Saturday, March 4, 2017

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Park

Name: Silvia
Genre: MG Sci-Fi


It’s 2112, the Year of the Monkey. Fun fact: I was created on a monkey year. If I was a normal kid, that would make me twelve. Problem is, I’ve been twelve years old my whole life, which is a lot suckier than it sounds.

I asked Grandpa if he could make me a friend and he said no (ouch). He said it’s illegal and in the history of Xia and the rest of China, no child robot has ever been made. Except me.

But that’s cool. I’m good. I mean, who needs friends?

Truth is: I’m a superhero.


Today was Grandpa’s big day. Three hundred and forty-two humans were crammed on the white steps of the Xia Museum of Robotics for the Grand Opening. And as the new Museum Director, Grandpa bounced anxiously on the stage behind the red ribbon. The Mayor was supposed to arrive at 10 for the ribbon-cutting.

It was 10:15.

I was in position, of course. Equipped in full armor, gold and handsome under Xia’s cheerfully frying sun. I stood on the roof where I could scan everyone with my optics system, in case of bad guys, the usual. The sky was cloud-free blue, but it’s like that all year in Xia, China’s southmost island. Mo-B, a flying train shaped like a giant sperm whale, soared over the museum, crooning hello. I waved at the people in its belly, who waved back.

Today was going to be amazing.

“I’m dying,” Jun said, voice crackling inside my helmet. That’s my older brother down there, that big, buff guy with the undercut and crow tattoo on his neck. “How hot is it, Yoyo? Be straight with me.” Jun began unbuttoning his police uniform. “I’m about to fry on the spot.”

“Dude, it’s not that—oh wow, it’s 36°C. Okay.”

“Get your monkey butt down here.”

“I can’t. I’m in full armor.”

“Then de-armor yourself.”

I groaned. When I was first made, Jun was only ten, which automatically made me boss. But like all humans, Jun grew up. He’s twenty-three, so now he’s boss. And ever since he joined the Robot Control Squad (RCS, though Jun calls them the Ricks), he’s gone from Cool Bro to Crabby Bro to Perpetual Pebble in My Cogs.

I checked my energy level first. 100%. Awesome. Soon to be 99%, but whatever. I jumped off the roof like a majestic eagle, swooped into a palm tree, and dropped a coconut on a reporter.



The reporter squinted around, rubbing his head. I waited a bit before I slid down the bumpy trunk, straight into the bushes. Ta-da. I may be big and gold, but I can be stealthy too. Like a big, gold ninja.

Once I was safely hidden, I removed my armor. Don’t worry, nothing PG-13. The helmet went first: visor lifted, antennas retracted, and the helmet folded itself into the back of my skull. My golden plates flipped inside-out. Shoulder guards. Chest plate (Jun likes to say ‘breast’). Gauntlets. Gloves. Two meters of me, compressed into 1.56 meters of me. The real me. I’m compact.

I whistled as I skipped up the museum steps past the coconut reporter. To him, I was just another kid with a dumb bowl-haircut. A barricade of policeBots blocked the way to the top, but I flashed them my RCS badge, hidden under my yellow shirt.

I found Grandpa pacing behind the stage, probably calling someone about the Mayor. He was punching his palm a lot. As one of China’s most famous roboticists, Grandpa was top choice for Museum Director. People call him the Father of Zoobotics because he likes to build giraffes, emperor penguins, and anything else that went extinct in the last hundred years. He’s not so great with humans, though.

To be honest, I was also pretty worried. I know Mayor Yu and he is never, ever late.

I saluted Jun, who’d stripped down to a sleeveless black shirt and rolled-up trousers, showing off the wicked surgery scars on his neck and shoulders. “What seems to be the problem?”

Jun tossed me his Scopes. “Could you lend me your tail?”

“You called me all the way here to charge your battery?”

“I’m on Level 68 in Evil Cupcakes. Don’t leave me stranded in Marshmallow Mountains, soldier.”

I sighed, “Yessir.” I checked to see if the coast was clear, then pulled out my brass tail. Extractable, stored in my spine, with a socket at the tip. Most robots have standard black cords tucked in their sides, so they can connect and charge and stuff, but mine is a prehensile tail, which is a fancy way of saying “my tail can open the fridge and zap bad guys.”

I plugged myself into Jun’s Scopes, with a giggle. Charging a pair of Scopes shouldn’t dent my energy level too much. Scopes are wearable computers and they usually look like glasses or goggles. Jun’s are aviator sunglasses, very classy, while mine are embedded in my helmet. It’s got a nice AR (Augmented Reality) screen, so I can watch a movie while I’m flying! Isn’t that cool?

Technology is the best.

Jun’s Scopes lit up. “Di says she’s coming,” I read aloud her message, “‘right after my boss drops dead.’”

