Monday, July 27, 2015

Tense Change Challenge -- How It Works

Here we go!

Six excerpts, written in 2 different tenses, have posted.  Read both versions of each, and share your thoughts about which tense you feel works better for the story--and why.

For each excerpt, the author's original tense is first, followed by my rewritten version in the tense of the author's choice.  I have taken the liberty to correct punctuation and paragraph breaks in my edited versions, but have not changed the author's words in any substantial way, other than to change the verb tense.

Have fun!  This was certainly fun on my end (call me quirky, but I like playing with verbs).

ENTRANTS:  Please take the time to leave feedback on at least 2 of the other entries, as your way of giving back.

Go to it!

Tense Change Challenge #6

TITLE: Crazy in Love
GENRE: YA Contemporary

This is the first 250 words - POV alternates between Jamie and Molly.

THIRD PERSON PAST (original):

The lass was flat on her back and passed out on drugs. Jamie McDonald tried to sneak a peek at her, the sheet covering her had moved to hide her face. All he could see was her long locks of curly brown hair. The ambulance technicians rolled her stretcher down the women’s corridor on Ward Eight. I wonder if she’s my age.

Jamie’s heart pounded at the thought of someone new. Anyone new would be a distraction from the mundane days at this hospital. Please, be my age. Maybe I can finally make a friend here. He dashed over to Nurses’ Station pushing past Nigel and Ronnie on the way. Rose, the charge nurse, was behind the desk. Jamie drummed a random beat on the desk faster than a band playingWipeout. Rose glared at his hands and he stuffed them in his pockets. I better calm down or they’ll try to sedate me. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Hullo,” Jamie said to Rose, trying to be casual, “Who’s the new patient?” At first, Rose didn’t say anything and Jamie could guess why. She’s always going on about patient confidentiality. And she knows I’ve tried this before.

But he was wrong. “I’m glad you stopped by, Jamie. Our new patient, Molly, is a wee bit younger than you. This is her first time in hospital. I was thinking of asking you to be her guide."

FIRST PERSON PAST:

The lass was flat on her back and passed out on drugs. I tried to sneak a peek at her; the sheet covering her had moved to hide her face. All I could see was her long locks of curly brown hair. The ambulance technicians rolled her stretcher down the women’s corridor on Ward Eight. I wondered if she was my age.

My heart pounded at the thought of someone new. Anyone new would be a distraction from the mundane days at this hospital. Please, be my age. Maybe I could finally make a friend here.

I dashed over to Nurses’ Station, pushing past Nigel and Ronnie on the way. Rose, the charge nurse, was behind the desk. I drummed a random beat on the desk faster than a band playing Wipeout. Rose glared at my hands, and I stuffed them into my pockets. I'd better calm down or they’ll try to sedate me.

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Hullo,” I said, trying to be casual, “Who’s the new patient?”

At first, Rose didn’t say anything, and I guessed why. She was always going on about patient confidentiality. And I’d tried this before.

But I was wrong.

“I’m glad you stopped by, Jamie," Rose said.  "Our new patient Molly is a wee bit younger than you. This is her first time in hospital. I was thinking of asking you to be her guide."

Tense Change Challenge #5

I originally wrote this ms in first person past tense, then switched to present tense. But I’m not sure, especially for middle grade, if present tense is a good idea. Or even first person.

TITLE: THE SECRET AT SEACHASE
GENRE: MG MYSTERY

Thirteen-year-old Ellie McCoy has just learned that some of the foreign snow cone vendors at the island’s adventure park are victims of a labor trafficking scheme. The boss has taken notice of Ellie’s meddling, and has made plans to export the undocumented workers before his crime is discovered.

FIRST PERSON PRESENT (original):

Sonia stumbles through the open door into the building. Natalia jumps up to catch Sonia before she falls.

In the doorway, Mr. Misaros’ smooth scalp glows yellow from the outside fixture. “Natalia. Good. Nobody at the apartment knew where I could find you.”

Natalia wraps an arm around Sonia and backs into me, pinning my head against the wall. My first impulse is to struggle. But then I relax. If I’m hidden, Dad won’t find out that I came here tonight.

Mr. Misaros says something to the girls. I don’t understand a word. Bulgarian, I guess. He ducks out and slams the door behind him. On the outside of the ice house, metal scrapes against metal.

“What was that about?” I whisper.

Sonia slumps against one of the snow cone carts.

“Mr. Lukas coming tonight. He take us away.” Natalia picks the pizza up off the floor and tosses it into the box.

“Why?” I ask.

“You ask too many questions.”

“No, I don’t. Where will he take you?”

