Saturday, May 14, 2011

6 1st Five Pages Workshop - May Rev 1: Entry #4

Young Adult - Cassandra Marshall

Where did the casting director find this lame villain?

I dangled perilously from the Cliffs of Broken Glass, my fingers barely grasping the plastic edges.

“See what happens when you mess with me?” Captain Aragno said, pointing down at me, his head back in laughter.

“Let’s see how you get out of this. Your precious Mikaehl can’t save you now! So long, Princessa!”

Aragno laughed again and stomped away. My eyes watched his saggy belly sway as he strutted down the back ramp and over to the nearby table.
He winked before taking a quiet drink from a large Nalgene bottle, the feathers in his hat blowing madly from the force of the wind machine beside him.

He really was awful. But enough of him. I had a job to do.

Refocusing on the ledge, I started swinging my legs up, trying to get a foothold. The sharp plastic edges dug into my fingers, but I pushed down the pain.

At a training day about a year ago, my father took me to the Navy Seals training grounds in North Carolina and we worked on dangling techniques.

“Keep your arms slightly bent,” he had said. “Try to pump if you can, keep that blood flowing. You don’t want to tire out your muscles too quickly.”

I had been hanging for nearly five minutes now, and my muscles were definitely tired. I swung again and again, barely missing my foothold.

“Need a break?” I heard the director say from below me.

“No!” I yelled back, voice shaking with the effort.

Pull it together. Pull. It. Together.

I gave my legs another swing and finally found a foothold. I gripped the plastic and rubber grass for all it was worth, and heaved myself up and over the edge, where I landed with a thump in the fake dirt. It smelled like someone had just whizzed in it.

“Alright, Pom, you’re in.”

A girl dressed exactly the way I was approached me from the right. Her corset was just the tinniest bit tighter and her boobs popped out over the top the way I wish mine did.

“You could have been more graceful, you know. Everyone’s going to make fun of the way I did that. We’ll have to cut out all of your grunts too.”

I stared up at her flawless skin and sighed. “Pomegranate, I—”

“Really,” she interrupted. “Get out of the frame.”

I groaned and rolled towards the cliff edge and looked at the ten foot drop.
Pom gave me a shove off the edge with her manicured foot.


Pom’s girly giggle faded as I fell away from her. I barely managed to get my hands up and my knees in the right position before I slammed against the hard mats.

The air left my lungs for just a second and I sucked in a renewing breath before I lifted an arm to wave off the waiting medic. Tingles spread their way through my body before fading away.

Alison Arroway does not get hurt.

That’s what made me one of the best in the business. But no one knows my name, I’m just the stunt double for big names like Pomegranate Posy. She walks into big roles like this. I have to fight for them.
Normally you can’t even be a stunt double until you’re 18 but my dad’s history with the studio managed to get me a “limited contract” with Pom. I can’t do the really serious stuff like hang from real cliffs, but Pom wouldn’t even fall backwards onto mats so the studio really had no choice but to hire me. Pom’s a goldmine, they’d be nuts to just fire her.

I laid on the mat and watched as Eric rode in on a white horse, his amour shining in the bright lights of the studio. The horse didn’t seem to like the feel of the fake cliff under his hooves. It’s eyes reminded me of that dramatic gopher video everyone and their dog saw on YouTube a few years back.

It didn’t really matter anyway, as soon as Eric jumped off the horse and wrapped his arms around Pom, pulling her up from where she clutched the edge of the cliff above me, a trainer crept beside the horse and led it away. That horse probably got paid as much as I did today.

“Oh Mikaehl, I was so scared! I wished and hoped for you and now here you are!”

“My dear Princessa! Have no fear! We are together now and you never have to worry again.”

All eyes in the studio focused on Eric and Pom’s faces as they leaned in for the kiss.

