Monday, April 15, 2013

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Lynn Rev 1

Name: Talynn Lynn
Genre: YA Contemporary (with Inspirational elements)
Title: To Find A Way

My stomach knotted with a thousand butterflies. This is not the way I envisioned my first week, already summoned to the office. I should be happy my mom said. I should appreciate the school and their willingness to teach me to keep my emotions hidden, as was the law. Instead, I gripped the gold plated chair arm, letting the cold ride up my arm inch by inch. One glance out the office window and I knew why I couldn’t shake the ominous feeling hanging in the air. The perfect storm threatened to dump massive amounts of rain. Black clouds pushed the wispy white out of the way helping to illuminate the streak of lightening falling from the sky. The spiral-topped concrete buildings sprawled across the valley below, drenched and soaked with rain. The bell tower sagged under the weight of the water accumulating on the roof.

Thunder boomed and the windows rattled but I kept telling myself that’s not why I jumped. The school pamphlets, with my name typed across the top fell to the floor. I wanted to crawl under the chairs and disappear as magically as the lightening.

I picked up my papers and walked to the window, watching the rain splatter on the glass. I traced the droplets, guessing which way they’d slide and disappear into a puddle on the outside sill. Today, I wished I could be a raindrop and blend in with the droplets slipping into the pool of rain.

“Miss Jamison?” said a voice from behind. “Hello. I’m Mrs. Tolson.”

I jumped and dropped my papers again. So much for disappearing. Too late now.

“I don’t know why they send all those letters and pamphlets out to new students. We cover everything mentioned in them during orientation and then again during each personal welcome meeting. I’ve always thought it was a waste of money to keep printing them,” she said as she walked over to me and knelt down to pick up the papers. She stood, and handed them back.

“Why don’t we step into my office? I’m sure you’ve got a lot of questions.”

Mrs. Tolson's gray hair was pulled back in a severe bun and her suit was frumpy and gray. She had a mole above her left eye. In spite of her looks, her blue eyes could be pretty. Maybe.

I followed her through a door with her name engraved in silver on a nameplate of gold. She motioned toward a red velvet cushioned chair and she walked around behind her desk and sat down in a red matching swiveled chair. The room was all glass, except for the back wall with the door with just walked through. All the shades were drawn, but the one right behind Mrs. Tolson’s desk was raised. Good. I could still watch the rain splatters roll down the glass.

For a moment, she examined me, her eyes moving from my head to my toes. She removed her glasses and let them hang loosely from the chain around her neck. She cleared her throat and I took that as a sign to say something. Anything to remove the awkward silence.

“Honestly, I don’t have much to say. My biggest question would be who paid for my schooling? Why did they do that for me?”

Mrs. Tolson looked at me with knitted eyebrows. I’m sure her job as a school counselor was to be kind, and if this was an act, I’d be able to see right through her. I wanted to know right from the beginning if she could convince me she was on my side. I stretched my legs out in front of me and crossed my arms, never taking my eyes from her face.

“This must all be so confusing to you. But I can't tell you who your benefactor is. That is strictly confidential.”

I raised an eyebrow, but never moved my eyes.

“I’m sure it is. But can you at least tell me why?”

She looked directly in my eyes. “I wasn’t told why. All I know is that you are here and now it’s my job to turn you into a proper socialite who can control her emotions.” Man, she's a prune face.

I dropped my jaw and rose up in the chair.

“What? Turn me into a proper socialite? What do you mean?”

“I’m aware of how difficult it is for a seventeen year old teen to move to a new school, start all over again, make new friends. It’s my job to help smooth the transition and teach you to fit in and be accepted.”

“Really? I’m trying to make sense all this, but this moves beyond my understanding. I am more than capable of making my own friends and fitting in where I need to fit in.” This is unbelievable. Where did she come off thinking I needed to change, be someone else? To fit in? I liked being unnoticed. I don't mind being invisible.

“Please hear me out, Miss Jamison.”

“My name is Prism. Miss Jamison is my mother.”

“Very well, Prism. I hope you don’t prove to be a drama queen hear at Stony Hill.”

How dare her!

I placed my hands on my knees and gulped in some fresh air. Calm down, Prism. Remember. You can disappear any time you want.

Mrs. Tolson wrote something on her paper stacked in front of her, and then reached into her desk draw and pulled out a brown colored envelope. I wasn’t going to let her get away with calling me a drama queen. I couldn’t be farther from her…that type of person.

“Mrs. Tolson, I'm not a drama queen. I’m just surprised at what you are saying. I wasn’t aware this was a charm school of sorts and I certainly didn’t know I was going to have a metamorphosis during my stay here. Maybe I’ve made the wrong decision.”

Mrs. Tolson laid the packet down on her desk. She fumbled with the chain around her neck before placing her glasses back on her face as if they were a magnifying glass.

“Prism, this is the greatest opportunity you will ever have in your life. Someone, a very generous and caring someone, has paid, upfront, for you to obtain the highest education in the state. Not only that, but this person has demanded a complete turn around in your presentation and social standing. This means, you will attend charm classes, you will learn to behave like a socialite and you will learn to dress like one, as well. We have a lot of work to do, and very little time to get it done. I hope to have your complete cooperation. Do I make myself clear?” She finished by pulling her glasses of her face. This gesture was getting on my nerves.

