Sunday, November 12, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- White Rev 1

Name: T.K. White
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Mirror Maker

Aeris was in trouble. He cursed himself as he watched the princess slowly wake from her deep slumber. He gave her a strong potion, one that should have made her sleep for hours. A cool breeze brushed through the air, ruffling her hair. She shivered, goosebumps raised on her arms. The window. Aeris hadn’t shut the window. A rookie mistake, one that shouldn’t have been made. No doubt the chilly breeze was what now roused the princess awake.

Normally, after the princesses fell asleep, Aeris quickly grabbed any jewels or trinkets of value and high-tailed it out of there. But this Princess Gria just had so much. More than he had ever seen one princess covet. From her expensive makeup brushes, to the collection of rings, to the necklaces and bejeweled shoes. She had actual jewels on her shoes. But none of that compared to this: Aeris was in the Princess’s jewelry room. She had an entire room, easily the size of a peasant’s house, full of her “special” jewels. The carpet was plush, blood red. A full-length mirror hung on the back wall. Shelves lined the walls. On each shelf were crowns, crystals, gems the size of Aeris’s eyes, headpieces, and rare pieces of jewelry Aeris guessed were for looking, not touching. Over the past few weeks, Princess Gria had mentioned this room, a beacon of pride, many times. It contained her “best” gems. The ones she collected and imported from other kingdoms. Apparently, they were rare, fetching quite the price. Say, the cost of an entire village’s grain for a month.

Aeris felt like if he didn’t grab as much as he could carry, it might be the difference between life and death. Trina was sick. Again. It was a horrible raspy cough that wouldn’t go away. The healer gave a grim outcome: without the expensive medicine she needed, she might very well be dead within a month. Ysara had grown out of all her clothes and had nothing for the harsh winter months, soon approaching. She might freeze to death if she didn’t get appropriate outerwear. All the children in the orphanage of Cypro were far too skinny, their bones jutting out, their bellies swollen from hunger. These innocent faces played through Aeris’s mind with each jewel he grabbed. He saw a little bit of himself in each and every one of those children, but there was no time to think about his own sordid past. In this ornate room, Aeris had lost track of time, overzealous and naive in hoping he could save every child in this realm.

The bright, round moon shone in the room, illuminating the pale skin of Princess Gria as she stretched, drowsy. She immediately noticed Aeris’s absence and searched the room with her eyes scanning every nook and cranny. “Aeris, my darling?” Her voice started off sweet enough, but when there was no reply, it turned sharp and sour like a tart berry. “Aeris, where are you?”

Retreating a little further into the jewelry room, Aeris frantically looked for a place to hide. The room was entirely closed, it’s stone walls a barricade to any escape plan Aeris might concoct. There was only one way: the window. Aeris peeked out the door and found Gria looking at herself in her mirror, brushing her long, blonde hair.

“Esmerelda!” The beautiful princess called. Esmerelda, a dark-haired younger girl, came sweeping in the room, as if she was right outside the door waiting for the moment she might be summoned.

Aeris’s heart skipped a beat, and he hoped Gria treated her kindly. He had witnessed more moments during their time together than he could count of Gria mistreating her servants. Esmerelda was too young to be subjected to such maliciousness. On more than one occasion, Aeris made sure to say to say a kind word to Esmerelda, or give her a wink to cheer her up when she seemed down. It wasn’t enough to make up for what she endured, but Aeris hoped it was something.

Esmerelda curtsied. “Yes m’lady?”

“Have you seen Aeris? Did he leave my quarters?”

“No m’lady, I haven’t seen him at all.”

“Why are all of my servants so useless?” Gria whined.

While the two women were discussing his whereabouts, Aeris calculated the distance to the window. If she turned her back, if Esmerelda distracted her long enough, maybe he could make it to the window and escape.

“Esmerelda,” Gria’s voice crackled through the air like angry lightning about to strike. “Where are my makeup brushes? My golden makeup brushes?”

“I-I don’t know Mistress. I haven’t seen them!” Her voice faltered just enough to raise suspicion.

Gria rose from her velvet-cushioned chair, slowly turning to face Esmerelda. “If you don’t tell me where my makeup brushes are, I’ll cut that shy tongue right out of your mouth. Then you won't be speaking at all.”

Look for the white rose, look for the white rose, Aeris thought to himself, wishing he had the power to control minds. Long ago, Aeris witnessed a servant come under blame for his thievery. Ever since, he left a trademark white rose behind, so there was no question about who had struck. It had actually gained Aeris quite a bit of notoriety, and a nickname he didn’t entirely hate.

Esmerelda’s eyes widened in fear. She pivoted her body to face the angry princess, putting herself in direct sight of the white rose laid upon an ornate oak dresser. Esmerelda feebly pointed and Gria snapped her head in the direction of the servant’s stretched finger.

She strode over and snatched the white rose, reading the note attached. Gria’s body stiffened and anger lit her eyes as she crumpled it, letting out an ear-piercing scream. “That thief!” She opened each dresser drawer, frantically, every one empty.

