Sunday, March 18, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Edwards Rev 2

Name: Sophie Edwards
Title: Mage: The Guardian’s Oath
Genre: YA Fantasy


On the third day of the harvest month, Clara Vedette was born. Again.

Her life lies within a village surrounded by an invisible, exit-less wall. She spends hours watching the forested outside, longing to escape. So, when a way out appears in the midst of a rainstorm, she leaps at the chance to explore.

But the wall protected her, and beyond the borders of her village, her gifts expose her to raging power and growing corruption.

Meanwhile, an army amasses on the wasteland ready to fight for pure magic – power that wielded wrongly would subject all to eternal misery. Outnumbered three-to-one, only one thing can stop the cunning controller: the weapon Clara hid eighteen centuries ago. But with no memory of her past, she must figure out where it is before the hunters seeking her life can claim their prize.

When the lines of right and wrong merge, she can no longer tell who her true enemies are. Does she have the courage to dip into the darkest magic? Or will she risk losing her freedom and everything she loves?


I had never seen the wall surrounding my village, although I wandered the length of it countless times. Rain soaked me, its needles numbing my skin, but I didn’t falter running my fingers along its clear surface. The wall was smooth and cool under my fingertips, but without a reflection of the two moons, only touch proved its existence.

It wasn’t glass. In the village, when I pressed my nose against my cottage window, my eyes stared back at me, but when trying it against the wall not even a flicker showed.

Someone could walk right into it, but all the villagers avoided it, and I’d never seen a glimpse of anyone outside no matter how fiercely my curiosity pressed.

I pounded my fist against the surface and stared at the forest beyond.

The wall protected us. It cloaked us.

Yet after eighteen years, the village felt more like a prison and the dangers nothing more than a myth. We were trapped, denied any chance of adventure or exciting prospects.

I breathed in the musky scent of thorny ferns growing nearby, perhaps warning of dangers that supposedly prowled beyond the border’s safety. I’d never seen any of those either, and with no way out, the rumours couldn’t be disproved.

I tore my eyes from the wall and focused on the muddy path. My obsession with the outside landed me in trouble on more than one occasion. If Matriarch discovered me out here again she’d send me to train with Griff – a fate I’d rather forgo, but the need to find Lallana spurred me on.

I pressed on over the slippery ground, protected in my boots, and allowed the moons’ light to guide my way. Both full and bright, they lit up the path with ease.

A shimmer of light hair confirmed my suspicions, and I frowned at the sight of Lallana perched on a branch, sheltering under the thick canopy. Her tear streaked face shone in the moonlight, and it struck me that she was fourteen now. She appeared far younger, though had grown so much from the young child who followed me everywhere. Being four years older than her, I hadn’t expected to become so close, but with her persistence at clinging to my side and our shared training, our relationship blossomed, and we became sisters.

I glanced back along the path and smiled at Charlie, jogging to catch up. Even at his young age of fifteen, he cared too much about Lallana to stay in bed. 

I sidled toward her and hopped on to the branch, glad to be out of the rain.

She startled and sniffed. “How did you know I was here?”

“Don’t I always know how to find you?”

She gave me a little smile and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve.

“Matriarch won’t be pleased you’re out so late,” I said.

Her eyes widened. “You won’t tell her, Clara?”

I raised my eyebrows, and she giggled.

“No one has seen you since the training session,” I said.

Her gaze dropped to her knees. “I was humiliated.”

“It’s easily done.”

“When was the last time you stepped on Ruben’s robes?”

Ruben, easily the kindest of the three village Elders, made Lallana’s embarrassment all the worse. “They’re long,” I said. “Anyone could have tripped on them.”

“I tore them off him! Everyone saw … everything.” She shuddered.

I held back a rising giggle. “I suppose it didn’t help that he’s rather old.”

Charlie laughed and clambered up beside me, rain dripping from a mess of brown hair. His eyes shone in the moons’ light and dimples chased his grin. He arrived through the night eight years previously, scratched, bleeding, and bruised. No explanation was offered about his mysterious appearance, and his refusal to speak of the outside prevented any chance of satisfying my curiosity. Matriarch asked me to keep an eye on him, and as the only three children in the village, we quickly became family.

He nudged Lallana. “Look on the bright side. You needed to defend yourself. Pull off anyone’s robe and you’re bound to have the upper hand.”

Her expression softened then. “It’s a silly class.”

“It’s important,” he said.

“Is it?” I wondered. “We’re completely safe in the village, and with no way out …” Not for the first time, my desire to know how he got in danced on my tongue.

“There’s the dangers, though,” he said.

“You believe that, do you?”

“Of course.”

I thought, at first, the dangers caused his injuries, but he insisted it was simply the journey through the forest. Sharp terrain, he said. Then, he closed up again.

“We don’t even know what the dangers are,” I said. “Our training might not be any good against them.”