Di’s our sister. She works for a company called Imaginary Friends Inc., known for making “devastatingly beautiful” robots, whatever that means. Her dream is to make the perfect boyfriend. She calls it Operation Mr. Darcy.

“Tell her to get bubble tea,” Jun said. “I want taro.”

I texted about the bubble tea and asked Di to get Jun peppermint. My tail gave a twitch. I unplugged myself from Jun’s Scopes. “100% charged, free of charge.”

Jun switched his Scopes on with a dreamy sigh. “My hero.”

I whistled for a bit and checked the time. 10:28. Still no sign of the Mayor. I watched Jun kill a couple more cupcakes on his Scopes’ AR screen until I couldn’t stand it any longer. “So.” I cleared the static from my throat. “Do you know where the Mayor is?”


“Is he coming?”

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Jun said, tongue between his teeth, as he blasted a Red Velvet to crumbs. “He’s our most anti-robot mayor in years. Chief Wang said the guy wants to scrap the whole Superhero Initiative by June.”


“Booyah! Level 69. Eat that, no, I’m eating you!”

I poked Jun repeatedly with my tail because I'm kind of going Code Red here. “What do you mean he’s scrapping the Superhero Initiative?”

“Right, I forgot to tell you.” Jun put his hand on my shoulder. “Bad news, Yoyo. The Mayor’s getting rid of you.”


“I’m fired?”

“Kind of,” Jun said. “The Mayor wants you canned. Literally. He wants you recycled into a tin can.”

“I’m made of prolixium!”

“You’ll be an indestructible tin can,” Jun said, trying really hard not to laugh.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d served Xia for three years. That’s 1,096 days, including the leap year. That’s 26,304 hours. That’s 1,578,240 minutes. Okay, I exaggerate. Obviously, I didn’t protect Xia every minute, but I protected it for 80% of it! I don’t sleep because of night patrol. And because crime happens a lot when the sun goes down and I don’t need to sleep if I’m charging via moonlight.

But still! How could people be so ungrateful?

“This is the worst-case scenario,” I said. “Out of 389 existing worst-case scenarios.”


  1. Hello Sylvia. Your story here has the potential be be really great. I know right from the start that my 9yr old son would love this story. I read through a lot of what he likes and this is certainly the style that would hold high appeal.

    I am imagining that you are visualizing illustrations accompanying the text. With that style, this writing works well. Without illustrations, there are some holes. If you look at "The Terrible Two" there are a number of examples there where the text specifically refers to an image on the page and vice versa. The 3rd-4th-5th grade age group loves those stories, and I do too when they are well done (like Terrible Two).

    Because your structure differs a bit from a more text-only story my comments are bit more specific. The age of Yoyo comes up immediately and it's obvious he has been 'alive/activated' longer than twelve years even though he looks 12 years, but I'm calculating that he is actually about 13 years since activation. So, maybe it's just me, but I would like his 'age' stated moreso than wound in a riddle.

    The end of the first section "I'm a superhero' is a bit jarring to me. I like it up to that point and then feel thrown off a bit. He soon demonstrates that he is a sort of mechanical monkey superhero, so I'm not sure you need to have him say that right at the start.

    The really important detail that I took from this opener is that he is the Only Kid Robot. That seems like a major part of his character and perhaps your whole story.

    There are some great, fun, parts here such as when he drops the coconut and then later you refer to the coconut reporter. Charging the video game for his 'brother' and the brother's seeming indifference to Yoyo being decommissioned is also fun. At first I thought that having Jun be so caviler about Yoyo being turned into can was a bit off, but I now see a playful meanness to it that we see among siblings (maybe, if that is your ultimate intention).

    That last part with the can is actually more hysterical the more I look at it. There are certainly some places where you can tighten the writing and language, but I think this is a great concept and a really good start.


  2. Hi Silvia

    Wow! I thought this was great. Some really cool world-building and a fun concept of the one-and-only kid robot, who considers himself a superhero. Immediately, your reader is asking questions that will draw them deeper into your book: why is it illegal to make child robots? In which case, how come Yoyo got made?

    I love Yoyo’s voice. I think you keep with the POV pretty well and you world build organically for the most part. There were a couple of instances when Yoyo adds an explanation directly for the reader’s benefit (eg, “Scopes are wearable computers…”) that I think could be woven more smoothly into the story.

    One minor point: strangely, I accepted your robotic world of the future, but I balked at the idea of a coconut not killing someone when it dropped on his head! Could it be a small coconut? Could the guy be wearing a helmet? Great comedy value though. In fact, I really appreciated the subtle comedy throughout (eg, Jun asks for taro tea and Yoyo orders peppermint for him).

    I think you brought this to an exciting point in good time. We’ve got the mystery of the missing mayor overshadowed by the bombshell of Yoyo being melted into a tin – sorry, prolixium – can.

    Impressive beginning. I’m hooked.

