Monday, August 13, 2012

7 1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Zero Rev 1

Author: Chihuahua Zero
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Title: Manifestation Files

Scout and I sat next to each other for the first time in several months. We were on my back porch, sipping Fitz’s Root Beer. Her headband, which had a stuffed chick sewn on it, was ridiculous. Yet, she wore it.

Of all the people that could calm my nerves, I invited her. Habits refused to stay buried—considering Mom was picking up Finn, the exchange student, from the airport.

“Once we meet Finn,” Scout asked, “can we go to our house?

I kept my eyes on my ring finger, which I tapped against the rim of the bottle. “Nah. Kyle wants to go to dinner with us tonight.”

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

“For a good reason.”

Scout snapped the scrunchie binding her blonde ponytail and smirked. “Say…what evil plan do you have to assume complete control over your subject?”

I rolled my eyes. “He’s not my ‘subject’. Quit applying your perverted logic onto the world, and I might invite you over next month.”

“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 then lowered the root beer and looked her in the eye. “I prefer not having Mom and I host for an exchange student, but I feel like I can’t push this away. Mom expects me to look after him, and she would be disappointed otherwise.”

“Why did you agree in the first place?”

“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 get myself to be selfish.”

“Are you jealous?”

“Well, Mom’s attention is split between three different things. Although it’s irrational, I don’t think I’m 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 intercepted some of them and lost them in her studio.”

“Did you ask her about it?”

“Once. She dismissed it.” I sighed. “What do you suggest I should do?”

She tilted her head to the side and gazed off to the distance. My fingers tensed up.

But instead of her offering useful advice, “I don’t understand you. A boy is finally living at your house for an entire semester, and you don’t even—?”

I flustered. “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 need to understand that you can’t tease me like that anymore.”

“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.

God, Mom was now going to ask why Scout left so early.

I looked out the front window. Mom’s car was driving into the spot Scout’s car was in.
I stepped onto the front porch, planted my feet onto the brick and folded my arms.
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 paled-skinned, with mouse brown hair side-swept with a comb. Beyond that, semi-formal clothes hanging off his scrawny frame, and a sheepish, awkward smile. Already, I could tell he wasn’t sure of himself.

Step by step, he walked up the stairs, his suitcase bouncing. He kept his head aimed at his feet. Mom remained at the car, grinning at me. Hmm, how did it go at the airport—

Halfway, Finn tripped and landed on his knees. His suitcase descended the steps.

Before Mom could move, I ran down the steps to help Finn. By the time I reached him he was lifting himself up, grimacing. When he stood, he was rubbing 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.

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.


God, it was painful looking at him. Although he didn’t fit my worse-case-scenario—a surly, attitude-poisoned jerk—I could already tell he wasn’t the chatty kind.

I took the first step up the stairs. As I did so, I looked in the direction Finn gazed out to. Was there something out there? Or—?

Wait, was that a shimmer in the air?

I squint my eyes and focused on it.

Nah. It must just be the heat.

I killed the thought and led all three of us into the house.

Once inside, Mom went straight to the third floor, where her studio was, leaving Finn and me alone.

At stared at Finn. He was fiddling with his suitcase’s upholstery, which looked similar to that expensive couch Dad had in his apartment. Hopefully, Finn wouldn’t ask about Dad.

“Um, Finn?”

He flinched. “Oh, am I supposed to do something?”

Yeah, he was absent-minded. I walked to the stairs, gesturing him over. He followed, stepping across the carpet as if it was rough ground. Strange, his socks were dyed green. “You’re from Oxford, right?” I asked. “The information from the student exchange program wasn’t clear.”

“Father had some trouble making arrangements.” Finn’s shoulder brushed against the stairway.

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

“I don’t have an e-mail.”

Once at the second floor, I opened the guest bedroom door, 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. Due to money constraints, 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.

How long he was going to take?

He opened the bathroom door, peeked in, stepped out, and looked at me with a befuddled look.

“My bedroom is on the other side.” I said. “Be sure to knock every time.” I wasn’t too happy with the arrangement, but I wasn’t my house’s architect. And it wasn’t like anyone used the basement except to store milk gallons.

Finn scuttled out and followed me to the first floor.


  1. It looks like there have been a few snags this week. :p

    I think the second version posted in this post is the current one.

  2. Luckily, the new version is the first thing you see, at least in my version. :)

    I do like this one much better - it's not confusing, and the main character seems more interesting.

    I would still kill the name Kyle - since we don't hear anything about him and he's just a side-mention, I don't think he's a character who needs a name just yet. I also feel that the initial conversation between Scout and Bryan was somewhat overly formal ("Although it's irrational" seems a little too analytic for the kind of conversation they were having.)

    Overall, though, a very interesting and engaging beginning.

    1. Thank you!

      Would you say I should replace "Kyle" with "one of my friends"? That seems to carry a little more subtext.

      Speaking of which, when I was going through in order to add a hint to the fantasy, I realized I accidentally foreshadowed something major. Although it's impossible to determine how effective it is, I hope it's something that the readers will be able to look back on and go "oh my god..."

  3. I definitely liked this revision better. I just have a couple of nitpicks. There were a couple of places where there was tense confusion (i.e. I squint my eyes and focused on it.)

    There were also a few typos toward the end, but I read-through should fix those.

    This might just be a personal preference, but a lot of Bryan's internal reflections seemed to interrupt the flow of the story. You might consider either eliminating them altogether, or trying to find a way to make them more fluid. i.e. "Hmm, how did it go at the airport-" could be eliminated, or fixed in some way.

    Good job.

    1. Thanks. I'll think on the internal monologue--and those pesky typos.

  4. The paranormal bit didn't work for me (sorry). As well as the squinting and focussing - 'As I did so, I looked in the direction Finn gazed out to.' - just didn't read right to me. (perhaps it's just me, i felt it was clunky).

    You can't kill Kyle! (Actually, you can if you want to - it just amused me to write that.)

  5. I thought this version worked much better. The structure and the dialogue both read more smoothly. Although I would still like to see a little bit of relaxation in the formality of the dialogue, I got a sense that the formality was a part of your MC's character. I get quirky from him. I would like a little bit of a clearer insight into the situation between him and Scout. "You know why" and the bit before it didn't read honestly to me. If Scout knows why, why would she bring it up? This is a personal preference, and openings are really hard, but I would like to get a better grounding before we move on. The paranormal also didn't work for me as well as the very slight hints of something odd about Finn worked in the earlier version. Perhaps because it seems too easy for Finn to show up at the same time that your MC notices something paranormal and shimmery for the first time. It seems as though it would either be so significant a change that everyone else would see it, or that your MC would be too engrossed in the meeting to notice anything just then. Again, this is just my personal take. Everyone will read this kind of thing differently.

    Great job!



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