Monday, May 21, 2012

9 1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Amabel Rev 2

Di couldn’t decide whether to tiptoe away or start running. Being paralyzed with fear made it difficult to do either.

There’s someone in my house! The realization slammed into her again as she stared at the miniature, wooden hourglass on the bookshelf. She had to admit it didn’t look that scary, standing on a lace doily next to a bowl of potpourri, but those things had been there when she walked past a minute ago.

The hourglass hadn’t.

Coby? She grasped at a desperate hope as the silvery grains of sand tumbled through the rough, glass shell.  No. Her oblivious twin brother was upstairs, no doubt texting the girls he would see at school if he bothered to get ready in time, while Di was alone with a potential robber, axe murderer or raving lunatic for company.

Or even a living army of home-invading knock-knacks, she chided herself, searching for a better explanation. Her parents must have left the hourglass on their way to work and her passing footsteps probably shook out a blockage of sand, allowing it to pour freely and catch her eye. The fact that she’d panicked said more about her ability to overreact at the slightest provocation than about the dubious motives of a stalking time piece.

Anxious to get back on schedule Di checked her watch – and the sight woke her faster than being drenched in a bucket of ice water. How could it be that late already? Ironing Coby’s shirt had stuffed up her routine a bit, but by this much? The bus would be there any minute.

She rushed upstairs to the apocalyptic mess Coby called his room. His scruffy brown hair, stained uniform and grubby shoes were like camouflage amidst the chaos.

“Who lost my schoolbag?” he said through his sixth bit of toast, contributing to the search by kicking piles of dirty laundry and untouched textbooks around the floor.

“No-one. But can you hurry up? Please?”

Coby muttered something, probably rude, but at least he wasn’t playing living-room obstacle football or complaining about matching socks and packed lunches and anything else fifteen-year-old boys say are a waste of time. If he tried that again, Di might just disown him altogether.

Or not.  She sighed. Despite Coby’s unflinching belief that she was adopted, their identical brown eyes and jointly embarrassing full names – Diamond and Cobalt – said they were as close as family could get. So to their mutual annoyance, she felt compelled to fuss.

“Fine,” Di said. “I’ll find the bag. You get ready.”

“Right.” Coby finger-combed his hair as he dashed out, but he still looked like he’d been mugged. By a cyclone.

You’re welcome! Di grabbed her own bag from her room and hurried back downstairs, silently composing the lecture she’d never have the heart to deliver.  As she reached the landing she looked up at the bookshelf and froze.

The hourglass was gone.

Di stumbled sideways off the last step and pressed herself against the hallway wall to cover her back, throwing wild glances up the hall in both directions. If she went back upstairs to warn her brother, she’d cut off any means of escape. But if she tried searching for the intruder, she couldn’t move anywhere without leaving the rest of the house open for them to sneak around.

Di locked her eyes on the hallway phone. And something crashed to the floor above her.

Coby!  She dived back around the corner, without considering who she’d meet or how she might defend herself. Coby appeared on the top step, raising his hands in surrender.

“Before you go mental,” he said as a cricket ball rolled out behind him, “that vase was ugly anyway.”

“I’ll fix it later.” Di waved his words away. “Did you see an hourglass here? There was a little antique one, like, a second ago.”

“Oookay.” Coby raised his eyebrows. “Forget the vase, you’re mental already.”

Di went to protest but decided it was pointless. Coby would have been able to see the bookshelf from his room the whole time she was up there. No one moved the hourglass, because it never existed.

Coby twirled a finger at his ear, officially declaring her insane, then kicked the tennis ball back into his room and disappeared after it. Di ignored him. Sure he’d caught her creeping through the house with a butcher’s knife two weeks ago, looking for what turned out to be just a mouse in the pantry, but that didn’t make her crazy and neither did this.  No it was a trick of the light, made worse by tired eyes after last nights’ study cut into her scheduled seven and a quarter hours’ sleep.

Yeah, right,  Di thought, until an involuntary yawn set her eyes watering enough to blur out everything around her. She blinked it away and found herself staring at the grandfather clock beside the bookshelf.

From the glass case, two solemn figures were staring back.

Di spun around, searching for the source of the reflection, but the stairs were empty. Gripping the banister in case her legs gave way, she started to turn back again. Her neck creaked with every incremental movement but she didn’t have the courage to go any faster. Eventually her gaze reached the base of the clock. She raised her head.

“Found it!” Coby thundered downstairs, slinging his backpack over his shoulder while Di tried not to faint at the sight of him.

“It was under my bed. The ball rolled right next to it,” he said, pushing past Di to the front door. She looked back at the clock. The gaunt faced man and the woman with the imploring blue eyes had gone.

Tired. Plain, sane and tired, Di told herself, unable to believe it but refusing to consider anything else. She brushed the creases from her uniform, ran a hand over her ponytail to ensure there wasn’t a hair out of place, and followed Coby outside.

The bus passed their stop just as Di locked the front door. Coby couldn’t resist a race as the bus dragged itself up the hill and Di chased after him, dying of embarrassment; with her overstuffed schoolbag bouncing on her back, she felt like a giant, uncoordinated turtle.

At least it won’t make me any less cool,  she reasoned as she caught up and climbed on board. Coby headed straight for the back seat, leaving Di, with her rank on the social ladder of about five rungs underground, to that most fiercely coveted of spots: smack-bang behind the driver. Waiting for her as always was her slightly freckly, slightly lanky, best-friend-ever, Josh.

“Since when do you have to run to get here on time?” He gaped at her as she joined him. “What happened, did every watch in the world stop working?”

