Sunday, November 1, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Christy C

Name: Christy C.
Genre: YA science fiction
Title: Seven Seas

The gun clicks and I smile.

Goosebumps cover my arms even though the temperature is always perfectly controlled at twenty-five degrees Celsius. I purse my lips, finding it difficult to keep the foolish grin off my face.

So much for acting like a professional.

“It’s oddly exhilarating, isn’t it,” my boss notes. Following protocol, Chloe takes the gun carefully with gloved fingers. The lid to its velvet-lined casing closes with a quiet hiss of air, locking automatically.

“It’s hard to believe five thousand years have passed since any of these items were seen by another human,” I say, disposing my used gloves in the bright orange burn box by my feet. I know I shouldn’t be smiling over what more likely than not was used to kill, but I push that disturbing thought out of my mind. It’s a lot easier dealing with ancient artifacts and not human remains.

Chloe punches in the security code and a row of glass cases descend under lab floor tiles for storage. I lean against a metal railing, watching as large panels glide smoothly back into place. “Don’t tell me you’ve got the entire pirate ship hidden under there too.” 

“We’re still receiving deliveries from the field team. I believe your fabled shuttle will be here by the end of next week,” Chloe says.

I laugh a bit at this. “My ship? Don’t you mean Callum Davis’ ship? I think he’d be turning in his grave if he heard me renaming his pride and joy the Dahlia.”

Until a few months ago, I was sure Callum Davis was nothing more than a fictional character made up by parents to scare little kids into behaving. All children in the Colonies have grown up hearing stories of the dastardly Captain Davis and his wicked band of pirates. I’d knocked over an entire mug of tea when researchers announced the discovery of Callum Davis’ fabled pirate ship. Unfortunately, my celebratory gesture resulted in a flooded central control panel, leading Chloe to install a force field repelling future liquids from what turned out to be extremely expensive equipment.

Good thing Chloe put that force field up because I nearly had another heart attack when she revealed our subgroup would be overseeing restorations on the Callum Davis shuttle. Every department in the museum has been scrambling around for months, trying to get involved on this high profile project. I suppose piecing together the tale of an enigmatic space pirate sounds much more exciting than examining the stomach contents of a person who’s been dead for 10,000 years.

Chloe glances up from her tablet. “Have you heard back about your fellowship application?”

I manage to smile despite the churning in my stomach that makes an appearance whenever I picture the two possible outcomes. “Not yet. The Board of Directors doesn’t meet for another month to discuss the grant.”

“Why do you sound so nervous? I think you have an excellent shot at it! If you continue putting forth your best work on this upcoming restoration project, the spot is basically yours.”

“Let’s not start celebrations too early Chloe. Wouldn’t want to jinx anything. Besides, there are at least a hundred other interns who are just as qualified.” I’m beyond thrilled to be among the interns nominated for the prestigious fellowship, but I’m also terrified I’ll be horribly disappointed when the results are revealed if I don’t see my name on the list.

Unlike the other ninety-nine applicants for the excavation grant, I’m not an archaeologist by training. Not even close! I’ve spent most of my high school career in an accelerated engineering program run by a local university. This amounts to long nights finishing lengthy problem sets, debugging confusing lines of computer code, and reviving crashed simulation programs. When Chloe showed up at my desk a few months ago, I was surprised to get an offer for an internship I hadn’t applied for, let alone knew existed. Working at a museum was so far off my radar, even Professional Asteroid Wrangler came in higher on my list of career goals.  

“I wouldn’t have nominated you if I didn’t think you would be a competitive candidate Lia,” Chloe reminds me. “For the next few weeks, the Dahlia is all yours. Shuttle logs and a list of known crewmembers have already been uploaded onto your tablet. Luckily, one of the pirates kept a pretty detailed journal while serving. Stepping into his shoes might help maintain historical accuracy when we start restorations.”

“Are there any photos of the crew?” I like giving people faces while I work. I often spend my time picturing their favorite colors, wondering if they preferred dogs or cats, night or day, coffee or tea.

“Photos? Not to my knowledge. But I’ve always pictured Callum Davis as a lanky blue eyed blonde with a slight bit of muscle,” Chloe muses. Do I detect a dreamy look in my boss’ eye?

“Well, that certainly contradicts with my image of a seven foot tall giant sporting a black scruffy beard.” 

Chloe clears her throat. “Anyways, I’m sure Grace on the third floor could help with identifications should the need arise.”

“Fantastic, I’ll ask her to compile existing images from Colony records when she gets back from vacation next week.”

