Sunday, October 22, 2017

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Willis Rev 2

Name: Latrice Willis
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Wayfarer's Chains

For sixteen-year-old nomad Mika, “being adventurous” usually means “being reckless.” Risking her mother’s wrath to run off with her martial arts instructor is no big deal. So, she doesn’t think twice about attacking a noblewoman who insults her tribe. Her actions lead to their eviction, but she couldn’t have known kingdom guards would turn it into a massacre.

Traumatized, Mika flees to another kingdom, only to get detained due to self-destructive behavior. She gains an ally in a guard named Amblyn. When she decides to avenge her tribe, Amblyn doesn’t believe she has the physical or emotional capacity to do so. She suggests Mika gets the strength she needs—by becoming a guard.

Mika’s mind and body are on the line as she faces xenophobic commanding officers, and strenuous training and athletic games. She becomes a political pawn for Amblyn, putting a strain on their allyship. And her own reckless behavior and grief threaten to send her down a more dangerous path of self-destruction. Mika is determined to one day face the men who slaughtered her tribe. But guard life could destroy her before a plan for vengeance even comes to fruition.

The plucking of the linti strings were complemented by the soft drumming and melodious voice. Mika’s arms moved in tune with each lyrical inflection. She spun around, thrusting her arms upward, and accentuated each rotation with the stomp of her right heel. She leaped into a split, her arms up again as she landed. The only sound from the crowd was the shifting of bodies on the crudely built benches.

Mika stepped back, now in line with her two close friends, Lewa, and Malani. She scanned the crowd in front of them. An intimate group of just over thirty people, all family and friends. And on a bench to her far right sat one of the most important people in her life, looking right at her, giving her that smile.

That smile.

That same smile pushed her through training. Working hard was the only way to see it over and over again. She wanted to keep staring at those encouraging, parted lips; they gave her the confidence she needed.

Certainly, she was making the right decision that night.

But she couldn’t put her focus on that right now. The crowd was enthralled and they hadn’t even started it. Mika forced herself to look at her friends to get back on track.

It was time.

The voices of the crowd rose and hands came together as the drum thundered. With leaps, body rolls, foot stomps, and shaking hips, the three friends made use of the small area between the crowd and the musicians. The bright red tassels attached to the sides of Mika’s black shorts slapped against her thighs, and her thick braids bounced around her head. The drums were getting louder and louder. She launched herself into the air one last time.

With one final pluck of the linti and softening drum roll, Mika’s feet hit the ground. She smiled through her heavy breathing as they received a standing ovation. Their first performance in front of everyone was flawless. It took four weeks of practice, sore bodies, and a few missed meals, but their hard work had paid off.

She glanced at her friends again, giving them each a slight nod. Malani backed away, leaving the two girls alone. Mika faced Lewa, crouching slightly as she waited for the cue. Her hand-painted headband did little to prevent the sweat from dripping down her forehead. Her cropped shirt clung to her shoulders. Why did it have to be such a hot, humid night? Stains covered Lewa’s own shirt. It was fortunate Mika had talked her into braiding her tightly, coiled hair for the night, who knows what the air and dancing would have done to it. Unlike her, Lewa had decided not to add the decorative beads to her hair.

The sixteen-year-old girls stood about five feet three inches. They were members of a Sanga tribe, one of the nomadic groups from south Khalavan. Like most southerners, each girl had plump lips, and dark amber colored skin. What made their tribe stand out was their bright green eyes and hair, the color of malachite.

The drum started again, signaling the most anticipated part of the night: The rutha battle. The traditional martial art was usually taught to young boys, with only Malani and three others being allowed to learn at that time. Mika’s mother, who learned through her husband, advocated for the girls to learn after catching them imitating the training on their own. In a matter of four years, they mastered the complex moves that incorporated swift arms, elbows, kicks, flips, and cartwheels. Their impressive skills got them chosen by the tribe leader to perform that night.

The two girls rocked back and forth, putting one foot behind the other. Mika had just a few seconds to look over Lewa’s shoulder and get a glimpse of him.

Datani. Her rutha trainer. The man she was going to run away with that night.

She exhaled, and set her focus back on Lewa. Her friend gave her a knowing look and mouthed the words quickly, but Mika knew exactly what she said:

I’m destroying you tonight.”

Such bold words. They were equally skilled, and matches between them were often unpredictable. But Mika was going to put everything into that match tonight. She had to shine. She had to win.

