Monday, October 8, 2012

6 1st 5 Pages October Workshop -Di Gesu

Name: Michael Di Gesu
Genre: Y/A Edgy Contemporary
Title: The Blinded Gardener

One moment I’m my Dad’s personal punching bag, and the next, well, I’m a pawn in his maniacal master plan. That is, until Danny entered the picture and discovered my secret.

Dad forced me to move across the country, and once again, I found myself at a new school, the third in two years. It sucked having a dad in the military.

The warning bell rang for first period. The halls cleared with the slamming of doors. As I wandered about searching for my classroom, I heard someone approach me from behind. Long bangs fell over his eyes as he loped past me with a kind of natural ease.

Didn’t he see me standing here, screwing around with this frickin’ map?

“Hey, dude. Could you tell me how to get to room 305?”

A slight curl formed on his lips as he faced me. He tossed his head. Platinum fringe shifted to the side and revealed freakish blue eyes that glanced toward me, unfocused.

Holy shit! Is he blind? More like stoned.

“I’m heading that way.” His deep voice held a trace of a southern accent.

I envied his height: well over six feet and me just an average dude.

“You better move. Connors loses it when you’re late.”

I rushed to catch up to him. His hand overshot the dented metal banister. On the second swipe, he made contact and climbed the stairs.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

He never looked back, not even when he spoke.


His shoulder bumped the wall turning the corner. “Damn!” Rubbing it, he coasted down the hall and stopped midway. “Here you are.” A glint of blue shot at me from under his bangs. “By the way, I’m Danny,” he said, low. He did an about face and was gone.

I shook my head and wondered, what’s his deal?

As I entered the classroom, Mr. Connors glared at me. “You’re late. Take your seat now.” In the next breath he continued with the lesson.

Eyes darted from all directions as I made my way toward the back of the classroom. I dropped into the only vacant seat and fumbled through my backpack, searching for my social studies book.

The girl next to me checked out my every move.

Not bad. Redheads really know how to getta dude off.

She caught my eye and smiled. After flexing, my pecs and abs strained under the muscle tee that clung to me.

Thick black lashes fluttered as her hazel eyes widened, and the blush in her cheeks matched the freckles on her nose.

Mr. Connors cleared his throat, bore his eagle eyes right into me, and droned on about the domestic issues and conflicts of the Federalist period. I picked up my notebook and tried to comprehend his jabber. Not at all interested in anything he had to say, my eyes wandered, sizing up the kids in class.


I didn’t need to search long to see the usual cliques. Two jocks, clueless in the first row, looked more confused and bored than me. Next to them, a couple of cheerleaders licked their bubblegum pink lip gloss, trying to capture Team Beaufort’s attention.

Glancing to my left, a pig-tailed chick in specs scribbled non-stop, keeping up with the three nerds in crisp, white button down shirts surrounding her. Behind them a group of tough, tattooed, and pierced guys, wearing leather vests and torn jeans shifted in desks far to small for their bulk.

About half the students were black or hispanic. A lot more than in my last school. Not one Asian kid. That surprised me.

Connors’ jagged pacing captured my attention. I listened to a few words before peering out the window. The bright blue sky reminded me of Danny’s unfocused eyes.


After another half-an-hour of mindless drivel, the bell rang. The smoldering redhead asked about my next class. She licked her lips and waited for me to answer. I shuffled through my notebook and found the schedule.

“English with Hartnett in room 223,” I mumbled, snapped the notebook shut, and stuffed it into my backpack.

“Oh, I’m in that class, too.” She stood and ran her hand through her hair, pushing it behind her ear.

Locking her eyes on mine, she said, “Are you coming?”

Not yet.

I smirked.

You love bad boys, don’t you Red? I’ll give you what you want. You’re not the first.

“Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.”

She narrowed her eyes.

After flexing the guns, I picked up my backpack, adjusted my crotch, and took my sweet time before drifting over to her.

“I’m Tanya, by the way,” she said in a breathy voice.


As we made our way down the hall, I caught a glimpse of Danny and jerked my chin toward him.

“Do you know that dude?”

She nodded.

“What’s his story, anyway?”

Tanya paled and her eyes dulled. As she spoke, her voice quivered. “I really can’t talk about it. Let’s say he had it all and now —”


“Let’s go. We’ll be late.” She proceeded toward the staircase like a mouse trapped in a maze.

What the hell’s up with the people at this school?

At the sound of the bell, I peeled in the same direction as Tanya. She almost disappeared in the crush of bodies with only her fiery mane visible.

Shoving my way through the mass, snide remarks and “What the fuck” expressions shot back at me. I ignored them and focused only on Tanya’s hair. A few minutes later, I found room 223 and burst through the door with a loud bang. Necks snapped in my direction. Mr. Hartnett dropped the book from his hands and it crashed to the floor.

Spotting Tanya, I worked my way toward the back and sat in the seat she had saved for me.

“Sorry,” she whispered.

I rolled my eyes and glanced at the black and white cover of a book propped on top of the desk.

Flipping through it, I scoffed.

Hmmm. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller. What a joke. Like I’m gonna read this shit.

