Monday, April 16, 2012

12 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - James

Author: Robert James
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Losing Robbie


I stare at them both, the blade and the phone, trying to decide which to choose.

Two years ago, the choice would have been easy. Although two years ago, it wouldn't have been a choice I'd ever have thought I'd have to make.

Back then, I was a baby. I was in primary school, I had lots of friends, and I thought that my stepsister could solve any problem ever. I really want to give her one chance to solve this one.

I take a deep breath, and pick up the phone. I put my hand on the right key to speed-dial her... then change my mind. I put the phone down, pick up the blade carefully - wouldn't want to cut my fingers, too many awkward questions people could ask - and lift it to my shoulder.

Then I chicken out and put it down.

Back to the phone. Just as I'm about to call her, I think about what Joanna said and lose my nerve. I put that down as well, and pick up the blade once more.

I can't focus properly on either of them, so I keep this going for the next five minutes or so. Blade, phone, blade, phone. The repetition has a calming effect on me and I nearly walk away from them both. I know that's not the answer, though.

Taking a deep breath, I pick up the phone once more and finally press the button to call Rachel. She answers, and my words flood out.

"Rachel? It's Lauren. I really need to talk to someone. I think... I mean, I need... can you come home? Please?"

I gasp the words out, nearly in tears as I finally ask her. I want to confront her face to face. For her to tell me it's not true.

But at the other end there's silence. Nothing. And then she laughs. "Hey sweetie! Sorry, didn't hear a word of that. Robbie grabbed my phone!"

I hear the two of them messing about and it's clear she has much better things to do than come and talk to me about stuff that happened years ago. There's a bunch of giggles before she carries on speaking.

"Was it important, babes, or just phoning for a chat?" she questions me. For perhaps the first time in the eight years I've known her, I lie to her.

"Just a chat," I try to keep my voice light. "I'll let you get back to Robbie. Have fun!"

I think she thanks me, but I can barely hear her. bursting into tears, I slam my head into the pillow. After sobbing for a few minutes, I get up and pick up the razor blade.

This time, there's no hesitation. This time, I push it into my shoulder and draw it down, wincing as I form a thin red line to go with the three pink scars already there. I smile to myself through the pain. I don't know why it was such a difficult choice.


I wish she wouldn't phone me like that, especially when I'm in the pub. I love my stepsisters – I really do. And Lauren, the eldest, is my favourite. She's sweet, she's clever, and she looks at me as if I'm a goddess – she definitely has good taste in role models! She's just becoming so, so clingy.

Robbie reaches over and grabs my phone again as soon as I've hung up. He turns it off, smiling at me as he does so, and slides it into the pocket of his jeans.

“Let's forget everyone else, princess. Tonight's about you and me.”

It's a terrible line, but he knows it will make me laugh, and it does. I playfully lean over and ruffle his spiky hair, knowing it winds him up. As he glares at me, I distract him by pushing my mouth onto his, our tongues colliding. He responds by moving his left hand onto my breast, stroking it. Part of me is ready to push him away, but I fight off the urge. Yes, this is as far as we've gone in the eight months we've been together, but maybe it is time to give in slightly to him.

Then he moves his right hand to my leg, and it starts to wander up under my skirt. I pull away, and grab him by the right wrist, taking it off my thigh.

“It's too soon, Robbie.” I look at him calmly, determined that he'll get the message.

“Too soon?” he replies, seemingly incensed, although he surely must have expected this. “It's been nearly a year! I been following you around like a bloody puppy and all I ever get is a hand on your tit!”

It's an old argument, going back at least two months. I'm starting to feel I should know my lines by heart, like Lauren used to have to do for her plays.

“I'm not ready yet. I love you, Robbie. I just want to take things slowly.”

“Slowly? I've seen glaciers move faster, cariad!”

He sounds more Welsh when he's annoyed, or drunk, but he can call me 'sweetheart' in whatever language he wants, it's not helping.

“Don't 'cariad' me, boyo.” I respond, keeping my voice deliberately light. “I'll tell you when I'm ready. Maybe soon. Just not tonight.”

He sighs and his shoulders slump. He has about half a pint of Guinness left and he picks it up and downs it in one go. “Look, let me get a couple more drinks. Vodka and coke again?”

I nod, and smile at him. As a conversation, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. The last time we had this row – which was something like five days ago – he'd stormed off in a huff.

Watching him at the bar, I smile to myself. There are at least four people waiting before he gets there, but the barmaid – a busty girl who's wearing a rather revealing top – somehow misses all of them, opting to serve my gorgeous boyfriend instead. She's clearly flirting with him, eyeing him up and practically drooling over his muscles and good looks.

Hands off, lady. Just because I'm not ready to let him jump into bed with me yet doesn't mean I'm going to give him up. He returns with the drinks and I laugh as I look at him.

