Monday, April 16, 2012

7 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Billingsley

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

Chapter 1: The Best Story Ever

I followed Adrien’s rusty, old Chevy into this rusty, old neighborhood and pulled up a few cars behind him. It was dark, about 11 pm on a school night. I had on a too tight black hoodie, a black crew shirt underneath, and black jeans. I looked like a cool ass ninja, or a drug dealer, which is what I was going for.
This looked 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. He closed the door and lit a cigarette and took one long drag, then flicked it to the ground.
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 the music rattled my car windows. I snapped a few more pictures, got out of the car, and started to walk up the street. I looked at the spot I wanted to land and shifted to it in a flash, 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 practiced before I came; I hadn’t felt that tug on my abdomen in three years. If I had a sensei, someone, anyone that could have taught me how to master my extra ability of instantaneously transporting from one place to another, there would be no accidents. No horrible, tragic, fucked up accidents that would ruin my life forever and keep me from shifting every again. Until now. I knew I had to use it some day. I still should have practiced.
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 a 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 he went back inside.
A few minutes later the music came back on. I inhaled.
“Don’t fuck this up Simon. Your story’s right here. Seymour Hersh, Seymour Hersh.” I said and pushed my sweaty dark hair out my eyes.
Seymour Hersh, my idol, worked at my future dream job as a journalist for the New York Times. He risked his life a bazillion times for a story, and I was determined to uncover as many stories as he did and more. This story, right here, is what I need to start my career.
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. Heavy smoke filled the air. About eight men of various sizes laughed and played what looked like poker. Principal Sal, the literal definition of “the elephant in the room”, was in the midst of it all.
“Hey boy, come here.” The tall, slinky man said to Adrien.
Adrien peeled himself off the wall and stood next to him. The man told Adrien to put it on the table and he complied.
Principle Sal took the book bag and opened it. He started to take out stacks of money.
“It’s all there. My brother Andrew, you know the one that’s good with money, double counted it.” Adrien said nervously.
“Did I ask you anything?” Sal said.
Adrien shook his head and looked 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 of the shorter men slapped her butt. She was about to object but walked off. Andrew stared at her and mirrored 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 since 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 tube 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 said. The smell of alcohol was strong on her breath. Alcohol, perfect. I know from experience that alcohol disables your ability to stop talking, which is exactly what I need from her right now.
“Fine, can I come in?” I said, as I got closer to her face.
“Sure, sure babe. Couldn’t reject those beautiful blue eyes.”
She turned around to get something and I shifted in. She turned back and was startled by my sudden appearance. But she shrugged, clearly too drunk or drugged up to care about what I just did. She started to undress.
“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 said as I eased myself on the front edge of bed. “I wanted to ask you some questions.”
“Oh really? You nervous cause this is your first time?” She went over to a dresser and came back with something small and shiny. “Here, hit this and you’ll feel better.” She stood over me trying to hand me a small mirror with a line of white powder on it.
“No, I’m not here for that, or anything else. I just wanted to ask you some questions.”
“Trying not to mess up that bod huh?” She looked me up and down like a piece of cake at a Weight Watchers convention. “Wait, are you a cop?” She said in a loud voice.
“No, no I’m employed by Sal. A student.” I reached in my pocked and turned on the tape recorder.
“Oh yeah, Sal and his students.” She laid the mirror on the bed, and then purposely stood in a position that put her lady lumps right in my face. I had no choice but to look. They were nice.
“I swear that man has one hell of a men supply. Did you just start? You look new and you’re a cutie.” She smiled and pushed my hair back.
“Yea I’m new, Just started a few weeks ago.” I felt my body heating up.
“Right, right.” she said as she sat down next to me. “So what did you wanna ask me?”
“Well what’s your name?”
“That’s it?”
She leaned into me. “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 cleared my throat. “I’m 17.”
“17? You sure you want to get into this? When Sal takes you he has you for life, your “new family” he calls it.” She rolled her eyes.
“Yes, I need the money. I have things I need to take care of.”
“Ha, we all need easy money. What’s your excuse? Mommy got in an accident? Can’t afford college? A new car? Well at least those are decent reasons, I still don’t get why Sal is doing this.”
“What do you mean?” I moved my pocket a little closer.
“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 North Central 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?”
“I don’t know, heard he took over after his uncle died. Why are you so tense Hun?” She started to rub my shoulders. I instantly relaxed.
“This might sound like stupid question,” I said trying to sound more casual. “But 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 do. But he mostly sells steroids to them. Go Blue Devils!” She said sarcastically.
“Do you know all the students that deal?”
She stopped rubbing my shoulders and pushed me down on the bed. “Do I look like I know cause I don’t.” She got on top of me. “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 pushed her off and jumped up. “I really don’t. I mean you look goo-. “
“Hey babe, bring your ass in-” the 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…” My heart dropped on the ground.
“He’s new, and nervous. I think he’s a virgin too.” She marveled.
“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.
“Danforth. 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 yeah, New York Times here I come!” Adrenaline coursed through my body.
I was on the high way in a matter of minutes, and no one appeared to be chasing me. My hands shook as I checked my camera, it was unharmed. Then I reached inside my pocket for the tape recorder. I pulled it out. It and my hand were 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; Gwinnett Medical Center 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. 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 inch stripped me of any inkling of energy. I flopped to the floor as my world spun and turned into blackness.


