Sunday, April 12, 2015

First 5 Pages April Workshop - Harrington Rev 1

Name: Sarah Harrington
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Title: Of Time and Blood
Some Timekeepers saw the Schedules as a rigid set of rules never to be broken, but I figured a little creative interpretation never hurt anyone.
The dust was thick in the air and heavy on my tongue as I inhaled. With every breath, history took root in my lungs. A flowery perfume tried to hide the musty scent, but the smell of years long gone still lived on in the antique store. 
“Change of plans,” I said as my assignment partner rounded the corner of the aisle. He jumped out of the way to avoid sending a teetering pile of old books crashing to the floor. 
“Why do you always do this, Mik?” Trent closed his eyes and sighed. “What was wrong with the original plan?”
“The Schedules never account for personality, so it’s too simple for a guy like that. Some people need a gentle push and others need a shove. This one definitely needs a shove.” If this was my last assignment, I was going to make damn sure we did it right. 
Trent moved beside me and we looked towards our target.
Twenty-six-year-old Joseph Bolland stood on the far side of the store with stiff shoulders and a straight back.. The window behind him, dirtied with years of grime, let in very little light. Even with the dingy overhead lamps, the wine decanter in his hands was barely visible.
I ran through my mental checklist for matchmaking assignments. The briefing was on point with almost everything, but it had failed to mention that Joseph was a real jerk.
Trent’s voice sliced through my annoyance. “What’d he do to piss you off?”
“Elbowed me out of the way. He was muttering about how rowdy teenagers don’t deserve to be in a place like this. Apparently we ‘don’t appreciate the history behind the objects’.” I dropped my voice as low as I could, feeling the vibrations in my chest, to imitate Joseph’s grating tone.
We stood at the back of the antique store, surrounded by old figurines and bits of secondhand kitchen equipment. Although most of my focus was on Joseph, I could just make out our secondary target in my periphery. Coraline stood behind the cash register with her lips pursed and fingers drumming on the counter. Her eyes were trained on us and I could almost hear her mentally screaming at us to get out of her precious shop.
I ached to tell Coraline that nothing about me wanted to be in this dusty old store with uninteresting and poorly maintained items. We were only there to set her up with her future husband and we would certainly appreciate not having to operate under the shopkeeper’s icy glare the entire time. 
I turned to relay that thought to Trent, but stopped short at the sight of him cradling a clay Chinese teapot. 
“My mom had one just like this.” He ran his free hand over the smooth surface, light sandy skin contrasting with the deep reddish brown of the clay. “She used to sneak in tea to me during all the hospital stays.” His voice was tinged with a sense of longing for a stolen time.
A time stolen from all Timekeeper recruits.
At his words, my hand crept up to touch the silver anchor charm hanging around my neck. It was the only thing I had left from my time in the outside world but, unlike Trent, I didn’t miss my life before the Timekeepers. They had saved me from an endless rotation of foster homes and orphanages and given me the closest thing I’d ever had to a family.
“Careful!” The sharp sound of Coraline’s voice shot across the room. “These aren’t toys to be played with; they’re antiques.”
“They deserve each other.” Trent shook his head in disgust as he set the teapot down. “We should probably hurry up. Can’t have you being late for your own Advancement Celebration.”
The nerves that had been swimming lazily in my stomach all day burst into a frenzy at his words. The thought of this being my last time engaging with the outside world sickened me. Staying on as an Agent would be a dream, but it was such a rare occurrence, and it wasn’t likely for that dream to become my reality. 
But there wasn’t time to worry about that now.
I pushed my anxiety aside and moved to stand with Trent. Our eyes poured over the store, looking for all possible ways to bring Joseph and Coraline together.
A burning sensation interrupted my thoughts. I pulled my pocket watch out of my jeans and ran my fingers over the rusted surface of the hunter case. The hot metal singed my skin; it was a warning, but I couldn’t initiate the interface here to read the message. There was too much of a chance the targets would see the hologram coming out of the watch. “They’re telling us to get a move on. We need to figure out a plan.”
“Well I thought the original plan in the Schedule was good enough, but we can’t do that anyone because someone decided we should change things up and made us miss the time slot.”
I ignored his sass and squinted in Joseph’s direction. “It wouldn’t take a lot of force to shatter the glass display case behind him.”
Trent followed my gaze, catching onto my plan. “But it would cause a lot of damage. It doesn’t really fit in with the whole “unnoticed” part of our mantra, does it?” 
He was right. Being yelled at by Coraline was one thing, but causing lasting damage to property in plain sight of the targets was something else altogether. The Councillors would probably ream us out as soon as we got back to Meridian; but time was ticking down. “Do you have any better ideas? The next customer will be here any minute. This needs to be done right now.”
Trent pressed his lips into a thin line but nodded. We broke away from where we stood, creeping down opposite sides of the store towards the target. Inching closer, I saw Joseph’s eyes dart towards Coraline. He didn’t know what the future held for himself and the young shopkeeper.
But Trent and I did.
We always did.
And it was our job to make sure it happened. 
I walked down the aisle, trying to look as natural as possible for Coraline but keeping my footfalls light to stop Joseph from noticing me. My mind wandered back to the last time I saw Joseph almost ten years ago. He had been one of my first assignments. Maybe he remembered the seven-year-old girl who spilled her milk on his jacket. I felt my lips twitch at the memory. Joseph hadn’t been as awful back then. He’d even bought me another milk carton to show he wasn’t upset. What happened to that man? I should’ve looked at the database to see his full Schedule. Another Timekeeper must have been responsible for the assignment that turned him so sour. 
I stood close enough now to catch the spicy scent of Joseph’s cologne. He was so engaged in examining a vase for chips in the glasswork that he hadn’t noticed us sneaking up on either side of him. Trent’s brown eyes met mine.


