Sunday, May 14, 2017

1st 5 Mages May Workshop - Stryker Rev 1

Name: Elisa Stryker
Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy
Title: IMMUNITY HUNTER

I’ve followed this guy through these deserted streets for a mile—at least it feels that way. His face has been glued to that phone this entire time. This will be an easy hunt. Forget sneaking. Short of yelling his name, he's not going to notice me.

A cool wind blows between the buildings of downtown, swirling my hair around my head. Everything is silent, dark, and still. I take a slow, deep breath and hold it. A hint of regret crosses my heart, but I erase it. Regret will make me lose focus, I can't afford that. Instinctively, I release the air from my lungs, jog up behind him, and jab the spikes of my brass-knuckle-shaped stun gun into his ribs, the power up as high as it'll go. His phone drops to the ground as his body stiffens. Now he knows I'm here.

A swift kick into the jagged-brick wall and he's knocked out cold. Hopefully, the impact of his head slamming into the concrete doesn't kill him. The Organization needs him alive, and I refuse to let someone die by my hands. He's still breathing—for now.

“Idiot. Pay attention to where you're going,” I say.

The distant rumble of a truck engine gets closer and a few blocks in front of me headlights turn onto the street. Using both hands and every ounce of my strength, I grab my prey by the foot and drag his limp body into the alley next to us before we are spotted. This mission would go a lot smoother if my bra strap wasn’t cutting into my skin. I sit on the dirt-covered concrete beside him, stun gun at the ready in case he wakes up.

Not bad for a girl, I think, praising myself.

I take my phone from my backpack and lean against a stack of water-stained crates. I then dial the three-digit code for The Organization's extraction team. As I wait, I stare up at a metal fire escape trying to convince myself that of all this is for the better. All these hunts are starting to wear me down, but I can't stop now. The antidote is more important than my mental state of mind. The pungent smell of rotting garbage drags me back to reality. At least it covers the constant stench of rotting flesh from the Konadai outside the wall.

Right on schedule, the extraction team shows up in an ambulance to collect the immune. Two men, dressed as paramedics, climb out of the front seat and rush over to me and the unconscious guy. They grab the target, lift him onto a gurney and wheel him into the back of the ambulance. Neither of them pays me any attention. Within seconds, they're gone. Another name crossed out of my notebook and The Organization is one step closer to finding a stronger antidote to the Konadai virus. They better be happy. I've been doing this for two years and they always seem to need more donors.

“Good job, Sasame.”

I spin around to see an Insider—one of The Organization’s spies—standing behind me.

“I know, thank you,” I respond with a side grin.

There's no need for her to watch me tonight. I did my job. I remove my backpack, unzipping it to put my stun gun inside. She vanishes before I look up. Freaking snitch. They’re supposed to watch all Hunters, but I seem to be their favorite at the moment.

I sling the backpack over my shoulder and walk out of the alley. Tonight's mission was even easier than I expected. As I walk home, my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attention tomorrow afternoon. Lynn—my foster mother—thinks it’s a good way to help me blend in more with normal people. Just because she raised me these last few years doesn’t give her the right to change who I’ve become.

It takes a while to get back to my townhouse, but the quiet walk makes up for it. Being alone with my thoughts can be scary, tonight it’s sort of peaceful in a way. As I enter the front door, I’m greeted by cheerful Lynn. Without speaking to her, I jog up the stairs to my bedroom. Why is she so happy? My missions aren’t a jolly fun time. If it wasn’t for my training, I would’ve broken down a long time ago.

I push open my bedroom door, throw my backpack down, and kick off my sneakers. Within seconds I’m out of my street clothes and into a soft, long t-shirt. My tired body slumps onto my plush bed. I lay there, still and silent, lost in my thoughts.

It's only another mission, I tell myself as I try to sleep. It’s not a mission but calling it that works better in my head. I stare at the ceiling fan spinning on low. There really isn't a need for the fan as the air is cool for late summer, but normally its sound comforts me. Tonight is different. The blades of the fan turn to knives. Blood rains down on my face and the screams of my victims pierce my ears. My eyes shut and then open again. No blood or sharp blades, only the whirl of the fan. Tomorrow is just another mission.

The sound of Lynn talking to her husband, Brock, pierce through my wall from the hallway bathroom. They’re in the research division of The Organization which basically means they have enough time between filing test results to raise a teenager.

“I pulled some strings and got the perfect mission for Sasame,” Lynn says over the sound of water running in the sink. “She's going to Summer Fest to meet kids her age for some much-needed interaction.”

Lynn's squeaky, high-pitched voice is like nails on a chalkboard. It sounds like she has had the same cold for years.

“Your mission sounds more like a scheme,” Brock says. He's right; this is a scheme. I'm seventeen, not twelve. I don't need to make friends. Besides, the people in this city don't need to know who I am. My job works better when I spy on a smaller group instead of trying to mingle with serval thousand.

