Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 #YayYA Entry #2: The Palace of Revenge

Name: A. E. Walker
Genre: Fantasy
Title: The Palace of Revenge
Pitch: Woken from 100 yr sleep early Araya finds her country torn: Araya learns her Eyre magic and wages war on King’s justice; claims throne, befriends beasts, and seeks revenge
First 500 Words:
The ground pulsed underneath me. Deep thumps grew louder and louder. I pushed brush and branches over, rushing inside our hidden cottage. The sweet smell of carrots and curry hit my nose. My father rested on the wooden pallet in front of the door. “What is that noise?” I asked, looking over to my mother. Her frail frame stood in our tiny kitchen, stirring a pot of vegetable curry.
“It sounds like a stampede. Probably horses.” She said, scooping the curry into a bowl. “Don’t worry, honey. I’m sure they’re riding the edge of the forest. No one has gone past the tree line, since the King’s command, 17 years ago.”
“That we know of.” I added.
“Okay, but no one has made it this far. We know that.”
The thumping remained steady. Matching the quick beat in my chest. It didn’t slow, but grew louder. The crunching of branches ripped through the air. Then, a strange repetitive humming arrived outside our cottage.
“Cyren,” I breathed, remembering my little brother was outside hanging the laundry. I rushed over to mom, searching for a response. Panic swept across her aging face. She dusted her hands on her apron, leaving orange stains from the curry grounds, and stepped toward the door.
“Mella, don’t.” My father demanded, sitting up from the palette. “It’s the Jukan. We all need to stay quiet.” He arched his weary body towards us, like a lion ready to pounce.
The Jukan, served as the King’s ‘justice’. Mother shared stories of the hell’s gatekeepers with us. They traveled town to town on steel machine horses. Covering themselves in all black, never revealing their faces. They policed the towns at random. Surveying the people. Anyone caught dis-obeying the King, they’d kill right in the street. Killing was a relief to some. The most unfortunate people were taken for torture. No one knew which it would be, nor what they did with those they took. But it was far worse than a simple, public death. The entire country feared them.
Why were they inside our forest?
My parents built our cottage-home off a hill of slate, hidden deep inside Tengal forest. We were the only humans living here. Not that the surrounding towns hadn’t tried to conquer the forest. They did. Though, always with fatal consequence. The endless sweeping vines of nightshade and rosary peas that draped from every tree, made the Tengal forest a mastery of illusion. Giving the impression of bountiful feasts, bequeathed to anyone. Fooling the mountainous townspeople in desperate search of food. But, hidden behind the lush mask of nourishment, lied a deadly truth.
The town to the East, Vayesworth and Harveston, to the West, sent their bravest and strongest to conquer the forest. The invaders returned parched and with stomach upset. Every one of them died soon after. My mother and father tracked the towns failures. Noting every death and its symptoms. They carefully gathered plants, and conducted tests on forest critters. 


  1. 35 words: There's a lot going on in these 35 words. I honestly think you should chose to focus on one plot thread and elaborate on it. As it is, I've got a shallow view of your story but no details.

    500 words: In the first paragraph, the description is a bit scarce. She's inside the cabin before I even know what it looks like. Plus, the scene shifts so fast I'm not grounded. In the later part, there's a lot of backstory. Some of it could be moved until later in the chapter to ground us in the action first. For example, you can explain what a Jukan is once one actually appears.

    Your prose is tight and you have some really great similes and descriptive lines, such as "a lion ready to pounce."

  2. This sounds like a fun adventure fantasy. Thank you for sharing this. Here are my suggestions and please remember they are only suggestions.

    35 words: You might like to focus on one thing for example: Woken from a hundred year sleep, Arya finds her country torn. She learns (how?) her Eyre(state what this magic is)magic and wages war on the King's justice to seek revenge for her family and to claim back her throne.

    500 words: This is a good start to your story and creates a lot of mystery.

    I suggest that you make it clearer where the MC is to start with. I had to read the first paragraph several times to understand where she was before she entered the cottage. You could use the sentence from the next to last paragraph. "The endless sweeping vines of .....made the Tengal forest an illusion of bountiful feasts. But, hidden behind the lush mask of nourishment, lied a deadly truth. (This helps setup your story and a hook for the reader.)

