Monday, April 21, 2014

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Chiang Rev 2

Name: Sylvia Chiang
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: Cross Ups

Chapter One

Jaden hammered the buttons on his controller. “Holy crap, this guy is fast! C’mon Kaigo…”

Kaigo was Jaden’s main when he played Cross Ups IV. He was the dragon-cross so he had the most awesome projectile of all the characters: instead of throwing fireballs, he breathed them.

Of course, it was only cool when the fireballs actually hit their target, which they weren’t doing in this match.

Jaden whiffed another combo when his opponent, Blaze, jumped out of range again.

Beside Jaden, his friends Hugh and Devesh perched at the very edge of the couch.

“Aw, dude, you almost had him,” Hugh said.

“Not really.” Devesh chuckled, then added, “No offence, Jaden. But this Knight Rage guy is good.”

The three boys were in Jaden’s living room. Like most of their gaming sessions they had started out playing each other and ended up watching Jaden battle random people online. No one had beaten Jaden in four months. But then he had never played Knight Rage before.

“Who is this guy, anyways?” Devesh asked.

“I see him online all the time,” Hugh said.

Devesh turned to Hugh. “Oh yeah? You ever play him?”

“Once…kinda. I left the match before it ended.”

“You mean you wussed out.”


“Would you guys shut up? I’m trying to concentrate here.”

WHAM! The screen flashed a burst of gold and Blaze transformed into a phoenix, flapping huge golden wings that sent shock waves into Kaigo.

“Holy crap! How’d he hit me with that atomizer combo? I was blocking!”

As soon as he was out of hitstun, Jaden played Kaigo’s dragon fire special.

“What the?” Jaden dropped the combo when Blaze disappeared briefly and reappeared attacking behind Kaigo.

“How’d he do that cross up? Can Blaze teleport?”

Kaigo breathed a fireball in his opponent’s face. Blaze jumped out of range and threw another atomizer.

“Aaahhh! I can’t get any moves in.”

Jaden pushed the back button to block the next string of atomizers, but Kaigo took the punishment from the phoenix wings anyways.

“Why isn’t my block working?”

“Your health meter’s critical. You’re going to die from chip damage at this rate.”

“Thanks for your support, Devesh.”

“But hey, your super meter’s full,” Hugh cheered.

“Yeah, go for it. But you’d better do some serious damage or it’s over.”

Jaden worked his controller, trying for Kaigo’s biggest super, Dragon Wind. “Come on…”

Panic made him do something he hadn’t done in ages – a total button mash.

Miraculously, Kaigo transformed into his dragon side and a grey cloud of smoke swirled like a tornado across the screen through his opponent. Jaden watched in shock as Blaze crumpled and his health meter dove. Now both opponents were one hit from defeat.

Jaden immediately played his bread and butter combo: two crouching light punches back to back, followed by dragon breath.


“Whaaaaaaat!?!” Behind Jaden, his friends screamed and jumped from the leather couch.

Devesh pointed to the TV on the wall. “No way! You did not just do that!”

Hugh sprawled his hefty form onto the carpet at Jaden’s feet, bowing and chanting, “You are the master.”

Jaden remained frozen on the couch, mouth open, eyebrows raised. His straight black hair fell over his left eye. “Am I dreaming?” he asked softly, letting the controller drop to the floor. “No, seriously, am I asleep? Someone hit me now.”

Devesh and Hugh piled on top of their friend, pummelling him with good-natured jabs.

“I’ve never seen that super,” Hugh said, settling his glasses back in place.

“That’s because I’ve only ever hit it one time. The timing is crazy hard.”

Devesh helped Jaden up off the carpet. “We’ve got to start streaming your battles. That was Godlike!” His phone binged and he pulled it out of his pocket. “I gotta go. I was supposed to meet my dad 10 minutes ago. He just texted me from the car in all caps.” He grabbed his bag and sweater and walked backwards out of the living room.

“Hold up. I gotta go too, dude. Think your dad will give me a ride?” Hugh grabbed his things and ran after Devesh, breathing hard by the time he got to the end of the hall.

“You live on the other side of town. Why you always asking me for a ride? Train your parents better.” Their voices trailed off until the door slammed shut behind them.

Jaden sat staring in disbelief at the TV, his arm muscles twitching as if he had physically done battle. Kaigo’s muscles rippled through his black kung-fu uniform as he celebrated with fist pumps. His win quote at the bottom of the screen read, “You need more confidence to beat me.”

It was 6:27. Jaden was cutting it close still having the game on. His thumb was descending on the power button when a message popped up on the screen.


Players didn’t usually message after a fight, unless they were friends. Jaden hesitated then wrote back: THNX

Within seconds another message: CAN U D0 1T AGA1N?

Could he? He had no idea how he’d pulled off that final move. But there was no way he was going to admit that. He typed: ANY TIME

BATTL3 @ T0P T13RS 1N 2 W33KS?

Jaden hesitated, his thumbs rapidly tapping the controller. A real gaming tournament? He often watched footage of his favourite gamer, Yuudai Sato, playing at big events like the EVO Championship Series, but he’d never thought about actually competing. It wasn’t an option.

He wrote back: NO THNX

Y N0T? W3’LL WA1V3 UR F33.

