Sunday, April 15, 2018

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Stoker Rev 1

Name: K. Stoker
Genre: YA Science Fiction

Pickup for you.

My headphones buzzed with a message from my boss, Eiiji Minami, relayed by an automated voice. The voice sounded tired, but a little rebellious. Or maybe that was just my current mood.

The stale air of Kyoto in the summer sagged against my skin. The early morning sun peeked out from behind the mountains, but the closeness of the buildings meant most of the street remained draped in shadow. Above me, marking the sky like giant kanji, were trails from airships headed to Osaka and Tokyo. Only a few weeks until the Oban Race and already the hotels were filling as spectators flocked to the bigger cities for the speedcycle races. 

Across the street, my neighbor, Mrs. Yamada hobbled toward her husband. Their outdoor slippers made a scrapping shuffle as they moved between the plants in front of their home, watering each with more care than they’d give a person. The water dripped from beneath the pots and seeped into the drains beneath the street. Eventually it would all end up in the Kamogawa River. A simple cycle, repeating forever.

“I can’t believe she drives that thing,” my neighbor, Mrs. Yamada, muttered to her husband. 

I flipped on the switch for my hovers and pretended not to hear. My hovercycle, an outdated Shuriken 500z, lifted off the ground. 

“Doesn’t help the way she drives it.” Mr. Yamada agreed. H picked a few dying buds off a small rose bush. “Last week I saw her drive through a construction site and jump across a half-finished building.” 

Two weeks ago, I wanted to point out.  And I wouldn’t be doing that again, almost popped my backup tires. Like a traditional motorcycle, the hovercycle had two wheels, but they were only used for backup. If the electric battery ran out, the backup tires would catch the bike. Or if the driver attempted a jump that the hover propulsion couldn’t quite handle, the back up tires would prevent the bike from crashing into the ground. I wouldn’t know anything about that. 

“Well, with her mother being…” Mr. Yamada’s voice held all the disapproval only someone over eighty could manage. 

“Yes, it’s a shame,” Mrs. Yamada agreed. 

“Thank you for your opinion,” I called to them. They pretended not to hear. 

I revved the engine of my 500z. On the power lines, a large black bird cawed in annoyance, making me smile. Then my EP, or handheld electropaper, buzzed with another message.

Job location sent to your maps, my dear Aya.

My smile disappeared. Even with the automated voice I could tell the messages had switched from Eiiji to his son Kosuke. That meant this wasn’t going to be a simple errand. Kosuke Minami hovered in the gray space between legal and illegal, and I knew the longer I worked for him and his father the closer I was to sliding forever into the illegal category.

I let out a long sigh. Another pickup, another job. A simple cycle, repeating forever. I pulled in the clutch and let the engine rumble below me, imagining that somehow my bike could feed me its energy. I let out the clutch and the bike rocketed forward. Sometimes I felt like my bike was the only thing that cared about me.

Minutes later, I stopped my bike at a stoplight. I checked the map on my EP. A bright red dot hovered over a warehouse just a few blocks south of where I was, east of the Kamogawa River.  I stuffed the thin device back in my pocket. My fingers tapped on the handlebars of my bike. Pedestrians shuffled across the crosswalk as multi-seater transcycles, speedcycles and a few hovercycles waited for the light to change. 

The light turned green. My 500z jolted forward, skipping over the bumpy ground as the hover propulsion tried to regain stability. I swerved around a pole, almost scraping my knee on the concrete wall that jutted out from beneath an overgrown bush. My thumbs carefully rotated the hovers. The hovercycle spun me around a pile of trash bags the collectors hadn’t grabbed yet. Somewhere behind me the large waste-transcycle rumbled through the narrow streets, robotic arms reaching out to grab the color-coded bags.

A few black dragonflies floated on the slow breeze, darting back and forth in front of my hovercycle. Hissing cicadas hung on trees singing an accompaniment to the rumbling engines below. As I headed south, the speed of my bike pushed me faster and faster. For a moment, with the wind in my face and the bike engine vibrating underneath me, I felt free.

A few minutes later I parked my bike outside of a warehouse. A few solitary vending machines stood as sentinels along the empty street. An occasional hoverbus or transcycle rattled nearby and I could hear the glorious roar of a speedcycle engine from a few blocks over. 

I pulled my EP out of my pocket. It was a simple hand-sized piece of electropaper that could receive and transmit simple wireless messages. Cheap and prone to breaking, like everything else I owned. From it Kosuke’s instructions glared out at me.

Before 8AM. Box labeled 56JJHL, bring to downtown office. Cameras in warehouse disabled.

I clicked off my hovers. The bike sank to the ground, bouncing slightly on the back up tires. I walked my bike to a small alleyway across from the warehouse. The hovercycle stayed hidden in the narrow space between buildings as I casually walked to the vending machine near the large roll up door of the warehouse.

Standing in front of the vending machine, I pretended to examine the selection of coffees and energy drinks. Instead, I scanned the exterior of the concrete warehouse. How exactly I was supposed to get in? A quick check at the rolling door revealed that it was locked, no surprises there. I stationed myself back in front of the vending machine and sent Kosuke a text.

Doors locked.

I selected the cheapest item in the vending machine, a small bottle of water, and had finished half of it before Kosuke texted me back.

Enter from the second floor. Window left open.

“What?” I said, looking back at the three story concrete building.

