Tuesday, October 25, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Entry #4, Rev 3

Name: Jenny Kaczorowski
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy

Dark shadows flickered at the corners of Emma’s vision as she watched mourners gather around the fresh grave at the base of the hill. They clung to one another, finding comfort in knowing they didn’t mourn alone. Comfort she couldn’t share. Even from where she stood at the peak of the hill, their shock and grief and anger pounded against her.

The wind shaped her dark hair into softly waving tendrils and she brushed it away from her face with the back of her hand. She shifted her feet and the frozen dew clinging to the grass crackled under her.

Emma knew she should join the other mourners. She knew they expected her to share in their public display of sorrow.

But she couldn’t.

The slightest touch, the slightest betrayal of emotion and she would lose everything. Even a hug, a simple gesture meant to console, could send her spiraling out of control.

She remained frozen, a silent witness to their grief. She saw every detail in stunning clarity. The lurid green of the carpet covering the hole in the ground and the cold, dead coffin that held her best friend. The sky, the same colorless grey as her eyes, burned in her mind. Overwhelming sorrow surrounded her, but she refused to absorb any of it.

Her parents were worried. Not that she blamed them. She’d never handled loss well. She’d nearly self-destructed when Gabriel left four years earlier. And he’d only moved away.

Lily was dead.

Unbidden, an image rose before her eyes. She squeezed them shut to block out the vision, but the nightmare remained. Lily under the river, a modern Ophelia caught in the current. Her black and empty eyes stared at nothing. The golden strands of her hair spread around her like the rays of a halo in a Renaissance painting.

Emma tried to steady herself, to fight the panic rising in her chest. It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t hurt her. She repeated the words drilled into her brain. It’s not real. It can’t hurt me.

After so long, she’d almost learned to believe them.

Almost.

But this time it was real. Lily had drowned. And no matter what anyone said, Emma knew it wasn’t an accident.


#


Gabriel eased his body into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. He held his breath until the deadbolt slid into place. His eyes darted around the darkened room, illuminated only by the pale green of the florescent lights under the cabinets.

An empty wine glass stood in the sink, collecting water dripping from the faucet. A droplet hit the glass with a soft splash. He pivoted, ready to react, but the rest of the house remained still and silent.

He exhaled.

Gabriel doubted his clumsy attempt to sneak in had gone unnoticed, yet he didn’t hear the telltale creak of his mother’s bedroom door or the soft padding sound of her footsteps along the hallway. He slipped into the bathroom.

Leaning against the sink, he brushed his hair back to check for visible cuts or bruises – anything that would draw his mother’s attention.

It wasn’t a clean fight, but he could cover the marks it left on his body. He could hide the truth from his mother a little longer.

The blood-encrusted fabric of his shirt pulled against his skin as he peeled it away. Two ragged scars ran along his shoulder blades, bloody and hot to the touch. A bruise spread across his neck, seeping up from his chest and shoulder. He pressed against the dark purple splotch and winced.

“Gabe, honey?”

His mother’s voice made him cringe. “One minute, Mom. I’m about to take a shower.” Throwing a towel over his bare shoulders, he stuck his head into the darkened hallway.

“Are you alright?” Her dark eyes, so like his own, scrutinized his face. “I thought I just heard you come in.”

“Late night. Studying.”

“Again?” Her voice sounded sharper than usual.

He held her gaze, but remained silent.

“You’re barely seventeen,” she said.

“I can handle it.”

“What are they doing to you?” she said. She looked small and helpless. Gabriel could see fear in her eyes and wished he could erase it.

“Please, Mom.” He was afraid she’d come too close to the truth and force him into an outright lie.

“I’m trying not to ask too many questions, but please don’t keep shutting me out.”

“I need to do this, Mom. You know that. I can’t help who I am.”

She twisted the slim, gold ring on her left hand. “I talked to Grandma today,” she said. “She invited you to spend the summer with her.”

Gabriel startled. The invitation could only mean one thing. Emma.

“I want you to go,” his mother continued. “I want you to leave California.”

“Yeah. Sure. I’ll go,” he said.

“Thank you.” The worried crease in her forehead eased.

“Can I get my shower now?” he asked.

“Are you sure you’re okay? You look pale.” She reached out to touch his face and he instinctively pulled back. She dropped her hand and balled it into a fist. “I forget you’re not my little boy anymore.”

“I’m fine.”

“You look more and more like your father every day.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Goodnight, Gabriel.”

“’Night, Mom.” He closed the door and rested his head against it.


#


Emma sat in a secluded corner of the cheerful, chaotic art room. Rather than face the rush of students and teachers jostling to reach the parking lot, she meticulously cleaned her brushes. She glanced toward her final project – an intricate, Japanese-style brush painting – before heading into the fray again.

