Monday, December 19, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Ledbetter, Rev 2

Christopher S. Ledbetter
YA Fantasy


The distance between darkness and light was a nano-moment, my mother once told me. A sliver of space. The breadth of a strand of hair. I hadn’t known what she’d meant until that day. And still wished I hadn’t.

I trudged up the darkened beach, digging my toes in the sand with each step. Visions of pearl-skinned sea nymphs still danced in my head. Their iridescent eyes and seductive charms made me smile.

“C’mon, Zeus,” Anytos called.

I held a finger in the air.

"Zeus, seriously," he insisted, throwing a stick at my feet.

"Wait. Hold on." I closed my eyes to enjoy the images of those sea nymphs. Just a moment more.

"Zeus!" His words sliced sideways through my memories.

I sighed. “I’m coming.”

“Sun’s nearly up. We don’t have much time!” Tos stood at the top of a dune calling down.

I hated the pre-dawn runs we took every morning. The birds weren’t even up yet. I couldn’t wait to get back to the goats I tended with my mother. Against her wishes, I’d named each one. That’s why she never let me slaughter them for food. Or rather, why I never participated.

There was nothing too terribly stressful about goat herding. They were a self-sufficient lot. Sometimes watching them was like watching the sun crawl across the sky. In those moments, my mind wandered like a stray goat.

I’d always felt like I could do more. Be more. Something inside of me clawed for the extraordinary. Yet I had to face that I’d likely never leave Crete.

I joined Tos at the top of the dune and looked across the dusty Cretan expanse that stretched into low-lying hills. Tos turned to me. "You ready?”

“Let’s do it…”

Before I’d finished, Tos had taken off running, like being shot from a bow. His feet pounded the path as he ran ahead.

I crested a high ridge in pursuit. A burning sensation spider-webbed through my lungs when I saw the sun’s first ray in the east. Pushing onward, I strained to keep pace with Tos, whose legs moved at a pace I simply couldn’t match. Not yet anyway.

“Faster, Zeus,” he yelled over his shoulder.

“We’ve been running non-stop since the southern coast.”

I stopped and clutched my chest. Ragged breaths came in gasps. I placed my sweaty palms on my knees and inhaled deeply. I knew that the daily running would benefit me somehow. But, that didn’t mean I had to like it.

Anytos turned abruptly. “Whose fault is it we’ve been running such a distance, huh? I promised Amalthea I’d keep you safe, Zeus,” he responded. “You. Here. Not safe. Let’s go!”

"Hmmmph." I stood straight, stretching to one side then the other. I knew he was right. We’d been out way too long. But boy were those nymphs worth it. I took another deep breath as I stared back toward the east.

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you talk me into going to see those sea nymphs again,” Anytos continued. “Shoulda known better than that. The Tribe is gonna be pissed when we get back.”

“Don’t act like you didn’t have a good time.” I managed a half smile despite my fatigue, rustling fingers through my hair.

"That’s totally beside the point. The longer we’re away from the cave, the less safe you are."

I totally resented not being safe. I’d watched my mother’s pained expressions over the years. Stress from living in constant fear.

Tos began running again, building another healthy lead. Rocking back on my heels, I resolved to finish. One last push. Come on. Dig Deep.

I lunged forward. Chasing Tos up the next incline, my feet barely touched the ground. I ran so fast, I didn’t even feel the rocks on the tree-lined path. As I reached the next ridge, a ray of sunlight speared my eye through the trees and blinded me momentarily.

I forced my stride farther. Wider. My arms whipped the air at my sides. I grinned as I closed the gap between us.

Ahead, the cave opening beckoned. The Cave. My home. I knew the drill. Get to the cave before someone sees you. Someone like who? I always wondered who’d ever come looking for me?

I saw the dark silhouette of mother sitting on a hillside just above the cave, surrounded by lightly grazing goats. Crouched, her right hand gripped a hooked staff, on which she counterbalanced her weight. Her tunic rustled gently in the thick, salty breeze.

The sun rose faster than usual. Like ridiculously fast. I stopped to look into the sky, marveling at the rapid ascension. Darkness to light. Tos pulled my arm almost from its socket.

“That’s not normal, Zeus. We need to get in the cave!” he said. His face looked like a fig left in the sun too long, wrinkled and severe.

We sprinted the final stretch around my guardian tribe, the Kouretes, who danced in a circle. Their chants filled the air. Fully armored, their tunics flapped around their frames as helmets clanked atop their heads. Shouts echoed across the plain, punctuated by the clashing of spears to shields. They always said that they chanted to ward off evil spirits. To protect me. All I heard was constant noise, really.

As we drew closer to the cave, my mother stood suddenly and turned toward the sun. The sky brightened, and the sun’s brilliance grew more insistent. I shielded my eyes but the heat was searing. Spots dotted my vision as I watched my skin darken by the second. Sweat beaded all over my bronzed skin at once.

