Sunday, May 6, 2018

1st 5 Pages May Workshop- Veile

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

Lucy Samsa felt like she was glued to her mattress. She’d left her window open, but she couldn’t make herself get up and close it. She watched the blades of the ceiling fan whirl above her, spinning air around her dimly lit bedroom. Loose sheets of paper blew off her desk, and the superhero posters on her wall pulled at their thumbtacks. She hugged her pink giraffe, the last stuffed animal she kept on her bed. Something was wrong with her. She was tired, too tired to even brush her teeth before bed, but she was more than tired. Not sick, exactly. Something just felt wrong.

Lucy clicked off her lamp, hoping that sleep would fix her, and she pulled up her sheet. She always covered up with at least a sheet. She didn’t believe in monsters, but she felt like if she stuck her feet out of the covers something might reach out from under the bed and grab them. That night she pulled her quilt up, too. She was warm, but she burrowed deeper under the covers. She still didn’t feel comfortable, and she didn’t know why, only that something felt wrong.

Lucy yanked and tugged at her quilt as the night wore on, wrapping herself in a big Lucy cocoon. Most of the night, she was in between asleep and awake, swearing she hadn’t slept, only to realize hours had ticked by since the last time she’d checked her glowing clock. As tight as she wrapped her blankets, she felt like it wasn’t tight enough, and she pulled them tighter and tighter. She knew she was practically baking, but still she pulled the blankets tighter.

She heard her mom’s voice: “Lucy!”

“Wha?” Her voice cracked.

She was surprised to see light streaming through the window. The sweet smell of blueberry muffins wafted up the stairs. Her head ached, and her eyes would barely open. She groaned and half-heartedly tried to get free from her blanket cocoon. The sheets were gross with sweat.

“Lucy!” her mother called from downstairs. “It’s 6:45!”

Lucy quit her struggle against the blankets. She didn’t have to leave the house until 7:15, so she didn’t see why she had to get up now.

“Lucy! You’re ten years old! I’m not going to do this every day until you go to college!”

Lucy unwrapped herself and tumbled out of bed. The heat from the blanket dissipated, and the cool air brought her back to life. She stretched as wide as she could.

Buzzzz. Something buzzed behind her. The sound triggered something in her subconscious, something from her dreams she couldn’t quite recall. She noticed the papers that had blown across the floor and remembered she’d left the window open. Any number of creepy-crawlies could have come in during the night. She scanned the room for buzzing bugs, finding nothing.

“Your tiny hiney better be out of bed!” her mother called.

Normally, Lucy would stay in bed until her mom came and knocked on the door—that’s how she knew it was really time to get up—but today she didn’t feel like waiting around. She slid out of bed to collect the scattered papers, worried she might lose some of her artwork. She picked up pencil sketches she’d made of cartoon characters and then found an assignment sheet under the corner of her bed. The homework was to make an eclipse viewer, which turned out to be just a piece of cardboard with a hole in it. She scoffed. She’d been waiting for the eclipse for a whole year, and after seeing the assignment, she wondered if she’d be disappointed.

As she stood back up, papers in hand, she noticed a strange sensation on her back. 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 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 certainly 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 that pulsed with streaks of gold and blue. The wings spread, extending just inches beyond her shoulders, and her heart raced. They hummed faster and faster until she could barely see them. Wind from the wings swirled her hair and rocked her hanging clothes.

Lucy looked around the room for signs this was another dream, but everything else looked normal. She felt the wings, hoping they were fake, 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.

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

Mom can’t find out I’m a mutant! Lucy told herself. In a panic, she 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.

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 mother looked her over one more time and shrugged. “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 going.”

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


  1. Hi Adam

    Waking up with wings - how cool is that! Although, poor Lucy obviously doesn't agree with me.

    My initial thought was to wonder if the story starts in quite the right place? I can see that you are trying to build the atmosphere of something being wrong but nothing much actually happens in the first 3 paragraphs at the moment. Would it be better to start slightly later, with Lucy awake and finding the wings.