Charlie flapped a stray hair from his eyes. “Well, when you’re in charge, you can decide what to teach.”

“I don’t want to be in charge.”

“Why not?” Lallana asked.

Because I didn’t have that kind of strength. Or the will to be responsible for so many people. Why would anyone look up to me? I spent more time watching the outside than I did in the village. Taking place as an Elder would remove that freedom for good. “There are others far more capable of that.”

“They chose you,” Charlie said.

“With no apparent reason.” I had nothing to offer, more likely to mess up than make the village better. My strength lay in working in the fields. Even combat and leadership held nothing in my skills or interest. Besides, being in charge wouldn’t help sustain the population.

On the other side of the wall, shadows shifted below the trees, unreachable by the moons’ rays.

A papilion flew beneath the canopy. Lallana reached out with gentle speed, tenderly grasping the palm-sized creature. Its glowing wings and feathered antennae gleamed through the shadows with the same silvery light as the moons. She placed it on her knee, using her neck-tie to wipe the heavy raindrops from its wings. Its low purr flitted through the night.

I watched it silently, wondering if it, too, felt trapped within the border.

“Clara?” Charlie frowned. “You okay?”

I sighed and dropped from the branch. Another night staring at a desired future. Another night where nothing changed. “Come on. Time to get back.”

Charlie and Lallana exchanged a glance.

“What?” I asked.

Charlie hopped down beside me. “Happy eighteenth.” He reached out a balled fist and placed their gift in my palm: a single, clear crystal, carefully attached to a piece of frayed string.

“Is this the string you keep in the box under your bed?” I didn’t know its significance. He treasured it. Something from his past, before he came to the village, but I’d given up questioning him years ago.

He nodded. “We needed something to tie the crystal to and … I wanted you to have it.”

A lump rose in my throat. I didn’t think he’d part with it for anything.

He watched me with wide eyes. “Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect, Charlie. Thank you both.”

Lallana beamed.

He grinned. Much shorter than me, he needed to stand on tiptoe to tie it round my neck.

The string grated against my skin but was oddly comforting. The weight of the crystal felt unusual against my chest, and for a moment, it tingled.

Then, the whole world shivered, and the rain shifted.

Raindrops parted, cascading like a waterfall in the shape of an arch, exactly where the wall stood.


  1. Hi Sophie,
    I like your pitch but I had a few issues with it.

    I love the ‘Again.’ line. I can’t imagine anyone not being hooked by it. But, I think the first line could confuse people into thinking she’s a baby. Of course, having read your first five pages, I know she’s 18 and an agent seeing that this is YA would probably make the connection. Just a thought. Maybe saying ‘On the third day…eighteen years ago, Clara…”

    I also think the ‘chance to explore’ is a bit childish for an 18yo. Maybe ‘venture out into the world beyond to accomplish X’ or something like that.

    Definitely show what her ‘gifts’ are. Saying it this way leaves it flat and the reader wants to know.

    The outnumbered line confused me. Who’s outnumbered? Clara? An army? And who’s the controller? I would name them. And what the weapon is. I don’t think you do your story justice by being vague. You have great things involved in your story, give them the opportunity to shine.

    Finally, I’ve seen a lot of agents saying they dislike questions in queries. I would rework those to get a stronger impact on the ending.

    Overall, I really am intrigued and I think an agent would move on to your pages, which are strong so well done.

    As for your pages, I think you did a great job addressing all of your critiques. I really don’t have a lot to suggest. The only thing is, I noticed you have a lot of ‘my’ and ‘me’ in short order. There’s four ‘my’ in the first paragraph. I mention it because I’ve been called out on it in my own work by my critique group. Of course, my story is in third person so it’s actually ‘he’ and ‘his’ but it’s the same. The second line of paragraph two has ‘my nose against my cottage window, my eyes’.

    I hope this helpful. If you have any questions, let me know and thank you for all of your help. Good luck!


  2. Oh, Sophie, I got a chill with that last line of your excerpt! Just a great place to end, with so much tension and possibility! My only comment on the five pages would be with how Charlie suddenly appears out of nowhere in this draft. Perhaps she hears him laughing at the base of the tree before he climbs up and she knows he followed her. Something simple to show he was on her heels before he's suddenly sitting right next to them.

    With regard to the pitch, I love the first line, and that first full paragraph works well. When you get to this line, "But the wall protected her," it is confusing because it could be read in the present tense or the past. You may want to rewrite to make it clear right away that the wall is no longer there to keep her safe. Something like, "But with the wall no longer there to protect her,..."

    With this line, "she must figure out where it is," you may want to be a bit more specific. It doesn't seem as "meaty" as it could be. Does she follow clues? Does she have to rely on her flashes of memory that are becoming stronger? How is she figuring this out?

