Sunday, November 10, 2019

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Williams Rev 1

Name: Judith Williams
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Midsummer Chronicles

The last remnant of magic swept over the warm beach and into the forest that grew across the island, searching for a boy whose time had come. A boy whose time had long since passed.

The wind ruffled the dark curls at the nape of Reyne’s neck, sending a tingling surge along his spine. He shivered and rubbed the arms of his pale green tunic, peering into the thick canopy of leaves that shadowed his home. Not a single giggle or sparkle of light. No faeries in sight. Strange, he thought, brushing the back of his neck.

Reyne adjusted the basket on his hip and stepped out of his one-room cottage nestled into the side of a tree. Many trees dotted the island, but only this one had been crafted into a dwelling. It sat alone atop a hill, against the rocky bluffs that surrounded most of the island.

Reyne set the basket down, shut the door, and then opened and closed it again, repeating this process several times and counting to three as he did so. The faeries knew when he skipped this part, and he didn’t want to be confined to his room again as their sense of time seemed to differ from his own.

Lifting the basket, he walked down the hill toward the beach, stopping at every seventh stepping stone, as demanded by the ritual, to pick the deep red berries from the bushes along the path. Reyne paused before the tall grasses that separated the island from the sandy shore. He tilted his head, listening for movement, and stepped through.

Seymour waited.

Reyne sighed.

The faerie’s wings fluttered rapidly. “Finally,” the small faerie snarled.

“But I’m exactly on time,” Reyne muttered.

Seymour circled the air above Reyne several times and swooped down to hover in Reyne’s face. “Are you questioning me?” The faerie narrowed his eyes and ran his fingers through his hair. Golden highlights glinted over the spikes in the early morning light.

Reyne shuffled his feet in the sand.

Seymour snickered. “What a disgrace.”

Heat rushed to Reyne’s face.

“Get the ritual set up before I get back.” Seymour flew off toward the white tower that loomed over the island from the top of the bluffs.

A weight settled on Reyne, heavy and suffocating. How he despised the faeries. They always played tricks and carried themselves with their nose in the air. He never wanted to be a faerie. One day he would escape this place.

Reyne strolled toward the center of the beach and tossed his basket to the ground. The ocean waves rose and fell, sparkling in the early morning light. Freedom. It couldn’t be ocean forever. There had to be another island out there. Reyne inhaled as the salty sea air caressed his face. The rise and fall of the waves captivated him and a longing stirred deep within. He’d been forbidden from entering the ocean. The Faerie Queen had made it clear the punishment would be severe if he put even a toe in the water.

Seymour’s smug face flashed before him. Reyne clenched his fist, digging his nails into his palm. He gazed at the sea, and his pulse raced. A chill wind blew through his hair and goosebumps prickled along his skin. They don’t control me.

Reyne glanced over his shoulder, pulled off his shoes, and ran across the sand, stopping just before the waves reached his bare feet. He half-turned toward the tall grasses, watching for any sign of faeries. With a sigh, he stepped forward into the sun-kissed water.

The waves sloshed over Reyne’s feet, and he wiggled his toes. Pleasure ignited his body, a smile touched his lips, and the wind picked up, a salty kiss dancing across his skin. He backed away and closed his eyes, letting out a gentle sigh as the feeling left him. Never did he imagine the ocean would feel so wonderful, so connected to the world around him.

Reyne opened his eyes and stared across the ocean. A peacefulness enveloped him. Nothing dark and ominous out there. So why couldn’t he enter? The faeries directed every aspect of his life. He had always listened out of fear of what they might do, but what would they actually do?

Reyne’s stomach tightened, and he fought to push away the nausea that rose up each time he disobeyed. A heavy fog rolled over his mind. His thoughts were off today. He shouldn’t think ill thoughts about the faeries. Without the Fae, what would he be?

He lowered his head and turned away, trudging back to his sandals buried in the sand and the sickness faded. If he didn’t get the morning greeting set up, the Fae would become curious and, for Reyne, curiosity meant punishment. He had enough chores without the Fae adding any more—and he didn’t need their mocking tone.

Reyne searched the tall grass lining the edge of the beach and grabbed a stick poking from the sand. He walked along, brushing the fingers of his other hand over the long, green blades. The sun peeked over the horizon indicating the ritual should begin. Reyne would greet the sun and say the word signaling the faeries to come out. Lacking magic, his part existed for theatrics. The Fae would come and raise the platform themselves.

He turned his head toward the sun. Its warm rays blanketed his body, casting his shadow over the sand. A shiver ran down his spine and the light caressed his skin. Careful to place one foot directly in front of the other, he moved forward until he stood centered between the tall grasses and the water’s edge.

Reyne took seven steps to his left, pushed the tip of the stick into the sand, and drew a large circle. He dropped it at his feet and placed his palms together, pressing his thumb against his sternum. The ocean breeze ruffled his hair as he bowed deeply to the sun.

