Monday, August 13, 2012

11 1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Emery Rev 1

Author: Tim Emery
Genre: Young Adult
Title: The Fire Breather's Daughter


Adam nipped over the low wall between his mom’s house and their neighbours. His bulging backpack hung off one shoulder. Guy’s black cat rubbed against his leg and purred softly. Adam bent down to stroke her. This always went the same way – the more Adam stroked Sooty, the louder she purred; the louder she purred the rougher Adam stroked. He loved to feel the tremors through her fur as she purred. This game always ended with a flash of yellow eyes and a curled body with claws and teeth gently gripping Adam’s hand.

Today was different. Adam had things on his mind. Sooty nudged her head against his wrist, demanding attention. After just one short rub, Adam spoke softly.

“Hey Sooty, what would tempt you to a new world - eh? Mice to chase? How about a handsome boy cat? Or, you and me could see Dick Whittington and his cat – would you like that?”

Since Adam wasn’t playing properly, Sooty slinked way and miaowed at the front door. Adam paused on his haunches, his eyes following the cat. “I thought I’d get a better reaction from you Sooty. I know what I’m going to get from Guy.” As he rose, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. Walking to the door, he selected the ‘Tripudio’ app.

He was sure that his best friend and computer fraud partner would never approve of what he planned to do. He knew that Guy would want to exercise caution. Guy would want to test the app, to check, to document and to check it all again. Adam needed Guy to be his back up but he hadn’t got Guy’s patience. There wasn’t time to be patient.

Adam preferred to use default coordinates. There was less likelihood of error in taking current position. But not this position; not out here. The residents of Hikers Avenue probably wouldn’t notice whatever he did, but he needed to show Guy what he could do. A demo would grab Guy’s attention and support. He would leave notes, but action speaks louder and all that.

He waggled his fingers in he air then strummed them against the back of the phone. This was going to be good. This was going to be so, so good. A little dangerous maybe but hey, life is as only as real as you make it. Slipping the phone back into his pocket, he bounced up to the front door of number 42 and rapped the knocker. In his mind it was the tune from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. To anyone else it was a few oddly spaced raps.

Through the small frosted pane he could see Laura, Guy’s 14 year old sister. He smiled. He was pleased to catch Laura before he left, just in case things … well, just in case.

With the door barely off the latch he pushed through almost as quickly as Sooty. Laura was surprised to find herself whirled around with her back against the door. There was a weird moment of silence. Laura wanted to speak, but Adam seemed to be examining her face; then her body; then her eyes. Pulling her shoulders back, she moved her right hand to her hair. Finally, he was noticing her.

His voice was calm and deep. Adam stepped even closer; his palm now against the door. “Laura, oh Laura … you’re going to be such a heart breaker.” As his lips gently touched Laura’s, her eyes closed. She reached her hand to his side but he was gone. Adam was bounding up the stairs two and three at a time. Her shoulders dropped. Her head fell back. What was that about?

Adam burst through Guy’s bedroom door. A noisy entrance was always necessary to draw Guy’s attention away from his laptop.

“Guy, you’ll think this is nuts but I’ve found our story. It’s on a literary agent’s system. Their electronic slush pile I suppose. Guy it’s a story about US. We’re just … we’re just characters in a story. None of this is really real. Our world is no more than a virtual reality.” Adam gestured to take in the room, finishing with a thump on the wall – which only demonstrated its solidity. This had sounded better when he rehearsed it in his head. “But it’s ok. You see, we can get into other stories. We can have fun in different worlds. I’ve developed programmes that can take us to other story worlds. It’s just about resolving virtual positions, that’s all.” Adam paused. He needed a response from Guy. He wanted Guy to be as excited as he was.

“Eh? What are you on about? Does it mean I can be Superman?”

Adam shook his head. “I knew you wouldn’t get it. You’ve got no imagination Guy. You can’t be Superman, Spiderman, or anyone else. You can only be Guy. You’re Guy and I’m Adam, we can’t change that. Think about it – we’re 17 year olds, consider how good we are at hacking, at computing. A bit too good to be real perhaps? Like characters in a story?” He paused. “I’m sorry pal, I’m a bit cool and you’re a bit geeky – that’s just how we’ve been written.”

Guy stiffened. His talent was real. He didn’t think of himself as a geek. Ok, not really into sports like Adam, but that didn’t make him a geek.

