Monday, August 13, 2012

10 1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Pruitt-Goddard Rev 1

Author: Candyce Pruitt-Goddard
Genre: YA Dystopian
Title: Desiderium

If I had a dollar for every time I found myself wishing for more time, I might only have to work two jobs. Maybe then I'd actually have time for a life. As soon as the thought slips out, the temptation to let myself feel desire consumes me. I squeeze my eyes shut and take a deep breath. I can't want more time. I can't want anything. Not if I don't want to end up in jail.

A flickering yellow light catches my attention. My gaze fixates on the steel bracelet clinging to my wrist and I have to remind myself to breathe. I strategically place my jacket over the bracelet to conceal the yellow light, and double check to make sure no one noticed. I quicken my pace and try to focus on getting to Calculus on time. When I'm within a few steps of the classroom I take a subtle peek at my wrist and heave a sigh of relief when I find no sign of the desire I almost let myself feel.

I scurry through the door and slide into an empty seat in the back. Without glancing at the clock, I pull out my textbook to cram in a few extra seconds of studying.

“Have you heard the rumors,” someone whispers behind me.

“What rumors?” someone else whispers.

“They’re saying the Desiderium died yesterday.”

I stop reading and focus intently on their conversation.

“Who was it?” the girl whispers.

“I don’t know. It wasn’t someone in The States, though.”

I shake my head in frustration and will the person behind me to ask the more important question. It doesn’t matter so much who the Desiderium was as it does what he or she changed.

“What happened?” she finally asks.

I hold my breath and eagerly await a response. Nothing about my life feels different. Not yet.

"Good morning, class," the professor interrupts. “Please put everything under your desks except for a pencil. For those of you who have just been added to the class, you will not be required to take the quiz but you will be responsible for the material. For everyone else, you have exactly ten minutes.”

My mind replays the students’ words. If the Desiderium is dead, it means that something has changed. Past Desiderium have already wreaked enough havoc on our lives. I don’t know if we could take much more.

Desperate to distract myself from obsessing over the rumor, I scour the room for any new faces. Students are always adding and dropping courses in the first couple weeks of the quarter, but I always hold out hope that I’ll see somebody from the high school. There are at least a handful of us who take advantage of the Running Start program that lets high school students take college classes for free.

I recognize most of the faces from the first week of class, and am about to look away when a student a couple of seats to my right catches my attention. He brushes his curly amber hair out of his face to reveal startlingly deep blue eyes. He doesn’t look much older than me, but I haven’t seen him around the high school before. I definitely would have remembered him.

His eyes catch mine and all of the blood in my body seems to pool in my cheeks. He raises his eyebrows, adding a sense of mystery to his subtle smile, and time seems to slow down around us. A deep breath brings me back to my senses and casts a dark shadow on the silly thought. My lip twitches into a smile and I convince myself to look away.

Someone jabs me in the shoulder and shoves the stack of quizzes in my face. I slide one off the top and notice the new student doing the same. My pencil glides across the paper until all of the questions are answered. With two minutes to spare, I flip my paper over and lay my pencil on the desk. Everybody else is still scribbling away at their quizzes. Except the one person who didn’t even have to take the quiz.

His eyes meet mine and I can't help but wonder if he sees the same green-eyed girl with curly hair and tiny ears that I see when I look in the mirror. My stomach ties itself into a knot and I’m filled with a longing to get to know him. Not that I even have time for the friends I already have. As soon as I realize what I’m doing, I have to struggle to regain control of my thoughts.

My bracelet blinks an annoying shade of yellow.

The flickering light shifts his attention to my wrist, forcing my hands into my lap where they're safely out of sight. My eyes dart around the room, searching for something to distract me. The bracelet will pick up on even the smallest desire. Anything more than a trace amount of excess dopamine in my bloodstream will turn it red. When it does, it’ll only be a matter of minutes before the officials show up to arrest me. I know they’re only trying to protect us from the Desiderium, but that’s the last thing I need.

People tell me I won’t even be tempted to feel desire anymore when I’m older. It’ll be nice. Then I won’t have to worry so much about setting off the red light on my bracelet or letting the words want and desire slip out of my mouth.

The door slams open behind me, forcing my head to whip around. Two police officers barge into the room trailing an official in a green uniform. The official passes the professor a respectful nod.

My heart races. My leg jiggles beneath the desk. With as much subtlety as I can manage, I glance down at my wrist. A heavy sigh escapes my lips when I can't find the light anywhere. If it had turned red it would still be red, even if the excess dopamine was no longer in my bloodstream.

“Samantha Jones,” the official’s voice booms.

All eyes shift to a girl in the front of the room.

"Yes," she stutters.

The police officer slides out a pair of handcuffs.

“The levels of dopamine in your system have exceeded the legal limit. You are under arrest.”

