Sunday, May 17, 2015

First 5 Pages May Workshop - Pacelli Rev 2

Name: Atesa Pacelli 
Genre: Young Adult 
Title: The Minesweeper 

In the next one thousand years, somewhere in the universe, a Bender will be born. A human mind that can control the organized atoms of our existence: machines, objects, animals.
-       The Writings of Dar Zacariah, The Father of the Golden Way
The hand hit Aden so hard it knocked him to the ground.
Limbs became dangerous projectiles in the minefields, and this one was no exception. Aden swerved and flailed wildly but it was no use. It slammed into him, his blaster almost flying out of his hands. Just as his fingers closed again on the weapon’s grip, he went down, hard, hitting the rain-soaked mud with a wet thud.
He froze. He didn’t notice the pain, but he did notice that he was still alive. He had narrowly avoided falling directly on top of a Sunn mine. He wiggled his fingers and toes. All still there, or so it seemed. He gripped his blaster, fighting the animal instinct to stand up and run. That would get him killed. But he was out in the open, and he would have to get out of here – fast. 
He scanned the landscape, analyzing the ramshackle mud and brick huts that made up this village high up on the Sunn-Karal border: the blown open doors, the mounds of dirt and debris, the rusted-down machines, the flies buzzing around the dead people and animals. The ground underneath this village was riddled with mines in every direction: microscopic bits of coiled death that lay just inches under the soil, their vibrations visible to no one but him. To Aden, the air was different directly above each mine. It moved: darkened and swirled like an angry eddy. Aden’s ability to see this was a gift – a gift that meant that he was alive four years after being sold by his father to the Karali rebels as a minesweeper. It meant that he could graduate from minefield meat to an actual soldier in the cause of the Karali Liberation Movement. 
All around him, the ground darkened and swirled, darkened and swirled. Target-locked bullets whizzed by and high-powered lasers crisped the earth as the KLM rebels advanced, filling the air with the deafening roar of blasts, one on top of another.
He had to get to cover. A hopscotch skirting the dark swirls would get him to safety behind a hut, if he could trigger a mine nearby and run under the cover of its explosion. Aden rubbed the acrid black smoke out of his eyes. Slowly he reached out for the arm that had knocked him over. The fact that it was once attached to a kid registered in a part of his mind that he blinked away impatiently as he examined it. The hand was frozen in a death grip, still clutching the paradise key. Cheap metal that the rebels passed out to boys: the keys to the paradise ruled by the God of Spirits. Entry to this afterlife was naturally promised to each boy sweeping a minefield.
“What will you do for the God of Spirits to let you into paradise?”  
He had to hope the metal detectors in the mines would trigger at the metal in the key. He took a deep breath, then heaved the hand as hard as he could at a nearby mine. The arm landed with a moist thwack. Seconds later, a huge explosion blew it to bits.
“The Soldier is the most beloved hand of God.”
Then he ran. He made it to a hut. He slid along the wet, crumbling wall. For a second, a split second, he wanted to give up. Surrender to the dark swirls. Each time he went out, they became more and more irresistible. He hesitated.
Not this time.
He shrugged the impulse away as he rounded the corner of the hut, where he found a surprise: a minesweeper boy, crying and shivering, curled up in a tiny turtle-like ball on the ground. The chain that once bound him to the other boys spread out like a long tail behind him. The boys went into the battlefield in threes and fours, chained to each other. This was to ensure both compliance and coverage of the entire field. But it also meant almost certain death.  
A pang of something pricked Aden, at the spot where his conscience once was. The Karali Liberation Movement mostly wanted to liberate the lucrative Carabalt mines along the disputed Sunn border. They wanted those mines, if they had to kill every boy in Karal to get them. He was supposed send this one back out to the dark swirls. But he just couldn’t. 
He took a deep breath and shook the kid, who looked up at him with a tear-streaked, dirty face. He had to come up with a plan. Aden peered around the edge of the hut. They were not more than thirty steps away from a tree line. Behind the trees was a thick forest.
“When I give you the signal, run!” Aden screamed over the noise. The boy nodded, clinging.
Scanning the ground, he saw that the most direct line to the trees was seeded with mines, the neat circuits of death patiently lying in wait.
Dark swirls, everywhere.
He closed his eyes and breathed in and out, in and out, summoning up the energy for what he was about to do. He would have to bend a couple of mines. That’s what he called it, in his head. Bending. Bending something that wasn’t alive was easy. He could control objects. He could control machines. Turning off lights, retrieving items from across a room, closing doors.
Disabling mines.
Deep breath, eyes closed, and get it done.
Or not.
Aden swore under his breath as he counted the mines in his head. Five mines on the path between them and safety. He had just enough in him for five. But these were five Hephaestus-class mines. The gold standard of planetary battlefield technology. Sunn was taking no chances with this village. They wanted to preserve their assets: the excellent quality Teneb in the ground, the dull green loamy rocks from which the precious Carabalt came.
No way could he bend five Hephaestus-class mines and activate their kill switches. Or explode them all, for that matter.
Aden closed his eyes for a second, running a finger along the raised tattoo of an exploding sphere on his inner elbow. No inspiration was forthcoming. He scanned the tree line. Flitting in and out of visibility behind the trees was an enormous bracken deer, bolting away from the fighting. Here, near the Sunn border with Karal, the bracken deer were moose-like: several tons of massive and lumbering animal.
He thought and scratched, thought and scratched, keeping panic at bay with the pain.  
And then the solution came, with all its terrifying logic.
The bracken deer. He would have to bend it. He would force it to run over the mines. They would explode. The path would clear.
They would run.
He was an expert at bending things now. But bending anything alive meant a countdown to a catatonic state that could last for hours. Five minutes, ten max and then he would be dead to the world. He would have to get somewhere safe, fast.


