Saturday, November 4, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- White

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

The feather-soft bed moved underneath the dreaming princess as she rolled over, a smile on her face that marked a woman in love. In her lull, she absentmindedly reached across the bed, feeling for something, yearning for a touch.  But, there was nothing there. The absence was so disturbing it caused the princess to suddenly shoot up in bed, immediately chilled by the empty bed and the frigid night air. The windows were open, the curtains waving in the cool breeze. This was no doubt what caused the frigidness hanging in the air. Princess Gria shivered, drawing her heavy blankets around her shoulders.

“My prince?” Her voice started out sweet enough, but after a long silence, that sweet tone turned sharp and sour; like an unripened berry eaten while it was still tart. “Rusty? Darling? Where are you?”

Her father would absolutely murder Gria if he knew she let a suitor sleep in her quarters. Of course, it was all perfectly innocent. She had fallen asleep after he gave her the most relaxing back rub that made her eyes heavy, lulling her into a sense of complete ease. The Princess must have been asleep for over two hours, based on the purplish-black sky overshadowed by the bright round moon.

The long nap wasn’t what plagued her mind. The niggling worry was her missing Prince. If he had gone wandering around her castle and was spotted, he would pay a steep price, prince or no. There was a strict ‘no visitors without permission’ rule the King enforced with an iron fist. After all, he couldn’t have rumors abound of his pure, virginal daughter accepting suitors to her private quarters. Then a worse thought crossed Gria’s mind: what if he was already caught? There would be no explaining her way out of this one. She had servants whipped for much, much less. In fact, in that very moment, Gria began plotting just how she could lay the blame on one of her mindless serving maids if Rusty was discovered. A servant could have let him in and showed him to her room while she wasn’t there. Servants were easy scapegoats. They were also very expendable.

But if her sweet, sweet Prince had been caught, surely she would have heard a commotion. She looked out her window at the calm scenic gardens below, lit by the pale moonlight. No, no prince had been caught today. She would know by now. So where could he be? Why would he suddenly disappear?

She shifted her feet down to the chilled, bare floor, and got out of bed, sitting in a silky cushioned chair, in front of a bronze framed mirror. Prince or no, it was important to Princess Gria that she always look her best. Imagine walking out of her room and running into somebody with her messy bed hair and her smudged makeup. The horror of it all. On top of her gold-stained dresser, Gria had a set of three jeweled boxes. One with a set of pure gold makeup brushes. She had them made by the goblins of Oraia. Very expensive work. In fact, her father had told her it cost a month’s worth of rice for one of their villages. It was worth it. Beauty was an investment. The second jeweled box held the fine powders of her makeup, ground from rare flowers all over the realm. That had cost the pay of all three of her servants. Last was her favorite box. Any time of day she could open it and the rings, bracelets, and trinkets would sparkle and glimmer like the very stars in the sky. She would make herself presentable and then find Rusty. Gria opened the first jeweled box to find it completely empty. Those thick-skulled servants of hers. If one of them stole from her….She opened the second box, also empty.  The princess cautiously opened the last box, as if she was afraid of what she might see inside. Her worst suspicions were confirmed when the opened box revealed nothing inside. The princess frowned, realizing something was very amiss.

Abruptly standing, she knocked over her chair and moved at a brisk pace, searching all around her enormous room. She walked over to her dresser and opened the tiny drawers, each supposed to have carefully laid out necklaces. All empty.

Frantic, she ran over to a glass display case, sitting on top of a stone pedestal. Also ornate, also empty. Hysteria began bubbling up as she realized what must have happened, but it was impossible. He loved her. She loved him. They would be married one day. He told her so. It couldn’t have been done.

Not giving up quite yet, she ran around the room, checking various cases, bowls, boxes: all vacant. Every valuable item she owned was gone. And in that instant, she knew the worst to be true. Gria immediately began plotting which servant she would lay the blame on. Maybe the one who always served her breakfast one minute late. Everyday. It grated on Gria’s nerves. Yes, that would be the perfect servant to cast suspicion over.