    Best regards

  3. I'm a huge fan of SF and really love Yoyo. You've done so well with voice. Excellent job there. And I also appreciated the fact that we see the robotic elements of the personality while also feeling the humanity. That universal connection of fearing death and an uncertain future grabs us.

    I also assumed the coconut would kill the reporter and that would be the inciting incident that would get him canned, but alas, the reporter lived.

    It's interesting that Yoyo considers himself part of a family, but it made me sad already that Jun obviously has no attachment to Yoyo and that made me really, really not like Jun. I am hoping Di is more of an ally.

    I was also a little confused that he isn't supposed to show people his tail even though he's out in plain sight as the gold-armored robot. Maybe that's part of the mystery.

    Your writing is very well done. I don't have a lot of criticism except for this contest that only lets me read five pages! HAH!

  4. Hi Sylvia,
    This is so much fun! The voice and the set-up draw me in immediately creating a strong visual impression. It reminds me of when my kids were obsessed with One Piece (manga).

    Jun is very annoying, but relatable to gamers, down there in the heat, a "soldier" running down his batteries trying to keep his rating up, no doubt. I'm not yet sure if he's really as cold-hearted as he appears here. And grandpa with his giraffes and penguins and reputation for not being so good with humans is the perfect inventor/creator to cause more exciting havoc in the storyline.

    The humor and energy fits the age group for sure. Having no experience with your layout, I'm wondering how you imagine each little section - a series or storyboards? little chapters?

    Again, so fun!


  5. Hi Sylvia!

    Alright, I'm team Yoyo already.

    You've got a knack with world building, though some parts I had to pause and really try to picture - case and point the whale confused me for a brief second. Once the image got into my head I had this picture of a giant whale blocking out the sun for a moment. Great stuff there.

    The relationships is what really sold it for me, at least from Yoyo's perspective. I got the taste of a 12 - 13 year old mindset and language for sure. Jun, even if in his twenties, honestly kind of reminded me of some of my own friends at this age.

    Though I love the comedy, you did bring in some dark humor right at the end which made me both worry for Yoyo but laugh at the situation, horribly enough. Jun also got a bit of a question for me for his relationship - Yoyo seems to actually see Jun as a brother, but hearing him and how callous he was with Yoyo being canned made me question if that relationship was onesided or not.

    I'm looking forward to more Yoyo for sure now!


  6. Hi!

    There is so much going on here that I love. Fun world building, a great and likable MC, and I love the setting of futuristic China. I think I have some of the same concerns that Patrick raised about the gaps in the text (and whether this would have illustrations or not). I kind of wanted a real description of Yoyo. Because of the emphasis on monkey (someone calls him that too), and because he says he's a robot, I wasn't sure if we're talking funky futuristic robot or Westworld hyper-real robot. It's a little clearer later, when he says he would look like any bowl-cut boy.

    The other thing I think you could work on just a bit is overall tone and pacing. I LOVE the opening voice here, doesn't really do anything to set us in place. If anything, declaring these things (he's 12 but not really, he's a robot, he's a superhero) makes me clear about what's happening.

    The big thing in terms of pacing is that by the end, the Mayor wants him canned. This, for me, kind of came out of nowhere, because I didn't get any hint that the Mayor (who is coming for the opening) might be a problem. Maybe one way of making this more clear for the reader is to do a bit more to develop the moment of the opening:
    1- why is the opening a big deal? Is it just a new museum or is there more of a backstory to this and to his grandpa's involvement with it
    2- what "bad guys" are they expecting? It seems usual for him to act as security, but what is the usual risk (vs. the risk the mayor will pose by the end of the section)
    3- What is Yoyo's relationship to everyone else? I'm confused about Jun especially (who seems to think it's funny that Yoyo would be torn down??) But is Jun human? Or is he another robot? And if he's another robot, why is he now the older brother?

    Again, these might be things that pictures might clear up, but if you can clarify them without info-dump, I think it would really help to situate us more solidly in your world and clarify the bigger stakes (other than Yoyo being decommissioned)

  7. I liked the writing style and the writer’s voice. This was one of my favorites. I thought this was a very inventive storyline, and it reminded me of 80’s anime. This has an anime feel and anime is all about immersing us in an alternative world. I think you need to flesh out the world more for us to see it as this sort of story requires a bit more world building.

    I wanted more from the beginning. The I’M YOYO section was good, but it sounded more like something that should be the blurb on the back of the book. I think you need to expand and expound upon it. Even by the end I don’t have a clear image of what exactly the main character looks like. I have bits and pieces. There is a lot of telling us where we are in the story, but I think you need to have more description to go with it.

    I enjoyed the dialogue and the story, but the story did feel a bit rushed and choppy. You see the characters, but you don’t see the characters in the world. I need more descriptions. I think those five pages should be ten pages at least.

    Hope you find this helpful.