Monday, February 11, 2013

1st 5 Pages Workshop - Carroll Rev 1

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

Carda never intended to total his car.

The drive home from college seemed normal enough--Pheonix traffic always snarled up at the 202 interchange.

Carda drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and whipped from lane to lane. His red Miata was so much fun--like driving a go-kart. And the other guys kidded him about a Miata being a girls' car. No way, man. He was six feet tall and built like a bouncer--he could drive whatever car he liked.

Rayne Mistral's jibes stung the worst, though. "Is that your latest addition to your Hot Wheels set? Or is it a purse on wheels?"

Carda gritted his teeth. Little jerk. It was a good thing he never went in for physical violence. Although a sound whipping in a road race might show Rayne whose car was superior.

The image of his mother's disapproving face flickered in his mind's eye. "Carda, don't race your car on the highway anymore. No mother should have to bury her son." Guilt crept through him. He wasn't racing at the moment, was he? He was poking along through traffic, only changing lanes every few minutes.

As traffic slowed to a crawl, he pulled up beside a white vintage Firebird. Rayne's car. They made eye contact. Rayne sneered and threw Carda a one-fingered salute.

With a surge of temper to match his red hair, Carda held up three fingers and mouthed, "Read between the lines!"

Rayne revved his engine and bumped the pastel-green Beetle ahead of him. The driver looked over her shoulder, eyes wide. She was a cute brunette Carda's age, and the expression on her face filled Carda with protective rage. Nobody treated a cute girl like that and got away with it.

Rayne jerked his head at Carda.

"Oh, you wanna race?" Carda scanned traffic down the road. They'd almost passed the exit and in the distance the traffic jam was breaking up.

Rayne bumped the Beetle again. The girl inside it shot Carda a pleading look.

"Knock it off!" he yelled at Rayne, although his windows were rolled up. "You're scaring her to death!"

Rayne laughed and cut in front of him, nearly scraping the Miata's bumper. Carda hammered the horn and stomped the brake. Rayne would pay for that.

Traffic turned from thick sludge to a fast-flowing river. The Firebird shot away up the highway. Carda shifted into third gear, then fourth, eyes never leaving the Firebird's taillights. The Miata's engine screamed.

The Firebird caught up to three semi trucks passing one another, creating a rolling roadblock. Rayne had to slow down. Carda nudged alongside him and waved. Rayne snarled. They drove side by side, watching the trucks, hovering, ready to dive for the first opening.

The girl's Beetle drew up behind Carda. He glanced at her in the rearview mirror. She crouched over the steering wheel and stared back at him.

Was she wearing cat ears? Carda glanced over his shoulder. Sure enough. She was either a weirdo or incredibly hot.

Taking advantage of Carda's distraction, Rayne cut between the Miata and the Beetle. The girl slammed her brakes and honked. Carda swore.

The Firebird's bumper slammed into the Miata's fender.

The lightweight Miata spun out and skidded across two lanes. Panic adrenaline flooded Carda as he fought the steering wheel. Crap! He was totally roadkill!

An SUV smashed into the Miata. Additional horror kicked Carda in the gut as the car rolled and crumpled around him. Metal bent and glass shattered. The noise was terrifying. Oh crap I'm dead I'm dead--

A semi hit the Miata like a freight train. The car flew into the air, cleared the roofs of three other cars, and plunged toward the pavement. Carda clung to the steering wheel with every muscle in his body. I don't wanna die I don't wanna die!

Carda's palms burned.

The approaching road halted a foot from his windshield. Carda hung upside-down, teeth clenched. He had time to notice the seatbelt digging into his shoulder and stomach, and the multiple throbbing pains where he'd struck the car. Glass plinked from the shattered windshield to the road below.

He must be dead and his brain had stopped. That must be why everything had turned purple. Weren't there supposed to be angels when a person died? Or a bright light? Carda glanced around. No angels, but lightning danced over the frozen cars. Was there lightning in Heaven, or was that a Hell thing?

