Sunday, March 22, 2020

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Knightly Rev 2

Name:  Rae Knightly
Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction
Title:    Ben Archer and the World Beyond

Pitch:

Ben Archer has a secret: he can talk to animals. You see, he used to be a normal boy, but that was before extraterrestrials crashed to Earth in their spaceships and entrusted him with the ability to read animals’ thoughts. The only survivor of the downed UFOs, a humanoid called Mesmo, takes Ben under his wing, helping him understand the alien skill and the profound impact it could have for human survival on Earth.

In Ben Archer and the World Beyond, Ben is faced with a mind-boggling challenge. He must unite humans and animals before the destruction of Earth’s natural resources pushes all life to the brink of extinction. But talking to the animal world is proving a near-impossible feat, something he discovers after a terrifying encounter under the ocean almost claims his life.

In this fourth installment of THE ALIEN SKILL SERIES, Ben must find a way to transmit his urgent message of unity to the animal kingdom. Middle grade readers will revel in the continuation of this eco-/science-fiction adventure story that takes Ben travelling from the depths of the ocean to the farthest reaches of our Solar System.

Revision:

Ben Archer pressed his forehead against the window of the spaceship. The crystalline waters of French Polynesia stretched out before him. An uninhabited island curved out of the sea to his right, displaying its sugar-coated beaches, lush bushes and coconut palms.

The alien who sat at the controls by Ben’s side brought the spacecraft to a gentle stop, letting it hover above the water without making a sound.

The size of a fighter jet with two sets of wings and just enough room to fit eight people in its hull, the black craft escaped radar detection with ease. Nevertheless, the thirteen-year-old squinted as he scanned the sparkling horizon, confirming that no humans sailed in the vicinity. Cumbersome reports of UFO sightings could complicate his mission and were best avoided at this point.

Ben puffed his cheeks, the hot cabin making him sweaty under his diving suit.

Guess the aliens forgot to install air conditioning…

“Mesmo, are we going or what?” he said, backing away from the spacious window and throwing an annoyed look at the humanoid. “Gotta save the world, remember?”

The coral reefs off Motu Oné, one of a string of islands in the remote South Pacific Ocean, had been on Ben’s mind for weeks. Yet, now that he was here at last, Ben had to admit he had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Ever since he’d said goodbye to his mother that Sunday morning, a dark cloud had followed him from his pillow to this idyllic place. Mulling over why that could be, he picked up one of his fins and fought to pull the sticky rubber over his foot.

The alien didn’t answer – too absorbed with his task as he shifted through holographic screens that floated before his face. The shadow of intricate symbols scrolled down the man’s high cheekbones and honey-coloured eyes.

Irritated that Mesmo didn’t reply, Ben sighed and crossed the hollow interior of the vessel to activate a switch. It released a metallic door which slid open, letting in a hot breeze that smelled of summer at the beach. He plopped down at the edge of the opening, swung his bare feet outside and dipped his toes into the sea, admiring the pure white sand ten feet below.

“Give me a moment,” Mesmo said in a delayed response to Ben’s question, as he continued to review the data.

“Jeez! You’ve gone over that ten times already,” Ben said, grimacing as he struggled to put on the second fin. “I want to get our message out, Mesmo.”

“You’re right,” Mesmo said, tearing his eyes away from the screens and leaning back in the pilot seat. He clapped his hands together. “Let’s do this.”

Ben watched him from the corner of his eye, becoming seriously offended with the uncooperative fin. “Mom’s gonna need to dye your hair brown again,” he said, noting that the roots of Mesmo’s hair had turned white. Even though he looked like a normal man, the alien’s otherwise bleach-white hair and unusual height could stick in people’s minds.

“Yes, she told me.” The alien tossed his flip-flops aside and removed his Hawaiian t-shirt, revealing his tanned torso. “So, are we going or what?” he poked, before taking three big strides across the egg-shaped interior and executing a perfect dive.

“Show off,” Ben muttered, then whooped as his foot slipped into the stupid fin.

Mesmo resurfaced. He turned to face Ben and pointed behind him. “The coral reef’s that way. Or we could try our luck farther out. There’s a five thousand foot drop nearby – the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. Might be interesting…”

“No, thanks,” Ben cut in, slipping his mask over his head and eyes. “I’m not going there. I’m not trained for the deep yet. And besides, it would take me hours to decompress.” He tapped his pressure gauge with his fingers.

