Monday, August 27, 2012

2 1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Rev 3 - Zero

Author: Chihuahua Zero
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Title: Manifestation Files

The day Mom was going to bring the exchange student home, I invited Scout over for the first time in months.
Scout and I were sitting next to each other on my back patio, sipping Fitz’s Root Beer. Her headband, which had a stuffed chick sewn on it, looked ridiculous. She was still the same.

“Once we meet what’s-his-name,” Scout asked, “can we go over to my house?”

I kept my eyes on my ring finger, which I tapped against the rim of the bottle. “First of all, his name is Finn. Second of all, you’re going when he arrives, since you were the only one who picked up the phone.”

“C’mon Bryan.” Scout leaned into the brick wall. “You haven’t been over to my place in the longest time.”

“I still don’t trust you.”

Scout snapped the scrunchie binding her blonde ponytail and smirked. “Say…what evil plan do you have cooking up so you can have total control over your subject?”

I rolled my eyes. “He’s not my ‘subject’. Quit being a pervert all the time and I might invite you over again.”

“All right.” She looked beyond the fence. Sirens blared in a distance; a typical sound around the hospitals. “So, are you nervous?”

“Of course.” I took a long sip, smearing the frost surrounding the glass. The coldness calmed my jitteriness. “I prefer not having Mom and I host for an exchange student, but I just throw this away. Mom expects me to look after him.”

“So why did you let your mom apply?”

“I asked myself that for a while.” I took another sip. “It was after ‘The Owl’ went viral. She was in an artist high and I couldn’t be selfish.”

“Are you jealous?”

“Well, Mom’s attention is going to be split between three different things. Also, I’m probably not going to like this Finn guy. He didn’t make any effort to answer the messages I sent through the student exchange program—although it’s likely Mom lost a couple letters in her studio.”

“Did you ask her about it?”

“Once. She ignored me.” I sighed. “Any advice?”

She tilted her head to the side and gazed off to the distance. But instead of her offering anything useful, she said, “I don’t understand you. A boy is finally living with you for an entire semester, and you don’t even—?”

I blushed. “Drop it.”

“You showed me Finn’s picture. He doesn’t look too—“

“Strike two."

“Hey, speaking of baseball, do you think he would make good catcher—?”

I stood and pulled her from her seat. “Get off my porch. Now.”

Scout kept her grip on her bottle. She sighed. “All right. You’re no longer fun anyways.” She slipped her arm from my grasp and opened the yard gate to the front.

I folded my arms. “You can’t tease me like that anymore, you know.”

“Well, if you want me driving you again…” She walked through the alley. A few seconds later, I could hear her new car driving away.

I entered the house, plenty of root beer left in the bottle.

Once I heard Mom’s car outside, I took my time to get on the front porch again.

Mom exited the car, drawing pad in hand. A couple of seconds later, the passenger door opened. Finn put one foot onto the sidewalk, while dragging a rolling suitcase. He fumbled with it before placing it onto the ground with a clatter.

I had seen a picture of him before. He was pale-skinned, with mouse brown hair side-swept with a comb. Beyond that, semi-formal clothes hang off his scrawny frame, and he wore a sheepish, awkward smile. Already, I could tell he wasn’t sure of himself.

Step by step, he walked up the stairs and passed the flower-sparse dirt garden, suitcase bouncing. He kept his head aimed at his feet. Mom remained at the car, grinning at me—

Finn tripped and landed on his knees, leaving his suitcase to descend the steps like a rubber band ball.

Before Mom could move, I ran down the steps to help Finn. By the time I reached him he was already lifting himself, grimacing. When he stood, he was rubbed the back of his head with his palm, laughing nervously. “Sorry about that. I can be clumsy at times.” He was soft-spoken, with a British accent.

What a way to make a first impression.

Mom picked up his suitcase, walked up, and handed it to him. “Finn, this is my son Bryan. You guys will be getting to know each other quite well over the next few months.”

