Monday, February 18, 2013

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Carroll Rev 2

Name: Kessie Carroll
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Title: Storm Chase

Carda was already in a bad mood. Getting mugged made it worse. But totaling his car put the finishing touches on a really bad day.

It was almost summer break, and his college professors had piled homework on the freshmen. When Carda would rather be outside driving his newest RC car, or playing videogames under the air conditioning, instead he had to spend endless hours writing essays and researching topics for his English major. Most of his grade hinged on a research paper, and even his chosen topic, the history of race cars, couldn't improve the grind.

May in Phoenix, Arizona was already hot enough to kill. Carda slogged out to his car with thirty pounds of books in his backpack, and heat rose from the asphalt in waves. His skin seared. Being a redhead, his skin burned easy anyway. If he didn't get skin cancer from the sun, then he'd get some other cancer from the gallons of sunscreen he'd absorbed through his pores.

As he slouched along the endless rows of cars in the Arizona State University parking lot, he noticed three guys standing around the spot where he'd parked his red Miata. Their laughter echoed across the parking lot. Carda clenched his teeth and walked a little faster. They'd better not be pranking him again--just because he was eighteen and they were all twenty-one--

One of the guys made eye contact with him and jerked his head at his friends. Rayne Mistral. He was short, thin, built like a weasel, and tormented Carda whenever possible. Rayne dashed away between the cars, and his two friends followed him.

Carda sprinted the last ten feet to his car, then swore.

They'd let the air out of both rear tires.

It took twenty minutes to limp the Miata to the nearest gas station. The car's air conditioning never cooled off with the engine running so low, and Carda's temper rose with every minute in the broiling cab. Why couldn't he be out here taking classes he wanted to take? Auto shop was his first choice, but his mother had overruled him. "You're smart, Carda. You'd thrive in a field where you use your mind. Not scraping around in the dirt in some shop somewhere."

As he refilled his tires at the air pump, his cellphone chimed. He pulled it out and glanced at a text from his sister, Michelle. "Already home. Where are you?"

"At the gas station. Don't ask." He tucked the phone in his pocket again and glanced over the Miata's roof at a pastel-green Volkswagon Beetle parked beside the pumps. A college-age girl leaned against it, fanning herself with a sun hat. From this distance she was all curves with dark hair and long, tanned legs. For some reason she wore cat ears and a tail. She looked away as soon as he lifted his head.

Carda grinned. Being ogled by a hot girl made up for the aggravation of being pranked.

Someone tapped his shoulder. Carda turned and faced a man in a black business suit and silver sunglasses that completely concealed his eyes. A suit? In hundred-degree weather?

The stranger held up one hand and curled his fingers like claws.

Carda's entire body crushed inward on itself. His arms pressed against his chest, his knees bent and he sank to the pavement. The air left his lungs in a long moan as his heart struggled in his chest. Panic and disbelief washed through him. What the heck was happening? Somehow this guy was crushing him to death without touching him!

As he fell, Carda flung himself sideways and rolled into his attacker's legs. The man shifted sideways to avoid him, and the crushing sensation lightened. Carda grabbed the man's left knee to trip him.

His hands burned.

The crushing sensation stopped. The man yelled and stumbled backward, grabbing his leg where Carda had touched him. Then he ran two steps and vanished.

Pushing himself to his hands and knees, Carda stared wildly around. How could his attacker vanish? Maybe he'd run behind the cars. The sun was in Carda's eyes and he couldn't see anyway.

As he climbed to his feet, gasping air into his compressed lungs, the girl with the ears and tail ran up. Her eyes were wide and her auburn hair flew around her face. "Oh my gosh! Are you okay?"

He flexed his arms and shook his legs. No pain. "I think I'm okay. I still have my wallet, even."

The girl spun in a circle, one hand pressed to her mouth. "I didn't see where he went. Get out of here, quick, before he comes after you again!"

"Okay, okay." Carda climbed into his car, bemused. Such a weird thing to happen, even if nothing had really come of it. But the girl's frantic terror echoed his own panic. He glanced around the gas station as he pulled out. The man in the suit had completely vanished. Freaky.

The delay getting on the road dumped Carda in the middle of the four-thirty traffic rush between Tempe and Mesa. Traffic oozed along at forty miles an hour, then slowed to ten miles an hour at the 101 junction.

The air conditioning roared comfortingly. Maneuvering through traffic, Carda pondered his weird day. How had that guy crushed him like that? Some kind of force field? Maybe he had some kind of military secret weapon. The girl had acted like she knew who he was, though. An uneasy tremor passed through his stomach. Was a killer on the loose and he'd missed it in the papers? Not like he followed the news much, but...

Traffic stopped ahead, and he slammed on his brakes. Carda's red Miata pulled up beside a white '78 Firebird, complete with bird logo on the hood. Rayne grinned at Carda from the driver's seat.

Oh, right. Carda clenched his teeth and gripped his steering wheel with both hands. As if Rayne hadn't made this school year miserable enough with his hazing--now Carda was stuck beside him on the clogged highway under the pitiless sun.

Rayne hung one arm out his window and waved his middle finger.

Carda's blood pressure spiked. He drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Rayne couldn't bait him into anything. Traffic would move in a minute, and he wouldn't have to look at the pathetic jerk in the muscle car anymore.

