Monday, June 4, 2012

3 1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Mutalib

Author: Nur Athirah binti Abdul Mutalib
Genre: Young adult; fantasy
Title: Fatress Prophecies

After the initial shock wears off, Holly swears everything was a blur. She didn’t even have time to put the box away but carried it through customs and immigration.

The flight wasn’t long and if it was she didn’t pay any attention. She gave the tickets and passport when the time came and slept through most of the flight only escaping to the lavatory to cry alone.

When the kind stewardess tried waking Holly up to eat, she swatted the fingers away and buried herself underneath her blanket. Though Holly was hardly asleep, no, her mind was focused on other things.

Her father looked disheveled and her mother tried her best to be the family bridge, holding their hands and guiding them where they need to go because Mrs. Hope knew how important Anthea Hope was to Holly and Wes.

Reeves, a loyal employee, picked them up at Heathrow Airport in a Jaguar but instead of feeling giddy about meeting her grandmother whom Holly loved, she felt a deep pang of hurt and a real sense of loss.

Reeves would always smile when he sees me, Holly thought, remembering the little crinkle he gets in his eyes when he fetches her from the airport but not this time. No, he wouldn’t dare smile during his recently deceased best friend’s wake. The journey was about two hours away and Holly kept to herself most of the time.

Coming up the baronial mansion as the city slowly melted away from view, Holly’s mind was in a recurring flashback. All those puzzles, Sudoku and crosswords she and Anthea would solve in the Sitting Room and books, most of which Anthea chose and force Holly to read to be ‘more culturally diverse’, the sword fencing fight she had with Reeves through the long stretch of corridors with Anthea’s rare Napoleon’s swords (but the grandmother made sure they were blunt enough not to cause any serious damage) while Anthea took turns cheering her granddaughter and butler. Reeves fell from the edge of the thick carpet and Holly won. She remembered Anthea shouting, “That’s my girl!”

On a Christmas visit two years ago when Holly admitted her fascination for yoyo so a month after that Anthea shipped Holly her Avalanche. She didn’t even know any tricks but it didn’t stop her.

The string would get tangled up and Anthea would ask Reeves to wind it.

3 comments:

  1. Okay, so I'm sort of with you. Don't hate me, but third person present really freaks me out. I find it jerky and hard to immerse myself in because of that. And it's only the first sentence that's in this weird tense, and then you switch over to past. It's very strange, and something maybe you can even out.

    There are several things I'm confused about up front:
    1. Is she getting ON a plane, or OFF? Because I thought off, because you don't go through immigration in the country you leave, do you? That's a process that a person goes through in the country they ARRIVE in. (I think.) But then she got ON the airplane...
    2. This bit: "Her father looked disheveled and her mother tried her best to be the family bridge, holding their hands and guiding them where they need to go because Mrs. Hope knew how important Anthea Hope was to Holly and Wes." I have NO IDEA what that means. She's on an airplane, swatting away the flight attendant, and then that sentence is there. It's confusing and weird, and I'd take it out.
    3. Where is she? Maybe your readers are smarter than me, but I don't know where Heathrow is (London?) and you say "the city slowly melted from view" but I don't know what city. Little details like this can give your world a setting with very little effort from you. That said, though, not everyone in the world--and especially young adults--have seen London, so perhaps some setting is in order here.
    4. Has the grandmother (Anthea) died? So her butler is her best friend...? That was strange to me. Seems like a proper lady of Anthea's status would have someone else to fill that role, though I understand the closeness of a butler to those he butles. Just a thought.

    There are several instances where the tense is wrong. "force" instead of "forced" for example.

    Also the paragraph that begins "Coming up the baronial mansion", those sentences need to be broken up. It's like one big run-on sentence. Just because you put a comma doesn't mean it's working. The parenthetical in there is very odd for me. It's almost like the author is making sure the readers know "the grandmother made sure the swords were dull" and that's just strange to do outside an MC's perspective.

    I'm confused about the yo-yo. You said Anthea shipped it to Holly, but then Anthea asked Reeves to wind it up... So... Not sure what's going on there. Shipping something to someone doesn't seem like they're living together and can be in the same room to yo-yo. Also, why wouldn't Holly be able to wind it herself? If it was only two years ago, she seems to be at least 14-15 when she received the yo-yo, yeah? So she can't wind it herself because...?

