Monday, August 6, 2012

9 1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Emery

Author: Tim Emery
Genre: Young Adult (Thriller)
Title: The Fire-Breather's Daughter

Chapter 1

"I can take us anywhere, anytime. Guy . we can do practically anything we

"Eh?" Guy's attention was yanked from his laptop by Adam's sudden appearance
at his bedroom door.

"With your skills and mine, we can work magic; we can be gods or demons
even, just . just, well . whatever we want to be."

"Slow down mate - what ARE you on about? You're making no sense."

"Guy, I know you'll think this is nuts. I've seen the future, or a future,
or maybe . maybe just ONE of our futures. One as it has been written. I'm
not really sure yet. This is all virtual." Adam's gesture took in the whole

"LIFE IS VIRTUAL. Nothing is really real, if you . see what I mean." Adam
continued breathlessly. "But everything is as real as we want it to be, and
you and I, YOU AND I can be masters of reality . such as it is. Appealing or

He struggled to suppress his grin. "It so-oo appeals to me, MASTERS OF

"Adam, slow down . and explain . in simple English . what the hell you're on

"If I just told you, you wouldn't believe me, so I'm going to show you. Here
and now. I'm going to . disappear for a while; to help someone called Vicky.
You don't know her and, well . she doesn't know me yet, but I might need you
here, to help me to help her."

"Please Adam, sit down mate and slow down." Guy gestured to the desk and
chair at the end of his bed. "Take the backpack off and sit down. What's in
there anyway? It's crammed."

His attempt to divert Adam's line of talking failed.

"I've created a folder on the network called Slushfiles. You'll understand
why when you've read my notes and followed a few links. There is a link to
our story Guy. OUR STORY! I've found our story and a few others - the notes
tell you more."

"What do you mean our -"

"Shut up and listen. I've been working on programs to do with virtual
positioning." Adam's eyes glistened as they registered Guy's raised eyebrow
at the virtual positioning phrase. "I'm going to try something now . here
and now!" Pulling his phone out, he rolled it over and over in his hand as
he talked.

Guy tried to speak. "What -"

Adam held a palm forward. "You're not going to stop me. I know you would
want to test them to destruction but there isn't time. Vicky needs help 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, her cheek still flushed from the
unexpected kiss from Adam. In other circumstances she would have welcomed
the opportunity to move for more. This had just been a glancing kiss, given
between him bursting through the front door and dashing up the stairs, three
at a time. She hadn't heard the name Vicky before. It bothered her. "Who's

Adam grinned enigmatically at Laura then Guy.

"Guy, look after Laura, she's special. 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 -"

"We will all be ok in the end. It's just that our lives will be easier if
you're less generous with Sam. You know how stupid Sam can be."

"Eh? What's Sam got to do with anything?" Having finally got to ask a
complete question, Guy rubbed the bristle on his chin then tugged on his
right ear lobe, as his brow furrowed and nose wrinkled.

"I'm ready Guy. I've been getting the programs and my backpack ready for
weeks. You're going to be proud of me. You can come as well, when I've
sounded it out . and you trust me enough. I can't wait any longer, but I
needed you to know what I'm doing. Watch this, just watch. Wow! Don't you
just love live testing? It's such a buzz!"

Adam's fingers raced around his phone key pad. There was a pop like a large
balloon bursting; the plasterboard walls juddered; the windows rattled and
the partly ajar door swept fully open, as air swept in to fill the space
that Adam had abandoned.

Like the Cheshire cat, he had disappeared in a wide grin.

There was a hole in the carpet and a corner of Guy's spare chair had been
cleanly sheared off. Neither showed any sign of burning, cutting, or any
other normal force.

"Where's he gone? What just happened? Guy, where's Adam? Guy, what did you
do to him? What did he just do?"

Guy sat motionless, staring blankly at the space where Adam had been. He was
unable to answer Laura's questions and had no idea what Adam had been
wittering on about, or why he had come into his bedroom sporting a full
backpack. For a few moments his thoughts ground to a halt as he struggled to
believe what he had witnessed.

Smiling at the vacated space, he shook his head slowly then gave a long, low

"Virtual positioning? Well, I don't understand what he's done, but you have
to be impressed. What a stunt!"

Laura walked over the spot from where Adam had disappeared, glanced out the
window and then stubbed her toe at the hole in the carpet.