She knew her father would be devastated by this. They had already spent most of the kingdom’s money on building their army to fight in the terrible wars that had plagued the realm for so long. To have some of their most prized family jewels taken? That might be enough to send her father over the edge.

Running to her opened window, the Princess surveyed the land. How far could he have possibly gotten by this time? Tears streamed down the princess’s slick face and she screeched out a note of fury, a promise: “You’ll pay for this Prince Charming. You will pay!”

The princess’s screams echoed as Rusty and Griff made haste through the moonlit kingdom of Taino. The blazing orange sun was quickly rising, and their cover of darkness would soon be gone.

“You’ll pay for this Prince Charming. You will pay!”

Rusty held that familiar swagger, and a smirk crossed his face, showing a confidence, which could be matched by none. He’d learned long ago to block the screams out. It wasn’t hard to do. The shrieks were so ear piercingly high, they were almost on another wavelength.

And really, those princesses got what was coming to em’. “Rusty, buy this for me!” “Ugh, those peasants are so annoying. Do they have to beg right there?” “These are my newest silk gloves, made of the finest silk. Imported from another realm!” Yeah. Those were really the types of mind numbing conversations he had to suffer through with the hoity-toity, too good for anyone, nothing but the best for me while my kingdom suffers, princesses.

Rusty might have been just a tad bit bitter toward them all. Just a tad.

As he walked along the dusty road, the tall, green trees felt like they were closing in on him. It always felt that way when he was escaping. Like everything was suddenly on the lookout for him: the clouds suddenly had[ Tiffany Reichert, 9/30/17, 1:27 PM] eyes, the trees grew arms that could reach down and capture him, the flowers sprouted ears. He knew kingdoms were desperate these days, but he doubted any of them had taught mother nature how to spy. He shuddered at the thought of what it might be like if that actually could be done.

No, no one had ever caught the elusive thief extraordinaire. Rusty liked to think of himself as somewhat of an expert. He had been doing this a long time and sort of had a capital on the whole business.


  1. Thinking this is a cool twist on the 'Prince Charming' trope and intrigued.
    That said, the writing could use some tightening in places where imagery feels a bit indulgent or imprecise. For example, 'like an unripened berry eaten while it was still tart' and 'Tears streamed down the princess’s slick face' (is her face actually slick or slick-with-tears?). Also watch the telling-instead-of-showing trap, e.g., at the very end of this submission: 'No, no one had ever caught the elusive thief extraordinaire. Rusty liked to think of himself as somewhat of an expert. He had been doing this a long time and sort of had a capital on the whole business.' Perhaps we could learn this through dialogue and interaction, instead of Rusty just telling us.
    My final suggestion for polishing is to take a look at the likability factor of your characters. Gria, her father and Rusty are all pretty unlikable - greedy, warmongering, bitter. I'd try doing some character worksheets and adding nuance to these characters. They don't have to be made likable but we need some relatability. Is Gria simply awful, blaming servants and wanting stuff and sneaking guys into her room, or does she have some weakness - maybe she isn't beautiful and is trying to buy love - or maybe she is kind to somebody - a sister of friend? Otherwise, your opening scene is simply somebody nasty getting what she deserves and the reader perhaps not caring at all.
    The bit about Rusty escaping might provide opportunity to make him more relatable to readers. Where is he escaping TO? Is someone waiting for him? Will he do good with his trove of stolen stuff? Right now, he just seems like a self-satisfied crook.
    My instinct is that you know the relatable layers of character - that Rusty is maybe a sort of Robin Hood, that there's some reason the King is doing what he is to the kingdom - and just haven't woven them in to these opening pages. Working this knowledge into your revision will help your characterization and language level up to match your creative story-telling twist.
    I'm very much looking forward to reading your revision. Please don't get discouraged by my comments. You clearly show potential, making it worthwhile to dig deep and enrich this piece.
    Wishing you a productive writing week! - Stasia

  2. Thanks so much for your feedback, it is already so helpful! To clarify, Gria is the prologue, (not a main or even prominent side character), I was trying to start the book by showing what Rusty does. Maybe starting with a non prominent character is not a good way to start my book? As for Rusty, I am going for the Robin Hood/Prince Charming 'take from the rich, give to the poor.' I will definitely work on his likability and weaving more of that into my first pages. Thank you so much!

