Saturday, March 3, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Edwards

Name: Sophie Edwards
Genre: Young Adult: Fantasy
Title: Mage: The Guardian's Oath

I had never seen the wall surrounding my village, although I had wandered the length of it countless times, running my fingers along its clear surface. It was smooth and cool under my fingertips, but without a reflection, 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 sorely my curiosity pressed.

The musky forest scent strengthened by the wall, perhaps warning of dangers that supposedly prowled beyond its safety. I’d never seen any of those either, and with no way out, the rumours couldn’t be disproved.

Familiar frustration stabbed within me.

The wall protected us. It cloaked us. We were hidden, just as the wall was hidden.

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. My obsession with the outside and the mysterious wall had landed me in trouble on more than one occasion. Matriarch wouldn’t be pleased if she discovered me out here again, but more pressing concerns weighed on my mind.

I tore my eyes from the wall and focused on the muddy path. Rain soaked me, but finding Lallana spurred me on. I pressed on over the slippery ground, protected in my boots, and allowed the light of the two moons 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 much younger, though had grown so much from the young child that followed me everywhere. Being four years older than her, I hadn’t expected to become so close, but as the only two children in the village, her persistence at clinging to my side, and our shared training, our relationship had blossomed, and we had become sisters.

I sidled toward her and touched her shoulder. “Lallana.”

She twisted to me, startled, and sniffed. “How did you know I was here?”

I hopped on to the branch, glad to be out of the rain. “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.”

Laughter sounded behind me. Lallana turned to the noise, blushing when she saw my tagalong.

I smiled. Of course, he followed me. Even at his young age of fifteen, he cared too much about Lallana to stay in bed. Charlie arrived at the village through the night eight years previously, scratched, bleeding, and bruised. No explanation was offered about his mysterious appearance, and his obvious pain with his life outside prevented any chance of satisfying my curiosity. Matriarch had asked me to keep an eye on him, and the three of us quickly became family. “Get under here, Charlie. You’re soaked.”

Charlie joined us, rain dripping from a mess of brown hair. His eyes shone in the moons’ light and dimples chased his grin. He nudged Lallana. “Look on the bright side. They wanted you 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.”

Charlie shook his head. “It’s important.”

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

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

On the other side of the wall, trees rustled under the rainfall, untouchable past the barrier. “You believe that, do you?” I thought, at first, that his injuries had been due to the dangers, but he had assured me it was simply the journey through the forest. Sharp terrain, he said.

“Of course.”

“We don’t even know what the dangers are. 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.”

“But you will be one day.”

“So they say.” I shook my head. “I can’t be responsible for the village.”

“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 at the wall, watching the outside or curled up with a book on world history than I did in the village. Taking place as an Elder would remove that freedom on longing 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 interest or skills.

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 her 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.

Lallana swung her legs, her embarrassment of the afternoon forgotten, and the papilion took off into the upper branches. “It’s your eighteenth birthday.”

Charlie clambered down beside me. “We got you something.” 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 when I witnessed his tear-filled eyes.


  1. Hey Sophie!

    I really enjoyed the opening, with the invisible wall (not glass) sealing Clara into the village. The tactile detail was really cool and put us right in the middle of her five senses.

    I had a couple logistical questions...does Charlie not count as a child since Clara thinks there are only two kids in the village? Since she works the fields, does that mean she gets to go outside the invisible wall after all?

    Other then that...this is an introspective (on Clara's part), interpersonal opening, and I instinctively like the three characters. However, I'm wondering if you might want to save some of her musings about her future role (Matriarch) and role in the village for a little further down the line.

    For example, maybe it's enough to know that she feels especially trapped inside these walls on the night that happens to be her eighteenth birthday. Perhaps you save her matriarchal fate for later and tonight she and her friends talk about--and maybe even take some steps to test--how in the world to get over this invincible invisible wall? Just a thought.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi, Sophie!

