Sunday, November 8, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Christy Rev 1

Name: Christy C.
Genre: YA science fiction

The gun clicks and I smile. 

Pursing my lips does nothing to hide the foolish grin spilling over my face. So much for acting like a professional.

“It’s oddly exhilarating, isn’t it Lia,” my mentor Chloe notes.

The titanium pistol fits perfectly in my palm. Sleek, classy, dangerous. If it weren’t for the museum inventory number attached to the trigger, I would have thought Chloe swiped the gun off the set of a period drama.

“I’m losing a battle with goosebumps over here.” My body has forgotten it’s always 23.5 degrees Celsius in lab. 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 than it is dealing with human remains.

Following museum protocol, Chloe takes the gun with gloved fingers. The lid to its velvet-lined casing closes with a quiet hiss, locking automatically. A barcode directs Male_A077’s possessions to the correct shelving unit. “That’s the last of the containers belonging to our pirating friend.” 

“I’ll bet he never imagined the contents of his pockets would be so thoroughly analyzed,” I say, disposing used gloves in the bright orange burn box by my feet.

“Everything that belonged to someone has the potential to be significant. Even the castoffs.”

“Is castoff the polite term you archaeologists have for trash?” I’m sure I’d leave a great impression on a future scientist studying the 90th century if they found the half eaten granola bar in my purse. 

“Well, his trash is my treasure trove and source of income.”

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 the large panels glide smoothly back into place.

“Don’t tell me you’ve got the entire pirate ship hidden under there too Chloe.” 

“The archaeology team is still preparing shipments from the ongoing excavation, but I believe your fabled shuttle will be here next week.”

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.”

Naming the famous pirate shuttle after myself might be the most narcissistic thing I’ve done all year.

All children in the Colonies have grown up hearing tales of the dastardly Captain Davis and his wicked band of pirates. Until a few months ago, I was positive Callum Davis was a fictional character made up to scare little kids. I knocked over an entire mug of tea in disbelief when researchers announced the discovery of the space pirate’s fabled ship. Chloe had to install a force field at my desk to protect expensive equipment from future celebratory gestures. It still baffles me that engineers haven’t developed a guaranteed technique to waterproof computers.

Good thing Chloe put that force field up because I nearly had another heart attack when she revealed our lab would be overseeing restorations on the Callum Davis shuttle. Every museum department 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 training grant application?”

I manage to smile despite the fluttering in my chest that appears whenever I picture the two possible outcomes. “Not yet. The museum directors met this morning to decide who they’ll be interviewing, but no announcements have been sent.”

“Why do you sound so nervous? I think you have an excellent shot! The spot is basically yours if you put forth your best work on this upcoming restoration project. I already have a bottle of champagne with your name on it.” She raises her stylus in a toast. “To a future museum employee!”

“Let’s not start celebrations too early Chloe. Wouldn’t want to jinx anything. Besides, there are at least ninety other interns who are just as qualified.” I’m beyond thrilled to be nominated for the career development training grant, 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, I’m not an archaeologist by training. 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. The museum was so far off my radar, even working as a 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,” Chloe reminds me. “I’ve worked with many interns in the past and you are at the top of my list.”

“I learn from the best.”

“Complimenting the boss Ms. Lia? Good. That will get you far in life.”

“I’ve already spent the entire afternoon refreshing my inbox but I’ll let you know if I get any news tonight,” I say. The systems in lab are touchscreen to prevent dust accumulation, but there are plenty of traditional keyboards waiting at home for me to wear down. 

“Did you check your spam folder?” Chloe suggests. “I’ve had important documents end up in there.”

“Yes, but the only message in there was from a lonely Martian prince looking for companionship.”

“You are excited though, right?”

“About a rendezvous with a prince?” 

“No, not that. I’m still talking about the grant,” Chloe clarifies. “Earth, remember? You’re only one yes away. Even I’m excited! Promise you’ll take lots of pictures?”  

The fluttering returns, accompanied by an uncontrollable shiver. But it’s not the prospect of a permanent job that disrupts my motor functions at the mere mention of the grant.

“I’ll try, but I don’t know if personal cameras are allowed at the Callum Davis excavation site.” It’s probably monitored more strictly than a museum lab, considering its location.

“Then I’ll loan you a lab camera. We’ll say it’s research.”

