Sunday, March 12, 2017

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Constantine Rev 1

Name: Cal Constantine
Genre: Young Adult Science Fantasy
Title: Keeper's Source

“Chloe! Slow down!”

Nick couldn’t contain his laughter as his body pushed back into his seat. The growl of the engine and the wind through the cabin drowned his voice out as his sister floored it. She fixated on the road ahead, but Nick saw a smirk creep onto her face in response. Chloe’s long black hair tossed wildly in the draft, but she paid it no mind. Her dark eyes were locked on the road and she gripped the wheel with one hand, the other on the shifter.

“Hang on!” Chloe shouted.

He didn’t have time to react before the force pushed him back further into the seat. Cars and trucks blurred past them at dizzying speeds, Chloe weaving in and out of the lanes with narrow precision. He couldn’t control himself, letting out another peal of laughter as he held onto the door’s handle for dear life.

Nick didn’t care, he got what he wanted. He was fourteen today, and his sister made it home safely from her last active tour. He begged Chloe to let him drive her car when she got back; the car she restored with him.

She finally agreed, telling their parents they were going for a drive. Their permission, granted or not, fell on deaf ears as Nick dragged Chloe with him out the door, tearing off into the night, chasing the fast fading sun.

“When is it my turn?” He shouted, wincing as they passed a truck a little too close.

“On the way back! I’m going to turn you loose on back roads; less likely to get caught. But first!”

Chloe turned sharp and pulled off at an exit and turned onto a winding mountain pass. Nick watched as the city below faded away into a haze of gold-yellow lights and a tint of blue hue as twilight settled upon the valley. Chloe carefully guided the car from pavement to gravel, and then finally dirt. The car slowed to a crawl up the mountain as the path narrowed. One wrong move and they would tumble over the steep edge.

Reaching the top of the mountain, Chloe pulled into a deserted observation park. Brother and sister climbed out of the car, their laughter and slamming of doors interrupted the shrill chorus of cicadas. Nick hauled himself onto the hood as Chloe leaned against the bumper.

“We’ll head back in a little bit,” Chloe said as she looked up to heavens. “Want ya to see something and give you your last gift.”

“So you did actually get me something?” Nick laughed.

Chloe let out a snort of disbelief, shaking her head. She turned and tossed her keys to him.

Nick bolted upright, fumbling to catch them. He looked them over but realized there were only two: a small round one and a larger key with a star emblem.

Nick grinned, "Letting me drive isn't really a gift, Chlo."

“Shut up, Nicky. When you turn sixteen, the car is yours,” Chloe said, a wide smile growing across her face. “I asked Pappa, and he was cool with it.”

Her car? She had spent the last summer with him fixing it up, modifying it, making it hers.

“Are you for real? It’s mine?” He paused, giving his sister a doubtful stare, “Why?”

Chloe laughed at his untrusting gaze, nodding, “Yep, all yours. I may have a longer tour coming up, and well, I want you to have it. Better someone uses it than it sitting in a garage. After all, you know more--” Chloe stopped, the smile on her face quickly fading as she focused on something behind him. Nick tried to turn and look, distracted for only a moment as he tried to see what caught her attention.

“What are you looking--”

Chloe lashed out an arm and wrapped it around his neck. Pulling him towards her, she attacked the top of his head with her knuckles; rubbing them roughly against his scalp and thoroughly making a mess of his dark hair. He struggled for a minute before ducking out of her grasp. He wasn’t much shorter than Chloe, but she was faster. Transitioning from his round and childish features into a more stocky build from the sports he played made it much easier for her to get a grasp on him. What he did not have for speed, he certainly making up in strength against his sister. That didn’t faze Chloe or stop her from picking on him still.

She cackled, finishing her thought: “I was fourteen when this screamin’ little brat came into my life. Really ruined my gig as an only kid.”

Huffing under his breath as he tried to straighten his hair, Nick looked towards his sister and stuck his tongue out her. “Bull! You’re one to call me a brat, Cee-Cee.”

Chloe scrunched her nose at the nickname, but she reached out and gently ruffled his hair one more time.

Nick laughed, pulling his head away from her hand. His cheeks hurt from how wide of a smile he wore all day, but he didn’t care. A glint of silver caught his eye and he looked past his sister’s hand.

“Look!” He gasped, pointing towards the horizon.

The Sun had sunk into the ocean in the west, just beyond the twinkling lights of Los Angeles at their feet. The glow of the city obscured the stars, but silver streaks raced across the sky - from the sea to the mountains at their back. Chloe turned, watching as more streaks appeared, growing bigger as they cut the skies.