Jaden’s curiosity battled with the ticking clock. 6:31. He heard car doors slamming. Was that his parents? Quickly he typed: WHO RU?

The answer seemed to take forever. When it finally came, it raised more questions than answers. JUST R3G1ST3R - SAY KN1GHT RAG3 S3NT U.

A key turned in the lock. Jaden went into his shut down routine, quickly powering off the TV and game console and sliding the controller under the cushion next to him. He flipped open his math book and tried to act bored, hoping his parents wouldn’t notice his shaking hands.

Knight Rage’s question pulsed in his mind.

Why not?

Chapter Two

Mr. Efram wrote on the blackboard at the start of math class: The Problem of the Day.

“Yeah,” Jaden whispered to Devesh and Hugh, “You have two parents who refuse to let you play any violent games, and one invitation to a way cool video game tournament. What do you do?”

The three boys formed a group as they had done daily since meeting each other in math class on their first day at Layton Senior Public School.

“You have to go,” Devesh whispered back. “You can’t back out of a challenge. You think Yuudai Sato would back out of a challenge? If you want to be the best, you have to show everyone you can bring it.”

“Yeah, maybe if I build a time machine and skip ahead eight months to my thirteenth birthday.” Jaden dropped his head to his desk in despair. “I looked up the tournament last night. Since Cross Ups IV is 13A, I’d need my parents to sign a consent form. That’s not going to happen.”

Mr. Efram finished writing on the board, ran his hand over his bald spot, and turned to the class. Like every day, he pointed with his thumb to the poster of the Justice League on the wall showing the problem solving steps.


  1. Your first five has been very strong from the beginning, and they’ve only gotten stronger as the weeks have passed. I only have a few suggestions:

    I think you could easily cut the “then added” in this: “Devish chuckled, then added.” When he speaks, we know he adds something.

    You have some dialogue without tags. It might help to give action/dialogue tags, only because it’s a room of boys, and while I can guess more or less who’s speaking, why leave the reader guessing?

    He heard car doors slamming could be: Car doors slammed outside. If you’re telling us he heard it, it’s filtering through you.

    And that’s it. Sorry I can’t add more; this is very solid as it is. All the best with it!

  2. Hi, Sylvia! As Martha said, your first five pages have been strong from the very beginning, so I’ll try and contribute some helpful notes:

    The very first line worries me a little. It doesn’t draw me in as quickly or strongly as I would like, considering the way your writing - especially the dialogue - shines later. Since it is a “hook”, this could all be subjective, but I think changing your first sentence would work in your favor.

    Ah, the dialogue! I still think this is your forte here, but maybe trimming a little of it would propel forward action more. Although it does introduce Hugh and Devesh as important characters, it detracts from Jaden’s main opening incident, beating Knight Rage at Cross Ups.

    When Jaden says, “Would you guys shut up? ...”, it might be helpful to add a dialogue tag such as “Jaden interrupted”, just because he’s joining the conversation between Devesh and Hugh. While I could tell that it was Jaden saying this, it took me a while to figure out.

    I was somewhat confused by the term “atomizer” - briefly describing what this looks like on-screen could go a long way.

    Something else I noticed was that it’s not immediately clear from the first chapter that Jaden’s problem is his parents not letting him play violent video games. We can see that something about his parents’ arrival at home sets him on edge, but not exactly what. Although this gets cleared up soon after, it may help to insert a sentence about it.

    I have very little to make notes on, unfortunately, but that only says more about your writing, which is great for this genre. Best of luck with these pages!

  3. Wonderful job, Sylvia! I've enjoyed reading your changes weekly and am very appreciative of your helpful suggestions for my first pages.

    Your first five reads so much clearer! I know now what's going on, haha. I agree that you just need a couple more dialogue tags although was we read more and more, each boys' personality shows through.

    1. I do agree with Christina on your first line. Compared to the ones that follow, it's not the "hook-iest". I think you start your story in a great place, I just think the first line has more potential.

      Wonderful job! Sorry I don't have more to add. Best of luck.

  4. Sylvia,

    This is really fantastic. I love the addition with his parents. I think you have streamlined the information about the game enough so those of us non-gamers can follow (ditto for the messaging talk though I still think perhaps you could summarize one or two rather than write them out---like this one "Y N0T? W3’LL WA1V3 UR F33." Instead of writing it you could have Jaden read it and reflect--"Was I reading that right? This dude's going to wave my fee? Who does that?") I also think you still could define "hitstun".

    Overall, it's fun; the interaction with the friends is great, the tension is there and I'm getting who this character is with some intrigue. You could watch your dialogue tags a bit as is suggested already.

    As for the first works. It's not the snappiest but it is short and your next couple of paragraphs are enough to keep me going.

    However, your line about the fireballs being cool when they hit their target really could be a fun way into this. I'm not sure exactly how, but play around with it: "Jaden jammed the buttons on his controller launching another fireball at his opponent. Being able to throwing fireballs is cool. More so when they actually hit their target, which they're not doing in this match."

    Your pages are terrific and if they are any indication of the book as a whole, you've got something great here. I'm at twitter at @loriagoldstein. I'd love for you to let me know how things process!

    Good luck!