdered her as you were born, little brother?”

Aeron’s hand tightened on his sword and the muscles in his jaw worked, the only indicators that she had hit a nerve. At what, she didn’t know. Either the reminder that his birth had been the cause of their mother’s death or the fact that she was, indeed, older than him by twelve minutes. But he didn’t pull the sword as she thought he might. He would wait for an order from their father always.

“Choose,” King Jerald repeated. His fingers traced over the arms of his gaudy throne once more.

There were worse things than death, and one of them was to be bred like an animal by the god Haebor. The coupling would result in a child, as it did every year. The child would be born, normally tearing its mother to shreds in the process, and be brought up away from the castle. To what end, Arielle had never discovered, though she had snooped often enough.

It was, however gruesome a death, considered to be a great honor if Haebor chose you.

She had no doubts. Haebor would choose her.

She could fight, she knew, and force Aeron’s hand. But Arielle looked at her brother, then down at the handle of his sword, his knuckles white with his grip. The thought of dying right there on the spot terrified her. She raised her eyes back to the king and studied that look on his face, the hope for her redemption. She nodded once, stiffening at the smile of approval she received – a first in a very long time.

She let her father’s men march her from the throne room and through the main hall of the castle, down the steps. Her eyes tracked everything. Guests of the court stopped their boisterous laughing and merriment to gawk at the princess, whispering excitedly as she was loaded into the royal carriage.

Arielle couldn’t hear their words, but didn’t care. She ignored them and their gossip, drinking in the sight of the sinking sun at the horizon. There was maybe an hour before Haebor would make his choice. She could only pray that he would overlook her for another unlucky soul.


  1. Hi Audrianna,

    You have a really intriguing opening for a YA fantasy! You got my attention when she's standing in front of the king and this gorgeous guy (and I'm wondering, 'Oh no, is this the cliche of the handsome prince who will save her) and then I read that he was her twin brother. Nice surprise!

    You have the elements of a strong opening: a character in trouble and the consequences sounds pretty awful and unique: being bred to a God and ending up ripped apart in childbirth. (I'd want to pass on that, too.) ;) There's also some mystery in the past--something she's done and regrets--a reason for her imprisonment. I like that too. You don't tell us a lot, but just enough.

    A couple thoughts for revision. I think you have a lot more description here than you need. For instance, you start by telling us that she's as different as possible as her brother. But then you add another paragraph telling us the differences. I don't think it's necessary in these early pages. Don't slow down the action here--what "telling" can you delete, and what "telling" can you turn into dialogue and make more active? Do we need to know about Creda here? Or can you focus on a back and forth between her and the king that might reveal all of that information including her imprisonment and maybe what future she had hopes of, etc., through conversation? Just a thought.

    Also, consider Arielle's situation. I'm guessing she wants freedom. Or does she want forgiveness? Or does she want revenge? Whichever it is, you really want to keep that in mind as this scene develops. Her actions, her words, her thoughts should all reflect her motivations.

    Good luck with revisions!

  2. Hi Audrianna,

    Thank you for sharing your work. It's really great. I love the immediate conflict and the introduction of a god into the story.

    If you decide to remove the telling paragraph Amy mentioned (about how she and her twin are polar opposites), possibly you could move your description of her appearance to the part where she's so certain Haebor will choose her.

    Why will he choose her? Is it because of the way she looks, or simply because she's royalty?

    Also, Arielle goes from absolute certainty he will choose her, to praying he will pick some other unlucky soul. Does she now truly think there's a chance he won't pick her? If not, maybe you could change that last thought to some sort of determined statement that she intends to fight.

    Nice job.


  3. Hi Audrianna-
    It's clear you have a definitely handle on your characters and world here. I'm going to make a suggestion to consider starting this in a slightly different place. Here's why: The thing I was most intrigued by in this opening actually wasn't that she might be selected as a sacrifice. The thing I had the most questions about is the fact that she hadn't been out of her tower in 4 months.
    I wonder if you might start the opening with her being more unsettled or even just relieved to be out finally and *then* have her father make the pronouncement.
    I'm proposing this for a couple of reasons--1) it struck me as odd that she immediately reacts to the idea of being sacrificed, but then we see that she doesn't even know which of the rites it is. That, to me, seems like it would only be the case if her mind was abuzz about her new freedom. After all, if you're stuck in a tower for 4 months, wouldn't you be *highly* aware of how much time had passed while you were imprisoned? Or...if not, why not? 2) starting with her thinking about being released helps to immediately give a sense of her family without so much back-and-forth description. If she's been imprisoned wrongly for that long, she would already be angry at the king--not just because he's about to sacrifice her. And, if he was the one who had imprisoned her, the sacrifice wouldn't necessarily come as a surprise. But knowing that she's been imprisoned (by whom? for what reason?) would immediately give your reader a lay of the land in terms of character and world building.

    Anyway, I think re-thinking your focus in this opening would help you deal with Amy's comments about Arielle's character in terms of what she wants vs. what she needs.

  4. Hi Audrianna,
    There are many things here that I like:
    I think the world sounds interesting and there will certainly be a life changing moment in Arielle’s near future.
    Arielle seems smart and strong even though at a disadvantage.
    There are some beautiful lines: “Her eyes flicked to the king’s right, to the prince there beside him.” “Arielle felt the threads of apprehension wind tight in her gut.”

