Monday, December 10, 2012

1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Michael Rev 1

Name: Connie Michael
Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Title: Entrusted

Luke’s broad frame filled the small porch, blocking the way down the stairs and to my car. I was already late for cross country practice and really didn’t have the energy to rehash his need for me to quit for the millionth time, but the expression on his face made it clear we were in for another fight.

“Don’t go, Emma.” Luke wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close. “I have counseling later. I need you here when I get back.”

“I’ll be back. I have to practice every day.” I tried to keep the frustration out of my voice and pushed lightly against his chest. I knew counseling was rough for him. An hour of dredging up all the reasons it wasn’t his fault his dad beat him. Running was my way of coping. I was Luke’s way of coping. He hated that I found relief somewhere other than with him.

“Then why do I have to ask you every day?” His voice had an edge that confirmed it— he wasn’t going to let me go easily.

I stood on my tip toes and kissed his cheek in an attempt to lighten his mood. “I’ll be done at five and we’ll go eat.”

Luke’s ability to be the sweet and caring had drawn me in. I hadn’t had many people take care of me in my life and his tender moments were enough for me to forgive his over possessive temper tantrums.

“I got to go.” I slid around him and made it to the top step before his arms wrapped around my waist from behind— holding me in place. Luke’s larger body engulfed my petite frame, leaving me at his mercy.

“To see Greg. His anger at my refusal began to grow. His arms tightened around me.

I turned to face him and tried to keep my voice calm. “You’re hurting me.”

“Tell me you aren’t going to see Greg. I won’t share you,” he insisted.

“Let me go.” I understood Luke’s need to control me. Everyone at The Ridge, the therapeutic group home where we lived, had issues. Aside from the abuse he’d had, Luke feared being abandoned and had a strong sense of paranoia when it came to me. There weren’t any words that would make him believe Greg was just my friend. I’d tried.

“Then go. Go see him.” Luke shoved me away. I teetered on the top step. Scrambling for balance I reached out. Luke stepped out of my reach and watched me go down. A small grin pulled at the side of his mouth as I tumbled down the steps. The side of my head hit the railing as I bounced to a stop. Bright lights sliced through my skull. I could already feel the bump forming on my temple. Slowly I pushed to my hands and knees and looked up for help. He crossed his arms.

“Luke!” Sasha, a twelve year old who was staying at the home temporarily, until her foster home was ready, came out to the back porch. Luke moved to block me from her view. “Mrs. Farrar wants you.” Mrs. Farrar ran The Ridge—and you didn’t keep her waiting. Sasha leaned to look around Luke. “Em? Are you okay?”

Luke’s gaze moved from me to Sasha. Sasha made a noise that sounded like “Eeep” and ran back into the house. Without word Luke followed her. I stood up trying to decide if I should make sure Sasha was okay or leave when I had the chance. Self-preservation won out and I drove to the high school. I couldn’t miss practice or I wouldn’t be able to compete this weekend.

I ran from the parking lot to the locker rooms and then out to the field. I threaded my fingers through my long blonde hair—lifting it off my neck to pull into a ponytail. I cringed when my fingers grazed the lump and the greenish purple bruise emerging at my temple. I hurried to catch up with the pre-workout stretches.

“Holy crap Emma what happened to your head?” My best friend and running partner, Greg, looked over from where he sat on grass.

“I tripped over Luke and fell down the stairs.” I settled in the cool grass next to him.

Greg let out a loud snort. “Seems like you trip a lot lately.”

“It was an accident.” Or at least that’s what I’d tried to convince myself. Over the last few weeks Luke and I had a lot of accidents.

“Maybe you should get your eyes checked or something,” he said.

I gave him my best just shut up look, but it didn’t work.

“So are you finally going to admit you’re dating him?” Greg stood up and placed his hand on my shoulder for balance while he stretched his quads.

“We can’t date. The Ridge frowns on fraternizing. We hang out.” I’d lived at the Ridge since the middle of eighth grade, after my last foster home fell apart.

“Fraternizing? What are you? Like eighty?” Greg wasn’t a fan of Luke’s and I didn’t like talking about my relationship status with him.

I shrugged. “That’s their term so it probably came from someone who was eighty.”

