Saturday, February 3, 2018

1st 5 Pages February Workshop- Smit

Name: Rochele Smit
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The Royal Palace, Yarmysh
Year 1150

They said that mankind has always been plagued with a lust for power. They were right.

Gazing out the palace windows, Silas’ lips curved up in the slightest of smiles. Power came in many different forms, and if things went his way, the shift in power today would change the world. His fingers caressed the ancient stone sill as he envisioned the outcome of tonight’s events.

“Sir, everything is ready.” The words of his trusted servant interrupted his thoughts, and he turned away from the window.

Walking down the sweeping staircase, he admired the red hue of the setting sun reflecting off the intricately tiled walls. As he passed through an arched doorway to the balcony that overlooked the vast courtyard, his servant reached out and touched his arm.

“Silas, do you think it’s wise to go out there?”

Raising an eyebrow, he looked at where his servant’s hand rested. Very few dared speak his name aloud, let alone touch him. He ignored the man’s misstep and stared out instead at the massive crowd gathered below.

“I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

“At least take some soldiers with you,” his servant implored.

He smiled and shook his head, knowing he had no need for protection. Pulling his arm away, he continued out onto the balcony and began making his way to the king.

The guards nodded their heads in deference to him as he passed by, but he didn’t miss the condescension in their eyes. Taking his place among the king’s trusted advisors, he casually surveyed the scene around him. As usual, he was the lone human on the balcony, and only a slight twitch in his nose betrayed his displeasure with the fact.

The queen sat not far from him, gazing serenely out at the sunset. She was truly stunning with her dark hair coiled elegantly at the nape of her neck and he almost regretted the waste of beauty as his gaze lingered on her for a brief moment. Then, she shifted her golden wings that were stretched behind her and his hatred for the Jhihari race instantly flared back.

The royal trumpets sounded, and the crowd fell silent as the king stepped to the edge of the balcony. Purple robes fell elegantly around his powerful body, and the simple gold crown on his head sparkled momentarily in the last rays of light as the sun dipped beneath the horizon.

“My loyal people, I want to thank you for coming on this special day. The tournament is one event I know we all look forward to each spring, on these few days when all three moons align themselves.” The king pointed to the darkening sky where the spectacular solar phenomenon was clearly visible, and a hearty round of applause rose from below.

“Before I officiate the beginning of the tournament, I would be remiss to avoid announcing the newest addition to my military advisors. I introduce to you, Joseph Vhatcher, commander of our newly formed human unit.”

A door behind the king opened to present Vhatcher, and a surprised murmur rippled through the crowd when they saw that the commander was human.

Silas made brief eye contact with him as he strode by, and Vhatcher gave him the slightest of nods before taking his place in front of the king.

While all eyes were on the king and Vhatcher shaking hands, Silas glanced up at the walls surrounding the courtyard. He saw the shadows of men hiding in the battlements and his smile turned smug. Things would happen quickly now.

He brought his gaze down just in time to watch Vhatcher grab his sword. Before the king could react, the commander moved with inhuman speed and plunged the enchanted blade deep into his chest.

The king’s wings flashed out in surprise, then went limp as he sunk to his knees. Paralyzed in shock at what they had just witnessed, the crowd stood silent as Vhatcher yanked the sword out and raised it to the sky. The blade shimmered with an unnatural green glow beneath the glistening blood that dripped from it.

“Long live the king!” Vhatcher’s bellow reverberated through the courtyard.

The first scream came from the queen, but it was quickly cut short by an arrow from above. Vhatcher’s shout had been the archers cue and deadly arrows rained down upon the frightened crowd from all directions. There was nowhere to run and the ones that took to the sky were quickly shot down.

Silas stayed a moment longer, watching as Vhatcher turned the deadly blade on a fellow advisor. Satisfied that Vhatcher and his men would proceed as planned, he turned and calmly walked the length of the balcony, strangely detached from the carnage below. He had work to do.

Once back inside the palace, he quickened his stride, the sound of his boots on the polished marble floor echoing oddly against the screams from outside. His destination was the old palace, which stood abandoned and in disrepair.