Of all my coworkers, no one is more familiar with my lifelong obsession than Chloe. Of course, no one else has to sit at an adjoining desk for hours on end, and listen to me ramble about the various ways to earn a ticket back to Earth. No one else has to stare at a screensaver of the rotating marbled planet on my idle computer.

“If my ancestors could hear me now,” I grin. “They’d be scolding this ungrateful space girl. ‘Dahlia Yang-Lee, how dare you plan your return to Earth when we busted our butts to give you the perfect life up there!’”

“The perfect life where we live in constant danger of radiation exposure? We should be scolding them.”

Chloe packs up the remaining items strewn across an otherwise spotless metal table. I follow her lead. My colleagues keep such tidy lab benches, I feel obligated to keep my mess contained. A bot zooms into my personal bubble, vacuuming dirt from my mandated uniform. Rocking the unfashionable green jumpsuit is impossible when the only accessory available is an identification badge.


  1. Hey guys! I wasn't too happy with the ending, so worked on a it a bit more this morning! It's still a little rough and being ironed out, but would love to hear any thoughts you all may have on the initial editing:

    “No, not that. I’m still talking about the grant,” Chloe clarifies. “Earth, remember? You’re only one yes away. Promise you’ll take lots of pictures?”

    The fluttering returns, accompanied by an uncontrollable shiver. But it’s not the prospect of a permanent job that disrupts my motor functions at the mere mention of the grant.

    “I’ll try, but I don’t know if personal cameras are allowed at the Callum Davis excavation site.” It’s monitored more strictly than a museum lab, considering its location.

    “Then I’ll loan you a lab camera and we’ll call it research. I hope you’ll remember to be careful down there Lia. I want my best intern to return in one piece,” Chloe says, suddenly serious.

    “Who said anything about returning?” The screensaver of a rotating marbled planet on my idle computer is hypnotic. How can a planet so beautiful be so deadly?


    “I’m kidding Chloe.” Though, it would have taken a lot back in the day to convince me to trade the expanse of blue and green for a rigid life aboard the Colonies.

    “You know the statistics on Earth. I’ve heard you recite them for hours on end.”

    “One of the many perks of sitting sharing an adjoining desk with me,” I grin. “If my ancestors could hear me now…”

    “They’d be reminding you to pack your personal protective equipment.”

    “While scolding me for being an ungrateful space girl. ‘Dahlia Yang-Lee, how dare you plan your return to Earth when we busted our butts to give you the perfect life up there!’”

    “The perfect life where we live at constant risk of radiation exposure. Maybe we should be scolding them.”

  2. This is fantastic, Christy! I'm sitting here goggling - not just at the result itself, but at your commitment to revision. Meaning: REALLY revising the crap out of something that was already good to begin with. This is a very, very, very, very (x1m) good skill for an author to have. SO - to the draft.

    Really great peppering of exposition, rolling out the world organically around the scene at hand. I got a much better sense of where they were physically - although I think you can add more details about the space around them. Is the lab a small room? What's the general layout? Gray tone, brightly lit or shadowy, metallic or plush? You're creating a future world, so readers are really going to want to know what it looks like/feels like, etc., not just the facts defining it.

    I like your facts, though - especially the sense of humor you have with them. I do wonder about a few things, though, that took me out of the reality of it a little. Ex. would they still call it an inbox/spam folder? I think you can still have that joke about the Martian prince spam with some variation on the words that points to the different setting.

    There were a couple of sections that I had to read a few times because they didn't quite flow as well as the rest. One was the paragraph that begins, "Unlike the other ninety-nine applicants..." I think it starts to feel a little dry there, a little "let's get this information out of the way." You can probably fix it by slowing it down, giving all that info a little room to breathe, along with a little more Dahlia-voice. Reading it, I wondered what her background was - whether she came from a privileged or poor background, what drove her to be in such an ambitious high school program in the first place. This is the place to hint at that, even if you don't give a complete bio. I think those personal details might be even a smidge more important than the exact route she took to get to her current position. I know this is vague (sorry!) but see what you can do to make it a little less dry?

    Likewise, there are a few sentences that feel redundant or like unnecessary digressions. This is SUPER NITPICKY (alert!), but these pages are so tight that, to me, they stick out. Personally, I don't think you need, "Pursing my lips does nothing to hide the foolish grin spilling over my face." See how it reads to you with, "So much for acting like a professional" right there in the top paragraph. This one stuck out as a change of subject, "It’s a lot easier dealing with ancient artifacts than it is dealing with human remains." Could this go later, when you talk about everyone clamoring for pirate ship duty?