Adam registered Guy’s body language as an improvement on sarcasm. “But we have got powers Guy. We can read ahead. That’s something. We can see the future by reading ahead - then we can change things. Better than that, we can read other stories and change them. And we don’t have to stay here. With my app we can go where we want.” Adam pulled his phone out.

“You’re talking garbage mate. Just sod off.”

Adam knew this would be difficult. “It’s ok Guy. You’ll believe me when I show you. I’ve created a folder on the network called Slushfiles. You’ll understand when you’ve read the notes and followed a few links. While you do that I’m going to disappear; to help someone called Vicky. Vicky’s in a different story; a different world. You don’t know her and, well … she doesn’t know me yet, but I need you here, to help me to help her.”

“Story worlds! Adam this is -”

“Shut up and just watch – then read the notes.”

Guy tried to speak. “What -”

Adam held a palm forward. “I wanted to include you from the start Guy, but I can’t let you slow me down. I know how you are. Vicky needs help. Her story needs to be changed and I need you here … you know, just in case things don’t work. I know I can count on you.”





Laura appeared at Guy’s bedroom door, still flushed from the kiss. She hadn’t heard the name Vicky before. “Who’s Vicky?”

Adam grinned at Laura, then at Guy. “Guy, look after Laura. Oh, and don’t give your brother so much money. He WILL get into gambling trouble. Believe me, though you’ll see for yourself … one way or another.”

“But -”

“But we’ll all be ok in the end. It’ll just be easier if you’re less generous with Sam. Change our story – change our lives.”

“But what’s Sam got to do with anything?” Guy tugged on his right ear lobe, as his brow furrowed and nose wrinkled. Adam seemed seriously nuts but nuttily serious.

“I’m ready Guy."

11 comments:

  1. I like the beginning of this one much better; it makes Adam a likeable, interesting character and is a much better introduction to the worldbuilding. Well done.

    The scene with Laura, however, did not work as well for me. Adam saying "You're going to be a heartbreaker" - which implies that he still sees her as a kid - and then kissing her on the lips comes off, to me, as a bit creepy. (This may be an individual thing.)

    I also notice that there are still point of view switches without scene breaks. To be fair, it is always clear whose point of view we're in; that said, the technique is sufficiently non-standard that I personaly find it distracting.

    I also had a bit of a suspension-of-disbelief problem with the whole scenario, possibly because of the way it was all presented to Guy in a rush - and it's not clear to me how Adam figured all this out.

    Again, a much stronger beginning (in my opinion). I hope this is helpful!

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  2. Thanks Leah.
    Take your point re the kiss.
    Also, fair point re switches without scene breaks. One of the ABNA judges after reading 2 chapters, remarked that the story was easy to read despite the switches between character and era. I will have another look at that.

    The suspension of disbelief is a real problem. I wanted to get into the action quickly and I didn't want to spend ages trying to explain something. Do books explain everything? Does Cornelia Funke fully explain how there are worlds alive around her books and people can be simply read from one to another?
    I almost had a para mentioning that the early Apollo missions to the moon ran on computers with less power than 90s watches while these days a TV recorder has Tb of storage; The next jump in Word size will take Virtual storage beyond our comprehension - but all that gets a bit technical. Adam and Guy are the geeks. I'll give it some more thought.
    Thanks again. Fresh eyes & opinions are always welcome.
    Tim

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  3. Tim,
    I like this revision MUCH better. Great job fixing up the dialogue and making everything clearer. It's funny that you mention Cornelia Funke, because as I was reading this revision my mind quickly went to Inkheart, and after I re-read the title I began to wonder if her story was going to be mentioned later on.

    I personally liked that they just jumped into the action, but as a reader I would hope that they would explain how it works (at least to an extent) a little later on. Personally, something about the kissing scene seemed a little off to me. Would it work to integrate it into a later scene and maybe just introduce Laura now and hint at what's to come? Just a thought.

    Great revision!

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  4. Thanks Candyce. I thought I had written something fairly original with the computer link, then remembered reading the Inkheart trilogy,and thought of Tron - not that it's that much like them really.
    Adam is going off into the virtual unknown. (Ok, he has read what to expect.) I thought he might be far less reserved - but I have to listen to how it is read. So, thanks for that.

