Tuesday, June 12, 2012

8 1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Freeland 1st Revision

Lori Freeland
YA Science Fiction/Romance

Chapter 1
Death Changes Everything

The lies would end tonight.

No more secrets. No more arguments. No more dodging questions.

My hand strayed from the steering wheel to the front pocket of my jeans. I forced my fingers back to the wheel and tightened them. Get a grip, Kate. It’s piece of paper.

With some pretty damning words scrawled in my sister’s loopy handwriting.

No. There had to be an explanation. Exaggeration was Claire’s specialty. She lived for it. I just needed to find my sister and demand the truth. Tell her I was finished with the weird, cryptic crap. Nothing ever turned out to be as bad or crazy or life-ending as what she made it out to be. Whatever this was, we could work it out together. I should have confronted her the day she began hiding things from me. We never kept any secrets from each other.

Until now.

My Corolla slid between Claire’s baby blue Beetle and a large silver sedan with tinted windows, claiming the last space in the small parking alcove next to the creek.

The twilight sky began a slow slide into night. Great. If I didn’t hurry I’d be walking by the creek in full dark. I unbuckled and opened my glove compartment. Owner’s manual. GPS. An outdated map of downtown Dallas. A pack of half-eaten gum. And a tiny red flashlight.
Why couldn’t Claire pout at Starbucks or the nail salon? Somewhere light and safe where finding her didn’t require a Mag light.
The small scrap of paper, folded the way I’d found it, went in the glove compartment, the flashlight came out, and I slammed the door closed. I snagged my sweatshirt off the passenger seat and got out of the car.

Another car sat parked on the other side of the sedan. Something small, black, sleek and way too sporty for this part of town. Leaving a car like that here was like flashing in neon, “Key me.”

I pulled the white sweatshirt over my head, locked my car, and shoved the keys in my front pocket. The chill of winter hadn’t quite hit Texas, even though in ten short days we’d be celebrating Christmas. But the wind dropped the temperature enough that I let my sleeves fall over my hands.

The bridge wasn’t too far down the winding creek—just past the solitary street lamp and the huge tree that twisted and bent and practically fell into the water. Halfway there, I realized I left my phone on the dash in the car. I didn’t need it, right? If I couldn’t find her, I’d come back for it.
I switched on the flashlight. Quickly switched it off. Maybe I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. Should I have stayed in the car and texted Claire again? She hadn’t answered the last ten texts I’d left.

The wind picked up. Dead leaves and grass crunched beneath my boots. A tight knot curled deep in my stomach. What would they say when they found me disemboweled and hanging from a tree, a la Scream? Stupid girl left her cell in the car. She deserved it.
If something happened to me, I was going to kill my sister. For making me come out here in the dark. For keeping things from me. For writing those words on the paper.

I kept walking before my imagination took a free for all and I started seeing shadows crouching behind the trees. There were other things more pressing to deal with—real things that stopped my heart quicker than the thought of some psycho with a machete waiting for a random teenage girl to walk by. Claire things. Crazy things. Things my head couldn’t process.

The bridge, Claire’s sanctuary, loomed ahead. The tall wooden structure looked empty, but maybe she was huddled by the base, close to the water. It was darker by the water, so I switched the light back on. The barely-there-sliver of a moon might as well have been MIA for all the light it shared.
“Claire?” It came out a whisper.

No answer, but the wind picked up and rattled the trees around me. Oh yeah, perfect slasher setting. Dumb blonde. No phone. No common sense. I could almost hear the people in the theater screaming, “Run back to the car.”

“Claire?” I boosted my volume.

Still no response.

The third time I said her name, it was on the bottom end of yelling and laced with panic. “Come on. Don’t text me to come here and then be a jerk. I’m already mad at you.” I didn’t sound mad though. I sounded shaky and unsure.

A sliver of fear skipped across my spine and took up residence in my lower back. Why didn’t I just tell Dad like I threatened? Then he’d be out here in the almost dark instead of me.

I angled the light toward the shadowy place under the bridge where she sometimes sat, expecting to see her huddled, crying and agitated and un-Claire-like. “Not funny, okay? Let’s pick up a pizza and go home.”

But she wasn’t there. I shined the light back and forth. Great. My shoulders dropped. I came all the way out here, scared myself to death, and she’d already decided to go home on her own. I shoved the penlight in my pocket and started to turn back to climb up the slope about to combine her name with a curse word—one I never said.