  1. Hi, Sarah. Your opening is coming along nicely. This start is much tighter, and I’m still very intrigued by the story ☺. Today, I noticed some dialogue mechanics that I’d like to address. There’s not much; just a few spots that didn’t read totally believable. Mik and Trent’s relationship is an important one, so you want their interactions to be tight and ultra-realistic. My suggestions…

    <“Why do you always do this, Mik?” Trent closed his eyes and sighed. “What was wrong with the original plan?”> This reads a little melodramatic; I think it’s because you don’t need both the eyes closing and the sighing. Also, the natural response would be the physical reaction and then the verbal one. So it would read more naturally as: Trent sighed. “Why do you always do this, Mik? What was wrong with the original plan?”

    <“The Schedules never account for personality, so it’s too simple for a guy like that. Some people need a gentle push and others need a shove. This one definitely needs a shove.” If this was my last assignment, I was going to make damn sure we did it right. > The first sentence sounds like information that both Mik and Trent know, so it reads as information being revealed for the reader’s benefit. It makes the dialogue sound a bit stilted. Also, after reading it, I still don’t understand what it means in the context of the story, so I think it would be better shared (if it’s truly necessary, which I’m not sure it is) later in the story. Lastly, the talk of “that guy” without the reader knowing who they’re talking about is a little jarring, so he needs to enter stage right immediately following this bit of dialogue. My suggestion: “Some people need a gentle push and others need a shove. This guy definitely needs a shove.” We both glanced at our target…”

    <“They deserve each other.” Trent shook his head in disgust as he set the teapot down. “We should probably hurry up. Can’t have you being late for your own Advancement Celebration.”> Again, here, the disgusted headshake sounds more natural coming before his speech. I would either move it to reflect this, or remove the headshake and just keep him setting the teapot down. Maybe he mutters it instead? <”They deserve each other,” Trent muttered as he set the pot down. “Let’s hurry this up. Can’t have you being later for your own Advancement Celebration.”>

    Great job, Sarah. Talk to you soon!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    This is coming a long really great!
    I'm really curious what the original plan was though. They seemed to have been just standing there ,wasting time, when they could have initiated the 'original' plan, so I'm wondering why they didn't.

    I like Trent and Mik's friendship, or at least work relationship. I'm wondering what the point of Mik knowing the target from years ago though. Is it necessary? At first she called him a jerk, as if she's met him before, and then she remembered him being nice, so it was a bit of a flip flop. If he plays a bigger role, then it's probably fine, but it just threw me off a bit.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Nice job on the revisions. I see the antique shop sold those stacks of magazines?Good for them.Jason must be a classy 26 year old if he's buying antique wine decanters. Gift for his mom perhaps. Maybe he's not a jerk. :)

    I think you do an excellent job of giving just the right amount of description. You have a good balance of description and text which creates a nice pace and flow. Not sure why, but I like that the couple Trent and Mik are "match-making" are jerks. It gives their job a realistic vibe - like working at the DMV. Not glamorous, people don't appreciate what you do, but someone has to do it. Keep it's interesting, giving this amazing, futuristic career, a blue collar vibe. And no I don't work at the DMV. I'm a marketer.

    I am curious why they do it though. Why is there a profession of time-traveling matchmakers? Why did she see him ten years ago? Did another time-keeper try to hook him up ten years ago? Why did it fail? Who's the next customer that will be here soon? I'm sure these are all questions with answers later in the book. Wanting to know more is a good thing!

    Again, great concept, pace, balance and flow. Looking forward to the final version!

  4. Looks good. I didn't see that there was a flip-flop on Joseph; you explained that he used to be nicer than he is now. It makes him interesting. Minor thing- "icy glare" is a bit trite. Overall, it was good. I'm intrigued about Meridian and what they could be doing away from the outside world.

  5. Nice job tightening up! I'm still a bit confused by what the original plan was and why they didn't do it, but I do like the new info about your MC. It helps a lot to ground me in her head. A couple small things.

    What kind of assignment does one send a seven year old on? If it wasn't a true love thing, it might be nice to have some kind of hint. Right now the Timekeepers are coming off a bit like Cupid Inc, but I'm assuming there's more to the job than that?

    "With every breath, history took root in my lungs." I have stumbled over this sentence, every time I've read it. I think I understand what you were going for with the oldness and the dust, but for some reason, that phrase really breaks up the flow for me.

    This is such a cool story start. I'm excited to see what you do next!

  6. Hi Sarah,

    Sorry I’m late — my wife and I had a baby on Wednesday! Little Max spends most of his time sleeping, but he still manages to take up most of our time and attention. :)

    I don’t have much to add to what others have written. I will just say that I’d still prefer not to know the nature of their mission (matchmaking) this early, and be surprised by it later on (even if it’s not in these particular five pages). I feel like it’s “telling” right now; I’d rather it be shown, as their actions bring those two together and make me say, “Oh, that’s what the mission was!" Maybe rather than saying, "We were only there to set her up with her future husband," something more open, like, "We were there for her benefit, after all." That may just be a personal preference, though.

    Still a strong opening and something that would make me want to read on.