    And sorry to hound you on the yo-yo, but this sentence feels incomplete. "She didn’t even know any tricks but it didn’t stop her." Didn't stop her from doing what, exactly?

    Overall, I had a hard time reading this. I probably wouldn't continue reading, because I feel like I'm being fed random facts that don't contribute to a whole, and that makes me feel unsettled in the hands of the author.

    I want the story to unfold on the page in such a way that I barely remember that someone wrote it. It's so natural and every detail is placed exactly where I need it to keep my interest piqued and my mind churning to know more. I want to feel like I'm in the hands of someone who knows where they're going AND knows how to bring me there too, word by word, sentence by sentence.

    That's not to say it can't be rewritten into that cohesive whole readers are looking for. I just think right now, it's not quite there yet. Sorry! And I hope something here helps with a revision.

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  2. Hi there,

    I have to be honest--I really struggled with comprehension here. A big part of it is the present tense switching to past, but the other part is simply it is like a stream of random thoughts and observations, rather than a concrete picture of what is happening, as it's happening.

    Part of what disorients me is that in the opening we are dropped into a scene without understanding it. We don't know what the shock is, why everything was (is?) a blur, what the box contains or why it is important to the story. The next thing we know she's on a plane, clearly upset and grieving, but irritable as well. We again do not know what the motivator is for this (was the box ashes, like an urn?) and because we're held at such a distance from the character, it's hard to empathize with her situation.

    The story then seems to skip ahead to landing, and while I like the details of Dad trying to hold the family together, there is a fractionating happening as several people are introduced without understanding clearly who thy are and how they fit. Who is Mrs Hope? Anthea Hope? Is this the grandmother? Are they the same person? If so, why the two separate names? How would Holly think of her--Mrs Hope? Anthea Hope? Grandmother? Using multiple names for the same person muddies the waters a bit, and pulls us away from Holly's POV.

    I think probably the biggest piece of advice I can give is to tell the story through Holly's POV. Her grief for her grandmother who I assume has passed will be achingly real if the memories come from Holly directly, rather than partially through her, and partially through a distanced narrator viewpoint.

    An example would be here:

    All those puzzles, Sudoku and crosswords she and Anthea would solve in the Sitting Room and books, most of which Anthea chose and force Holly to read to be ‘more culturally diverse’, the sword fencing fight she had with Reeves through the long stretch of corridors with Anthea’s rare Napoleon’s swords (but the grandmother made sure they were blunt enough not to cause any serious damage) while Anthea took turns cheering her granddaughter and butler. Reeves fell from the edge of the thick carpet and Holly won. She remembered Anthea shouting, “That’s my girl!”

    should be more like:

    Holly's fingers moved on their own, lost int he memory of all the puzzles, Sudoku and crosswords she and her grandmother would solve during rainy afternoons. The manor's sitting room always smelled of dusty paper and orange oil, and Holly spent hours reading the books Grandmother left out for her when she had to attend business in town. Sometimes Reese would come in with warm biscuits and cold canned peaches and she would ask him what some of the larger words meant. Other times, Grandmother would sweep Holly off her window seat for an impromptu fencing lesson along the long stretch of corridors, using her collection of blunt, yet rare Napoleon’s swords. Reeves played his part of feisty opponent well and clangs would echo down the paneled hall. Eventually however, he would allow himself to be disarmed and Holly's grandmother would cry, “That’s my girl!”

    This is just a rough example, and I'm sure you can create something more compelling. I mainly wanted you to see the distance issue, and I believe Holly would think of her grandmother by title, not her formal name, which might be part of what's causing the distance. Just a thought.

    I think the grief is very real here and we just need a bit more information to give us some clarity. :) I hope this helps!

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  3. Elana and Angela are awesome. I know it's tough to hear, but this is how you make the story stronger. Right now, I admit I was completely lost as to what was happening and who was who. The opening was jarring and it seemed to skip around. I think you might need to back up a bit. In order to connect with Holly, we need to know her. I recommend trying this in first person, you don't have to do the whole book that way if you don't want to, but it will help you connect with her and express what's happening more fluidly.

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