“We got here just in time,” she muttered, leaning back against the car, staring up. A grin crossed her face as the heavenly show began.

Soon, the entire sky was awash with shooting stars, glittering against the black depths of space. They stood in silence, watching, but Nick noticed that they were becoming darker, nearly invisible if not for the flicker of silver that followed them.

Chloe’s swearing caught his attention. She snagged the keys out of his hands.

“We’ve got to go.”

“What? Why? This is so cool!” Nick protested, looking up at the sky again.

“Nick, we need to go! NOW!”

There was an urgency in her voice that he didn’t recognize. Chloe grabbed him by the arm, pulling him off the hood and back around the car. Nick kept looking from her to the skies, not understanding why the meteor shower had suddenly spooked his sister.

Then he saw it. One of the streaks started as a tiny blur then grew exponentially before--

“Chloe!” He screamed, his voice cracking an octave higher. A meteor descended on them, illuminating the mountainside. Nick didn’t hear his sister as she pushed him to the ground, covering him with herself.

The sound deafened Nick. His ears rang as the meteor flew over them, crashing trees and cracking stone as it collided into the mountainside above. The ground shook and Nick clutched onto his sister’s arms, curling up under her. Stones and debris pelted them, the smell of smoke and hot metal burned his nostrils.

“You ok?” Chloe’s voice broke through the ringing. He looked up to see she was kneeling above him, alert, and looking off into the distance behind the car.

“W-what was that? Was that a meteo--” Nick tried to sit up, but Chloe’s hand pushed him down back into the gravel.

“Ramos!” A voice boomed around them; grating, deep and crackled like static over a radio. “Come out, traitor!”


  1. Hi Cal!

    Good job on your revision! Some of Nick's lines read as much more authentic for a young teen, like his suspicious "Why?" when he learns Chloe is giving her car to him. It's a perfect reaction, given that she'd just psyched him with a noogie.

    I liked how you cleaned up the backstory as well. I think you can take a further step and cut out "She finally agreed, telling their parents they were going for a drive. Their permission, granted or not, fell on deaf ears as Nick dragged Chloe with him out the door, tearing off into the night, chasing the fast fading sun." It slows down the beginning and it's not absolutely necessary since it's implied well enough that readers can fill in the gaps. With beginnings, you need to be as ruthless as possible regarding word count. Every sentence is crucial in capturing the reader's attention.

    Another quick suggestion: I'd try to pare down on the use of dialogue tags, like "shouted," "gasped," "muttered," "protested." A simple said works best because it's unobtrusive and we can focus on the dialogue.

    I'd also be consistent with the POV and stick to Nick's head. There are moments where the POV seems to draw back and see the two characters from overhead, like the description where Chloe gives Nick a noogie: "Transitioning from his round and childish features into a more stocky build from the sports he played made it much easier for her to get a grasp on him." Or the occasional slips into Chloe's POV: "Chloe laughed at his untrusting gaze, nodding."

    If you wish to write omniscient 3rd person, which freely hops between characters, then you need to establish an all-knowing narrator from the start, which can be rather difficult to pull off. It's better--and generally the norm in YA--to just stay with one character and go deep into his head.

    I really loved the ending. It's a great cliffhanger! Unexpected too, with the hints that Chloe is being treated as a traitor (I'm assuming Ramos is their last name). Once again, great job on the revision!

  2. Hi Cal

    I think your revisions are subtle, but work well. The brother-sister relationship still shines through.

    I see you've aged Nick up to 14 (and Chloe to 28). A couple of details read as a little younger for Nick (such as his sticking his tongue out and the narrative voice talking about Chloe 'picking on' Nick). And I wonder if she could be aged down a little, to early 20s?

    The mention of Chloe's 'active tour' and going on another tour... does this refer to military tours? I'm assuming so, though she could be a musician or travelling performer in a circus ;-) If it's military, maybe use the phrase "tour of duty" and when they are wrestling, perhaps point to her strength/physique as being that of a soldier? Of course, if this is of no relevance to the story, then ignore this. I am just feeling it's some kind of alien invasion and wondering if there might be a military response at some point.

    I agree a few dialogue tags could be removed, but I would say that you've done well with action beats in lots of places.

    The voice calling from the 'meteor' after it lands is a great twist. Scary and doom-laden. I actually read "Ramos" as being a reference to an Egyptian prince/god, rather than a Hispanic surname. It's funny what different interpretations a reader can bring to a line of text!

    best regards

  3. Hi Cal,
    That first car scene isn't so isolated now. I think that's a great improvement, and I don't feel like I've lost anything with the cut.