  3. Hi!

    I'll comment as I read. Here goes:

    The first sentence and paragraph give a sense of place, time, and character, which is good. I know the where and when, and who the character is - a female princess in her bed staring out at a dark sky. Saying that, some of the description pulled me from the character, and she is your current action. I think you can tighten this piece by cutting words that aren't needed such as the adverbs and even simplifying sentences by reorganizing to use less words. The biggest element I feel that is lacking, especially from the opening, is emotion. Everything feels on the surface. The princess is obviously upset that her prince has vanished. How do I know that? Because I kind of figured it would be a natural reaction, not that her reaction communicates that to me; her inner thoughts lack urgency and danger. I feel like his 'absence' needs to have more conflict and tension, possibly giving the slightest hint as to what is in store for these two characters. A few questions plagued me as I read - Had he stayed over before? Why would she think something is wrong because he's gone? Had she been seeing him long? What is her investment in this relationship? What is his - if she knows or think she knows?

    Moving through the piece, another element came to mind. Gria lacks depth. She feels more two dimensional to me than three. This can be easily fixed by thinking about her thoughts and having her ponder more possibilities, different causes and results. Because when I first read that she was considering blaming the prince's presence in her room on a servant and that she took time to think about her appearance, while pondering his absence, my radar instantly went up. (I have a feeling the mirror might have something to do with this. If so, then it's definitely needed, but you could use it in more than one way.) At that point in reading I suddenly didn't like her, and the reader will need to like and relate to her (on some degree) to keep reading. If she thought about blaming a servant and also about the regret she'd feel I'd be more apt to give her a chance. The fact that she had the boxes made, which were at the expense of people with lesser means, is another hard pill to swallow for a reader. Here again, if you gave more to her character, added more depth and reasoning she might not come across as so blatantly arrogant. Softening some of this could give the reader a reason to want to know more about her.

    Also, Gria's reaction to the missing items in her boxes doesn't really fit with the description of the boxes, their creation, and what they held. I feel if she was so haughty than she'd show more rage on the outside, not that that would make her more likable though.

    I definitely love the twist that evolved about the prince. It's such a great play on the normal princess and prince charming theme. The questions it lends makes me want to read more. I'm wondering if this could be a way to deepen her character. I really love this part. And, from the way Gria acted, I kind of like him better.

    I hope this is helpful. Thank you for letting me read your pages. There is a ton of potential here. I can't wait to read your revision! Have a wonderful week.


    1. Ooh, I just read your response to the comment above. That does make a difference. Have you considered changing the point of view of the scene? I'm interested about what Rusty sees and how he feels.

    2. OMG I LOVE THAT IDEA! Definitely going to try a rewrite with that perspective!!!

  4. Hi T.K.!

    I'm conflicted here. While I like the voice you have going on here, and I don't think all characters have to be "nice," so far everyone is coming across as unlikable. Although I am getting a Flynn Rider vibe out of Rusty, so maybe we'll relate more to him as we go along.

    I like Sheri's suggestion of shifting POV. I was a little confused when it shifted so suddenly from Gria to Rusty, but because she's so mean, it made me more drawn to his story.

    Back to Gria. I think I'm looking for some varied emotion from her. So far, anger is oozing from her. And I'm not certain why she's so worried about getting in trouble for having a guy stay the night. This doesn't seem to fit with her self-centered, scheming nature. I would expect her to be as dismissive of her father as she is of everyone else.

    You may want to vary language--she does a lot of running in successive paragraphs :)

    Thanks for the opening read, looking forward to more!

    1. You are 1000% right with the Flynn Rider vibe. Thanks for your feedback, I look forward to implementing it into my rewrite!

