Sunday, May 13, 2018

1st 5 Pages May Workshop- Veile Rev 1

Name: Adam Veile
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Big Fairy Tale

As Lucy Samsa yawned and blinked away her sleepiness, she heard a buzzing sound, like a giant bee swooping down behind her. She covered her head with her scrawny arms and dove to her bedroom floor. She normally didn't mind bugs, but if that thing was a bug it was the size of a bird. She scanned her room, sure that it was hiding somewhere, waiting to get her.

“Lucy!” her mother called from downstairs. “It’s 6:45! Your tiny hiney better be out of bed!”

“I need help with something!” Lucy yelled back. It wouldn’t do any good to tell them what. Her mom was terrified of bugs, and her dad would stroll in five minutes later to give the bug a chance to fly off on its own.

She heard no reply and searched the floor for a weapon, but the floor was clean. She deeply regretted listening when her mom told her to put her shoes away. Behind the bed skirt she found a pile of Legos, a couple of comic books in plastic sleeves, and her stuffed pink giraffe, the last of her stuffed animal collection.

“I’m sorry, Jeffy,” she said, grabbing the giraffe by the neck and holding him upside down like a club. "I still love you."

She wondered what she was dealing with. A monster wasp? A giant mosquito? No, it had to be something bigger. Maybe something she'd never heard of before. She poked her head above the bed, testing to see if anything would dive bomb her.

"Where are you?" she muttered. She noticed she'd left the window open overnight. Maybe it had flown away.

As she rose to her feet, giraffe in hand, she noticed a tingling sensation between her shoulder blades.

The thing was on her back.

She shrieked as she spun, brushing her hand across her shoulders and connecting with something. She looked at the carpet to see if she had knocked anything off and, finding nothing, craned her neck left and then right to see what was on her back.

What?! Lucy’s heart raced. She hurried to her closet and shoved her hanging clothes aside, the plastic hangers clacking together. There, in the mirror at the back of her closest, stood Lucy, but something wasn’t right.

Her hands trembled. What’s happened to me? Two small wings flicked back and forth on her back. Wings! They weren’t bird wings or even angel wings. They were a translucent cream color, pulsing with streaks of gold and blue. The wings spread, extending just inches beyond her shoulders, and her heart raced. They buzzed faster and faster until she could barely see them. Wind from the wings swirled her hair and rocked her hanging clothes.

It's a dream, she thought, and the wings calmed down. Of course, it's a dream. She'd felt terrible before she'd gone to bed, and she tossed and turned all night. She looked at the sweaty, crumpled cocoon of blankets she'd woken up in. All a dream. But then again, if she'd woken up, how could she be dreaming now?

"LUCY, BREAKFAST!" Her mom hollered. The china rattled in the cabinet as she stomped through the dining room. It sure didn't sound like a dream.

Lucy reached back and felt the wings, hoping they weren't real, but she could feel the pressure from her fingertips just the same as if she were touching any other part of her body. These wings were a part of her.

Maybe I can fly, she thought. Maybe this isn't so bad. Her face twitched as she concentrated on getting off the ground, but the wings jerked awkwardly, like her dad trying to dance. They weren't even in sync with each other. The left one flicked forward, while the right one looked like it was vibrating. She was nowhere close to flying.

“Lucy, please, I’m begging you!” Her mother was on the stairs now, coming toward Lucy’s room.

In a panic, Lucy tried to pull the wings off, which sent a bolt of pain through her shoulders. She tried to peel off her black tank top, but there was no way to get it over her wings. If she ever wanted the shirt off, she’d have to use scissors.

Mom can’t find out I’m some kind of mutant! Lucy told herself. Her mom got embarrassed when Lucy left the house without her hair combed or missed a layup in basketball. What would she think about this? 

Then, came a knock on the door.

“Don’t come in!” Lucy shouted to her mother. She knew right away it was the wrong thing to say. Of course her mother would be coming in now.

Lucy pushed on the left wing, and it easily folded across her back to her right hip like origami. When she let go it sprang back up. She grabbed a baggy purple sweater off the closet shelf and tried to jam it on. The knob to her bedroom door turned, but Lucy was stuck with a sweater over her head.

“Wait!” Lucy slammed her closet door shut, just as her mother opened her bedroom door.

“Lucy?” The floor creaked as her mother crossed the room.

Lucy yanked on the sweater, trying to force her wings down. The closet door swung open as Lucy was pulling the bottom of the sweater to her waist.