“Come on, Benjamin, you don’t need that old diving stuff. You know I can take both of us under water.” Mesmo’s hands began to glow as he called up an inner power. The alien’s fingers released a blue force that dented the surface of the sea until it reached Ben’s feet. A large bubble surged from the water before the boy.

Trying to hide his usual admiration, Ben strapped the air tank to his back. “Jeez’, Mesmo. We’ve been over this. You know I have to do this on my own. It’s not like you’re going to be around every time I need your water skill. And this old diving stuff – as you say – is the best my backward little civilization has got for now, so deal with it.”

“Suit yourself.” Mesmo shrugged with a smile. His hands stopped glowing and the bubble burst, splashing Ben.

“Ha-ha.” Ben grimaced, before shoving the snorkel in his mouth and placing his hands at the edge of the door. But his right hand slipped on the wet surface, sending him tumbling out of the spaceship. The side of his head hit the water, shoving liquid into his mask. He tore at it, sending stinging liquid up his nose in the process.

Spluttering and wiping at his face, Ben found Mesmo staring at him with one eyebrow raised. “Are you ok?”

Ben gagged at the sea-salt sliding down his throat. “Don’t… you dare… laugh.”

“I’m not,” Mesmo said innocently, the corner of his mouth curling. “You know me. I’m incapable of humor.”

“Yeah, right. But you sure learn fa...” Ben cut short. A familiar rushing sound filled his ears. He raised his hands, already expecting them to shine a clear blue. Ben closed his eyes and felt his own alien skill take over his human blood cells, the way it always did when an animal was nearby.

Ignoring his burning nose, Ben searching left and right. For the first time, he noticed how silent the ocean was. Wouldn’t he be hearing a mingle of voices from sea creatures by now? He swam to the front of the spaceship and found the source that had activated his translation skill. An animal, shiny black in colour, flopped around the surface. He reached out to it with his mind.

Hello? Are you in trouble?

Silence.

As he waded towards the creature through shallower water, Ben had to form a mental block to fend off fear that emanated from it.

Sh, it’s ok. I’m here to help.

The animal twitched, and suddenly Ben recognized it.

A manta ray!

No bigger than a dinner plate, one of its triangular wings twisted in an awkward manner, making it harder to recognize. Leaning closer towards the sleek body, Ben understood the problem. The remains of a fishing net made from thin, nylon strings was wrapped around the young specimen’s body, pinning one of its wings over its back and hindering its movements.

Mesmo joined him and they both set to work removing the entangled mesh. When they released the pectoral fin, the manta ray slid away in a hurry.

Ben and Mesmo exchanged a glance.

“It wouldn’t even let me talk to it,” Ben said, disappointed.

The alien placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “It’s ok. We’ll have better luck at the coral reef. They will listen to you there.”

Ben tightened his grip on the nylon strings, thinking of the sea creatures he was about to meet.

Will they listen to my message?

12 comments:


  1. Hi Rae,

    I had no idea this was a published series! I will definitely check it out, it sounds like a fun, exciting story.

    The pitch worked for me, you introduce Ben and show the conflict and the stakes in the current novel. The only part that caught me was “middle grade readers will revel in…” Not exactly sure why, but this phrase sounded strange. I’d change “revel” to something simpler like “enjoy”. Maybe get others’ opinion on this as well.

    I read and saw the text differently, after having read a blurb. I was prepared for Ben’s animal talking skill and it didn’t confuse me or sound strange. You did a great job focusing the scene and creating the right images to introduce and lure the reader. Super job with this revision!

    I love the sentence “Gotta save the world, remember?” it’s fun, and exciting and creates stakes without sounding too serious.

    You nailed the dark cloud following him. I get it now and it works, at least for me.

    Not sure what more to add. Maybe go over it with Grammarly to make sure spelling and punctuation are fine. I know we are not supposed to dig into line editing, but I noticed “Ignoring his burning nose, Ben searching left and right.” (I guess “searched”).

    Again, an amazing job perfecting your pages! Good luck with this novel😊

    Lily

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lily,

      Thank you for taking the time to post your feedback. I've taken note of the things I need to change.

      Best of luck in your writing career!
      Rae

      Delete
  2. Hi, Rae. You nailed this revision! But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the...

