Monday, January 14, 2013

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - King Rev 1

D. M. King
Chasers: Generation One

June 7, 2017

“Please don’t let me die.” I whisper through the yellow oxygen mask strapped around my nose.

Small suitcases and carry-ons break free from the overhead compartments and bounce aggressively about the cabin mimicking the downward plunge of the brand-new Boeing 787. I’m not sure where we are on our flight back to Alpha, New York from London, but I know we haven’t flown quite long enough to be over land yet, which only means one thing--Atlantic Ocean.

Boom. Another explosion rocks the cabin. Brilliant flashes of glass shards race across my blurry vision, and I swear Larry, the forty-five year-old stockbroker sitting next to me, takes one of them straight through his temple. His lifeblood splatters into my right ear and across my lips. Damn. What gravity fails to remove, I spit out and wipe my face with my shaking right shoulder. A symphony of terror fills the air as two-hundred and thirty-nine passengers scream their disapproval of the pilot’s flying abilities and wage a futile war against their imminent demise. I brace myself in my seat, face-first into the crash pad that moments ago doubled as my seat cushion---the pungent smell of carbon from the ear-splitting explosion stuck in my nostrils.

I look up for an instant to survey the gruesome sight, still hanging nearly upside down in the aisle like a ride on the Nitro roller coaster at Six Flags. We’re about to make contact with the swiftly tilting planet, and it’s as if time stands still for a moment then disintegrates like the charred wreckage of the massive plane. Barely able to keep my veggie omelet down, pure darkness swallows me whole. Whoever said crash-landing on water is softer than on land must not have understood the laws of physics. Even at only five-thousand feet, the impact forces the life right out of the airplane’s lungs and all the rest of the passengers on-board. All except me, Neal Champion, 17-year-old motherless teen.

Eternal nothingness eventually gives way to sketchy deformed bodies moving back and forth above and around me. I blink several times hoping to clear my vision, but for the time being I’m still staring desperately into distortion. Hours or maybe days pass before I lift my head and open my swollen eyes. Once again, the scenery has changed. Soon, shapes take form, and sideways people with masks and white coats appear upright now, like someone has finally fixed my vertical hold, and my television signal returns.

“Wha--?” I’m unable to speak with two tubes rammed down my throat and a clear mask over my mouth and nose.

“Mr. Champion?” His voice is faint, but I’m anxious for answers. Why can’t I speak? How did I get here?

“No need to talk. A machine is breathing for you. We’re trying to save your life.”

“But…” I mouth the word, though the sound never reaches the airwaves any better than before.

“Plane crash… Coma… Collapsed lungs… Head trauma.” I capture a few more words thrown my way. “Otherwise, you’re a mighty lucky kid. Rest. We’ll take care of you.” The doctor assures me.

Tears trickle down my burned cheeks and cloud my vision once again. It’s so difficult to believe all I am hearing. The unforgettable sights and sounds of London are still fresh in my mind. I drift off again recollecting a paltry piece of yellow caution tape blowing down the steep steps of the embassy. No longer a deterrent to my somber memorial visit, yet a stark reminder that my mom’s footsteps will never again touch that cold marble. I plunge back to my current surroundings and glance at Dr. Zawi’s name tag. Unbelievably, I’m somehow back in upstate New York. Memorial Hospital. In moments, I surrender to the void again.

Vaguely hanging on to the date of my flight, May 25th, I sleep in and out repeatedly and awake to a series of annoying beeps and buzzes. I move my head from side to side hoping to catch a glimpse of a doctor or nurse, but incredibly the place is empty, or so I think. Still slowed by a painful headache and what appears to be a surgically repaired left wrist, I push the button to raise my bed and find the nurse’s alarm. One push. Nothing. Two pushes. Still no one. I sit upright, and my focus clears considerably as I notice the last date marked on my IV bag is June 3rd. Have I been out that long?

My intravenous drip has long dried up, so I end some of the incessant noise by hitting stop on the machine. According to the fancy monitors, my heart rate seems normal enough along with my blood pressure, but where’s the staff? Why isn’t there anybody taking care of me?

