Sunday, March 15, 2020

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Grigorova Rev 1

Name: Lily Grigorova
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Pans Island

Pan /pæn/ - proper noun

1. Greek Mythology: a god of flocks and herds, typically represented with horns, ears, and legs of a goat on a man’s body. His sudden appearance was supposed to cause terror similar to that of a frightened and stampeding herd, and the word panic is derived from his name.

2. Urban legend: an international underground activist group, notorious for its elusiveness and ruthlessness. Claims involvement in the 2018 hack of the three major social networks, the downfall of Botswana’s diamond industry, and the publishing of Donald J. Trump’s private WhatsApp communication. The group’s popularity inspired the web TV variety show Hack ‘em!.

Chapter 1

City of Sofia, Bulgaria
Thursday, June 13, 2019

This was it. A year’s worth of work for our most complex creation yet. It was going live in five minutes and I couldn’t seem to stop my hands from shaking. I slid my fingers around the loudspeaker in my pocket. It had a smooth, round shape, soothing to rub and squeeze. I started walking past the planters of boxwood forming the perimeter of Parliament Square and pretended to look at my phone in my other hand. I breathed in and out.

Focus! Imagine the result: the censure they wouldn’t be able to ignore. Every morning, when those sleazy politicians came to work, they would be greeted by our masterpiece. When my uncle came to work, he would see it. A smile broke onto my face. I pretended it was about something I saw on my phone.

There was a CCTV camera on the side of the Parliament Building. I angled my body slightly to the left and let my hair fall over my shoulder to curtain off my face. A single police car idled near the entrance of the InterContinental across the square. I stopped when the monument of the Tsar Liberator stood between the cops’ line of sight and me. I stumbled toward the nearest planter, sneaked my hand out of my pocket and dropped the loudspeaker at the base of the boxwood.

That was the last one.

I glanced at my phone. 21:43. Two minutes till we went live. My hair still a curtain between the CCTV camera and my face, I ambled toward the cobbled sidewalk which divided Parliament Square from Kliment Ohridski Garden. My mouth was dry. My heartbeat out of control. I couldn’t wait to see it. The message I was going to send to my Pan contact started writing itself in my mind. It had to sound self-satisfied, yet blasé. After this job, they would be begging me to work with them.

I leaned against a tree trunk on the edge of Kliment Ohridski Garden. The Parliament Building sparkled white and imposing in the summer night, bathed in the illumination of dozens of floodlights.

21:46. Come on. Come on.

I imagined Alex right now: typing, checking and rechecking his program, the twins crowding him, giving him useless advice and urging him to hurry. Alex would run a final check and then, finally, he’d press Enter.

Color flooded the white imposing façade across from me. For a second I was breathless with awe. Cartooned pigs gamboled across the building’s front, talked on cell phones, passed legislation, ate meatballs, and smoked cigars. There were speech bubbles, mock fights, money passing under the table. The stars of the cartoon resembled prominent political figures, including my uncle: the fattest of them all.

It was perfect, just as I’d imagined it: the colors saturated and distinct; the projection didn’t pixelate or freeze. I glanced at the roof of the InterConti, where our projectors were hidden beneath the hoods of webcams. Perfect alignment; the projection streamed in synchronization.

The sound of laughter broke through my awed observation. Several groups of people had paused on their way across the square to enjoy the projection, laughing and filming with their phones. I grinned and did the same.

Uncle’s pig avatar shook its fat ass at the audience, twerking and producing dollar-shaped farts. I laughed with everyone else. He’d be so pissed! His beady little eyes would retreat and become mean glints. He’d probably fire someone. Nothing you can do, uncle!

The first run of the cartoon ended with my personal contribution in large black letters: These hogs speak for you. Don’t laugh! Vote!

Then it hit me: something was missing. I stopped filming and dialed Alex’s number.

“There’s no sound,” I hissed in the receiver.

The loudspeakers I’d spent the last fifteen minutes surreptitiously planting around the building were silent.

“Raya, what are you still doing there?” Alex hissed back.

“Check the audio!” I raised my voice.


“Check it!”

“Audio’s green,” he snapped.

“I’m standing right there,” I growled, “There’s no sound.”

I waited on the line as Alex checked the program. I’d made sure to place the speakers carefully on the ground and not throw them, I’d made sure they were all charged and set to transmit. So it had to be a software issue, especially because all four weren’t working.

Pigs’ grunting filled the square. It was so realistic, some of the spectators looked around in shock. I chuckled.

“Sorry,” Alex’s voice in my ear, “my bad. Now come already.”

“Be right there,” I answered.

The grunting raised it to a whole new level. The crowd of spectators went wild, laughing out loud and clapping. I joined in the applause, a ridiculous grin splitting my face.

The two cops had crawled out of their patrol car and were trying to disperse the crowd. I raised my phone to make a video with sound. I had about five minutes until Sofia Police Department started cordoning off the square and writing down people’s info for investigation. Just enough time to show off our work to the Pan.