    The thumping noises are on the first and second pages and stated their getting louder and louder. But I don't feel it. The mother says "It sounds like a stampede." I don't get that.

    Also, she says, "No one has gone past the tree line, since the King's command, 17 years ago." This dialogue is too on the nose. It's something all of the characters already know.

    Also, I'm assuming the family has been hiding out in the forest for 17 years. How are they growing the curry leaf tree in a dense forest?

    The last paragraph on page two and all of page three is backstory. That's a lot for a beginning chapter. I suggest moving it to another chapter and use the space to continue the action.

    Again, a really good start to you story.

  3. Disclaimer: I do not read a lot of fantasy so I don’t know the genre very well. Do with this what you will :)

    Seems to be a lot going on which caused confusion for me. Maybe focus more on the “seeks revenge” idea as that is probably what is pushing most of your story. I’m not entirely clear what or against whom she is seeking revenge at this point.

    500 words:
    I feel like you’re trying to create a sense of panic in the opening and adding in the “sweet smell of carrots and curry” kind of takes away from that. The word “sweet” feels more calming and happy to me and ruins the urgency you started with. (A very minor note)

    Be mindful of fragments and overuse of short sentences. I know in creative writing we can break the rules a bit more, but at times your sentences get to be a bit choppy and combining, or filling out, some of your fragments might help your work flow more smoothly.

    A note on dialogue: Be sure to use a comma instead of a period. You have this minor error a few times. See example:
    “That we know of.” I added Should be: “That we know of,” I added.
    A small grammatical issue, but the English teacher in me couldn’t let that slide by without helping you out :)

    “Though, always with fatal consequence” I like this phrasing. It is interesting and diverse.

    Overall I think you have good ideas to work with but I am a little lost as to what I should focus on in this opening chapter (or section). I like the ideas that will be presented at some point (the Jukan, the tree line situation, and what is going on with the king) but I think maybe just sticking to the action and less back story in this opening might hook your reader and make them want to continue reading to find out about those other ideas. Focus ideas

    Jackie (#5)

  4. Hi!

    Pitch: Interesting! Sounds a bit like revenge of the sleeping beauty. It's a bit disjointed (more like a twitter pitch)/not a real sentence, but I understand how hard it is to squeeze all the words into a 35-word pitch.

    500 words:

    I think this introduction could be much more engaging by taking out most of the backstory and the telling. I do love the curry references, that is certainly an unusual element to a story which starts off hidden in the forest! I'm also a little unclear about the initial action in the beginning. The MC (presume this is Araya?) is outside, she runs inside when she hears the pounding, then realizes she left her brother outside? What was she doing outside of the cottage, and why would she just turn and forget him? Mentioning these things helps to ground us in the scene, because I don't understand the references to pushing brush and branches over.

    The backstory in these two pages is fairly significant. We don't need most of it. It starts with the dialog where the mother does the "as you know, honey...." but as we get further along, it is all backstory about the Jukan and neighboring towns told by the MC. We don't need more than one or two lines of this, max. You can be much more effective by showing us the fear the MC has for the intruders. What might be really effective is if the MC doesn't go inside the cottage, if she and her brother are forced to hide outside and you can show us the panic with them and the worry they have for their parents hiding inside the hut.

    And, this is really picky, but once you land on the right opening pages you'll want to vary your sentence length and style, as right now the flow of the words feels quite repetitive. And be careful with the dialog tags and the punctuation on those. Example: “Mella, don’t[,]” [m]y father demanded, sitting up from the palette. Although in cases like this I would forego the dialog tags completely and just do something like: My father raised himself from the pallet. "Mella, don't."

    I hope this is helpful and not overwhelming! The premise of the story sounds really cool, and beginnings are so hard to get right! With some tweaks this will be really engaging!

    Julie (#3)

  5. Hello! Thanks for entering #YayYA! Remember, take my advice with a grain of salt as this is your work!

    Pitch: This still needs some work. Looking over both your pitch and first 500, while your world building really intrigues me and this looks like it's going to be a fantastic story, it needs a little grammatical touch up. Maybe have a grammar Nazi CP go over some line editing for you, or hire an editor when your manuscript is closer to done. There's no shame in that! You clearly have other strengths going on here, especially the sense of urgency and the highly developed world and sense of coming plot. This looks like a fantastic story.

