Monday, October 22, 2018

1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Nelson Rev 2

Kaylynn Nelson
Young Adult Science Fiction
In Sheep’s Skin


In the town of Limbus, everyone is born a twin—one good, one evil. At the age of sixteen, the twins’ natures are identified, with the city of Haylos welcoming the good and Malos beckoning the bad.

Dustin and Silas Grey have just come of age and are eager to find out where they belong when their examination yields inconclusive results. It’s scheduled to be retaken the next day, but Dustin gets abducted from their home late in the night.

For the first time in sixteen years, Silas finds himself without the companionship of his overly optimistic brother. He sets out to find Dustin, while his darker side begins to flourish in Dustin’s absence. That is, until Silas makes friends with a motley group of Haylos students who bring out the good in him once again. Ultimately, Silas must decide whether or not he’s going to let a test result shape who he wants to become.

His journey to find both Dustin and himself will unravel the system that labelled him evil in the first place.

IN SHEEP’S SKIN (76,000 words) is a young adult science fiction novel. It’s the first in a planned trilogy and similar to COUNTERPART.


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 pantsuit. 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. “Please remain seated.”

“Check,” Silas said, glancing at his seated brother.

“Alright, so here’s what we’re going to do… ”

Silas waited for the clerk to continue, but she was too busy typing to finish her sentence. He shifted his attention to Dustin, who began tapping the table as though it were a tablet. He pursed his lips seriously, resembling the clerk’s pinched expression. Shaking his head, Silas tried his best not to indulge him with a smile, but Dustin had caught the corner of his lip twitch and began typing faster.

“Once you’re finished being an imbecile, we can start,” the clerk announced. Dustin stopped tapping the table and sunk lower in his chair. “Done already? Greaaat.”

Silas let out a snort, which caught a scowl from the clerk. “Sorry, please continue,” he muttered.

Slowly, she raised the tablet to her face and began in a monotone voice. “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. 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 twins 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 down and placed her hands on either side of it protectively. She leaned forward and blew her wispy bangs out of her face. “Alright boys, in a few minutes, 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 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 you should’ve learned in school.”

“I have a question,” Silas interjected. “If I already know I’m going to be sent to Malos, do we have to bother with this whole test thing, or can we call it a day and have you send us on our way?”

“Excuse me?” the clerk balked, raising her thinly drawn on eyebrows.

“I mean no offense, I’ve just failed enough tests in my life to know how this is going to shape up.”

“Then you should know that if you are assigned Malos, it’s not because you failed anything, it’s because you belong there,” the clerk snapped, pushing herself into a standing position. “When you’re both ready, place the provided helmet on your head and look forward.”

Silas let out a defeated sigh. He was about to ask where the helmets were when he noticed his had 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 through the two eye slits of the helmet, noticing how her thin lips had 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.”

Silas stared at the blank screen. He had given up a long time ago wondering what he was; good or evil. It was always easy to tell. He and Dustin had been correctly identifying everyone in the classes above them for years. Tomorrow, Dustin would be headed for Haylos with all the other goodie gumdrops, and he would be on his way to Malos. He knew there was nothing wrong with being sent there, but still, Silas didn’t feel evil.

The screen before him 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 envied and loved most about him. Silas would never admit it, but he dreaded being separated from his brother forever.

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.

“You two will have to come back here and retake the test.”


  1. Hi there, Kaylynn!

    I'd love to know more about Silas's thoughts about possibly being sent to Malos and why he thinks he's going there. So far, he said he failed enough tests in his life to know that he's going to fail this one...but I want to know what sorts of trials he faced! What tests of character did he fail at?

    Also, I'll like to know more about the stakes. What's so dangerous about being sent to Malos? It's implied that no one wants to end up there, but I'm greedy and want to know more specifics! Are the citizens there mistreated? How? Are the other Malos residents just unpleasant or dangerous to be around?

    I know it's hard to fit all of this into 1250 words, so maybe you could consider starting at a different part in your story for your introduction? Maybe two scenes comparing Malos and Haylos?

    You, as the author, always knows what's best, though, so don't listen to me if you feel strongly otherwise!

  2. Dear Kaylynn,

    Firstly, let me point out all the good points in this revision:

    - Silas's voice is so much clearer. Personally, I think the part where Silas says he already knows he will be sent to Malos is dead-on regarding the introduction to this character and the world. Although, there is more that you can do on this regard [see improvement below.]