Lucy smiled sweetly at her mother, and her mother stared back with a curious look on her face.

Please don’t see the wings, please don’t see the wings, Lucy thought, but her mother asked, “Why are you standing in your closet in a winter sweater in the middle of September?”

The Farmer’s Almanac said it’d be chilly today,” Lucy answered. She had no idea if that was true, but there was no way her mom would argue with The Farmer’s Almanac.

“At least you added some color to your wardrobe. You look so dreary in black and gray.” Her mom looked her over one more time, wearing a frown that Lucy knew well. "What do you think the other kids will think about this?" She twirled her hand in the general direction of Lucy's sweater.

Lucy shrugged. They would hate it, but that was the least of her worries.

Her mom shook her head as if there was no helping her. “I guess your grandma would have been happy to see you finally wearing one of the sweaters she gave you.”

“I was just waiting for the right time,” said Lucy. Her grandma said she had to wear sweaters because she was old and had cold bones, and Lucy always thought the right time for a sweater like this would be when she turned eighty or so.

“Well, let’s get moving. Your hair looks like a bird's nest.”

Only then did Lucy think about the horror of going to school with wings. 


  1. Hi, Adam!

    Great job deepening Lucy's reaction. It definitely feels more natural (lol, if anything can be in this situation), and it gives a great moment of shock.

    I'm not sure if "Lucy yawned and blinked away her sleepiness" is the strongest opener. It falls into the 'waking up' cliche, and I wonder if you could start with her noticing the strange sound more immediately?

    Also, this paragraph threw me off:
    “I need help with something!” Lucy yelled back. It wouldn’t do any good to tell them what. Her mom was terrified of bugs, and her dad would stroll in five minutes later to give the bug a chance to fly off on its own.

    If she knows they're useless in this situation, why ask for help in the first place? Why do neither of them react to her plea?

    And although her reaction is much, much stronger this time around, I still crave more voice & emotion from Lucy. Kids can see things in such a wonderfully whimsical way, and at the moment, she seems to describe things very as-is. Just something to experiment with :)

    One more teensy thing, but I wasn't sure about the "Please, I'm begging you!" line. Seemed a tad too desperate, considering the circumstances.

    Overall, though, great job building on last week's suggestions. Poor Lucy, I do feel for her! Best of luck with final revisions!

    ~Mary :)

  2. Hi Adam

    Good job on the revisions. I think Mary has hit the nail on the head with her comments - she's said everything i wanted to say.

    Maybe tweak the first sentence a little more to avoid the dreaded start with waking up trope.

    I'd also like a little more of Lucy's voice. I love the 'conversation' with the giraffe - more like this please!

    Quick question: when she's putting on the sweater and trying to shove her wings into it, would that not hurt? Or at least be uncomfortable? Maybe that's something to bring out to help us get into Lucy's head.

    I agree with the 'help' para and the 'i'm begging you' line - these don't quite make sense for me in context.

    Overall, I am getting the impression that Lucy is maybe 11 or 12? Is this right? If not, it could well just be me, but maybe you want to flag her age up somewhere towards the beginning to help you MG readers connect with her?

    Best of luck with the next revision!


  3. Adam:

    Great work. Story opens right up. I also like the beat where she thinks the bug is on her back -- there's something a little freaky about it that makes my skin crawl. Just in time for the reveal!

    I do think you could jump in even faster on your first line. I'd love to see it start with the sound effect of the buzzing somehow.

    I like the insertion of the passage where she tries to fly -- it deepens her reaction -- but I also feel a little whiplash since she goes from panic, to maybe I can fly, and then when she can't fly, panics again and tries to pull the wings off. Can you maneuver these events into a more linear order so they escalate rather than jump around?

    Minor comments:

    - Not sure Lucy would be able to hear the china rattling from her room.

    - Agree that "I'm desperate" feels a little... desperate :)

    - Also agree it'll behoove you to drop Lucy's age in here somewhere for MG readers to grab onto.

    Again, great work and a concept I think MG readers will love. Looking forward to your next round and pitch.


  4. Adam,

    Your first paragraph looks way better. You've done a great job of increasing the tension and horror of waking up with things and trying to hide it.

    I wonder, though, if the first five pages needs to only focus on that? I think we could stand to go even faster, which would show just how frantic Lucy feels.

    "Mom can't find out I'm some sort of mutant" is a bit on the nose and I'm not sure we need the line. We already know she's trying to hide the wings, so we know that's what she's thinking, but then again, does she know she's some kind of mutant? Or did she just wake up with wings? Curious about that.