    The other thing I would advise for your first 500 is to maybe find a way to show the information at hand other than have your narrator explain it to your audience. Make things flow a little easier. I like your main character... she reminds me a little of Rey in Star Wars, or at least that's my first impression: brave but sweet, cautious but also risk-taking. Good luck with your writing!

  6. Hi there!
    The Palace of Revenge, wow! I would definitely not want to visit there…
    Your pitch:
    I think you have room to tighten it up. An easy fix, you only need to use the MC’s name once. And based on the pitch, I’m assuming Araya is the true queen? Maybe you could allude to that. Something like: Araya wakes from a hundred year sleep to find her country torn in factions by a usurper king. Then, of course, you need stakes. What will happen if she doesn’t take the throne? What will happen if she doesn’t? A good darned if you do and darned if you don’t situation is perfect in a pitch.
    Your words:
    An interesting start to your story! I like the sensory details you use to put us in the situation. I’m a little confused, though, based on your pitch, because it says she wakes from a 100 year sleep, and your MC seems like a little girl before this happens. You might be starting in the wrong place? Of course, I’m only going on what’s in front of me and not the rest of the MS.
    A couple of things you can do to tighten your prose… drop as many prepositions as you can. For example, instead of saying “I pushed brush and branches over…” you can eliminate the “over” for better pacing. Another thing is stick to “said” and “asked” for your dialogue tags and keep actions separate. An example is:
    “That we know of,” I said.
    Another one:
    “Cyren.” My voice nothing more than a whisper as I remembered my little brother was outside hanging the laundry.
    My CP hates this rule and does dialogue tags the way she wants, so obviously, this is a choice. So you do it the way it works for you!
    Thanks for sharing your words! Hope this feedback helps a bit.

  7. Hi there! I made a ton of comments, so please don’t freak out. I am only trying to help. Use all of my advice or none at all. Totally up to you.

    I also ran over the character limit so I’ll break it up into a couple of replied. Hope that’s ok.


    Your pitch:
    Very wordy, though you are missing words to clarify what is going on and to connect the events. Let’s take it step by step:
    (1) Woken from 100 yr sleep early – I would have written this as: Araya wakes after sleeping one hundred years to find her country torn.
    (2) Araya learns her Eyre magic – I have strong Game of Thrones images now because I’m thinking of Arya and the Eyrie. This statement doesn’t follow from having her country torn because it doesn’t sound connected. I might have also written this as: Araya learns how to cast Eyre magic.
    (3) and wages war on King’s justice – I don’t know what King’s justice is. Is it a law? Is it the captain of his guard? This also doesn’t follow from the initial inciting incident of her waking and finding her country torn, because I was expecting you to tell me why it’s torn.
    (4) claims throne, befriends beasts, seeks revenge – Assuming she overthrows the king here, but why is she seeking revenge?

    The pitch raises a lot of questions. What I would recommend you do is right a pitch without worrying about word count. The pitch should include who your MC is, what they must do, what stands in the way of what they must do, and what happens if they fail. Once you have those elements, you can pare down the words.

    Now, I only need to follow my own advice, LOL.

    Your first 500:
    “I pushed brush and branches over,” – the word “over” throws me. Pushed them over what? I think you mean to say something like “I pushed aside branches and brambles, rushing inside our hidden cottage.”
    The order of actions and reactions in the rest of the opening paragraph don’t follow each other naturally, and you use the word “over” again, when it’s not needed. And you say “curry” 2x, too. I would revise this paragraph to look like:

    The ground pulsed underneath me. Deep thumps grew louder and louder. I pushed aside branches and brambles, rushing inside our hidden cottage.
    My father rested on the wooden pallet in front of the door, while my mother’s frail frame hunched over a pot. The sweet smell of carrots and curry hit my nose.
    “What is that noise?” I asked.

    When you write dialogue, add the tag after the first sentence so we know who’s speaking, especially in a room with multiple people like this: “It sounds like a stampede,” my mother said. “Probably horses.”

