Monday, February 18, 2019

1st 5 Pages February Workshop- Kunrath Rev 2

Name: Jenn Kunrath
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Covert Cinderella


When Cinderella is recruited from the Grimmalds Academy of Espionage by a special forces team, she is excited. Also green, she is prone to mistakes. In her first mission, Cinderella is sent to a royal ball in the kingdom of Arydia where the prince is expected to be in attendance. Her objective—try and flirt out an explanation for how his kingdom is funding several recent and expensive projects. Nervous, Cinderella bumbles her words a few too many times. When the prince starts to look at her strangely, she worries she’s blown the op and makes a quick escape. However, as Cinderella and her team later find out, the prince was smitten, not suspicious. He sends his heralds out to find the mysterious maiden and invite her back to his castle. The mission team leader, code name Fairy Godmother, is thrilled to have an agent on the inside. Cinderella accepts the prince’s invitations and after a few days of gathering intel, learns that Arydia’s sudden wealth is due to a goose that lays golden eggs. The mission goes “afowl” though, as Cinderella becomes torn between loyalty to her team and the feelings she is developing for the prince.

It was my first undercover mission. I felt the energy buzz in my fingertips as I slipped on that fated suede shoe. Then, I made an attempt to tuck one of my ornery red curls behind my ear. Of course it didn’t stay there. My mother used to say they were as stubborn as me. I straightened and stood at attention for a final inspection. My team leader, code name Fairy Godmother, took his time examining every detail of my disguise. That evening I was dressed like someone who should be noticed. After so much training on how best to blend in, it felt almost uncomfortable to have orders that required me to stand out.

A subtle nod was my signal that it was okay for me to go. The air was warm when I stepped outside. Light traced the edges of the horizon as the sun faded behind it. My foot nearly slipped as I moved from the step that attached to our pod. Painted orange, it blended with the fall leaves of the forest around it. I always thought it looked kind of like a giant pumpkin. 

After several intense days of reviewing the mission, I was happy for the fresh air and the quiet of the forest around me. Inside, the pod could be generously described as cramped and uncomfortable. It made Fairy Godmother’s voice seem even louder when he yelled. The sound bounced from wall to wall in a way that filled the space. 

Still, it was odd to be out on my own. Until that point, I had been kept in close quarters with my team. Together, we plotted, planned, and strategized. Though excited to be going out into the field, I was also very nervous.

As I walked, I reviewed the mission in my mind. According to our intel, Arydia, a kingdom with which we shared our southern border, had been spending exorbitant amounts of money during recent months. Reports suggested that a new wing had been added to the castle. The archway to the city had been remodeled with marble. And the royal family decided to host a lavish ball for all the kingdom’s citizens to attend. There was talk of possible black market involvement and concern that funds were also being funneled into military forces for a possible land grab.

Determined to find out what was going on, the Kingdom of Sprice’s special forces recruited me from the Grimmald Academy of Espionage to serve as a plant at the event. They needed someone young and pretty enough to catch the prince’s eye. I like to think that my excellent conversational skills and overall performance in my classes also factored into why I was the candidate selected for this mission. Once, I tried carefully to have Fairy Godmother confirm if this was the case. He muttered something about dumb luck, so I did not ask again. 

A part of me worried I might not be ready. I was still only a student and had more training to complete before I could graduate the program. What if I was missing some critical skill that would be necessary on this mission?

The way to the castle was not far. When I got close, a group of girls hurried past me, nearly knocking me backwards. Their dresses drifted after them, a flutter of yellow, lilac and pink. They giggled as they hurried toward the stairs. I slipped in next to them. The deep-blue ballgown I had been issued shifted quietly behind me. 

At the top of the stairs, everyone was forced into a line.

“What’s taking so long?” I heard someone complain.

“They are announcing each guest,” another voice quipped. 

I gulped. It was a more conspicuous entrance than I had hoped to make. I shuffled along but studied the shadows to see if there was any way I could slip through the door. Determined to find something, I did not notice when it was suddenly my turn. From somewhere behind me, impatient hands shoved me forward. The attendant caught my arm so that I would not trip and tumble into the room, a fact for which I was grateful.

“What’s your name?” he asked as he helped me straighten.

“Cinder.” I answered a little too automatically. It was my nickname from the academy since I was marvelous at shimmying up chimneys for escape maneuvers. Then, I realized my mistake. I did not want this man to announce me by my nickname. Though no one had called me Pamina in years, I nearly gave him my real name to cover the error. Fortunately, I caught myself. “Well, uh…” I stammered, not sure what else to say. 

