Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chapter 1 - Micah

       I always hated that color. I could say I don't know why, but I know exactly why. Red was my mother's favorite color. She wore a red skirt the last time I saw her alive. Red is corrupt, and it's power hungry. I didn't just hate red. I despised it for everything it represented. Red was the city I lived in. Phoenix in 2025 seemed to drip in red. I hated the government built up in that very city. I hated the people who lived there: stuck up, snobby and generally better than me. I hated the fence surrounding the city and guarded 24/7 by lasers. I hated the lasers because they wouldn't kill you, just immobilize you until "the officials" got there and threw you into prison. The colors of their sports teams were even red. I hated them for that. Worst of all their garbage dumpsters were red, scarlet red, as if they were stained with blood. I hated those dumpsters. I hated them because I was a garbage man.

Really I just hated the bar code on my wrist telling me that was all I could ever be.
       I hated the red suited Seazan that chased me the first time I stole a loaf of bread.
How could I ignore it, sitting unattended in the back of a shiny black SUV? I saw it from the back of the garbage truck in front of a tall house in one of the neighborhoods I really hated. I took it home to my older sister, Eve. Of course she wouldn't eat it. I stole it, and she said we were better than that. I knew we weren't and so did the poor neighbor family who accepted the gift and fed it to their half-starved children.  
Mom thought we were better than that too. Eve got her kind naivete from Mom. Mom wanted to believe everyone was good like her. But they weren't. They were cruel, selfish and unforgiving. She didn't know that kindness wasn't good enough. You have to do something. Maybe I shouldn't have stolen from the rich to help those I loved, but it was the only way I knew how to do something.
       After the war ended in 2012, “the officials” told us that Zair Vodnovic’s monumental breakthroughs in 2005 could change our world for the better. They told us that discovering a way to take DNA samples from newborns and identify genetic disorders and diseases would lead to something much greater. Like the socialist party that took control of the country taking advantage of a war ravaged people and using the technology to “track” everyone into career paths to end poverty.  And sure enough, they ended poverty.
       The night I got home from the Seazan chasing me after stealing the bread, Eve tried to get me to stop like she always did.

“Can’t you just lie low and wait for things to change?”
“I can’t just wait. People have waited for 13 years now and NOTHING has happened!”
Eve shoved the bread back at me, her eyes accusing. “That’s not true! After the war the socialists pulled everyone together. Those were hard times, and they did the best they could to make sure no one starved.”
“You’re blind just like THEY are. They used technology to make sure they stayed on top and we stayed on bottom. They said they wanted everyone equal, but it was never that way. Look at how they’ve divided into the haves and the have-nots! I’m sick of being stuck at the bottom!”
“It’s not all bad, Micah. We have what we need and nobody is starving.”
“You don’t understand, Eve. You’re happy being a maid because everyone at school treats you like a queen. Even the headmistress makes sure you never have to get your hands dirty.”
       I slammed the door and ran to my room. It wasn’t much privacy. Our “cozy,” two bedroom house kept us warm but that was about it. A quiet knock on the door interrupted my unsettled thoughts.
Eve slid into my room without waiting for a response. I’m sure she knew I wasn’t going to invite her. “I’m sorry. I know you’re just trying to help, but I worry about you. I worry they’re going to take you.”
“I’d rather have them just get it over with”
She bit her bottom lip. She swallowed. I knew that look. She was trying to hold back her tears. “I need you, Micah.”
       She was right. She needed me. I was her only life line. Since mom and dad died, she was constantly on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I definitely needed her. At just 13 years old I wasn’t much for a house keeper. She was only 14 but still more than capable of taking care of me. She kept me in line, and she was good at that, even if she was bossy at times.
Eve sat down on my bed and tried to rumple my hair tenderly. I jerked my head out of the way.
She frowned. “Remember before they took Mom and Dad? Remember what Dad told you? He knew they were coming, and he warned you because he knew you were like him.”
“I don’t remember. That was three years ago,” I lied.
She sighed. “He said to be careful and not let anything happen to me. How can you do that if they take you?”
She was being manipulative again, but I was too tired and wanted to be alone, so I played along. “Okay, I’ll be more careful. But I won’t stop taking the bread. Those families need it.”
       Tears started rolling down her cheeks, so I turned over and pretended to sleep. My sister was too naive, too good. She wanted to think everyone always had good intentions. But they didn’t. They all wanted power and money; we just wanted a chance, a chance to choose. I couldn’t choose though, my government scan said my DNA indicated the life of a garbage man suited me best.
So they printed a bar code on my wrist and nobody could forget.


  1. -Too much exposition. Cut out everything that's in front of the dialogue and work that into the story later after we're invested in the characters. Earn your exposition. Don't tell the reader about the socialists, DNA experiments, etc, until they are wondering about this bizarre world your characters live in.

    -Good tone and feel, but it needs a narrative hook. Why should I keep reading? What should I want to find out? You have to hook your reader on the very first page. Give your character an interesting and difficult choice.

    -Spend some time working on the dynamics of the relationship between the siblings. Their dialogue is unnatural. You're cheating and using dialogue to tell us more about the setting and circumstances in your story. Write a good backstory and play up the tension evident in this line, She bit her bottom lip. She swallowed. (Cut the next two lines out, show don't tell) “I need you, Micah. (Consider changing this line a bit, reads a little gross, too intimate or something.)”

    -Narrator needs a stronger voice. Right now it reads kind of generic, like a cliche private investigator telling us about the lady that just walked into his office. If he's going to add commentary after each action or line of dialogue, make sure the commentary reflects his unique personality, (Holden Caulfield anyone?) instead of just telling us his perceptions of the other character's actions or revealing setting.

    -Imaginative story. All we need now is some connection to the characters. Your setting is interesting, but not interesting enough to garner a wider readership.

    -Hambone from Cougarboard

  2. I agree with Hambone with one added comment. I question how young the characters are. If the parents had been "taken away" by the government three years prior, and the siblings are 13 and 14 years old, then they were effectively orphaned at 10 and 11 years old without being put in foster care? This is a little unrealistic IMHO. Maybe a year ago might not be so out of the question, even a few months earlier, unless the rest of the story needs them to be on their own longer than this.

    BTW, my mother had a red dress--I threw up on it as a young child. Weird.