    Pitch

    Ben Archer has a secret: he can talk to animals.[Love this opening line.] You see,[I'd leave off this intro, I think it weakens the sentence] he used to be a normal boy, but that was before extraterrestrials crashed to Earth in their spaceships and entrusted him with the ability to read animals’ thoughts. The only survivor of the downed UFOs, a humanoid called Mesmo, takes Ben under his wing, helping him understand the alien skill and the profound impact it could have for human survival on Earth.

    In Ben Archer and the World Beyond, Ben is faced with a mind-boggling challenge. He must unite humans and animals before the destruction of Earth’s natural resources pushes all life to the brink of extinction. But talking to the animal world is proving a near-impossible feat, something he discovers after a terrifying encounter under the ocean almost claims his life.

    In this fourth installment of THE ALIEN SKILL SERIES [Wow, really? Congratulations! :)], Ben must find a way to transmit his urgent message of unity to the animal kingdom. Middle grade readers will revel in the continuation of this eco-/science-fiction adventure story that takes Ben travelling [traveling] from the depths of the ocean to the farthest reaches of our Solar System.[Fabulous pitch!]

    Revision

    Your edits have smoothed the narrative and kept me in the story. The only critiques I have are in the section with the manta ray.

    The animal twitched, and suddenly Ben recognized it.

    A manta ray!

    No bigger than a dinner plate, one of its triangular wings twisted in an awkward manner, making it harder to recognize [Delete this statement? You've just told us that he recognized the creature ]. Leaning closer towards the sleek body, Ben understood the problem. [How about this instead: “…in an awkward manner, deforming its sleek body. Leaning in closer, Ben understood the problem.The remains of a fishing net made from thin, nylon strings was wrapped around the young specimen’s body, pinning one of its wings over its back and hindering its movements.

    Mesmo joined him and they both set to work removing the entangled mesh. When they released the pectoral fin, the manta ray slid away in a hurry.

    Ben and Mesmo exchanged a glance.

    “It wouldn’t even let me talk to it,” Ben said, disappointed.

    The alien placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “It’s ok. We’ll have better luck at the coral reef. They will listen to you there.”

    Ben tightened his grip on the nylon strings, [I think you can replace the comma after strings with a period]thinking of the sea creatures he was about to meet.[delete this statement]

    Will they listen to my message?[Delete this statement--Mesmo already told Ben that the creatures would listen]

    So the last line could read: Ben tightened his grip on the nylon strings. [consider adding, "He hoped Mesmo was right. Their safety depended on it." Or something similar with the stakes as big as you want to make them. "Mesmo better be right. The future of Earth depended on it."]

    I hope that's helpful, Rae, and best wishes with this project in the future.

    And thanks to you for your feedback on my story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Julene,

      Excellent feedback, thank you. You nailed the parts that I was struggling with. I didn't like the 'you see' in the pitch either. Deleted forever (lol).

      I had trouble with the last line and changed it fifty times. Now I'm trying:

      The alien placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “It’s ok. We’ll have better luck at the coral reef. They will listen to you there.”
      Ben tightened his grip on the nylon strings. “They’d better,” he said. “Our lives depend on it.”

      Best of luck in your writing career!
      Rae

      Delete
  3. Hi Rae,

    I like your pitch. It's concise and appealing. However, I just have a little detail that bugged me. You said : 'Ben Archer has a secret: he can talk to animals.' and after you said : 'But talking to the animal world is proving a near-impossible feat,' and the two seem contradictory. Maybe a little clarification would be helpful as you tell how but not why... Or a little suggestion (if it fits) Ben can talk to animals and has an urgent message to deliver. Too bad animals don't want to listen to him (or something like that). Anything to make the stakes higher and clearer.
    I'm not sure if you need the 'you see' as it can look likes it's the mc who's talking in the query and most agents don't like that.

    I really like what you did with this last revision. I like Ben's personality as it's reveal through his thoughts and dialogue.
    There isn't much to say about your work as you did a great job with this last revision but this sentence caught my attention:

    “It wouldn’t even let me talk to it,” Ben said, disappointed.
    Can you show the disappointment? Instead of telling that the manta ray wouldn't let him talk, it could be more shown through Ben's inner thoughts and emotions when he's trying to talk to the animal to calm it. Or it could be Mesmo who talk to it and Ben could be disappointed because the ray listened to Mesmo and not him (if Mesmo can talk to animal, if not ignore).

    I hope my comments are helpful and I wish you the best of luck with your publishing route.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amelia,

      Thank you for catching the contradiction and, yes, the word 'disappointed' was lazy on my part! I'll change that on my end.

