Monday, April 9, 2012

6 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Billingsle

Author: DiNae’ Billingsley
Genre: YA? Fantasy/Romance
Title: Livid Shift

Chapter 1: The Best Story Ever

I pulled up a few cars behind Adrien’s rusty old Chevy in a rusty old neighborhood. It’s dark, about 11 pm on a school night. This looks like a place Principal Sal would make his transactions. The houses on both sides of the street were decrepit colors of white yellow and pink. No white-picket fences or crisp cut grass with garden gnomes. Adrien’s car door opened and he jumped out with a huge back pack that he carried whenever he was at school, and a skate board. I took out my camera and started taking pictures. He walked into a house with a ran-over gate and bared windows. The house looked live; there were loud voices and music blasting. Snapping a few more pictures I got out the car and started to walk up the street. I looked at the spot I wanted to land and shifted to it, but over shot it by a few inches and bumped into the side of the house.

“Crap.” I said in a hushed voice.

I should have practice a little before I came trying to snoop around. I hadn’t felt that tug in my abdomen in 3 years. It felt brand new.

The house became silent; there was a cock of a gun. I turned and shifted back into my car. My heart tripled in speed. The door opened and tall slinky man came out with a gun pointed at the spot where I just came from. He looked around, even walked a few feet up and down the street before going back inside.

A few minutes later the music came back on. I inhaled.

“Don’t fuck this up Simon. Your story’s right here. Take it.” I said.

I checked my camera and shifted outside, then a few feet up to the side of the house. I crept to the same front window and peeked inside. The smell of cigars and booze preceded the picture inside. There were about 8 men inside smoking and playing cards, laughing and drinking. Principal Sal was in the mist of it all.

“Hey boy, come here.” The tall slinky man said.

Adrien peeled himself off the wall and stood next to him.

“Put it on the table” he ordered and Adrien complied.

Principle Sal took the book bag and opened it. He started to take out stacks of money.

“It’s all there Andrew double counted.” Adrien said nervous.

“Did I ask you anything?” Sal said

Adrien shook his head and look down.

I picked up my camera and took a few snaps of Sal, the money, dime bags of white stuff, and a few men.

“Brandy! Get your ass in here.” Sal yelled, clearly agitated.

A woman came out of a dark room. It was Ms. Valentini, the incredibly nice secretary at school. She wore a tight green dress that complemented her body in every demeaning way.

“Go count this,” Sal grabbed her arm and pulled her close “carefully”.

He tossed her the bag and she left. One the shorter men slapped her butt. She was about to object but kept walking. Andrew stared at her mirroring the same shock I felt. I wanted to save her, she didn’t deserve this. She was too innocent. But I didn’t come here for that, hopefully she’ll be free after I’m done.

I couldn’t see everything so I walked around the house to find a better view. There were two windows on the first side of the house. The first was a window for the kitchen. It was a mess pots and pans were everywhere. The next window was a bedroom. It was trashed too except for the bed, which had a woman passed out across it. She looked like a typical prostitute. Short skirt and a tub top. I knocked on the window. She stirred and sat up. I knocked again and she turned around and saw me, I smiled. She got up and stumbled toward the window. She stared at me then opened it.

“How you doing honey?” She breathed the smell of alcohol on her breath.

“Fine, can I come in?”

“Sure sure babe. Come on in.”

She turned around to get something and I shifted in. She turned back and was startled by my sudden appearance. She shrugged and started undressing.

“No, no don’t do that.” I whispered.

“Why? I’m paid for the whole night” she said lazily.

“I’m not here for that, I wanted to ask you some questions.”

“Oh really, you must be nervous, first time?”

“No, I mean yes, no I mean I just wanted to ask some questions.”

“Are you a cop?” she said in a loud voice.

“No, no I’m just a friend of Sal’s. A student.” I reached in my pocked and turned on the tape recorder.

“Oh, Sal and his students. I swear that man has a hell of a men supply. Did you just start? You look new and you’re a cutie.” she smiled.

“Yea I’m new, Just started a few weeks ago.”

“Right right.” she said laying down again. “So what did you wanna ask me?”

“Well what’s your name?”


“That’s it?”

“That’s all you need to know.”