    You said in your comment back last time that some of the early chapters are set in current LA. Don't be afraid to mention place names, HOLLYWOOD sign, Observatory. Just a sprinkle could interest and ground some readers.

    Okay, so LA isn't the best place to see a meteor shower. People more often go up to observation points on dates and to see the city lights, which, as you mention obscure the stars significantly. If Nick grew up in LA, he'd know that, and he might be kind of amazed at the brilliance of the light show, foreshadowing that some of the lights aren't really meteors at all?

    A question about "Nick didn't hear his sister as she pushed him to the ground" - was she saying something? There are a lot of sounds at this point and I got a little confused wondering what he could and couldn't hear and if he wasn't hearing things that may be important. Obviously he hears the voice at the end, which is such a cliffhanger!

  4. Hi Cal. I read through this a few times and the one thing that hits me is that I can get through it quick, which is a good thing. I don't want to stop once I start and there are no major 'speed bumps' that throw off the flow of the story and the dialogue. So, overall, great job.

    I have a few suggestions and some specific details that I really liked and wanted to point out.

    At the very start, the yelling with exclamation points, is then followed by an indication that the character is laughing. Personally, I feel that it is one of the only instances in the whole section you have here, that allows for any real confusion. Shouting immediately seems out of anger or fear (at least to me), but here it is intended to be playful, as one might scream on a roller coaster. If you could follow with something like: "Slow down!" Nick shouted through bouts of uncontrollable laughter. Or something like that.??

    This time the phrase 'her last active tour' also stood out to me. I was once in the military and immediately took this as a tour of duty. But I'm not sure everyone would associate 'active tour' with army/marines etc. Maybe give a location? I guess because in fiction it could mean she just returned from her last active tour on the Polaris-9 station, which would completely change your perception of the character/world/and situation.

    I love a lot of your detail that I hope you keep, like "shrill of cicadias' and the 'doubtful stare'

    There is a good build of character and tension leading to the meteor shower and our final glimpse of what comes next. I would certainly want to keep reading and see what comes next.


  5. Hi Cal,

    Wow, fabulous revision! You set the stage beautifully, I can almost hear the cars whizzing past! Fabulous details. I also love the brother sister relationship, it really shines through! And the ending twist really grabbed me – I did not see that coming – and now I’m dying to know what happens next, so great job!

    One thing that took me out of the story was when Nick turns to see what Chloe is looking at, which ends up being a ruse. That deflated the suspense when there really was something alarming heading towards them, and also felt like a cheat. I’d suggest cutting that. Also, as suggested, I’d cut the part about his parents not giving permission for the ride. She’s 28, so it seems strange they’d say no, and either way it isn’t relevant to the story.

    As for voice, there’s a lot of laughing going on, but I don’t have a good sense of either character. If you cut some details we don’t need, you’ll have more room for more interior thoughts. How does Nick feel when she gives him the car? If Nick is going to be our main character (and it’s hard to tell, so I would focus on Nick if he is, as I suspect, the MC as this is YA), look for areas where you can insert his feelings and personality. No matter how riveting a story, readers go on a journey with a character, that is ultimately what keeps them invested.

    I hope this helped – and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next week!

  6. Cal,
    I thought you did a great job on the revisions. Nick's internal thoughts and dialogue really seem to fit his age now.
    One thing I would take a look at is how many exclamation points you have just within the five pages. There are some places where I think they are warranted like at the end when the meteor is falling. But I don’t think you need them at the very beginning because he is laughing. I am not a fan of a lot of exclamation marks because I feel that you should be able to tell the emotions happening within the dialogue by the words of the dialogue.

    I do think you can cut the part about getting parent’s permission. That seemed odd to me.

  7. Wow! Great job on the revision!!
    I love that you made Nick fourteen. This reads much truer to have him a bit older.

    Several folks have mentioned "tour" here and I admit that my first thought is that maybe she was a musician. Perhaps instead of using "last active tour" you might says "last tour of duty" for clarification.

    Also, There's one paragraph that I would like to see you work on a bit. The one that starts with: "Chloè lashed out an arm...Still.'
    I think instead of the head ruffling, you could utilize this chapter to drop a little sweetness and tension.
    For instance, you could have them share a longer, quiet moment. Maybe give us a bit of how Nick's worried about his sister leaving again for battle or whatever, and she could reassure him that she's "got this kiddo" or something along those lines.
    By doin that, it clarifies the "soldier" aspect, and makes more sense when we hear the "traitor comment".
    All in all, this is a HUGE improvement!!
    LOVE IT!