Monday, December 12, 2011

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

Christopher S. Ledbettter
Young Adult 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. I smiled.

“C’mon, Zeus,” Anytos called.

I held a finger in the air.

"Zeus, seriously," he insisted.

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

"Zeus!" He sliced sideways through my memories.

I sighed. “I’m coming.” Though, what could one more moment have hurt?

“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 sharply.

“That’s not normal, Zeus. We need to get in the cave,” he said.

We ran 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.

“That’s Hyperion 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.
Fear spiked through me. 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 placed a helmet on my head. 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.

I stood sack jawed, never having seen an Elder Deity before.


  1. This is a strong revision. I feel much more invested in the main character and I also feel like I know what’s going on in the story. Your language is a little more relaxed and not so stilted, which brings us closer, I think. I like you first line and how you draw it together later on. Nicely done.
    I got stuck on, “He sliced sideways through my memories.” I couldn’t figure out what that actually meant, so I kept pondering it, and it slowed the story for me. Also, maybe show us Tos anxiety a little more. What does he do in agitation at waiting for Zeus? He says it in his words, but maybe he throws a rock or pounds a stick.

    Also: “Just a moment more,” And “Though what could one more moment have hurt?” Are back to back and so lose their impact. We get that he wants to hang out, what could he do to show us? Maybe he sits down and Tos freaks out? I don’t know.
    I’m going to guess that the goats are important. Does he want to slaughter them and his mother keeps him from it? Or is it that he doesn’t want anything to do with slaughtering? If the slaughter of goats is a way of life, maybe the mother has given up on having him slaughter goats because she realizes he’s too sensitive. The way it reads now it sound like he wants to slaughter goats and his mother won’t let him.
    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 kinda think that for this to have more impact we need to feel he’s dissatisfied with the goat herding. Yet, I don’t get that. What does he want to do? I feel he’s content with the goats, and just daydreams about doing something else, instead of feeling a driving force for him to do more.

    “rustling fingers through my hair.” Short? Long? Black? Blond?
    “Fear spiked through me.” I’d do away with this. The next sentence is enough to tell us of his fear.
    I yelled, "I can’t leave my mother out there!" I jerked my arm from his grasp and placed a helmet on my head. After grabbing my shield and spear, I ran into the clearing outside the cave. I heard Tos behind me.
    The helmet kinda comes out of nowhere. Maybe I grabbed my helmet from the inside of our cave, or something that shows us where he is.
    The Kouretes took up battle stances, shields folded across their chests, spears ready to throw. Amalthea ran behind them and I joined her.
    Amalthea kinda came out of nowhere and I don’t know who she is. Are they outside of the cave here?
    Hyperion’s arrival is dramatic and intriguing. I want to read further. Some tightening of the telling in these pages and it really works well. Nice revision!

  2. First off, I think this is a great revision. You've done a lot with it. I am connecting better with Zeus, though I would still want you to go even further and really let loose with him. Try a really out there version, just for you, so there aren't any hold barred and see what happens. :D

    I notice there are several paragraphs with words that repeat. Try to say something only once in a paragraph and even more. "Skin" is one example.

    It still feels like something is missing, and it took me a minute to figure it out, but I think it's internal dialogue. I love the moment he pauses to think about the nymphs. That's awesome. Can we have some more of that? Like not even humor necessarily. Horror at the sun coming down. Guilt about his mom? IDK. You know what he'd feel/think, but let us connect completely. :D

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Chris,

    MUCH better. You've aged him up a lot, and you've addressed some of the plot/motivation issues, and you've interjected a lot more personality here. I love Lisa's insight about needing more introspection. I agree that at this point, the balance is a little off. A lot of the dialogue at the beginning is an anchor for thoughts that you haven't put in yet. Without it, those brief bits of dialogue are repetitive and actually slow the pace a little bit -- instead of taking them out or consolidating them though, you could bring up some more of Zeus' character and situation through internatization and reaction. That said though, you've done a LOT with this. Just relax into it a little bit more. It reads less as if you are being writerly and more as if you are being Zeus. You could even take that just another step or two further for next time. Can't wait to see where you go from here!


  4. I agree with everything that's been said so far. The phrase I got stuck on was "ray of sunlight speared my eye through the trees and blinded me momentarily." It just felt forced and maybe too mature for a YA narrator, even if he is Zeus.
    When he says he "resented not feeling safe," I'd rather see that in deeper POV. Maybe he gritted his teeth and thought, "Enough hiding already!"

    You write beautifully. Can't wait to see what you do next.

  5. I think the first line could be clarified a little. It didn't seem like it connected to him specifically.

    "There was nothing too ... like a stray goat." I'm not sure I understand what that paragraph is doing for the story. It takes my focus away from the idea of his like for goat-herding and makes for a somewhat awkward transition to the idea of him being extraordinary.

    Can you give us a glimpse of the nymphs? I've read a couple of sentences now on them, but I want something specific that I can hold onto -- that way, I'd understand why it was worth it too.

    Can you also show the worry on Anytos' face when he sees the sun rising like that? His line about it not being normal falls a little flat for me and would be strengthened by a specific reaction from him.

    I also would agree with what everyone has said so far and would add that while I get the sense of a boyish perspective from him, I'm still not sure what age he is.

    Great job revising! Looking forward to seeing what you do next.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)