“Cinderwella!” the attendant’s voice boomed. He sounded like he had a speech impediment. I grimaced and ducked my head, glad my team was waiting in the pod and wasn’t there to witness my blunder. As I hurried away, I ran into a man who had started to walk toward me. His outstretched hand bumped into my chest in an embarrassing place. I wrapped my arms around my bodice defensively. 

“I am so sorry!” he stammered.

“Don’t worry about it.” I said and looked past him, determined to focus on my mission. The plan was to maneuver through the room until I was found myself with the prince. Once I found him, I was supposed to flirt out an explanation for Arydia’s sudden surge of wealth. When I knew where this new wealth was coming from, I needed to determine the extent of Arydia’s resources and whatever further intentions they had in how these would be used. Then, I was supposed to surreptitiously slip away and report my findings to the team. 

Get in, find the target, get the information, then get out, I repeated in my head. Fairy Godmother had drilled this into me over the last several days. So far, I had only managed the first of these objectives—and not nearly as well as I had hoped. Quickly, I turned to walk into the thick of the room. Before I could get very far, the gentleman who had bumped into me, stepped in front of me again.

“Please, allow me to apologize properly.” He bowed low and deep. I was annoyed—he was in my way. 

“Of course. I accept or whatever it is you need me to say.” I waived my arms so he would move.

When he did not step aside, I pushed past where he waited. It was not the most polite way I could have handled the situation, but I didn’t have the time to pretend to be nice. 

I had barely taken two steps when the man reached out and grabbed my arm. There was strength in his grip, and I was forced to stop. For a moment, I was scared. Was I already found out? Was that why he was so determined to stop me? Not sure what I was up against, I allowed myself to turn slowly.

The man in front of me stood strong and straight. Though he was young, his posture reminded me of the military men who’d trained us in physical skills at the academy. They had a tendency to yell and follow you until you did whatever the drill was as many times as necessary to execute it perfectly. Never one to be easily intimidated, I had always tried to breathe myself brave when they started yelling close to my face. 


  1. Okay, LOVE this revision. Great job!

    Pitch: This line made me smile: When the prince starts to look at her strangely, she worries she’s blown the op and makes a quick escape. However, as Cinderella and her team later find out, the prince was smitten, not suspicious.

    There's so much to like here. I like your first line "It was my first undercover mission." Referring to her "red ornery curls" gave me a glimpse of what she looks like and her relationship with her mother (believable in YA).

    I love how you painted a picture here: The air was warm when I stepped outside. Light traced the edges of the horizon as the sun faded behind it...Nicely done!

    In reading this line (There was talk of possible black market involvement and concern that funds were also being funneled into military forces) I see why her mission is vital.

    I'd edit the tag after “They are announcing each guest,” another voice quipped. To something like...said another...or something short and quick. I know these are hard. I'm working on those myself. :-)

    The last few paragraphs moved at a good pace, giving me a sense Cinder's urgency. This YA is off to a good start. I really like this.

  2. Wow wow wow! Jenn, I think you out of all of us have made the most improvement in this workshop. You’ve added new elements to this version which I love (the joke about her name and conflict b/w Cinderella and the gentleman). This revision reads so much better. Well done!

    When it comes to the pitch, I think you’re giving too much exposition on the ball itself, and not the overall premise of the story. Ex: You tell us Cinderella bumbles her words, she tries to make a quick escape, the prince sends out heralds. These are important details, yes, but a question you might want to ask--do these details push my novel’s premise forward? Or yet, an agent might ask from you, “why do I need to know that in the pitch/query?”

    As a reader, my understanding of your work is this: Cinderella is an agent from the Grimmald Academy of Espionage. After receiving word of several nefarious deeds, she’s been assigned to spy on Arydia’s prince and his family to either confirm or dismiss said rumors. At the ball, the prince meets Cinderella and falls in love. Her team leader, Fairy Godmother, tells her to play along, spend time with him, all while doing her spying business. However, the more time she spends with him, the more she falls in love with him, thus creating tension between both parties. Now she has to choose where her loyalties lie, and who really has her happily ever after.

    Now, I haven’t read the rest of it, so I can’t say for sure if what I just wrote is completely correct, but if it is, I’d say that’s the most basic info you need to post. If there’s additional problems, I.E, her Grimmald sisters turning against her, threats on the prince’s life that are coming from outside sources, etc, you can also add that.