“Okay well how long have you been, um, working for Sal?”

“Five years, since I was 18. How old are you?”

“I’m 17.”

“17? You sure you want to get into this? When Sal takes you he has you for life.”

“Yes, I need this.”

“Ha, we all need this easy money. Still don’t get why Sal needs it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he has a good job. Guess a hundred grand a year isn’t good enough for him.” She said in a snarky voice.

“Where does he work?”

“Like you don’t know, the god damn principal of Norcross high school. He was the one who got me into this shit before I graduated. You know, I was a damn good student before this. Could a graduated from UGA already.”

“So Sal stared getting into this business before he became principal?”

“Well heard he took over after his uncle died. It’s like a family business thing.”

“So he just happened to be a principal. Do you know why he started using students?”

“Were stupid, that’s why. Cash is all we need and we’ll do anything to get it. Besides were close to Atlanta, big druggies there. And here kids are bored and have money to blow, why not do drugs? Hell I did. But he mostly sells steroids to them. Go Blue Devils!” she said sarcastically.

“Do you know all the students that deal?”

She sat up and looked at me. “Do I look like I know cause I don’t” she said in an agitated voice. “But I do know how many men came to visit me everyday since I started, 59. Do you wanna be number 60?” she reached for my belt buckle.

I jumped up “I really don’t. I’m sorry this happened-“

“Hey babe, bring your ass in-” the big tall slinky man opened the door.

“Who the hell are you?” He pulled out a silver gun and pointed it at me.

“I’m nobody I’m I’m…”

“He’s new, and nervous. I think he’s a virgin too.”

“Sal! There’s a kid in here is he ours?”

There were a few quick thuds before Sal came around the corner. His eyes became larger as he saw me.

“Shoot him.”

We all looked at him. He looked at Sal.


I turned around and shifted out the window as a rain of bullets came out the house. I turned and ran toward the street. But like an idiot I turned around to see where Ms. Valentini was in all the chaos. As soon as I turned around another shower of bullets came at me from the front of the house and I ran toward the car and shifted in.

“Holy shit.” I wheezed.

The shots were getting closer so I started the car whirled around and drove off.

“Woo, hell yea!” Adrenaline coursed through my body.

I was on the high way in a matter of minutes, and no one appeared to be chasing me. With shaking hands I checked my camera, it was unharmed, and then I reached inside my pocket for the tape recorder. I pulled it out and it and my hand was covered in blood. Then I felt it. The worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I felt for where the wound was and applied pressure.

“Ohh oooh.” Tears started to fill my eyes.

At least I was on the highway; the hospital was 5 miles away. I got into HOV lane and pushed the petal. The speedometer hit 130. My stomach hit the back of the seat.

I reached the hospital in 2 minutes. The drive way was surprisingly empty as far as I could see. I parked right in front and got out. As soon as I stood up I felt my consciousness fading away. I crumbled to the floor as I approached the doors. My body felt like a ton of US history books as I inched through the sliding doors. Every last movement whipped me out. I flopped to the floor as my world spun and turned into blackness.

Chapter 2: Meet the Brady Bunch

I awoke in a dimly lit room. Straining my eyes, I looked to see my mom in a chair next to me. I inhaled and felt the tight bandage around my waste but I felt numb from my chest to my waste. I tried to sit up then I felt the pain.

“Ohh bad idea.”

“Hey baby your awake.” She yarned.

“Hey. How long was I out?”

“Just a day” she said while she brushed my hair out of my eyes. “Your dad is flying in and will be here in an hour.”

“Why did you tell him? I’m fine.” I said defiant.

She smiled and continued playing in my hair.

When she smiles you can see the similarities between her and me. We have the same lips except her lips are a little thinner; she’s 42. We have the same clear blue eyes and cheek bones. The only difference is her long bright red hair and that simple fact that she’s a woman. The rest of my traits come from my dad. Dark black hair and a strong jaw line are prominent features of the Danforth line.

“Simon, what in the hell were you doing on the strip? You know only bad things happen down there, drugs and stuff.”

“Getting a lead, I told you about principal Sal and the drug stuff. He is apart of it all.” She never listens.

“You did no such thing, no one asked you to go snooping around there and getting shot. I know you could have told the police and they would have got him.”


