Monday, November 19, 2012

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Merlin Rev 2

Name: Ki-Wing Merlin
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Title: Weaving a Net Is Better than Praying for Fish at the Edge of the Water

Reena likes Tony Arias, so I agreed to keep an eye on him.

"I can tail him!" I said when she asked me after school. Then I jumped up, zipped my jacket and flipped its hood over my head. "Ninja-style," I whispered. Behind us, the metal double doors of our school banged open and another wave of kids poured into the yard. Crouching low on one leg and splaying the other, I grinned at Reena and raised a finger to my lips.

But she shrieked, "No!" and waved her hands in front of her face. "Get up! Come on, Allie. You know that’s not what I mean."

"Allen," I corrected and stood slowly. I was about to fall anyway.

She rolled her eyes. "We’re too old to be acting like tomboys." Reena doesn’t usually count herself with me as a tomboy, so that was generous of her actually.

"It’s my name," I insisted. Still I smiled and sat down beside her on the brick wall. A sneaker flew overhead and crashed into the giant oak across the yard. Leaves shook down, mixing with those kicked up by the hacky sackers. Reena and I watched and leaned into each other, a kind of sideways hug. This was going to be the best year. I was starting seventh grade in a new school, and my best friend was here with me.

"Anyway, just watch Tony, okay?" Reena said. "I heard he takes the 17 bus. That’s your bus, right? Be subtle- No! I mean, act normal."

"Whatever," I said, when she got still suddenly. I followed her eyes to the pair of eighth graders walking past us to the oak. The girl leaned against the tree trunk, and the boy, it seemed, started slobbering on her face. Next to me, Reena held her breath.

"So you’ll watch him?" she asked again, her voice hush.

"Yeah." I looked away. I don’t even know why I turned red.

So I climbed onto the crowded Darlington City bus and stole straight to a window seat halfway to the back, just in front of Tony. I always hide on buses. But a ponytailed girl plopped down next to me, and between when I peeked at the space in front of our seats and started panicking that I was too late and wouldn’t fit anyway, I remembered. I didn’t need to hide anymore. I was supposed to be on this bus.

Then I was grinning something silly as I counted. Ten of us, seventh and eighth graders, all riding home on the same bus from the same school. This was something new. Meanwhile Ponytail couldn’t stop bouncing and I had to squish because her supersized backpack took over most of her orange plastic seat and half of mine too. A faint sour smell blew by, like maybe the baby screaming on his mother’s lap across the aisle needed changing.

"I’m Kate!" Ponytail shouted at me over the noise. She squashed down her backpack and scooted closer. "Isn’t Booker T even better than you imagined?" Her long ponytail swung and whacked me square across the face.

Tony burst into a laugh behind us. Kate gasped and turned, and her ponytail smacked him too.

Rubbing my eyes, I cracked up. I doubled over and grasped my sides, and I wasn’t even a little invisible.

Kate’s cheeks flushed.

"I’m Allen," I said and pushed back my bangs. Yeah, goodbye invisibility.

Tony leaned into our row, and right away I was racking my brain. What would Reena want me to ask? Something about that actor she likes, Cody Lane? No, that would probably embarrass her. Lately, it seemed everything embarrassed her--like my t-shirt Saturday. "It’s lime green!" she’d yelled. "It’s comfortable," I’d said and shrugged.

Finally I said to Tony, "You’re new to Booker T too, right?"

"Yup, certified smarty-pants." He puffed out his chest like he had a medal pinned to it.

I laughed and Kate started gushing about the computer labs we toured today. "What’s your favorite part of Booker T?" she asked when she was done.

"Um, the computers were cool." I snapped one of my jacket pockets.

Tony’s eyes shot upwards, but he grinned.

That’s when I blurted, "Really, I got tired of lying."

Kate turned. "What do you mean?"

Then my fingers itched to pull my hood over my head and I had to jam them under my legs. I spilled it all. It turned out, telling a long-held secret is like releasing an overfilled balloon you just untied. The opening’s all twisted at first, so the air spurts and the balloon zigs every which way. But eventually, everything settles. There’s a steady hiss and then the balloon lands.

Eventually, I got into a rhythm too.

The truth is my family moved to Darlington two years ago. We found out the school in our neighborhood wasn’t very good and I ended up registered at another school with the address of a family friend. I’d been lying about addresses and hiding on buses since then.

I told all that in one breath while Kate chewed her lower lip. Really she looked about to grab both my shoulders and lunge in for a hug. I leaned back, because I’m more of a sideways hug kind of person. Still, that was sweet.

Tony nodded. "Sounds rough."

"Yeah," I said. "You wouldn’t believe how many times you have to give your address in school."

He started rattling off the forms we filled out just today in orientation.

"Not just forms." I shuddered at a memory. "Did you have that map unit last year in your schools?"

"Yes!" He leaned forward. "Oh man, you had to do that for your fake address?"

