Sunday, October 11, 2015

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Bryan Revision 1

Name: Patrick J. Bryan
Genre: Middle Grade: Speculative Fiction/Adventure
Title: The Brothers Kincaid and the Quantum Crystal

A spark of blue light caught Nathan’s attention. It started small as it always did. The light flared and demanded his focus. He stopped walking; it became difficult to move when part of his world vanished. Everything but the light melted away and the sphere of dazzling color expanded before him like a supernova until it stopped and the world beyond came slowly into focus.

“Are you seeing it now,” asked Hank, Nathan’s younger brother.

Nathan tilted his head, his body rigid and his stare fixed. He stood at the edge of the dirt lot that was the Kincaid family backyard. Weeds of varying heights spotted the landscape. When they were flowering, they almost seemed pretty. Though Nathan wasn’t here to look at the weeds. He was staring far out into the treeless landscape. A wasteland was once a farm. Now there was nothing left for anyone to see.

“There’s something. It’s almost in focus.” Nathan remained frozen, spellbound, staring into what seemed empty space, but not to him.

“Are the ghosts back?” asked Hank. Nathan didn’t turn to look at him, he continued to lock his gaze somewhere toward the middle of the field.

“There are people now. At least I think they’re people,” Nathan replied.

“Nate?” Hank’s voice trailed off to a whisper. “When you see these other places, do you ever see mom?” Nathan dropped his head before he spoke. He tried not to snap at Hank. While he was nearly as tall as Nathan and acted fairly mature for a nine-year-old, he was after all just a kid. Nathan pictured tears welling up in his little brother’s eyes.

“I’ve told you Hank, they're not ghosts,” said Nathan with a hint of frustration.

“I know,” said Hank with an affirming nod. “I just wish one of us could see her again.” There was silence between the brothers as Nathan gazed through the tear in space hovering before him. Hank sniffled then pulled the sketch pad out of his pack and flopped down into the dirt.

“So these people, what are they doing?  Do you think they can see you? Tell me everything, I’m ready to sketch,” said Hank.

“You mean doodle,” said Nathan with a smile.

“Hey, my drawings are better than yours.” Hank playfully kicked up some dust in Nathan’s direction.

About twenty feet from where he stood a sphere of blue light cut through Nathan’s field of vision. It hovered just above the ground; a hole about as large as a movie screen. The edges were so bright he couldn’t look directly at them.  Then bit by bit people appeared in the center of this hole in space.

“It’s almost in focus now. When it’s all clear, I need you to help me with the spectral camera.”

“It’s here Nate but I don’t know if it’s gonna work,” said Hank. He pulled a jumbled mess of wires soldered to tiny circuit boards, harvested from old computers and digital cameras, from his pack. A massive camera lens stuck out from one side of the wiry bird nest.

“Just hand it to me when I tell you. Ok?”

Nathan let out a deep breath and tugged the ends of his blue scarf. It was once his mother’s. The three crescent moons embroidered at one end were part of story she used to read.  He remained transfixed on the specters in front of him.

“You know what this thing looks like Nate? I think if a computer and a telescope had a baby, and that baby had a dirty diaper, this is what the diaper would look like.”

Nathan swung an arm in Hank’s general direction.

“There, I can see it all now. Hand me the spectral camera.” Nathan set the nest of wires on his head and pulled the camera lens over one eye. He flipped a small red toggle switch on the side of the lens and a high pitched whirring sound radiated from the gadget.

Having these visions scared him. They scared him because sometimes he saw terrible images; creatures and nightmarish landscapes. But what scared him more was not knowing if he was sick, if he was insane, or if these visions were real. If he could capture an image he would know it was real. And if it was real he would know he wasn’t going nuts.

 “You better get out some colorful pens, Hank. These guys are like human sized birds with long cloaks. And I think they’re gardening.”

At first glance Nathan recoiled, unprepared to see the bare scaly legs that bent in the wrong direction.  The long robes of the birdmen obscured most of their features. Yet as they moved, flashes of a leg or arm became visible. Then a full arm stuck out from under the robe, an arm covered in short colorful feathers and oddly enough they wore straw hats as wide as umbrellas to screen their heads and faces.

“It’s weird. They have these cutting tools and are shaping tall bushes, like sculptures.  The shapes are amazing.”

“What kind of shapes? What are they for? Do any look like animals? I want them to make one that looks like a whale.” Hank screwed up his face for a moment then continued. “But not the ones with teeth, they seem mean. The ones with those big filters for catching shrimp.”

“You mean the baleen whales?” asked Nathan.

“Yeah, baleen. What a weird word. Are they making baleen whale shapes?”

“No. The sculptures curve and spiral, they point in weird directions. You know what they remind me of? Bowers. Do you remember that nature show we watched with the birds building fancy houses of sticks to attract their mates? They decorated them with colored flower petals, shells and trash. That’s what these guys could be. But sort of strange human-like alien birdmen instead of actual birds.”

“Cool,” said Hank as he scribbled feverishly in his vision journal. Whenever Nathan would let him in on what he saw during a vision, Hank would turn it into art and record the details Nathan would narrate. Today Nathan hoped to capture an image of his own, one that could prove he wasn’t crazy.

“You have to tell me more about the Bowerbird-men. All the particulars,” said Hank. He liked saying particulars and mimicked a British accent whenever he spoke the word.  Nathan fixated on the image that only he could see. His eyes darted around, tracking the activity. Hank watched Nathan and glanced to the empty field between scribbles, hoping for something interesting to appear.