  1. Overall, this is great! Just a few small things:

    The first two paragraphs are saying the same thing. The first line ends with him going down, but then you start again with the whole action of him going down. I think you need to re-word the first line to something like, "It him like a brick" or something specific to him that doesn't end with him going down.

    This sentence where you make the action the subject is odd: "A hopscotch skirting the dark swirls would get him to safety behind a hut..." I had to read it a few times to figure out that you meant that HE could hopscotch.

    You say, "Aden swore under his breath as he counted the mines in his head." How is he both counting and swearing at the same time? I'm kinda hearing, "One-shit, two-crap, three-f*ck..."

  2. Wonderful rewrite! The action is high, the tension palpable, and the writing super tight.
    I would start chapter one with “limbs became dangerous projectile…” and insert/rewrite “The hand hit Aden so hard it knocked him to the ground” in the first paragraph.
    Your use of a close third person is perfect.
    I like the line “fighting the animal instinct to stand up and run “
    Great description of his village and wonderful sensory details that help build the tension.
    Your use of the detached limb/hand as a projectile to detonate a mine in juxtaposition with “The Soldier is the most beloved hand of God “is brilliant.
    Your explanation of his power and his intended manipulation of the bracken deer is well done.
    I would definitely continue reading.

  3. Really good start. High energy, interesting character situation, immediate investment from the reader. Overall, this is really well done and I would definitely want to read more. There is a lot of repetition of thought, action and expression as well as words. I do think there is room for improvement, however.

    The second paragraph contains 9 instances of the word "he." I suggest looking for alternative sentence structure to keep the pacing, cadence, and flow consistent. A good example of varied sentence structure can be found in paragraph 3.

    I really like how you weaved the back story into the narrative without an info dump.
    My one developmental issue MIGHT be that for some reason, this reads like a middle grade. I am not sure if I get that this is YA yet.

    Otherwise, well done. Great job. A few minor changes here and there will get this where it needs to be. If I'd found this in my submissions inbox, I would have asked to see more. Good luck and thanks for posting.

  4. Hi Atesa,

    Wow!! You’ve done amazing work on these pages. There is no doubt this is a book I would pick up and buy in a store, and immediately want to start reading. These first five pages are action-packed – SO much happens – yet the sequence of all the events is so clear, and the action is perfectly balanced with reflection and just a bit of information, so that we can understand Aden and his world. I am very moved by his saving the minesweeper boy, and by the idea of Aden as having just enough conscience, in this world gone mad, to permit the possibility of change. I’m eager to see how he gets out his predicament and how he develops as a character, with this strange gift of his. I now think the deer works better as part of his plan, and I understand the mind bending and its effects on his better. My only small quibble here is the when Aden screams at the boy to run – it’s perhaps my pet peeve, but I don’t like it when characters scream words. (I’d prefer him to shout, or cry out). This is very picky. I feel you have a solid five pages here. Thanks for sharing, and good luck!!

  5. Hey Atesa,

    I really like what you have done here. It's action-packed and we get inside the MC's head and I think I got a good understanding of who he is. Good job, and thank you for sharing.

  6. Atesa,

    I have really enjoyed reading your piece and seeing the various revisions. Overall, I am still interested to learn more about Aden and the political climate. There are so many details given to us in these first five pages that have hooked me and want to know more. I like how you are able to piece out these details to us -- just enough to hook us in but not giving too much away.

    I think your significant change in this revision was a really good decision: having Aden out of the minefield, finding the boy by the side of the hut, and introducing the bracken deer earlier. (In the past versions, I kept envisioning Aden and the boy still in the minefield.) It helped move the story forward.

    Just a few very minor notes (nitpicking, really): I enjoyed your use of repetition, but I'm unsure as to how long you could sustain that within a novel. I think you could also clean up/streamline Aden's ability to bend inanimate vs. animate objects.