Monday, June 18, 2012

15 1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Freeland 2nd Revision

Lori Freeland
YA Science Fiction Romance

Chapter One
No More Lies

Tonight the lies would end.

No matter what lame excuse Claire threw out, I’d had enough of her weird, cryptic crap. No more secrets. No more arguments. No more dodging questions. I was going to confront her and demand the truth. Something I should have done months ago, the first time she lied.

My headlights splashed across the back of my sister’s baby blue Beetle. I slipped my Corolla into the narrow space next to her car, claiming the last spot in the small parking alcove by the creek. Slammed the gearshift into park. Ripped the keys out of the ignition. My hand strayed to my pocket, my fingers brushing the soft denim of my jeans.

Get a grip, Kate. It’s a piece of paper.

A piece of paper with some pretty damning words—written in Claire’s loopy handwriting.

An engine turned over with a loud roar and the car at the end of the lot backed out onto the street, flipped on its lights, and drove away.

My heart jumped twenty stories, paused for what felt like forever, and then dropped even faster. I slapped my hand over my chest and pushed against the quick thud, thud, thud.

Why couldn’t my sister pout at Starbucks or the nail salon? Somewhere bright and safe where finding her didn’t require a Mag light?

The twilight sky began a slow slide into night—the horizon a hazy pink, growing duskier by the minute. Thanks a lot, Claire. Stupid—At creek. Need you—text. You couldn’t have needed me before it got dark?

I checked my phone again. Ten unanswered messages sat in my outbox in response to the one she’d left twenty minutes ago. I tossed the phone on the dash and opened the glove compartment. Owner’s manual. GPS. A half-empty pack of Trident. And a tiny red flashlight. Nothing that made me feel even a little bit okay about getting out of my car. I grabbed the flashlight and shoved open my door anyway.


Right into the car next to me.

Crap. It was a nice car, too. I glanced around and then checked out the paint. Even under the dimming street lamp, a small beige smudge showed up, marring the black shine on the passenger door. Now I had to find Claire and get back here before Sleek and Sporty’s owner returned and wrote down my license plate.

I let my sweatshirt sleeves fall over my hands to warm my fingers. Even mid-December, the winter chill hadn’t quite hit Texas, but the sun’s disappearance lowered the temperature another ten degrees and the breeze brought a bitter edge.

Claire’s sanctuary under the wooden bridge wasn’t too far down the winding creek—just past the huge tree that twisted and bent and practically fell into the water.

I’d try there first.

Dead leaves and grass crunched underneath my boots. Long strands of hair whipped across my face. I brushed them back.

Something snapped behind me.

I whirled around, clenching my fingers. My heart sped again. The loud pounding echoed across the water and got lost in the blackness. A tight knot curled in my stomach. If something happened to me out here, I was going to kill my sister.

What would they say when they found me disemboweled and hanging from a tree a la Scream? Probably—stupid girl came out here all alone, she deserved it.

I quickened my pace. There were other more pressing things to deal with. Real things. Claire things. Crazy things. Things my head couldn’t process that should immobilize my heart more than the thought of some psycho hiding in the trees with a machete.

That slip of paper burned the proverbial hole in my pocket. But then again, exaggeration? Claire’s specialty. I just needed to find her, before it got any darker, and we could talk about this in the car. With the doors locked. Or at Saxby’s over a latte.

Whatever this was, we could work it out together like we always did. Nothing ever turned out to be as life-ending as she made it out to be. And all the sneaking around? What did she think she had to hide? From me? Up until school started this fall, we’d never kept secrets from each other.


My stomach twisted. One secret. I kept one secret. No point in sharing what couldn’t be fixed.

The bridge loomed ahead, a tall arching structure made of wood and metal that connected one side of the creek to the other. The barely-there-sliver of a moon might as well have been MIA.

I switched the tiny flashlight on and pointed it toward the platform, shining it from one end to the other. Empty. Not her favorite place but I’d hoped she’d be hiding there instead of huddled under the metal supports, against the stone wall, because that meant I had to climb down there.

“Claire?” I whispered, angling the light toward the shadowy place where I expected her to be, but the dim light and distance made everything look black.

What if she wasn’t down there, but someone else was? Why couldn’t she have met me in the parking lot, while I waited in my locked car?

The wind picked up, rattling the trees. Oh yeah, perfect slasher setting. Dumb blonde. No common sense. Armed with a penlight. I could almost hear the people in the theater screaming, “Run Kate! Don’t go down there.”