“Unfortunately you’ll have to rely on your imagination for this project, as I’m not sure how thorough Committee records were back in the day. I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures sent in by the excavation group but that pirate ship is massive! The entire front is fashioned like a cobra head, black scales and all!” Chloe shuffles through files on her tablet, marking ones she’ll send me later.

“I’ll look through everything this weekend so we’ll be ready to start on Monday. We should get the larger pieces up and working for the Director to approve as soon as possible.” Making good progress on the project can only increase my chances of receiving the coveted training grant.

“My thoughts exactly,” Chloe agrees. “This find has attracted a lot of media attention. The museum wants an interactive display about the only known band of space pirates made public by the end of the year.”  

“Pirates in space. That must have been an exciting time to live through.” I help Chloe pack up the remaining items strewn across an otherwise spotless metal table. Has it really been five thousand years since humans were in the beginning stages of space colonization?

“Sounds to me like you were born five millennia too late Ms. Lia,” Chloe chuckles. “The crew of Callum Davis’ shuttle was famous for terrorizing our early emerging space Colonies. I think you would have found the sight of his ship landing at your doorstep more frightening than exciting.”

Maybe my definition of an epic adventure is far more skewed than I thought.

“Well everything looks to be in fantastic shape so far,” I note. We’ve had to come up with a lot more from a lot less on previous projects. 

“Oh, and a final word of caution. The guns you saw earlier should theoretically still function, but don’t worry too much. The excavation team removed all bullets before analysis.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. My mother would kill me if I showed up for dinner missing fingers.”

“Yes and I would probably get fired, if your mother didn’t get to me first.”


  1. Hi Christy--looking forward to working with you this month!

    Initial reaction: I don't even like science fiction and I'm disappointed I only get this much because HELLO! Who is Callum Davis and why was he, apparently, such a bad ass?

    I *loved* this. And it's totally not fair that we only get 5 pages because I want more. The voice of Lia was strong and confident. She was articulate. She's not afraid of a challenge. I loved the set up and for someone who doesn't read science fiction I wasn't lost at all. I could easily follow along. I'm hooked already. I want to hear more about Callum. I want to learn more about the pirate ship and what that was like 5000 years ago.

    So. Yeah. You hooked me! :)

    I read through this twice and the ONLY thing I could find was that I didn't know who was narrating the chapter until the end when Chloe says "Ms. Lia". I kept looking for a nugget of some sort to tell me if the narrator was male or female until that point. This could be easily solved (I think) by Chloe saying her name once at the beginning.

    Otherwise, I feel bad that this is all I could pick out for you. But gosh...I got pulled in and didn't want it to I think that speaks volumes. :)

    Nice job!

  2. Hey Christy!

    Thanks for allowing me to read your first five pages! You are a really good writer and your smooth writing kept me totally engaged. Here are a few of my thoughts:

    1. I was a little bit confused at first about where the two girls were in the beginning, but as I kept reading this became clear. I would have loved to have known that they were working in a museum right from the beginning, just to be grounded a bit more.

    2. I have no idea what temp 25 degrees Celcius is (haha), though I like the detail that it’s always at the same temp. Could you somehow let us know if that’s hot or cold? (Okay, after reading the entire excerpt, I realize the temp is irrelevant other than you’re letting the reader know that it stays the same because its preserving artifacts in a museum. Again, because this is a whole new world, I was confused in the beginning. My initial thought was that the MC was outside, and she was some type of assassin. It wasn’t until paragraph 9 that I realized she was doing “research”. I think if I knew the MC was working in a museum right from the beginning, this would clear it all up.)

    3. You are introducing the reader to a future world (which I am totally intrigued by, btw), so anything you can do to make new ideas clearer would help. For example, all these new terms - field team, central control panel, subgroup, fellowship application, excavation grant, etc. are great, but make sure you introduce these in a way that helps us understand what they are and what their purpose is. Just a few words to clarify would help. Ie. - “We’re still receiving deliveries from the field team. The crew of thirty and their excavation vehicles were sent out two days ago to gather all the pieces of the wreckage.” – I know that everyone knows what a “field team” is, but because this is a brand new world, everything your reader knows about common life is suddenly forgotten and reality becomes what you tell us it is. Does that make sense? If not, let me know and I’ll try to clarify more re. what parts sort of confused me or brought me out of the story a bit.

    4. Love how you slip her name in there in paragraph 8. Very clever. Great stuff!

    5. The Professional asteroid wrangler part confused me, but I think it was because it was capitalized. At first I thought it was a person, not a job. I like the job, helps create the “space” feel, but maybe if it wasn’t in caps, or if you introduced it as a job, it would make it clearer.