Ever since my parents died, The Organization was kind enough to give me replacements. They wanted a reason to make sure I did my job by giving me something I miss the most. Not that I need them, I can take care of myself. They’ll never replace my real parents.

Since I doubt I'll get to sleep anytime soon, I toss the purple, diamond-patterned comforter to the other side of my bed and walk to my laptop on the desk. The bright screen burns my eyes but I power through it. I have no idea what I'm searching for, maybe a way to avoid this so-called “mission” to go to the festival. I check my email hoping some new names came through for me to hunt. Nothing. I click on my calendar checking for any other event with fewer people. Nope.

Nothing comes up in my mindless internet surfing. I slam my laptop shut, climb into bed, and throw the covers over my head.

The walls are so thin in this townhouse; I'm surprised they've never heard me scream into my pillow at night from the nightmares of my missions. Tonight, I put the pillow over my face to block out the sound of them talking.

12 comments:

  1. I liked reading this again, and find the story line with her people capturing missions and the need to make friends could make for a good read. The beginning starts out with some action. Awesome. But still, it then falls flat for me. She goes home, finds out about the festival. Nothing much happens. I would be curious to see what’s going on in chapter three to see if there is anything you could pull from that. Or perhaps, starting with her at the festival, and getting a call to do a mission that she has to keep secret? Just a suggestion.

    Here are a few things I noted while reading.

    A swift kick into the jagged-brick wall and he's knocked out cold. – This line makes it sound like the main character kicked the wall and not a person. Also, ‘jagged brick’ should not be hyphenated.

    Hopefully, the impact of his head slamming into the concrete doesn't kill him. – The word ‘hopefully’ gives me the impression that the main character doesn’t care if the kick into the wall kills the person. However, you contradict this with ‘I refuse to let someone die by my hand.’ So why slam his head into concrete in the first place?

    At least it covers the constant stench of rotting flesh from the Konadai outside the wall. – I like this line as it shows me there is something bigger going on, which could go wrong—big time.

    As I walk home, my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attention tomorrow afternoon. – I’m not sure what this line means?

    “I pulled some strings and got the perfect mission for Sasame,” Lynn says – If the word ‘mission’ is just what Sasame calls when she captures people, then I wouldn’t use it here as it’s confusing.

    At the end of this 1250 words, you have her search the internet and come up with nothing. So, I question whether it’s even worth including?

    Thanks. Hope my comments help.
    Catherine

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    1. Thanks for the comments. She doesn't want to kill him and she doesn't want to be directly responsible for his death. In fact, she never actually killed anyone (her agency does that). I'll try to find another word to use instead of "Hopefully".

      Also, in chapter 3, it switches to another POV: a boy named Konan that she meets at the festival and goes through his arc. In chapter 2, she wanders outside the wall and is attacked by Konadai. So there's not much to pull from.

      Anyway, I'll figure out something. Thanks

      Delete
  2. This first scene flows better than it did in the previous draft. I’m definitely interested in the world Sasame lives in, and how it got into that state. I do care about her as a character, and I want to see what happens to her next.

    Sasame seems compassionate (regret), callous (thinking about bra strap discomfort while bashing in someone’s head) and ruthless (the bashing in the head thing) all within the first few paragraphs. It’s a bit much to process. It seems ok to have a MC that is inconsistent or internally conflicted, but I feel like it would be better to introduce her more one-dimensionally, then learn she has a darker (or lighter) side as the story unfolds.

    She slams the laptop shut and stops the mindless internet surfing. What I think you mean is that she frustratingly gives up on trying to find a compelling alternative to the festival. It seems like you could say that a little more clearly.

    “Freaking snitch.” – Is Sasame doing something wrong? Are they really checking up on her more than the others, or is she being paranoid? If Sasame is up to something the Organization would not condone this seems like an opportunity to foreshadow that she’s risking getting herself in trouble.

    Zack

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    1. Thank you :)

      She isn't doing anything wrong, she just hates having a shadow over her watching her every move. She calls them snitches because they go back and report every little detail, good or bad. She'd rather them leave her alone.

      Delete
  3. Elisa,
    Nice revision. I could live without the bra strap comment. I found this sentence confusing, "As I walk home, my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attention tomorrow afternoon. " Did you mean attend?
    You establish in the second paragraph that Sasame has regret over the missions, then you say they aren't missions, later you say it is her job. That's confusing. If it is a job and she doesn't like it she can quit. I believe this is a position she can't quit-but why? Having it be "missions" is fine, maybe she can call it her "duty" to help find the cure and that makes her feel better about it. I don't know, but if it is mandatory that she hunts, maybe give a hint to that and why.
    Great revision, read much better than first and I would have kept reading if there was more.
    Julie

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    1. Thanks Julie, the bra strap comment was there so people would know she's a girl without me just saying "I'm a girl".