    I'd love to see you plant the idea of Earth a little sooner. (But great job building suspense and upping the stakes with the mention of it!) A good place for a teaser might be after the "I was positive Callum Davis was a fictional character" paragraph. Something about getting chills just thinking about where he came from, etc., without yet spelling out that it's Earth? That way you've got intrigue building already.

    I'm really honing down on structural details here, though, Christy. These pages are great and I'm dying to read more of the story! Well done.

  3. I feel bad saying, "Yeah. What Jenn said," because she took the few words I had, right out of my mouth! ha!

    When I read the first round of this, I had a clear picture in my head of what this museum/office/etc. looked like. I know that you got feedback saying to give more--and like a CHAMP you did. And to be honest? The picture in my head hasn't changed, even with the additional detail, so I think that's kinda cool that I wasn't far off base.

    I did have the same question about the Spam folder. I'm not that great with science fiction, so I asked my husband--the resident sci-fi nerd in our house--and he said, "Yeah, it would probably still be spam." So, I'm not much help on a different word choice, or if you need a new word at all.

    Not being a Sci-Fi reader, I didn't even THINK about the fact we could be somewhere else. I mean, we've got Callum Davis and his pirate ship exploring the universe and stuff, but I just assumed we were on Earth! So, to hear we weren't was surprising. You might have a way to tie it in, especially with the temperature being in Celsius.

    Overall, though, I loved the added details into these pages. Both endings, the one posted, and the one you listed here in the comments are good, but I think I like the one in the comments a little better (its a toss up, really...I could go either way).

    Nice work!! :)

  4. Hi Christy!

    Here are my thoughts as I read through your second draft:

    I still TOTALLY love that first line!

    The opening is so much clearer and stronger in this version. I know who’s who, where they are, and what they’re doing. And every sentence is packed with info, which is so hard to do. You’ve done this expertly here! I especially love the 90th century line. Totally clever way to give us more background without info dumping. Yay!!

    I don’t know if I said this before, but your writing is smooth, easy to read, and logical in it’s flow. Because of this, I don’t have many suggestions.

    The couple things I would look at:

    1. Perhaps introduce the idea that they live in space earlier. It wasn’t until the last few paragraphs (which would be about page four or five in a book) that I knew they weren’t on earth. Because they’re at a museum I just assumed they were on earth.

    2. I’ve heard that conflict needs to be introduced, or at least felt, in the first one or two pages of a book. I’m still not really sure what the conflict is, other than her desire to return to earth, but even that is introduced to us late. If you could introduce or hint to us what problems or struggles might lie ahead, I think your first few pages would really punch!

    Nice job! You’re a great writer!


    SOOOOO GOOOOOOD! I agree with everyone above! So I left out some redundant thoughts and will write only what I don’t think anyone has brought up yet from my notes as I read…but these are going into the small nit picky stuff… ;D

    - I love the new added descriptions of the gun: just a quick note…titanium is a very extremely hard metal to work with…so guns in titanium are very rare even today and highly expensive…but the feature of titanium’s major benefit is the extreme light weight…wondering if that is a feature she would speak about?

    -Paragraph 5: you may like to do another pass on the sentence… “I shouldn’t be smiling over what more likely than not was used to kill, but I push it out of my mind….”

    -In the part where Chloe starts to tease: your shuttle will be here…Then Lia begins to say: My shuttle? Don’t you mean Callum Davis’ ship? Then in the nest line Lia claims the most narcissistic thing she has done all year long is to rename the ship after herself “Dahlia”

    This seemed a bit confusing to me for she questions Chloe for saying what she admits she has done… I think just to clarify either she denies it and is Chloe, knowing Lia’s obsession with the ship taunts her calling it the Dahlia and secretly Lia doesn’t totally hate it or she commits to it and claims it as her Dahlia and let Davis roll in his grave but now it’s all hers… just a thought…

    -This is just something veeeeery small…but when I was reading Paragraph 17: examining the contents of a person who’s been dead for ten thousand years. This kind of made me think I read it already… then I looked up more at the beginning and saw on Paragraph 5 you had wrote was better than..human remains…

    For some reason because I liked that description so much when I got to the second one I guess my readers mind picked up as a redundant thought… I really like them both but I would maybe think about switching one out and keeping whichever you think is the stronger description or more impactful either in paragraph 5 or 17.

