Sunday, March 11, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Dunn Rev 1

Name: Loie Dunn
Genre: YA fantasy
Title: EVREN

Chapter One
Something wasn’t right with the sea.

Evren scrutinized the batch of red-eyed fish that hung from her long silver wire, their bellies abnormally bloated. That morning she had gone down to the edge of Ionoke Island’s best fishing nook, and found more fish washed ashore, limp and pallid.

She gazed out at the glittering water surrounding the island. The breeze flurried off the sea like invisible threads, tickling her face. Stepping into the water, white foam lapped at her boots and Evren leaned down to dip her fingers into the sea. Warm? Warmer than usual. Wrinkling her nose, she inhaled the tangy salty air. Everything looked fine from the outside.

The fish, however, told a different story: their home was in trouble.

 She shivered fiercely and gripped the wire so tight that it cut into the middle of her palm. As she watched the blood trickle, her stomach grumbled, and she remembered she hadn’t eaten that day. Food was hard to come as of late. With the state of the fish how would she survive?

Her neck prickled. Whirling on her heel, she turned to see if there was an invisible pirate there. The murderous invisible pirates - the Naja - were looking for her. They wanted her eyes. Told her they were special. But she wasn’t going to meditate on thattoo long.


All I need is enough money to fly across the seas and leave this wretched place and the Naja behind, she thought.

Straightening her back, Evren gritted her teeth and peered down the main drag of Ionoke. It was busier than normal. Why? She shot a glance up to the beaming orange sun. Right. It was their sun goddess’ – Amataru – festival.

Time to try and sell her rotten fish to Olly. He would probably put up a fuss at the state of the fish.

The shale cobblestone stretched forwards unevenly, rocks jutting out here and there. Evren shook her head, a sigh escaping her. She knew that in the capital, the inhabitants wouldn’t put up with the dismal surroundings. On Ionoke, poverty seemed to overshadow everything, like an invisible illness dragging down people’s spirits.

 Her eye caught the state of the local businesses. Little ochre and red brick shops dotted either side of the road, some roofs dilapidated, shingles peeling off in the blazing sun. Owners hollered across the street at each other, bargaining for better prices on dried fruits, leather, and spices. Some stalls were quickly whipped together with blue canvas to guard against the blazing sun.

She peered down the road and sighed in relief. Olly was there.

The old fisherman was all set up for the day. He would have that stall, hell or highwater, and that’s one thing she respected about him. It was a makeshift box, built together with scraps of driftwood and held together by ancient rusted nails.

“Olly!” She slammed down the string of fish on his table soaked with fish guts and blood, wincing as a silver scale dug into her palm.

“There ye are, the strange one with the sea-green eyes who always brings me fatter fish than the others.” The old man had crinkly black eyes and wild white hair that stood up in every direction. She noted one of his fingers was missing from his left hand. That was new.

He peered closely at her find, the tip of his nose almost touching one of the bloated fish. “What the feck is wrong with them?”

“The wench brings you rotten fish, did she, old man?” Someone snarled from behind her.
She swiveled on the heel of her leather boots, not removing the placid expression on her face.

Ugh. Parta. He was a real piece of work.

The supposed man of the town strutted around in his long velvet cape and boasted of great sea adventures he had been on.

“Well look who it is,” she drawled, the wind pulling at the violet scarf tied tightly around her face, hiding everything but her eyes, “It’s the fisherman who never catches anything. Are you sure you’re a fisherman or are you just telling everyone you are, so you don’t seem like a waste of time to this island?”

“You shut it,” he hissed, eyes bulging out of a tanned face, copper curls wet with sweat and glued to his forehead. “I’ve been fishing all week. I haven’t been able to catch anything since you arrived. Why look at the fish you brought. Olly, those aren’t even normal looking!”

“I overheard you telling people you can get to Rusalka’s Lair,” she began, raising a dark eyebrow at him, knowing this would irritate him.