    You can always refer to the 'sickness' later if needed/relevant? (I love the pink giraffe, the last soft toy left on the bed, though! Lovely image.)

    Is the eclipse going to be relevant? It feels a bit of a side-comment at the moment, but it may have a part to play later. Same with the Farmer's Almanac reference, which seems specific enough to have to mean something, but I don't yet know what.

    The last line makes me want to read on and find out what happens to poor Lucy when she gets to school. I definitely want to find out more, so good job. :)


  2. Hi, Adam!

    WINGS! That's such a wonderfully unexpected thing! I'm already itching to understand why.

    However, I'm going to second Rebecca's comment about starting in the right place. I think you have to be careful about starting a story with a character waking up anyway, no matter how strange the circumstances, and I wonder if Lucy immediately realizing she has wings would be a more powerful opener.

    I do wonder as well if Lucy's reaction is as polished as it could be. She is suitably shocked, but she seems to pull herself together for her mother pretty quickly. And while the last thought about school is adorable, I don't know if I bought the speed of her acceptance. Even at ten, I think my WTF moment would last a LOT longer. Also, why is her reaction overwhelmingly negative? She jumps to mutant rather than fairy, and there's no "Wow, I can FLY!" thoughts. I guess it's impossible to know what the proper reaction would be in such a scenario, but it's something to think about :) Especially for the age range, I craved a bit less rationality and a bit more wonder or really, any strong emotion.

    But this is such a cute and quirky premise, perfect for MG, and you've definitely got me hooked!

    ~Mary :)

  3. I think you'd do well to cut a few lines from the opening paragraph. I like the details about gripping the pink stuffed animal and her room is described very well, but I don't quite see the hook. I do, however like how you don't just use 'to be' verbs to describe it.

    But she's waking up with wings! An opening paragraph about that would be much better, then go into the description of the room. It reminds me of Joe Hill's Horns, in which the first paragraph begins with the main character feeling the horns on her head. I think that would be better, so that, what I'm assuming is the premise is introduced from the start.

    Example: "Lucy couldn't let her mom find out she was a mutant"

    "Lucy woke up with wings"

    Those aren't great opening lines, but something of that vain that catches us right from the start.

    This sounds like a cool story. Looking forward to see what you come up with.

  4. Hi Adam! Fantastic start, great middle grade premise that I think of kids will totally love.

    Okay, I concur with the others who have commented so far - I think your first three paragraphs are all saying the same thing. From a puberty metaphor perspective, I like the idea of the discomfort and that Lucy is aware of something changing in her body, but she isn't sure what. I really like the idea of what you're saying, but I think you can do it more succinctly.

    I think the pace is great for MG here. I love the shenanigans of trying to hide the wings while mom knocks on the door. Your first 5 end with a fun hook, also -- making me want to know how Lucy's day at school is going to go.

    One thing that stuck out to me is when she thinks her mom will think she's a mutant. It's only because "mutant" is such a superhero buzz-word right now. I wasn't sure if you were saying that since Lucy reads a ton of comics, she jumps straight to "mutant" ... or if you were actually saying that in the world where Lucy lives, mutants are a thing, and now she's realizing she's one of them. Putting the word "mutant" into context would help me out on this point.

    Finally, technically, I think there are some places where you could beef up your lexicon. Example: She says there's a "strange" feeling on her back. Give me more than "strange" -- put me in Lucy's head and give me her experience! :)

    Looking forward to reading your next round!


  5. Hello Adam!
    This is such a fun story! I found myself laughing when you described Lucy hiding the wings from her mother (Please don't see the wings...). I also think this is a wonderful premise for MG. It's hilarious and quirky and so much fun. I also truly enjoyed the last line. I really, really want to find out what happens at school.

