Sunday, February 10, 2019

1st 5 Pages February Workshop- Crisci Rev 1


Name: Kim Crisci
Genre: Young Adult, Speculative Sci-fi
Title: Southpaw

  
Chapter One


There’s a strong, repetitive knock against the bedroom door. My name, spoken in haste, carries loudly over several hallway footfalls.

“Lydia! I know you’re in there! Open the door!”

I hear desperation in the visitor’s voice, her panicked words mingled into the rout of others running by. She wants me to go with her, to join the others in celebration, but at the moment, I’m a little busy tearing apart my room.

“Don’t do this, Lidie! Not today! She’s going to leave without us!”

Silly voice. What she fails to mention is that they all leave without us eventually. The chosen are sent to Nevaeh while the rest of us stay behind and count our minutes to freedom on a clock we can’t see.

I am a Southpaw. My fellow citizens are Southpaws. Together, we thrive in the underground city named after us. Our parents are Southpaws too, but they don’t live here anymore. I don’t remember them very well. The government says they were kind-hearted people, behaved according to our laws, showed exemplary judgement and character. So they were chosen to live above ground, in the paradise we call Nevaeh. Technically, I born in Nevaeh—every Southpaw is, and if we want to return, then we must prove ourselves worthy. The government says all we have to do is be good—whatever that means.

“Lydia!” It’s Sarai’s voice at my door. No surprise there. When I don’t answer, Sarai pounds again. “Briseis is leaving forever! We have to go!”

I know, Sarai. I hear you. Just give me a

I scramble over my unmade bed in search of a treasure, one I thought I kept in the tiny desk drawer. Last year, my neighbor Briseis and I overheard a couple girls talking about friendship bracelets, and we decided to make our own. She crafted hers with blue seeded beads, a tribute to the Southpaws who serve as doctors. I made mine from yellow and ivory pieces, colors that symbolize an indecision about my future.

And I can’t find the damn bracelet anywhere.

I yank the dresser drawers and rummage through my weekly uniforms of white, white and white. Nothing. I pull out the side tables, becoming more frantic as Sarai grows impatient. I rip apart my bed sheets, tossing them into the corner. Where the hell is it?Then, as I push the mattress aside, I see a sparkle of yellow nestled behind the frame.

“That’s it!” Sarai shouts. “I’m giving you to the count of five.”

Bracelet in hand, I strap the school bag over my shoulder, opening my door just as Sarai reaches three.

“I’m ready,” I say. “Let’s go.”

Sarai eyes me carefully, disapprovingly. She steps forward, blocking me from passing. “Um.” She then gestures to her cravat bow, tied flawlessly around her neck. “You’re missing something.”

My hand reaches for the blouse collar and right away, I feel the bow-less space. Proper physical appearance is important to government officials. They say it shows maturity, an appreciation of the rules.

Groaning, I snatch the white bow from its hanger and rush out, letting my door lock behind me. I adjust the strap on my messenger bag and join Sarai and the stampede of other young women from my class, all in a mad rush to get the best spot downstairs for what many believe is a miracle in the making.

Children of Southpaw live in the Delta dormitory, a fifty-story building nestled in the curl of our residential district. The elevators are always crowded. But since my class lives on the fourth floor, it doesn’t matter.

I speed walk down the stairwell with Sarai, mindlessly twisting the bow ends into a butterfly knot. I worry little about my appearance. If something’s out of place, my best friend will tell me. A few others pass us on their way up, but the majority of us are rushing down, the chatter and zeal echoing like thunder across the walls.

“I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” Sarai says, completely giddy. “This might be the second best farewell all year.”

“Second best? Are you expecting another divine intervention?” I ask.

“Absolutely. One of our own was chosen for Nevaeh. Don’t tell me the thought doesn’t encourage you?”

Of course it did. Residents under eighteen were rarely considered viable candidates. According to the doctors, the brain isn’t fully developed until our mid-twenties, so the government can’t be sure who’s worthy of Nevaeh until then—or so I thought.

“I hear Nevaeh candidates can have anything they want on their last day,” I say. “Anything.”

Sarai nods. “As they should. They earned it. If a beautiful candidate asked to spend her last hours with me, I don’t think I’d say no.”

“I know you wouldn’t say no.”

The dorm lobby is a river of students, carefully divided by barriers which lead from one of the elevators to the glass entrance. Everyone is standing behind them, bouncing on the heels, waiting for the woman of the day to arrive and make that triumphant walk to the rest of her life.

Sarai and I scramble to find a free space in the front, a place that comes with a lot of crowd snaking. I recognize a few faces sprinkled into the fray but the rest are strangers to me. Everyone comes to say goodbye, whether you know the candidate or not.

The middle elevator door dings, opening and there, Briseis steps out to a roaring ovation. She’s flanked by two government escorts, both wearing the all-intimidating black with gold trim uniform. Briseis beams at the welcoming crowd, giving a wave before tightening her yellow bow. She’s radiant, poised in her walk, charming with her smile. A young boy offers his hand and she shakes it, thanking him for seeing her off.