Opening a hidden door, he descended into a tunnel, and grabbed the torch that was waiting for him. He moved with purpose through the neglected passage, ducking to avoid dusty cobwebs. Stopping at a wide iron gate that blocked off a natural cavern, he turned a key in the ancient lock, and it swung open with a loud groan.

“Time to hunt,” he commanded.

A pair of red eyes materialized out of the darkness within, and he threw himself back as the massive beast flung itself from its prison. Smiling, he watched it disappear from sight, it’s huge body barely fitting between the corridor’s walls. Moments later, he heard the creature give a bloodthirsty roar as it took to the air. Now, only one more matter of business to see to.

His pace was leisurely as he walked back into the palace and soon he passed through the library doors. Just as he expected, the old one was there, sitting at her desk, frantically scrawling something on a piece of parchment.

He strode to the desk and waited for the old one to look up.

“You foresaw this, and yet you said nothing. Why?” He softly asked as they locked eyes.

The old one looked at him defiantly. “What is to happen, is what is to become.”

He narrowed his eyes. “No more riddles.”

As he closed the space between them, the old one struggled to her feet, her crippled wings hindering her.

He moved quickly, and gripped her neck while whispering words in the dark language. Surprisingly, the old one did not attempt to stop him as deathly streaks of black spread from where his fingers dug into her fragile flesh.

Watching with pleasure as the old one’s ghostly white eyes rolled back into her head, he let go, allowing her lifeless body to collapse to the floor. He reached over and snatched up the piece of parchment, scanning it quickly.

A kingdom taken unjustly
Blood shed is blood given
What was conquered must be taken back
Those who rise against peace
To tear us down
The time will come
When history repeats itself
All will be lost
Yet all will be won
From the smoke
Only one can emerge
The fate of the fallen
Rests heavy upon the victorious

When he finished reading it, he snorted and looked dubiously down at the remains already turning to ash at his feet.


  1. Hi Rochele,

    Thanks for sharing your work! You have a really intriguing opening here. I especially liked the idea of “people” with wings, and the moment when the king was stabbed was really well done! I have a couple of suggestions for you:

    I wonder if the scene can start with Silas already out in the crowd. I feel like that’s where your story really gets going, with the king announcing the tournament and the arrival of Vhatcher. Of course, we’re in Silas’s head, so we’ll need to get grounded through his observations of being out on the balcony with the king and queen, but I feel like it pulls the reader in more than his interaction with the servant.

    I might like just a brief mention of why exactly Silas hates the people with wings so much. You want to avoid telling rather than showing, but maybe find a way to organically fit in a hint at that.

    His dialogue with the old one at the end confused me a bit, because he asks her why she didn’t tell anyone about the attack. Isn’t that something he would be happy about if he was part of the attack?

    Is Silas a teenager? This might be good to know since you're targeting a YA audience.

    Try substituting adverbs for more specific, interesting language (examples of adverbs in your piece would be elegantly, dubiously, leisurely, softly, etc.). You have some really nice description and imagery (enchanted blade, dark language) so I’d like to see more of that strong writing throughout.

    You could vary up your sentence structures. There are several instances of sentences that start with an –ing action (Gazing out the palace windows, Silas’ lips curved up in the slightest of smiles/ Raising an eyebrow, he looked at where his servant’s hand rested/ Taking his place among the king’s trusted advisors, he casually surveyed the scene around him). You could try to use more active phrasing to tighten up those sentences (Silas gazed out the palace windows with his lips curved up in the slightest of smiles).

    I’m really looking forward to reading your next round! Happy writing.


  2. Hi Rochele!

    First off, I’d like to say this comes across like a dark fantasy I would enjoy! I’m a big fan of bloodshed and monsters. Haha!

    That said, this opening does come across like it’s an adult fantasy, not young adult. We don’t get to find out who our main character is, but we do get a strong sense as to who the antagonist is. I do like setting up a prophecy, but maybe with this opening, the old one’s words should hint that maybe the hero-to-be is an adolescent? Maybe include a child Silas notices narrowly escape in the slaughter? Just an idea.