Esmerelda moved to the side when Gria sent an empty box sailing through the air, narrowly missing her servant’s head. “Check this entire room!” Esmerelda stood frozen with fear. “NOW!” Gria yelled, spurring the serving girl into action. Aeris watched with dread as she swiftly moved toward his current location. Gria sank to the ground, a mess of sobs and angry mumbling about her irreplaceable jewels.

Opening the door, Esmerelda jumped to see Aeris standing there, bag full of the very stolen treasure Princess Gria was searching for. She cleared her throat, “Princess!”

Aeris cringed, waiting for the inevitable.

“What?” Gria groaned from the floor, hands covering her face.

“I think I just saw him, in your powder room!”

Gria popped up and dashed to her adjoining suite. Aeris moved out of the jewelry room with impressive speed, treasure bag clanging behind him.

“I don’t see him anywhere!” The Princess’s voice rang out, spiked with panic.

“What if he’s on the ledge, outside of the window?” Esmerelda replied. She whispered to Aeris, “Go, this is the only chance you have!”

Aeris had one leg swung over the window sill, he looked back to Esmerelda’s young face. “Why are you helping me?”

“It’s because of you I’m alive today. I know what that treasure is for, and I know the lives you’ll save with it.” She smiled at him, encouragingly, and with that Aeris was out the window, and on the ledge.

As he leapt from the ledge down to the shadowy gardens below, Gria shrieked out a note of fury. A Promise. “You’ll pay for this Prince Charming! You will pay!”


  1. Much, much better. Stronger start and I love beginning in the MC’s POV. Per a comment from last week’s submission, I do feel mildly uncertain about the best-age reader for this: young adult, high YA…? That said, you’ve got a much more powerful, direct opening. Thus, the comments below are (for the most part) more honed and specific.

    PP 1
    Watch tense: ‘he gave’ -> ‘he had given’
    Here it feels like we’re changing POV when we needn’t/shouldn’t and it’s a lot of words for an unimportant character: ‘A cool breeze brushed through the air, ruffling her hair. She shivered, goosebumps raised on her arms.’ -> something like ‘A breeze rushed [in/through the window] and he saw her shiver.’ (you get the idea – Aeris’s experience should remain center stage).

    PP 2
    A lot of words. Unless it’s very important to know so much detail about the jewels (beyond the special room), this feels excessive and takes us away from the central action of the scene.

    PP 3
    This feels important but be careful of telling instead of showing. For example, ‘It was a horrible raspy cough that wouldn’t go away.’ -> something like ‘Her relentless, raspy cough made Aeris [sad/terrified/worried/despair]’ – keep focus on MC and perhaps give readers some idea of A’s relationship to Trina – mother, sister, gf, childhood friend…?

    PP 7
    I see you trying to make Aeris warmer, more relatable but this is too much and feels expositional. Tighten up to maybe 2 sentences or find another way to relay some of this information. And I was a little confused to learn Aeris that ‘It’s because of you [Esmerelda is] alive today’ at the end of the scene. Should this be a surprise? Are we going to learn more about how A saved E? How does this jive with his relationship with Trina?

    PP 8 and beyond
    As we get to the action in the final 1/3 of the chapter, I feel a little spatially disoriented, suddenly realizing that Aeris is a room away from Gria – how can he see shivers and goosebumps noted in PP1 from this distance? I’d consider trimming some of the exposition and adding in some logistical information so readers can picture the action more clearly. Consider orienting readers to Aeris’s spot in the special room in PP 1 or PP2
    Love the white rose motif and the assisted escape action. Fun and exciting. That said, again, I’d watch exposition. For each fact you TELL reader, consider whether it is essential to reveal it RIGHT NOW in the scene and whether there might be a way to weave the information more organically into the story.
    Generally, watch your habit of pairing adjectives and doubling down on descriptors, e.g., ‘chilly breeze’ and ‘cool breeze’ in PP1; ‘bright, round’ moon in PP 4.

    You are really on your way. Congratulations on a strong revision. Wishing you a great writing week! - Stasia

    1. Thank you for your really specific feedback! It helped so much. You were totally right about the spatial disorientation. I didn't even realize the problems with him seeing Gria, being in the next room. Thank you for point that out!

  2. This is so much better. Nice work! There still are a few ways to clean this piece up, though. I really like this opening. His voice is great. However, saying that, I find the script switching from tenses here and there, as well as POV. If the opening is from his POV, then he wouldn't be able to feel her goosebumps. I guess maybe he could see them, but that would mean he was close to her. If he was robbing her wouldn't he be rushing to gather items, which would imply he couldn't be too near her? Just something to ask yourself while you revise. I just noticed that the above comment pointed out some tense issues, so I won't mention those again. The only thing I will say is try reading each paragraph out loud. Usually that helps point out when wrong tense is used.

    There are also areas where words can be cut out to quicken the pace and tension, and to give each sentence stronger meaning/sense. You may even want to combine some sentences. Most of the extra words are descriptive in nature, but when paired with too many they become overwhelming to the reader and to the flow.