    Only then did she worry about going to school with wings? Having your mom find this out would be scary, but that's who you're safest with (hopefully, I mean, so far her mom seems nice), but at school? That would be my first thought.

    I think this would be much stronger if she hid the wings from her mother and awkwardly. Maybe her mother finally barges in the room and she hides under the covers, something like that. Then you can get to the real horror sooner: school.

    Love the concept here. I want to know more!

    I wonder though,

    1. Don't know why it ends with "wonder though" sorry bout that!

  5. This is a great revision! I like that you started with the wings almost right away and that hooked me in better than last time. I also enjoyed how you layered in the restless night in the cocoon of blankets. Nicely done!

    Lucy is such a cool young lady and I really like getting those little peeks in her head. I admire you for being able to do that because I really struggle with that in close third POV. Because of that, I think the others are right about giving us a bit more as far as what she’s thinking. You have wonderful moments of this and added a few more lines will give it the punch you need to increase her voice.

    I see why you might use the word “mutant” in this because Lucy is a comic book fan and she’s likely jump straight to X-Men or something similar to make sense of this. You do a great job with your similes in this as well. I think this would be a good opportunity to include more of that connection so you can add to her voice and reaction.

    I hope some of that was a bit helpful. Excellent job and I’m sooo pumped to read your pitch!

  6. Good stuff, Adam! You did a very nice job of incorporating the feedback from the last round!

    A few suggestions:

    1) As Joe said, maybe you could open with a sound effect. Something like: "BZZZZ! Lucy Samsa covered her head with her scrawny arms and dove to the floor. She hated bugs!"

    2) I think by having Lucy hate bugs (see above), rather than not minding them as you currently do, you'll create a more satisfying tension in your story. It's bad enough to become a bug--but if you are completely repulsed/afraid of them? What could be worse?

    3) I like how you infused a little humor with the stuffed pink giraffe as a weapon (especially when Lucy apologizes to it)! Well done!

    4) I also agree with Joe's point about the emotional disconnect that occurs when Lucy tries to fly. It is an abrupt shift from the panic she's feeling in the previous line. But I do like the additional interiority, so maybe you can find a way to smooth out the emotions there.

    5) Finally, I know it very well may just be a working title, but "The Big Fairy Tale" feels so generic to me. And a little off for a retelling of a Kafka story. Of course, in my experience, titles are one of the hardest things to come up with. But I'd give it some thought before you query with that title. Because a title that stands out can give your query a better chance of sticking in an agent's mind. (For the record, the original title of my novel Sven Carter & The Trashmouth Effect was Killing All Humans Is Not Okay. I think the uniqueness of that title alone helped grab my agent's attention right from the start.)

    Keep up the good work, Adam!

    All best,

  7. Hi Adam,

    Thank you for sharing your revision with us today.

    You've made good progress cutting away some of that old introduction. I still think we could get into the central story question a tad earlier by lending that open scene a bit more mystery and magic. I found myself wondering why she would be so intent on finding a bug. As it's currently written, she only hears the noise once, and it doesn't seem close to her, or like it's following her...consider injecting some suspense with legitimate reason for her to be concerned. She would hear the wing sound quite close to her ear, yes?

    Alternately, you could open with the wings, because the character could feel the wings on her back right away. It may be that you need to hide the ball a bit less, and start us out with the wings right away. Why wouldn't she feel their presence, if she can feel them when she touches them later? An opening line that reveals a girl has woken up with wings on her back would surely grab some attention. Then you'd have more real estate left to establish why Lucy would work so hard to hide the wings from her mother, including more time for Lucy to explore the wings themselves. Does Lucy have a history of outlandish pranks? Is she high maintenance or a trouble kid? Why is she immediately worried about her mom finding out, as opposed to running TO her mother for help?

    I do find the mother a bit harsh in this pass. Is she supposed to come across as mean? This line makes her read that way to me: "What do you think the other kids will think about this?" That's pretty harsh from your own mom! And then with the bird's nest comment, Mom seems more like an evil stepmother. If that's what you're going for, great! Otherwise, maybe give mom a little heart and genuine concern for Lucy based on their backstory, whatever that is.

    Finally, I recommend reaching for a more unique and compelling title. What makes your story different from other fairy tales? How can you highlight that in the title?

    Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with your revision!

    My best
    First Five Mentor