Sunday, November 17, 2019

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Williams Rev 2

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


Kidnapped at birth, fifteen-year-old Reyne dreams of finding his human family. Torn between despising his faerie captors and feeling he should be grateful for all they have provided, he finds solace in the company of his friend Halite, a gnome with a habit of blowing things up.

When Reyne discovers he has the power to open a path to another realm, powers that humans should not have, the faeries lock him away. That is until the portal he opened lets in the soul sucking sirens. Reyne panics and looks for a place to hide. Instead, he finds an ancient being who opens a portal to send Reyne home. In a bungled attempt to save him, Halite sends them both into the darker part of the Faerie Realm.

The mortal realm is not the haven Reyne expects. Magic has deteriorated leaving a desolate land ravaged by a siren seeking revenge on his ancestors. The family he’s longed for rejects him, and for reasons he can’t understand, the sirens are trying to kill him. Reyne wants to go home, but as he delves deeper into his heritage, he realizes going home means letting go of all he knows, including those he loves.

Careful to place one foot directly in front of the other, Reyne moved forward until he stood centered between the tall grasses that ran along one side of the beach 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 from which the faeries would eat them.

Reyne stepped back from the stones and examined his body. No bruises, no sparkles, no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened. His mind whirled. He couldn’t have lifted the pavilion. He was human. So, who or what?

A chill 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 as he turned toward the sound of fluttering wins.

“Human!” Seymour’s high-pitched voice commanded from behind.

Reyne closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and turned.

Seymour and eleven other faeries hovered in the air.
“Yes?” Reyne asked.

“Yes? Yes? That’s all you have to say?” said Seymour, a deep crimson exploding across his face.

“I didn’t do—” Reyne’s eyes grew wide and the words caught in his throat. Pain seared along every fiber of his being and he stumbled forward, falling to his knees.

“Who lifted the pavilion?” Seymour asked, magic crackling along his fingertips. “Everything has to be done in order!”

“Not I,” responded a chorus of voices.

Seymour sneered at the group. “We don’t have time for this.”

“Barely time. . .” the others added amongst themselves as they fluttered past him, each flying to hover in front of a stone. “The sun is rising,” their singsong voices echoed.

Seymour took his spot before the last stone. “Positions. We must be quick and harness the magic before the sun has fully risen.”

Reyne pulled himself to his feet and made his way to his place on the grassy hill that rose over the beach.

The faeries took the berries in their hands and delicately nibbled them until they were gone. They raised their hands to their sides, kicked out a leg, and spun. As they twirled, their wings diminished, and their bodies grew in stature. Long, silky hair whirled about tall, lithe, elven forms—glimmering orange and gold in the beams of sunlight.

Though Reyne had witnessed this act every morning, he stared in awe. The faeries rarely showed their elven forms outside of ritual. Their pale skin glittered, and their eyes shone like the bright blue of the morning sky. In contrast, the sharp angular features of their face alluded to something otherworldly. During the morning ritual, day after day, his awareness of the differences between he and the Fae grew. In witnessing the shift from diminutive to tall, lithe, and deadly beautiful, he remembered that he should never take these creatures lightly.

Their magic cascaded over their bodies as they raised their arms and clasped their hands. The elves danced around the stones clockwise three times and then reversed, circling equal rounds in the opposite direction. As they twirled, the menhirs rose higher, revealing the cromlech buried beneath the sand. The hallows between each stone, stretched tall, like doorways, but not once had the Fae step through.

As their power grew, a light sparked to life at the center of the pavilion. Reyne rose and raised his arms in the air to praise them. As he swayed, he leaned forward trying to see what lay beyond. A shadow moved across the opening of one of the hollows, and he leaned in closer just as his arms swung too far in the opposite direction, throwing himself off balance. He tumbled forward and down the hill, breaking through the clasped hands of the elves. Shouts echoed in his ears as he tried to grab hold of the stones and fell through the center.

Face-down and sprawled across the cool, hard floor of the pavilion, he took a deep breath and pulled himself to his knees. Reyne bowed his head to avoid eye contact with the faeries. He shuddered. What would happen now? He had broken the sacred. Surely this would be punishment beyond locking him in his home.

“Who are you?” a deep, yet musical voice commanded.

Reyne opened his eyes and scrambled to his feet. He found himself in a pavilion much like the one on the beach. A forest blanketed in a deep blue hue surrounded the stone structure, encasing it in an unsettling darkness. Fear crawled over Reyne.

A tall, blond male elf, wearing white and gold silk robes towered over him.

Reyne took a step back, shielding his eyes from the golden glow that emanated from the elf’s skin. “M-me?” he stammered. “I’m just a— a— human. Who are you?”

Curiosity flicked across the elf’s features. “What do you mean, who am I? I am the Bearer of Light. And you must be the human siphon who has been stealing my sun.”


  1. The rearrangement is good but I'm sure it was difficult. Let's see the other comments, but I found the starting pretty abrupt and found myself wishing that you had kept a little more of the ritualistic activities that you had in the earlier drafts to ease me in before getting to the sun-bolt. But we definitely get to see more of the mystery in this version!
    The snippet of the pitch 'a gnome with a habit of blowing things up' is great - I'm looking forward to the explosions.