“Anywhere he wants. Nobody will look for us.” Her face is more unsmiling than ever.

“I would.”

“How? You think you’ll get away?”

“I don’t work for Mr. Misaros.”

“Didn’t you hear him bolt the door? We’re locked in,” Natalia says.

I hold my hands out. “But my dad’s going to start looking for me. I have to go. I left my dog outside alone. I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“Ha,” Natalia says.

THIRD PERSON PAST:

Sonia stumbled through the open door into the building. Natalia jumped up to catch Sonia before she fell.

In the doorway, Mr. Misaros’s smooth scalp glowed yellow from the outside fixture. “Natalia. Good. Nobody at the apartment knew where I could find you.”

Natalia wrapped an arm around Sonia and backed into Ellie, pinning her head against the wall. Ellie's first impulse was to struggle. But then she relaxed. If she stayed hidden, Dad wouldn’t find out that she came here tonight.

Mr. Misaros said something to the girls. Ellie didn't understand a word. Bulgarian, she guessed. He ducked out and slammed the door behind him. On the outside of the ice house, metal scraped against metal.

“What was that about?” Ellie whispered.

Sonia slumped against one of the snow cone carts.

“Mr. Lukas coming tonight. He take us away.” Natalia picked the pizza up off the floor and tossed it into the box.

“Why?” I asked.

“You ask too many questions.”

“No, I don’t. Where will he take you?”

“Anywhere he wants. Nobody will look for us.” Her face was more unsmiling than ever.

“I would.”

“How? You think you’ll get away?”

“I don’t work for Mr. Misaros.”

“Didn’t you hear him bolt the door? We’re locked in,” Natalia said.

Ellie held her hands out. “But my dad’s going to start looking for me. I have to go. I left my dog outside alone. I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“Ha,” Natalia said.

Tense Change Challenge #4

TITLE: NEVERMORE
GENRE: YA magical realism

THIRD PERSON PRESENT (original):

Corbel soars on black wings above the crowded streets, so high up the people look like insects scurrying through the downpour, umbrellas obscuring their myopic views, like blinders on a horse. If only they’d look up and see the wonder of a winged boy. No one glances at him and his wings beat against the rain, water beads off his massive wings, his feather oil keeps them and him dry in even the most horrendous storms. Zipping in and around, catching air currents and floating, his face the only part of him wet, he relishes the tingle of the stinging rain on his cheeks, his skin. A thousand needles prick his body with pain and he relishes every drop, every sharp stab. He feels alive when he’s flying.

A faint cry echoes through his soul from below and it’s her voice. Faint. So faint. So lovely in its tones. In a different time and place he’d describe it as lilting, the voice of a fairy sending him into a dreamlike state. It reverberates through him. It calls him to spiral downward and down until his wings beat with furious abandon in the unrelenting storm above the street but unseen. A crack of booming thunder followed by the sharp sulfuric scent of a lightning bolt close by lights up the dark sky and in that moment he sees her illuminated below him.

FIRST PERSON PRESENT:

I soar on black wings above the crowded streets, so high up the people look like insects scurrying through the downpour, umbrellas obscuring their myopic views, like blinders on a horse. If only they’d look up and see the wonder of a winged boy. No one glances at me, and my massive wings beat against the rain, water beading off them.  My feather oil keeps them and me dry in even the most horrendous storms.

Zipping in and around, catching air currents and floating, my face the only part of me wet, I relish the tingle of the stinging rain on my cheeks, my skin. A thousand needles prick my body with pain, and I relish every drop, every sharp stab. I feel alive when I'm flying.

A faint cry echoes through my soul from below, and it’s her voice. Faint. So faint. So lovely in its tones. In a different time and place I’d describe it as lilting, the voice of a fairy sending me into a dreamlike state. It reverberates through me. It calls me to spiral downward and down until my wings beat with furious abandon in the unrelenting storm above the street, but unseen. A crack of booming thunder followed by the sharp sulfuric scent of a lightning bolt close by lights up the dark sky, and in that moment I see her illuminated below me.

Tense Change Challenge #3

TITLE: ISLAND SHADOWS
GENRE: YA Contemporary

With the aid of a local boy, sixteen-year-old Tess finally trespasses onto a private river island to explore an abandoned castle that has inspired her love of architecture since childhood. Unfortunately, the castle isn't how she imagined it.

FIRST PERSON PAST (original):

We mounted the castle steps, two at a time, careful to avoid crumbling patches of stone. A giant wooden door swollen with age stuck on its frame, but after a few shoulder jabs, Ryan pushed it ajar. We passed through an entry hall and arrived in the center of a vast great room. Digging through Ryan’s backpack for a flashlight, I panned the light. The room was empty except for a skeleton of a grand staircase dominating the center. A feeling like disappointment knocked around inside my chest. I ignored it. The bones of the castle were strong, even if nothing else was.