“Claire?” I boosted my volume. “Not funny, okay? Let’s pick up a pizza and go home. I’ll pay.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the deserted street, then back to the creek. A copse of dense trees moved in rhythm with the breeze. A sliver of ice skipped across my spine, wrapped around my middle, and took up residence low in my gut. Why didn’t I tell Dad like I’d threatened? Then he’d be out here instead of me.

The third time I said her name, my voice hit the bottom end of yelling and came out a shaky warble. “Claire?”

I stuck the end of the flashlight in my mouth and worked my way one careful step at a time down the steep sloping bank, holding onto to trees and rocks, my hands trembling along with my breath. “Oh, Claire, you’re going to owe me big time for this. Do you hear me? Work shifts. Bathroom cleaning. Dog poop duty. All yours.”

Almost to the bottom, an old gnarled tree bent and hung over the water, attached to a flat, narrow ledge. I tripped on a giant root and barely saved myself from falling the three feet off the edge and into the icy water by grabbing a low-hanging branch.

The flashlight fell out of my mouth and landed in the mud, pointing across the creek.

“Don’t text me to come here and then be a jerk, Claire. Whatever’s going on, you don’t need to be mean.” If I could have hissed the words, I would have. “I’m going home.”

After I snagged my only source of light.

The ground evened out below the tree and I slid down the rest of the slope—mostly on my butt—until my feet hit the dirt, putting me in reaching distance of the flashlight. I followed the narrow light with my eyes. The edge of the beam lit up a dark shape in the water. A log? A broken tree? A psycho killer stalking me crocodile style?

Whatever. I was done here. I loved my sister, but I was tired of being pulled into her craziness. Dad could deal with her.

I snatched the flashlight, most of it covered in mud, and prayed Croco Killer wouldn’t jump out of the water once I turned my back. I kept my eyes forward and climbed up the bank, chanting, “Horror movies are made up by sickos with freaky imaginations that get off on scaring people to death. They’re not real.”

But it didn’t do much to stop that sliver of ice in my gut from multiplying and spreading to the rest of my body.

“One more glance over my shoulder,” I whispered. “I’ll know I’m alone and then I’ll run back to the car.”

I turned with the flashlight, pointed it at the log one more time, and froze.

That dark shape wasn’t a log. It was my sister.


  1. Okay, so this new section has now become chapter one and the part where Kate actually finds her sister is now chapter two. Interesting how things evolve :)

  2. This is my first look. I think I understand where the following issues come from, given the comment before this one.

    I wasn't sure Claire was the sister until almost the end of this passage.

    I don't know the mc's name and am not 100% certain of gender. Only indication was the hair.

    I think the start would be stronger if you mingled the interiority of the first paragraph and the action of the second. I'd like to be grounded very fast with scene setting so I'm not floating.

    This stuff will be easy to fix - otherwise, nice pacing and tension.

    1. Got it. I use this line early on to tell her name:

      Get a grip, Kate. It’s a piece of paper.

      And then I talk about Claire and use the word sister but not in the same sentence. Would it help if I did?

    2. You did indeed introduce the mc's name. Not sure why I skimmed over it.

      Maybe: "No matter what lame excuse my sister Claire threw out,"

  3. I like it, Lori! It's my first read, though, so I'm not sure what you mean about the chapter change. It grabbed me - yes to the good pacing and tension mentioned above. The sibling loyalty and resentment felt very real, and the fear, too. Only thing I got confused about was it being sci-fi/romance. Had to double check that at the top. Nothing in this opening leads me to believe there is any sci-fi or romance. All the objects (car, text, flashlight) seem very present day. Otherwise, I want to read more!

    1. So science fiction doesn't always have to be future, right? Maybe I'm confused. My MC will discover she has some abilities, but not right away. The romance main character makes his appearance in chapter two.

      Honestly, I'm so confused about if and why I have to throw the sci/fi stuff in right away since discovering it is part of Kate's journey. If anyone can clear that up,it would be fabulous.

    2. First of all, love these lines:

      There were other more pressing things to deal with. Real things. Claire things. Crazy things. Things my head couldn’t process that should immobilize my heart more than the thought of some psycho hiding in the trees with a machete.

      Love a lot of the lines, but this paragraph really picked up the pace and showed Kate's descent into panic about her sister.

      Also, since I've read previous versions, you may call Claire her TWIN sister, that way this little, super important fact is put up there right away. Maybe when you say "my sister, Claire," you can just add twin in there. :)

      I think this is really super. It's fast paced and intriguing.