    -Another question that popped up in my head was … shouldn’t Chloe as Lia’s mentor know what security and strict protocol that would be expected if Lia goes to earth? I thought is odd for Lia to educate Chloe on personal camera rules… What do you think of maybe just Chloe giving her the orders of “official research” …

    -OMG!!!! Christy the ending in your comment was awesome! I thought how great your new revise was and then I read your comment ending and it was even better! You are a very talented writer!!! So good! Soooo good! I need to see this hot Pirate by the way! ;D

    Hope my comments are helpful and thanks again for sharing!!!!


  6. Hi Christy!

    One thing I didn't remember during the first round is how appropriate the title is after reading the piece. I keep wondering how it will fit into the overall story. I really love that! Okay, to this version...

    Still sooooo LUV your opening line! And as much as I loved the original opening few the way you've presented the first four lines is awesome! I hear tone, snark, tease, mystery, and on and on. Bravo! Despite not knowing this is all related to museum inventory, I'm grounded into the story. Nicely done.

    I like how clearly you've created the opening action between characters. I believe it was well done last time, but this really, really clear. I hope you don't change this part. I like it and want to read on.

    Great line! “Well, his trash is my treasure trove and source of income.” Also, your introduction to Callum Davis and his pirates is much smoother. It flows nicely.

    One thing I couldn't help but wonder as I was reading the second half was why is getting this training spot so important to Dahlia? Yes we now know about her obsession over Callum, but is there more? Is it simply the history of it all or could there be a deeper reason? And I feel as though some sort of 'space living' should be mentioned before the asteroid comment. If a reader hasn't realized they're in space it might throw them off. I really like the ending you've left in the comments. It's more personal, deeper between the two of them.

    Lastly, the one thing that struck me during this revision is a lack (slight) of physical grounding in the setting. You've done a great job creating and setting up a situation and what's probable to come through dialog. But I can't see a lot of it. You could color the scene with a few details by using other senses. I also would love to know a little more about this training grant if she gets it. What are the possibilities for her other than being part of this dig? What could she see there, feel there, hear there, etc...

    Thank you for sharing your work with us again! I hope this has help even a little.

  7. Christy~

    I really have to agree with Jenn, your initial five pages were already great but it shone even better with the revisions you made here!

    Here are my thoughts as I read through:

    - I feel like the line “It’s oddly exhilarating…” read better without Chloe saying Lia’s name, like in last week’s version. I know the goal is to introduce Lia earlier but if you could somehow manage to do that in another paragraph but still early enough, that would be great!
    - Is the barcode an important bit or a detail you really wanted to show? If not, I think it might be a good idea to focus on establishing your world-building.
    - I love reading about Chloe and Lia’s dynamic! THE BANTER! It easily shows how comfortable they are with each other. Well-done!!!
    - Got a little thrown off when Chloe called Lia ‘Ms.Lia’ though. It seems like it should be the other way around instead since she’s the boss.
    - The new ending definitely sounds better! I love this line: ‘How can a planet so beautiful be so deadly?’
    - The little bit about leaving a half-eaten granola bar for scientists studying the 90th century is AWESOME. Gives a hint about both Lia’s character and her current world.
    - Now that you’ve perfectly established that the setting is in the 90th century, I wondered about whether it would be realistic to still have traditional keyboards for Lia to use at home. Touch screens (maybe even holograms?) would seem more appropriate in the next few thousand years where surely technology is far off from where it is now.
    - Loved your descriptions in the first few paragraphs. I think the last few ones could use some background/sensory details like those.

    Can’t wait to read your final revision next week! Keep up the fab work!

  8. I have to echo everyone else! Awesome revision. *thumbs up*

    My biggest quibbles are, like SA said, the lack of physical grounding in the scene. Sometimes it feels like a bit like talking heads, which makes it harder for me to really dial in to your story. I want to know more about how this world smells and feels, what it sounds like and how these two people move around in it.

    (Also because you are so dialogue heavy, I really encourage you to keep reading each revision out loud to catch any rough spots or awkward phrasing.)

    Great job, and I can't wait to see the final version!