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  5. This is certainly better than the previous version. The information comes off clearer and I can see a build-up of tension with Adam's POV. Life is literally a story? I wonder what's going to happen!

    The head-hopping works with me...slightly. It takes a little to establish that it's an omnipotent kind of POV.

    On the other hand, it actually comes off as a little too grounded, and it loses the energy of the first draft. Also, the sentence structure of the first paragraph comes off as choppy. Try increasing the pace of Adam's conversation with Guy.

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  6. Thanks. aaaagh - back to choppy!
    I'm glad you liked the energy of the first, so did I.
    I was really trying to get off to a flying start, then slow it down in Vicky's story. Picking up the pace again as Adam tries to save V.
    Balancing information with energy and keeping the reader is clearly an important challenge for the 1st 5 pages - that's half a chapter and many agents only consider 1 chapter.

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  7. I agree with everyone about the roundness of the characters and the richer story tapestry. You've clearly made great strides.

    To clarify the POV shifts Leah meant weren't between the present and the past, I don't think. Here's an example of what tripped me up:

    "Through the small frosted pane he could see Laura, Guy’s 14 year old sister. He smiled. He was pleased to catch Laura before he left, just in case things … well, just in case."

    This is one of my favorite paragraphs, and it feels, like everything that came before it, more 3rd person close than omniscient.

    "With the door barely off the latch he pushed through almost as quickly as Sooty. Laura was surprised to find herself whirled around with her back against the door. There was a weird moment of silence. Laura wanted to speak, but Adam seemed to be examining her face; then her body; then her eyes. Pulling her shoulders back, she moved her right hand to her hair. Finally, he was noticing her. "

    This next paragraph is clearly not omniscient and we have switched to Laura's POV. Not only are you giving us her thoughts, but you are filtering Adam's reactions through her thoughts. "Seemed to be examining her face"

    "His voice was calm and deep. Adam stepped even closer; his palm now against the door. “Laura, oh Laura … you’re going to be such a heart breaker.” As his lips gently touched Laura’s, her eyes closed. She reached her hand to his side but he was gone. Adam was bounding up the stairs two and three at a time. Her shoulders dropped. Her head fell back. What was that about? "

    That next paragraph was still in Laura's POV and moreover, we stay with her after Adam leaves.

    "Adam burst through Guy’s bedroom door. A noisy entrance was always necessary to draw Guy’s attention away from his laptop."

    Here we are in Adam's POV again. A few paragraphs down, we switch to Guy's.

    Even if you are intending for this to be omniscient, this is a bit too much shifting around. Consider ditching Laura's reactions and going back to showing them instead.

    I also agree with the comment about the creep-factor of the kiss. Adam feels quite old to me so having him kiss Laura like this is a bit off.

    I also agree with the comment about missing the energy of the first scene. I would even up the scale there to missing the urgency of the first version. If Adam is in a hurry, then I don't know that you should spend two paragraphs -- of the most valuable real estate in the book -- on the cat. Your premise is too intriguing for that. The dialogue is great there in establishing the nature of the premise though, so perhaps greatly condensing the Sooty piece, affronting the cat with his brusqueness, or something along those lines.

    Now my biggest issue -- and it goes back to Leah's comment about suspending disbelief again. I had a better sense of motive last time, and that urgency and bit of mystery that let me believe that I was going to find out what was really going on. This time, you laid it all out, and while I think the premise is fun, I'm less inclined to keep reading because I already know what it's about and I suspect it may be similar to what I've read before. We don't have to know everything. We just have to WANT to know everything. :D

    Great revision!

    Martina

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  8. wow - well, I clearly have to work on POV. Thanks for the explanation.
    Laura's reaction and kiss already changed.
    Damn, already started to refine explanation further - to address suspending disbelief.
    So, I'll give my head a scratch and see if I can retain the urgency, while world building and developing character - all in 5 pages. This writing lark is easy isn't it!

