Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer '16 YayYA Entry #7: Haywire

Name: Emily K Beck (@EmilyKBee)

Genre: Science Fiction

Title: Haywire

35-word pitch: Mina hears the rhythms of other people’s minds. She fears the sounds only she can hear are a sign she is one of Bastion's secret guardians and commits a crime to learn the truth.

First 500 words: As I wait in the dark, the drone of sleeping minds presses in. It’s the same sound I fall asleep to every night. It only feels different because I’m about to break the law.
There’s a click as Bree opens the door of her apartment and slides out. Her mind is a fizz of anticipation that agitates my own nerves. I hold up my solar torch to reveal my friend’s slanted grin.
“Come on,” I whisper, gesturing with the light towards the stairs. Bree slings her backpack onto her broad shoulder, and turns towards the exit. Entering the stairwell dampens the buzzing of brain noise as we move farther away from the people sleeping in their apartments.
We sacrifice stealth for speed, hurtling down the stairs. It’s late, but there is still a chance someone could return home after a night shift.
Bree shoves the heavy door at the bottom of the stairs, letting in a biting rush of air. I pull my arms deeper into my jacket.
Stepping outside the tenement reduces the buzzing to a faint tingling at the edge of my awareness. Today might be the last day I have to wonder why I’m the only one who can hear that sound.
Compared to the darkened stairwell, the streets of Bastion are vibrant. The moon hangs overhead, the visible sliver bright behind the perpetual veil of smog. There’s enough light to glint on windows and the glossy skale leaves growing over the skyscrapers.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been outside at night, with no one else around. For a second I forget about our plans. The darkness blurs the imperfections of well-worn buildings and streets, making the city look fresh and untouched. It glitters. It’s like new.
“Mina.” Bree is already a few paces ahead of me. “We’ve got to hurry.”
She’s right. It’s a long walk to the Chancery and we’ve got to leave now if we’re going to make it there while it’s still dark. I straighten and adjust my backpack. The can of spray paint shuffles inside the bag, the cold metal burning through the thin fabric.
“Okay, let’s go.”
We hurry towards the edge of our block. I glance back at our tenement to make sure no one is following and my gaze slips down the darkened street that leads to the outskirts of the city. The presence of the empty buildings on the perimeter of Bastion is harder to ignore in the dark. A reminder that this city was built for a lot more people.
“Let’s cross to the terrace,” I say, forcing myself to focus. Bree nods.
My hair flies free from my hood as I dart across the road. Despite my nerves, I’m smiling.
I reach the other side of the street and duck into the shadows. Bree joins me a second later.

“We should do this more often.” She laughs, but the words send an aching ripple through her brain noise.


  1. Hi Emily!
    First off, this sounds like it could be a really awesome plot with the sound-emotions and all. And with a bit of touching up, you could have a thriller opening here!
    For the pitch, if you tighten it up slightly it will read better and catch the eye even faster then it does now. Maybe try to be less wordier and straight forward so no one will have to go over and reread it so it's easier to understand.

    For the first 500 words: maybe change the first three sentences into two...
    "As I wait in the dark, the droning of the surrounding sleeping minds press in my head; the same sound I fall asleep to every night. Except tonight is different because I'm doing something illegal" that's just an idea but you don't have to use it.
    If you show us more of how this sounds or feels in her head, especially since she seems to be in a city full of people, and even her reactions to this, it will give the reader something to compare this to so they can relate with her better.
    Also, how is the main charger feeling through all this scene, doing this illegal act, which we don't get to know about yet? Bree seems to act like this is the best thing ever but the main girl seems blank faced to us... In fact, all we see is Bree and then them running down some stairs in some unknown... Maybe show us them actually committing the crime instead of them running off. That way you can have this tense scene where the mc is jumpy to every emotion she hears in her head from some else, thinking they've been discovered. Another thing, can't she feel Bree's emotions... Or hear them? Maybe it would make her uneasy that her friend is so casual about breaking the law with her friend. Why is Bree helping anyways? Can she feel these same things too... Or probably not, right, because the mc says that she can only feel them? Well then, if she can only feel them, how come she's trying to see if she's part of some undercover gaurdianic group.... Or do they feel the same?
    I think if you actually give us less info on Bree and the group and more on the mc and the crime and the feelings, we won't be left with so much info that leaves us with even more questions.
    Show more then tell us what is happening... Show us the crime and show us how she feels and show how everything is going on then telling us they're doing something and going somewhere!

