Monday, December 12, 2011

7 1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Shelley, Rev 1

Shelley-Revision one/YA/mystery/suspense


The night the cops beat the crap out of Lucky, and me was the third
night dad sat in a jail cell. So, the last night of summer and what am
I stuck doing? Working my ass off at our restaurant.

“Dude.” Lucky threw a towel over his shoulder and shoved a towering
load of dishes through the dishwasher. “Kenny, you need a night of
just hangin’. This thing with your old man killing a cop right here at
table eight. Too weird. It’s sick that all these people want to come
to the restaurant to see where your dad shot him. But he’ll be zooed
to know he’s rakin’ in the dough, right?”

“Zooed.” I shook my head at Lucky and his personal vocabulary.
“Anyway, Dad didn’t kill anybody. You know that. It took the cops
eight years to try to hang it on him. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“There’re slow?”

I sat on a stool, and stuffed a chip loaded with artichoke dip into my
mouth, dropping a blob on my black uniform vest. “I wonder if they’ve
been watching him all this time?” I touched the edge of my glasses,
smearing dip on the lens. “Watching me? My whole family?” I cleaned
my glasses with the bottom of my white tee. “Man, I do need to chill,
but someone’s got to do the night deposit from this whole three

Lucky leaned against the stainless steel sink. “Think about it, Kenny.
Have you wondered why it took them so long to arrest your Dad? Why
didn’t they do it eight years ago?” His eyes avoided mine.

“I don’t know. I was eight years old. Who cares? He’s in jail now.”

He dropped the piece of wilted lettuce he’d been playing with and
pulled out a finely rolled joint from his tee shirt pocket, slid it
under his nose, and took a deep breath. “I’ll call Greer, and we’ll
head to the park. We can talk there.”

“Will you put that away?” I stood up and looked around for Jacob the
host. “Talk about what? And Greer? Tonight? Really?”

“You’re jealous cuz’ you cut Tamara loose.”

“Yeah, I may have been a little hasty.” I dumped the rest of the dip
and chips down the garbage disposal.

“I may have information that could help.” Lucky tucked the joint back
in his top pocket and pulled the door on the dishwasher, releasing a
cloud of steam. “There’s always more to stuff than you think, ya’

“Tamara was way too needy for me.”

“Yeah, she was, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Never mind.
The park. We’ll chill at the park and talk more.”

“Can’t tonight. Can’t leave all this cash.”

“Doesn’t your dad have a safe? Isn’t that what safes are for? A whole
lot of money?” Lucky ran both hands through his shoulder length black
hair, which, if my father were here, would be tied in a ponytail. The
dishwasher was out of bleach; dirty dishes were piled on the metal
counter, right next to food prep. The staff was clearly enjoying my
father’s absence.

He threw sharp knives into a bucket. “You need to hire a bookkeeper.”

“Ah, not my restaurant. Not my problem. Except, tonight. And not
going to stay in Walburn, remember?”

“Well, if you were going to stay and take over the family business, you
should hire a bookkeeper.” Lucky jammed dishes together, clinking them
loudly against one another. “What about your mom?”

“At the hospital with Ben, again. She’s way too stressed. I can’t ask
her.” Mom was already talking about my college fund for Dad’s defense.
With Ben getting sick and Dad in jail, I felt like I was getting
sucked into this restaurant like the huge shop vac the cleaning people
used. Slurp! I remember when my brother Ben and I were younger we’d
have wrestling matches, and the winner would take over running our
family restaurant, Panteria’s. When we got older, the loser would get
stuck here in Walburn with Panteria’s. Now I’d unload that legacy on
the neighbor’s dog if I could.

Lucky flipped his phone to his ear.

“Greer?” I asked and he nodded.

Greer and Lucky had been going out for about six months. Trouble was,
whenever Greer came along all they did was make-out. Which, I’m
totally not against, unless I don’t have someone to make out with.
Which I don’t.

“We’ll pick her up in half an hour.”

“Do you hear anything I say? I can’t go tonight.”

“Dude, I have information that you need to hear.”

“Yeah, Tamara and I are over. It’s not going to happen. She was good
while she lasted, but done. Remember she used to call me every single
“Yeah, I’m not talking about getting back with Tamara. We need to go
to the park where I know for sure we’ll be safe and away from, people.”

“You’re not making sense.”

“Kenny,” Lucky stripped off his white apron and lifted his hands, palm
side out to me. “I’m sworn to secrecy. Can we please just talk at
Strathmen Park?”

Lucky didn’t usually get this invested in much of anything. I felt a
breeze from the back door that stood open and our Panteria’s Fine
Dining sign was off.

“Okay,” I said while thinking of the money I’d stuffed in dad’s desk
the last two nights. “I’ll put all the money in his desk and come
before school. The first day will probably be crazy anyway, so if I’m
a little late I won’t be missed, right?”

Later, after locking up the restaurant, ignoring the vacuuming and the
mopping, we “borrowed” my brother Ben’s car just like we’d been doing
all summer.

We picked up Greer, who crawled into the front seat beside Lucky while
I lay in the back smoking that joint. We stopped at Druver’s, an In
and Out gas station slash market, and Lucky bought beer from a girl we
all went to school with and who graduated last spring. Another of
Walburns finest.

At Strathmen Park, Nirvana boiled in the hot summer night, shaking the
dashboard and announcing our arrival in the parking lot.

“Gimme some of that,” Lucky said, slamming on the brakes, and throwing
his arm around Greer. The streetlights flickered giving me a headache.
I sat up, pushed the door open, and jumped out into the warm evening.