    Well, wow! You hooked me right away with this wall. I love how you launch right into world-building so that I’m grounded as a reader, understanding my setting and getting a sense of the main character. I love how you give me a sense of mystery and danger from the onset, with the idea that the woods have danger prowling in them. I did stop at the word “strengthened” when you talk about the scent of the woods by the wall. A stronger verb or description might help you here, give you a more sensual quality and add to the setting if you choose a more powerful one.

    I stop at the line, “Familiar frustration stabbed within me.” It comes out of nowhere and seems like it would me better moved lower where you talk about how she’d prefer to adventure than be stuck inside this wall. Then you tell me the matriarch would be unhappy she’s out by the wall again, but I’d rather you show me with action. Is she touching it, trying to pound on it, just staring out it again? I want to see her doing these things and also want to know how she’s feeling and internally reacting while doing them.

    Your dialogue is really strong, the pace and flow done well. I like that Charlie came from the outside, but I don’t think her not wanting to question him because of pain is enough of a deterrent, especially for someone like Clara who seems to be independent and curious. Maybe the Matriarch doesn’t allow him to speak or he doesn’t remember. Also, you talk about the lack of children in the village, her and Lallana being the only two, but is Charlie not considered one of them? Or is he an outsider so not really counted?

    You create some fabulous tension and give me an instant overall conflict, which makes me want to keep reading and drags me forward into the next pages. Especially with the line, “Another night staring at a desired future. Another night where nothing changed.” This is beautiful and succinct. It seems to be your overall theme, and you’ve stated in right in the beginning, which gives the reader an arrow toward the end, makes them understand essentially what the MC’s main goal is – to stop being trapped and be able to adventure and live. So well done. This is a riveting first five pages!!

  3. Hi Sophie,

    You did a great job of world building here. You gave us just enough to know/understand what’s going on without info dumping or inundating the reader with too much, which I often see in fantasy. I felt immediately grounded into this story.

    The wall is an intriguing thing to start with and has me asking all kinds of questions. Well done.

    I also think you did a wonderful job of showing us what Clara wants and what stands in her way.

    The musky forest paragraph confused me a bit. I had to reread it a few times. At first it seemed the wall strengthened the musky scent. And the next sentence had me wonder what couldn’t be seen. It took a few reads to realize it was the dangers.

    Did finding Lallana spur her on or the need to find her?

    I realize you’re trying to introduce your MC’s name but be careful of using names in dialogue going forward. People rarely use them, especially when talking to someone that they’re close with.

    You mention Clara and Lallana are the only two children in the village but Charlie is only fifteen.

    I felt there were a lot of words/phrases you could cut and still maintain the meaning.

    Considering how badly she wants to get beyond the wall and know what’s out there, I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t have pressed Charlie after eight years of them being friends. Maybe make it so that he doesn’t remember or something that would make sense for her to not get those answers she so obviously desires.

    I hope you find this helpful. If you have any questions, let me know. Good luck with your revisions.


  4. Hello,

    The chapter had me hooked at the start and as an imaginative reader, I loved your description of the wall, and the slight information about the village setting the MC in place right at the start. One thing that confused me was, I know she can't see the wall which means its transparent, but it is not glass so it could be magic. But can she see beyond the wall? what does she see beyond the wall?

    When focused on the muddy path I thought she left past the wall and since it is dangerous it confused me a little to wonder if Lallana outside the wall?

    The dialogue tags at the start need to be trimmed down. You could write them in paragraphs, at a time. since it is in first person, you don't have to take a new line for every new tag. Actions are useful tags but too much can take away the focus from the dialogue also the formatting. (this is something I always have trouble with.)

    the dialogue takes a natural flow later on which is a great thing, just read it out loud, like you would be talking your friend, you'll find it easier to make the first few more concise.

    Charlie is a boy and an outsider two reasons to consider when you said Clara and Lallana are the only to kids, maybe you could mention they are the only to young girls making it more clear

    Remeber these are suggestions to make it better if can want, you can take them all or some or none, this is your story.

    by the time I reach the end, the story still has me hooked, I like reading fantasy and this sounds interesting.

