Monday, September 17, 2012

8 1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Baccellia Rev 2

Name: Kim Baccellia
Genre: YA Multicultural Sci-Fi
Title: EL COMPUESTO

Uno

Here goes nada.

My hands shook like leaves during a sudden wind storm. It hadn’t been foolish to
keep the encrypted image overnight, it was suicidal. But I had to see it one more time.

I sneaked a glance over my shoulder, checking for security. If I was caught watching the image of the world outside the compound, I’d be thrown into solitary confinement or worse. I’d end up like Papi, disappearing in the middle of the night.

No, I couldn’t do that to Mami.

The light tapping of combat boots on the smooth auditorium floor meant the monitor was walking to the other end of the room, giving me some time. It was now or never.

Their vid-monitor devices swept over those closer to the front doors, always on the look-out for floros, those who shirked their responsibilities to el Compuesto. I made sure there was no reason to suspect me. I took pride in doing everything our community expected –from being on time with my assignments, going to bi-weekly youth rallies, and even accepting a choice of a mate. None of this would matter if my latest bout with defiance was found but I had to do this, if anything to find the clue to why the leaders had singled out my father.

Still, if they found out…

I shuddered. After all these years, the stain of Papi’s disappearance after being vocal against el Padre’s command still followed me. Usually a monitor or two blinked in my direction. But now they were pointed in the other way.

Guilt nudged the back of my mind, reminding me how stupid I was to push my own standing within our community. But the need for one moment of release gripped me and refused to let go. I reminded myself I just needed to be careful. Yes. I could do this and it looked like time might be on my side.

I glanced over to the side, looking for my friend Luz but only an empty space stared back at me. I wanted to share my latest ‘find’ with her but the window of time was slipping. For a brief moment my fingers wavered over my monitor, unable to move. Over in the corner my gemela Xochil frowned, shaking her head. More than once she thought I was loca just dwelling on a stupid loose end to our father’s disappearance. No, she thought fighting against el Padre was better than dwelling on someone she thought was dead. Why concentrate on a dead compadre, even if that someone happened to be your father, when others were still suffering?

Anyway, it’s not as if my sister would take me seriously. She teased me that I didn’t have the cajones to do anything against the leaders as I was the ‘good’ girl.

I ignored her. I could almost sense my twin daring me to go through with my defiance, thinking I’d chicken out. If anything that only forced my hand.

My leg couldn’t stop bouncing with pent-up nervous energy. I wet my lips, waiting for the perfect moment.

Now.

I swiped my hand over my monitor, settling back in my chair. The key to this was to act normal and not show how I really felt inside. I had a lot of practice with this every since Papi had ‘disappeared’. After awhile, tears dried up until a numbness carried me through the day.

The steel backing pressed into my lower back, but I pushed the uncomfortable feeling aside. A hologram circled around my space, seeming to box me in for my own custom performance. The virtual reality image erased the dullness of the classroom with a computerized paint brush, painting everything with bright colors. Magical stokes swept across my perpendicular vision seeming to paint me within the 3D images.

I closed my eyes for a brief second, savoring the flood of emotions that swirled within me. I felt as if a leaded weight had been severed from me, releasing my bruised soul into the heavens. No longer did I blend in with the uniformed oneness which consisted of everything down to the same pair of boots we wore. No, this my own silent way of defiance.

Opening my eyes, I waited.

Then it came.

Jewel-like plumage darted in and out of a group of hibiscus flowers. The vivid coral, pink, lavender, and red petals brightened not only the space in front of me but my whole being. I reached out, stroking the velvet softness of a flower petal. A whiff of sweetness tickled my nose. I wanted, no I craved more.

A chumparosa darted close by my ear. My gaze followed as the hummingbird dipped a long beak inside a flower, hovering for a brief moment before dashing off to another one.

Though I was inside the cold confinement of the school auditorium, it never ceased to amaze me how life-like and real the projected hologram images could be. I continued to watch the dance of the hummingbird once more. Her aerobics fascinated me. Now I know why my ancestors were so enthralled with these small birds.

At first glance, the lone hummingbird’s paper thin wings might seem fragile, unequipped for its mission. I knew better. An insect-like buzzing vibrated around me, teasing me to join her. The tiny bird bounced from one bright hibiscus flower to another before fluttering off into emptiness.

With her passing, the hologram image faded revealing my real world. I sighed. The harsh white plastered walls erased the beauty of the hummingbird into a distinct memory. This sharp contrast between our worlds always caught me off guard. Or maybe it was really the disappointment of knowing that the freedom of the tiny creature could never coexist with the iron fist of El Padre, who would probably crush it like he did with anyone else who searched for freedom.

Like Papi.

I glanced around, nervous. Any slip of composure, hint of rebellion was reported. I slumped down in my chair and tried to push the thoughts aside.

The uncomfortable sensation of someone staring at me caused me to glance over to catch a half smile on Xochil’s face. She mouthed:

“Good going.”

I turned back to my monitor, annoyed but also not surprised. My twin relished subtle attacks against our compound. Right now I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction that maybe I’d been actually listening to her conspiracy stories.

No one else seemed to notice our exchange. Good.


I blinked once, twice, reorienting myself to my class assignments. At least I’d been assigned to botany, which I loved. Still after being engulfed in the holograms, it always took a few seconds to re anchor myself into reality.

El Padre was our true padre

Nadie mas

I hummed part of the national chant in my head and let the words fill me once more with my true purpose and calling. The words came easy enough. I’d heard them since childhood. The leaders had used this message and others to remind us that we were different than those outside of our domed community. Living far away in the desert gave us courage, strength, and unity. The Earth outside our home with their fighting, wars, and hatred was the enemy. Order was our god. Without order, destruction came.