    Overall, and as I said in the beginning, your writing is on point! You are a totally awesome, naturally good writer. The idea is super cool and unique too! I wish I could read more. I’m wondering if it’s a sci-fi romance and if Mr. Blue-eyed Captain is going to be awakened at some point... (smiley face!) I think there are only a few minor changes that need to be made so we understand the world you are creating a bit more right from the beginning. The first few lines totally hooked me! Way to go there! It’s a great first five pages!

  3. I'm not mentoring First Fives this month due to writing deadlines but I just want to say this is a terrific entry--the kind that makes me wish this workshop were for the First Fifty pages ;)

  4. Christy~

    I love that first line! I was easily hooked and it’s evident from these first five pages that you’re a great writer. I’m really excited about your story now!

    For your fourth paragraph, maybe you could cite Chloe as Lia’s boss immediately? I just got a little confused there. Chloe takes the gun from Lia, right? I could do with some details of her holding it (and also why- was she examining it?) since the only indication we get that she might have been holding it was that the gun clicked.

    Meanwhile, Callum Davis and his story sounds entirely interesting. I want to know more about this space pirate! I like how you go on from there and then later on give more background about Lia and her high school career and internship. You could introduce the fact that she works at the museum earlier on though, by establishing the specific setting.

    You also mentioned how Lia found it hard to believe it’s been five thousand years twice which could be kind of repetitive. I think it makes more impact in the last few paragraphs. Mentioning the exact year the story is set in could help the reader realize how far off the future the book is too.

    I like Lia’s voice so far and I’m curious about her relationship with Chloe. Are they friends aside from being boss and intern? Do they always talk so comfortably and with ease?

    Seven Seas sounds like a kind of sci-fi novel that could interest even non sci-fi readers like me. Looking forward to reading again!

  5. Oh man. Christy. I love your writing, I love this set-up, I love your title, I want to read this book. Here are some nitpicks:

    Be ultra-super-careful about exposition overload. You do a great job of peppering details of the world throughout, but that makes it all the more jarring when we get a too-large dose of exposition in one sentence.

    Example: "even though the temperature is always perfectly controlled at twenty-five degrees Celsius." Here's my rule of thumb for myself: If you read it out loud and suddenly start to sound like a tour guide, you need to lighten the exposition. One suggestion: "Twenty-five degrees Celsius in here and goosebumps are still covering my arms." The fact that she knows exactly what temperature it is demonstrates that the space is climate controlled.

    When in doubt, assume your reader already knows everything about your universe. Drop details super-casually. (This is really tough! But you do it really well in other places here, so it's just a question of smoothing throughout.)

    Another moment of exposition overload: "It's hard to believe five thousand years have passed …" etc. Can you break this up, make it more conversational? Ex. {"Five thousand years." Chloe smiles. "Hard to believe, isn't it?" "And nobody saw these things in all that time. Not one human being. Crazy."}

    Other moments that stuck out: "The museum wants an interactive display about the only known band of space pirates…" Again: whenever you start to sound like a docent, dial it back, the way you have with so many other world-building details here.

    The only thing I think is really missing in these pages is a sense of where the story is headed. Is there a way to foreshadow the central conflict of the story in here somewhere? Ex. if the pirate ship is going to come to life and make her its captain (I have no idea what's going to happen in this book, so bear with me), maybe give her a moment where she wants to hold the gun again so much it scares her….etc. Something to create suspense - a question that really compels the reader to turn more pages.

    Other, smaller notes:

    Does the gun look antique by our standards? Maybe describe it more specifically? lacquered handle, ornate trigger, something like that? (I know nothing about guns.) Or maybe highlight how well or poorly it's been preserved?

    "Stomach churning" after "stomach contents" stuck out to me.

    Can you give Chloe a specific job title earlier in the pages? It'll help place us in this world a bit earlier. Also, you might want to put, "The Dahlia, after myself," just to make it crystal clear that that's the protagonist's name.

    I'm not getting much of a sense of physical surroundings here - or what Chloe and Lia look like right now. How are they dressed? What's Lia's impression of how Chloe puts herself together? (That'll give us a greater sense of their employer/employee dynamic, too.)

    Really stellar start (OMG I can not stop making puns today). :) Can't wait to see the next draft!

  6. Hi Christy,

    I am so excited to work with you during this month’s November 5pages group. Let’s help each other to make our pages shine!

    Okay, to start… “WOW!” Nice opening line. You really do a great job setting your MC’s personality and the mood of your story. (she seems enticed by danger and has a edgy personality at least that is what I am picturing.)

    Big Picture notes:

    Your premise is very alluring. Pirate ships. Future space colony. Antique guns! GIMME GIMME! Very interesting. I like the full idea of your story; that the MC is kind of an outsider, that was picked out from a mentor that has a eye to pluck out talent--from the norm or uncommon place. Also, your MC, though smart and interesting, she didn’t choose this line of work, but yet now that she is in it…she LOVES IT. And actually has a growing passion for it.

