Monday, February 18, 2013

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Mezher Rev 2

Name: Helene Mezher
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Title: Untitled

Eighteen-year-old prodigy Edge Gray should have had no problem deciphering the maps. Scattered on the desk, they showed the known half of the planet in beautiful cartographer calligraphy that, unfortunately, tested Edge's control. Her hands shook, and strands of hair clung to the sweat on her cheeks. She handled dangerous chemicals in her research. Each night, she snuck through the Dome without a scratch. Surely she could analyze these symbols and trace her mother's location.

Her thoughts stalled when she heard a familiar assured step. "I'm in the back," she said as the pressure in her chest lessened. "Grab gloves and get your ass over here!"

"Well, well, what's the junkie up to now?" Sage said, his teasing tone echoing through her empty house. As the thump of his boots neared, Edge pasted a smile on her face--not just for him; pretense calmed her frayed nerves. Then she returned to work, reminded of her creed.

She did not deal in personal truths or unwieldy emotions. She dealt in hard facts and cold observations, and her mother's desk was a mess of paper and pens and cracked computer screens. There was a lot of data to organize.

Some seconds passed before a droll voice said, "No death-defying activities tonight, E? I'm shocked. So, so shocked."

Sage leaned against the front of the desk, his arms crossed. When Edge was younger and her mother less in demand, August would tell her stories about Earth. One involved an iceberg with a fourth of its mass floating on the ocean, and the rest hidden to those who passed. Sage was that iceberg: tall and lean but undoubtedly present, saturating the room with an indelible force. She might never discover what he hid, but it didn't matter. He was solid and steady, and harsh and proud, and the best friend she had ever had.

"Hey, there's plenty of light left for a good run through the dome-ways. Don't discount me yet." Then worry wrenched Edge, and her grin faded. "Actually that was a lie. I can't tonight. I... She's gone, Sage."

Without hesitation, he secured his spot at her side and observed her in that frozen way he had, gaze fixed and no muscle twitching. Sometimes his attention bothered her, so she would return his look. You want people to stop? Stare at them until they focus elsewhere. In her experience, most people seemed uncomfortable with being caught, judgment so clear in their eyes. Sage was no exception, though he tried to withhold his opinions until she asked for them.

Tonight Edge welcomed his looks, his observation. His presence was instant comfort, a warmth that erased the dread of absence.

He cleared his throat. "What happened?"

Gratitude filled her; he knew which questions to ask. "I tried calling, but the connection failed. I... All I could hear was static. Like her ear bud was damaged, and there's only noise left."

"Did you try tracking the IP address?"

"Nothing there."

"How did the static come through?"

She shook her head.

"What about her partner? Jameson or whatever his name is?"

Edge gave him the look, which, as always, made Sage laugh. "Do you think that I would snoop through her things without having considered every possibility?"

"All right, but I know you, E, and I know that you didn't call the authorities. They're an option too." She closed her eyes when he squeezed her hand, his fingers as rough as the crystals in lab. "You work for the government, so you know they're not all bad."

"They haven't done anything for her." She took a deep breath as the weight of fear pressed on her throat. "As long as she promises to return with goodies, they're happy. When she doesn't, they send her on impossible trips. Maybe this time it was too much for her. And why should they care if she chose to stay away? Or if she was trapped somewhere? One less mouth to feed in this overcrowded shithole."

Sage sighed and rubbed her back. The friction should warm her.

It didn't.

"How many people leave the Dome? Think about it. She and her crew and who else? You're the history nerd. You know the answer. No one would risk leaving without a contingency like hers. None of them care!"

"No one can replace August Gray," he whispered.

A tear stained her cheek, stinging through the cold.

He tucked a stray strand behind her ear and waited until she met his gaze. "No one can replace you."

Her voice was small but steady. "There are only two people I trust. Am I right to include you?"

He watched her face in that still way, then her hands, which shook as she created two piles: useful and useless. "You want to leave," Sage said. "You want to find her on your own. And you want me to help."

The tear smarted at the edge of her mouth, salt lingering. It was no benediction, nothing like the twenty-year-old who stood steadfast beside her in form-fitting clothes, his wide eyes glaring and flat nose flaring. Her lips cracked when she smiled, a bittersweet pleasure. He knew her well.

"Edge," he said as he gripped her shoulders, nails digging into skin, an anchoring bite that she relished. "This is too much."

She squeezed his hands. "I know that it's arrogant, dangerous even. Stupid, too, but you're my best friend and I... I need you."

He closed his eyes, and after a few moments, he nodded.

When Sage bent over the papers, Edge could feel her pounding heart. Whether her pulse sped due to fear or excitement, she didn't know. She knew, however, that she had found her beginning. Adventure took on a form of its own making, but this time her name would inscribe its edges. The biologist would find her mother.


When Sage strapped the wings to his back, he cursed the cruelty of circumstance. The metal wires were clamped to his skin. His arms dragged from the weight, but still unwelcome excitement coursed through his body. Standing on Edge's roof, he thought about the luxury of adventure. How even Edge, in her privilege, had thought nothing of handing her friend the extra wings that she and her mother had the money to buy. She had programmed them to glide toward his house with a smile as bright as her orange highlights. For her, little was wrong or out of place. Circumstance was cruel, yes, but not as cruel as the dream that he lost; the hope that ignorance provided. Sage tried not to dwell on the past, but historians were saddled with that blessing. Historians, he mused, and his family.

"Hey, you. You." Edge punched him in the shoulder. He gave her his best dry stare, and she grinned. "No frowning, Sage rage. If I'm not brooding, you can't either."