  1. Hi! Nice job on the revision. It's getting much clearer and I'm getting a better feel for Simon. I like some of your additions like the explanation of the shifting ability and the way we got a small description of him from Star's dialogue. I also liked his reaction to Star.
    My first question is, how does he know that the secretary is innocent? Why be so sympathetic toward her and not Star?
    Next, I like the interview much better, but I'm still not convinced Star's dialogue rings true. I don't think she'd answer to swiftly and completely. I think her words would be more sparse and she'd ask at some point why he wants to know all this. In other words it should be harder to get this info out of her and she shouldn't be so together. :D
    There were a few places where I saw you use the term "I felt..." Cut those I felts and just say what it was. For example: I felt my consciousness fading away, should be My consciousness faded, or something along those lines. Take a look at this section and count how many times you use the word "Felt" :
    ". Then I felt it. The worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I felt for where the wound was and applied pressure." Look for sections like that where you use the same phrasing and change it up.

  2. The rewrite on the first paragraph provides a firm hook and gives me a better picture of the MC. The interior monologue also gives MC more personality and I like him. The shape shifting is much more clear and provides another 'hook' of interest to keep reading.

    Agree that Star's dialogue can use cutting. Example: "She wore a tight short skirt and a neon colored tube top. Typical prostitute get up. I knocked on the window. She stirred.I knocked until she turned around and sat up. I smiled. She stumbled toward the window, her eyes unfocused, pushing at it until it opened.
    “How you doing honey?” She said. The smell of alcohol was strong on her breath. Alcohol, perfect. I know from experience that it disables your ability to stop talking, which is exactly what I need from her right now."

    If she will be an integral part of the story, give her a personality by writing out a character sketch. Then get into her character. Make it hard to get the info.

    By eliminating the word 'and' you can tighten up narrative, ratch up the tension, thus keeping reader interest up. Read it outloud both ways and see how you like it.

    The last paragraph and sentence are great.

  3. Much clearer and you've done a good job cleaning up the mechanics, although there are still some odds and ends with tense, comma use, etc. I agree about the characterization and other comments, and I would go further on the dialogue. I think you can break that up with some observation and introspection to help move the story along faster. The dialogue goes too long and too slowly.

    Nice revision! Great work.


  4. Tons better!

    Now I get "shifting"!

    Do you mean Adrien stared at her instead of Andrew? I'd lose the line, "I know from experience that alcohol disables your ability to stop talking, which is exactly what I need from her right now." We know that already.

    I loved the line, "She looked me up and down like a piece of cake at a Weight Watchers convention."

    Would the MC really relax when she starts rubbing his shoulders? With the men and guns in the next room?

    Again, this is much improved! Good luck!

  5. I’m feeling much more grounded in this story. I completely missed the shifting piece last time. I’m like the premise more. I think the first paragraph still needs work. I don’t think we need to know what he’s wearing and I think it slows the pace. Maybe, “My black hoodie was so tight, I could barely breathe,” or some such which will tell us just enough. I thought the virgin part was forced. Just because he’s not interested I wondered why she’d jump to that conclusion. It sounds like she has low self-esteem, so she would more likely believe there is something wrong with her that he doesn’t not want her. In general there’s a whole lot happening here. You might want to focus down a little on one aspect and go into a bit more detail. The gun part seemed a little extreme. Draw it out a little to build the tension. Maybe he says, “Shoot,” and the gun drops, or wobbles. Maybe there a scuffle. Something to build up the tension. Really nice rewrite. Hooray you!

    1. I like it, but I think the start is a bit slow. Agree with Shelley that dropping the description of his clothing would work. Maybe start off with him shifting?

      Also, a bit more about the secretary would be good, to establish why he thinks she's so innocent. Maybe she's always nice to people at school and goes out of her way to help them, or something?

      Nice rewrite, looking forward to seeing your next draft!

  6. Thanks everyone for the comments! First novels are hard work, so your critics are apreciated! I agree with most of what is said.It's coming along better and better.
    DiNae' Billinsley


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