    1. Hi, Pat. Thank you. Yes. I think I need to step back to where I started.

  2. Hi Judith!
    Regarding the pitch, I like how you lay out the info, definitely gives me more understanding as I read the first few pages. The only tiny thing that confused me were the different realms. Are sirens in all of them, even the mortal world? Maybe I'm just reading it wrong, but that part was a little confusing to me.
    As far as the revision goes, it was much more exciting and interesting to get into the action more with the Fae. I do agree with Pat, maybe just an extra paragraph or so of the rituals would have made a better build up, but I really enjoyed getting to see so much more of the story!
    What a great line to end on, as a reader you have to know what happens next!

    1. Hi Casey, yeah, I'm thinking I should start back where I began!

  3. Hi Judith!
    Some cool magical things happening in your story, and I love seeing the pitch and where it was heading. I enjoyed seeing ahead to more of the pages. I agree with the others about reintroducing more of the set up, I felt a little disorientated, even when I knew more of the context. A happy medium perhaps? But I love the idea of Reyne's unexpected powers and longing for a home that unexpectedly rejects him, it is a cool premise that promises lots of interesting character stuff. One thing that is important is to make sure you are clear where he is at all times in the pitch. Is the darker part of the faerie realm the same as the mortal realm? It was a little unclear.
    But I am super excited to see where your story goes, it is really compelling so well done!

    1. Yes, thank you! I think I need to sort of go back to where I began when this all started!

  4. Hi Judith,

    This opening felt a bit rushed for me. I wanted a little more setup to get to know the character and where he is, before we jump right into the magic and the rules behind it. The query also left me a bit confused. An ancient being opens a portal to send him home, but then you say his gnome friend accidentally sends them to the dark part of the faerie realm. So... they didn't go to his home? But then he says the mortal realm is desolate and his family rejects him. So... they did go to his home? It's a bit hard to follow.

    The pages, too, feel a bit step-by-step in writing style. I'd prefer to see something a bit more fluid, that focuses on his internal reactions and emotions. But this can be helped, too, by opening a bit earlier before the magic and ritual.

    Kaitlyn Johnson
    Associate Literary Agent
    Corvisiero Literary Agency

  5. Thank you. I think I need to step back to where it began when the contest started!

    1. I don't think you're right about going back to where you started, Judith. I can see what Kaitlyn is saying about emphasizing the ritual over the character, but remember, she didn't read the two earlier versions. Don't think that 'getting to know Reyne first" is the same as slowly meandering around with nothing happening, which is what was there first. So please don't just remove all the work you've done to tighten up these pages. Instead, go back and read all the comments on every version, even the ones that seem to contradict each other. Then carry on from what you've got now, bearing those comments in mind. Don't just go back to that original version. You'd do yourself and this whole process a huge disservice if you did.

  6. Oh my goodness, what a difference, Judith! By switching the ritual and the sun-burst etc up to the top, you have not only hooked us from the off, but you’ve packed in so much more exciting and intriguing stuff into the first five pages! Thank you for going with my suggestions on that – I know it’s hard to cut away bits that you’ve worked hard to create.

    My only comment now about the text is the shift of the faeries into elves. From my limited knowledge of the fantasy canon, faeries and elves are very different beings, so can you add in something to explain this change? Are they elves who disguise themselves to the world as faeries for some reason? Or is there a long-standing connection between the two? Also, be careful when you refer to the beings that were faeries a minute ago as elves now. You say “clasped hands of the elves” in one para and “avoid eye contact with the faeries” in the next which is rather confusing.

    As for the pitch, that reads very well. It’s only in the last line of the opening paragraph where it feels a little off. The whole synopsis reads like a serious and exciting fantasy adventure about a teenage boy searching for his roots. But the line “a gnome with a habit of blowing things up” rather turns it into a cartoon strip. Of course, a book can contain humor as well as adventure, but writing our first intro to Halite in this way makes us read the rest of the synopsis looking for the jokes. But they’re not there, so we’re now not sure what sort of book we are looking at, a funny one or an adventure. So, I think saying that Halite is clumsy or accident-prone would give us the full picture while still staying in a consistent voice with the rest of the pitch.

    And finally, it says “Reyne wants to go home” but you don’t say where he now thinks ‘home’ is. He’s in the mortal world when he thinks this, so does he mean he now considers his home to be the faerie realm we first met him in. Give us a few words about his realization that his home is actually the place he thought always wanted to escape. That’s a major emotional moment (think how it might resonate with teen readers who are desperate to get away from the restrictions their parental home but who will soon enough realize that home is the place they feel safest because the world outside of it is scary.)

    Of course, if ‘home’ is neither the faerie world or the mortal world, you need to let us know where he thinks it might be.

    Finally, have you thought about any “comp titles”? Agents and editors love seeing “For readers who enjoyed XXXX and XXXX” or “MY BOOK is XXX meets XXXX.” Or you can also use authors’ names instead of titles if that makes more sense. It gives them an immediate sense of what readers you imagine your book will attract. If you don’t understand what I mean, go and look at Sarah Jane Pound’s query – she’s written the perfect comp sentence: “RIDER IN THE MIST is a Frozen meets Wintersong dark YA fantasy” See if you can do one too.

    Well done! You’ve put a lot of trust in the comments you’ve received, and that can be a major step for any writer. You have now added a strong hook and more detailed characterization, on top of the excellent setting you already had in place. I’m sure you’ll get lots of interest once you start querying.

  7. Thanks for the feedback. I think it needs some more tweaking. Halite's character is meant to add some lightheartedness to a rather dark world, but maybe I will leave him out of the query. He does think home is the mortal world, so I will clarify that too.

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