Parta’s hands grew into fists and he shook one at her. “You know as well as I do, that’s a lie. No one can find Rusalka’s Lair.”

“I can.”

“No, you can’t!”

 The Sea Queen reigned over the ocean. Rusalka could call on her nymphs to lure men and women alike with their seductive ways to the cold watery depths of the sea. No one dared to go to Rusalka’s Lair nor would they ever be able to find it.

 Evren straightened and felt a small secret smile break across her lips as he continued to list the reasons why one couldn’t find Rusalka.

“She’s magicked her cove, so no one can find it. She has illusion spells hiding it from the most cunning pirate. I even heard she sends Deblonsk, the sea monster after anyone who gets close to her cove.” Parta finally folded his arms and scowled. “So, you see, what you heard was a lie. I cannot get to Rusalka’s Lair. You cannot either!”

Evren just shrugged. “Yes, I can.”

She could navigate to Rusalka’s Lair. Not without treachery and sea monsters and blood.

But she could, she was the best. That’s what the best did: they did the impossible. Evren wasn’t the type to go about boasting out loud of her great prowess in navigating. If only she had some of that expertise when it came to making friends, then maybe she wouldn’t be so lonely. Navigating was the one thing that brought her joy. Sadly, it seemed no one was hiring.

As if knowing she wouldn’t budge, he blurted, “Witch! Look at the fish you’ve brought.”
“Stuff it, Parta. These aren’t even fish, by any comparison. It’s all I could find. And by the way, I’m not a witch, though the proper term is mage.”

Evren turned on Parta, his cavernous mouth opening to retort against what she had just said but paused.

One of Ionoke’s inhabitants dressed in all silver drifted past, hundreds of glistening candles floating behind her, bobbing up and down as if they knew they had a great mission to partake in.

Amataru’s Sun Festival.

“Though, if I were a mage, I would do more than play around with magic.” Shaking her head, she stared after the mage and the bobbing candles. “What a waste.”

“What do you mean? It’s for Amataru.”

“I think Amataru would be fine if we didn’t spend so much time and effort on decorating the island, and instead tried to help its inhabitants who are starving.”

Parta’s eyes bulged as he opened his mouth, a stream of noise exiting his mouth. Evren’s eyes followed the bobbing candles down the cobblestone road, children pausing from their game of catch to point and laugh at the mage in silver.

“That’s heresy!”


  1. Hey Loie!

    Nice revision. There’s a couple of things that made me pause this time.

    You say that the wire cut into her palm. So, she’s standing there, cut, stinging, I’d wager, and bleeding, and what she thinks about is how she hasn’t eaten? Would she not be worried about infection? Would she not think I’d better clean this up or dip her hand into the water and embrace the painful, cleansing saltwater? You also say the silver scale dug into her palm. So, that’s a wire AND a scale? Is this the same palm? And still no thought about the wound? Just something to keep in mind for the next draft.

    Also, she whirls to see if there’s an invisible pirate behind her. How would she know if they’re invisible?

    You mentioned that she was lonely, only I got no sense of that before. It felt out-of-the-blue. Could you slip something in to show it? Perhaps she sees a parent and child or a group of friends laughing together and feel a pang of longing? Help us relate to her. You also say she loves navigating, but no one was hiring. This, too, felt thrown in there. Again, you could slip something in to show her desire to get out and about with navigating again: checking the sign for jobs, perhaps watching a ship way out there and wishing she could go, but this morning’s wander to the hiring post turned up nothing.

    I’m still struggling to picture them all: the fishmonger, Parta. I know they’re there, but they’re fuzzy in my head.

    Overall, this is a good draft. I am intrigued about her and what’s so special about her eyes. I’d even like to know more about her backstory and what she’s discovered if she can do the impossible. Are all navigators lonely? They should start a club! ;)

    I hope this helps!

    Happy revising! :)

  2. Hi Loie,

    I really liked the beginning here and I think it’s much better just with the few tweaks you made.

