Sunday, April 22, 2018

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Stoker Rev 2

Name: K. Stoker
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Sixteen year-old Aya Minami is an unwilling thief scrambling through Kyoto on her dented flying hovercycle. In 2052, her tenuous existence on the edge of Japanese society means her life is at the mercy of the man who tells her what to steal. But when she steals the wrong thing for her boss, he threatens to turn her into the police unless she can replace the mistake with something better. 

Her boss offers her a deal. First, he’ll get her into the Oban Race - a high velocity race that culminates in Tokyo. Then, she’ll find a specific rich kid, on a Samurai speedcycle, gain his trust, and make a steal. Aya agrees, but with her own plan. She’ll race to win and use the prize money to pay her debts and escape. 

Aya rides to Osaka and finds Hiroki Matsumoto, following her boss’s instructions. But as she spends time with Hiroki and his group of friends – the Pink Ninjas – she starts to feel guilty knowing she’ll steal from him. As she learns how to ride her outdated hovercycle competitively, her times get faster and faster. But right before the Oban Race, Aya’s boss reminds her of their agreement.

My hovercycle engine pulsed underneath me like an extension of my own heartbeat: fast, erratic, and prone to skipping. I swerved around a lumbering transcycle, and my hovers rocketed my bike forward as I turned down a narrow street. In my back pocket my EP, or handheld electropaper, buzzed a second before my earbuds relayed the caller’s voice.

“Job for you,” my boss, Eiiji Minami said in a staccato voice. “Pickup from a warehouse, we need it by 8 A.M.” 

I let out a long sigh as I slowed my bike. Another pickup, another job. A cycle I feared would repeat forever. 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. I only had a few hours of freedom until I had to be at my next shift. I braked to a stop. 

“What’s the pickup?” I asked.

“Kosuke has the rest of the instructions,” Mr. Minami said.

My stomach dropped. If Kosuke was involved 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. 

“Good morning, Aya,” Kosuke’s voice purred through my earbuds. “Where are you on this warm morning?”
“About to work my shift at the convenience store,” I said, hoping that would get me out of whatever errand he had for me. 

“Liar,” he said with a laugh. “Head south, I have a package for you to retrieve. I’m sending the location to your maps now.

It was impossible for me to refuse him. The Minami family were the only ones who would rent me an apartment in this city. But at least now I knew he was likely tracking my location. I revved the engine of my 500z. On the power lines, a large black bird cawed in annoyance, making me smile. 

“And no fancy jumps this time, my dear,” Kosuke said. “Last week you almost made a mistake.”

Two weeks ago, I wanted to point out. I’d almost popped my backup tires jumping across a construction site. 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.

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. I flipped on my hovers and my bike rose off the ground. I let out the clutch and the bike rocketed forward and I imagined that it was feeding me its energy. Sometimes I felt like my bike was the only thing that cared about me.

I stopped at stoplight a few minutes later. 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 black dragonfly 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. I was so close. A few more months and I’d be out of this life, away from my mother’s mistakes.

I reached the warehouse and parked outside. A solitary vending machine stood as a sentinel 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.

I looked back at the warehouse. 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 toward the window. 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. 

Heart pounding, I crawled over the stair railing and into to the now open window. 


  1. Pages:

    I love the new opening line! The whole first paragraph does a great job at helping set the scene (just the mention of hovercycle clues us into the world) and Aya's character. I also like how you jump straight into the conversation with her boss.

    I like that Aya is able to infer that Kosuke is tracking her. That shows us something about both of their characters. I hate Kosuke already. :-)

    I really like the hints you give us about the hold Kosuke has over Aya. This is very intriguing, and I think you gave us just the right amount for this point in the story. I assume we'll learn more in time, but this helps me understand why Aya does whatever her boss asks.

    Kosuke's reference to fancy jumps felt unnatural to me. The following paragraph is a nice description of the hovercycle, but is this information needed at this moment?

    Small note: You mention 8 A.M. twice – I think the first mention is enough.

    Great opening pages! I want to read more!


    I love Aya's description as an "unwilling thief." Nice!