  1. I think you've got an incredibly interesting concept here and I'm definitely keen to find out more about the drug-dealing principal, the narrator who can 'shift', and the collision course I imagine they're on.

    A few things which stand out - it's really, really dialogue heavy, especially around the middle. The long conversation between the narrator and Star could do with a bit of description to break it up, I think - and possibly a few more indications of who's speaking when.

    Can everyone 'shift' or is the narrator the only one who can? I'm assuming it's a unique talent of his but I think it might be helpful for us to know a little bit more about it.

    I'd also avoid using words twice in the same sentence where possible. "I inhaled and felt the tight bandage around my waste but I felt numb from my chest to my waste" might be better as "I inhaled and touched the tight bandage around my waist, but my body felt numb between my hips and my shoulders."

    Also, the first chapter could do with a little more to let the reader picture the characters. A brief description of the narrator and of Sal, who seems like he'll be an important character, would be useful.

    Hope the feedback is useful!

  2. Your tense is shifting back and forth all over the place. Pick either present or past and go through and make sure it all matches. It's easy to get mixed up when writing in a new tense, so you have to be extra careful! I hate to say this, but I didn't know the MC was male until Star kept trying to get him into bed. Go through the prose and make sure you're being clear about the mechanics of everything. It's a complex scene to start out with, a very intriguing and attention getting choice! But to do that we have to be clear about what's happening. The shifting thing is confusing. I didn't realize at first that it was some paranormal ability, maybe detail for us the experience so we get it since it's obviously important.
    I had a little difficulty believing that Star would give up info that freely and cleanly. Maybe something a bit choppier on her part? Also, I'd like to be grounded in a place. Is this Vegas? Then give us some world details.

  3. You've got a very interesting story here. I am curious to learn more.

    Even if "shift" describes one particular move, I'd only use it once (maybe twice). It didn't seem to me that the MC could "shift" back to the car from the side of the house.

    Take a look at some of your tense and spelling - "shook his head and looked down", you're (not your) and tube (not tub) top.

    Also, there is a Norcross High School in GA, so I'd probably make up a high school name that isn't so readily recognizable (at least to Georgians) since you also mention UGA.

    I like that the MC cares about the school receptionist.

  4. Hi DiNae'

    There's a lot to like in this, and a fascinating premise. I'll just echo what everyone else said here. I think the main thing you need to do here is trust that you have your reader hooked from the get go, so all you need to do is not lose us along the way. For that, we need the story slowed down a little bit and grounded. Make it breathe for us with a few choice details about the location, the mc, the other characters. The shifting is particularly critical.

    Pay particular attention to your mechanics for the next round. Things like "Whipped me out" "yarned" etc. take away your credibility, as does the improper use of dialogue attributions.

    "Hey boy, come here.” The tall slinky man said.

    Should be:

    "Hey boy, come here,” the tall, slinky man said.

    Look at your comma, period and capitalization usage overall. Always use commas between multiple adjectives and look up the basic usage rules. Always capitalize a complete sentence after dialogue.

    These are absolutely basics. Respect your writing by looking them up before your next revision so that we can look beyond them to the truly marvelous potential in your story and characters.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do for next time.



  5. Hello DiNae',

    The most important thing for me, as a reader, is to have the first three or four paragraphs introduce a strong voice, the conflict, and an interesting premise. As the others indicated, you do have the conflict established right away and it is an interesting one. I do not hear the main character's voice though.

    Return to paragraph 3 and tell us a little more about the 'tug in my abdomen,' since I'm guessing it has to do with the 'shifting.' This could help us know the character more.

    Dialogue has to be at cross purposes. Reduce the 'conversation' with Star and give us the most important info to the story in an edgy way to ratchet up the tension. Show us more and 'tell'us less. Stay in your narrator's head.
    Hone in on the others comments about point of view, tense, and grammar.
    See you next week,

  6. This has a good beginning, but I'll say typos and tense changes had me rereading and focusing on that more than the storyline. I had a few believablity issues which I think if you set us up better may not be the case. Is this where the story begins? And is this fantasy? I didn't get the fantasy part, which I think you have to introduce soon. There's potential here. Just need to slow down and really work on the storyline. Shelley


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