Monday, November 5, 2012

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Hilios

Name: Carly Hilios
Genre: Young Adult
Title: The Killers Club

Chapter 1

Naturally I hadn’t been planning on slapping her.

My hand felt like it had been dipped in a lava flow. The palm burned so good. The pain was an ultimate satisfaction. I wanted to reach out and do it again. Smack. Slap that icy grin right off her heavily lip-glossed, dark purple lips.

I sat down on the bench running between the turquoise lockers, trying to shut down the girl inside me that freaked out. The girl willing to slap a stranger just for mouthing off at her, and find the sweet girl who wore pearl earrings and thought of everyone as a friend.

“Oh princess,” she said, peering over me so her straw-like hair with its tips dyed bright pink tickled my face, “you don’t even know what you just unleashed.”

Friends: 0, Enemies: 1. What a way to kick off senior year at a new high school.

Pink-Hair spun on her heel and strutted towards the door like the girl’s locker room was her runway. The word “heels” didn’t really capture the sheer height of her boots. They were heeled and platformed. Maybe she thought King Kong would show up at Clatskanie High for a showdown in the cafeteria and she single-handedly would have to take him down with her laced-up-to-the thigh black leather boots.

I rubbed my hands together, checking over my shoulder to be sure no one saw.

Pink-Hair wasn’t the type to be slapped and tell. With a mouth like that, it probably happened to her all the time.

“Where’s your mummy?” I heard her voice replay in my mind. “Don’t have a mummy around to let you know when you outgrew trainer bras?”

I pulled at the uncomfortably tight bra strap and wondered if maybe she was right.

Still - right or wrong, Pink-Hair had no right to talk crap about my family. I could ignore a lot. But not that. She’d gone much too far.

I smoothed the pleats of my bright blue skirt and readjusted the strapless shirt with a tribal motif of turquoise and peach arrows. A three quart sleeve cardigan finished off the outfit and kept me high school dress code compliant.

Compliant – exactly the girl I wanted to be. Nothing fit in better than compliant. It was easy to be friends with the compliant girl and quite frankly, after a year sans friends, I was ready to have that back again.

The new school meant the past was erased. My mind spread out my life on a timeline and with scissors carefully went in and snipped out the year before, junior year, the year everything went wrong. Seamlessly, I could just paste my timeline back together, so no one at my new school would know there was anything missing.

They’d never know the part of me I was hiding.

Focus, I told myself. No more outbursts, no more anger, just smile. And if nothing else, maybe I wouldn’t have to see Pink-Hair again and even if I did, surely she’d get the picture – don’t talk trash about my mother again.

From the driver’s seat of my car in the back of the school’s gravel parking lot, the small town of Clatskanie stretched out like a panorama photograph. The streets were wide and sun bleached, the sidewalks large enough to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians alike. The high school behind me dominated the south end of town with its lush pasture of a football and soccer field.
I promised myself that only this one time I’d let myself eat lunch in my car. I was still shook up after slapping that girl after PE and quite frankly didn’t feel up for braving a cafeteria full of strangers, scouting for a new group of friends.

Instead, I was satisfied to spy on the upper classmen who had driver’s licenses and went off campus for lunch and underclassmen who just preferred to hang out in the exhaust-ridden parking lot. I watched everyone through my rearview mirror, not wanting to be called out on my snooping.

The students of Clatskanie seemed shockingly similar to my old classmates back in Portland. They drove the same range of cars – from brand new to shit-colored beaters. Brightly colored garters, remains of proms past, dangled off the rear view mirrors of a few of the cars and trucks. I couldn’t help but feel a little homesick, thinking back to the two homecomings I’d attended as an underclassman and the teal and pink garter I’d decorated with feathers and sparkling gem stones. My stomach tightened at the memory, or possibly just from the unappetizing lukewarm ham sandwich I was eating. But it was hard to know what I was homesick for, considering we’d moved to Clatskanie specifically to get away from the high school in Portland full of students who hated me.

I shook off the memory, tossing the rest of my sandwich out the window for a lucky seagull or crow and pulled my schedule out of my pocket, scanning it for the 100th time.

Homeroom – Wednesdays only – Mr. Lee, room 124.

Carefully I folded the paper back on its seams, the creases so weak it was only a matter of time before they ripped like a carefully planned tear.

With reluctance, I left the safety of my car and walked towards the school, trying to slip a smile to a group of girls with high ponytails who seemed nice but also confused by friendliness from someone they didn’t know.

I paused in the main hallway, still empty since the bell indicated the end of lunch hadn’t rung yet. The wall was covered with photos, all framed with contrasting bright white and black mats that looked worn at the corners from years of being knocked down and rehung. It was an ode to Clatskanie past – pictures of the state championship winning basketball team three years in a row, the graduating class for every year dating back to the schools establishment in 1946, and the happy smiling faces of kids in countless clubs, happy to have found their place in the wasteland that is high school.

