Sunday, October 14, 2018

1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Nelson Rev 1

Kaylynn Nelson
Young Adult Science Fiction
In Sheep's Skin 

Silas stared into a pair of hazel eyes identical to his own. Flecks of green in orbs of warm brown gazed back at him. He let his focus fall to a long nose, slightly hooked at the end. It suddenly twitched as though preparing to sneeze, but Silas didn’t feel the urge to. Turning his head slowly to the side, he watched a smooth jawline flex. Silas quickly turned back to the front and met the sparkling hazel eyes with a smile.

The twins had been seated at separate ends of a glossy, pearl table and instructed not to speak. The white walled room was barren, so they passed the time waiting for their assigned clerk by mirroring one another’s movements. The game ended with the jostling of the doorknob. Silas snapped his head toward the door and felt his mouth dry. A frowning woman entered and swished toward them purposefully in a uniformed white pant suit. Dustin flashed her one of his charming smiles, but for once, it went unnoticed.

In her perfectly manicured hand, the clerk eyed a tablet as thin as as sheet of paper. She held it up to her face before peering over it. “Dustin and Silas Grey,” she droned.

“Present,” Silas said.

“You got Dusty,” Dustin chirped.

The clerk lowered the tablet and began typing with her free hand. Her fingers moved deftly over the screen, but her gaze remained disinterested. “Alright, so here’s what we’re going to do,” she trailed off. The twins looked at her attentively as she continued typing.

Silas glanced over at Dustin who was waiting for his attention. Dustin stuck his tongue out and poked it into his right nostril. Shaking his head, Silas tried his best not to indulge him with a smile, but Dustin had caught the corner of his lip twitch. He had just flipped his gums back when the clerk continued talking as though she had never stopped.

“Thank you for coming in today, and happy sixteenth birthday. My name is Miriam, and I’m thrilled to be a part of these next steps on your journey,” she began in a monotone voice.

“We here at Pathways wish to place you in the territory that will best benefit your overall happiness and comfort over your lifespan. It is our mission to accommodate both types of people and provide fulfillment. So, without further ado, let us reveal the pathway to your new, destined life. And remember, there can’t be any good in this world without evil.”

The clerk set the tablet on the table and placed her hands on either side of it protectively. She leaned forward and blew her wispy bangs out of her face. “Alright boys,” she said, eyeing Silas and then Dustin. “A screen is going to pop up between you. A series of images will then appear on the screen. These images are meant to instill certain reactions, so just and try and relax. When the examination is over, the screen will disappear, and a diagnostic report will be sent to this,” she tapped the tablet with an acrylic nail. “Pretty straightforward stuff. Any questions?”

Silas watched Dustin shake his head in unison with himself. His brother didn’t appear to be nervous at all, but Silas felt his stomach churn.

“Great,” the clerk said, pushing herself into a standing position. “When you’re both ready, place the provided helmet on your head and look forward.”

Silas was just about to ask where the helmets were when he noticed his had mysteriously appeared beside his elbow. He thought it looked a lot like the ivory salad bowl his mom used at dinner time. Silas glanced up at the clerk to make sure she wasn’t kidding, but her stern gaze met his as if to say, “just test me.” Silas averted his eyes back to his helmet. Warily, he reached for it and placed it on his head. The helmet was too large, and tipped forward over his eyes. Silas was still adjusting it when a cold wave of nerves washed over him.

The helmet had begun to move on its own, tightening itself to the grooves of his skull. His hands shot up to remove the headgear, but a new layer of helmet was now stretching down over his cheekbones. He tried to burrow his fingers underneath, but the helmet was too tightly fixated to the nape of his neck.

“Relax,” Miriam advised. Silas peered at her bitterly through the two eye slits of the helmet, noticing how her pink lips had finally spread into a smile.

Silas took a deep breath. The helmet had stopped tightening and now sat comfortably conformed to his head. He tried to look at Dustin, but the screen between them had already appeared. Rubbing his sweaty palms on his pants, Silas reminded himself that the test was painless and, more importantly, brief.

“You boys ready?” the clerk asked as the room’s lights dimmed. “Remember, just relax,” she repeated, using the same tone a cat might use on a cornered mouse.