I pounded a beat on the hood of the car in time to the music. We were
the only people in the parking lot, except across the park you could
see the headlights of another car, just sitting, probably doing what we
were doing.

“Man, are you guys going to start that?” I said cupping my hands and
peering through the windshield to see Lucky’s face stuck to Greer’s.

“You don’t have to stay around.” Greer’s voice grated.

I could smell the garlic and marinara sauce that never seemed to wash
off my hands.

“Don’t you have any girlfriends you hang out with?” I said, heating my
breath on the windshield.
“Don’t you?”

“Cute,” I said. And she was cute. Greer had long dark, almost black
hair that made her skin look like cream and bright blue eyes. She was
more than cute. But she was a serious pain.

“It would be good if you guys could get along,” Lucky said, throwing
the door open.


  1. Shelley -
    I love how you've answered a lot of the questions I had and cleared up a lot of confusion, particularly regarding Kenny's dad.
    However, in doing so, I think you've made your dialog do too much of the work. This has made it read less realistically to me.
    For instance, when you tell the reader what Kenny's dad was accused of, I think having it in the dialog seems forced. My first thought was to keep it internal, maybe having him glace over at table eight and you tell the reader what he's thinking rather than having him tell Lucky. I think that would seem more natural. That held true throughout the restaurant scene for me.

    I think that getting to the park and finding out what Lucky is talking about is your main goal of the first scene - as well as providing background, of course. But now it feels like you're almost trying to cram too much in there. Do we need to know about his brother being in the hospital that soon? Do his feelings about the restaurant need that much attention right then? I'm asking, because I don't know - but I know you do:)
    I hope this was somewhat helpful - I still think the voice is really strong YA - male - and it seems like you're setting your reader up for an excting ride!

  2. I'm having trouble with the opening. It shifts from past to present by the second sentence and really threw me. I had to go back a couple of times to get where we were in the scheme of things. So I'd just jump in to the action.
    You can make the backstory more natural than dialogue by doing something like having a customer/busy body come in to see "where it happened" and ask questions while he pushes them out or has Lucky take care of it. OR you could have him keep seeing it when he looks over there (if he was present). Something like that.
    Be careful with that opening conversation with Lucky, I thought it was him saying it took eight years and Lucky hadn't thought of it, then all of a sudden Lucky is saying think about it, and pointing out things about the cops getting his dad then. Maybe you didn't switch, maybe it just wasn't clear to me...
    I do like how you described Greer. I love the characters. I love the premise too. Can't wait to see the revision.

  3. From the opening to twhen they leave to go to the park is sort of jarring for me. I had to reread several times to straighten out the threads. The conversation/ dialogue goes in too many random directions for me. And maybe that is how they are. But here's how things read to me:

    -Talking about where dad allegedly killed guy
    -You need to hang out and chill (no mention of info)
    -But I have night deposit
    -WOndering why arrest took so long
    -We'll talk at the park
    (side note-why wait until park. They're alone right?)
    -Jealousy over cutting Tamara
    -I may have some information
    -Tamara was too needy
    -Can't leave all this cash
    -Hire a bookkeeper (whose presence would be unrelated to night deposit)
    -I'm not staying in town
    -But if you did stay in town...
    -Where's your Mom?

    For me, that string of dialogue and convos was all over the place. Hope this helps.

  4. Hi Shelley,

    You've definitely answered a lot of the questions, but I wonder if you aren't tryign to do too much in this opening. Is there anything that you could put into its own scene or defer until later in the book? It feels a little crammed and confused, and the balance of action and dialogue is off because you are trying to convey so much information. As a result, I'm not sure that you are doing yourself justice. Your voice and writing are so strong that it's easy to go on the journey with you, but it would be a more enjoyable journey if we weren't trying to keep track of quite so much! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next.


  5. I like the exchange in the kitchen. But I got confused when the mc did, trying to discern between his thoughts about Tamara and Lucky's need to talk. It's never a good idea to keep a first person narrator in the dark when the reader knows something he doesn't. We know Lucky isn't talking about Tamara, so why doesn't our first person narrator? Maybe Lucky could share whatever info he has in the kitchen, instead of at the park--like the others suggested.

    I think your male pov voice is terrific, btw! Can't wait to see your revision.


  6. "This thing with your old man killing a cop right here at table eight." This sounds like something just being told to us and not something Lucky would actually say. Maybe instead of having Lucky say it outright, you can have the narrator think about the situation & show more about his feelings on it? (Maybe bring up the family legacy part?)

    Do you need to mention the three-day deposit? It takes away focus from them discussing the situation, and you mention the cash later anyways.

    The transition from Lucky avoiding Kenny's eyes to them heading to the park / Tamara deal is a little stilted and fast. Does Kenny not notice how Lucky switches subjects like that? It would ease us in if he did.

    I'm confused by Lucky's vague reference to more stuff to think about -- why doesn't Kenny notice the weirdness of it earlier? Why does he keep thinking it has to do with Tamara? While the dialogue flows easily, I do wonder if you could add in a few cues for us.

    I'm also confused by Kenny's reasoning about going to the park. The way he said it made me think they would go the next day or something.

    I think this version was much better. You cut back on a lot of the information from before while keeping the great voice. Great work. Looking forward to your next revision!

  7. I'm wondering if the reason I'm struggling sOOOO much with this is because possibly I'm starting my novel in the wrong place. That I need to go closer to my inciting incident, and then fill in the blanks. Well, it's what I'm going to try this next week. I appreciate all the positive critique-


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