    I think you could delete the “Warm?” sentence. And the “She wasn’t going to meditate…” one too.

    If the Naja are invisible how could Evren turn to see if one was behind her?

    I think if you have italics for internal dialogue, you probably don’t need the “she thought” after.

    You can do a better job of introducing the festival, it came across as telling and a mini info dump.

    I like the way you changed Ollie’s missing finger, but if it’s a new wound, does he have a bandage? Is there blood?

    In the line “Ollie peered closely at her find” I’d change find to catch.

    I found it confusing that Evren says she heard Parta say he could find the lair. And Parta claims it’s a lie. But it seems that he’s claiming that the fact that anyone could find it is a lie, not that he said it. If he’s referring to her being a liar because he never said it, I think you need to clear that up. If he’s in fact referring to the idea that someone could find it as the lie, then why would he say to others that he could? I hope this makes sense. If it doesn’t I apologize. Just let me know and I’ll try to explain it better.

    I hope this helps. If have questions let me know.


  3. Hey Loie,

    Nice work streamlining this! It reads a lot more smoothly, and you still have all the great sensory detail. A few things I noted as I read.

    These lines didn't quite seem to tally:

    "The fish, however, told a different story: their home was in trouble. She shivered fiercely and gripped the wire so tight that it cut into the middle of her palm."

    The fishes' home is obviously a problem, but it's not presented as the kind of urgent threat that would cause her to slice her hand open. If she's feeling deep tension and anxiety over the warm sea, it doesn't come across in the rest of the narrative. (Also, what happens to all the blood from that sliced palm?)

    "Whirling on her heel, she turned to see if there was an invisible pirate there." Without any qualifiers, this seems like a wry one-liner, and it did make me chuckle. But what gives? Can she see invisible things or are these invisible pirates not quite as invisible as they like to think? :)

    "All I need is enough money to fly across the seas and leave this wretched place and the Naja behind, she thought." Can she really fly, or is this a nod to her navigation skills that we hear about later? If Navigation is one of her big, defining qualities, it might be nice to clearly tie it in here. The second phrase raises a question for me too. You've done such a good job with colorful detail that Naja doesn't strike me as a truly awful place. Maybe kind of sordid, but also lively and magical. If she really hates it and desperately wants to leave, maybe the vibe should be a little different--not quite so playful? Desperation isn't something I'm seeing in her character.

    "She noted one of his fingers was missing from his left hand. That was new." This makes me wonder how frequently they see each other. Is it scarred over or bandaged or leaking blood?

    Parta says he hasn't caught any fish since Evren arrived...which made me wonder how long she's been here. The time element is unclear. Has she been stranded in Naja for a long time or has she arrived recently?

    That's all I have...keep up the good work!

  4. Hi, Loie,
    Fabulous tension at the start of this draft! It really draws the reader in. You’ve done well with creating the tension and laying out the conflict.

    I like that you mention the hustle and bustle from the festival. I question why she isn’t aware of it before now. Is she really distant from the rest of this society? Does she spend most of her time at the water? I’m confused about why she’s not aware. However, overall, your descriptions of this world are rich and vivid. Very nicely done. I also love that you mention several times that her most unique feature is her eyes – so much so that the Naja want to steal them. That’s awesome!

    I continue to be drawn into the story until I reach this point – “’…Olly, those aren’t even normal looking!’
    ‘I overheard you telling people you can get to Rusalka’s Lair,’ she began.” It seems like there needs to be a transition from talk of the fish to talk of this lair, even if it is just her thinking that she wants to distract from the look of the fish.

    With regard to the mage, this dialogue – “And by the way, I’m not a witch, though the proper term is mage.” – seems a bit forced. It would seem like Parta would know this already, so it’s like you are trying to feed this info to the reader. Maybe Evren just replaces the word “witch” with “mage” and you mention that she’s using the less pejorative term or the proper term.