Slowly, she moves down the line, offering hugs and appreciation for the kind words. I twirl the friendship beads between my fingers, readying myself for the sleight of hand. Candidates aren’t usually allowed to take gifts with them to Nevaeh, but if I’m clever, her escorts won’t notice me.

We make eye contact and Briseis’ smile blooms into a grin. She hugs Sarai first, the pair promising to see each other again someday. When she leans in to hug me, I take her hand, coyly sliding my bracelet onto her wrist before moving into her embrace. She laughs, covering the bracelet with her sleeve.

“Don’t forget about us,” I say into her ear.

She pulls away and mouths one word: Never.

Briseis disappears into the residential courtyard, a trail of applause following her wake. The lobby disperses for breakfast and Sarai and I follow. There’s an unspoken sadness that lingers between us. Briseis is gone and although we’re happy for her, she will be missed.

We push open the entrance doors and step out into the courtyard, suddenly greeted by a sweet-smelling wind. The holographic sun hangs high over the dome, casting playful shadows across the ground. Today, the government wants the city to be sunny until mid-evening, then it will rain until midnight before clearing again. They advise women to wear pants instead of our standard pencil skirts. I almost never wear the skirt. I hate the way my legs chafe together, creating a sweaty friction.

    


5 comments:

  1. Hi Kim! Again, I love this piece and am extremely intrigued by your ability to world build. You said that I make your job as a critique partner hard, but you make my job equally difficult. Also, please read the intro chapters of Red Rising, whose world and this scene are very similar to and I think the novel would benefit this!

    Here are some things to address this week:

    1) Lydia initially has this nonchalant, "I don't care about going" attitude at the start of the chapter. Then, almost abruptly, you reveal the voice is Sarai's and Lydia is actually planning on going. You should 1) just mention it is Sarai right away 2) choose to have Lydia reflect one decision or the other (to go or stay) and if you really want to do both, stretch out the tension and make the reveal about their friend leaving into more of a big deal.

    2) Action: add more layers to the actions that Lydia does. You often use just one line and then describe the rest, where instead more action can make the reading smoother. For example, "Sarai and I scramble to find a free space in the front, a place that comes with a lot of crowd snaking." is followed by "I recognize a few faces sprinkled into the fray". The second line can instead read, "My eyes wander through them as Emile from Gamma meets my gaze, and Ray from Alpha stands right beside her, chatting a friend's ear off". Things like that bring us closer to the action.

    3)Senses: most of what we get are visual descriptions, but during the chaos of them trying to reach Briseis, let us feel the crowd shoving against them, the stench of sweat or whatever the others smell like, and perhaps even the taste of the acrid air they must breathe.

    4) You mention "sleight of hand" before it happens. In my opinion, don't. Surprise us. Don't tell us its going to happen, just let it happen. That would make the risk all the more rewarding to me personally, and I believe other readers might be inclined to agree.

    That's it! I'm very excited to read next week's revisions. Best of luck :)

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    1. As always, I'm grateful for your insight. Thank you, George!

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  2. Kim, this is an interesting story. I like how the scenes move along quicker and I am getting to know the main character, which is difficult in Sci-Fi. World building is hard, but in this revision, I am not lost, I have a sense of urgency, understand the MC's challenges and when she slips the bracelet into her friends arm and asks her not to forget her--I wondered: will her friend keep her promise?

    This chapter introduces the setting, and shows me some of the MC's thoughts. I'd like to get to know her a little more, though. The only parts that seemed to slow the reading for me are the following:


    The first one. I like it, but it seems wordy and slows it a little bit. "There’s a strong, repetitive knock against the bedroom door. My name, spoken in haste, carries loudly over several hallway footfalls."

    Same with the line: "Bracelet in hand, I strap the school bag over my shoulder, opening my door just as Sarai reaches three" Perhaps something like: I strap the school bag over my shoulder and open the door, just as Sarai...(to give it an immediate motion, but it's up to you.)

    Also the last line seems to slow down the pace: I hate the way my legs chafe together, creating a sweaty friction. Perhaps combining them together. Like, say: I hate the way my legs chafe and sweat... Of course, these are just suggestions. I am looking forward to your next revision. Kim, you are a good writer. Good read. I can't wait for the next revision.

    Small technical thing. You're missing the word WAS in this sentence... I (WAS) born in Nevaeh—every Southpaw is, and if we want to return, then we must prove ourselves worthy.

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    Replies
    1. Great catches! Thank you for your help. :D

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  3. Hi Kim,

    Great revisions! One small thing I noticed that you might want to think about is: "I speed walk down the stairwell with Sarai, mindlessly twisting the bow ends into a butterfly knot. I worry little about my appearance. If something’s out of place, my best friend will tell me." It kind of struck me as a contradiction of character. Since the characters have to be good to get to Nevaeh and are judged on appearance I would think appearing put together would be very important to all of them. I feel like her comments on not wearing a skirt is also another iteration os this - unless Lidie doesn't want to get into Nevaeh (which would be a very interesting piece of plot...)

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