Sunday, January 12, 2020

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Kerr Rev 1

Name: Carryn W Kerr
Genre: Young Adult romantic, light science-fiction, adventure.
Title: Petriville

Without hesitation, as though I’d change my mind if given half the chance, Liam pulled open the door to our Home Virtual Experience room. Laying one arm around my shoulder, my brother held out his hand, palm up, towards the center of the room. The L-shaped leather couches in one corner looked inviting, but we weren’t using them today.

The door sealed behind us, and I sucked in a sharp breath. The ceiling-mounted VE cube threw a triangular light to the floor. The light expanded, sliding over our feet, up our legs, bodies, heads. A gravitational pull sucked us to the center of the room, into another time, right outside our front door.

I drew in the fragrance of spring flowers and freshly cut lawn. The soft early evening breeze brushed my skin. And tiny recording drones floated around spectators like silent flies, recording moments to become Petriville’s history. As sunset’s orange glow deepened, a three-dimensional version of Dad exited our home — looking all of the eleven years younger than he was now. The drones took in every facade of Dad’s tall, fair, sculpted physique. My eyes dropped to the more youthful image of Mom — stretched out on our front lawn. An incredulous expression lit her olive-toned face, her dark hair haloing around her head; jeans never quite long enough to reach her ankles.

At seven and five-years-old, Liam and I buzzed around our mother. The breeze fluttered Liam’s soft blonde curls, as he clasped my tiny hand in his and pointed to the sky. I recalled none of it but noted how, even then, we were tall for our ages. Even then, my deep blue eyes contrasted my olive skin and straight, dark hair while the knobby knees, Liam had so often teased me about, protruded below the hem of a pale blue dress, I could almost remember.

“So, here we are, Emily; kids.” Dad hummed in his smooth baritone as he paced back and forth.

Mom fluttered her long fingers as though to push a recording drone away. Her smiling, elite English accent flowed through the speakers in warm harmony. “Oh, come join your family, Peter.” Without tearing her gaze from the sky, she held out her hand to Dad. Taking it, he crouched then sat beside her.

The scene was so lifelike, it drew me into that moment. I looked up our block, then turned in the other direction. People filled the cobbled walkway, curving past our homes. And neighbors lay on their lawns or in the park over the walkway. No eyes left the darkening sky as the myriad of tiny recording drones floated around families. Slowly, I followed everyone’s gaze.

This was the day our town had launched into Earth’s orbit. It should have left me with a thousand vivid memories. But mine were like broken shards of glass — shimmering or shattered. To an onlooker, Petriville’s launch must have seemed unnatural. A town within an indestructible giant dome — a transparent kaleidoscope of rainbow colors. The dome had ballooned into a ball that grew and grew until it popped into Earth’s exosphere. Complete with houses, gardens, trees, conveyor streets, schools, and shops, our town seemed to magically hover at the ball’s center.

My focus drifted back to the VE, my eyes drifting upwards. The most magnificent scene materialized, laced in tones of the softest blues to the deepest greens. Draped over it all, clouds floated in languid majesty — crisp white to deep, dark grey. It was as though we were Earth, and Earth was our very large moon.

I stood like a spectator in the scene and turned to Liam. “This is not new, though Li. Earth isn’t much different now to how it was then.”

As usual, Liam’s rapid-fire speech emerged in smooth tones. “Wait, Cassidy. This is so you can see how it was that day. And anyway, you know Earth was not like this for most of our lives here.”

Almost as soon as Liam had spoken, the scene faded, and we were back in our home VE room. Then a new Visual Experience descended from the cube, spreading its light out and up over us.

Again, Mom and Dad were outside our home, this time in the park over the curved cobbled walkway. No children were out on this dark night, and no adults lay. People ignored the drones, again skimming the crowds. All eyes were locked on the night sky, whimpers escaping both men and women. I followed their skyward stares, and my chest tightened.

An enormous flaming ball and tail descended toward Earth. As the mass drew nearer and nearer the beautiful, doomed planet, a deathly silence fell.

Even though I knew the outcome, I found myself wishing things would turn out differently: the meteorite would incinerate in Earth’s atmosphere; the asteroid would glide past — miss Earth entirely.

Dad pulled Mom back against him, as she swatted at drones. Tears flooded her deep blue eyes and cascaded down her cheeks.

Ethereal brightening seared the dark sky. And a shimmering mushroom of debris rose from Earth! Mom’s heart-rending scream shattered the night. An echo in a chorus of onlookers’ grief. My young parents collapsed to the ground, comprehension slamming into them: They had just lost nearly every person they loved. Their parents, Aunt Susan, and Sarah! Their horror-filled screams pierced my heart like an icy spear as if it was happening now! A sharp, searing agony tore into my gut. I barely noticed I was clinging to Liam; that he held me against him, his arms as tight as the vice gripping my heart; that I shook, sobbed; that tears slid down his cheeks too. Mom’s screams continued to cut a burning, stabbing pain through my chest. But, I couldn’t drag my eyes from her nor escape the suffocating VE. My body numbed as a weighted, nauseated, distant dream took hold. But I couldn’t raise my hand to wipe at the tears, burning my cheeks.

The VE faded, and we were back in the room with the two leather couches. The old sweet-sixteen maxim really applied to me. But it felt back-to-front. Like the soft sensation of a boy’s lips on mine should have come before what I had just witnessed. After the longest time, Liam loosened his grip, and I stepped away, wiping my cheeks.