    To me, the coup seemed clear and easy to follow. Definitely seems as if a reign of humans is around the corner.

    Also, I would move this:
    “You foresaw this, and yet you said nothing. Why?” He softly asked as they locked eyes.
    To after Silas reads the prophecy. It seems to flow better.



  3. Hi Rochele,

    You have a strong opening sentence and I was intrigued by the fantasy world you created. Nice imagery with the golden wings and I was curious to learn more about the Jhihari race.

    I caught one minor typo in the following sentence: Smiling, he watched it disappear from sight, it’s huge body.... should be its, without the apostrophe.

    The violence seemed strong to me, but I don't know what is accepted today in the YA Fantasy category. I agree with Beth's comment about finding out whether Silas is a teenager, to connect with a YA audience.


  4. Hi Rochele!

    I love your opening lines! I am curious about who the “they” is. I think it’s fine to keep the “they” mysterious, but if it would help your world-building, you could define the they? Up to you. :)

    Silly, but I love the name Silas. Great character name. Lately I’ve been told that publishing prefers possessives ending in “s” to have the apostrophe “s” – so Silas’s. No idea how true that is, though… (also, sorry, that’s nitpicky of me!)

    Your writing is really, really good. Definitely very vivid and intense. I think there are a few places you can have some easier built-in world-building, though. For example, how long has the king and queen been reigning monarchs? Is it often to have rebellions and an overturn of power? Or has their line been in power for hundreds or thousands of years? Are they well liked or cruel monarchs? Or is Silas just an evil guy? Obviously some of these questions are GOOD because it’s going to keep your readers reading. But just trying to come up with some suggestions on how you can enhance your world right away in these opening pages. :)

    I think it’s worth saying again: you have really beautiful writing. Now just ground your reader and let us know who to cheer for?



  5. Hey Rochele,

    I absolutely loved the start because your opening lines have me completely hooked! In the second paragraph, however, try to expand more on the power shift; you can make the impact of what's coming more stronger. I love the descriptions of the queen and the whole elegance of the scene. I feel like that line - "Things would happen quickly now." sort-of reduces the impact of next scene. Try changing it to build up more suspense.

    The king's death is shocking - I hadn't expected that at all. But perhaps add one or two lines about the last expression on the king's face to make the scene seem more dramatic.

    That line "There was nowhere to run..." seems more like telling. Show us how the crowd scattered, how they felt desperate - show us the chaos of what's happening. And build up on Silas's reaction - I assume he's been planning this for a long, long time so try and make the readers see that. You can also add more description about the beast as well - add to its danger and emphasise on how it was locked up. This can help add to the whole bloodshed scene and Silas' revenge. There are some adverbs scattered around the text and its easy to replace them with simple descriptions that can add more detail to the story.

    Overall, I absolutely loved this chapter. I don't usually read fantasy but I like your world building and story so far! Reaching the end, I can see why the first line was important, with emphasis on the 'human' word. However, I would suggest trying to add more description of Silas subtly since he does give off the impression of being an adult.


  6. Rochele,

    Some really nice writing here. You pull the reader in with a fast-paced, action-oriented opening, and that's hard to do. Good work!

    Usually, with fantasy openings, I'm telling writers to move world-building back and keep the pace going. In your case, I'm going to say the opposite :) I need more. I need more grounding here. Otherwise, I'm interpreting sterotypical fantasy setting and I'm sure that's not what you have in mind. I'm sure your world is richer than that.

    Likewise, because it's moving quickly, I don't get a sense of character beyond stereotypical mwah-ha-ha villian, which again, I'm sure isn't what you intend. Show me hints of depth.

    Is this the villian or an antihero? If the former, a prologue should still point me in the direction of the main character. I'm the queen of prologues--I use them a LOT--but I've learned to make the link to the main character and plot clear. I see hints of that at the end, but I want more. I want to know this isn't just "villain who has taken over the kingdom and will be overthrown by the protagonist(s)" I've seen that one before ;) What makes your story different? You know show me as the reader. Hook me.