“Em, you’ve spent every waking moment with him for the last month and when you’re not with him he’s texting you to find out where you are. That is the definition of dating. Or at least stalking.” Greg’s words faded when he took off running— leaving me behind.

I jumped up and ran after him. I matched my short strides to his longer ones. Greg was tall and lanky, the perfect body for cross country. I was a good head shorter, making each of his strides equal to two of mine. My phone buzzed in my pocket announcing a new text.

“Is that your phone?” Greg asked. “Why do you have your phone when you’re running?”
“Luke doesn’t like it if he can’t reach me.” I pulled my phone out and texted while I ran.

“That’s stalkerish.” Greg’s voice held a tone of disapproval.

“Why do you guys make this so hard. I shouldn’t have to choose between you. You don’t even know him. You might like him.” We headed into the woods beside the school to begin a five mile run for the day.

“He doesn’t want to know me. He doesn’t want you to know me. Besides what’s it matter if I like him? I’m not the one dating him.”

The path evened out when we came out the other side of the trees.

“We aren’t dating. And I want you to like him because you’re my best friend.” Greg had been my friend since I was placed in the group home. He was the first real friend I’d ever had.

Greg stopped short.

I ran a few paces then turned around and jogged back to him. “What?”

“Emma be careful.”

I jogged in place trying to keep my muscles loose. “Careful of what?”

He narrowed his eyes. “Just be careful. Sometimes people aren’t what they seem.”

“Like he’s a mass murderer disguised as a high school senior?”

“You never know. He does live…He has…” Greg’s voice trailed off.

“He does live where?! At The Ridge? That’s what you were going to say—wasn’t it?

Because everyone at The Ridge is a screw up.” I shoved him.

I’d been in foster care or groups homes for as long as I could remember. I didn’t know my parents.


  1. Great job on the revisions! Looks like you answered so many questions. And bad boy Luke is much more real, IMHO--not all bad and not all good. That makes him more interesting.

    A stylistic point...your sentences often are long. You can easily break them up into two thoughts. For example: I hadn’t had many people take care of me in my life. Luke's tender moments were enough for me to forgive his over possessive temper tantrums.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the triangle!

  2. Hi Connie,
    You've done a nice job showing things more in this revision. We see this is an everyday occurrence, that Luke and Emma have this discussion before Emma leaves for track. And we see the accidents are also normal. The pushing down the stairs thing is pretty scary. How many steps did she fall down? 3-4? Are her injuries more significant than normal, that finally makes Greg say something?

    We know Luke needs Emma. As you work on revising your pages, we'll need to understand very soon, not necessarily in these five pages -- why does Luke need Emma and in what capacity? "I was Luke's way of coping." What does this mean?

    Why does Emma need Luke? Running is her way of coping, so what does Luke provide for Emma that makes it worth dealing with his bad behavior and her fear of him -- "self-preservation"? Since they live in a group home, the therapists must know about Luke's attachment to Emma. What are they doing about it, especially given his behavior? ie: Did they tell Emma to deal with it and they'll monitor.

    Show us more of Luke's sweet/bad moments. For example, when he texts Emma, show her rubbing her wrists where he grabbed her too hard the last time she didn't answer his texts, along with the new bracelet he gave her to apologize.

    You've done a good job showing us what Luke and Emma are about and keeping the tension on the page. In your revision, show more of the best friend chemistry between Emma and Greg. What is it about this friendship that makes Luke jealous?

    Looking forward to reading your revision!

  3. I like this revision much better, and I agree that shorter sentences might make more impact. I am fully on Emma's side, rooting for her as she strives to make healthy choices and overcome an unhealthy past. Some details - I was jarred picturing the scene when she was able to turn around to face Luke, since his arms were wrapped so tightly around her that it hurt. Also remember your second quotation mark after "To see Greg...

    To help orient the reader, I think I would specify that Emma has lived in the home 4 years (which I calculated based on moving there in 8th grade and now being able to drive, though that might vary by state). If she is a high school senior, it would be good to work in whether it's fall or spring, as the high school culture/student mindset often changes dramatically between those two seasons.

    Meanwhile I have not decided yet whether I like Greg - he seems pretty snide yet does express concern for Emma... I would be lured to read on to see how you flesh him out -- if he is a good friend with the potential to be more, or if he himself is not what he seems. Looking forward to more next week!