A dark shape caught the corner of my eyes. In the water. Floating next to an old log—no a fallen tree. I snapped the light back on and moved it across the water. For a moment, I paused at the edge of the creek, wasting precious seconds transfixed by her hair and the way the long strands fanned out in wisps and rode the surface of the water in an eerie dance.


Reality struck with the force of a sucker punch—shattering my lungs, knocking my breath across the muddy ravine, and drove me forward.


The flashlight fell out of my hands. I stumbled down the embankment. Sloshed through the icy water. My socks squished inside my shoes.

A tangled mane plastered Claire’s face. I brushed it away with shaky fingers. Then wished I hadn’t. Stationary eyes—one blue, one green—stared at the blue-black sky. She didn’t see me. She didn’t see anything—her pupils were fixed and dilated.

“Come on, Claire!” I slipped my arms under her, locked my fingers together at the top of her chest, and yanked her off the giant branch. Waterlogged jeans clung to my legs like a suit of armor— weighting me down.

“I’m not mad… I swear... I’m sorry...please wake up.” I kept dragging. Pulling. Heaving. Until the effort brought me to my knees. I got back up. Slow steps. Impossible steps. And then her body finally slid across the rocks.

My shoes cleared the water. One final tug and I collapsed on the damp ground and pressed numb fingers against the cold, wet skin on her neck. Where I was supposed to find a pulse.

“Claire?” My hand fell to her chest. I waited. Nothing. “Claire! Don’t leave me. Please.”

911. I had to call 911.

I pictured my cell phone where I’d left it on my dash.

How many precious seconds had I already wasted trying to make sense of what was happening? I tilted Claire’s chin. Her blond hair, dark with water, fed the ground like a soft stream. How much water did she swallow? How long had she been there? What time had she texted me?


  1. I really like what you're doing here. At the beginning you set the reader up with a question---what does Claire want? What lies? Those questions propelled me on. I really enjoyed your POV, too. In this first bit, I really think I understand your MC. She's scared, but she's resolute. She's cautious, but she puts up a tough front. The "a la Scream" part had be chuckling, I have to say. I felt a little bogged down at the beginning, though, with per parking the car and THEN trekking to the bridge. Maybe begin the chapter with her already going toward the bridge? Then she can realize she forgot her phone, ect. I just think that her finding Claire is the center to this piece, and the sooner the reader can dive into that search, the more compelling. There's a typo that I found---"Weighting" should be "weighing." Otherwise, I really like this beginning. Great work, again!

  2. This is so much better than any of the beginnings you wrote for this story before! It is so much more compelling. There's so much I want to know! I want to read the rest to learn what the lies were (as the first commenter said) and what the peice of paper in Kate's pocket says!

    Great work. I'm so very impressed.

  3. Awesome. So it's getting better. I love that!

  4. Okay, so overall, I really like this so much better! I know Kate is TO'ed about something. There's a secret on the paper, and probably lots of other secrets too. Kate will have lots of angst to go on from here, if Claire dies.

    I find it tense in the right ways, and the voice is nicely done as well. I have a couple of nit-picky things that I hope help you fine-tune it.

    I feel like there are some repetitions that rob the power from the words. "She lived for it." for one. The bit about exaggeration being Claire's specialty is much more powerful, IMO. And the secrets bit seems inconsistent. The words "Until now" don't really work for me, because Kate seems to be able to pinpoint the day Claire started keeping secrets. Then the next line says they don't keep secrets from each other. And that makes me pause, because Kate just said she was. Then you say "Until now." And it's not NOW. It's whenever Claire started keeping the secrets. So I'd prefer "Until last month." Or "Until Valentine's Day." or whenever that secret-keeping started.

    Picky, picky, I know.

    I'm not sure why you use words to tell me about another car in the lot. If you want to focus on that car, I'd have it be the one she parks next to, not the next one over. The reason? It's screaming OBVIOUS! IMPORTANT! PAY ATTENTION TO THIS CAR, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT. And I don't want the author to be that obvious. I want to read something and be like, "Ohhhh, that was the car she parked next to! I get it. Nicely woven in, you master author, you."

    I sort of feel like you're giving me the "I did this, I did that" treatment. I want her to comment on the weather, the creepy atmosphere, how she feels being outside the car now that it's almost dark, and instead I get this: "I pulled the white sweatshirt over my head, locked my car, and shoved the keys in my front pocket." The next line is beautiful, and I'd cut that one I just referenced.

    Sorry I'm picking you apart! I really like it. Really, really. I love the part where she's walking toward the bridge. All of that is fantastic.