Unsure of what may happen, I tug lightly at the tubes still clogging my airway. After a few short pulls I realize I no longer need to have this machine breathe for me, so I gradually disconnect it. Pulling the flexible tubing out of my lungs and throat resembles a sword swallower yanking steel from his jowls---it burns like I drank an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol straight. I watch my blood trickle down the side of the bed from the tubes and onto the tile, and that’s when I jerk back with a start. Lying on the floor next to my bed is Dr. Zawi. Intense tightness grips my chest cavity and limits my breaths. Hyperventilation is assured if I don’t react quickly, so I fight it as best I can and win. My watery eyes blink violently clearing some of the cobwebs lodged in my brain. I swing my legs weakly over the side of the bed and reach down to check his pulse. He’s still alive but barely. He looks like he hasn’t slept for weeks. His dark Indian skin is now pale and cold. I stretch for the full water pitcher on the food tray, open the lid, and splash him in the face with the lukewarm liquid. His eyes open for only an instant then close.

“Dr. Zawi! Please! What’s happened? Wake up!” I shake him a few times, but he never opens his eyes. One last muffled word leaks out before he dies.


Letter? Not as mobile as I need to be, I make a painful decision to break free of my final umbilical cord, separating myself from my IV. An extended burning travels slowly up my arm finally touching the part of my brain that reminds me that I have nerve endings. I scream in anguish for some help but to no avail. I am on my own---rich red plasma streaming down my unbroken arm as if I’ve scratched it on a sharp nail. I tear some gauze from the cabinet over the sink and wrap white tape around my wound protecting my aching right arm from my self-inflicted ignorance. Like a drunk trying to do the tango, my wobbly legs seek my center of gravity. I stumble around the room searching for a letter but find nothing. I take a quick glance at myself in a stainless steel surgical tray surprised at how awful I look. It’s been probably over a month since I shaved, yet there’s still not much of a beard, but my blond faux hawk appears a shade longer.


  1. Still like the action--if you can keep it up. The only real critique I have: I think you might benefit from breaking up your paragraphs a bit more. It may help carry the action a little further.

    Good job!

  2. Thanks Erica. I agree with you. I already had plans to look at that very thing in my next revision. I know it's not easy to keep up the thrill, but I want the reader to get caught up in the action and expect to see more of it along the way. I do produce more suspense, but it is more interspersed with calm moments as well. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Good job eliminating the parts that slowed it down and drew us out. I think you have a few places to smooth over the wording. You don't have to make your sentences complex, though you can. I think shorter, choppier sentences work better with high intensity, in the moment things, especially in first person. I clenched my own hand, feeling the pain when he pulled the IV out!

    1. Lisa, I can definitely sense that's where I need to take this now as well. Neal's a character people will fall in love with eventually. Many of my beta readers could relate to him in so many ways. I apologize for making your hand hurt. :) I wrote it, and it made mine sting too. Thanks again for offering this wonderful opportunity to aspiring writers. It means a lot.

  4. I definitely think this is on the right track. You cleared up much of the confusion that existed in the first version, especially surrounding his wakeup in the hospital. His reaction there and finding the doctor seem much more real to me. I have to say, I still struggle with the airplane crash. I don't feel drawn into the story until the "Tears trickle down..." paragraph. I think part of my problem is what Lisa points to above. These are very dense paragraphs with many long sentences that could easily be broken up both for pacing and for clarity. A little goes a long way with the description. I think cutting more out, especially early on, would make this even more readable.

    From what I've read as well, YA tends to be a genre with shorter sentences and paragraphs. Think video game! You want to really grab them. Less setting and description and more of that character we'll fall in love with. Eventually is too late for most readers, as I'm learning! :)

    1. Oh, and I do like the bit about his mother and finding out the reason he was in London. It's a glimpse but it is enough to ground the reader and make me feel for him. It also explains the "motherless teen" line which I find strange without knowing more. Why is that important? Here you have shown us why. Great.

  5. Your revisions are so good. The date on the IV and seeing his reflection in the surgical tray were awesome ways to show us how much time has passed. The narrative sounds more clear this time. Your scenes are filled with such rich details (“yellow caution tape blowing down the steep steps of the embassy,” “watery eyes blink violently clearing some of the cobwebs lodged in my brain,” “burns like I drank a bottle of rubbing alcohol straight”). I like how you subtly popped in background info about MC (“I’m not sure where we are on our flight back to Alpha, New York from London, but I know we haven’t flown quite long enough to be over land yet, which only means one thing--Atlantic Ocean,” “All except me, Neal Champion, 17-year-old motherless teen”). I think you have a great beginning. Keep going!