"What an idiot! And you must think I'm an idiot too. It's just some sort of
trick. You pair are just playing a nasty, horrible trick on me. Well, I
won't have any part of it. I don't know how you did it, but I'm not staying
here; I'm not going to look for him either - 'cos I'm not as stupid as you
two think. You're both nasty, geeky sods."

"Hang on Lors, that's not ." like Adam, Laura wasn't going to let Guy
complete his sentence and was already halfway down the stairs.

Guy hurriedly turned back to his laptop. It would not be easy to catch up
with this Masters of Reality stuff that Adam was so excited about, and
whatever it was that he had just managed to do.


"Good Morning Mr Rigby, sir. The chamber pots are empty and clean. I trust
the floors are good enough for you today."

Vicky curtsied a little clumsily; she was still uncomfortable with some of
the etiquette that was expected of her. The red and black chequered Minton
tile floor, on which she stood, was spotless.

"Ugh, floors'll do for now. It's Mon-shewer Rigby. You call the Chef de
Cuisine Mon-shewer. How many times do I have to tell you that? And stop
telling me about the bloody pots, they don't interest me.'

Rigby had a gruff Yorkshire accent and although he had only a few badly
pronounced French words, he still took pride in his fancy job title. His
eyes continually flicked between Vicky's face and her chest; not glancing at
the floor once.

"Get yon table laid, there's a lot going on t'day. You'll be too busy to
help Mister Thomas that's for sure."


  1. The characters are very interesting, and I'm curious to see where the story goes. It was probably a formatting issue, but the random periods in places where there shouldn't have been periods was a little distracting. There were also a few places where there should have been punctuation, but there wasn't any.

    In the beginning I also noticed a lot of italicized words. You oculd probably get away with just italicizing one or two. Any more than that makes it lose its effect.

    There was a lot of dialogue in this passage. It might have just been me, but it seemed really hard to follow. You did a good job of transcribing what the characters would really sound like, but as a reader it's hard to make sense of everything. If you sharpen your dialogue and make it more concise, I think it will make the story flow more smoothly.

    From reading the passage I'm also not sure what the main story arc/conflict is, so you might think about finding a way to work it in somehow. Just some thoughts.

    Good luck!

  2. In any case, you have the momentum down. The main priority is making sure the readers don't get lost.

    One problem that I encounter is Adam's dialogue. You still with his line, which is tagless, it comes off as a little too megalomanic in the beginning (not helped by the capped emphasises), and I had to read through it twice to figure out everything he was saying.

    He's excited enough to leave Guy in the dust, but the readers shouldn't be either. On the other hand, you have the awkward situation down. Laura's presence adds frosting on the cake.

    The scene shifts works. If I'm correct, Vicky's world is going to get very interesting.

    By the way, besides the few formatting errors with the random periods, I think "Cheshire Cat" is supposed to be capitalized.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Feedback from ABNA judges was that some of the dialogue was choppy. I have worked hard to improve that.
    Some people say you shouldn’t start with dialogue but then also say rules are made to be broken. Clearly (or not), Adam is excitedly referring to the premise, and a knowledge of events to happen – then disappears.
    I suspect this needs much more than tweaking the dialogue.
    The random periods aren’t in my full manuscript, but a few ellipses are – easily sorted.

  4. Hi Tim,

    The premise behind this is great. I love time-slip stuff/time-travel books, and I'm also a computer geek, so all this is right up my alley. Love the link between time and virtual reality--and the hint of someone having written code that is creating our reality through programming. (I may be wrong, but that's what I got out of this.) Your characters certainly have energy and some nice, humorous turns of phrasing, as well. All of that foreshadows a great read.

    That said, this opening is a bit confusing for the reader, and it doesn't give you the opportunity to ground readers in YOUR reality enough as we set off on this journey with you. I'd love to see a little more worldbuilding, some hints about where we are (other than the dialogue, which is clearly British) and a more direct grounding in the story before you jump into the explanatory monologue.

    I applaud the way that you have tried to avoid a lengthy monologue by showing Adam's excitement and having Guy try and fail to get a coherent story out of him. Unfortunately, for me, that ended up making the dialogue even more confusing and made the story harder to follow. I wonder if that, more than the dialogue style itself, might not have contributed to the judges comments. My other comment on the dialogue was that there were places where it didn't flow naturally. To eliminate some of the more formal turns of phrasing between Guy and Adam, try reading the dialogue aloud. I sometimes tape record mine, close my eyes, and listen in places where I am having trouble. It definitely makes it easier to "hear" when something is off.

