Sunday, September 13, 2015

1st 5 Pages September Revision - Wallace Revision 1

Name: Marie Wallace
Genre: YA - Sci Fi/Horror
Title: WYRD

The old Boeing from McCarran International finally touched down in Burlington Vermont after several pre-flight hiccups, in-flight hiccups, post-flight hiccups. Some things just never change. Science fiction always envisions the future as either technologically advanced or burned out and dystopian.      

Science fiction is cute that way.

People still hated planes, but I’d enjoyed the bumpy flight. Something about leaving solid ground for a few hours comforted me. Most people focused on their destination or whether the plane would crash. Not me. I knew better. It didn’t matter where we were going, or where we'd been. It didn't matter that the couple canoodling in front of me was newly married, or that I'd gotten up extra early to throw dirt on a coffin. For six and half hours, we had all been trapped together, and that had made us equals. It was a beautiful thing.

I was still relishing this feeling as the plane struggled to taxi-in, only to feel the heat of Morgen’s unblinking face an inch from own.  
“Quit it,” I mumbled.
Morgen’s pupils constricted back into place. 
“Just checking to see if you’re still breathing.” She sounded disappointed. Her face lingered as she studied my mouth. “Nice snore by the way.” 
“I wasn’t sleeping.”
I shoved the airline pillow between us, and pushed her off. Of all the things Morgen did to bother me, this creeped me out the most.
“If cats can steal a baby’s breath, imagine what I could do,” Morgen had once said. 
She was six.
I often wondered if my twin was trying to reabsorb me, ex utero.  
“Grab your backpack, Evan,” my sister drawled, “we’re here.”
I didn’t budge. I glanced at the happy faces flurrying about the cabin. They all had something to look forward to. Better yet, someone. I sighed and pushed up the window cover, but the layers of filth blotted out the view.
I cringed at the iconic cult nightmare waiting for me. Boarding the middle of the woods...with Morgen.
Double Ugh.
My story is the stuff that bad movies are made from. An exhumed plot from cinema’s graveyard had come knocking on Tom Aster’s door late last week, stealing away our father and sealing my fate. The orphaned-teenage-girl-attends-creepy-school-in-woods-movie-of-the-week, had quickly become my life.      