    This line is feeding the reader information: “No one has gone past the tree line, since the King’s command, 17 years ago.” I would suggest to reword it into something like:
    “Don’t worry, they won’t go passed the tree line,” she said.
    “They wouldn’t dare,” my father added. “King will have their heads if they do.”


    This way, you learn that the tree line is impassable because the King has decreed it so. However, you also mention this is a stampede of horses. Are the horses being driven by someone? I presume so, because the mother says “no one” which makes me wonder who is driving the horses. So that’s a little confusing. Later on, I learn we are talking about the Jukan.

    It’s also easy to confuse past (happens in the past) with passed (walk by something).

    I don’t know if the mother or father is speaking this line, so add a dialogue tag: “Okay, but no one has made it this far. We know that.”

    I would suggest to combine these two and add a comma, to avoid a dangling modifier, like this: “The thumping remained steady, matching the quick beat in my chest.” However I will also note that “thumping remained steady” or specifically, “remained steady” doesn’t sound right. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think you can describe constant thumping in a more polished way. Maybe like a drum beat? Though, a horse stampede doesn’t sound like a steady drum beat.

    For tighter phrasing, I suggest: The sound of crunching branches ripped through the air.

    “Cyren,” I breathed – “breathed” sounds like a legit dialogue tag, but here you’d be better off with “said.”

    Third use of the word “over” – Just say I rushed to my mother, searching her face for a response.

    “Panic swept across” – this is telling. Can you show us how her breath hitches? How she presses her fingers to her mouth?

    “aging face” – this is telling. Can you show me wispy grays edging her brow?

    This is a little counterintuitive: “He arched his weary body towards us, like a lion ready to pounce.” The father is resting on the pallet, his body is wearing, but he’s being compared to a lion ready to pounce (lion makes me think of something strong, fierce) – the two images aren’t complimentary.

    Incomplete sentence: The Jukan, served as the King’s ‘justice’. Maybe you need to remove the comma? Also, the period should go inside the quotes around ‘justice.’ See? Like that ;-)

    Then you start talking about mother having shared stories…so you are going into the past perfect tense and need to use the word “had” here: “Mother had shared stories of the hell’s gatekeepers.” And I’d remove “with us.” She’s sharing so it’s obvious.

    Can you add some specificity around the Jukan? What do you mean about “policing?” “Surveying?” Specificity will be key here because it will be world building and tension building all at once.

    “Disobeying” is one word. And what does disobeying mean in this world? Not looking both ways before crossing the street? Stealing? Lying? Again, specificity will help a ton. Also, how did they kill? Run them down with their mechanical horses? Sword through the heart? Poison? That’s another opportunity to inject some cool world building.


    Suggested tighter phrasing: “The most unfortunate people were tortured.”

    Suggested tighter phrasing: “My parents built our home alongside a slate hill.” I think you can use either cottage or home, but cottage-home sounds redundant.

    You switched tenses midsentence: “We were the only humans living here.” Were is past tense, here is present tense.

    Suggested tighter phrasing: “Endless, sweeping vines of nightshade and rosary peas draped from every tree, creating a masterful illusion. The Tengal forest gave the promise of bountiful feasts….”

    Lay vs. lied vs. laid is always so confusing, don’t you think? It should be “laid a deadly truth” for past tense and “lay a deadly truth” for present tense.

    Suggested tighter phrasing and to make more active: Vayesworth, the town to the east, and Harveston, to the west, both sent their bravest and strongest…

    “The invaders returned parched and with stomach upset.” I think this needs some more vibrant description.

    I truly hope this helps you out! Please let me know if you have any questions.


  10. Hi there!

    Thank you for sharing your story! It sounds like a really awesome variation on Sleeping Beauty. Is it? I love fairy tale retellings, so I hope so!

    35 words: I love the idea of a Sleeping Beauty character seeking vengeance upon waking up. However, this pitch seems less like a pitch than a short statement of what happens. Can you make it hookier? "Awakened from her one hundred year sleep early, Araya finds her country torn (by what? war?) and must . . . or she'll . . . (you fill in the . . . ). I think it's better to be short on details and higher on stakes, if you can.