    "Tenuous existence" – Can you be more specific? What happens if she loses her boss' support? You mention debts later on, which I'm guessing has to do with Aya's mother's mistakes, but maybe you could bring this in earlier?

    "...she can replace the mistake with something better" – This reads awkward to me. Perhaps mention that this job will be bigger and more dangerous than usual?

    I like that Aya has her own plans. This shows us Aya is an active character and hints at more conflict later. What is it she's supposed to steal? I think the second paragraph could be streamlined a bit. For example, "Her boss offers her a deal. He'll enter her into the Oban Race - a high velocity race that culminates in Tokyo - so she can steal X from Hiroki Matsumoto, a [maybe a hint about who he is here?]. Aya agrees, but..."

    Instead of simply reminding Aya about their agreement in the final line, can you let us know what will happen to Aya if she doesn't steal from Hiroki? Making these consequences clear will, I think, help end your pitch on a strong note.

  2. Great edits! Wow. I LOVE the way you changed the start. Love the changes to the notes from her bosses. A lot more clear. Lovely descriptions and world building. I felt immediately grounded in your world and character. Very nice intrigue. You leave me wanting more- in a good way.

    I wonder a little how she really feels about her boss. When he purrs into the phone, is it like a lion about to pounce on prey? It is an attractive voice? It's a a greasy kind of talk. Is he actually nice to her and it cuts because he can talk nice all he wants but sending her to steal is cruel?

    tiny note. I knew my chances of getting caught increased everyday. I think cutting out words like I knew when possible is good. My chances of getting caught increased everyday.

    You also start a lot of paragraphs with "I". maybe see if you can vary that up a little. Those are just little nit picky things because I think this is a really strong start now.

    Great pitch. Love that she's got a plan to get free and love that I can see so much great conflict coming up for her.

    Well done. And Best of luck with this!

  3. I love the opening, how you show your character's mood through the hovercycle. I'd tweak it just a bid to read more smoothly: My hovercycle's engine pulsed beneath me like my heartbeat: fast, erratic, and prone to skipping.

    Also, maybe shorten the other sentences, to give a choppy, fast feeling.

    You've given us the reason she works for him, great, but now you've removed if the MC is male or female. Maybe the name Aya is supposed to tell me, but it didn't. Could he flirt with her to reveal it? He talked nice to her, it seemed.

    It felt like you added more in about the motorcycle again and that slowed it down for me - but like I said previously - my eyes gloss over anytime someone talks vehicles.

    Overall, things are much clearer and easier to understand.

    Some nit picky stuff:
    We don't need "by 8 Am" mentioned twice.
    Back up tires should be backup tires. Unless they are only used for going backwards : )
    Roll-up door needs a hyphen, too, I believe.
    And increased everyday - every day should be two words.

    I love the part where she has her own plan to win the race, and the setup of how she has this opportunity. I want to know more at the end. What are the consequences if she doesn't win and doesn't steal? Is there a point in which she must make a choice? If so, what is it? Does she fall in love?

    It's an interesting premise. I'm wondering if she shouldn't be more proficient on her hovercycle so we actually think she can win the race. Just my thoughts. You've done a great job in improving this!

  4. Love this revision! Your first line has me hook, line, and sinker. Your scene setting is much stronger and has me really in the book.

    I really enjoyed the interaction with Kosuke - I can almost hear a slimy voice and see him watching her on some secret cameras stashed around the city or something.

    Honestly, I glanced over the part about the jump and the description of how the bike works. My guess is that this will come into play during the race but at this moment I didn't really want it. I wanted to get to the heist and get moving!

    Your pitch caught me with "unwilling thief" line. I would like to know what the consequences are in your last paragraph of your pitch.

    Thanks for letting me read your work over the last few weeks! I wish I could read more!!

  5. Pitch: I like that I can now see where you're taking this story, but the pitch can be tightened up a lot. Look for repetitive thoughts or references. Use only one. Remember all you have to show in a pitch is character, goal, conflict, & some tension. The ending of the pitch has little tension, if any at all. End it by making the reader question whether or not she will succeed, fall for this guy, escape her debts; in other words, give the reader a conflict that is dire to her.