He detracted the handle, and held the case to his chest. A bandage covered his right forearm. He gazed off in the distance, his chest moving in and out. “O-okay.” He then made eye contact with me. “Okay.”

God, it was painful looking at him. Although he didn’t fit my worse-case-scenario—a surly, attitude-poisoned jerk—already I could tell he wasn’t the chatty kind. On the other hand…something about his eyes looked off. I usually didn’t notice eyes, but maybe it was the shade of gray, or the size of his irises, or that subtle absentmindedness?

Nah. I was overthinking it.

“Let’s go in.” I said. I led all three of us into the house. Another bout of sirens carried in the summer wind. It better not be an omen.

I opened the door to the guest bedroom, the one Finn was going to occupy. “You can put you suitcase in here. You can unpack later, once I show you everything.”

Finn walked in and circled aimlessly around the room. There was only a bed, an end desk with an old clock radio, and a desk and chair set recently bought in a garage sale. Finn slid opened the closet door, and gently pushed his suitcase in. He then went to the window and peeked through the curtains. He didn’t bother looking at the door to the bathroom we were going to share.

I tapped my fingers against the wall. How long he was going to take?

“Um, Finn?”

He flinched and scuttled out of the room. “Yes?”

“You’re from Oxford, right?” I asked. “The information the student exchange program gave us wasn’t clear.”

“Father had some trouble making arrangements.” Finn’s shoulder brushed against door frame.

“So you weren’t able to send e-mails or anything?”

“I don’t have an e-mail.”

“Well, my school’s going to provide you one. Use it.” I walked to the first floor. Finn followed. He rapidly tapped his fingers together.

“What’s bothering you?” Finn was acting too spacey and timid, to the point of worrying me. He better be able to look after himself in the cases where I couldn’t.

“I haven’t really been to a real school before.” Finn said.

“You were homeschooled?”

“Father was a professor at Oxford. He tested out an experimental curriculum that a colleague developed.”

Now that was something we could talk about. “How did that go?”

Finn shrugged.

“Would you say it worked?"

He lowered his head.

I tried my hardest not to huff, instead showing him the living room and the doors to the backyard. “Be sure to not touch the coffee table.” One of Mom’s pet projects, a miniature carnival with a Ferris wheel and clay people, covered the entire surface. Magazines surrounded it on the floor—including a men’s one Dad left from his last visit.

I kicked it under the table and continued on to the kitchen.


  1. I definitely like this revision the most. I think though that the dialogue needs some work. For example, I had a hard time believing that the characters actually talk like this:

    You’re no longer fun anyways.
    Well, if you want me driving you again.

    Also, I think that the sentence "Nah. I was overthinking it." could be removed. The preceding statement has more of an impact without it.

    There are also some spots where I think tweaking your word choice would make the passage stronger. While we're in Bryan's mind, we should only be seeing things that Bryan would be thinking (which you do), but we also want to see them as he would be thinking them. Some of the word choices take me out of the manuscript and make me wonder if the character would really be thinking that. For example:

    ...the one Finn was going to occupy
    Mom exited the car...

    Changing the word choice throughout to more natural words might help it flow more smoothly. For example, "Mom got out of the car, drawing pad in hand."

    Hope this helps. Great job!

  2. Structurally, this is definitely the strongest of the lot. Apart from smoothing out the language in the Finn section, and maybe creating a bit more of a natural "scene" with some personality developing dialogue in there, I think your biggest issue is that opening between Scout and your MC, which still needs some work, I think. Look at your motivation there and really put yourself in the shoes of each of the characters. Clearly, Scout did something that your MC didn't like, and he is finally relenting and inviting her over. Why? Why now? How does she feel about being let back into his life? Why is she pushing him? Why would she tease him immediately after he says he still doesn't trust her? You may well know exactly what is going on in the scene and the dialogue may match the emotions and personalities of your characters -- if so, though, maybe you are visualizing body language that changes the meaning of the dialogue a little bit and makes it make sense? Really walk it through, and I think it will make all the difference for you. You've got a lot of good tension here that makes me want to keep on reading. :)

    Good luck with this!



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