“Yeah… I mean no… Coby was taking forever.” Di shook her head.

“You okay though? You seem stressed.”

“I’m just tired.”

“Were you up all night reading again?”

“Maybe,” Di admitted. Josh feigned disappointment.

“You need a life,” he teased. He was joking, but the honesty in his hazel eyes hit a painful nerve.

Di turned away, fiddling with her neatly trimmed nails to avoid his gaze. Josh was right; her life was about as exciting as leftover Brussels sprouts.

“Maybe you… you could… come out sometime,” he said quietly. Di jerked her head up and saw, to her astonishment, a hint of colour creeping up from his cheeks to the roots of his dusty blonde hair.


  1. Hi Amabel! This is a really exciting start to what looks like will be a story with an interesting concept. I'm curious about the hourglass and the two mysterious figures.

    My suggestion is to slow it down and make sure the reader understands what's happening. Maybe it's just me, but I was a little confused. Between the hourglass and the two mysterious figures and the imagined invader and the twin-connection, it seemed like a lot was happening. Each concept could be spread out more so that my mind has time to wrap around each idea. Since there's a word limit here, I suggest focusing in on one or two ideas. What idea can you develop even more into a scene? Is it possible to focus on one scene before introducing another character?

    Another suggestion is to show more, rather than tell. For example, Di thinks, "There's someone in my house!" How can you show that there's someone in the house rather than have Di tell us? How can you show her paranoia rather than tell us she's paranoid? Showing would spread out the scene more and give me more time to digest what's happening.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. I like the above commenters suggestions. The dialogue is laid out very well and I can tell a lot of work has gone into this as far as word choices and action verbs. I think maybe an auto-correct change knick-knacks to "knock"-knacks.

    It feels like the "someone's in the house!" got abandoned. I see that she thought someone was in the house b/c the hourglass showed up, but when she talks to her brother she doesn't mention it. Is there a reason? Perhaps the intruder though is more of a paranoia and she's embarrassed or too scared to admit? A line of reflection might help since it feels like the threat is forgotten when she's talking to the brother.

    I love that their names are Diamond and Cobalt and that it's recongized by Di that the names are embarrassing. Nice.

    I definitely feel the tension and see the beginnings of an interesting world. A little more clarity on the intruder and possibly the significance of the hourglass will help give more context.

  3. This week is really great. A huge step up from last week's. =D
    Definitely agree with Kheryn on the show and tell.
    The pages flow much better this time around. Good job making the robber thing fit in better with the hourglass.
    I still don't like the siblings' relationship, though. Di is still comes across condescending and superior, like her brother is a little kid she needs to look after.
    Di shouldn't have a scheduled 7 and a quarter hours. It's very strange and not teenager-ish. Also, first you wrote that she was studying, but then she told Josh that she was reading. Which was it?
    Speaking of Josh, if you want to start hinting to his crush so early on, you should make it a bit more sublte. More of a "come hang out" then a "you should come out [with me]).
    A little catch: You first write "cricket ball" and then switch it to "tennis." I'm assuming you mean the latter. And also, you don't kick around tennis balls, they're took small.

    Hope I could be of some help!

    ~Riv Re
    Riv Reads

  4. haha knock knacks. Thanks a bucnh, auto correct...

  5. My eyes are getting less fresh, so new commenters probably have a clearer picture. Still, I'll see if I've anything helpful to say.

    I like the increased attention on the hourglass and falling sand. Before, it wasn't clear if this particular object was important, or only that an interchangeable thing appeared.

    Di must keep an awfully close eye on Coby to know he's on his sixth piece of toast. The idea of his eating a lot is good though.

    Although I'd still love a hint as to why Di feels so responsible for Coby, he comes off much better as 15 now.

    Perfect way to introduce the full names.

    The "fix it later" for the vase fixes the problem of Di not caring about it, however, repairing a shattered vase is nigh impossible. Maybe a different, more repairable, object could be substituted?

    When Di asks Coby if he'd seen the hourglass, she'd already dived around the corner, out of line of sight. Can she drag him back around that corner and show him?

    You state Coby was on the top step then kicks the ball back into his room. His room is upstairs on a different level of the house from the downstairs hourglass. If you want Coby to be able to be able to see the hourglass at all times, the layout of the house must be changed.

    My sheltie says "hi" to your sheltie! Good luck!

    1. She says hi back - and she's a full rough collie (hence that alarming fact that she's 16 weeks old and already 13 kgs!)

  6. Hi! Better and better. You describe the figures in the clock as "She looked back at the clock. The gaunt faced man and the woman with the imploring blue eyes had gone." But only after she's looked again and they're gone. When she looks you need to add these details because she can't possibly have noted them if she didn't see them in the first place. :D Still intriguing story with a neat MC.

  7. I don't have much new to add, but sometimes it helps to hear the same things from different people - helps to reinforce what needs the most attention.

    I agree that there is a lot going on in the beginning. I think that's OK though. For me, it's Di's reactions to the events that make me feel disoriented. She's afraid one minute, sarcastic the next, paranoid, then sarcastic again, then angry. Try to minimize the changes in her emotions so that we readers can get settled in her world a little better.

    Coby comes across older this time. Nice job! The phrase "she felt compelled to fuss" sticks out to me because I feel like it's not in her voice, and then she also doesn't fuss at him!

    Things not to lose as you go forward: Di's hilarious, self-deprecating, witty observations of herself and loved ones, and the sense of mystery you've created with these two time-pieces. I hope I get to see more of your work some day!


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