    I love the idea of the pirate ship that is being researched, which is not just any pirate ship, but it is THEE pirate ship of some really BAD-*SS pirate that kids hear about like the boogie man. And the hint of adventure that may occur by this excavated ship.

    But the overall..though the ingredients of the story is very exciting…I couldn’t find an inciting event or the problem/obstacle of your main character. I know she is waiting to get that slot for the fellowship but I don’t know if that is suspenseful enough. (because we kinda can foreshadow she will get a spot on that fellowship) Or maybe she isn’t...and she’s going to rebel and steal the Pirate ship!!!! heehee

    I think as of right now, she has a cool mentor boss and she has a cool job and she is a cool person but as a reader, it kind of left me feeling like okay it’s all very cool but I kinda want more. I think we need more angst. I want be your MC’s biggest cheerleader, pulling for her to WIN THAT FELLOWSHIP! So I am wondering…is there a dire reason she needs to get it? Will her new passion for a job, that she was thrown into not by her own finding, end if she doesn’t get the fellowship?

    I think your story has so many wonderful elements that make me want to read more. But I alsoI would love to know more of your MC’s obstacle that she is facing.

    SMALL picture:

    -I was a bit confused about the DAHLIA name. What is the significance of Dahlia?
    -Paragraph 4: in the sentences of … ‘Boss notes……chloe takes….’ I thought there was 3 characters in this scene until later on when I read “Chloe showed up at my desk…” Then I realized the boss and Chloe are one person. Easy fix to clarify ;D
    -Paragraph 9 &10: What do you think of distributing these thoughts more in the beginning within Chloe and Lia’s conversation?

    -Is there a way to mention Lia’s name earlier?
    -In the end I felt like I knew more about Chloe than Lia…

    I hope these notes helped and please contact me if there is any questions regarding any of my notes. And please use or discard anything you feel can or would not make your pages stronger. Thank you for sharing your lovely awesome SPACE PIRATE story!!! I can’t wait to read your revise! Thank you.

    Best regards,

  7. Hi Christy! I'm coming in just under the wire, but I'm here. Looking forward to reading. I'll type thoughts as I go...

    Okay, your writing is very engaging. I'm feeling all this mystery swirl around me as I read, and we have a Colony and pirates and artifacts and a gun that makes her smile... I'm totally being sucked in!

    As I'm sure it did with most of the readers your first line caught my attention. It really packs a punch and I love that! My only suggestions with these first few lines is that I found myself confused for a second about 'my boss notes. Following protocol, Chloe...' At first I thought you'd switched tenses, but then realizes Chloe is the boss. I'd just say that. And I'm also assuming it's Chloe who's holding the gun from the first line, so when you say she takes the gun she technically already has it in her hands. (Am I correct here? If I'm not scratch what I just said.)

    By the time I read about them receiving items from the field team I'm starting to think this is something about a museum or an archaeological dig, which is way cool! Of course then I read on and find out for sure that this piece is overloaded with historical info and mystery about this world-setting's past. I think adding in that info a bit sooner would add more intrigue - at least for me. :) Okay, no, I'm sure it would. Truly, I was drawn in my your opening, but it was within reading the middle section that I knew I just needed to read more. Expanding upon that will definitely up the ante here, but just be cautious of adding in too much expo. Think about which details are of the most 'reader-drawing' value. Use those here and then weave the rest in a little later.

    I am sooooooo looking forward to reading this again after your revision!

  8. Coming in a day later than I should (I got hit by a nasty bug this week) but ohmygosh do I love this! Futuristic archeology! I am here for that!

    I think the bones of these pages are very strong, there's just a bit of a problem with flow. There are parts that don't feel as smooth as they should, and I recommend reading it outloud to catch them.

    As far as the very start goes, it does get a little confusing for the first few lines, but I think that can probably be fixed by a little rearranging and a tad more information, like what kind of gun for instance. For example (and this is just an example)

    The gun clicks and I smile.

    “It’s oddly exhilarating, isn’t it?” my boss notes.

    I nod. The gun feels heavy and smooth in my hands (and then maybe a bit more of what kind of gun? Rifle, etc?) Goosebumps cover my arms even though the museum temperature is always perfectly controlled at twenty-five degrees Celsius. I purse my lips, finding it difficult to keep the foolish grin off my face.

    So much for acting like a professional.

    Something like this might help to let the reader know where we are and what's going on. I confess I also want to know what kind of gun space pirates used!

    I'm really looking forward to seeing your next revision. Good luck!