“Got yourself an admirer there, I've never seen anyone get served so quickly in this place on a Friday night!”

“Lucky I only got eyes for you then, isn't it, sweetie?” I nod in response, and he leans over to give me another kiss. This time, his hands stay firmly on my shoulders, and I sigh in pleasure.

“Thanks for seeing it my way,” I pull out of the kiss to whisper into his ear. “I promise you, it won't be that long. And it will be amazing...”

He stiffens up – in more ways than one, looking at the sudden bulge in his jeans. God, are all boys this easy to control? A couple of vague promises and he's right back where I want him.

At least I think he is, until I take a long drink from my vodka and Coke and nearly spit it out in disgust at the strength of it.


  1. very intriguing. I think you're doing a good job so far. You write well. I think you could pack a bigger emotional punch in there... maybe drag out the tension of the first scene a little more... would like to see Rachel's reaction to Lauren's call a little more... she says she's clingy so does she call like this a lot? because from Lauren's part it sounded like something she didn't usually do. Good luck!

    1. Oh I went back and looked at your first one and see you did a big revision, changing the POV. For me either one works. I guess 1st person is more common in YA and I do prefer it slightly. As for multiple narration it can be tricky because each voice has to be distinctive so for multiple narrative I like 3rd person as well. It's up to you of course, but you wrote well in 3rd person too. So don't count it out completely if it's something you're still playing with.

  2. I'm liking this version better! That first part is a definite hook. I really want to know what the marks are for and feel for the character having to make such a tough decision. The second part now has me feeling less sympathetic for Rachel FYI and I don't know if that's what you intended or not. "easy to control" is the line that does it I think. Again, I don't know where you're going exactly, but I'd be careful about switching to too many POVs (pick the most important) and too often. I'd like, since these are the first five pages, to get a better hint at the main issue of the book and I tend to think that first part is closer to it than the second. But the fact that I don't know at all is an issue. Again, great writing, good characterizations. You're getting there!

  3. Oops - tried to post from wrong account, but not sure what happened to it anyway. Just wanted to say thanks for the feedback, both of you! Sticking to 2 POVs, Lauren and Rachel, so hopefully not switching too often. Just need to make sure I can get their voices right, as Liana says, they need to be really distinct.

  4. This revision really hooked me with its conciseness. I do enjoy a sibling tale and this hints at being one full of rivalry and secrets. Love the ending of Chapter 1, it would make me flip the page to Ch. 2.

    I do agree that the reader needs more of a hint of what the story is going to be about. What is the larger conflict? Perhaps Rachel can give another hint to the reader before we go into her problem with Robbie.

    1. Thanks - great advice, hopefully I've taken it on board with the current revision. Looking forward to hearing what you think next week!

  5. Wow! This is a huge change. I like the 2 POVs. I agree with the comments above, about making them very distinct - that will be a challenge.

    I am curious if Lauren has a connection to Robbie since your title is Losing Robbie.

    Can you change "...and Lauren, the eldest..."? She wouldn't actually think that. Can you tell the reader that she is the oldest of the stepsisters in another way or save it for later.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Dana!

      Quick question for Martina or Lisa - is it okay to change the title? The POV switch has basically led me to change directions a fair bit (in a good way, I think) and Robbie is playing rather a minor part. In fact, I'm close to losing him!

    2. Of course it's okay! These things happen all the time when you start revising.

  6. Huge improvement! Great job. I do think you have short changed the first scene a good bit. It is such a tense situation, but you don't quite let us get into it with your character, which makes it feel gratuitous. If it is intrinsic to the story, go all in. And in your second scene watch your observations to make sure that it is clear who is observing. The paragraph Lisa brought up is a perfect example of that.

    Lovely writing. Very believable and nice setups.


  7. First off, I love this revision. The tense moment at the beggining was a great hook. Also, as said above, you do have to be careful with 2 POVs. However they both seem different already Rachel being the strong willed one and Lauren the one that needs help. If it's not getting in the way of how you want to tell the story, you should try to include the purpose of the story. Even a hint would help the hook.
    Nice writing, DiNae'

  8. WoW1 What a nice revision. I was completely taken in with the first chapter. I did feel that after the first few paragraphs it dragged a little. You could just jump to I can't focus-blade-phone. You tell us and show us, so maybe that's why it drags a bit. I wasn't sure of her age. Is primary school like American Elementry? If so, that will help us have an idea of age. And not knowing Lauren's age, I'm still struggling with her decision to not have sex. I need a more solid reason. In this day and age kids in an eight month relationship, if they are in their teen's will have probably had sex--Unless, it's for religious reasons, or fear, or past truma, or maybe because she doesn't care/love him enough. I just feel I need a strong argument on why she has not made this choice. Certainly his reaction is appropriate. This is a great job. I understand the plotline and characters so much more. Nice rewrite. shelley


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