Silas stared at the blank screen. He wondered for not the first time what he was; good or bad. Their parents had begun to ask them as they grew older what they believed they were, but neither he nor Dustin knew for certain. Not that any of their speculations mattered. It was the test that concluded where they belonged, and, after tomorrow, Silas would be headed for either Haylos or Malos.

The screen before him suddenly flickered to life, and a colorful image appeared. Silas tried to identify it, but he had never seen anything like it before. Silas blinked and the image changed to another unidentifiable picture. This process continued for ten more minutes, until the screen went lifeless grey and then vanished. Dustin appeared, grinning cheerfully as though they had just finished a game instead of a life-altering examination.

Silas had long ago given up puzzling over Dustin’s ability to retain his happy-go-lucky demeanor in the face of adversity. He had tried practicing it himself without success, and it was still the trait he both envied and loved most about his brother. He looked over at Dustin who was now prodding his helmet curiously. He’d miss him when they got assigned to their territories and separated. Dustin was always keen to share, prone to laugh, affectionate; he was the epitome of… good.

A trickle of sweat rolled down Silas’s neck at the realization. Of course, Dustin would be sent to Haylos. The kid was as friendly as a kitten, unlike Silas, who embodied more of an old, aloof cat. Malos had always been his future.

Silas barely felt his helmet’s grip begin to slacken as he processed his fate. How had he not known this before? He knew there was nothing wrong with being sent to Malos, but still, Silas didn’t feel evil.

The twins took off their helmets and set them on the table in front of them as the clerk pushed through the door, tablet still in hand. She stared at it for a few minutes, tapping her fingers quickly over it. “Hmph,” she grunted. “Something seems to be off with the machine. Your reports are inconclusive.”

“What does that mean?” Dustin asked.

“It means I need to call Raymond from maintenance,” the clerk replied.

“But what does that mean for us?” Silas asked.

The clerk raised her thinly drawn on eyebrows. “You two will have to come back here and retake the test.”


  1. Hi-

    There are so many cool things about these pages and your ideas. :)

    —I still like the idea of mirroring each other’s movements, but I agree with earlier comments that it seems a little juvenile. What about mentioning it’s an old habit from when they were kids, or that they got bored waiting for over an hour and hadn’t been allowed to bring in their cell phones.

    —Pantsuit should be one word

    —“He had just flipped his gums back” seems confusing to me. Like pulled his lips up to show his gums? Or just put his face back to it’s normal expression?

    —I like that we get a better feel for what the test is determining and what the stakes are! I’m still wondering if this is something that happens to everyone on their 16th birthday, or just twins. It seems like maybe just twins because of the dual nature of the test —one has to be good and the other bad, and also because of the way the screen is set up between them, instead of them each getting their own screen. If everyone in the world takes the test, maybe indicated that?

    —I really liked the effect of having him realize (whether it’s true or not) that his twin is probably the good one.

    —I liked the inventiveness and duality of the names Haylos and Malos.

    Good job!

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your insightful comments!

      In the world I've created, everyone is a twin and everyone gets tested on their 16th birthday to see which territory they belong in: Haylor or Malos. I'm finding it hard to reveal all of that in the beginning 1250 words, but it's revealed shortly later on!

  2. Hey there, Kaylynn!

    I love the newly revealed details about the characters in this revision. ("Dustin flashed her one of his charming smiles, but for once, it went unnoticed."--That tells me more about Dustin's easygoing nature and the clerk's coldness.)

    Silas's worry about being sent to Malos is also well-written. Comparing them to a kitten and a cat shows how similar they are, yet different. You use a cat metaphor for the clerk as well, though, (she uses the "same tone a cat might use on a cornered mouse"), so watch out for repeated phrases like that.

    Like Mary, I was confused about the gum flipping.

    You show the clerk's dastardliness without focusing too much on her physical appearance ("Silas peered at her bitterly through the two eye slits of the helmet, noticing how her pink lips had finally spread into a smile")! But you could make that sentence even better. Most lips are pink, so if you want to give us another visual, maybe you could say "thin lips" or "bulbous lips" or even just say "noticing how she smirked" instead.

    Best of luck!