My gaze drifted upward where four levels of balconies towered above us. In the center of the ceiling, a few hundred feet up, shards of light slipped past a dusty stained glass dome. Pointing the glow from the flashlight upward, I shrieked when something warm flapped against my ear. My hands shot to my face and the flashlight clattered to the marble floor. “It’s a bat—just a bat,” he said, his hands brushing the tops of my shoulders. “You spooked it.”

I slumped down on a giant marble step, trying to slow my pulse. Something was off. I started to think about the stories Tommy, Ashlyn and Katie had shared around the bonfire, wondering if they were true. Then I told myself to stop; those stories were ridiculous. Ryan scooped up the batteries and the flashlight and sat down beside me, beginning to reassemble the pieces.

FIRST PERSON PRESENT:

We mount the castle steps two at a time, careful to avoid crumbling patches of stone. A giant wooden door, swollen with age, sticks on its frame, but after a few shoulder jabs, Ryan pushes it ajar. We pass through an entry hall and arrive in the center of a vast great room.

Digging through Ryan’s backpack for a flashlight, I pan the light. The room is empty except for a skeleton of a grand staircase dominating the center. A feeling like disappointment knocks around inside my chest. I ignore it. The bones of the castle are strong, even if nothing else is.

My gaze drifts upward, where four levels of balconies tower above us. In the center of the ceiling, a few hundred feet up, shards of light slip past a dusty, stained-glass dome. Pointing the glow from the flashlight upward, I shriek when something warm flaps against my ear. My hands shoot to my face and the flashlight clatters to the marble floor.

“It’s a bat—just a bat,” Ryan says, his hands brushing the tops of my shoulders. “You spooked it.”

I slump down on a giant marble step, trying to slow my pulse. Something is off. I start to think about the stories Tommy, Ashlyn, and Katie shared around the bonfire, wondering if they were true. Then I tell myself to stop; those stories are ridiculous.

Ryan scoops up the batteries and the flashlight and sits down beside me, beginning to reassemble the pieces.

Tense Change Challenge #2

TITLE: Prime Vector
GENRE: YA Sci-Fi

This is the second chapter, introducing the girl MC. MS is dual POV. I recently changed my MS from present tense, third person, to past, third. I wonder, if I should go a step further and change it to first person, past tense.

THIRD PERSON PAST (original):

City of Phoenicis, Mars
Year 2148

The Phoenicis skyline of glass, steel, and marble stone stood in the distance, scraping the crimson sky. Fifty stories up, the iron rails weaved a path throughout the city, going over and around the buildings. A few scattered, perfectly white and puffy clouds moved across, and out of her line of sight. Tomorrow was a scheduled rain day.

Catita sprinted toward the city center, wilted amaranth flowers and gravel crunched under her running boots. “Hey, watch it!” Catita swung at the small aircraft, buzzing around her like a honeybee, a curfew drone patrolling the city. Its shiny, white body had four pairs of red eyes, and dangly legs that made it look like an oversized, mechanical spider. When it finished the scan, it took off, missing the passing train car by inches. The stupid things are a menace.

She ran to Old Main Street, then took a left at the end of the block. When she reached her street, she stopped outside the small art gallery across from her building to catch her breath. Soft piano notes poured out onto the street from somewhere overhead. Sensing movement, the shop window displayed pre-recorded ads. Catita watched as she stretched her hamstring, then her arms.

The sequence ended with a still image of a woman, with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, bright red lips, and in a dark business suit. She looked elegant, sipping from a steaming espresso cup.

FIRST PERSON PAST:

City of Phoenicis, Mars
Year 2148

The Phoenicis skyline of glass, steel, and marble stone stood in the distance, scraping the crimson sky. Fifty stories up, the iron rails weaved a path throughout the city, going over and around the buildings. A few scattered, perfectly white and puffy clouds moved across and out of my line of sight. Tomorrow was a scheduled rain day.

I sprinted toward the city center, wilted amaranth flowers and gravel crunching under my running boots. “Hey, watch it!” I swung at the small aircraft buzzing around me like a honeybee, a curfew drone patrolling the city. Its shiny, white body had four pairs of red eyes and dangly legs that made it look like an oversized, mechanical spider. When it finished the scan, it took off, missing the passing train car by inches. The stupid things were a menace.