I almost cried. Almost. My tears still weighed heavy, stinging my insides, but I couldn’t let them trickle out. I wasn’t allowed to grieve like normal kids do when they’ve lost a parent. As my doctor had put it, feeling strong emotions are ‘inadvisable’ for me. 
I released myself from the faded blue seat. The stiff belt buckles clanked to either side, but I couldn’t move.
“Who’s picking us up?” I stalled, already knowing the answer.
“I told you,” Morgen snapped, annoyed. “Aunt Daphne will be waiting for us at the gate. We have the prerequisite family dinner before-”     
“Wait. Who’s Aunt Daphne again?” 
“Dad’s sister,” Morgen seethed. “We’re staying with her tonight. Then we go to Aldebaran.”  
Aldebaran. Aldebaran Academy. Our new home sounded more like a mid-century insane asylum than a progressive institute for academia. The online site for Aunt Daphne’s alma mater reeked of nouveau riche preppies from all corners of New England. Blond kids in cardigans were not what I had in mind for my thirteenth year of school. 
Most kids our age got to choose what to study during their transitional year. Engineering, politics, agriculture; whatever they could contribute to society, that’s what they would do. Our futures were all determined by our strengths. Mine would have been Astronomy, but after our dad died, guardianship was turned over to a Ms. Daphne Aster of Glastenbury Vermont. She got to call the shots now. 
Morgen took the news surprisingly well. Expectant, even.
I’d never heard of Aldebaran Academy. Or an Aunt Daphne, for that matter.
Three months. Three more months until I’m eighteen, and then I can do whatever the hell I want.
“Let’s go!” My twin snatched up the backpack, and plowed her way through the laggers, still struggling with the overhead.
“Dammit, Morgen.” I hopped up quickly to chase after her. “Sorry,” I mouthed, as I passed the indignant faces my sister just mowed down. 
Morgen stood at the end of the boarding bridge, twirling my bag by a loop at the top. She grinned and twisted the zipper, taunting me; threatening to reveal its secrets. 
My journal.
“Give me my bag.” I held out my hand.
Morgen barely shook her head. Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth twitched up at the corners.
My hand began to shake.  
Oh God, not here, not in the middle of a crowded airport.  
Morgen tilted her head, enjoying the show. “Careful sweetie. You don’t want to give yourself a nosebleed, do you?” She stepped forward and dangled the bag on one finger.
People claim to see a metaphorical red when they’re angry.  I saw blue; actual blue.
The blue flash zigzagged across my line of sight. I squeezed my eyes shut, trapping the light inside.
Don’t get mad, don’t get mad--
“What’s wrong sis? Should I get your inhaler?” Morgen tugged the zipper down an inch. 
I shook my head. “N-n-n--”
“No? Hm,” she teased. “Still...I wonder what Leeny’s hiding. Let’s have a look, shall we?”
“Sttt-stop it, Morgen,” I stuttered, fighting against the rush of adrenaline. Wouldn’t be long now. We both knew what was coming next.
“Sttt--sttt-,” Morgen pushed.  
I tightened my body, bracing for the inevitable.
Maybe no one will notice.
“Loony Leeny, she can’t cry. Loony Leeny don’t know why. Loony Leeny go bye-bye,” Morgen sang loudly in my face.
I clenched my fists. Bright halos of light burst into my peripheral vision. They swallowed my sight, replacing my eyes with two headlights. Electricity spread to my skin, sharpening the edges of my features. Bathed in an eerie blue light, my body creaked in objection. 
Distract yourself.
My eyes flew open and fled Morgen, searching for something that might take my mind elsewhere. Anything to calm down. They settled on a young man kissing his lover near the magazine snack/rack. His lips began to smolder and glow blue.
Oh crap, please don’t leave a mark. 
They quickly darted away, to a woman peddling roses from a beat-up satchel. The roses turned blue, and started to wilt.
Crap, crap, crap...
All the while, Morgen chanted, “Loony Leeny, Loony Leeny.”
I frantically scrambled my attention towards something I couldn’t hurt. Out of the giant window and onto the tarmac, the runway, the airplanes, all began to shimmer in a hot blue haze.
“No,” I gasped.
The mountains.
My gaze lifted to the shadowy outline of the distant Green Mountain Range. 
Focusing on the farthest peak, I slowly released the tension in my body. 
Too fast, and BOOM, I would detonate. 
The blue light burned as it passed through me. I winced at the sensation, at the hot chemical pain that seared another hole into my shirt. Not that clothes mattered. Things like fashion lost their meaning a long time ago. 
I sighed my relief when the blue cloud mushroomed off the distant peak and smothered the sun.
“That’s good, Leeny,” Morgen muttered over her shoulder. “Except for all the hikers you just barbecued. Nice work.” She snickered into my ear. “You really should control that temper of yours.”


  1. Hi Marie,

    Great stuff! This is such a cool world and I like what you’re bringing out.

    Nice 3rd paragraph – I like this intro into Evan’s personality. I love that feeling strong emotions inadvisable – both funny and a geat teaser! I like knowing that Evan was studying Astronomy, and I want to know what Morgen was so calm about giving up (and I want to know why in later chapters!).

    Even though I enjoy the tone of your opener, I feel like there’s a way to get more mileage from it. Instead of starting with scene setting, could you start with Evan’s emotions? You get down to the good bits a little later, but there’s no reason you couldn’t start with something as strong as “My story is the stuff bad movies are made from.” Also, POV note – Evan probably wouldn’t consider her time “the future,” but instead just her own present.

    The way the powers reveal happens, it seems like it starts focusing on really small things and then ends up on something really big by accident. I’d like to know if Evan NEEDS to find something big on which to release it; or if it surprises her (or Morgen) that she can cause THAT much damage. And because of the powers, I still really don’t buy that Evan would disingenuously ask for details she already knows, when the smartest course of action seems to be avoiding contact with Morgen as much as possible. With both of those things in mind, I’d like to see if you can clarify the stakes more. We know that Evan has a destructive superpower she can’t control. We don’t know how bad it’s been in the past, but we need at least a hint of that. The clues we’re given indicate that it hasn’t been that bad: she’s seen a doctor who didn’t decide she needed to live in an institution; and she’s traveling with no backup, just her evil sister, on a plane with no way to protect anybody from her powers. So, does that mean incinerating an entire mountain is something totally new, and if so, can we see Evan’s shock? Or, if it isn’t new, you have a great opportunity to up the stakes significantly. She could be terrified the entire plane ride, afraid she’ll lose control and break the plane. She could have some kind of ritual to calm herself down (maybe one the doctor gave her?). She should definitely have at least a hint of a plan for dealing with Morgen, who, it seems, lives to provoke her (and murder people by proxy).