But it was the pictures of prom court that really made me linger. I couldn’t help but smile back at their lovely faces; all standing in a row, their crowns balanced carefully atop piles of curls and swirls of hair. It was easy to pick out the Queen – always the one with the biggest smile.

I stopped at the picture of the prom queen from the year before. The year my sister Cassie was supposed to win. The year she was supposed to graduate, but had dropped out instead. I couldn’t help but hate that other girl, that other girl with her floor length blood red dress and lips to match. I leaned in – Anastasia was her name. How fitting. It felt like Anastasia had stolen the crown right off of Cassie’s head.

It was a ridiculous thing to think, because Cassie and I didn’t even go to Clatskanie High with Anastasia the year before, so there was no way Cassie could’ve been prom queen of my new school. But it just reminded me of everything that had been snatched away from us. Prom queens were different back in Portland – something sacred.


  1. Hi Carly,

    Your title is very intriguing! I'd read on just to find out what you mean by it.

    Your action right at the beginning is well done. You set up conflict right away.

    I'm wondering if you need a little more dialogue and less narrative in these first 5 pages. You're telling the reader some important details, but maybe some of them can wait.

    Nice job on this!

    Happy writing!

  2. Hi Carly,
    I enjoyed this and I liked that it opened with an action scene.

    I did wonder if you could expand the first scene. Give us more on the contrast between Pink-Hair and the MC. I'm assuming Pink-Hair turns out to be a big-gal-on-campus? Also so we have a sense of where the MC fits in.

    The sudden rage the MC feels in that scene seems important (and interesting too!). I wanted more showing of that. And more on how good it felt (her sense of power ?). So maybe also hold off on her thoughts about her usual compliance until a little later?

    Hope this is helpful. Good work.


  3. It feels pretty strong for her to slap someone right away without having more of a reaction from the other girl. Can you give us more than a physical description. What does the girl do in response? Is she shocked? Does she touch her face? Stumble back? Tears? IDK. I like the story so far, I am interested in what's happening, particularly with the prom pics, a great way to show the MC's character. I'd take out some of the alluding to her big secret earlier though, it feels a little like you're stringing us along on purpose. Just saying, she shook off the memory was enough I think. I love the details that say so much, like the way she folds the schedule. Great job!

  4. Hi Carly,
    I think. You have a strong story here, but a few places need some detail flushed out. Love the girl called Pink-Hair, but I am wondering why she walked away after being slapped if she is a big shot at school. Maybe some more details about how and why this happens earlier in the story would help the reader to be more invested in the new girl right away.
    I love the comparison made between the current and past classmates. I am really interested in seeing how this relates to the story.

  5. Somewhat scattered thoughts here, so I'll just list them:
    1. I don't know why there weren't more people in the locker room if it was just after class
    2. I'm kind of surprised a bully (if that's what Pink Hair is supposed to be) would bother taunting someone without an audience
    3. I'm confused by the girl with the pearls reference--is this who the narrator sees herself as? Someone she's trying to be? An actual other girl?
    4. Right at the beginning, I would streamline the focus on her hand to one line. The satisfaction of the pain is a great image, but all of the sudden our limited focus is on a hand, not the scene. Don't take us away from a really tense scene!
    5. I love this voice. I could easily commit to reading a novel with this voice (it reminds me of Gina Damico--have you read CROAK?), but based off of this sample, I don't know where this story is headed, and I should by now.

    Your characterization is spot on, and like I said, you've got a voice that is super engaging. Just tell me where we're going, and I'll sign up for the ride!


  6. Hi Carly,

    The voice is awesome, and the beginning got me instantly. I definitely get that the sister went through something last year that created a personality shift in your protag, a reason she is not going to take sh*t from people, is that right? I also think that AC's comment about needing her to be acting in defense of someone else -- or at least of herself -- would set that up better. If she was acting in defense of someone else, or at least if there were other people in the locker room, it would also give you the opportunity to provide some of the backstory more actively and balance the opening a little better.

    Looking forward to reading more!


  7. Nice beginning! The third and fourth sentences seem to say the same thing, so maybe you only need one of them. The third paragraph was a little confusing. I felt like I didn't quite buy the transition from the MC wanting to slap this girl again to sitting down and reevaluating her personality.

    I like the way you start it in the middle of this scene, but I was surprised that Pink-Hair would just walk away after being slapped - I expected more confrontation. After she leaves, there's a big chunk of information and description that loses some of the strength of the hook. Also, the movement from slapping girl > car > going to class was a bit hard to follow.

    It seems like you have a really good idea of who this character is and where she's coming from - I'd just suggest spacing it out more over the story so that so much isn't delivered right away.

    Sidenote - I'm so sorry for posting late. My home internet's been on the fritz ever since the hurricane, and apparently it ate my posts earlier.

    Enjoyed reading,