    - It is great that you point out Silas dreads being separated from his brother forever. Even better that you said "he won't admit it", giving us another glimpse of Silas' character.

    - I LOVE the part about the twins correctly guessed everybody's categorisation. It shows me that Silas' concern is legitimate. He is scared to go to Malos but he is sure that he will. He is not just being paranoid. He has good reasons to be concerned.

    Potential improvement:

    - Following the first point, I think it will be even better if you make it clearer as to why Silas doesn't want to go to Malos. For now, it feels like it is just a prejudice. Malos is Bad. Maybe give us more about why Silas dreads going there.

    You have done a terrific job revising, Kaylynn. Everything is so much clearer since your first submission. You should be proud of yourself!

  3. Hi there,

    I think you’ve done great revisions, and this reads well. I like the ways you’ve answered many of the questions posed, and I think Silas’s voice is much clearer. I have a few comments.


    I’m confused why they’re born in a (small) town and then go to (large) cities. Who are the parents—good/evil couples or good/good couples that have one bad twin with each birth?

    I think you’ve told too much of the story in the pitch by revealing the ending in which they unravel society. I think you should hint they’ll try to unravel it, but also explicitly state the stakes - What’s really so bad about staying with the status quo: Being separated from his brother? Being sent to a land of evil people? Never seeing anyone he loves (parents) again?


    Why would the fact that Silas has failed a lot of tests lead to the comment “Then you should know…?” It seems like failing a lot of tests means he wouldn’t know things?

    This may be my prejudice as a “goodie gumdrop” bookworm, but Dustin’s mimicking the test administrator and goofing off actually makes him seem like the “worse” twin, not the better.

    This is a question you’ll probably answer in your book, but why would all the “evil” people agree to be separated from the good people? Why not overthrow the system for the joy of chaos or for freedom’s sake?

    Nitpicky comments:
    —I know I already brought this up, but the “flecks of green in orbs of warm brown” aren’t gazing back at him. The flecks aren’t his eyes, so they can’t gaze. And eyes are orbital, but the whole eye isn’t brown, just the iris. It would be more correct to say “Warm brown eyes flecked with green gazed back at him.”

    —I don’t think a “uniformed white pantsuit” makes as much sense as “a white pantsuit uniform” or “uniformed in a white pantsuit.”

  4. Hi Kaylynn,

    Here are my comments for your pitch:

    1st para: I think this is the strongest part of the pitch. You do a good job of setting up the major conflict of the story. I especially like the wording in the last sentence.

    2nd para: What you have here seems to conflict with your changes in the story. It seems like Silas already thinks he knows he's going to the bad side. If they don't get to retake the test because Dustin disappears, does Silas go to Malos anyway? If not, then the whole test-taking thing seems to be kind of irrelevant.

    3rd para: If Silas is in Malos, how does he connect with the Haylos students? I got the impression that the populations of the different cities had to be separated.

    4th para: The concept the system unraveling is really intriguing. I think that you should emphasize this part and maybe summarize the rest more concisely. Does Silas play an active part in unraveling the system? Does he resist it? Do his new Haylos friends help?

    Regarding your page rewrite, I don't know if it's just because I've read the previous versions, but I prefer the anxious Silas to the smart aleck Silas because now they are both smart alecks, and their isn't as much differentiation between the two. Also, if Silas is so sure about where he will go, it kind of takes the tension out of the scene. To be honest, I like your Revision 1 better than this one - I think that version was almost perfect.

  5. Hi Kaylynn,

    I really think your first paragraph nails the intriguing part of your story. It gives us worldbuilding and introduces the situation your characters face. However, the rest feels a bit too wordy, with too much explanation. Focus right in on the key points (conflict) and the stakes that lead us further into the story.


    I'm not sure the strongest beginning for this story is a step-by-step list of observations through Silas. It doesn't really clue us in to the setting/situation, and I was left feeling the voice was choppy. It would have been a really interesting scene to have watched them led into the room, instructed to sit and not speak, so they begin a game of mirroring one another.

    I really wish there had been more internal emotion from Silas. While his attitude tells us what he thinks of the whole process, I don't really feel how he's impacted by it. Nervous? Resentful? Resigned? Scared? It left me feelings less a part of the scene and more like I was watching through a window or being told a story elsewhere. Perhaps let us get a bit more into the character's skin so we form that personal connection.

    1. To clarify, this was left by Kaitlyn Johnson. Just realized my name didn't appear...