I logged into the Pan’s darkweb chat room. Its background filled my phone screen: a mercurial gray with the Pan’s dragonfly logo shimmering in the middle. A chat window opened. I paused, my thumbs hovering over the keyboard. I didn’t want to sound childish. Polite and confident, that’s what I had to aim for.

I typed:

user416 A8i5w9Dear Pan

I giggled. This formal opening was going to get his attention.

user416 A8i5w9: How are you? How is life in the underworld?

I pressed Enter and waited. As usual, he responded within a minute. A thrill went through my chest at the sight of the three dots that indicated typing next to his Admin tag.

Admin: Sunny

I grinned. A quick glance around the square assured me SPD’s lamest were still scratching their heads, so I bent back to my phone.

user416 A8i5w9Sending greetings from Sofia

I uploaded the video I’d just made and waited. Ten seconds later, the response flashed on my screen.

Admin: I see. Very imaginative

Imaginative? It was frickin’ genius! I looked up to behold the glory of our piggish cartoon on the face of Bulgarian politics. Then I stooped back over my phone.

user416 A8i5w9: When you say imaginative, you mean the best damn thing you seen this year?

AdminI mean good enough for a bunch of kids with nothing better to do.

My jaw dropped. This job was the paragon of what we did. It mocked the corrupt political class in their faces and was bound to make the news cycle. The Pan should applaud its freshness and audacity and thank their lucky stars a genius like me wanted to join them.


  1. Hi Lily,

    As usual, excellent writing! I really don't have anything to add, except that I miss the thrill of having a cop turn up at the end and asking for your MC's ID.

    I wonder if you could lighten the first five paragraphs a bit (delete a word or short phrase here and there), but really, that's just me looking for something to say. Awesome work!

    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Hello!
    I love the definitions at the top. Once again, great use of different media to make your story interesting. You have a great voice for storytelling.

    " It had a smooth, round shape, soothing to rub and squeeze." I'm still having a bit of an issue with this sentence. Maybe throw in a "which was" for - " Its smooth, round shape was soothing to rub and squeeze."

    Every morning, when those sleazy politicians came to work, they would be greeted by our masterpiece. - just curious - is she expecting this projection to last for a few days? I feel like she'd know that the projectors would be found and covered/removed by the end of the day at most, unless there is something in play that the reader is unaware of yet.

    Stumbled toward the planter - I think a more capable verb would be great here. So far you've painted the MC as a very suave/sneaky person. Her stumbling interrupts her suave-ness. In the beginning I'm picturing her 007 cool and would love to keep that image, at least until she gets caught by the police officer.

    Overall I love this story. I love the writing. I love your choices in different medias to tell the story in. Great job!

  3. For me, this was a really successful revision. I'm normally not a huge fan of including dictionary-style definitions but I really like it here and I think you've used it so well to give a very concise introduction to the world and background concepts.

    I feel like the flow of the action is super smooth and you've done a very nice job of limiting the new things we are introduced to. Nice work getting Raya's name in there!

    At the same time, I think you kept everything that was working from the first draft. The pacing and appealing MC are still there and so are the intriguing stakes.

    Nice job! I would definitely keep reading :)

  4. Hello again, Lily,

    This is such an effective revision with concise, exciting story-telling. I like the added internalized and physical reactions for Raya, showing her stress. You've also amped up her criticism of her uncle (even more potential tension).

    My only questions involve this statement: "Every morning, when those sleazy politicians came to work, they would be greeted by our masterpiece." Is is reasonable that the video would play every day? Wouldn't that increase chances of being traced/caught? Would the police at least find the speakers? What about fingerprints? Does Raya need gloves at the beginning?

    Good work, and you betcha, I'd read more!

  5. Hello Lily,

    I'm not sure you need the definitions in the header, as it creates a distance between the reader and the actual story. The pacing and the voice was great, as the previous version, but there were some details that caught my attention.
    Focus! Imagine the result: the censure they wouldn’t be able to ignore. This sentence is in present tense while the rest is in past tense. Use italics or tweak it so the tense fit with the rest. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by: the censure they wouldn't be able to ignore. What they're about to do is not censured yet since it's five minutes from being loaded. And after it would be seen, they would have trouble censuring its damage would have already been done.
    It had to sound self-satisfied, yet blasé. I think you should show rather than tell (and since you did later, it feels unnecessary).
    I think it took some time before knowing your MC's name. Can you place it sooner?
    user416 A8i5w9:(I don't think this one is needed since it's still her who's typing and it reads like a reply instead of a continued conversation) How are you? How is life in the underworld?

    I couldn’t seem to stop (I couldn't stop) my hands from shaking.
    I started walking (I walked) past the planters of boxwood forming the perimeter of Parliament Square and pretended to look at my phone in my other hand.
    These last two sentences are fine but the filler words make the reading less strong.

    Happy revisions!