In our ongoing lessons on story development, I give you part 10 of “Wanted, A Superhero to Save the World.”
In this excerpt, Eddie and Sam prepare to use their gifts in the outside world for the first time–Eddie, his intelligence, and Sam, her new super powers. The story introduces two new characters in fun ways, showing them doing what they normally do. Notice that the descriptions are scant. My hope is to give a few details that allow readers to draw in the scene themselves. I mention an apartment, a sidewalk, and a maintenance man standing on a ladder against a building. I don’t tell how tall the building is, what color the bricks are, what other buildings are around it, because these details aren’t important. The key is to provide enough for readers to sketch a city scene themselves.
The same is true with regard to the electronics store. I mention a video game in front of a large-screen TV. Most of my readers have seen such stores, so they can mentally sketch the rest. Describing too much bogs down a story. Also, I describe Morris and Jack without many details, but enough to allow readers to get an idea.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them.
As quiet as a mute mouse, I hurried out and picked up my backpack from a hook on the wall near the main door. Walking around the apartment, I collected three snack bars, the VR helmet, Damocles’s flash drive, and my hologram projector and stuffed them into the backpack. Then I shot off an email to Jack telling him I’d be at the store before it opens.
When Sam joined me, her face washed and her hair neatly tied into twin ponytails with two pink ribbons, we scampered out of our apartment and down the stairs. That route was faster than our slow-as-a-crippled-turtle elevator anyway.
Once on the sidewalk in front of our building, Sam stopped and slid her hand into mine. “My secret identity is Samantha, a little girl who’s scared of the city streets. She is blind in one eye and has throat cancer. Her parents were killed by a swarm of rabid weasels, so now she’s an orphan.”
“An orphan, huh? Cool idea.”
Her vigorous nod shook her ponytails. “So you’ll have to hold my hand, but if a bad guy jumps us, I’ll transform into Princess Queenie Unicorn Esmeralda Sabrina Taryn Rosey Olive Buttercup Iris Tassels.”
“So now you changed it to Princess Questrobit.”
“No! My superhero name hasn’t changed. You just keep forgetting.”
“Morning to ya, Eddie. Samantha.”
I pivoted. Morris the maintenance man stood halfway up a ladder that leaned against our building. Although it was still morning, sweat glistened on his sunburned face. “What’s up, Morris?”
“Seems that I am!” Wearing a carpenter’s utility belt over dirty jeans and gray t-shirt, he tromped down the rungs. “Got two windows to fix. Yours is next, but I can get to it from the fire escape.”
I angled my body to see the side of the building, but the window was out of sight. “Who reported it?”
He shrugged. “Your mom, I guess. I just got a call from the landlord to fix it.”
I stared at the alley. Milligan probably watched me crawl through the window last night. He was keeping a close eye on us. “Well, I think my mom’s sleeping, so—”
“I’ll be as quiet as a woodpecker on a downspout.” He pulled a hammer from his belt. “Sorry, but it’s part of the job.”
“Are you sticking around all morning?”
“Yep. After the window, I have to set rat traps. The beasts are multiplying faster than a calculator.”
“Can you kind of keep an eye out for my mom while we’re gone? I think I saw a prowler near our window last night.”
“You can count on me.” Morris pretended to bop someone with his hammer. “Any strangers will have to get past me first. I have a black belt in blunt tools.”
“Thanks. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
As Sam and I walked hand in hand, I took note of her arm extending past her short sleeve. Yes, her muscles were still much bigger than normal. I should have told her to wear longer sleeves, but then she would’ve complained about the July heat.
I glanced at my own arm. Normal. Not a sign of molecular transformation. It seemed that my generator had worked only once and then died. I could fix it if I could get the parts I needed, but giving up my VR helmet made that possibility look pretty dim.
We took the long way to bypass what locals called the Dead Zone—a haunt for drug dealers, black-market traders, and undead beings, though I wasn’t ready to believe in the ghosts and zombies people talked about. Adults were probably just trying to keep kids away from the zone.
When we arrived at the store, I pressed my nose against the glass door and peered inside. Jack was playing a video game on a giant-screen TV. A clock on the wall said half past eight.
Still holding Samantha’s hand, I tapped on the glass with a knuckle. Jack held up a finger, his stare riveted on the TV. After a few seconds, his shoulders slumped, and he laid the game controller on a chair.
As he sauntered toward the door, his gray ponytail swayed behind him. He once told me he came from the hippie generation and couldn’t stand the thought of cutting his hair or shaving his beard, though he kept the beard fairly short and neat.
He unlocked the door and swung it open, grinning. “Well, well, well! It’s Megahertz and his little sister Kilohertz.”
“Yeah. Good one.” I pushed past him, guiding Sam at my side. “I haven’t heard that one … today.”
Jack touched my backpack. “Did you bring it?”
“Yep.” I slid the straps down and unzipped the pack.
As I lifted the helmet out, Jack licked his lips. “I’ll get the solar cells.”
Just as he turned, I grabbed his arm. “Wait. I want to make a different deal.”
“A different deal?” Jack rubbed his hands together as if anticipating a bartering session. “What else you got?”
“First, I don’t want the solar cells. I want that handheld computer you have on sale.”
“The Z-90? Why? It’s old technology. We’re just draining the inventory to get some cash for the new stuff.”
I hid a smile. Jack fancied himself as a master negotiator, but he was really as clever as a dung beetle. He had already given me the upper hand. “Since it’s not really worth much, then you’ll have to throw in a master interface plug so I can connect my hologram projector.”
“Well, it still sells for a couple of hundred bucks, and the adapter is fifteen. You can’t trade helmet hours for that much.”
“How about if I trade the helmet itself?”
Jack’s mouth dropped open. His tongue nearly hung out as he splurted, “Sold!”
He reached for the helmet, but I pulled it back. “Plus cash. I know this helmet’s worth more than two hundred. It’s one of a kind. Way more advanced than anything on the market. You know that.”
“Yeah, yeah, but you’re here begging for a trade, so I get to set the value.” Jack looked upward for a moment, then at the helmet. “I’ll add fifty bucks.”
“Fifty? You gotta be kidding! I could get five hundred in the Dead Zone.”
He waved a hand. “Then go to the Dead Zone. If you come out alive with the five hundred, then I’ll personally pat you on the back. More than likely I’ll be at your funeral.”
I looked past Jack at an open door to an office. His boss sat at a desk shuffling through a stack of papers. I extended the helmet to Jack. “Tell you what. You show this to your boss, and I’ll accept whatever he says it’s worth. Deal?”
“Deal.” He grabbed the helmet and tucked it under his arm. “No backing out.”
“It goes both ways. You can’t back out either.”
“Of course. I’m no cheat.” He marched to the office and closed the door.
I whispered to Sam, “Tell me what they say.”
Categories: Story Development