    500 words

    I've read over the comments of the others, and I will try not to cover the same ground.
    There's a nice use of sensory details in your first paragraph. However, it took me awhile to pick up on the sort of emotions your heroine was feeling. If she's noticing all these homely comforts, can she really be concerned about the thumping?--Is something after her? What sort of things do we notice when we're under such stress? What seems louder, more vivid, more disturbing? If you want to include the details about what's cooking, etc., maybe use them to paint the picture of home as haven, and contrast it with the dangers outside?

    Later addition: is there a reason why you don't identify the thumping as hoofbeats right away? Wouldn't she recognize them?

    Also, you have references to curry twice, so I'd cut one of them.

    I noticed a lot of dialogue tags like "added, breathed, demanded." These draw attention to themselves, rather than what's being said. Using "said" is often better, or you can use action tags and do without.

    There's a lot of info-dumping in the paragraph that begins "The Jukan (and no comma is needed afterwards). Interrupting a tense, action heavy sequence to provide this information slows down the pacing and can make the readers lose interest. Instead of telling us all about them, why don't you focus on the threat they pose to Cyren? What will they do if they find him?

    ". The endless sweeping vines of nightshade and rosary peas that draped from every tree, made the Tengal forest a mastery of illusion. Giving the impression of bountiful feasts, bequeathed to anyone." This is really great description. I like it.

    Your world building is intriguing, but I would provide less of it. Everything feels less urgent if the narrative slows down to give us a history lesson. Focus on the threat to Cyren, and how the heroine and her parents feel about it. That's what will keep the readers engaged.

    Thank you so much for sharing this excerpt . You've got a great premise and I'm intrigued by the world. With some careful pruning of exposition, and some help with line edits (Danielle's advice is stellar, and finding a critique partner who knows grammar would really help) you can really make this story shine.

    Good luck!

    Kimberly #4

  11. Hi Andrea!

    Thank you for sharing this story. You are gifted at description! The paragraph about the jungle is great.

    However I agree with the others who encourage you to put the back story in later, just a bit at a time. Right now we are all dying to know what will happen to Cyren, and depending on how that scene goes, some of the questions can be answered as the action unfolds.

    The dialogue upon Araya’s entry to the cottage seems too calm and detached after she’s just rushed from an unknown noise that frightened her. Would the Dad really just stay quiet inside the house while his son was outside? Unless you’re intentionally setting something up?

    I don’t have much to add because the others have been very detailed and given such good feedback already! There’s lots of potential here and I’m looking forward to see what you do with this. Best of luck!

    Maria (#1) @MariaCMcDaniel

  12. Hi. First of all, I'm not good at line critiquing and editing. So instead I'll focus on overall excerpt.

    Really cluttered. In a pitch, no matter the limitations, you must include the protagonist, her conflicts, stakes & consequences. Here, it seems Araya's stakes aren't mentioned, and the consequences are easily spelled out. Try this:

    "Awake early from a century long slumber, Araya finds her country torn (by what?). Using her Eyre magic, she must wage war on the King's justice and seek revenge". Befriending beasts and claiming throne don't seem necessary.

    500 words:
    At first, the pulsing ground feels like an earthquake. Then her mother diffusing the situation feels out of the place. Since Araya seems to know a lot about the Jukan and fears them, she should've guessed it right off the bat and try to bring her brother in.

    The lush descriptions of the forest and the setting is vivid. Really good.

    But her parents' actions and reactions aren't relatable. His father is leaving his brother outside, to get clawed by those vicious police? That doesn't sound like what a father would do. Her mother seems too calm and accepts her father's suggestions too easily, without much concern.

    And one thing that struck me is how can they tell the ones taken and not executed publicly have a much worse fate? If no one came back, you can only "guess" they were tortured. Maybe they were sold off? Or maybe some of them escaped? Who knows? Make the unknown uncertainty frightening, like "Once you're taken, not executed, your fate is shrouded by uncertainty forever." Or something like that.

    Overall, this gives me vibes of Lord of the Rings for the police reminds me of Nazgul, Game of Thrones what with Arya/Araya and Eyre/Eyrie and Sleeping Beauty retelling. Sounds intriguing!

    Good luck with PitchWars!