There were no windows facing the street. Next to the warehouse on one side was a small neighborhood shrine and on the other a doctor’s clinic, currently closed. The clinic had outside stairs that led to its second floor, hopefully next to the warehouse’s elusive window. 

I walked straight up the stairs, as if I had an appointment with the non-existent doctor. Sure enough the warehouse had a small window peeking out at the stairwell. From the top of the stairs, I could feel eyes on me, watching me, and I knew I had been here too long. I had stolen dozens of items for Kosuke, and though I never knew what they were, I knew my chances of getting caught increased everyday. 

But Kosuke had said there were no cameras. I reached the top of the stairs and leaned across the railing to the window of the warehouse. With a gentle push the window swung open. At the sound of footsteps, I glanced back at the street. Just a woman walking her tiny dog. The fluffy animal wore a pink suit that matched the woman’s, but neither dog nor human looked up. Within minutes they had flounced away. 


  1. Hi Karie,

    Wow, I really notice a difference while reading your opening. It's so clear and concise. I like how you've cleaned it up, especially how you've added in her neighbor's brief comments and her inner response to them. I like her voice. Bravo! The only thing is I'm not sure if their last comment about her mother works. It feels placed and forced to me. Like if you are going to add that thought more needs to go with it. It might be because of the longer paragraph before it. But wait to see if another mentor shares a comment about that. It could just be me.

    I like that you've added her name to this revision. I also like how you've personalized her relationship to her bike. It tells me a lot about her without you having to say it.

    Hmmm...I'm really curious what happens once this woman and her dog pass by. Does she make it in and what does she find inside? You've left it at a good place. The only other thing I'd mention is to be mindful of repetitious words, phrases, or thoughts.

    Looking forward to next week's revision.

  2. Great job! This was so much easier to follow and I could even picture the bike this time. I'm glad you left enough details to place me there. This is minor, but I can't think of anything else, so drop the dialogue tag here: “What?” I said, looking back at the three story concrete building. Change to "I looked back ..."

  3. Great edits! This is really great! I love the sarcasm with "I wouldn’t know anything about that."
    Love how to did the bike in this new version. Love the city details. Love the wording on the texts from her boss. I am totally feeling the tension and worry about getting caught.
    I think I might agree with Sheri that the mom comment at the beginning feels placed and not organic. I wonder why you start with the neighbors, I enjoyed it, so I'm not sure, but if those neighbors don't come back, is it worth having them start the book? Just something I'm thinking about.
    A little thing, but you start 2 paragraphs with "a few" and I think you could cut both of the "a few".
    This writing is really good.

  4. I'm not sure the conversation with the neighbors is needed, mostly because I don't see how it fits in with the rest of the scene. I agree the mention of Aya's mother felt forced. The bit where Mr. Yamada talks about Aya jumping over the construction site didn't feel natural to me either. I loved the voice of "I wouldn’t know anything about that," and I really liked the observation that the neighbors treat the flowers with more care than they do people. Nice way to characterize them.

    I think the paragraph describing the backup tires could be simplified. I loved the line "Sometimes I felt like my bike was the only thing that cared about me" – nice addition.

    I'm still questioning why Aya goes along with the thefts, but that may be what you want. Can you give us a hint as to the consequences if Aya is caught? (Beyond being arrested, I assume.)

    Overall I think the opening feels very clean. I didn't notice which bits you had cut when I read. I don't have much else to say that I didn't say on the previous version. I think this is a pretty strong opening!


  5. Love, love, love the description of Tokyo! Ugh, the visual about the air was so thought provoking.

    I also love this version of the bike description and how its a reflection of her. I also feel for her relationship with the bike and her freedom.

    I'm curious about the mom comment - is her career/job choice due to her mother's/the MC's backstory? Would love to know more - even just a sarcastic thought on it!

    Thanks for letting me read! I would love to read more of this!

  6. Very nice job on these revisions! Wow.

    I have a couple of picky things to say this week. Can we talk about the opening line for sec? That last part "relayed by an automated voice" comes across very passive. Is there a way to drop that and work it into the next line instead in a more active way?

    Also, on both reads I had the impression that she was inside at work when she got the message from her boss--kind of like a DM system set up into office headphones. And so both times I thought she was looking at the world around her through the office window. I could be the only one with this setting issue. But I would love to know sooner that she's in fact not yet at work. Or on her bike. It was more clear this time with her feeling the weather. Still, the opening line puts me in an office every time. Again, could just be me on that.

    I love how her voice shines through so much more in this section. And "Cheap and prone to breaking, like everything else I owned." is such a wonderful, layered line. Well done.

    I do wonder if the back-and-forth between her neighbors goes on a bit long. I feel like why is sticking around to listen to them. What does she care? So I'd love a little more internal motivation from her as to why she sticks around, or maybe to tighten that scene up a bit?

    that's all I've got. I'm excited to see where you take this. :)


    1. Bring on the pickiness, everything helps! Thanks so much! :)

  7. Sorry to be late!! (Dealing w/father in hospital, in FL. Yikes! ) Week #2 The strong command of atmosphere continues! And there is a more human quality in this version. With a subtle, wistful touch we can now detect some things Aya wants—expensive things…to be free. There’s something with her mother, too. This is definitely a start on hooking the reader. IMHO you could hook us a little more, but you don’t have to. What you are shooting for is that OMG, don’t stop now moment, which is hard to get to in only 5 pages. I’m just saying, if you can…you should! Keep going!

    1. Thanks so much! And I hope your father is doing ok :)