"Amijo!" Malani shouted. Lewa made the first move with a spinning kick aimed for Mika’s right shoulder and chest. She felt Lewa’s leg brush her hair as she ducked, and retaliated with her own spinning kick at Lewa’s shoulder. The series of kicks between the girls continued. That was the choreographed part of their routine, simply for the crowd’s own pleasure. Once Lewa backflipped away from Mika, they would have to rely on their own abilities to win the battle.

The girls fought furiously, grunting, and yelping with each hit. One-handed cartwheels and flips targeted the upper body, and sweeping legs were directed towards ankles and shins. Mika regretted putting the beads in her hair as they smacked her in the face, blinding her temporarily. Lewa took advantage of the moment and got her right side with a knee.

They had only been fighting for five minutes, but the girls began to slow down as their bodies grew fatigued. Mika knew she wasn’t going to last too much longer. They hadn’t fought this long before. But her determination to win gave her the strength to ignore her pains just a little while longer. Lewa was struggling to keep up. Her kicks and elbow shots had lost their fierceness. Time for the take down.

She dove feet first, opening her legs just enough to envelope Lewa’s left leg. With the slight twist of her body, Mika used her weight to pull Lewa down to the ground. Her friend groaned as her back hit the dirt.

"Mika bota!" Malani declared Mika the winner. She extended a hand to Lewa, who glared at her for a second. She rolled her eyes. One of them had to lose, obviously it couldn’t be her. But the pride in Lewa’s eyes gave it away; she wasn’t upset at all.

As the girls limped away from the cheering crowd with their arms around each other, a tired smile crossed her face. Datani would be proud of her. A reminder to him that she had paid attention to every word and every lesson he taught. Her eyes might have lingered on his face and lean body a little too long sometimes. But she still learned something!

He needed to see her as a great fighter. After all, she was going to confess her love for him and wanted to share all of his adventures. She had to be someone who could take care of herself and be his support whenever he needed it.

"Mika! Lewa!" Her mother, Alaya, pushed her way to through the group. "Come on girls. Let’s get you taken care of." Many people outside their tribe assumed Alaya was actually Mika’s sister. They were the same height, but Alaya’s green eyes turned slightly upward on youthful face.

Alaya led the girls to a blanket near the food. A small, overturned box with a large ceramic pot of ootuga paste, gauze, and flat string were set up on top of a blanket. She anticipated slight injuries, and had the foresight to prepare the area for them.


  1. Latrice,

    First of all, I apologize that I won't be much help as it comes to your pitch. I have absolutely no expertise when it comes to them, and am as lost as anyone! : ) With that said, what's coming through to me is that you're taking on a story that is very intimate to Mika, but also contains broad ideas such as the xenophobia and class issues you either mention or allude to. I hope that's something you are going for, and I hope you gain a lot of insight from the pitch experts!

    In this revision, I notice you've taken the opportunity to stretch out a bit, to add some literary flair to the piece. It comes across very well. Especially the description of Datani's smile. I'm confused about why we're kept in the dark as to his identity at the beginning of the passage, only having him referred to as "one of the most important people in her life." It doesn't feel necessary to draw out any suspense over his identity. To me, the suspense and conflict in your piece comes from how Mika will perform during the battle sequence. To that end, you might consider moving the paragraph that begins "He needed to see her as a great fighter..." up to the area where you describe his smile. I feel like I'm more intrigued once I know that she has a crush on her instructor, and it would be better for me to have that information as early as possible.

    Neat change in Lewa's motivation for trying to defeat Mika!

    I don't read a lot of fantasy like this, so I'm a bit distracted when Malani shouts "Amijo!" and I don't get any translation. Of course I infer it means, "Begin!" or "Fight!" but I wonder if anyone else runs into the same problem I do. Like I say, it might be due to my unfamiliarity with the genre.

    You're crafting a very distinct world here. Now that I've read your pitch and know what your overall conflict is, obviously I can see that we haven't really gotten a hint of it in this section, but kudos to you for instilling a different form of conflict with high stakes (Datani's respect) right off the bat. Good luck with this! I look forward to you seeing it all the way through!


  2. Hi Latrice,

    Great work!

    Regarding your pitch, the only part that threw me is in the first paragraph: "Risking her mother’s wrath to run off with her martial arts instructor is no big deal. So, she doesn’t think twice about attacking a noblewoman who insults her tribe."

    Are these 2 events related? The 'so' between them makes it seems that they are. Which is a bit confusing. Did she have to attack a noblewoman to run off with her instructor?

    Other than that, I think your story idea is solid. It sounds like Mika has some trying, lonely times ahead of her, but she'll conquer her internal and external conflicts like the warrior she is.

    Regarding your revision, I much prefer the trash talk between Mika and Lewa in this version. It's more straightforward and fun. I also like that Lewa is pissed she lost, but still loyal and decent enough to be happy for her friend.