      As for science fiction, I don't believe it has to be set in the future. It just needs to have a lot of science to be considered science fiction. This may actually end up being more paranormal than science fiction, but I don't know the whole "what makes a story a paranormal" thing. I thought it was just ghosts and vampires and werewolves, but I think any kind of strange element makes it a paranormal... try to find other stories that are similar to yours and see what they are categorized as.

      That's the one thing I hate about being a writer is having to categorize my work!

      Love the rewrite and the cliff hanger at the end of the chapter is superb. Great work!

    3. Thank you! I will add in twin sister :)

    4. Does this solve the sister/twin issue?

      My headlights splashed across the back of her baby blue Beetle. While my twin drove a cuter, newer, sportier car, I’d opted for an older, cheaper Corolla when our parents dangled money to pay half the purchase price. Claire still owed them money and I was free and clear.

  4. This is brilliant: "The twilight sky began a slow slide into night"

    I really like the "Sleek and Sporty" bit, but I don't think she needs to worry about him seeing the smudge. Number one, it's dark. Number two, it's on the passenger side, and who walks around checking their car before getting in and driving away? Now, if she'd smashed the front end or something, I'd understand. So maybe instead of her worrying about him writing down her license plate--she has no idea how long he's been there, and any number of cars could've parked next to him--I think she should think something more along the lines of "maybe he'll leave before I get back," Or that SHE'LL leave before he returns, so some other things about avoiding a personal interaction so she won't have to lie and keep her eyes away from the damning mark. Does that make sense?

    I love that Kate has a secret too! And sidenote: I do think it would be nice to know they're twins. Twins have like, a sixth sense about things, and they really DO share everything. So that would be a nice nugget to throw in somewhere, just once.

    Love this: "my voice hit the bottom end of yelling"

    Croco Killer! LOL! This is awesome.

    Oooh, nice ending. But I want it to be more powerful even. Like this: "It was my sister.

    My twin.

    "Claire." (I want Kate to say "Claire" at the end.)

    That way, you'd get the twin thing in in a very dramatic way, and I like that without being over-dramatic. (Of course, I don't always get what I want, and this is your book, so do what you think best.)

    As for the sci fi elements up front, I've heard arguments on both sides. Some really want it, some don't care--especially since your jacket copy will likely indicate some sort of sci fi -- and don't forget the cover will too. Me, personally, I don't really care if everything isn't laid out 1000% in the first chapter or first page. I think if Kate gradually learns about herself and her powers, then that's how the reader should experience it too. I may be in the minority on that, but there you go.

    Also, if it's a powers thing, it might be paranormal. That's typically how "powers" are categorized. Most people think of sci fi as space ships or space travel or advanced technological gadgets. I know my books have both paranormal and sci fi elements, but they are different. The fact that one of my characters can sense people's emotions is paranormal. The fact that there are spiders that do maid service, identify people, and shock people into submission is science fiction. Does that make sense?

    Also, genre-blending is pretty fun these days, and there seem to be more and more books with such a thing, so I don't think it's bad, and you can play to both sides.

  5. I really like that you get her into the parking lot a bit sooner, and cut some of the unnecessary details. I love that she's not so perfect either, and has a secret of her own. The one thing I wonder tho, is if her internal and dialogue ranting is maybe too harsh in light of the lie she told or the secret she kept. I mean without knowing what it is, it's tough to say, but I thought I would put it out there for your consideration.

    I love your psycho-killer/murder victim thoughts, I do! But that said, I feel like maybe you sound this horn a bit too much. I feel like maybe there's a bit too much here about her anger masking her fear of having to come out in the dark. I wonder if maybe a little less inside the car would be better, and then have little catalysts do the work. I didn't quite get why a car peeling out would freak her out. Maybe instead just as she gets out and listens to how sinister and quiet it is, a car's headlights come on. It stays there for a second, then leaves. Then there's this element of 'was that guy just sitting in the car WATCHING me?' Now that's creepy.

    Anyway, the idea sort of came to me so do what you will with it--it might not fit with your intentions for the scene. You make good use of sentence structure to keep the pace strong. :)

  6. Hi Lori, I'm sorry I didn't see your reply to my comment until now. As a reader, if I see something defined as sci-fi, I do expect the world to be different or unusual (science or technology-wise) from the get-go, though I don't think it has to be heavy handed. I don't think it needs to be laid out 100% in the beginning, just a little tidbit dropped in to hint at what is to come. I see that you changed the genre from Sci-fi to Paranormal in your third revision, and that might be a better fit if you don't have a lot of science in your book (like Claire mentions above). p.s. not to drive you nuts, I love the cliffhanger in this version more than the third revision... and like I mentioned before, the story hooks me despite whatever genre it lands in. Keep up the great work!


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)