“Whoa. There’s something new. Animals,” said Nathan.

“Animal sculptures?” asked Hank.

“No, these are actual animals. Their bodies are like tigers but they have pointed tails, pointed like spears. And they’re massive. Bigger than the Bowerbird-men. I’m not sure if they’re pets or guards. They seem different than the Bowers, darker, threatening.”

“I wish I could see them too,” said Hank.  Nathan’s face contorted.  His expression soured and he shut his eyes.  He slouched forward and shook his head from side to side.

“Why do you say that Hank? You know how everyone treats me. You don’t want that do you?”

Hank stopped drawing feathers and looked up at Nathan, then back to his book.

“No, I guess not. It just sounds so amazing sometimes and this place is, well, not.”

Nathan turned his attention back to the otherworld. He adjusted the camera and noticed the memory card was nearly full. The Bowerbird-men in the vision were working with a rhythm.  Their garden structures were separate, yet the men moved in synchrony, as if they were dancing.  Nathan imagined they were hearing music and trimming the shrubbery to the beat of a tune. Watching their movements, he could almost hear the rhythm of the song.


  1. Hi Patrick,

    Great revisions. I love the new addition of the spectral camera. Fantastic. And the description of it was right on. I could see it sitting on his head. Great!

    And now I understand more about Hank. 9 years old is the age I was thinking he was before, with the way he talks. But I love that you added more description and let us know he's mature for his age.

    I don't really have much to critique this time. Your first sentence is great. I love that whole first paragraph. The only thing I can think of is maybe shorten the first paragraph a smidgen. I felt like it had maybe a little too much description to start with. I love it, but maybe move that last sentence of the paragraph down after Hank says "Are you seeing it now". Just so it moves a little quicker. Otherwise, I think it's great!

  2. I love the Bower Bird Men and they way you describe them, doing their landscaping topiary shapes.

    Would Nathan be a little more surprised when he first sees them? I mean, I'm sure he's seen things before, it isn't his first time, but the reader needs a little more.

    Actually, I just scrolled back up and saw that Nathan is scared of the visions. He doesn't know if they're real or not or if he's going crazy. That's good.

    The spectral camera reminds me a little of the Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, but I don't think your story will be nowhere near as dark as that!

    I prefer this opening to your previous one.

    Good job, Bryan! I really like this.

  3. Hi Bryan,

    Love your beginning paragraph--nice work! It captured me right off the bat and I wanted to know what was happening/what he was seeing. You are really good at writing descriptions.

    I know we are not supposed to do line edits, so forgive me. “Are you seeing it now,” should be “Are you seeing it now?” with a question mark.

    This line was hard for me to picture and I had to read it a couple of times to try to envision it: “You know what this thing looks like Nate? I think if a computer and a telescope had a baby, and that baby had a dirty diaper, this is what the diaper would look like.”

    Also, for clarification, I think you could add something to this sentence: "You know how everyone treats me." Like give a sentence or two of examples or even a word like rudely or change it to "You know how everyone makes fun of me because of my visions." Or mention a bad nickname they call him.

    Great job! You are a really good writer.


  4. This opening is SO much better. Good job moving the dialog line from the first line to later. The opening lines now ground us in the setting, which is perfect. You've also done a good job of showing things like Nate's apprehension and Hank's talent & curiosity.

    The mom thing works better now, but it still nags at me a bit. Perhaps if the thread was more subtle, I'd have a better feeling about it. But that could just be personal preference.

    You did a great job by laying some breadcrumbs for us to follow, such as the scarf and the story mom used to tell. I have a feeling that'll lead to more, and I'd be curious enough to read on.

    There are still parts where the boys sound older than they are, but other than that, you've done a super job with this revision. Good job!

  5. Hi Patrick,

    Great revision! I like that this opening is more active. There’s less telling, less backstory.

    Some of it reads a bit rough, but I’m sure you’ll make it smoother with subsequent revisions. Reading out loud is always helpful for that, too.

    There are a few redundancies. “Affirming nod,” for instance. Also, “playfully kicked dust” (I think it comes across as playful without needing to be pointed out).

    I like the spectral camera. It seems like something they constructed themselves, which is fun, and I’d be interested to read on and see if it works.

    Nathan telling Hank “you know how they treat me” is a natural and organic way of getting this across that Nathan’s visions make him painfully different. Sometimes less is more, and I think this short mention creates interest for more details later on.

    Looking forward to next week’s draft!

  6. Hi Patrick!

    I really like what you've done with your revision. I like the fact that there's more action, and I'm able to get a better picture of exactly what's happening without losing any momentum.

    I love the paragraph where you describe how Nathan's visions scare him. I think that it makes him seem human and makes us sympathize with him, which is key for the opening paragraphs. I also like the addition of Hank saying that he wishes that he could see the creatures too and Nathan's reaction. It really gives the reader a sense that Nathan's ability to see these beings is more of a burden than a gift, which I think is really interesting and not what you would expect. It makes me wonder how people in the town treat Nathan, and whether they know about his gift, or whether they just think he's some kind of weirdo. I'd love to see some kind of anecdote here that shows us how Nathan might be ostracized from the rest of the town instead of just telling us.

    I also like the fact that you added more dialogue between the brothers. It gives me a better sense of their relationship and the roles they play with one another. It makes me want to see how their relationship evolves over the course of the story.

    Overall, I think you've done an excellent job with your revision and I can't wait to see the next round!