I couldn’t look. Pom and Eric have about as much chemistry in this film as their last film, Zero to Hero. The fight scene in that one was awesome though. I got to take three weeks of fencing lessons. Pom was adamant that no knives would come anywhere near her long strawberry blond hair.
I gripped my copycat braided wig and pulled it from my head. I watched the people around us, the men behind the cameras and holding boom mics, the makeup people waiting with palates for touch ups, the caterers wistfully looking in Eric’s direction and wishing they were in Pom’s shoes.

“And, CUT!” The director yelled. He rushed over to Pom and Eric and gushed about how well the scene turned out, how he could really feel the passion behind their words, how Pom really seemed to have struggled and how her sense of relief at being rescued by Eric was felt throughout the entire studio lot.

I stuffed my face into the wig and tried not to laugh too noticeably.

No one seemed to notice that Princessa saved herself there, that all that grunting and pulling I did meant that the princess didn’t really need the prince to save the day after all. If he hadn’t shown up, she could have walked into the sunset on her own like a bad-ass.

Swarms of people gathered around Pom and dabbed her with swabs and handed her soft damp cloths and bottled water as the makeup and wardrobe teams did their best to clear off the dirt she picked up.

Most moviegoers don’t like to see dirty heroines. Dirty was my job.

Finally, the director worked his way over to me and said, “Nice job, kid.” He motioned to his many assistants and one came running over with a packet. She thrust it into my hands and gazed adoringly at the director but he ignored her.

“That’s your ticket now, don’t lose it. The plane boards at 3:00 and you better be on it.” He turned away and walked over to the monitors to check the dailies.

I ripped open the packet and searched amongst the papers for the ticket, finally finding it wedged between a list of things to pack and a list of rules while on the island about what is and what is not acceptable to talk about to the press. I scanned the ticket, seeing my name and the date and the final destination: Portugal. It was going to be awesome, a European vacation with a few rope swings and cliff dives and for three weeks! Paid!

I searched the ticket again and my smile faded. Row 32, seat B. Coach.
My first international flight and not even a window seat? Lame. But at least I’d be in Portugal My grandma was adopted from Portugal and I’ve always wondered what it was like there. Maybe I could even dig up some of her family history.


  1. The voice is 2 is astounding and compelling. She's a bit snarky and edgy, and I love the details you added in to clarify a few of the things she was doing (like looking away from their kiss scene). The voice in 1 is barely there, though. Definitely flush it out, because it's a great scene, and if some of her tough persona came through more I doubt I'd put the book down unless your MC turned into Pom.

    On the other hand, I love what you're doing within the text, too. I love her commentary that Pom's character WOULD HAVE been absolutely fine without Eric's character coming to 'save the day.' Fabulous. I also loved the bit about the horse getting paid as much as her.

    I think this is great set-up :) Great job!

  2. Nice revision. I like that we get it's a movie set right away. I think that's a great hook and it flows better with the story. I know it's picky but the word "Villain" still bothers me for some reason. Maybe because Villain is the part not the actor? I don't even know if it's a big deal, but it caught my attention so I thought I'd point it out.

    A couple other things. This line: I stared up at her flawless skin and sighed. makes it sound like she's crushing on Pom. There are a couple of places where you use the same word more than once in close proximity so you'll want to do a pass for that. When the hero shows up, you say Princessa is holding the edge of the cliff or something like that, but she'd already pulled herself up, which is important to the scene, so you may want to tweak the wording there.

    It feels in some places like this is a throwback to an older time. I picture 1940's movies serials or something. Maybe the names and dialogue in the movie? But then other parts are more modern, like her tickets for coach. I'm wondering what time this is set in?

    I'm going to give you a little more of a hard time with the minor issue, but I promise this is it and I'll leave it alone after that. Why couldn't they get a small adult to do it? I mean she has to wear a wig anyway. :D Sorry! I have to play devil's advocate here.

    Now the good stuff! I like her spunk. I still love her pointing out the Princessa saves herself. I like the relationship you've hinted at with her dad. I'm intrigued about her connection to Portugal. And I'm fascinated by the adventurous life she appears to be living. Cool story!