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  9. To whom it may concern,
    I fear I am going to have to end it all. To throw it away. It has no value; no worth.
    I was really pleased to get into the YA clinic for a quick check up. I expected no more than a scale and polish or a trim. I got much more.
    I got a diagnosis. You know - THE diagnosis, the one none of us expect but we all fear.
    I didn’t even suspect a problem. The other patients are nice. One said it was no more than a little head-hopping – easily treated. I hope they don’t kill Kyle.
    I saw the local doctor or chief nurse, I’m not sure of her title. She’s nice. Of course, she is overworked as all the best nurses are. But she still does a good job, maintains a smile and is full of hope.
    The consultant is probably extremely good and efficient, but I struggled with her book-side manner and didn’t understand her. To be fair she mentioned the disease but I didn’t get it.
    So, I followed the initial advice. I went for the operation. It was a botch-up. Done quickly by an amateur. He overdosed on information and somehow left a cat inside. A cat for god’s sake! Then as he cleaned up he severely damaged the urgency organs.
    The worst of it, was that the only thing that the operation did for the main problem was to expose it further.
    The whole body is riddled with POV cancer. The worst sort – not just a third party/first party problem but a whole omniscient thing. Every sentence is being eaten away by the POV cancer.
    Can it be treated? Maybe – but the treatment would be long and painful. I think I will just let the ms enjoy its last days.
    I’m thinking of taking it round a few libraries; showing it a few bookshops. If it lasts that long I might see if I can take it the Hay on Wye festival, but that’s a year away and I don’t think it will last that long.
    I don’t want it to suffer – so I might just ...

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    Replies
    1. Don't let yourself be discouraged. Challenge yourself instead to use this as permission to experiment.

      Beginnings are HARD. Especially when the story is complicated, as yours promises to be. Even for the best writers, even for the most experienced writers, starting a story may be the hardest part of the entire book.

      The POV thing is problematic, true, but not insurmountable. Everything you have done could easily be accomplished in a close 3rd from Adam, however, if you stick with the current version, or a close 3rd from Guy if you go back to the structure of the previous version. It comes down to this: Whose story is it? Who will readers spend the most time with and who will engage them the most?

      I seem to be in a minority here, so take it with a grain of salt, but I preferred the structure of your previous version to this first revision for that very reason. Introducing Adam from Guy's perspective and allowing us to follow him while he unravels a mystery while the clock is ticking is a compelling way to open. At the same time, you gave us enough information to make the segue to the historical scene easy to follow. In that previous structure, we also saw that Laura was going to be an active participant in solving the mystery, and we knew a little more about all three of the characters--and we wanted to know more.

      What was missing for me in that version, now that I have seen this one, was the warmth. And I think the biggest problem there was that Guy was distracted and disengaged; we lacked connection to him because we didn't "see" anything but his disengagement. In this version, we see Adam's humanity and we can connect to him through the interaction with the cat and with Laura.

      Here is a link to an article on omniscient POV with discussion of its limitation. Within that post there are also links to posts on other POVS. Scenes in different close 3rd POVs (but no more than 3 or 4 different characters) would likely work well for you based on the writing samples I have seen, but I suggest that you stick to one POV per scene as a rule.

      http://www.the-writers-craft.com/omniscient-point-of-view.html

      Obviously, I am not in your shoes. If I were, I might experiment with rewriting this in only Adam's POV, but I would also probably try to write it strictly from Guy's POV and seeing which I liked best and which worked best for the book overall. For Guy's POV, if you want to try that experiment, see if you can give him the same kind of humanity and roundness you gave to Adam this time. Maybe show us his concern about Adam at the same time he has another driving concern in his life -- some aspect that maybe puts HIM on a deadline that he will have to interrupt because Adam disappears. If he's engrossed in his computer, maybe let us understand why he's under pressure. Or maybe have Laura in there with him so that you can show us some dialogue between them before Adam comes running in. There are endless possibilities, and I am sure that you can find one that works.

      Again, the main thing you need to do is decide whose story this is and whose perspective is most important for your readers to have. THAT will tell you where to start with POV. And once you have that, whoever's POV you are in, give us enough to make us understand that person, see them as REAL and rounder, and make us connect to his or her concerns.

      Seriously, don't throw this out. There are many good things in here, as we have all told you. Break down what you need to do step by step in terms of what's best for your book overall.

      I hope this helps. Give us whatever you have come Sunday, even if it a brief example of two different POVs. You can do this, and the story *is* worth the trouble.

      Hang in there,

      Martina

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    2. I would definitely agree with Martina. I'm sure as writers we've all encountered the feedback that forces us to go back through the manuscript and completely rewrite the book. It's a huge pain, but in the end it's almost always worth it a million times over when you see how much stronger your manuscript is.

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