A sharp rap on the front door brought me back.

Liam raised his brows in a not-really-surprised way and went to answer the door. I stalked after him, wiping the remains of torment from my face.

In the doorway stood Gina Petri, Petriville’s founder. Horn-rimmed spectacles magnified her watery blue eyes, and a toothy smile grew beneath her parrot nose.

My lips pressed into a sneer. “Gina! What brings you here?”

Gina’s oh-too-sweet melody reminded me of a snake. “Is that any way to greet the woman who saved your family? I am merely here to wish you, as do I all on their sixteenth.” She flashed a glance at Liam, “Your brother remembers.”

The words burst through my lips. “Really? Then, where are my grandparents, aunt, and cousin? You could have saved them. But you let them die!”

Liam closed his hand around mine as though to calm or comfort me.

Gina continued, not changing her smarmy tone or slow pace. But an airy chuckle slithered, seemingly unbidden, into her voice.


  1. Yes, Carryn! For me, this new scene structure is miles better. I fall easily into the character story now, and quickly become invested in it.
    I hope you're happy with it, because I think this is a very effective revision that shows the importance of being flexible with ideas and bold with redrafting.
    Very best of luck with this story!

  2. Thank you so, so much, Meredith. I so appreciate the guidance.

  3. Carryn your description is so much more clearer & vivid! I also like that you bring us in and we understand that the tragedy is not only that earth was destroyed but lives were also.
    Good luck!

  4. Hi Carryn,
    I like how you started this, right as they were entering the VE room. It felt very active.
    So, I think I understand a bit more about what’s going on now… Petriville is a community that was launched into space? Then not long after, Earth was destroyed by a giant meteor? I almost wonder if the focus should just be on this second VE experience. I feel like watching the Earth be demolished would be very impactful. And the fact that a) they were able to watch it and b) they are still alive, would tell the reader they were not on Earth when the meteor destroyed it. Then you can unfold the rest of the circumstances after that. Those two back to back were a lot to take in all at once.
    I also feel like the paragraph describing what happened to Earth could have been slowed down a bit. Even just breaking it up into a few paragraphs could help make the whole scene feel more monumental.
    And even though I do understand more about what is going on, I don’t know much about how Cassidy is feeling about it. From your first draft, I know that she is (or was) nervous, but I don’t get that at all now. It’s not until we get down to that one paragraph describing Earth’s destruction that we get any feelings from her. I’m wondering if dialogue with her brother would help this. I think you cut a lot of that out, but maybe adding some back in would help us to get to know Cassidy and her feelings better.
    Happy Revising!

    1. Thank you, Star, I was wondering about the first VE, so I’m glad you mentioned it. And thank you for pointing out that I should add some emotion back. Thank you.

  5. Hi Carryn,

    I really enjoyed learning more about your story!

    The extra information helped, but I still struggled to understand what was going on where. I think it's because Petriville is described the same way as Earth, the characters treat the Petriville’s launch like a normal picnic day, and they are going into Earth’s orbit instead of into space. This made it difficult for me to be clear where the MC was, when.

    For example, the sentence: "This is the day our town had launched into Earth's orbit." It could be clearer if it was "This was the day Petriville was launched into space.” This would clarify 1) this happened in the past 2) their town is Petriville and 3) it was launching from earth into space. All this might just be me, so read with a grain of salt!

    "My focus drifted back to the VE, my eyes drifting upwards." I thought the MC was already looking up?

    I wonder if you could give "that day" and Earth’s destruction day a title your characters could use to refer to it. Something like Founders' Day (but better) to give your readers reference and historical touch points.

    I like your description of Gina. Very easy to imagine!

    I'm curious why this young person is on a first name basis with the town's founder.

    Looking forward to reading the pitch and seeing what you have in mind for this story!

    1. Thank you so much, Gina. I will work on the revisions.

  6. Hi Carryn,

    Nice job on your revisions. Overall it feels much tighter, and clearer in places that it wasn't before.

    As I think about ways you can further improve your beginning, I'm wondering if perhaps you can emphasize the transitions between the present scenes and the VE flashback scenes? I'm not sure how others felt but for me that was an aspect that was still a little vague.

    There's a paragraph that ends with "slowly I followed everyone's gaze" - I was looking forward to seeing what they were looking at. Maybe a description here would be impactful? (No pun intended :-)

    The next paragraph after that, "This was the day our town had launched..." was a nice mix of exposition that works well and adds much. Wondering if it's in the right place, though. Maybe earlier?

    The brief dialogue with Liam seemed to detract a little from the scenes that they are watching before and after. Maybe it would work as a voice-over narrative describing the scenes, without breaking from the scenes? Just a thought.

    The earlier (chronologically) vision of what happened to earth feels like a bigger moment than how it comes across. Not sure how but I think more emphasis/details on what happens would be effective.

    Similarly, as a reader I'd like to have more details/descriptions on the actual launch of Petriville. You mention the dome "expanding like a balloon;" was that the launch?

    Gina's appearance: I'm thinking a little more could be revealed about what she says. For example, "I'm here to wish you..." what? And then you follow with "your brother remembers." Felt like a touch more info here would heighten the exchange.

    Again, great job on the revisions. Looking forward to seeing your pitch. Good luck!


    1. Thank you, Michael,
      I really appreciate your input, and with everyone’s advice, I will, hopefully get it right on Sunday. :-)

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