Traffic crept forward and sped up. Rayne gunned his engine, cut in front of Carda and roared away up the highway. Carda pressed his back into his seat, shifted gears and shot after him. "I'm not racing," he said aloud. "I'm accelerating to the speed limit."


  1. Fantastic revision! I loved Carda's voice! The line about the sunscreen, especially :).

    I think what struck me this time was that I didn't understand how Demetrius had found Carda. Why, on this random day, did Carda get attacked? Did he draw attention to himself? Is Rayne somehow linked to Demetrius? If that's the case, is there a way you can hint at that a bit?

    Also: "...echoed his own panic." Carda doesn't seem very panicked after the attack?

    "He flexed his arms and shook his legs. No pain. 'I think I'm okay. I still have my wallet, even.'"

    "Such a weird thing to happen, even if nothing had really come of it... Freaky."

    These lines fall flat, if they were supposed to represent his panic. I got a sense of him being dazed, but not panicked. Plus, then he's back on the road as if nothing had happened.

    "The girl had acted like she knew who he was, though." <-- Didn't get that sense either. The "he" part of it seemed pretty general. Like she was just worried about some random guy? Maybe that's just me.

    I can understand the car chase so much better now & sympathize with Carda (especially like the line 'accelerating to the speed limit' haha). I would definitely read on :).

  2. I couldn't stop grinning as I read this. Kudos to Kessie, the brave reviser! It's so hard to really take a chapter like this and completely re-work it, rather than just tinker around the edges, but you did it! I love how much more we're inside Carda's head, feeling his emotions and following his train of thought.

    It's so hard not to go all line-edit-y at this stage, but since we're looking at bigger picture issues... I think the biggest issue I have with this now is the age of the characters. This reads very much like a classic high school YA. In fact, the things that happen (letting air out of tires) as well as the way Carda perceives the world (the bullies are mean because they're older) made me not believe the ages were right. And yet, if you said they were high school seniors and, say, Carda was a sophomore? or a junior who skipped a grade or two? I would be on board.
    As it stands, the sort of hazing going on seems off-base for adults in college. (My two cents! You may disagree.)
    Is there a reason you really want this to take place in college?
    Now, the mugging is a bit out there - I echo Helene's comments above. But I love the final line, and his voice. I'd love to see where you go with this! (Also, you should check out Liz Norris's UNRAVELED, it's a recent YA time travel book. Fun! And it's always good to know your comp titles.)
    Good luck, Kessie - you've got a lot of great things happening here. Keep on working on it!

  3. Kessie,

    This is a great revision! I think you did a great job taking the critiques and and incorporating them into a very different, and much better, opening. Not only did you establish Carda's character well, but you also did a nice job of grounding us in a setting that was believable. I would second Nikki's comments regarding age. It was one of the issues I had last time and I think it's still there. I would definitely consider making this a high school situation as she suggests.

    This has come such a long way in a couple of weeks! I really enjoyed it and wish you the best of luck going forward.

  4. This is a great rewrite. Carda is very believable now.

    Nikki has a point about ages. I taught high school while my two kids were in high school and this rivalry does take place all the time in high school where it usually ends up as drag races and taunts in cars.

    I'm curious why he shakes his arms and legs and doesn't clutch his chest while recovering. Also, if the cat girl is close enough can he see that the ears and tail are fake or attached?

    I like that the weird guy appears and disappears but then he doesn't think of him again. He probably should.

    It's great that the chapter begins and ends with the rivalry between the two.

    I loved the last sentence - this leads me to believe the next chapter will be just as wonderful.

  5. Yay!!! GREAT revision!! So proud. One big note. Trust the reader. You don't have to spell stuff out for us. Example? "Somehow this guy was crushing him to death without touching him!" We get it. :D Also, watch how he feels at that moment, that should dictate what his thoughts are. So thinking, hey that was weird, doesn't quite flow with the whole, her panic echoed his thing. But I liked your MC so much more in this. Good job!

  6. Hi Kessie,

    I agree -- WOW on the revision. You've brought this so far! I agree on the age, and concur with what everyone has already said.

    One more thing though. In line with what Lisa said, I'd like you to consider bringing us in closer to Carda, just write what he is thinking without filtering it. Phrase it the way he would phrase it so that we are in his head, not watching him from the outside. I think that will help you make the choices about everything else more clearly. Carda will become real to you, and that's when he will become real to us!

    I'm so happy for you. You've come a HUGE way. Keep it up and let us know how you're doing with it!

  7. Hi Kessie,

    This is excellent! You've made Carda much more sympathetic now (who can't empathize with being bullied?) You've also added more intrigue to the cat-eared woman by fusing her more closely to the plot as it unfolds. Well done!

    I think there's still room to improve your opening line and the second paragraph is a bit tell-y, so maybe the third paragraph is where the story really starts?

    "Traffic rush" is a bit of an oxymoron - I'd just say "traffic". My only problem with the Demetrius scene now (we're going to keep calling him that whether or not you do anymore :) is that it's a bit Darth Vader-y. I liked the shocking in the first draft. Also now I have absolutely no idea who he is and what his motivation is since he's removed from the accident/time reverse situation. OK, two problems for me there. But mystery is good...maybe just drop a breadcrumb or two so it doesn't feel out of nowhere and with no logical cause.

    This version is a great stride forward overall. You've got some great new lines in there as well. Great job making Carda likable!