    This is such a fun story. Looking forward to the next revision!

  2. Nice job of clearing up the confusion. The opening makes much more sense now, as far as the timeline goes.

    I think the opening could still be a little stronger. It would benefit the story if you drop a few more hints of Evan’s power, even if the reader doesn’t understand them in the moment. Once Evan “detonates”, these clues will bring the reader a feeling of satisfaction and make them want to keep reading, knowing that they can trust you, as the author, to give them answers.

    I’d still like a hint as to why Morgen is so evil or tone her back a bit more. It seems unrealistic to have her threaten the lives of the people at the airport, or her sister just to get a rise. Either give me a reason why she is like this or have her seem a touch more regretful for making Evan go off.

    Great changes, I can’t wait to read the next revision.

  3. I think this is going to be a very cool story. My only concern here is that I don't understand why Evan lets Morgen do all this stuff. If she has this power and Megen is such a brat, why not unleash the power on her? It's hard to relate to a MC that is very passive when someone is acting so bratty. She's almost 18 but to me, these sound like much younger children, like preteen. Otherwise, I'm interested to see more and where the story will go.

  4. The opening definitely feels cleaner to me. And I like how you've moved directly into Evan's inner thoughts. I immediately feel connected. As a reader, I can relate to her more easily. (Just a note: the thought about her tossing dirt on a few coffins kind of threw me, pulled me from reading.) Evan's voice is much clearer in this revision. My only comment on how that could be amped up even more is to give a little more of her 'insides' while Morgen is being such a brat. This could be an opportunity to share more details of Evan's world by showing through her inner reactions to her sister. To me, even though I had this fear of a special power that could blow up at any minute if I get too emotional, I'd be saying stuff to myself about my sister and how I'm going to get her later on.

    Also, a note on Morgen. She seems to be acting extremely juvenile. I get that she's a snoot, who has some sort of issue with her twin. But she just seems a bit too childish. I think through a few older gestures that sense could be squashed. You really have done a wonderful job with this revision. Looking forward to the next one!

  5. Hi Marie!

    I still love your opening, and love how you've woven Evan's father into this draft. This feels a lot more real, as well as the hints towards Evan's powers. Also the change to the Academy feels more real.

    I also noticed how Morgen taking the journal is one of the triggers for Evan's powers to come alive, but my only comment regarding this is - why is the journal so important? Why is she so worried that Morgen will take it? And why exactly would Morgen trigger her powers on purpose? Is it just because she's being a brat, or does she have an ulterior motive? Especially since she knows what Evan can do (which I'm assuming she does). Lot of questions, hope you can pull off the answer to some of them in the next revision (:

    Good work!

  6. Hi Marie,

    I agree that this version is easier to follow—great job tightening things up. My main global note is to focus on characterization. Morgen still doesn’t really make sense to me as a reader. Why would she taunt her sister with that “Looney Leeny” chant in a crowded airport? There’s really no way to redeem Morgen at all after such an action. And even if the goal is to have Morgen be a horrible monster, I don’t think you get maximum mileage out of revealing that on page one. I’d suggest you build her character, dole out a few hints that Morgen is the trigger for her sister’s anger.

    I’m also found myself distracted as I read, feeling the need for some more concrete specifics on Evan and her power. Has she always had it? Where did it come from, and why? Who is Tom Aster? Why doesn’t Morgen have a power? A few more specific hints would help me feel I know my way around this world right out of the gate.

    I also agree it’s jarring for her to call her own time “the future” or refer to living in a science fiction world. That sort of narrative or authorial intrusion would only really work if you shifted from first person central to a third person omniscient narrator. Always keep in mind who’s telling the story, and what their angle of vision is on the “world” of the story!