    Pages: Oh wow! Your new opening is extremely effective. It's much tighter and pulls me right in. I also get a sense of who she is. You've left subtle hints for the reader to pick up about her relationship to this family. It adds a ton to the story and to her. I still can't help wondering what happens next! Great opening pages.

    My only pondering while reading this time was I kept thinking: Does she harbor a hidden dream/thought/desire to enter this race? Is this something she used to imagine or pretend to do when she was a little girl? You know, like little girls pretend to be princesses, etc... If she does, this would deepen her character plus give an added conflict when her boss enters in the race for his purposes. Just a thought.

    Best of luck with this! Thank you for sharing your pages with us.

  6. This is such a cool premise, and I love the idea of a hovercycle race!

    Your pitch is really clear and conveys the story well. One thing I would add is to just be specific in your word choices, as that can really clarify the stakes. For example, when she steals the wrong thing, what does that specifically mean for the status quo? Does it bring the police's attention on her boss? Does it anger another criminal? Do they lose a lot of money? Show a little more of that chain reaction of consequences leading up to Aya's life being threatened. The same also goes for the end of the pitch—what happens if Aya fails? Will she be arrested? Betrayed by her boss? Lose her hovercycle? Make sure the stakes are clear to really get that sense of tension and excitement.

    The pages are fantastic and set up this world really well, as well as establish Aya's personality. If anything, I would have loved just a little more sensory detail to enhance the scene and really immerse the reader in the environment. Don't forget to use all of Aya's senses to convey her surroundings.

    Overall, this looks to be a really thrilling story, and you're off to a great start!

    All best,

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Sorry my comment are so late!! Okay, I have broken down the pitch part in detail with my comments in parentheses. :)

    Sixteen year-old Aya Minami is an unwilling thief scrambling through (do you want to use an adjective here like “futuristic” or even to give that sense of sci-fi right away? You could even say “2052 Kyoto.”) Kyoto on her dented (LOVE) flying hovercycle. In 2052 (if you use the year earlier, drop this here), her tenuous existence on the edge of Japanese society means her life is at the mercy of the man who tells her what to steal (love this—though I think this line could be tightened. There’s a lot to focus on. We already know it’s Japan. So maybe just bring up her status and the tense relationship with her boss here.). But when she steals (accidentally?) the wrong thing(comma) for her boss, he threatens to turn her into the police unless she can replace the mistake with something better.

    Her boss (since he’s mentioned enough, a name is great) offers her a deal. First, he’ll get her into the Oban Race – (use em dashes instead of hyphens. :) No spaces around them.) a high velocity race that culminates in Tokyo. Then, she’ll get (her target) find a specificNAME, (a) rich kid, on a Samurai speedcyclist, gain his (to) trust (her), and make a steal. Aya agrees, but with her own plan (LOVE).(try colon here instead of period) She’ll race to win and use the prize money to pay her debts and escape.

    Aya rides to Osaka and finds Hiroki Matsumoto, following her boss’s instructions. But as she spends time with Hiroki and his group of friends – (en dash. Use the em dash—no spaces—instead. ;) )the Pink Ninjas – she starts to feel guilty knowing she’ll steal from him (because?). As she learns how to ride her outdated hovercycle competitively, her times get faster and faster. But right before the Oban Race, Aya’s boss reminds her of their agreement. (But what are the stakes of the agreement? What will happen to her if she fails? That bang at the end here could replace these last two lines: But if she doesn’t honor her agreement dun dun DUN!) :) Very COOL premise. I would totally read this.

    As for the revision itself, very nice!! The setting is visible right away. I get more feel for her character. I love that the tension of the fact that she must do these jobs even though she doesn't want to is shining through in this revision. Well done.

    1. Thanks so much, this is super helpful!!

    2. You're welcome! Though, I'm noticing that none of my strike through marks actually came through on this, so it looks as though I'm giving you terrible grammatical advice. *grumbles* If you wanted to send me your pitch via email, I wouldn't mind giving you that quick edit again. :) Up to you. sarahgrimm99 at gmail.