    Again, with a few adjustments, you could have a really good opening with this crime and the sounds of emotions!
    This is just my thoughts and opinions about the opening so feel free to ignore or use anything in this critique!
    Hope your writing goes well!
    -Bethany (co-host and entry #12)

  2. Pitch: Love this but I think you could stand to be a liiiitle more specific. Like what kind of crime did she commit? A small crime? Or a really terrible, meriting-the-death-penalty kind of crime? Show us how much trouble she could be in because right now, I'm still not sure.

    500 words: It's good, but I'm not getting a lot of emotion or voice from your MC. Not quite sure what to make of her. For example: Today might be the last day I have to wonder why I’m the only one who can hear that sound.
    Good sentence, but how does she feel about that? Is she excited? Afraid? Nervous? Show me how she's feeling, and give me some physical cues. Is she sweating? Palms clammy? Stuff like that. I really want to get into her head. You've got so many opportunities in here to tell me what she's like. I want to root for her, I want to cheer her on to success, but let me get to know her so I feel more attached to her.
    Here's another great opportunity you have to explore her character: Despite my nerves, I’m smiling.
    So she's nervous, show me that. How do I know that she's nervous without you telling me that? And she's smiling, that's great! That helps me get a feel for her personality. Now I know that she's the type of person that gets a rush from danger, who doesn't let her nerves get the better of her. That's the kind of thing I want to see. :D
    Great tension in this opening! I'd love to read more, I want to see if she gets away with her crime!

  3. Pitch:

    I like how you introduce the powers and the central conceit, however Bastion doesn't mean anything to me. Is it a person? A group? A god? A company? A government? A colony? Keep proper names for your MCs and descriptions for everything else for strongest impact in 35 words.

    Also, it may benefit from a little voice. Swap out a few of these words for ones Mina would use and it'll be that much stronger!


    You're missing an opportunity for some very strong character development in the description of "drones". Either picking a single loaded word (buzz, chatter, murmur, cocktail party) or giving us a very concrete description of how Mina feels would get us into her head that much faster.

    The consistent use of buzzing is weakening the feeling I'm getting from Mina. If you're trying to get us into her head, focus on her feelings about the sound that means rather than describing the noise start describing the absence of the noise.

    Overall this is a strong piece, you're clearly going somewhere, and you're close to where the action of the story begins.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Pitch- This sounds like it can be a really great book. I love the idea of her picking up on the sounds of other people’s minds. I’m uncertain of what that means, though. Can she hear their thoughts and read minds? Or is it just like random sounds— like the high pitched ring people hear in their ears. I know you clarify it in the story, but it might be good to do that hear as well. Maybe something like:

    Mina hears the rhythms of other people’s minds— a constant buzzing she can’t escape from. (Poor example, but you get the gist)

    I also think it would be good to talk about what committing that crime means. Does she risk going to jail? Or is there some other consequence that raises the stakes of what she is doing?

    500 word:

    I think rewording your opening sentence can make it stronger. Or maybe instead of jumping into what she’s doing… take a moment to mention how she’s feeling about the droning and breaking the law.

    Also I almost feel like the events are being told in a detached way, so it is hard to get a feel for who Mina is.

    This has the potential to be an awesome story! Just help us to connect a little more with your MC :)

  5. Hi, Emily. Great story you have here. It's sounds like Divergent or Maze Runner type SciFi YA. But it needs a bit more tightening and polishing.

    Pitch: It's intriguing enough to tempt a reader but where's the stake? What'll happen if Mina turns out to be a Bastion guard? In fact, what is Bastion? What sort of crime is she committing? A grave one? One that needs severe punishment? Often writers don't need to clarify stakes because to the readers it's so obvious. But here, we don't know what is so bad about being a Bastion guard. So tell us the stake.

    500 words: I didn't find much mistakes to point out here. Others have told you to show Mina's emotions but I think that's not necessary. She could've been so wrapped up by the feelings of other's emotions that she can't understand hers sometimes. But instead of describing Mina running away with Bree and feeling bad about leaving her den, have her commit the crime already. The sound of the crime in the pitch promised us a serious grave crime with heavy consequences. Show us that already.