Students hurried to escape the high school and revel in the first afternoon of summer vacation. Emma slipped into the deserted hallways, able to breathe easier without the noise of hundreds of emotions buzzing around her.

A wayward freshman darted past and brushed against her. She flinched as their skin touched. His anxiety washed through her, triggering a vision of the boy pressing a razor blade against his wrist. His suffocating melancholy strangled her and she froze, fighting for breath. Part of her wanted to run after him, to hold on to him and let his dark emotions bleed into her.

Emma fought against the empathy coursing through her. It wasn’t like she could help everyone. She couldn’t even help Lily. Closing her hands into fists, she dug her nails into the soft flesh of her palms, focusing on the real, tangible pain until his emotions ebbed.

Letting out a shaky breath, she turned to check her empty locker one final time. She avoided looking at the memorial program taped to the inside of the door. She didn’t need to hold on to another reminder of her loss. She pushed the door closed and it gave a decisive, metallic clang.

Lily’s death had shocked the small college town of West River, but soon faded from memory. Once the official investigation ruled the drowning an accident, everyone moved on.

Lily’s death had shocked the close knit community of West River, but soon faded from memory. After all, in a place defined by the college dominating the north side of the city, people were used to stupid kids doing stupid thing. Once the official investigation ruled the drowning an accident, everyone moved on.

Everyone but Emma.

She felt cursed to carry the burden of memory alone. More than her best friend, was her kindred spirit, her Blood Sister.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Jenny,

    Wow. This is getting really strong. There's an obvious repeat at the bottom:

    Lily’s death had shocked the small college town of West River, but soon faded from memory. Once the official investigation ruled the drowning an accident, everyone moved on.

    Lily’s death had shocked the close knit community of West River, but soon faded from memory. After all, in a place defined by the college dominating the north side of the city, people were used to stupid kids doing stupid thing. Once the official investigation ruled the drowning an accident, everyone moved on.

    Apart from that, systemically, go through and make sure you have your subjects clearly identified. There are several places where you talk about one character then come back to your scene's mc without identifying the switch. It's technically clear, but does sometimes feel a little jarring. For example:

    Dark shadows flickered at the corners of Emma’s vision as she watched mourners gather around the fresh grave at the base of the hill. [They--this could refer to either the shadows or the mourners] clung to one another, finding comfort in knowing they didn’t mourn alone. Comfort [she-suggest you use Emma here] couldn’t share. Even from where she stood at the peak of the hill, their shock and grief and anger pounded against her.

    This is purely a matter of preference and I don't personally have any issue with it, but there is a school of thought that would suggest not starting with a sentence containing "as" to show simultaneous action. It can weaken a narrative and make it harder for a reader to choose which is important. We don't get to the shadows right away in this case, so it can leave a bit of an unsettled feeling, as if leading with shadows and then spinning into mourners is a little bit of slight of hand. Perhaps consider what the shadows were doing, state that, then in a different sentence point out that she is trying to concentrate on the mourners. But again, not an imperative.

    Be careful with the POV. You are starting in 3rd omniscient, then you enter a direct thought with no attribution. It's done well, but be sure you are doing it consciously.

    in this last pass, consider if you can bring the reader in a little closer by the 3rd scene. We need to be able to connect emotionally to Emma. Can you bring in any slight details that differentiate and ground her in the real world?

    Also, I noticed that you left the scars and bruises in the Gabriel section. Reading that through, I'm suddenly wondering if this is where wings were ripped off? Either way, without knowing the history and the synopsis, if they are bloody I really recommend using scabs instead of scars? And I promise I won't bring that up again :D.

    Great work. Look forward to seeing the final round next week.

    Best,

    Martina

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  2. Hi! Martina already pointed out the double paragraph. I LOVE the way you changed the opening. Maybe because I use "as" myself, IDK! But it worked really well for me and definitely better than the other opening sentence. You can still change it slightly to alleviate any potential issues, totally up to you. I did catch just one other thing - you have Gabriel enter the kitchen then slip into the bathroom. I picture the bathroom upstairs because it has a shower. Total nit pick, but why is it so close to the kitchen? Maybe just a quick moment of him creeping up the steps? Are there family pics to look at on the way? Just a couple of thoughts. I do love it though.

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  3. Just starting edits, but I laughed when I read the note about the bathroom! I always pictured a single story house and it never occurred to me that it might seem weird. This is why readers are helpful!

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  4. Just a side note...

    I also pictured a single story house, probably because I live in one.

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  5. The repeat paragraph: I like the second one better. I think it follows the voice you've established more closely.

    One thing I have a question about is when Gabriel enters the house and there's a glass in the sink. Does he see the glass in the sink before he hears the droplet? If he doesn't, then it's a POV error. If he sees it, then I wondered why the drip made him jump so much.

    I still like this. Your tweaking is making it better and better. Wow.

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