Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6 1st Five Pages Workshop - May Rev 2: Entry #4

Cassandra - YA steampunk

Where did the casting director find this guy? Villians-R-Us?

I grunted as I hung from the Cliffs of Broken Glass, my fingers barely holding on to the plastic edges fifteen feet above the soundstage.

“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.”

It’s not easy to get tired muscles moving, but I worked on it tirelessly for weeks after that. I had bigger guns than Madonna for a while there. It was awesome.

I had been hanging for nearly five minutes now, and my muscles were definitely tired. I pumped my arms like Dad had taught me and I swung 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 purchase. 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. I smiled anyway, sure that I had bested my own personal record for hang time with a successful completion.

“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 fifteen-foot drop. Pom gave me a shove off the edge with her manicured foot.


Pom’s 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 through my body before slowly fading away.

Alison Arroway does not get hurt.

I’m 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. Our slim builds and light skin tones were a perfect match and I think the cost of constantly having to CGI out some older persons wrinkles and broad shoulders might have something to do with it too.

I laid on the mat and watched as Eric rode in on a white horse, his armor 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 lay atop 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, 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. Europe for three weeks! Paid! I might even get a day or two off to go sightseeing.


  1. AWESOME revision!! This really rocks. The opening line made me laugh out loud. I got her voice and snarky humor immediately. I was pulled in and enjoyed it. Only very minor things. 1. "I’m the stunt double for big names like Pomegranate Posy." Great except you go on to explain that she got this gig special, and this line makes it sound like she is the stunt double for a bunch of big names. Minor tweak. and 2. There are a few paragraphs that start with the word "I" in a row. You may want to look at varying that/changing up the sentence structure. It's easy to fall into that with 1st person. I do it all the time and have to be cognizant of it. But honestly other than that I thought your revision really shined. You've done an excellent job, and you can really see the difference from the first to this iteration. A little goes a long way.

  2. Hi Cassie,

    Love the first paragraph, and the second. Those work beautifully to cue us into the action.

    Not sure why the next two paragraphs are separated. Suggest you combine them. More importantly, I'd like to see Aragno ennunciate the cheesy lines or act them in a way that merits her disdain.

    I said this before, I think, but having her eyes watch is redundant and unneccesary in first POV. Just tell us what she sees. Who is he winking at?

    Watch the "ing" verbs, especially in non-simultaneous clauses. And eliminate "started to XXX," just initiate the action.

    The more I consider the drop from the ledge, the more I realize this is a problem. Even as a stunt double, taking unnecessary risks on set would have people swarming all over her. Pom nudging her would get Pom in trouble. Remember that there are stunt coordinators and bean counters with worker's comp and insurance premiums to worry about. So tweak this a little bit.

    The justification of CGIing out the wrinkles doesn't quite work, because if they can see wrinkles, they can see features. Unless the features ar ethe same, you don't want to go there. Worry about camera angles instead.

    My biggest issues are still that Pom has no motivation for her treatment of Alison, and I still don't see the stakes here. What is Alison's goal for the scene. By now, we should have her external--why is she willing to put up with this crap, what is she hoping to accomplish, is it just the trip to Portugal?--and some idea of the internal goal.

    Who is the antag? What obstacle is she going to face?

    We don't have a clue at this point where this is going, or even the genre, and I really think we need to. Especially if it's going to be steampunk, we need some grounding to give a hint of things to come.

    Hope this helps. The revision was great. Just take it a bit further and give us the meat.


  3. Love the new first line.

    Since Martina and Lisa used all my nits--the watched, started--but I'm going to add "I heard the director..." instead say, the director said from below me. Those phrases remove the reader from the immediacy you need to establish with the main character.

    So, I'm moving onto a question that's been nagging at me.

    I have to wonder if this is supposed to be a "B" movie or is it supposed to be a major movie? I'm wondering because the villain is described as lame, the characters have no chemistry--according to your vp character--and the onset dialogue is pretty cheesy.

    Allison seems to have nothing but disdain for the actors and partially the director--and I'm wondering why that is? Is it this set of people she doesn't have any respect for or the industry itself?

    And why are Eric and Pom doing another movie together if they have no chemistry?

    I'm interested in how Steampunk is going to come into play. And I'm intrigued by the trip to Portugal.

  4. Hi Cassie,

    I'd like to second (or third) that I love the first line.

    I don't know too much about how stunt doubles work, but I'd like a bit more clarity around the part when she's hoisting herself back onto the ledge. I can tell that the footage is supposed to be used because of Pom's comment after but as a first reader I was thinking, the filming had stopped since the director and her were yelling back and forth. Maybe that's where you can bring in stuff about the camera angle that Martina suggested: say something about how she kept her face away from the camera as she answered him.

    Also watch out for repeating words (that's something I do all the time without noticing). Around that same part the word "tired" (or variations of it) is used a bunch.

    I remember before you had that comment about her grandmother or someone and her old photos, which would have given a hint about the historical direction the story was going to take, but I think it needs to be more seamlessly integrated into the opening if it's going to be there. Maybe the studio isn't going to cover her hotel or something, and she has to stay with her relative or something. Then, she can be reacting to what it will be like bedding down among all the old scrapbooks while Pom and Eric have rooms will views of the Mediterranean. Just a thought.

    And of course, that wouldn't fit in this first five pages the way you have it now, but it's just something to consider.

    Anyway, great work with the revision. I can't wait to see the next round!

  5. Gotta say, love the first line too!

    One thing that caught my notice is when you say the villian "taking a quiet drink" As opposed to a loud drink?

    I had no idea this was steampunk and don't get the feel for that at all. Time travel or something happening later?

    I also agree with the previous posts about why Allison dislikes the cast so much, and vice-versa.

    Again, I am really really wondering why the director is sending her on a paid vacation. I've never heard of such a thing. Usually they had over a paycheck and send the crew on their way.

    I'm looking forward to the next revision!

  6. Hi,

    This is SO much stronger. The commercial really made the difference along with the additional tweaks.

    My remaining reservations still remain have to do with her goals, and giving us some preview of the Steampunk vibe. Put you're thinking cap on. I had this same problem with my WIP, and had to really dig deep to find a way to introduce an element of magic. It doesn't have to be huge. Just a hint of foreshadowing, a visual metaphor, the introduction of your image system. You CAN do it--I've no doubt you have the writing chops to get that done and the ms will be stronger for it (IMO).

    Even if her goals change in the course of the story, give us a little more hint of internal and external goals. We don't need to know WHY she wants whatever she wants, but we do need a hint of where we're starting the arc. What's her problem?

    That's it. Really strong revision and I love her voice more each time I read this.




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