The road retreated from the windshield, which smoothed over and became solid glass again. The Miata slowly turned over and sank back to the road in its proper lane. The other cars ran backward up the freeway and the Firebird swung back onto his tail. Everything moved slowly, dream-like. Carda gasped long, deep breaths.

Still alive, then. He must have a concussion.

The purple tint and lightning faded away, and the world sprang back into motion. Again Rayne's Firebird cut between the Beetle and the Miata. This time Carda floored the gas before Rayne could clip him, and the Firebird fell behind.

Carda kept driving, scanning his mirrors, heart thundering in his chest. No wreck. Was this real?

Carda deserted the freeway at the next off-ramp. He dropped into a random Phoenix neighborhood composed of two-story houses and gravel yards sprinkled with acacia trees. There he parked at a curb and sat trembling, running both hands through his red hair. He checked his face in the rearview mirror. Green eyes stared back at him, glazed with shock, but there were no bruises. Good grief. Even if he hadn't been in a wreck, something had happened to him.

Carda opened the door, climbed into the desert sun and stood still as his stomach threatened to evacuate its contents. But after a moment the discomfort subsided and he slowly circled his car. It was a Mazda Miata MX-5 Roadster--his first love. No damage marred the body's perfect curves. He leaned against the passenger door and rubbed his face. Encroaching insanity, that's what it was.

Footsteps scraped on the sidewalk. Carda glanced up. A man in a black business suit and silver sunglasses stood on the sidewalk. Heck, in this neighborhood, suits were probably required dress. Where had he come from, anyway?

Carda straightened up. "Sorry, I only parked here for a minute."

The stranger slammed his thumbs into Carda's temples.

Carda yelped and fell against his car. Cold fingers dug into his skin and Carda's eyes threatened to pop from their sockets. Electricity sparked through his head, and for some reason an image of the lightning around his car flashed through his mind. Carda's muscles twitched and turned to water. He grabbed the man's wrists as he sank to the ground.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Carda wanted to laugh in disbelief. First that terrible non-wreck, now a mugger. A sense of unreality drifted over him. This couldn't be happening.

Electricity jolted down Carda's arms, and his palms flashed with searing heat.

The man swore and let go.

Carda's arms fell to his sides. He sat against his car with colored spots swimming before his eyes. His head throbbed and a smell of chlorine invaded his sinuses. Slowly the world swam back into focus.

His attacker had disappeared.

Carda dragged himself to his feet, shaking his head. Home sounded like a really great place to be right now. Home--where he could hide.


  1. I'm still having some trouble sympathizing with Carda, maybe because I'm still not sure how this car chase even begins. I don't understand why Rayne chose to hit Carda's car. So they've exchanged a few nasty barbs at school. How does that lead to a high speed pissing match that may result in the death of an innocent girl? Or a weirdo girl?

    I think it's interesting to start off with this and certainly although I don't sympathize too much with Carda at this point, I can tell he has a strong personality. I would continue reading, and potentially he would redeem himself... but maybe before getting into the car chase, we could have a little scene that settles us more firmly with Carda? Like his mother telling him, in live action, that bit about burying sons before he leaves? So maybe more on that and more on what's up with this Carda/Rayne dynamic, because I'm not able to suspense my disbelief on that front.

  2. Better. Much better! I followed what was happening this time. Now I'd say you have to work on Carda a little more. First, I'd take out some of the physical descriptions. Is it really important we know he has red hair right now? And twice? :D Second, It's quite a coincidence that he's thinking about racing Rayne and then poof there he is! Third, I'm not sure what it is exactly, and you've helped a lot, but I still don't feel connected to him...

  3. I love the rewrite. I was having a hard time to begin with coming up with comments that would help.

    First, I'd like to agree that knowing a little more about Carda would help us sympathize with him a bit. Did Rayne say something/do something to him at school that would create this bitter rivalry?

    I've witnessed up close a car hit by a freight train and it does fly. But the car I saw was an old Cadillac (it still flew but it was partly dissembled, too) so i think a miata would be obliterated. I don't know. I like the imagery but something about it made me pause. " a freight train". 'as if a freight train' ...