    As a last note, for me, the dialogue in your historical section didn't read accurately as historical for any time period. Once you have your plot all worked out, you might consider picking up a few historicals from the time period you're aiming for and reading those back to back to immerse yourself in word choics and so forth. I applaud you for your guts in tackling so much complexity with this. WOW.

    Okay, suggestions going forward. I wonder if you could make this clearer and more engaging for the reader by changing your structure slightly. Could you make Adam disappear more quickly? Perhaps he could come in, say something brief but less cryptic than what you have now, and immediately become frustrated because Guy is immersed in some activity that lets you more clearly establish the norm of their lives. Then Laura could appear and demanding what Adam meant by kissing her on the cheek and telling her XXX (whatever will work to further the story) and then rushing out of the room. At his point, Guy can look up from his activity with a bit more attention, but Adam has become frustrated beyond patience. He could tell them that the information is on the computer XXX, and they'll just have to find it there because Vicki needs him and he doesn't have time to waste with them. Then he vanishes. Now Guy and Laura are fully engaged, look at each other, and dive for the computer files. But the reader has to wait to find anything more out, because you've cut to the other time period. I'm not saying you have to do it this way, there are a thousand ways to write about skining the cat. I just threw this out to get your mind working on other options. My main point is that I think you have a really tough scene to write in dialogue like with without it coming off as authorial maneuvering designed to disguise the fact that you're dumping a bunch of info on the reader. Do you know what I mean?

    Hope this helps. I think you have a lot of fantastic elements, but setting up something that complex is always a huge challenge.

    Looking forward to reading more!


  5. Martina, thanks for the comments and suggestion. It can be really difficult to see what others see and change something. So, I have only tinkered with sentences and not changed structure. However, until this opportunity I hadn't looked at FBD for a while. I've been short-story writing, so perhaps the YA kick can give me a fresh eye. (The Slushfiles directory is in a Literary Agency's computer system and the virtual worlds are spun off from novels - while the Slushfiles idea might be cheeky, I don't get geeky!) I did look into the make up of a turn of the century country house and how each was addressed, but haven't looked at a historical novel. I'll do that but need to be careful not to scare off the target audience.
    Many thanks

  6. The idea for this story is intriguing, and I like how fast it starts. That said, I also feel like it goes a little TOO fast; there’s no time to get to know anything about the characters before things are happening to them, more characters are being introduced, and then next thing we know we’re in a completely new place (the future, presumably) with a new character.

    Again, speed is good, and the idea is intriguing, but right now it seems like more of an idea than a story; a story needs characters, and we need to know a little bit about them in order to care what’s happening about them. Perhaps you can find a way to get little tidbits in *while* the things are happening. (And don't get me wrong, they're great things! I just don't have a sense of who they're happening to.)

    There were also some point of view issues: the first section seems intended to be told from the main character’s POV, but you slip into Adam’s POV and then Laura’s.

    Like everyone else, I did see some formatting issues, but I assume that was just a technical issue.

    Looking forward to seeing the rewrite!

  7. Thanks Leah.
    I write from an omniscient POV, which I understand is thought to be easy but confusing or distance the reader from characters.
    Rewrite under way.

    I thought that chamber pots, floors clean, curtseying and etiquette would be sufficent to see the next scen as in the past - but what I have provided is limited to the 1200 or so word limit. The rest of the scene is clearly early 20th Century country manor.

  8. This starts with urgency, for sure, and a lot of excitement. Some of that energy may be a little reckless and challenging to follow. The reader knows a lot about the characters' situations but not a lot about who they really are, because the whole first section is one character explaining the new normal to a friend. It's a different kind of information dump, and I've just read critiques that I need to work on the same thing. Hopefully, we can work it out together!

    I thought that the formatting thing was some kind of high-concept symbol for technology making the world more disjointed, actually. But okay, no.

    Dialogue tags might help the opening. Not super wordy ones, but some that ground the characters' words in the setting and reveal more about the characters' motivations and personalities, outside of the big reality shift that has just occurred. Like, what were the characters like BEFORE this big revelation? It's hard to see how something will change everything if you, as a reader, don't know how things were before.

    The Laura kiss made me feel like I was missing something.

    The beginning has an exciting, playful voice that I missed after the time shift, but I'm sure that is because of the short sample.

  9. Thanks Julie.
    High concept symbol for technology - I'm not clever enough to think of that, but it sounds like a wild idea.
    I like the idea of being a reckless writer as well!
    See what you think of rev 1.


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