"Yup. Draw a map from school to this house I’d never been in, count the traffic lights and stops signs along the way, diagram the alternate routes, sketch the important buildings…." I went on, listing the tortures. "Did that unit last forever?"

Kate’s eyes widened. "So what did you do?"

"Well, I got pretty good at lying." I grinned. "But I don’t need to anymore, right? Booker T’s citywide!"

They laughed with me, and I started imagining other new experiences: running to each others’ homes after dinner, hanging out on each others’ front steps. Kate grabbed my hand and squeezed. I hesitated, then squeezed back. We beamed, and she squealed, "This is going to be the best year! I’m so excited!"

And that was exactly how I felt. My big secret was gone. This was going to be the best year. No more hiding.


  1. Oops, it looks like I didn't send in the last line.

    The chapter ends with, "Who knew I'd be hiding thirty minutes later?"

    But perhaps you all can give me feedback on whether it's better with or without that last line.

    Thanks, ki-wing

  2. Hi Ki-Wing,

    Reading through this revision, I am still a bit confused as to why Reena wants her friend to watch Tony. As a reader, I am not quite vested in the characters yet. With more description or information given in the beginning, I'll want to read and find out more. I also am still a bit unsure of the whole lime green shirt part. Is this really necessary to the story? If so, more description should be added so that we can make the connection.

    One grammatic things to revise:
    I know what you want to say, but I had to re-read this sentence multiple times before I got it.

    But a ponytailed girl plopped down next to me, and between when I peeked at the space in front of our seats and started panicking that I was too late and wouldn’t fit anyway, I remembered.

    There is a good story here and I wish you luck with the rest of your writing!

  3. Yup, I was going to show you this line that doesn't make sense: "and between when I peeked at the space in front of our seats and started panicking that I was too late and wouldn’t fit anyway, I remembered." I'd also move the balloon metaphor after the truth coming out. I'm not quite feeling this character yet either. I want a little more to connect with. The story about her having to lie about her address is good. But the best friend turning boy crazy feels a bit cliche or not real enough or something. Show us their relationship is real somehow and in a way that is original. Not too much to ask right? :D Good job though, much clearer timeline. I'm good with that.

  4. I'm going to shutdown the computer soon so I can start packing the family for our Thanksgiving travels...

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU to Martina and Lisa for running these workshops, to them and AC for critiquing, and to Carly, Amy, Dana, and Laura (I hope your power is back for good!) for participating too. I truly enjoyed reading all of your entries and I know for sure that my own five pages has improved.

    Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving! I look forward to checking back on any feedback after the holidays too.

    :) ki-wing

  5. Hi Ki-Weng,

    I'm going to give you a bit of advice someone gave me...this is a mystery, right? Can you give a hint of what it is? She doesn't have to hide or lie anymore. Or does she? I remember in one of the early versions, you have something about the MC hiding again in the second chapter. Maybe you can hint at that sooner and it will also help the reader connect to Allen more.

    I feel like this line is out of the nowhere - "Tony leaned into our row, and right away I was racking my brain. What would Reena want me to ask? Something about that actor she likes, Cody Lane?" Why bring up the actor? Is doesn't feel real. Wouldn't she really like to know what Tony thinks abour her (Reena) or if he likes someone else?

    I'm wondering if you should spend more time on the relationship between Reena and Allen at the beginning and bring in the other characters later. Then your opening lines would have more significance.

    These are only my suggestions and worth about a penny each! Write as your heart leads you. You've got a great premise so keep writing!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Hi,

    So I read through some of the other comments and just wanted to mention that I actually do feel quite interested in your MC - she feels awkward and like she's trying to break out, and I find that relatable especially for people that age. However, i definitely didn't get the vibe that this was a mystery (somehow I missed that) but it is just the first 1k works - not much! All in all I think you have a very compelling writing voice, it flows beautiful and I as an adult find it very nice to read (not sure if 12 year olds would agree necessarily!)

    All the best


  7. I get your MC, too, Ki Wing, I'm going to disagree a little bit, but I do still feel like maybe I am working to "get" her, so maybe it's a question of giving us something more about her relationship with her friend sooner. I don't know that the girl and the boy kissing really add much--I love the clues that her friend is embarrassed by Allen and "growing past her," more concerned with fitting in herself than with maintaining the friendship. For me, the scene on the bus is still not quite gelling. I wonder if it is the way that she blurts things out the way she does, or the easy camaraderie between the three kids, that makes it hard for some people to connect with her? If she's been hiding, it is a relief to get it out, but would she really do it that easily? (And I agree with the comment about Cody Lane, btw) If she's been hiding, can you let us know the whole thing, but only share part of it with the other kids? Which would reduce some of that dialogue and make sure that you get the story question established within these first five pages. And yes! Definitely get that other line in there. Now that I'm thinking about it, you could set this up and address some of the other comments quite easily in that opening sentence.

    Reena likes Tony Arias, so I agreed to keep an eye on him even though I promised myself I was done with hiding. (Or something like that.)

    Would that help?

    Best of luck with this. I love Allen as a character, I really do.