    I'm really reaching for something here but how did 'the stranger' get that close to him without a comment about 'why was he invading my space?' or something like that? You've given us a step by step description of everything until then. This is too fast at the end. I want more.

    Great rewrite.

  4. Kessie,

    I agree that the rewrite made the story much more understandable for me. I think I missed it the first time (which btw is probably much more a reflection on me than your writing).

    As the others have commented, I, too, am having a bit of trouble connecting with Carda.

    Let me take a shot at why I think I feel this way and when I get done with my rambling, feel free to ignore :)

    I just don't think Carda is believable yet. He is a college student that acts a little too young. As an example, the reference to the go-kart. I don't think a college guy wants a car that drives like a go-kart. When I was in college, if memory serves right (big if), I would have wanted something more grown-up and more powerful. And thoughts like "Little jerk" and dialogue like "read between the lines" all feel a little young for a college-aged guy. I would either age Carda down or age up his thoughts, dialogue and desires.

    Couple that with more set up like others have suggested and I think I might connect better to his character.

    You've definitely made great progress with this rewrite. Look forward to the next revision.


  5. Hi Kessie,

    I think this is progressing nicely. I got a better sense of who Carda was, though I'm not sure I like him (I've met some people like him, and I avoid them!) So I expect there will be a transformation to his character in the story, but I agree with the above comments that you can/should show the "before" picture even more clearly. Scrooge is depicted quite sharply in all his repulsiveness before the process of his redemption begins (one of my favorite books :)

    I liked the part with Demetrius better last time. Perhaps it's because he shocked the heart and not the head (felt less dramatic to me this time around, holding the temples), perhaps it's because I liked that he appeared out of nowhere last time and this time he's part of the (Scottsdale?) scenery.

    But I liked the way the accident was described better this time. I got more of a sense of the strangeness and time reversing, a second chance somehow being gifted? My favorite line: "Was there lightning in Heaven, or was that a Hell thing?"

    I still don't know what's going on, but I feel as if I might ALMOST know what's going on, and that's more likely to keep me reading to find out the rest of what I don't know.

    And the cat ears are clearly of the costume variety now, so nicely done. Also I was amused how you incorporated the "girly car" comment into the story.

    Definite improvement here - I'd say keep working to make sure what you want the reader to know is easily understood, and show Carda more clearly (and sympathetically if possible, or unsympathetically if it's a redemption story -- would he have cared about the Beetle driver a few years ago? Does his caring now constitute intermediary growth for him? He's still kind of a jerk, to be drag racing and risking lives and all). Looking forward to seeing where you go with it.

    Jude :)

  6. Wow, great revision! Of course, every time you revise, it opens up new issues to be dealt with. :) So, now... good comments above. I agree with Lisa that it's a bit convenient that Carda's thinking about Rayne and then "poof!" there he is. I think you can make that more natural... As to making Carda more sympathetic, maybe you can simultaneously make Carda gain some depth and Rayne be obviously a bad guy with a quick memory of something from their history? Might be nice, just don't draw it out too long.
    Also, Carda's emotions are sort of all over the map at the beginning. Is he sensitive about his "girl car," or not? I'd smooth that out. :)
    My main comment is that I think the scene/chapter rushes once he's done the time reversal. I mean, he goes back in time, floors the gas, escapes, and... we don't get any more inside his head. I don't believe it. I think you could stretch that moment out. I mean, he's just done this amazing thing! I'd like some more of his thoughts.
    Sorry I can't give this a more thorough going-over right now - I'm rushing to finish a draft! But I"m looking forward to next week, very much. Have fun!

  7. Nikki just said pretty much what I was about to say, so I'm not really going to add a whole lot. I think this is a really solid revision, but my biggest problem is that Carda isn't reading "real" yet. He doesn't quite have the depth and voice yet to make him into a whole person, and Rayne Mistral is even less 3D, and because neither of them are very likeable or relateable, I think your biggest challenge is giving us a reason to read up to that very cool time-runs-backward thing. And about that, what Nikki said. :)

    Solid work! You've brought this very far, and you're only going to get stronger from here on out. Looking forward to the next revision!