      All the best with your writing!
      Rae

      Delete
  4. Hello,
    Congrats on this being fourth part of a published series! That's awesome! What's the link to the others?
    PITCH:
    I like the pitch. You introduce the characters and stakes very well. I'm curious as to why they gave Ben Archer his powers, and why the animals aren't listening. Could you introduce the part about the skill not working a little earlier?

    Chapters:
    GREAT revisions! The story reads smoothly. You've removed/revised all the confusing parts.
    When Mesmo doesn't respond - stating it two times seems redundant. You say he didn't respond when he was working on the hieroglyphics, and also that Ben was mad because Mesmo hadn't responded.

    “Come on, Benjamin, you don’t need that old diving stuff. You know I can take both of us under water.” Mesmo’s hands began to glow as he called up an inner power. The alien’s fingers released a blue force that dented the surface of the sea until it reached Ben’s feet. A large bubble surged from the water before the boy. --- GREAT revision. Read super smoothly.

    It’s not like you’re going to be around every time I need your water skill. - introduces the word "skill" a lot more naturally!
    - also, the bubble interaction shows a lot about Ben & Mesmo's relationship. I like it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura,

      Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07G3LRJJ5

      Thanks for asking and thank you for taking the time to post your feedback.

      Best of luck,
      Rae

      Delete
  5. Rae,

    I really enjoyed the revisions you've made compared to the first week. There is much more of a sense of a middle grade voice and you've infused more humor. I also think the actions and motivations were much easier to track which made it a cleaner read.

    In your pitch, I thought you had really great command of the structure, but it felt somewhat vague. You had big, overarching issues (depletion of resources will lead to extinction, getting the message to the animals is hard) but these don't really set your book apart. You want some kind of hook that will really capture someone reading the pitch and show how it's unique. What is it about getting the message to the animals that's hard? Is there an animal leader reluctant to listen? Is something wrong with Ben's powers? Any kind of specific detail that will give more of a sense of the story and not just a high-level overview.

    I hope this helps. Happy writing!

    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Beth,

    Great comments, thank you.

    I may change the second paragraph in the pitch to something like:

    In Ben Archer and the World Beyond, Ben is faced with a mindboggling challenge. How can he use his skill to send a message of unity between humans and animals, when he is himself part of the human race that is destroying their habitat? Ben realizes this is a near-impossible feat when the animal kingdom turns its back on him and a terrifying encounter under the ocean almost claims his life.

    I'm still working on this.

    Happy writing to you, too!
    Rae

    ReplyDelete
  7. Pitch:

    I’d keep the pitch all about Ben. What makes Ben unique? He can talk to animals. But made him the chosen one? What does Ben want? What’s keeping him from getting it? What’s the conflict?

    Take out all the other stuff.

    Ben Archer has a secret: extraterrestrials crashed to Earth in their spaceships and entrusted him with the ability to read animals’ thoughts.

    His mission: Ben must unite humans and animals before the destruction of Earth’s natural resources pushes all life to the brink of extinction.

    It’s just that: talking to the animal world is proving a near-impossible feat, something he discovers after a terrifying encounter under the ocean almost claims his life. Ben must find a way to transmit his urgent message of unity to the animal kingdom or…[give us stakes here. What’s going to happen if he doesn’t?].

    The basic issue I have with this premise is that it appears that the animals are the ones who he needs to talk to and convince to change instead of the humans—who are the actual problem.

    Revision:

    Your writing is good and easy to read. There are enough details that I feel immersed in the setting and also the mood. I’d love more of a hook in the first paragraph that would set us up for the whole book. Could Ben be seeing or experiencing something that could relate to the theme, show his wants, his needs, the conflict of the book?

    How did he dip his toes in if he’s ten feet above the sand?

    It says his feet are bare, but he just pulled on his fins.

    Ben is so dour. I want to relate to him, but not knowing why makes me wonder if he’s going to be so negative through the whole book.

    I find it so strange that Ben calls the manta ray a specimen. If he can hear its thoughts or speak to it, it seems the connection would make him less clinical rather than more.

    This is an intriguing setting and I think your writing is great! Good luck with this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Heather,

      Thank you for your feedback.

      You've certainly narrowed down the pitch, I love how you transformed it. Excellent points on the revision as well, I will make the necessary changes.

      I appreciate your time considering the unusual situation we're in these days.

      Kind regards,
      Rae

      Delete