    Good luck with revision.

  5. Hi!
    Great start! I like the imagery of the duel moons and forest and I'm curious about what happens - so well done. I think the opening has a bit too much explanation about the wall without anything actualy happening. I'd rather see that info interspersed with the story and the setting so we feel we are moving through time along with Clara. I'd also like to sense her feeling of being drawn to the unknown more than you telling me about it. It's okay to mention but don't hit us over the head with it. It was also a surprise that Charlie was there, almost like he was an afterthought. I'd like to see some interaction with him so we know he's along earlier. Can't wait to read the revision!

  6. Also (sorry) I'd like it to be clear exactly what she's risking by being out there. I think that would increase the sense of urgency and what she's willing to do. :D

  7. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your comments. Quick question: you said there’s too much explanation of the wall without anything happening, but the ‘happening’ happens on the next page. It’s just unfortunate that this isn’t the first six pages workshop ;) Does that make a difference in regard to too much info or do you still feel the same?

    1. Hi, Sophie!
      Great question! Unfortunately, it does matter because those first pages are so important. It's not that a fight scene has to happen or anything, just enough tension to keep us invested. It's very important to become attached to your character, so seeing her go to her friend even though she's not really supposed to be there is a good thing. You just have to be careful not to spend too much time on backstory (the reasons for the wall etc.) Try to balance world building, character, plot, etc. Interweve them together like a braid if that makes sense? But discussing the wall's history doesn't ground us in what's happening NOW. To quote Martina, "Clear as mud?" LOL

  8. Hi Sophie!

    Whoooo I love your first paragraph!!! So intriguing and enticing and I want to know more about this world in which a wall separates your MC and yet it is clear like glass! Well done. Great hook there!
    Also - two moons *squees* this is a very cool world :)

    “I tore them off him! Everyone saw … everything.” She shuddered.
    This is hilarious :)

    Clara is someone I immediately liked. She seems wise and curious and caring as well. She is someone I would definitely root for. I wonder what the main conflict is - perhaps the wall trapping her in when her desire is to leave and discover for herself what is beyond their village. I also am curious about the Matriarch and how their society runs.

    There is just enough description and I think you write dialogue really well.

    I don't know if I can offer any suggestions to make it stronger - other than perhaps hint more at what Clara wants more than anything in the world? What drives her?

    Thank you,

  9. Sophie, I'm hooked! Your world building is awesome! I can almost envision this world Clara lives in. The characters are likable and well developed.

    I do have a few questions and maybe these are answered later on in the story. If Clara has been imprisoned here for 18 years, but has never seen or experienced the dangers, wouldn't these stories hold little value to her? I live in California and have grown up hearing "The Big Quake is coming" and after all of these years, it's become nothing but a story to those of us that live here (hope I didn't just test fate). I would think after years of this, she'd become numb and wonder if it were fear tactics to make her want to stay. And if that's the case, that might fuel her desire to see what really is outside the wall.

    Another thing, if we're down to three kids the prospect of continuing on their civilization is diminishing. While, I'm on board for them to want to train the only children left, what's the point if there is no left to lead. The Elders will eventually die off and Clara will be left looking after Lulluna and Charlie. I'm not totally buying there's only a few kids left.

    There is a lot of talk about the dangers, which if Charlie was outside the wall at one time, he'd know what they are. And yet, Clara questions him if he believes it. Certainly he'd know. He'd lived 7 years of his life on the other side.

    Probably my biggest concern is that this story line feels a lot like Maze Runner. A wall that protects, dangers beyond and no one knows what it is, an unexpected arrival of a person. While I like the twist with it not being all kids and set in a forest, it still feels very similar. Just an observation to keep in the back of your head as you continue the story on.

    Again, I really loved your submission and I look forward to seeing your revision.

  10. Hi! Thank you for your comments. All of those questions are about to be answered beyond the excerpt. They’re good answers. ;) and the story is about to veer away from the maze runner. I wanted to write something completely original, and I think I did okay. I guess my pitch will tell. Thanks so much!