He pointed toward the blazing orb. “Eimi!” he shouted.

The ocean rumbled.

A burst of light shot from the sun and across the waves. Reyne flew through the air, landing hard on his back. Grains of sand shifted beneath him. He scrabbled away. A tiled, bluestone floor encircled by twelve, large rectangular, flat-topped rocks rose, revealing the, grand pavilion in the center.

Reyne’s heart thundered in his ears, and he lowered himself onto one of the stone benches to catch his breath. “That was power. . .” He inhaled to steady his breathing and pushed himself off the bench. A tremble created a slight waiver in his steps as he walked over to the basket he had tossed. Hands shaking, he lifted it to his waist and turned, releasing a sigh of relief. He stood alone.

Reyne crept toward the pavilion and stood before one of the slabs. He glanced at his basket. The placing usually occurred after the faeries arrived. Eyes closed, he took another deep breath and steadied the shaking in his hands. His eyes popped opened, and he grabbed a handful of berries and dropped them on the flat top, making his way around the circle and repeating the action at each slab. Reyne stepped back from the stones examined his body. No bruises, no sparkles, no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened. His mind whirled. He couldn’t have done it. He was human. So, who or what?


  1. I liked getting a bit further into the action this time around with the flash of power/magic at the end of the section.
    I wasn't 100% sure, but here's what I think happened at the bottom of the piece - the pavillion appeared, which is a normal daily event, *but normally it takes Faerie magic*. Is that correct? If so, maybe you should make that more explicit, that it's partly normal, partly unusual.
    A few little things:
    I thought "separated the island from the sandy shore" was a bit weird. Isn't the shore part of the island?
    "carried themselves with their nose in the air" should be ...noses...
    I also imagined the parts of the ritual happening in daylight, but later on the sun just comes over the horizon, which would make it pretty dark before that, especially if the sun is appearing over the sea. On an island it's pretty dark before the sun appears unless it's appearing over the land.
    The commas in this sentence are a bit off, too. "A tiled, bluestone floor encircled by twelve, large rectangular, flat-topped rocks rose, revealing the, grand pavilion in the center."

    1. Pat, yes, that's exactly right! The rising of the pavillion usually takes faerie magic! I will take a look at the light situation and the commas. Thank you for the catch!

  2. OOOH I really liked you moved it along quicker this time. Reyne's voice felt much more YA/mature too. I really liked your descriptions of his inner thoughts and turmoil. I feel like you could spend a little longer on Seymour. Maybe add a sentence or two as to who he is to Reyne. (a bossy older brother type, or grumpy old man, or something?) Just some internal dialogue on Reyne's part. Also, I re-read but wasn't clear if this was a daily ritual? Morning ritual? Is Reyne aware of what he's doing it for or just blindly following orders? Also, do they make him do this because its menial or are there other reasons? Overall, this version feels much stronger!!! Your descriptions and sentence structures are lovely.

    1. Thanks Sarah, I will look again at the Seymour scene. It is a newer addition and definitely been a thorn in my side!

  3. Hi Judith!
    It was wonderful to get into the action so much quicker in this revision. While I was intrigued as a reader, I was a bit confused about what was going on at the end. It seemed about like what Pat said, that nothing out of the ordinary had happened, but Reyne was confused because no Fae were around to have done it. It was a bit confusing, so maybe add a quick little clarification there. However, I do like the mystery of how the magic happened, and I would read on to find out! Great descriptions of the setting and great job overall!

    1. Thank you, Casey. I will try to see if I can clarify that a bit!

  4. Oh, I really enjoyed seeing a little further ahead! I love the unexpected power, it was such a believable reaction and a cool scene. I also liked the way you altered the interaction with Seymour, it seemed much more natural. I wonder if a little bit more internal dialogue would help that interaction even more.

    I struggled a little bit with him putting the berries out when he did. I think mostly because I would be freaking out, trying to find answers to why I did what I did, rather than finishing the ritual? Though I was really curious what the berries were for so that aspect I liked. Even just a little thought about…’oh, I’ll get in trouble if I don’t finish’ it might help.

    Oh, and say the berries went to the basket too, that would help. We only hear that he picked them, and I kept wondering if they were still in his hands?

    I love the start with the wind, but I wouldn’t mind a specific mention that the wind was what surprised him. I think it would add to the sense of anticipation.

    And the sentence when he is considering going in the water, sounds a bit strange with the two do’s in it. And I wonder, it sounds like the Faeries could do many things to him for disobeying. So maybe just let him take the risk knowing that? Just a thought?

    But I like where this is going. Looking forward to hearing more.

  5. I love that we get further into the story on this revision. Your writing and description is beautiful. This is a world I'd love to get lost in and you definitely have the bones of something fun here.