    Areas where you slip into telling instead of showing seem to be where too many words are used. So I think you're trying to compensate by telling to shorten or end the paragraph, etc... Try cutting unnecessary words to make room to add action. Come back to see where there is no action. EX: paragraph 2 - he's suddenly in her jewelry room. As I was reading, I did get a better (but less directly harsh) impression of the princess, which was what I had a hard time with last time. But after the description of her overabundant things, I (as the reader) wanted to go somewhere or do something that gave me more insight into why Aeris was there. Instead, you told me. Try having him step into the room or whatever. Adding that slight action forces the reader to eagerly move forward with the character.

    I'm assuming the characters he mentions are some sort of family or other. You might want to briefly mention what the relationships are. This could lend to the importance of his task (stealing) as well as empathy from the reader for his plight.

    You've done a lot of work on this and it shows. I'm so looking forward to what you do for next week!


    1. Thanks for your feedback! Like my above comment to Stasia, I didn't realize I was switching POVs until you all pointed it out to me. I will fix that! I will also work to tighten up my writing. I can get a little wordy sometimes : )

  3. Hi T.K.,

    This is shaping up nicely! I definitely like the shift into Aeris’s perspective (like the name change, too). You’ve done a good job toning down the overconfidence to make him more sympathetic.

    Most of my comments are in line with what’s already been said—I also felt a bit disoriented about where Aeris was in relation to Gria. I think the description of the jewelry room could be shortened a lot—it really slows down the pace. It would also be good to know Aeris’s relationship to Trista and Ysara. Are they family members? Orphans?

    The sentence starting with, “He saw a little bit of himself…” pulled me out of the story. I think that it wouldn’t hurt to cut the last two sentences from this paragraph since they are a little too “telling.”

    On a similar note, “He had witnessed more moments during their time together than he could count of Gria mistreating her servants,” is more telling than showing. And we do get a pretty good example of this below when she threatens to cut Esmerelda’s tongue out… so you could consider cutting this sentence altogether.

    I really liked the dilemma that presented itself when Esmerelda was blamed for taking the jewels. The white rose is a nice touch. But, I’m guessing that no one knows that Aeris/Prince Charming is leaving them? Otherwise the princess wouldn’t have courted him, right? So even though he gets away at the end, is he at all concerned that his cover is now blown?

    Great job on this revision. Looking forward to reading the next one!

  4. Hi T.K.,
    Great shift to Aeris's character (and a great choice of a name change too, much more fantasy). And he seems like a pretty sympathetic character, given that I think he's stealing for orphans. Although at first, I had the impression he was talking about a wife/daughter.

    Overall, I think you and I share some of the same issues of over-describing that takes us out of the scene. For ex., in P2, the repetition of jewel/jewelry. Maybe if you could cut some of that down and give us more action. And this is probably super nitpicky, but covet implies the desire to possess, and this young lady seems to already have everything.

    There's also some head-hopping going on, so you want to be careful to maintain POV.

    I like how you added Esmerelda, as this allows us to see Gria's behavior towards others. And I'm intrigued how her story intersects with Aeris's.

    Great revision! I'm looking forward to the next one. Good luck!

  5. Hi TK!
    Wow, what a revision! This opening immediately makes me root for Aeris, and I especially love how you brought in his motivation for stealing.
    Some of the listing of jewels/ possessions slowed the pace when he should be speeding up the action in case she awakes, right? A few quick high value items might get across the same sense of opulence. Or he could be admiring it before he realizes the window is open, forcing him to speed up his plan?
    I liked how you used the white rose as the calling card, and how the servant helps him, a Robin Hood figure of sorts.
    The others mentioned POV, and the spatial confusions, which I'm sure you'll be able to clarify. Congrats on this revision!

  6. Hey T.K.!

    I loved seeing the story from Aeris' POV. It's so much stronger and he's much more sympathetic. Many have pointed out some of the same issues I had, so I'll be succinct - I still think you can use some tightening to make the story flow a bit easier. Does he have to list all the jewels? All of the people who might be helped by what he's taken? I love that Esmerelda helps him (and also that he's helped her - nice way to show his character.) and that he uses a white rose as a calling card. I think you can also cut some of the descriptions of the princess - as she's waking up. her movements, etc. And if his nickname is Rusty -- derived from Aeris...I'm okay with it! As long as that's made clear first :) Nice work, can't wait to see your pitch!

  7. Hi TK.
    I'm really glad to see that you shifted the opening POV to Aeris. I think this works much better.
    I would like a word or two setting the physical scene. He's in the jewel room, but he sees her waking. She's not in there too, right? Or is that her bedroom? Anyway, I was confused, also later when he's planning how to get out the window.
    Aeris comes off much more likable this time around too. I like the white rose detail too. The moment between Aeris and Esmerelda is nice as well, but maybe show her contemplating whether to risk it, at least briefly. Otherwise it comes across like they planned it, but they didn't.
    Some really great improvements here, and I'm excited to see where the rest of the story goes.