    Here are some things to think about:
    I wanted to know why the king was weary, murmuring, fingers caressing the arm of the chair, approaching her instead of forcing her to approach him. These actions do not seem regal or commanding to me.
    I would have liked to know the prince was her brother and her twin in the third paragraph. It would have made the comparison have more meaning for me. “Even now, discussing such a bleak subject, his face showed no glimmers of hesitation or fear for her.” I have no reason to think he would feel these things since I don’t know he’s her brother.
    “Struck a chord” and “Hateful old bat” feel cliché to me.
    I would leave out the summary “Golden and beautiful and perfect” at the beginning of paragraph three. You show us that.
    I feel like perhaps you start just a bit too late in the story. If you started with Arielle in the tower with Creda and showed us her awful life, perhaps watching her brother train instead of telling us about it later and she could reflect on the bracelet and let the reader know why she has to wear it. More action in real time rather than flashback so early. It would give the reader more time to bond with Arielle before she’s given to Haebor.
    Keep up the good work. I would want to read more.

  5. Hi Audrianna,

    You've got a really intriguing story going here--and (most importantly) one that seems fresh and unique. I'm already hooked on the world and the mythology, and especially hooked by your feisty yet pragmatic heroine. She's someone I'd definitely love to follow.

    That said, I'd love to make two suggestions. First, I'm not sure this is the right place to start.
    Her willingness to accept the "breeding" of the rite didn't quite feel natural to me as written, so I'd love to see you give us the full emotional roller-coaster leading up to it! Also, it feels like you're derailing us with two much backstory that we're being told (albeit skillfully) as opposed to shown, which wouldn't really be as much of a problem if it wasn't being delivered to us in the midst of truly intriguing action. As a result, I'm afraid the power of both the backstory and the immediate action is being dissipated. I'd love to have you show us the sameness of her days in the tower, how she loses her sense of time and fills it by watching her brother training below her, yearning for freedom. Then because I love the relationship with her warden, I'd love to see a bit of that as the woman forces her to go through some special effort on a day that is "different" from the norm, different to the point where maybe she starts to get excited and maybe starts to hope that she might have been forgiven or that her circumstances will improve? That way, when she finally gets in front of the king and finds out what day it is and what he wants from her, she realizes she never will be forgiven and we have a better motivation for her to accept the sacrifice. And I'd love to get a stronger sense of what she is feeling in that moment, is she determined to find some way out of the situation even as she accepts the "rite" or is she giving in?

    As a side note, the one moment when I found her unsympathetic was when she accused her brother of being the instrument of her mother's death. Think carefully before you go there. It's a trope that's usually assigned as motivation for the antagonist rather than the protagonist.

    Finally, although you do a good job generally of conveying emotion, I'd love to see you step in and deepen the POV just a wee bit further. There are times when asking yourself "would my MC really be thinking/feeling this NOW?" would be helpful and would prompt you not to give us information that slows the story. : )

    Overall, a REALLY intriguing story. Can't wait to read more!



  6. Hello, Audrianna,

    I'm piggy-backing on Lisa's suggestion to begin the story after the MC has been freed from the tower. That seems like a helpful way to go. Or at least the MC could consider, "The sacrifice selection ceremony makes me shiver, and the thought of being chosen even more so. But so does the thought of staying locked up in this tower any longer, and so I'm leaning toward choosing to go." If the story begins with the MC savoring her new freedom only to have it snatched away with the news that she's been released to attend the sacrifice selection, that would give me the sense that something good has been taken from her. Right now, everything feels somewhat pre-determined, and our MC appears resigned to it. Things would be a bit more compelling if she starts off in a place of relief and satisfaction before it's taken away.

    Speaking of pre-determined, I couldn't figure out if the MC's certainty that she will be chosen was foreshadowing something about her or not. As a reader, I think I already know that she's going to be chosen otherwise the story will sort of die. But if there's a chance she won't be chosen, or a certainty she will be, the reader in me is curious to see it addressed.

    I'm intrigued to learn what led to her imprisonment to begin with. Your hints and references are perfectly placed as far as I'm concerned.

    I like the MC/narrator's sense of humor. The description of her arrangement with her maid is great and funny. I look forward to more of those humorous touches, though too many would feel out of place in this story about a young woman in our MC's position.

    The background sections between the dialogue pull me out of the conversation. When our MC asks "Why?" I had to re-read to see what she was referring to. Ditto when her father tells her to choose. I thought, "Choose what?" Finding a way to separate those background details from the dialogue would allow the conversation to find more of its own tension.

    This is an interesting and inherently frightening premise, and the story is off to a great start!


  7. That first sentence certainly pulls you in! There's a lot of really good details in here, definteily makes me want to read on!

    I do agree that we're getting a lot of info upfront about the brother. You make a point to mention she's everything he isn't right off the bat, and we get their physical descriptions. We're told her brother is seen as perfect and beautiful, but I didn't get why.

    Also, I was confused about Arielle being hidden away. She's been locked away for months, but I would assume that people outside the castle would have known of her existence prior to that time. So are they being lied to about why she was locked away? Or did she just disappear and people outside the palace knew little about what happened to her?

  8. Thank you all!

    Your comments make tons of sense. It's great to get fresh eyes on this! I've already constructed a plan to attempt to fix the problem areas pointed out.

    Thanks again!