    The fact that the instructor doesn't know the extent of Mika's regard for him added some nice tension. Because she's a sixteen-year-old girl, we don't know if this is just a crush on her end, or if he returns her feelings. So there's some potential for her to get her heart broken.

    This is well done. Good luck with your manuscript.


  3. Hi Latrice,

    Great pitch! Your blurb really helps get a whole idea of the journey and growth ahead for both the reader and Mika.

    This first scene is really engaging and holds great details. However, perhaps consider removing some of the explanation and incorporating these moments into personal thought or in the voice of the paragraph. This could help remove the passive tone in some sections. I did find myself wondering if the details about their tribe could come earlier, to avoid cutting into the juicy tension you've established for the event.

    You did a great job establishing the upcoming conflict! Letting the reader know about her feelings and plan helps get a view of who she is as well as what she's willing to do and draws the reader in. This sounds like a great start to the story!

    Kaitlyn Johnson

  4. Hi Latrice,

    First of all: great job on the revision for your pages! I'm much more intrigued by the romance now that we know Mika has feelings for her trainer. I also love the banter between Mika and her sparring partner/friend, Lewa. Plus, your descriptions are as lovely as ever and easy to follow when it comes to the action--I'd keep reading!

    As for your pitch, as someone else mentioned above, I was thrown by the way the first paragraph seemed to link "risking her mother's wrath" with Mika not thinking twice about attacking someone- are these two events supposed to be related? I'd suggest rewording for clarity, but otherwise, think the pitch is great!

    Good luck with this wonderful story!

  5. Hi Latrice,

    You've done an amazing job bringing this scene to life in a way that's much more active. Nice work on the revisions!

    I had the same issues on the query as others, but it was really nice to see where the story is going. It makes me wonder if you can incorporate Mika's reckless personality in this first scene in some way. Perhaps, it's a risk she takes to beat her friend in the fight. Or perhaps, it's just a little more clarity about the relationship with the trainer and why it's so reckless of her to pursue him.

    That brings me to one issue I have regarding the trainer. At one point, Mika says she's running away with him that night. That makes me think it's been planned. If so--I wonder if she wouldn't have thoughts about this being the first (and final!) time to dance for her tribe. This would be her farewell to her mother as well, right? So there would be a lot of emotion in this scene for her if she's running away tonight. But...a little later in the scene, she speaks of telling him her feelings. So then it doesn't feel set. She wants to show him what a good fighter she is tonight. To me, those feel like two very different situations. I'm not sure what your intention is for this scene, but I'd like that to be clearer, and then her motivations/thoughts to fit with her goal/plan. Hope that makes sense!

    Great work--you've brought the story so far in such a short amount of time. Good luck as you continue to bring Mika's story to life.

  6. Latrice,

    I think you’ve done well with this revision. The dance and fight elements are much clearer, and the introduction of Datani helps clear up Mika’s motivation for the evening.

    1. “Datani. Her rutha trainer. The man she was going to run away with that night.” I would move this up to where she sees him. It sets the tension for the entire scene. It makes this sentence, “Certainly, she was making the right decision that night” make sense. Otherwise, the reader has no idea what decision she’s making.

    2. But along with that, she seems very certain that he will run away with her even though she hasn’t confessed her love to him. This made me wonder if they had discussed it before or if she’s got wishful thinking (that turns out to be fulfilled).

    3. “…they hadn’t even started it.” Started what? They’ve been dancing and now they’re dancing some more.

    4. This paragraph stops me every time. It isn’t close third POV like the rest of the piece, so it stands out. “The sixteen-year-old girls stood about five feet three inches. They were members of a Sanga tribe, one of the nomadic groups from south Khalavan. Like most southerners, each girl had plump lips, and dark amber colored skin. What made their tribe stand out was their bright green eyes and hair, the color of malachite.”

    My feelings about the pitch are the same as the other comments, so I’ll leave them out here.

    You’ve built a fascinating world here. Best of luck with your story.


  7. Latrice,

    Please forgive my delay in posting my comments - life got the best of me this week.

    Reading through the comments, the others touched on everything I felt.

    I did feel like this revision was very much an improvement from the original. It gave the love interest a name and a reason for why Mika is taken with him. That seemed good to me.

    The biggest thing that drew me out of the story was that she was running away with him, but he didn't seem to know.

    The part with Lewa, though, was very good. I thought it developed Mika's character well - it showed her strength and determination.

    The pitch is good! I had the same issue with the wording in the first paragraph, but otherwise, it seems just fine!

    I wish you nothing but the best!