    1. @ V.T. Bidania-Thanks for the encouragement! @Lori- I will slice and dice and maybe work a bit more character development in earlier, so the reader gets a better sense of who Neal is. He is my MC, but since this is a multi-pov novel, I do have other major characters too. As the chapter progresses, the reader learns more and more about why Neal is in such a predicament. This does give the reader a reason to cheer for him as well as sympathize. In YA, I know that's very important or readers will tune out quickly. I've seen it happen in my classroom. I appreciate all the insight. It challenges me to work even harder.

    2. Keep in mind, everyone has their own opinion and not everyone is going to be bothered by or drawn to the same things. Why this is so hard, right? And doing so much in so little pages is really tough. I'm a reader who will give a book a good 100 pages so I'm not in the category of needing everything in the first five but I know I'm in the minority!

    3. So VERY true, Lori. I'm in that minority myself. I guess I just don't like to be bombarded with so much backstory/character details at first. I like how writers reveal that stuff along the way. But as you say, it's all personal preferences. I embrace the differences in writers though. Keeps me reading AND most importantly learning.

  6. Hi Don,

    Awesome job on this. You've really strengthened it.

    I agree with everything that's been said. Basically, the overall vibe on this still doesn't read YA to me, but it definitely has a commercial thriller feel. You've definitely put us right in the story this time around. Go back and look at where you can put yourself in your mc's head more and let us really feel like we are with a teen instead of an adult.

    Looking forward to reading more of this!

    1. Martina,
      Yeah, this is the very thing I've been struggling with some because of Neal's background. Without giving too much away, he's kind of a super-teen. Not with crazy superpower abilities or anything like that. But he was a part of a government experiment when he was an infant, which basically saved his life. So, how DO I keep him sounding like 17 and also demonstrate he's a cut-above most teens his age? What makes my novel different than some teen superpower books is that they have these gifts, but they cannot control them. Some don't even WANT them. Yet, the world is pretty screwed up due to a terrorist attack, so Neal and the friends he meets are forced to make a choice. Keep in mind that NONE of these characters were told about their special abilities, so when they start happening, they're dumbfounded. This is where my subtitle comes into play. Generation One. Sorry. I'm rambling. But I plan an extensive look at how to smooth things out more. Frankly, I want to get into Neal's head more too. I'm just not sure how to do that without weakening what comes later. Any ideas?

  7. Hey Don---so sorry I'm late on this. You have made a lot of progress. I think you're headed in the right direction. Your action scenes have really improved. There are still times when I feel outside Neal--like he's narrating and not experiencing. There are also times where the word or language choice doesn't seem as teen to me as it could be. For example...

    *"His lifeblood splatters into my right ear and across my lips. Damn. What gravity fails to remove, I spit out and wipe my face with my shaking right shoulder. A symphony of terror fills the air as two-hundred and thirty-nine passengers scream their disapproval of the pilot’s flying abilities and wage a futile war against their imminent demise."

    In my head I still hear a lot more unintelligible cursing and confusion. LOL!

    I also do not have a clear picture of what kind of character Neal is--is he an average teen boy who must go on to do great things or is he special in some way? I'm not sure that it matters which way you go, but I feel there should be some bits that ground us in either direction.

    I also feel that the comment about being a motherless teen can be dropped. You explain that in just a few lines and I don't think it needs a lead in. Just feels like telling for tellings sake.

    I did think you had so many great improvements--things were a lot clearer. And I thought that the way you showed the passing of time was much more organic. Have you read False Memory by Dan Krokos? Your story has a little bit of a similar feel for me. You might enjoy it. Awesome job and I can't wait to see more!

  8. Neal--Just read the comments--particularly the one back to Martina and I'd also suggest reading MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza--She does exactly what you were asking about. Mila discovers that she's an android in a government experiment. That may be helpful to you also.

  9. Kimberly...Don't worry about being late. It's a huge blessing to have you comment at all. I will check out those book selections and see if anything materializes. Thanks. It's my birthday today, so maybe in all my "oldness" too much of ME is bleeding through my character. But I wouldn't want to be 17 again. LOL My next revision could get drastic. Fair warning. hahaha

  10. Kimberly,
    Okay. So I took a few moments to check out these books, and you're so right about both of them. My novel does have that type of energy to it. I really only saw one section in Mila 2.0 where her voice pointed to the fact that she was a teen. I only read the preview section, so I am sure there is more. I guess I'll see where the ole muse takes me on it. Thanks again for the frame of reference.