    But ultimately, I don’t think you need to tell us Cinderella bumbled her words in the pitch. Queries/pitches are only given limited space. Make sure everything in a pitch is something you absolutely need. As the saying goes, less is more.

    --A very small thing. She notes the man’s speech impediment. You might want to just cut that rather than draw attention to it. Let the “Cinderwella” name stand on its own, only because calling him out on a speech impediment might come off as offensive.

    This is a fantastic premise. You’ve made big revisions and it shows. Cinderella comes off likeable, relatable, and your narrative voice really draws me in. Excellent work!

  3. Pitch Comments:
    -This sounds more like a plot summary than a pitch. I think you need to keep this all in Cinderella's POV and focus on her motivation to succeed, as well as on the obstacles that stand in her way. As written, it sounds like she needs to find out a secret that the prince is happy to tell her, end of story. We need CONFLICT!

    5 Pgs Comments:
    -The balance between action and narration/thought is great once we get to "The way to the castle..." but it's still taking an entire page to get there, and agents/editors might give up before they turn the page. Perhaps you could drop this information in gradually as she approaches the castle? For example, she can be standing out front watching the girls go in and judging herself as they pass. Maybe one makes her wonder if she's pretty enough, and another makes her wonder if Fairy Godmother's disguise has worked. These are just random suggestions. The point is to start with action AND INTERACTION right away. We can't only be in her head.

    Best of luck!

  4. Hi Jenn,

    First, let me just say, as I've said before, that these pages improve so much between drafts. Like seriously, they are absolutely getting better and I hope you can see that too!

    Pitch: I'm going to echo Holly's comments and say that the pitch provides too much plot summary and not enough of an overrall conflict. This is a pretty simple fix once you get the hang of it, and I would refer you to queryshark where you should read through the advise given there! There's a pretty straightforward pitch structure you can follow, and I myself still struggle with it, too, so know it is not easy :)


    What I like is the voice. You bring out your protagonist's voice so well, that I feel like I am with her. Right there! This is one of the most difficult things to capture, and you do it naturally, and it could be improved only by giving us a deeper look into her motivations behind her thoughts, like why she was at first rushing through the mission.

    Echoing some of the previous comments and some I made last week, there is still a bit too much info in these pages that is not necessary. For example, we don't need to know about the Academy, or why she was recruited. We just need to see her in the moment, doing the mission and experiencing it. All that information, we can find out later.

    Hope my comments have helped, and know that I've seen sooo much improvement!

  5. Jenn, you are doing such a great job in these revisions. I love this premise and it sounds like such a fun read.

    The pitch, as others have said, doesn't give us the main plot or the stakes. Start your pitch with your hook. You must hook the agent right away. A sample (a bad one) would be “When Cinder goes to the ball to take down the castle, she doesn’t expect to actually fall in love with Prince Charming.” See I told you it would be bad. Then include a short introduction to the world, the main character (who they are and what they want), and start with the inciting incident. Only include the major plot—the meat of the book. What is your character’s main goal? What are the stakes if she dosen’t accomplish this goal. The stakes have to be high. It can’t be that she just fails her mission. The Big Bad has to happen if she fails. Be sure you don’t introduce too many characters in your query.

    I believe you're starting your story off in the wrong place. I like the suggestion of starting while she's in line waiting to get into the castle. It's when I felt more drawn in. The opening needs to be inaction. Also, it needs more of her emotions. Show us how nervous she is by her reactions and internal thoughts. Does her palms sweat? Does she have to stop herself from fidgeting the closer she gets to being announced. What does she see around her? Are there decorations? Do the other girls smell perfumed? Are there noises? Music coming from inside? Excited voices? Chatter? Bring this scene to life by showing us where she is and the people around her. But only doing it sparingly. Interwoven between actions, reactions, and her internal thoughts.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with this wonderful story!

    1. Hi Brenda,

      This was so helpful! The "bad example" really helped me figure out what you and everyone else are suggesting in the query. It gave me something concrete to grab onto. Thank you!

  6. Hi! I found that the revisions really, really improved this piece, and I loved how you grounded us more in the action.
    The voice is spot on and crisp, and I love the subtly woven in humor.
    I do find the pitch a little too long and summarizing but I think you can condense it into a crisper way that really zings with the great voice found in the sample