  3. I only had a few nits to pick. Little stuff.

    Like:Aragno laughed again and stomped away. My eyes watched his saggy belly sway as he strutted down the back ramp and over to the nearby table.-I didn't like my eyes watched--His saggy belly swayed as he strutted down the back ramp and--

    And:--The fight scene in that one was awesome though--there seems to be a non-sequitor here, nothing to set this up. Maybe instead phrase it: At least that one had an awesome fight scene.--which feels more like her voice and still leads into the fencing facts.

    And this one:My grandma was adopted from Portugal and I’ve always wondered what it was like there. Maybe I could even dig up some of her family history.---okay, I don't know if this is the end of your chapter or not. If it is, it's not a hook to keep the reader turning the page--if it's not, it still seems to come out of nowhere for me. Maybe save that info to come up when she's talking to her dad or someone. But it doesn't feel organic where you have it. It feels like the author is forcing the information in on the reader for a purpose.

    Really, that's all I could come up with. I think this is a great story with a fiesty heroine. I love the stunt-girl aspect of the story.

  4. I love the revision. I can picture it all so much better now.

    Love the manicured foot detail.

    I agree that the grandmother bit seemed to come out of nowhere.

    Also, I really liked that lame villain line last time, but now that I see it as the first sentence, I wonder if it could be tightened to give it more punch. Maybe something like: "Where did casting find this guy?" and then switching the second and third sentences. Just a thought.

    Great job, though. She's such a cool character. I love that dirt is her job.

  5. Love the revision! I do ager with the comments above. Also, I all want to know why the director is sending her on vacation, it doesn't make sense at all. Wouldn'tone of her parents be sending her our at least paying for it? If the vacation is a working one for the movie, you should definitely put that in to explain. Great job tho!

  6. Hi Cassie,

    This is coming along beautifully, and I love the heroine and the premise, but I agree with some of the others that I'd like to know a little more about the setup in the first few pages, get a bit more grounding in the basic situation.

    As an example:

    Where did the casting director find this lame villain?

    I dangled perilously from the Cliffs of Broken Glass, my fingers barely grasping the plastic edges fifteen feet above the soundstage.

    Or whatever your setup is. FWIW, I also agree that the first line could use just a little bit of tweaking. Maybe something as simple as:

    Where did casting get these lame villains? This one was worse than the last picture I'd done.

    You've got two adverbs in the second sentence, so I'd rephrase that using a stronger verb in one instance.

    Since we're in her POV, you can be more direct throughout, dropping phrases like, "My eyes watched" and simply going directly to the action.

    Be careful that action and reaction is clear. For example, who is the target of the villain's wink?

    Love the voice in lines like:

    He really was awful. But enough of him. I had a job to do.

    In the flashback, I found the way you handled your tense shifts a little bit confusing. Consider using the past participle in the first reference, then going to simple past, then bringing us back to the present with the Now at the beginning of the sentence followed by a simple past action. As it is, you use simple past as the first tense within your flashback, then return to a past participle.

    The bigger problem with the flashback is that you aren't applying the information gleaned from it. Consider having her so tired she can barely hang on, then remembering the technique her father taught her and applying that to give her the extra strength she needs before she gets her cue. Could the villain's swaggering and missed lines force her to dangle so long her arms are burning? Or something like that, maybe?

    Although I like the explanation about being a stunt double, I suggest you cut the line about being one of the best in the business. It's a tough business with a lot of serious pros who have trained for years. The line diminishes her credibility. Also, since fencing is swords, not knives, although you're making a joke of that, it could be confusing for many readers.

    I got a little lost with the reference to the island, and while I get the reference to the vacation, the reality -- as she well knows -- is that she will be glued to the set most days. Maybe it would alleviate the last commentor's confusion if you have her hope she'll have time to see something outside the studio?

    My biggest problem here is that I still don't get a sense of the stakes for her, or get a sense of anything she cares about. She doesn't seem to love her job. Please give us something to root for--really root for. The idea of the teen stunt double is kickass, but I think you still need to get into the meat of the story much faster.



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