    I think you consider removing the wind picking up again here: "No answer, but the wind picked up and rattled the trees around me." Because you already said it when she was walking out, and I'd rather have the tree branches answer without the wind reference.

    I'm not a fan of her thinking Claire already went home. Her car is there. So if she thinks that, she has to immediately contradict herself by thinking, "But her car is parked in the lot..."

    I LOVE THIS: "knocking my breath across the muddy ravine" That's fabulous writing.

    "weighting" is a typo, I think. Sorry to be so freaking picky! It's because it's tense and emotional and well-set up. So I have to find something to comment on. :)

    You need a ? here: "Where I was supposed to find a pulse."

    And I want the last line to read "And what time had she LAST texted me?"

    Excellent revision!!

  5. You did a great job here and I think overall, backing things up really works. You master the guilt element too, because as she's bitching in her head about her thoughtless sister for picking this place, imagining herself eviscerated by some creepy psycho...her sister's actually dead. It's poetry! :)

    I think it could still be cleaned up a bit more, so I'll build on Elana's comments a bit here with a few things to add.

    First, I notice a few places where you name an emotion. Fear. Panic. This is telling, and you have a strong enough command of showing that it's not necessary. The warble in her voice, the yelling with an edge, the shiver...these things show the emotion you're going for with no need to spell it out for the reader by naming the emotion. :)

    I think things feel a bit mechanical in the car and it comes across a bit play by play. Part of the solution to this would be to trim this scene a bit--start with her lights splashing against Claire's car in the parking lot and then squeezing in next to it. She slams the shifter into park, tromps on the emergency brake. These things, combine with her internal thoughts show us she's pissed off. Trim out some of the car info--silver this, tinted windows that, sleek black, sporty...she's upset, she's focused on confronting her sister, so she wouldn't 'think' in terms of such lengthy car description. A few bite-sized details. Same thing in the car--leave off what you don't need. Unbuckling for instance. Just cut right to her pawing through all the crap in her dash for the flashlight. Here also: I pulled the white sweatshirt over my head, locked my car, and shoved the keys in my front pocket. With so many I did this/that, you can tighten--do we need to know her keys are in her pocket? Can we just let the reader assume? Little things like unbuckling and shoving keys away...you provide enough other detail these don't need to be there to complete the picture, make sense?

    In this revision, it becomes clear just how dark out it is. She needs a flashlight, so I'm glad you did this, because I think for her to notice the hair in dark water, she would need this, so good addition. But I think this still needs a smoother:

    A dark shape caught the corner of my eyes. In the water. Floating next to an old log—no a fallen tree. I snapped the light back on and moved it across the water. <> For a moment, I paused at the edge of the creek, wasting precious seconds transfixed by her hair and the way the long strands fanned out in wisps and rode the surface of the water in an eerie dance.

    Where I noted above, we need a line describing the body just a bit. On my first read, because you add 'no a fallen tree' to the log description, getting specific, all the focus in on the log, not what's caught on the log. A small line here, something that shows it's the size of a human, maybe a splash of color--a red jacket? something. Then the next line. This way we go from a to b to c, not a to c. :)

    I think you could trim a bit between the car and finding the body as well, just to crank the pace a touch. I think because she doesn't want to be here, she knows it's getting dark quick...I feel like she'd hurry. Tightening a bit of the description and internal will get us to the payoff a touch faster.

    These are all really nitty things, because you've done a wonderful job here. Love the inclusion of the note and the secrets. And when she turns the body over and Claire's eyes--one blue, one green-- stare up at nothing...chills! :)

  6. I really love the changes you made! Knowing a little more about the characters makes a huge difference. I'm way more invested in them now. And the note in her pocket? I'm DYING to know what it says! Also, "The lies would end tonight" = great first line!

    I agree with all the above comments about the play-by-play stuff. Listing all the contents of the glove box, unfastening the seat belt, the sweatshirt, the keys... All of that took me out of the story.

    I agree with Elena about the paragraph about the black car being a little too THIS IS IMPORTANT! I also felt the same with the cell phone. It seemed a bit convenient that she all of a sudden "realized" she forgot the phone. It would be more real for me if she had a reason to realize she forgot it. If she were to, say, reach for it to see if Claire had texted her, or even if she just wanted to check the time. You know?

    But that's all just nit-picky stuff. Your style and voice are really quite good. And I am very intrigued by the story. I would definitely read on. Nicely done!

  7. Thanks to all of you. Revisions are on their way :)


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