Then I glanced back to Luz’s empty seat. Where was she? A sick feeling gurgled in my stomach reminding me how close I played to the edge.

Luz, hadn’t been in class for two days now, which was unlike her. She’d been my best friend since childhood. We’d done everything together. She’d been the one who didn’t shun me after Papi’s betrayal or added to the vicious rumors that circulated around el Compuesto that he’d tried to kill our beloved leader. No, she’d been more of a hermana then my own twin sister. Though lately she’d also been questioning el Padre.

Just like Papi had done.

Xochil twirled a piece of her raven hair. Her vid was down. Every now and then she’d roll her eyes. Though my gemela at times rambled on with her crazy theories, right now I wished I had her strength to stand up to the leaders without fearing being singled out.

8 comments:

  1. I love this version! It's very strong writing, full of mood and atmosphere.

    One niggling thing: "gemela" - it's used before you mention "twin" and because of this, it's a little distracting for someone who doesn't know enough Spanish to know what the word means. Maybe mention "twin" when referring to her sister the first time, and "gemela" in the next reference?

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  2. Hi Kim!

    This is such a strong revision. You have a great voice and give wonderful details. I just have one question. What clue is she looking for in the hologram? “…if anything to find the clue to why the leaders had singled out my father.” If you can mention this was the last image her father had seen before he was taken away, maybe she can get some clue from the bird, or some meaning in the flower. I kept on looking for the clue in the hologram and if I missed it, let me know.

    I love your writing. There is so much sensory detail, I feel like I am right next to the character, smelling, touching and hearing. Great job!

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  3. Hi KIm,
    This version conveys more tension in the story that the previous ones. Makes me curious to find out if the hologram she is viewing has any connection to her missing father.

    Is her sister applauding the fact that she is rebelling? This would seem so based on earlier material. This makes her out to be cold-hearted, and the complete opposite of your MC, her twin.

    "More than once she thought I was loca just dwelling on a stupid loose end to our father’s disappearance. No, she thought fighting against el Padre was better than dwelling on someone she thought was dead. Why concentrate on a dead compadre, even if that someone happened to be your father, when others were still suffering?

    Anyway, it’s not as if my sister would take me seriously. She teased me that I didn’t have the cajones to do anything against the leaders as I was the ‘good’ girl.

    I ignored her. I could almost sense my twin daring me to go through with my defiance, thinking I’d chicken out. If anything that only forced my hand."

    The last two sentences in this paragraph don't flow with the others.

    "I shuddered. After all these years, the stain of Papi’s disappearance after being vocal against el Padre’s command still followed me. Usually a monitor or two blinked in my direction. But now they were pointed in the other way."

    Maybe put those just a bit later when she is trying to get the nerve to start the hologram.

    Definitely curious as to what is going to happen.

    Good job.

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  4. Hi Kim,

    Great revision. You've clarified so many things and as someone already pointed out , the writing is atmospheric and tense. I understand her motivation much better, and get a better sense of the overall story.

    Going forward, I'd love to have you bring us into the story a little deeper by really engaging her voice and bring us closer to her thoughts. As it is, she's tellign us a lot of things. If you break those up with real-time reactions, it will be even more engaging. For example:

    "I turned back to my monitor, annoyed but also not surprised. My twin relished subtle attacks against our compound. Right now I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction that maybe I’d been actually listening to her conspiracy stories."

    The first clause in the first sentence is great, but that second clause, could you put a direct thought there instead?

    The next sentence is uncessesary, because you've already shown it. All you need is a statement to the effect that "What I was doing had nothing to do with my twin's conspiracy theories" or something along those lines.

    You're almost there. Go through and look for opportunities to engage the reader by removing the narrative filter. Let us experience the action with her.

    Looking forward to seeing the final revision. This is great!

    Martina

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  5. Great work! This really clicked into focus. One thing I did miss, though, was the narrator's double-think. She missed her Papi and wondered why he went missing, but she still loved El Padre. Now it's clearer that she knows she lives in an oppressive society. I thought her innocence was a new twist in dystopian literature and I really liked it. (I hope I'm not driving you crazy!)

    I agree that it would be cool if she was searching the holograms for a clue about her father's disappearance, but I also wondered how it was that she could so easily access something that was forbidden. And the double use of "monitor" confused me--the computer screens were monitors and the guards were monitors. I'd suggest mixing it up a wee bit.

    Have you read THE MAZE RUNNER? I think you might enjoy it. This reminded me of that a little except that in that story, the kids are forced to leave in an exotic jungle--the opposite of your MC.

    If you think you might want to revisit the idea of her being more rah-rah-rah El Padre, she could still be so consumed with yearning to find out the truth about her father that that is the chink in the armor of her double-think that eventually cracks wide open. Just a thought!

    Nicely done!

    Nancy

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  6. Did you add that clue about finding out what happened to her father in this version? That is a neat addition, though I agree with the other commenter that it made me look for a clue in the video but couldn't find it.

    I still feel like you set us up for her taking action with the image right away and then delay it by three paragraphs of thought, but no one else is commenting on this, so I'll let it pass, too!

    One more small thing: "More than once she thought I was loca just dwelling on a stupid loose end to our father’s disappearance. No, she thought fighting against el Padre was better than dwelling on someone she thought was dead." I like this additional aspect to the story, but I think it would be better shown than told, since you are already telling us a lot. It might have to come a little later.

    Everything else looks great to me!

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  7. Thanks for all your suggestions! They really helped me dig deeper into this.

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  8. I still love the atmosphere you create in this story! I wish I could read more! (We so need a "next ten pages" workshop! lol!)

    One sentence seemed awkward to me:
    "No, this my own silent way of defiance."

    I like the fact that, in this version, we learn more about what she is going through and have more of a clue to what happened to Papi.

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