      Oh and yes, that's suppose to be "attend" not "attention". My bad.

      Well the missions ARE her job...or duty I guess. She's an agent of The Organization and she has to follow orders just like a soldier has to follow orders. She can't just leave or put in a two-week notice. And right now, she doesn't want to leave so I didn't bother having her say why she can't leave.

      Either way, I'll work on it some more. Thanks

      Delete
  4. I actually loved the bra strap comment. It felt real to me. I don't know how many times I've thought, "If I could just do this without my damn bra on..." I also felt like there was something innately feminist in its inclusion. Like, Yes, I'm a girl, deal with it.

    This is a good revision. The pacing is much better. I still want more description, though. More more more! I want to see every inch of that alleyway. You tell us that the alley is dark, cold, still, and has buildings, all of which we could have guessed. What's unusual about it? What's interesting?

    I also think you need a stronger opening line. Okay, so she's been following him. It isn't unusual enough to grab my attention and it doesn't have enough inherent conflict to create tension. How about, "The second this guy got off his phone, I was going to knock him unconscious"? Or something along those lines. Something that makes your reader say, "Whoa!"

    Here's the issue with the scene where Sasame goes home: there's no conflict. She's just listening to people talk, and yeah, she isn't thrilled with what they're saying, but she's completely passive about it. This girl is a fighter, and if she doesn't want to go to summer camp, I think she's going to say that to her foster mom's face. Let them fight! Sasame has to lose, of course, and you'll have to figure out why, but if the scene ends with her being forced to go to camp when she doesn't want to, that's much more exciting than her going to sleep.

    I'm really interested to read more of this piece. I think it's coming along beautiful. Good work!

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    1. Thank you so much! May I say my bra is currently irritating me as I type this lol.

      I like your suggestion of opening with something that says "WOW". I'll come up with something. Sasame is a bit bitchy and violent so I was trying to tone it down, but now I want to amp it up a bit more.

      She's sort of passive to her foster parents because they are agents and she doesn't want trouble with her boss. But I can have her argue a bit and throw in some more teenage angst. Hopefully I can fit it in to 1250 words.

      Thank you again!

      Delete
    2. Am I allowed to comment on a reply to a comment? ;)
      This seems complicated. I think it is crucial that we like your main character. I want to find myself on her team, feeling like any bitchiness/violent tendencies are totally justified, not her fault. When you mention amp'ing it up, it seems like that should be done with care not to make her annoying or too innately irreverent. That said, if we can get on her side and feel irreverent along with her, that's really powerful. I'm not sure that can be or should be done in the first 5 pages. I still think the first 5 pages, in your particular story, should be mostly about the action. It is a very gripping scene. I'd say amp the intensity on that up a little, but it didn't seem to need much more than this 2nd draft gave me.

      Zack

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  5. Great revision! I agree with many of the comments – and I think you can find a great opening line in this very dramatic beginning. I also agree with more descriptions!! I think the first 5 pages should be the scene that ends with the guy being taken away and her talking to her handler. Take your time with it. Let us see the street – is there a curfew in place? Is it a dangerous part of town – or a city? Does she have to hide from security cameras? Tease it out and build the suspense!

    And as much as I like Sesame more in this revision (great job!) let us get to know her better, and highlight the stakes. For example:
    “Good job, Sasame.”

    I spin around to see an Insider—one of The Organization’s spies—standing behind me.

    “I know, thank you,” I respond with a side grin.

    There's no need for her to watch me tonight. I did my job. I remove my backpack, unzipping it to put my stun gun inside. She vanishes before I look up. Freaking snitch. They’re supposed to watch all Hunters, but I seem to be their favorite at the moment.

    If she’s bitchy let us see it with the spy. A side grin isn’t very bitchy. Also why are they watching her more? Does she have violent tendencies since her parents died? Add some layers, built the tension, and you will have a kick ass opening!

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    1. Thank you so much for the feedback. I think you're right about extending the chase scene more. It's time to kill my darlings and just go with it, but I'll try to extend it in an authentic way so it's not just fluff.

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  6. I think the opening paragraph works even better now – it’s a great hook. I like the bra strap reference. I think you could cut the following line ("Not bad for a girl") and just leave the former in if you want to subtly reveal she's a girl.
    "I then dial the three-digit code" (I think you can drop the “then”)
    “my mind wanders to the dreadful summer festival I’m forced to attention (attend?) tomorrow afternoon.”
    I agree somewhat with the other comments that it fizzles out a little at the end. The action is great, so if you can keep that same level of intensity once Sasame gets home, I think you'll really hook the reader. I like the world you’ve created here and I’m looking forward to reading more about Sasame and what happened to her parents.

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