I ran to Old Main Street, then took a left at the end of the block. When I reached my street, I stopped outside the small art gallery across from my building to catch my breath. Soft piano notes poured out onto the street from somewhere overhead. Sensing movement, the shop window displayed pre-recorded ads. I watched as I stretched my hamstring, then my arms.

The sequence ended with a still image of a woman with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, bright red lips, and in a dark business suit. She looked elegant, sipping from a steaming espresso cup.

Tense Change Challenge #1

TITLE: IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
GENRE: CONTEMPORARY

Jimmy is a drummer in a rock band and is performing on stage. In the middle of the song he feels the urge to sneeze.

THIRD PERSON PAST (original):

Now would be a terrible time to sneeze, Jimmy Rickliefs thought. He leaned back, turned his head toward his vocal mic, and started singing the harmony to "Midnight" with lead singer Aldon Smith. His brain worked on lyrics and drum beats, making sure his hands and feet hit the right drums at the right time in the right order and rhythm.

And then, he sneezed. Mid lyric. It echoed over the cheers of the crowd and the entire band turned as one and started laughing. He flipped them off, never missing a beat or a lyric. When the song ended, he scratched his nose, trying to get the attention of one of their roadies. Maddie ran over, squatting down behind his hi-hat.

"What'cha need, Jim?" she asked over his head set.

"Tissues," he said. She laughed, but sprinted off in search of a box. When she came back, box in hand, he smiled. "Thanks."

She nodded, then dashed off stage, as Aldon entertained the crowd. Jimmy wiped his nose, hoping he wasn't getting sick. Their tour was winding down and it would time to head to Europe soon. Being sick on tour sucked, and they'd all been sick plenty of times.

"So, Jimmy, you all done sneezing up there?" Aldon asked.

Jimmy laughed, hoping their tech had his mic turned up. "F*** you, Al!"

The crowd laughed and cheered. Aldon flipped the drummer off. "Don't call me Al, mother f*****."

"Yo Anthony. You know how to play 'You can Call Me Al'?" Jimmy asked.

----

FIRST PERSON PRESENT:

Now would be a terrible time to sneeze.

I lean back, turn my head toward my vocal mic, and start singing the harmony to "Midnight" with lead singer Aldon Smith. My brain works on lyrics and drum beats, making sure my hands and feet hit the right drums at the right time in the right order and rhythm.

And then, I sneeze. Mid-lyric. It echoes over the cheers of the crowd, and the entire band turns and starts laughing. I flip them off, never missing a beat or a lyric. When the song ends, I scratch my nose nose, trying to get the attention of one of our roadies. Maddie runs over, squatting down behind my hi-hat.

"What'cha need, Jim?" she asks over my head set.

"Tissues," I say.

She laughs, but sprints off in search of a box. When she comes back, box in hand, I smile.

"Thanks."

She nods, then dashes offstage as Aldon entertains the crowd. I wipe my nose, hoping I'm not getting sick. Our tour is winding down, and it'll be time to head to Europe soon. Being sick on tour sucks, and we've all been sick plenty of times.

"So, Jimmy, you all done sneezing up there?" Aldon asks.

I laugh, hoping our tech has his mic turned up. "F*** you, Al!"

The crowd laughs and cheers. Aldon flips me off. "Don't call me Al, mother f*****."

"Yo, Anthony. You know how to play 'You can Call Me Al'?" I ask.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Happy Friday!

I've been having fun changing tenses for the TENSE CHANGE CHALLENGE entries.  It's funny to note that, even in a mere 250 words, I will find errors when I go back through to proofread my work.  Tense changing is tricky!  It's like our brain tells us what it expects to see instead of what it actually sees.

At any rate, those will post on Monday.  Be ready with your critique!

As for today--here's your writerly question that begs an answer:

How aware are you, while writing a story, of the personal beliefs and passions with which your writing is infused?

In other words, do you go into it knowing things like, "I believe global warming is killing the planet, so I'm going to write a story about a dying earth," or "I've been through 3 divorces and I don't believe in happily-ever-after, so I'm going to write a doomed love story"?  Or do you simply write, and then discover later which deep, passionate parts of your psyche have surfaced?

For me, it's been largely unconscious.  For example, the novel that captured my agent's heart has "loss of freedom/maintaining autonomy" as one of its main themes, but I didn't sit down and decide to write a story about that.  It was a natural outgrowth of who I am and what cooks inside my brain when I'm not necessarily actively thinking about it.  I trust it's the same for many of you, too.

So, share!  Are your themes conscious or unconscious?  And if they're unconscious, can you share a revelatory moment during which you declared, "Great Scott! My undying support for sending dogs to the International Space Station is all over this story of mine!"

Looking forward, as always, to hearing from you!