  4. The beginning of this works much better for me now. I get a nice clear snapshot of the problem - Emma is working hard at normalcy, and she’s got a lot to deal with and very few resources.

    There seems to be a lot of telling in these pages. For instance, “Luke’s ability to be the sweet and caring had drawn me in” - when I first meet Luke, he’s being a hyperpossessive jerk, and later, a violent scumbag. I don’t see sweet or caring, so it feels kind of empty right now, just words on the page. As a reader, this needs to be tangible, to stand in opposition to what I’m seeing.

    Also, I find Emma’s rationalization of why she tolerates Luke’s treatment of her a bit unsatisfying. I get that people in abusive relationships think this way (and I imagine Emma’s reasons will be explored as the story unfolds) but it does make Emma a bit unsympathetic in these pages. It’s hard for a reader to root for a character who has so little awareness of her own self-worth. Perhaps a tiny glimpse into Emma’s backstory or maybe at least a little resentment toward Luke’s behavior might go a long way to giving the reader some kind of hope that Emma will move through it and realize what’s happening to her.

    Keep up the good work - can’t wait to see what’s next!

  5. Good work, but now that you know why she sticks with this loser, she is a teen and she wouldn't be psycho-analyzing the situation, especially during a fight. :D I know it's tough, but you're getting there. Now you have to figure out how to show us the important info without stating it in her thoughts.

  6. Great job Connie! I'm still totally digging this story. I love VIvian's comment above; I think you've definitely shown Emma to be stronger this round, but it'd be nice to see a reason why she sticks with and sticks up for her jerky beau. I love Vivian's idea of a gift he gave her, or how he always apologizes--something redeeming (and "show, not tell") like that, something enough to trick a smart, strong girl into thinking he's worth hanging onto.

    Love the first 3 paragraphs as well! Totally chilling, but not too overtly. The only thing is I actually liked how Luke's douche-iness was a surprise in the first round, but now he's douchey from the start. I wouldn't change it necessarily, because I immediately felt the tension this time, rather than having to wait a few paragraphs, but I just thought I'd bring it up for food for thought.

    Great job!

  7. Oh! And I got this email today, it's a QueryTracker blog talking about abusive teen relationships. Wanted to share it with you in case you needed some inspiration in your rewrites!

  8. Hi Connie,

    First, this is much clearer, and you've really brought it to life! Great work.

    Second, a quick note about sentence length. I don't have any problem with long sentences, they can be important for cadence, pace, and tone. You do need to watch runons though, which is what happened in the example that was given:

    I hadn’t had many people take care of me in my life and his tender moments were enough for me to forgive his over possessive temper tantrums.

    The conjunction there actually separates two full sentences, so you either need the comma or you should separate the clauses.

    Third, I agree that there is a lot of telling in this section that we don't need. I'd rather see the relationship unfolding informed by the past. Show her, perhaps, pulling away from Luke in this scene, asking herself why she needs him, why she stays with him, then having him be sweet, aware that she is pulling away and he has to stop himself, having her falling under the spell of his manipulation--perhaps that could even include some triggers he has found that speak to her own wounds. Once he is sweet, she remembers why she loves him, why she needs him. Then the second he realizes that's not going to get her to stay with him instead of going to practice, he pushes her down the steps. Maybe then show him contrite and sweet again. And I would love some thoughts or dialogue to show us whether the stairs are escalation, whether the bruises are worse, whether she is starting to realize that this has to stop, whether others are starting to think they need to intervene.

    Finally, while you've done a beautiful job revising this scene already, these first five pages need to set up your story question, give us her goal, and show us her motivation, and I'm not sure you've done that yet, or that you are starting in the right place, necessarily, to do that yet. What does your pro tag want? What's going to keep her from getting it? While your opening is good, right now, I don't know if they give us any hint of the kind of story this is going to be. There's nothing paranormal here, and I think you need some hint of that to give your reader a promise you are going to be able to deliver on. These pages, for me, would be a good opening to a story about an abusive relationship. But I don't think, from your genre, that that's the story you are trying to tell. Consider not only the story question, but overall genre, mood, tone, and imagery as you set this up.

    I'm looking forward to the next round