    Let's talk about the newer piece added. I was pretty lost in the scene. I couldn't figure out what was considered ordinary for Reyne. He does this ritual daily and seems rather bored with the whole process, but today things seem quite extraordinary. The problem with it is that as the reader, I don't know how much of this is an everyday occurance. While he seems rattled by what has happened, he doesn't seem all that surprised. Almost as if this is what he expects, but not as powerful? I don't get a really solid sense of what his part is in this whole ritual and if it even makes a difference to the greater outcome. He talks about his part is for theatrics, so why do they even need him? What purpose does his part serve? And how is today any different than any other?

    Speaking of purpose, I don't get a sense of what his purpose in this society as a whole is. Do they really need him? Why? Can they live without him? Could it have been any child they stole or is he special?

    And I'm still hung up on the punishments. Why does he do anything at all for them? What's at stake for Reyne? Seems like the faeries already don't treat him well, what's the worse they can do or have done? Have their been other children that have been stolen and have died at the hands of the faeries? What if he refused? And if they are Tinkerbell size, what's stopping him from just swatting them away or squashing them? The faeries don't seem that scary or intimidating. Just annoying if nothing else.

    I think the reader needs more clues to what's at stake and how today is not an ordinary day.

    You've got the beginnings of something great here! Keep going! I can't wait to see what revision two brings!

    1. Wendy,

      Thank you. Yes. I've gotten that before on defining that ordinary from extraordinary. I will work through and see if maybe I can define this more clearly or set it apart a bit more.

  6. Well done, Judith, you’ve brought some great action into the scene now, and smoothed out some bumps. However, I still feel like it’s too slow a start to keep an agent/editor reading – grabbing them on page 1 is preferable to grabbing them on page 4, and reading about someone PREPARING for something is never as interesting or exciting as reading about them DOING it. Therefore, could I suggest that you re-order what is here? I’d love to see the whole thing start with the actual ritual, perhaps by mixing those two beautifully descriptive paragraphs together: “Careful to place one foot directly in front of the other, Reyne moved forward until he stood centered between the tall grasses and the water’s edge. He took seven steps to his left, pushed the tip of the stick into the sand, and drew a large circle. He dropped it at his feet and placed his palms together, pressing his thumb against his sternum and turning his head toward the sun. Its warm rays blanketed his body, casting his shadow over the sand, and the ocean breeze ruffled his hair as he bowed deeply.”

    Then carry on from there with all the fireworks. All the bits with the rumbling ocean and the shooting-fire sun are so powerful, and then his stunned reaction to it all, make a much bigger hook for a reader than him collecting berries and having a spat with the faerie. I get the feeling that Seymour was only in there to give you the chance to make sure we knew that this kid lives as servant to faeries (even in the second version), but there’s not problem if that intro to the faeries came AFTER the ritual, because by that time we are desperate to know more. We’ve already been gripped by this weird ritual clearly going wrong. We want to know who this kid is, why is he doing all that, and why, today, has something changed? Why is he suddenly feeling some power?

    All the other paragraphs might still be used – his spat with Seymour, him going against the Queen’s instruction to dip his toes into the water, but put them afterwards, more as backstory than actual story. Get us engrossed in this strange event and then introduce us to this strange boy and his stranger world. And if the reason something different happens is BECAUSE he paddled in the sea, then have him wonder whether the paddle that he dared to have earlier has changed something. Is that why the queen told him never to into the water, because she knew it would somehow give him power that she didn’t want him to have?

    We’ve all had to cut chunks of our story in order to find the right place to start. I had to dump almost 10,000 words/three opening chapters of my second book so that my protagonist could start in the action not preparing for it, so I feel your pain.

    Other than that HUGE suggestion, in the para that starts “Reyne’s heart thundered…” does he feel relief BECAUSE he finds he’s still alone, or is the relief about something else? It’s not clear.
    Also, I’d also love to see you move the bit where Reyne checks his body for bruises etc up to the end of the previous paragraph after “He stood alone.” Only once he has decided he’s okay should he start all the berry basket business, though as he is going through the motions by rote, he is all the while wondering “what the hell just happened and why?”

    Also, the fact that he has just said “He was human” gives us our first suggestion that not everyone in this world is, so you now have the perfect chance to introduce the idea of the berries being set out as part of a faery ritual that he, as a servant and a powerless human, has to undertake on a regular basis as a chore. That way, you can skillfully start to add layer upon layer of information and intrigue about this fantasy world, instead of dropping it on our head like a brick the way we experienced with Seymour’s speech in the first draft.

    So, some enormous suggestions, but hopefully ones that will make sense to you. Looking forward to seeing the next version!

    1. I like all these suggestions. You guys have really asked me to cut a lot of my darlings and I'm going to do it!! But the opening wind is really what cuts through Reyne's faerie glamour and allows him to take that step into the water. I'm going to have to think on this and figure out how rework it all. Great suggestions. Thank you!