    Also, when Parta gets upset at Evren’s comments toward the end of these pages, you say his eyes bulged and noise exited his mouth. It might make sense to have him say, “That’s heresy!” somewhere in here rather than at the very end of this excerpt, and then she ignores the rest of what Parta says to watch the reaction of the kids toward the mage.

    I think this draft is much stronger than the last, and the story is so interesting, with a strongly built world. Keep going!!

  5. Hello Loie,

    This revision is flowing great and brings the urgency and intensity right from the start, but you kinda lose me when you reach the market. I lose the sense of your MC in the descriptions.
    Your descriptions are great and so vivid it helps me imagine the place but I need to see you MC in the picture too not just the place.

    The dialogue needs to be tapered a little since there are three people talking it might be useful to use what your MC is thinking as dialogue tags not just their facial expressions.

    The pace of the chapter is good, now that the surroundings are set, I need to know more about the MC, not about what she can do or who is after her, I need to know who she is, a little more sense of it would help ground readers faster and get them to pay more attention to the dialogue.

    Good luck. Happy writing.

  6. Sorry this is so late!

    Great job with this revision!! On this second read, I think what I appreciate most is how colorful your world is. It's very vibrant already, after only a few pages. Just a few things to suggest:

    1. *She shivered fiercely and gripped the wire so tight that it cut into the middle of her palm.*

    This reads like an overreaction, and it’s also a non sequitur to her stomach grumbling. Her being hungry and worried for her survival comes more naturally from recognizing the problem with the sea and the fish than from the wire. I don't think you need this. I'd cut it entirely.

    2. The Naja: I still think you should cut the Naja reference completely. It feels forced into this scene for no real reason, and the idea of them is so vague, it’s not even foreboding like I think maybe you want it to be. I'd suggest you don't present this part of the story until the reader really has to know and until you have the space to do it justice.

    For now, focus on the fish. The sea. Her trying to sell bad fish so she can eat. That's enough to establish in the first five pages without borrowing trouble from later in the story.

    3. *Why? She shot a glance up to the beaming orange sun. Right. It was their sun goddess’ – Amataru – festival.*

    I think she’d know about the festival. So you don’t need the why. You can say that it was busier than normal because of the festival without the “Why?...Right.” device.

    4. I still think you need to work on your transitions between conversation topics in the dialogue. It's really choppy in some places and doesn't read naturally to me, which pulls me out of the story over and over. And there are quite a few ways to accomplish more natural transitions.

    For example: When Parta accuses her of selling bad fish, it could read something like this...

    P: "...Why look at the fish you brought. Olly, those aren’t even normal looking!”

    E: "You don't know all of the fish in the sea. Just because they're not fish you could catch."

    P: "I've caught every fish around this island. I know more about the sea than you ever will."

    E: "Like how to get to Rusalka's Lair? I heard you were bragging about knowing the way."

    So this is obviously super rough and you will be able to do so much better. But dialogue, like conversation, should flow naturally. So if you want to bring up Rusalka in this scene, you need to do the work to write their conversation around to that in a way that reads realistically. Otherwise, it feels like "the author wants to tell us this and therefore has jumped to this topic."

    5. *If only she had some of that expertise when it came to making friends, then maybe she wouldn’t be so lonely.*

    While I like the idea of you exploring her loneliness, this is Tell and it reads as non sequitur in the paragraph where you placed it.

    And finally, 6. This is a small thing, but it bothered me last time as well, so I thought I'd bring it up:

    *“And by the way, I’m not a witch, though the proper term is mage.”*

    I actually think you could cut the "i'm not a witch though" from this line. It reads more cleanly and you imply she's not a mage in her very next line of dialogue when she says, "Though, if I were a mage..."

    Again, well done on your first revision! Good luck working through all the great notes here. I can't wait to see how you bring it all together for the final round!

  7. Hi Loie!

    Once again, I'm super late (I'm out of town at the moment). I think everyone mentioned the same thoughts I had reading this. It's coming along great from the previous version. Keep up the good work — you're getting there!