The solid red light on her bracelet gives her away.

“No, you don’t understand,” her voice shakes.

The officer yanks her out of her seat.

She screams.

Before anyone can realize what’s happened, the girl’s elbow smashes into the police officer’s nose. Blood trickles down his face. The desk crashes to the ground. The room erupts into confused murmurs as she makes a break for the exit. The second police officer stumbles after her. Just a few feet from the door, the official reaches out, his face expressionless, and shoves a black object against the girl’s side.

Her body convulses as she tumbles to the ground. The official slides the Taser back into his pocket and waits for one of the police officers to slide the handcuffs onto her wrist. The officer jerks her up off the ground and a tear streams down her cheek.

“Sorry for the interruption,” the official passes another nod to the professor and everyone watches them lead her out of the room.

The professor nods in return. “Back to work everyone.”


  1. For this revision I inserted a conversation about a rumor being started that the Desiderium was dead, but after re-reading it I'm still unsure as to whether or not it's too soon to bring up, or if it detracts from the following scene, so if anyone can give their input I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

  2. Hi, Candyce! I was actually just thinking about that myself and honestly, I'm not sure. You do quickly clear up what exactly the bracelet's about, so it's nice to have another worldbuilding mystery to focus on (for me, anyhow - I like slow reveals), and the Desiderium, plus the concept that the bracelets are to protect her from him/her/it/them, make this seem interesting and different from the "nobody is allowed to feel anything" dystopian trope. That said, I think it may be a little *too* mysterious - the fact that I'm not even sure I can say the Desiderium is a person makes me wonder if maybe a little information about it needs to be leaked if you're going to hint at it this soon.

    Hope this helps! Overall, the opening was very engaging.

  3. I thought this revision is great - loved the hint of what the Desiderium may be capable of. Best of Luck.

  4. While I still like being shown the bracelet early on,I now wonder why it has flashed. There's noone around yet and she has been thinking about work and time. What has evoked the desire? At that rate, the blue eyed lad should have you flashing read and sounding a siren.
    I like to be intrigued early on. I like questions to be raised in my mind. I want to be pulled into the book to find out more.
    I want to know more about the Desiderium but not yet. But what do i know!

    1. Her bracelet flashed yellow because she wants more time as she's rushing to class. They will only arrest you if it flashes red. I moved that explanation further into the selection, but I can put it at the beginning if necessary.

      And Tim, are you saying that you like the insertion of the rumors in this draft? Or think they should wait?

    2. Firstly, I should say please feel free to ignore me, I seem to regularly swim against the flow.
      In your first version I wondered if the first flash of yellow meant something between Rhiley and JM (I suspected there wasn't but why the flash if it is for desire).
      In this version, what desire is causing the initial flash? Perhaps I am putting too much into emphasis into what sort of desire but then the yellow flashes later at the interaction with the boy with the curly, amber hair.
      I like plenty of questions raised early - to get me interested. So,I prefer the rumours. I trust you will have a little more on the Desiderium later in the chapter.
      Looking at again,I'm not keen on the 'someone whispers', 'someone else whispers', 'the girl whispers' all so close together. I would consider something like - hearing whispered voices 'xxx ... yyy ... zzz' with the ellipses (or something better) to indicate a change of voice - if you know what I mean.

    3. I'll definitely play around with integrating the rumors better. The bracelet senses any want that someone has, not just in the romantic sense. So, it would be illegal for Rhiley to want more time so she can have a life. I tried to make that clear. Did it come off as confusing to anyone else?

  5. Hi Candyce,

    I like the hint of the Desiderium, but (like Tim) think you could integrate that with the mc better. Have someone say it to her directly, maybe? Just a thought. I do think that you went too far with revealing the connection between the Desiderium and the bracelets, without going far enough for full comprehension. That's such a tough juggle, but maybe if you mention a Desiderium died and leave the speculation, but leave out the narrative about the bracelets protecting them from the Desiderium? That was the part that confused me, anyway.

    I had no problem grasping that her bracelet was triggered by her desire for time.

    I thought this version worked much better overall than the previous one. You did a great job. If I can add one more thought, it might be to pare the attraction with the new boy just a tad and focus more on the fact that she is reacting because she can't desire a boy -- that has to be hell on conversations with attractive guys. THAT's absolutely fascinating to me, and it would elevate this far beyond the standard love at first glance vibe. Especially if he doesn't feel concerned, especially if he checks her bracelet before she even checks her own. What does his bracelet show? Does he let her see it?

    Excellent work!


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I will definitely try to trim down the instant attraction. I slipped in the sentence about time slowing down to foreshadow the reveal that Isaak has the ability to slow down time. If it makes it seem like too much of an unrealistic instant attraction though I can take it out.


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