    Also, the sentence, "the cold metal burning through the thin fabric."
    Are the cans that cold, almost like ice, to seep the coldness through the bag's material? Since this is SciFi, shouldn't bags be made of materials that can block temperature of whatever's inside from the carrier?

    Hope this helps. Can't wait to see your revision! Best of luck!

  6. The pitch advice so far has been solid, particularly Lana's comment on Bastion...
    But overall, I like the premise :)

    My favorite sentence:
    We sacrifice stealth for speed, hurtling down the stairs.

    Back in my younger days, I did some reckless capture the dual excitement/fear feeling of a night time caper very well. Good job.

    I like your writing style in general, and I'm Maria in regards to comments about the MC's emotions...I'm fine without too much of it in the beginning, I think you're capturing where she is right NOW and what is running through her head. There's not too much unclear here, but I too was thrown off by the cans of paint/cold/fabric part...couldn't tell if they were burning metaphorically because of her paranoia as they set out to commit a crime OR a special type of sci-fi paint, etc.
    The only part I found slightly clunky was the initial description of the moonlight:
    The moon hangs overhead, the visible sliver bright behind the perpetual veil of smog. There’s enough light to glint on windows and the glossy skale leaves growing over the skyscrapers.

    I think you could combine the best parts of those sentences and really sharpen the imagery, especially when the next paragraph sort of overlaps the description as well.

    I wanted to keep reading and find out what crime they commit, which is the goal for your readers, right?
    Keep it up, good stuff here.

  7. Thanks for sharing. I think if you revise he Pitch it will really hook potential readers/agents. What crime did she committ? Really neat idea. As for the 500 words, I think you have the words and the opening scene idea and with more showing rather than telling it would be much stronger. Show the beginning so teh reader feels lie they too can hear the noise I;m hoping since the reader thinks the crime is something to do with vandalizing ( spray paint) you surprise the readers with a very bad crime.. I would like to feel more about the MC - so I am more invested in her form the beginning...when I watch her perform teh crime, I understand and am routing for her to get away with it....

  8. Pitch: I wanted to hear more about the stakes. I'm not sure why being a guardian would be bad, and it ended too closed-off, too final. Can you rework the ending to hint at what's at stake for her, some choice, what the problem is? I think that would be more compelling. It sounds like kind of generic fantasy right now, whereas your 500 words are killer!

    500: This was so strong. That opening--we get the concept AND the impending crime. You've clearly started at the right point. You might play with connecting two of the sentences or rearranging to avoid starting two with "it." Might flow more nicely.

    There are so many good world-building notes worked in naturally, drawing the reader in. I do want to hear a little more about Mina (and Bree, whom we start to get) but you might be getting to that soon. If it suits her/the story, you might work in one or two bits on her emotions. It might be the last night etc-- just a hint of her excitement or dread or determination, etc. But overall I think this is incredibly strong. I definitely want to read more!

  9. Hi Emily!

    Okay, this is definitely one of my favorites of the openings I've read, and I'm not normally much of a scifi reader. But you've done a fantastic job of showing us Mina's ability and of setting the scene. I can see Bastion in my mind already--you've very deftly drawn a picture of it using few words. Excellent work!

    This reads really smoothly and the only thing I'd suggest is that in the first paragraph, when you're talking about how Mina hears other people's thoughts, you then say that those thoughts "feel different" and the word "feel" threw me off a bit, as I generally associate that with the sense of touch. If you could use a word that evokes the sense of hearing instead, it would be more consistent with the way you're describing Mina's abilities.

    If you're ever looking for betas/CPs, please go ahead and email me: laura.weymouth(at)hotmail(dot)com. I'd LOVE to read more of this.

  10. Hi!!

    Remember that all crits are subjective and that you are welcome to use or dismiss mine as you see fit for your story! Thanks for entering #YayYA!

    Pitch: Your pitch needs some work. It's unclear that Bastion is a city (as it's also a given name. A rare one, but one nevertheless and it made me think of Neverending Story until I realized from reading your first 500 that this was a city). You also need stakes.

    Your first five hundred on the other hand is really good. I'd like to see more of Mina's personality, which I know is hard in an opening action sequence like the one you have set up. But this can be easy, whether you have her notice something around her or mention what kind of shoes she's wearing. Making your reader care about your MC in a scene like this is important because then they are more likely to root for them in the coming chaos.

    Can't wait to see your revisions! Happy writing :)