  3. Hi Kaylynn,

    I really like the revisions that you made! The contrast between Silas and Dustin is much more obvious now, and

    I just have a couple of picky comments:
    - There is just one place that you seemed to go into Dustin's POV: "Shaking his head, Silas tried his best not to indulge him with a smile, but Dustin had caught the corner of his lip twitch." How did Silas know that Dustin caught the corner of his lip twitching?
    - The two paragraphs starting with "Silas had long ago given up puzzling..." and anding with "Malos had always been his future" come at an awkward place. Before this passage, Dustin is grinning at him after the test is over, then he has this internal dialogue and his helmet starts to slacken. I kind of feel like it would go better toward the beginning while Dustin is goofing around and making faces with him and the clerk is typing. He already knows the implications of the test. I think it would add more tension for the reader if we felt his anxiety more going into the test.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      That you for your comments! They are all super helpful!

      I think I'm going to take out the confusing parts you mentioned, and make it more clear that Silas is the bad twin and knows it. I know doing this might lower the tension, but my book is intended to be funny, despite the dark undertones, and Silas is supposed to be more sarcastic and dry. Thanks again!!

  4. Hi Kaylynn,

    Well done on your revision! Your world is so much clearer now. The others have already made some very good points on potential improvements, so I will focus on points which I didn't see mentioned above:

    1) There are contradictory instances which make me wonder at just how close Silas and Dustin are.

    Mimicking each other's actions is a good indication that they are close, especially if you mentioned, as Mary commented, that they have been doing this since they are children. BUT...

    After the test, Silas looks over at Dustin and thinks about missing him if they get separated. ... Is that all that Silas is feeling? Just ‘missing’? To me, Silas seems to panic more about where he will be placed, who HE is, than the prospect of being separated from his twin.

    If it is your intention to make Silas slightly colder, perhaps mention that, mention that Silas knows he is colder than Dustin. This might be just me, but I feel that Silas should feel differently towards his twin than he does towards other people generally. Just because Silas is described as more sedate, I will not automatically think that he feels that way towards his twin too unless you specifically mention it. But again, this might be just me.

    If Silas and Dustin are indeed very close, perhaps add to the panic Silas feels about being separated from Dustin.

    2) Wondered NOT FOR THE first time.

    Solid revision. Looking forward to your final revision!

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Shirlyn,

      Thank you so much for your comments!

      I'm definitely going to continue to try and make it clear that the twins are very close. I think you're right - he's thinking too much about himself and his own placement than separating from his brother. Very good point! I'll try and fix this!

      Yes, Silas is definitely more colder, but still cares about his twin. Another excellent point. Thank you again for your insightful comments!!

  5. Hi Kaylynn!

    Really strong revision. This reads solid sci-fi, and Silas does read older than before, which were two of my prior comments. I like having those small concerns of his trickling through his thoughts, too, but I do wonder how an old, aloof cat equates to bad--which is where my biggest question lies: Why are people separated into good and bad?

    Also, Silas is convinced he'll be separated from Dustin, but why? Being charming isn't inherently "good" (Jane Austen has plenty of terrible charming rakes in her books!); and being aloof isn't inherently "bad." Is there something specifically that worries Silas about himself? Nothing that I as a reader have seen seems to suggest he's bad; in fact, knowing that he worries about it makes me think of Harry Potter when he asks the Sorting Hat specifically not to put him in Slytherin. Maybe that's where this is headed? Dustin ends up evil and Silas ends up good? :D

    So overall, this is really interesting and I'm curious. But I would still like some more detail into the two territories and why they're necessary. (And who determined them necessary?)

    Good job! :)


    1. Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your comments as always! Very helpful and insightful.

      I agree, I think I'm going to take out the aloof cat line. I definitely want to make it more concrete that Silas is the "bad" twin and Dustin is the "good" twin, so I'll try and work on their back stories more in my next revision!

      I'm so happy you thought of Harry Potter and the sorting hat! I can definitely see that similarity and I love the comparison.

      I explain why people are separated into bad and good a bit later in the story, and the purpose of the territories. I'm hoping this introduction gives the reader enough information where they'll be intrigued enough to find out these questions and read more. I'll try and sprinkle in a bit more information with my next revision!

      Thank you Mary!

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