    I'm also a little confused about the reference to "the gifts" Clara has. Are these dormant powers or are you referring to the crystal, the physical gifts given to her? And when you suggest she may have to dip into "the darkest magic," does this mean she must rely on these powers? In other words, the magic is hers? Inside her? Or is it this hidden thing from eighteen centuries ago? Just a little more clarity on these things will really boost this already intriguing pitch. Nicely done!

  3. The pitch flows great, but I think its best to give specifics about her power and what waits outside the wall and eternal misery. It will tell the agent the exact stakes and that is important.

    Also, I have read that agents don't like questions in the query, so maybe try and turn them into sentences.

    some question I came up with while reading,
    is her life the price or what she hid in 18 yrs ago
    so is this a rebirth situation? like before dying 18 yrs ago she hid it and then after reborn she needs to know where it is? that is a great back story.

    I like the way your first 5 pages start and end, they totally hook me. Would love to know more.

    Was so much fun reading your pages. Glad to have this opportunity.
    Good Luck with the book.

  4. Hey Sophie, a few thoughts on the pitch. Nice opening line!

    The second paragraph reads passive to me, even though I know you're setting us up for action. I think it's "her life lies" and "spends hours watching."

    The last couple paragraphs would benefit from some more specifics. The nature of the army, maybe. Is it human? Commanded by an old enemy? What about the missing weapon? A couple of hooky plot points would be great--"she must [ __ ] in order to [ __ ] before [ awful thing ]. Try to avoid those general questions at the end.

    These pages read very well, just a couple things I'd mention:

    This line--"but I didn’t falter running my fingers along its clear surface"--is missing a comma after "falter," I'm pretty sure. A ticky tack line edit, but it comes right at the front and I'd want someone to catch something similar for me.

    The rapid reveals of their ages still feels a little clunky to me, but it works all right. The one bit that caused me to stumble was Charlie caring about Lallana "even at his young age of fifteen." That doesn't quite follow, since he's a year older than she is.

    Otherwise, great work! The dialog reads so smoothly, and pulls the reader through the scene. The archway at the end is a vivid, magic moment. Love it.

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  6. Sophie,

    Thank you for participating in the First Five Pages Writing Workshop. Here are my thoughts.

    Pitch: Nice opening line. It makes me wonder how/why she was born again. Does she just want to explore, or is she looking to escape? That paragraph seems to contradict itself. The bit about her gifts is too generic. I don’t know what makes her or this story unique. The army is ready to fight for pure magic, but I’m not sure if this means these people are seeking pure magic or that they already have it and will protect it/stand up for it. Try to end the pitch without using questions. Something like, “She needs the courage to use the darkest magic or risk losing her freedom and everything she loves.” You might be able to replace “use” in that example with something stronger, but I don’t know the story well enough to do so. I feel like this could be a great pitch once it’s tweaked a bit.

    Pages: I don’t feel you’re starting quite at the right place. It’s fine for her to be chatting with her friends, but the very beginning is an info dump about the wall. I’d rather have that information layered into the story. We also know she wants her freedom, but we don’t have a good understanding of why she wants this. She longs to escape, but we don’t know if she’s simply curious or if things are so bad here that she doesn’t want to stay any longer. We also don’t know what’s at stake if she stays and what’s at stake if she leaves.

    I feel this story has potential. Clara’s insecurity gives her room to grow. The fact that she’s supposed to one day be a leader means if she escapes, either the community will be devastated for their loss or they’ll come after her. This could create internal conflict for her, knowing how her escape could affect everyone else, and/or external conflict if they pursue her.

    I like Charlie. He’s mysterious because of his past, but he’s also thoughtful and kind. Lallana seems caring and gentle with creatures, yet she’s also sensitive. I hope they go on the journey with Clara.

    Lynnette Novak
    The Seymour Agency

  7. Hi Sophie,

    Intriguing first line. Makes me want to know more about Clara’s origin and what makes her special, particularly when I read about her gifts. I think that part about her gifts could be worked on a bit more where you give us a little more precise information about what it is :) Very intriguing though.

    Raging power and growing corruption, with whom? Are the wastelands beyond her village?

    I had feedback on my pitch and they told me not to use questions at the end so maybe you can just change it around a little :) All in all, quite intriguing. Just a little more tweaking and you’ll be great!

    I think your revision is really well done. I don’t really notice anything that jumps out at me. I love your story and I have enjoyed reading your pages. I want to follow Clara, she is definitely likeable, as are Charlie and Lallana :) Well done and happy writing.

  8. Hi! Well I think you're very close. Now that I know the pitch, I can see that you will need a bit more time spent in the wall in her normal life before she leaves. You need to ground us in the world by her going about her routine. You can foreshadow what's to come and at the same time we will learn about the world through her interaction with it. I still love your writing and would love to go on a journey with your characters. I believe you'll have to look at what you are trying to demonstrate in the opening and really pull us in to the moment. Best of luck!