    2. I'm so excited to hear this! I would absolutely read a book from a Flynn type POV :)

  5. Hi TK! Thanks for sharing your work, I enjoyed reading it. You paint a very vivid scene in the opening paragraphs - I felt like I was there. I agree with a lot of what others have said, so I'll try not to be redundant. My main concern is that this doesn't feel young adult to me - I think it's starting off with a character in bed and "the face of a woman in love" that gave it that feel. I agree with Stasia that the Princess is unlikable, and seeing your comment that she's not even a prominent side character - I would nix this part completely, or at least show it from Rusty's POV. Rusty also comes across as a little arrogant - I thought Flynn Rider too!! (he's my cartoon crush, ;) ) - could you find a way for him to be more sympathetic? Is there a reason he's stealing? And if the story is about him - start with him. Also...this is nitpicky, but the name Rusty feels like a strange choice for a YA Fantasy character. Maybe there's a reason for that name, but it wasn't particularly appealing to me. It felt too modern...or canine. (sorry, I knew a dog named Rusty) Can't wait to read more!

  6. Thank you for your feedback, I am terrible with names : (
    That's something I do need to work on. I'll try to rework that opening scene to make it more YA friendly and from Rusty's perspective. Thank you!!!!

  7. Hi T.K.,
    Excited to be here with you in the workshop.

    I wasn't sure who to root for, so when I read the comments, I understood why, since you said Gria is a secondary character. Rusty's unclear to me so far-- why would they be out shopping together (the line "Rusty buy me this")? Are they unattended? I like how he captures their whininess, but I worried at the line "block out the screams" because it sounds callous, and I had a hard time rooting for him, even if the princesses did deserve to be stolen from. I found myself wanting to see him in action, to see how is he wooing these girls who are surely well-guarded if they are naive.
    I really enjoyed some of the descriptions of the things in Gria's boxes, but they slowed the pace since she was frantically discovering what was missing.
    The line at the end when he shudders wondering if someone could get nature to spy made me curious about whether or not something in nature would end up catching him in the end. Good questions to keep a reader turning the page.
    Thanks for sharing and look forward to the revision!

  8. Hi T.K!

    This was a fun read; I enjoyed the twist! My comments are similar to some of the others, and I see that you’re planning to rewrite from Rusty’s perspective. Good call—I was going to agree that the princess was pretty repellent, and if she’s the character you start with, readers will be primed to expect that she’s the main character. However, starting the story from her POV did accomplish one important thing: by the end, I was rooting for Rusty, even though he seemed irritatingly overconfident at first. I was just glad to see the princess getting her comeuppance! If we only see things from Rusty’s point of view, and he tells us the princess deserves what’s coming to her, we will need some concrete, specific examples. I like the paragraph where he has his little diatribe about the annoying things that the princess says, but these seem kind of benign—can we get some more specifics about how the kingdom suffers as a direct result of her desire for luxurious objects? (You had some good stuff in the paragraph about the jeweled boxes, like that rice was withheld from one of the villages… people were starving so that she could have gold makeup brushes! That’s pretty despicable.)

    Also, it will be important to establish from the very first sentence that this is a twist on the old Prince Charming story. Otherwise readers might not stick with it long enough to find out. I think that starting with Rusty will help a lot with that, though. I’m looking forward to reading your revision!

  9. Hey TK-

    This is a cool take on the usual Prince Charming character and story. It will be fun to see how you play into and subvert the tropes of the genre.

    I had some comments about the opening scenes and Gria's character, but I read in your comment above that she doesn't really come back into the story. In that case, I'd definitely not start off with her. You're setting up the reader's expectations in a way that will just prove to be confusing later on. Instead, I'd suggest beginning with Rusty riding away. Some of the details of the opening scene are poignant and fun, so maybe Rusty can be imagining Gria waking up alone, finding her jewels missing, etc., instead.
    Rusty seems cocky and not that different from the shallow princesses he's describing. If you want him to be more likable and come off more as a Robin Hood type, I'd play up what he'll actually be doing with the riches (giving to the poor or some other good cause). It's okay for him to be cocky (complex characters should have flaws after all), as long as he has some redeeming qualities as well.
    I'm intrigued to learn more about this character for sure.