My heart began to race wildly. “What’s going on here? Why is the sun falling?"

“Remember we kept telling you somebody might see you if you’re out too long?”

I nodded nervously.

“Hyperion’s descending!” He pushed my shoulder. “Get in the cave!”

“The Sun Deity? Why is…?”

“Don’t ask questions. Just do it. Now!”

The Kouretes’ noise grew louder. But, I still didn’t understand. All that time I thought I’d been hiding from other people on the island, not Deities.

Tos pushed me. “Hurry!”

I took off running with Tos close behind. We’d just reached the cave when I heard my mother yell. I stopped in my tracks and turned.

I held my breath and turned to head back into the brightness and scorching heat. Tos’s fingers dug into my arms to pull me back.

I yelled, "I can’t leave my mother out there!" I jerked my arm from his grasp and grabbed my helmet from inside the cave. After grabbing my shield and spear, I ran into the clearing outside the cave. I heard Tos behind me.

The fiery orb hovered close to the earth. Flames grabbed at the sky in every direction.

"Mother!" I called. She scampered down the hill as fast as she could. The goats scattered in front of her.

The Kouretes took up battle stances, shields folded across their chests, spears ready to throw. Amalthea ran behind them and I joined her.

“Get back in the cave,” my mother growled through clenched teeth. She looked over my shoulder as Tos approached. “I thought I told y…”

A loud explosion erupted in the sky that shook the ground with its force. Amalthea turned around as a figure emerged from the freakishly large ball of fire. The mountain of a man rode a soot black chariot pulled by four ginormous stallions the color of sunsets. I could only assume he was Hyperion.

6 comments:

  1. I really like this new beginning - you show Zues as having an artist's soul, which makes the later scene that much more striking.
    I still found last passages to be a little harder to follow - I think I was hoping for some internal thoughts of Zeus (just a sprinkling since it's obviously a fast moving action scene, but some kind of reaction).
    Great revision!

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  2. Lookin' good, Chris! Much better each time. :D I only have two notes for you. One is you are still repeating words too close to each other. Words like: pace and Totally for example. So go through and look for repetition. Second, I would like to see more of Tos' reaction to the fact that he really did let Zeus stay out too long this time. Is Tos' panic unusual? Does it unnerve Zeus as much as seeing the sun deity descend? That sort of thing will help develop your secondary characters and deepen the reaction from the reader.

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  3. Hi Chris,

    MUCH stronger. It is. I still have some concerns about the reactions between Tos and Zeus and the motivations for the run, but it is getting clearer. Perhaps put yourself in Tos's POV though, and think this through from his perspective. What would he be thinking and how would he really be reacting. Lisa hints at this same issue, and it's what first tripped me up. If the situation is so dangerous, you have to show some compelling reason why Tos would agree to take Zeus out. You're almost there, but not quite yet.

    I love the goat passage. It shows a lovely gentle aspect of Zeus' personality to temper the adolescent horniness -- I'm assuming you're intending the obvious relationship there :). And I do like that you stay away from the overt sexuality of the nypmphs and go with more artistic imagery.

    I agree with Marilee's comment (and I think Lisa is getting to the same issue) about the last paragraphs. Again, put yourself into Zeus' POV more deeply here and go line by line to figure out what he's really thinking and feeling as he reacts.

    You're almost there.

    This is very nitpicky, but it has tripped me up on every read. The line "I trudged up the darkened beach, digging my toes in the sand with each step" clearly shows his reluctance when I stop to think about it, but I do have to stop to think about the phrasing conveying an active act of reluctance. Is he consciously impeding his progress, or is his body subconsciously impeding his progress? If the latter, maybe his toes dig in despite what his brain is telling him. This is an opportunity to convey conflict -- and in fact, I wonder if that isn't part of the key here. His common sense and Tos are both telling him to go, but the freedom and the nypmphs and whatever else are all calling him to stay.

    Looking forward to the final round!

    Best,

    M.

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  4. You've got a great voice. And I like the way we can see where Zeus's character arc is coming from and going. I'm guessing we're moving from selfishness to a more-caring, responsible Zeus, right? He's concerned for his mother here, but I think we should see a glimmer of concern for Tos, too, when his skin looks like a fig. The POV is getting deeper with this revision and it's already pulling me into the story more. Great job!

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  5. Another strong rewrite. Nice job! I feel like we're getting to know Zeus better. Really now it's nit-picky stuff. I like how you brought the sea nymphs in more, but felt you could have a more specific line to discribe them.
    "Their iridescent eyes and seductive charms made me smile." Didn't really work for me.
    shelley

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  6. I already agree with what they said, especially regarding Tos. I'd love to know a little more about him and how he protects Zeus--you already say that Zeus doesn't understand the other protection, but his relationship with Tos seems casual so I do wonder about that. Is he a part of the tribe? Also nitpicky, but why does Zeus call his mother Amalthea at the end? They seem closer than that. Great revision!

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