I slammed the book shut. Four or five people around me flinched.

“Is there some sort of problem?” Mr. Harnett asked with a shaky voice.

Man this guy is ancient. He’s way past retirement.


“Then I suggest you open your book and read the first chapter like your classmates.” He shuffled some papers on his desk and picked up what looked like a roster. “What’s your name young man?”

At first I ignored him. School was such a waste of time. I’m no scholar, films are all I care about. Not this crap.

A gentle hand touched my right arm. I shifted myself toward Tanya. She pleaded with her eyes.

“Fine,” I muttered and turned back around in my seat. “Aidan Forester,” I called out.

Tanya stroked my arm and I got an instant rise.

This chick’s hot for me. I can’t wait to hook up with her.


  1. I wasn't sure if it was a boy or a girl MC initially at the beginning. Also, Danny doesn't seem to glance at Aidan's schedule, so it's not clear how he knows where Aidan is heading. Otherwise, it seems pretty realistic, high school wise and flowed well.

  2. The first and second sentences confused me a lot. The only reason I am focused on those is because it was hard to get into the rest after that. I have a hard time associating the different images of the dad - punching, maniacal master, military man. These images all come within three sentences. Also, you say Danny but do not tell us who Danny is until later so the meaning is lost on me.

    Other issues - I really liked your mention of race, because I think that often goes unsaid in YA. However, I do wonder how Aidan sees himself in relation to the students in that regard.

    Like Laura said, it flows pretty well. I hope Aidan redeems himself somewhat soon, though.


  3. I think you should go right into the story without the intro. The only positive is it adds a touch of vulnerability to the MC who right now is not likable. There are some awesome books with narrators are unlikable, but it's a tough sell. Can we see another side or at least a hint of another side to this MC? I like the eye issue with Danny it's intriguing, but otherwise I'm not clicking with this character.

  4. Interesting story, I'm curious about what his secret is. That said, I think the first two sentences could be deleted. I feel like you are telling us what is about to happen rather than showing. They would be great for later, during the query stage, though.

    Also, I have friends in the military and they don't move that often. Is his dad in some special position that makes them move more often?

    Also, as a teacher I'm wondering why the teachers are so abrupt and rude about him being late. If this is Aidan's first day in the midst of a school year their reactions are not believable to me. Unless, of course, the people here are different. Then show us his reaction to them not being what he expects.

    Unfortunately I'm not clicking with Aidan's character. His attitude towards Tanya turns me off instantly. Why does he look at girls that way? Why doesn't he care about school? Does he resent his dad's job in the military? I'd like more insight into him in order to create that connection that would keep me reading.

  5. Overall, this is a refreshing, different piece. You won’t see too many stories with protagonists with such attitude. It lends itself to great voice which really shines through in this piece!

    A couple things I want to point out.
    Get your gender in a bit sooner. I was quite a bit through before I knew if this was a boy or a girl. Sure, it sounds a bit more guy-ish, but that can’t be a guarantee. The reader needs to know this as early as possible so they can form that image in their mind.
    Having a flawed protagonist is great, and it’s okay to have them somewhat unlikeable, too. But if possible, give us a bit more to care about the main characters. As it is now, he is highly unlikeable. You insert a bit at the very beginning to make us care. Can you dribble a bit more in so we know he is not a complete jerk (which I don’t think he is!)?
    A final thing to consider is watching generic beats. They take up space and don’t do much in driving the story forward. She nodded. I smirked. She smiled.
    Also, would the teachers not be a bit more understanding for a new student getting late to class? Maybe introduce him?

    You certainly started out in a great, unique way, and I’m excited to see where this goes next! I’ll be looking forward to reading the revised version!

  6. Hi Michael,

    I'm going to disagree a bit with some of the other comments, which is always a hard spot to put a writer in. I'll apologize in advance. Nevertheless, here's my two cents. Given that your MC clearly has issues that he is going to have to overcome -- a strong character arc, presumably -- we are going to have trouble relating to him. The opening gave me a reason to excuse him for being unlikeable. It introduced your great voice, and the only reason it bothered me was because you switched tenses, which made it hard to follow.

    With that set up though, I really was expecting to see a brief scene wtih the father before he headed off to school. Showing us that, letting us see the dynamic and how it affects Aidan, and then letting us see the mirror reflection in his own behavior (VERY subtly, of course) would give us a reason to hope for him. At the same time, I'd love to see you tone the snausage-speak stuff down just a little bit. It feels like you're overdriving it a bit too much, and it pushes beyond humor and beyond unlikeability to the point where I'm not taking Aidan as seriously as I wish I could.

    IPJ covered the teachers, and she had a great catch on the beats. I'm also not sure about Tonya's reaction to him. It seems a bit unbelievably nice. Perphaps if she went from nice to awkwardly polite but he still interpreted it as sexual attraction on her part.

    I do love the voice on this, and it is really different. It's also a very important subject that is direly underrepresented, so I think you are going to have a lot of attention for it if you can just make us root for Aidan in spite of not liking him.

    Looking forward to seeing where you go with this!



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