"Am I brooding? I didn't realize."

"Your sarcasm doesn't fool me. I know you're excited. I can smell the hormones. Mmm, you smell good."

He blinked. "You can't smell adrenaline."

"Maybe I'm a superhuman soldier with super strength and speed and senses. Maybe I'm an android." She paused. "Or, if you want to be boring, I could just have more olfactory receptors than you. Did you consider that? No? No? How disappointing, my friend."

"Remind me why we're friends."

She laughed and started skipping in circles around him. He knew that she was thrilled about their clue, about the prospect his brother presented, but her energy still astounded him. It was almost as if she were overcompensating for earlier.


  1. Oh, lovely! You've come so far for me in terms of making the story flow and paring down the repetitive and obscuring language that made it hard for me to get into Edge's head on the first time round. I love how you establish the relationship between Edge and Sage in this first chapter.
    That said, with a few short sentences, I think you could establish a little more in chapter one the sense of urgency that Edge has to find her mom. As it is, I get that she's going to look for her - but why the rush? Is there a rush? (I think there should be one - high stakes can be a good thing. Or even just a nagging sense that something is terribly wrong this time, a note found in the messy lab...?)

    I would like for you to look at the language you use to describe Sage - highlight all the warms, hots, colds, icys, and frozens. I noticed a bit of mixing the metaphorical language, and thought it would benefit from being more consistent.

    Now, at the beginning of chapter two, I found the first paragraph hard to follow, because you fell back into the sort of passages that you revised out of chapter one. (Examples: "cruelty of circumstance", "the hope that ignorance provided.") Although the words are beautiful, it slows the pace for me still very early in the manuscript, as I try to pin down precisely what you mean.

    There are a few loose ends that tripped me up - for instance, you refer to Edge's mom as August in a way that made me re-read the sentence three times, thinking "wait, aren't mom and August the same person?". :) (When Edge was younger and her mother less in demand, August would tell her stories about Earth.)

    I stand in awe of science fiction writers, by the way. The crafting of intricate worlds, with their own technologies and belief systems - it's an enormous undertaking! I think you have a great start on carving the story out, increasing the pace , and sucking your readers into an unforgettable strange new world. Keep working, and being brave! I hope I see this in my local indie bookstore one of these days - I'll buy a copy, and say I (virtually) knew you when!

  2. I'm with Nikki on the question of why it's so urgent to find her mother. All we have is some vague idea that August is on a dangerous mission. I think it was more boldly stated in your first draft, so you might want to lift a line or two from there and work it back in.

    In the paragraph comparing Sage to the iceberg, you have the line, "You want people to stop? Stare at them until they focus elsewhere." That's dropping out of third person into second person. As your prose is being smoothed out, that's one little bump remaining.

    The beginning of the next scene is all right, dipping into Sage's thoughts, but it sounds like narration. Not like it's his voice talking. (I have problems with this, too.) Maybe punch it up with some of the words he'd use.

    Aside from that, this is a really intriguing story, and I wish I could read the rest. :-)

  3. I really liked reading this. This is a great rewrite. We are much more firmly into Edge's point of view.

    A few things - I miss the adrenaline and the way it was presented. You still mention "junkie" but it is hard to reason why now. I loved in previous version how you introduce her addiction to adventure (perhaps it can be reworked in?)And her profession isn't mentioned until the last sentence where I stopped to think about it. If I knew she was a biologist (could it be hinted at near the beginning?) the last sentence would be even better.

    "but still, unwelcome excitement coursed through his body." This stopped me because I didn't understand how it fit in with the rest of the paragraph.

    At the end you mention the clue from his brother. We don't see this happening so we don't know what this means. Perhaps what this is could be at the beginning of chapter two?

    You have an engaging writing style that I hope to see again.

  4. Nikki gives amazing feedback. I really can only echo what she said. Great job smoothing this out. I worry about the skipping as she was so worried about finding her mom though...

  5. I agree. Nikki nailed it. She called out the places where you lapsed back into language that obscured rather than invited us to follow. Think about bringing us in, always closer, to Edge and her problem. Make us feel her worry and her urgency.

    I'm still not loving the first sentence, which is so distant from Edge. We don't need to know that she's 18 or that she's a prodigy in that context. Make her thnk it ironically. Bring us into a close 3rd POV and stay there. You can do this though. You have come SOOO far. I'm beyond impressed! Good luck with this!

  6. I agree with most of what's been said already. Close third POV is going to be your best friend in getting the reader into Edge's story. And as Nikki mentioned, you can never have too much urgency. Urgency urgency urgency.

    Instead of telling us she likes adventure ("Adventure took on a form of its own making, but this time her name would inscribe its edges. The biologist would find her mother." -- these lines sort of pull back away from the MC at a time we want to be getting to know her) add more details that show it. Does she collect compasses to go with the maps? Does she have fifty hats for all kinds of inclement weather? How does her lifestyle reflect her personality traits?

    You did a good job of cutting (I'm sure it must have been a little painful) and I think the first paragraph is better though it can still be improved. I know it takes time but do try to find the perfect first line. We don't need to know her age right then. That can wait until we're under the spell of the story.

    Your first page should captivate the reader - otherwise agents will just pass without reading any of the other 200+ pages. You have to force them to pay attention to THIS MS RIGHT NOW! So keep working to develop a bond between Edge and the reader and keep heightening the sense of urgency.

    This has come a long way from the first draft! You're almost there! :) :) :)