"Sure. Clear as crystal."

Demanded? Well, I’ll show her.


  1. I'm biting my nails. I still think my genre my need tweaking. Maybe. And no need to be subtle. I think I should reveal Mrs. Tolson for the witch she really is. My MC can see straight through her, so maybe my readers should have that privilege too??

    After an personal emotionally filled week, I don't think I have it perfect yet. I'm very open to suggestions still. And thank you EVERYONE for your help so far. I am very appreciative!

  2. I think you're on the right track. Is Mrs. Tolson a real witch? I just see her as a counseler she doesn't pose herself as anything else? Also, I'm still confused on Prism (the name I love). I'm guessing her emotions control the storm, right? If so, does she know this? If she knows this, maybe mention some relation between the storm and her. I think you need to just make certain points a little more clear. Even hinting more, I think.
    Also, if this story is mostly about witches and controlling emotions through the mind or however, I would consider it more paranormal. Just my thoughts.
    You have great detail so keep it up.
    I hope this helps and I can't wait to read the revision. BTW-I would read on. I think you have a great set up to a very interesting story.

  3. Hi Talynn,
    Good revision! Your first paragraph is much stronger and your dialogue is tighter. I like the mystery about the benefactor.

    I’m still confused about Prism and her world. I want to connect with Prism but I’m not sure I know enough about her to do that. What about Prism’s attraction to glass? You commented that plays an important part in the story. There is conflict between Mrs. Tolson and Prism – why? Why does Prism want to go unnoticed?

    As a writer I struggle with getting the right balance between revealing pertinent details and having enough mystery to keep the reader turning pages. I think your comment above is correct - let your readers know more about Prism!

    I’m looking forward to the next revision!

  4. I hope this week is better for you!

    Okay, I am thinking this is a dystopian. If you need to discuss over email feel free to send me one at Lisagailgreen at gmail dot com.

    As far as the work... I still feel like the description at the opening is very heavy handed. I know the storm is important and I'm good with that, but I think it can be shown in bits as reaction to her feelings if she's causing it. Example? Lightening strikes when she gets angry? Teardrops on the window when she's sad and wants to disappear like you have (I love it).

    As far as Ms. Tolson, she feels a bit one dimensional to me. Is there a reason she's a witch? Maybe do a character worksheet on her and explore a bit more. Can you also show us a bit more about Prism's feelings? How does she feel about being separated from her old life? her family? Is she worried about not controlling her emotions? What's the consequence if she doesn't? Just some things to think about to give it a little layering.

    Great job.

  5. Hi Talynn,
    This is definitely paranormal or dystopian. Your story takes place in another world. I do love this idea and I think your first paragraph is a lot tighter. I still feel like there's too much telling. I love the first two sentences and the fourth. Delete what you don't need and get to her world.

    You say the storm threatened to dump, but you are already describing the rain falling. Did Prism knock the pamphlets off?

    I do love the line, I wished I could be a raindrop... Wonderful sensory writing. The sentence where Prism corrects Ms. Tolson about her name is perfect! Try not to use dialogue as a means to import information.

    You mention her ability to disappear. I'd like to understand more about her powers and Ms. Tolson's. Just hints on things that may take place in the story. Keep tightening. Sounds like a fun story..

  6. Hi Talynn,

    First off, you should feel good about this story. It's difficult to introduce a premise, characters, mood, tension, conflict, all in a few pages. The first chapter is hard for every writer!

    I think you should go with your instincts. Give us more details about this world we're entering. I want to know a little more about the law against emotions. I also want to know more about the academy. Are most of the people there voluntarily, or against their will like Prism.

    And yes. Reveal Ms. Tolson as the witch she is.

    Having your work picked apart is a stressful experience. After 14 years, I still find this to be true. People have a lot to say about your story because they've connected with it, but want more.

    Since you've introduced conflict already, I think less mystery will make this much stronger. Since it's a great premise, people will read on just to find out what happens.

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  8. Thank you everyone! I appreciate your help. This week's revisions will be the kicker because I am back home and able to concentrate on writing.

    I've went through the notes from everyone and made of list of what I need to work on, what I need to cut, and what I need to add or change. I've got a great list staring at me, so this weekend will be full...Thanks everyone.

  9. Oops. One last itty bitty thing.

    Your first line--choose between butterflies and knots, but not both.


  10. Hi Talynn,

    This is much better! Starting w/ this paragraph brings the reader in more quickly than your original version although it is over explained. I like that you added a little more description to Tolson and to Prism during their dialogue.

    There's still a lot of unnecessary description, such as; "She motioned toward a red velvet cushioned chair and she walked around behind her desk and sat down in a red matching swiveled chair." You can shorten this to convey the same meaning. Along the lines of, "she motioned to a red velvet chair then sat in a matching swiveled one behind her desk."

    There's also more talking than needed, such as; "My biggest question would be who paid for my schooling? Why did they do that for me?” You can shorten this to make sound more realistic. Something like, 'My biggest question would be who paid for my schooling and why?'

    I think it's important to reveal more of the supernatural elements as quickly as possible to keep reader's interest. And yes, this is not a contemporary story.

    On a personal level, sorry to hear about your troublesome week. Hopefully this week will prove to be much better! =)