    I have to agree with everyone else. It would be so much more gripping right off the bat if we begin with Lucy noticing the wings for the first time. You could always go back and mention the metamorphosis (That's why Lucy hadn't felt quite right...or something like that), but you're spending a lot of time describing the transformation process and it sacrifices valuable real-estate for getting the reader 100% engaged.

    I like how you subtly characterize her. The mention of drawings and super heroes makes me like her from the beginning. I also want to echo what James said about her reaction. Maybe spending more time on the reaction in your opening few paragraphs could accomplish the effect you're going for with the metamorphosis opening while also characterizing Lucy a bit more.

    I really enjoyed this! Super excited to see your next revision!

  6. Hey Adam,

    Thanks for submitting your pages to the workshop! I have to say, as a huge Kafka fan, I wasn't sure I'd be into a middle-grade retelling of The Metamorphosis. But you've done it so very, very nicely in these pages that I think I can get on board.

    Your writing is really strong and your pacing is great. Your pages are just reminiscent enough of Kafka's original to strike a chord with parents who might be familiar with the story, yet they feel fresh enough to appeal to kids. I LOVED the cocoon and other insectoid metaphors, by the way!

    So, here's the thing: if you're going to do a retelling like this, you have to make sure it feels fresh all the way through--otherwise you're spending time just paraphrasing Kafka's idea. Obviously, you won't be setting the entire MS in one room, so I suspect you won't have to worry too much about that. But it's important to keep in mind, nonetheless.

    I do have a few suggestions for you:

    1) You have Lucy get out of bed twice in your pages. You'll want to fix that.

    2) You can tighten things up a bit. I'm not sure seeing her collecting homework pages and thinking about the eclipse viewer did much to move things along, and that's valuable real estate you can use to take the story as far as you can in your first five pages. On that note, see 3) below.

    3) Kafka starts his story in a wonderfully blunt way--something to the effect of: As Gregor Samsa woke from a night of uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into a giant insect. Would you consider something similar? It would be a fantastically attention-grabbing opening if you just got right to the point. Having your MC change into a bug in the first line would really hook your readers.

    4) I can't quite tell if this is going to be a humorous story or a serious one. I'm getting the sense it's meant to be funny. If so, I'd work on infusing a bit more humor in the opening pages if you can. If not, then you'll want to make it feel a little less light.

    Overall, though, I really like these pages! Focus on tightening them up and nailing the tone! Can't wait to read the next round!


  7. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for sharing your work with us today!

    This selection has a lot of promise. Your voice is easy to follow, the characters come alive with unique details and dialogue, and the premise is sure to have readers asking what comes next.

    My feedback for improvements:

    - the opening does seem a bit long and the pace lags. I think we could easily condense the first few paragraphs...or maybe skip forward just a bit in time to right after Lucy wakes up. I'm not sure of the solution, but right now we have to wait a bit too long for anything active to happen. There's an air of suspense, which is great, but not much to encourage a page turn after the first page. Explore your options!

    - "but today she didn’t feel like waiting around." Why? She just spent a lot of time telling us how much she wants to stay in bed -- which I kind of need to know more about, is this anxiety? is there a history? -- so this line seems like quite a sudden reversal. So why does she change her mind? Does something creep her out and make her want to leave her room?

    - "Mom can’t find out I’m a mutant! Lucy told herself." Why? Is there a history of Lucy being outlandish or doing strange things? Does Mom love perfection and hate wings? We need to glimpse a little bit of the character's motivation here for this to seem natural. Some might expect her to go to her mom for help...unless she's used to hiding things from mom for some reason.

    - What does Lucy THINK has happened? She's not quite letting the reader into her mind. What's the first thing she thinks? The first reason that occurs to her? Giving us a little bit more here will help us connect to her and cheer for her.

    I can't wait to learn more about this story in the pitch portion of First 5 Pages.

    Best of luck with your revision!

    Melanie Conklin
    First 5 Mentor

  8. Thank you, everyone, for your help! So much to think about!