Monday, September 23, 2013

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Hinebaugh Rev 2

Name: Olivia Hinebaugh
Genre: Contemporary YA
Title: Lark's Rebellion

I sit here, on my usual log bench, breathing in the fresh air and listening to birds sing and dwelling on my discontentment.

Most of the time I love my life here in Peacesylvania, our mostly-off-the-grid tract of land in almost-middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. But more and more, I feel like I do right now: separate.

Across the unlit fire pit, my older brother Hudson sits with his arms wrapped around Rosie while she leans back into him. I told Petie, Rosie’s twin, that it was too hot for cuddling, so he’s been relegated to the log next to Hudson.

I tap my pen on my notebook. There are only three blank pages left in this one, and I was hoping to fill them with lists of how to solve my discontentment and complacency. I need to assert my independence, leave the nest, piss off my parents--which at sixteen-years-old, shouldn’t be that hard. Perhaps it's the heat, but nothing is coming to me, so I slam the notebook shut.

“Seriously, what are we doing here, Hudson?” I ask my brother.

Hudson fidgets. I don’t know how Rosie stands it. He’s suspiciously giddy, even for him.

“Do I need a reason to hang out with my favorite sister?” He asks.

“When it keeps me from dinner,” I answer.

“We finally have a plan.” Hudson looks at me as if I should know what he’s talking about.

“Oh yeah? Are we gonna get high and then go skinny dipping?” I ask in mock excitement.

“I knew we shouldn’t have invited you, Lark. You have such a stick up your ass!” Hudson says. He loves getting high and skinny dipping.

“So why did you?” I stand up, ready to walk the few miles back to the little hamlet of RVs and cabins where we all live.

“I insisted,” Petie confesses. “Everything’s more fun with you. Plus, Hud’s right, we do have an awesome plan.”

“Spill it,” I demand.

“Phase one of operation Eco Warriors,” Petie says. His blue eyes twinkle and crinkle at the corners. It’s part of what makes him irresistible to me.

“Eco Warriors? This isn’t your small time terrorism thing, is it?” I ask. Aside from the consumption of a few illegal substances and driving vehicles without licenses, us Peacesylvanians don’t really break any laws.

Although...this could be an excellent way to rebel. I open my notebook, trying to capture this thought before I get distracted.

Petie continues, oblivious to my brainstorm.

“So, okay. We want people to think, right? To really think about how the choices they make affect the environment. Our neighbors in those sickening, cheap, pieces-of-shit houses really don’t even know. I mean, how could they? They’ve been brainwashed all their lives.”

“Unlike you,” I say. He ignores this quip.

“We don’t want to cause any real harm. We just want to make it slightly more difficult to, you know, waste and whatnot.”

“Phase one’ll be fun, Lark.” Rosie says. She gets really quiet when she’s been smoking, which as soon as she was relieved from childcare duty, she did with a frenzy. She and Hudson belong together.

“So what is phase one?” I ask her.

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a folding hunting knife.

“You’re gonna stab people,” I say, unimpressed.

“Of course not, Lark! Geez!” Petie says. I’m pushing his buttons this evening. I don’t know why. I genuinely like the guy, but it’s a little too easy and I’m just sort of bored. “We’re slashing tires on those moronic SUVs that they use for grocery shopping. See what I mean? Wasteful.”

“Petie, have you checked your truck’s gas mileage? I doubt it’d get over twenty on the highway,” I tell him.

“Moot point. At least I use it for it’s intended purpose--”

“Cruising around the property with Hudson?” I interrupt.

“--hauling and farm work,” he finishes.

“Well...” I begin, “driving with slashed tires is probably bad for gas mileage.”

It’s a valid point. I’m mostly joking, but I can see that I’ve really hurt Petie’s feelings.

“Really then. Don’t come. I thought you’d be all about this. Last week you were excited about initiating change.” Petie kicks up dust with his work boots and stomps off into the thick brush.

The guilt hits me immediately. He’s nothing but nice to me. And he has a point: I was excited about inciting change. I don’t know what I had in mind, but this isn’t it.

“That was harsh, Lark.” Hudson says under his breath.

“He couldn’t wait to tell you the plan. He really thought you'd be exited,” Rosie says.

“Wow. Thanks. Now I feel like total crap!” I snap. “Petie!” I go after him.

I’m barefoot, which was boneheaded, but I wasn’t planning on picking my way through downed branches and endless tangles of thorns and twigs.

Petie’s sitting in a relatively clear spot. He’s on an old tree trunk that’s half-rotted. I’m surprised it holds his solid weight.

“Petie. That was mean. I’m sorry.” I sit next to him, leaning on the log slowly, relieved when it holds.

“I just thought you were on board. I thought we’d have fun. And I thought it’d be exciting, like when we lifted those cigarettes from Wawa. I’ve never seen you more alive,” Petie says. He reaches over and fiddles with one of my braids in my wild mass of curls in the totally-un-self-conscious way he has.

I know why this memory's significant to him. It was the first time we hooked up. I was high on adrenaline. We only ran a hundred yards or so before he dropped the carton of cigarettes and looked at me in that way. We started making out on the side of the road. It was a magical moment.

Then we smoked the cigarettes. I ruined the moment by throwing up. Cigarettes are gross. Never again. But, of course, like a true gentleman, Petie held my hair and went back to Wawa to buy me a bottle of water, which was a bad idea for two reasons:

1. We had just shoplifted.
2. Bottles of water are terrible for the environment.

The memory softens my feelings toward him. I grab his hand and entwine my fingers with his.

“You’re probably right. It’ll be fun. Do you think they’ll know why we slashed their tires? Plus we need to define what our definition of ‘gas guzzler’ is.”

Petie just smiles. “See. Only you would think of these things.”

“You’re probably right about that,” I smile. “Also, we need to wait until the middle of the night and wear sneakers and dark clothing. And maybe I can borrow chalk from the kids so we can write things like: ‘Ride your bike!’ or ‘Carpool!’ on their driveways.”

I pull open my notebook.

Things to pack:

1. Sneakers
2. Flashlight
3. Chalk
4. Dark clothes
5. Condoms

I tap my pen because I’m sure there are other things that would be useful. Petie puts a calloused hand over mine to stop my tapping. He takes the pen and crosses off the last item on my list.

“I’ve got that covered,” he says.


  1. Just a note: I took Jan's advice and tried starting it right when the action was going to start. So obviously it's very very different. Thanks for taking a look!

  2. Quite a change from the first version. The excerpt does start in a more interesting place and succeeded in pulling me into the action much more quickly -- since there are real potential risks involved in what the teens are discussing. We don't get to know Lark as well in this version and while that's OK by and large, I wanted a bit more of a peek into her character. We know she enjoyed shoplifting, that she doesn't like gas guzzlers, that she wants to rebel, but I didn't feel like I knew Lark the way I did before. I assume we'll get to know her through her adventures over the coming pages, but I wanted a little something more in these pages, something to make me root for or care for her -- or something that offers a promise of that. If I hadn't read the previous version, I might not have these quibbles, but having read that, I missed getting to see the smart, funny Lark we met before. (But maybe that says more about me than the excerpt as it currently stands!)

    My one picky point -- the combination of 'discontentment and complacency' hit a jangling note for me.

  3. You're right--this does bring you right into the action. And it instills a sense of danger--which I didn't get from the first version.

    Two things that would help the reader
    1) identify Petie as her sometimes- boyfriend or so-called boyfriend instead right away. That's more important than that he is Rosie's twin

    2) when a character speaks, if you could move the dialogue tag earlier in the paragraph, instead of at the end, that would help the reader know who is speaking right away


  4. Olivia,

    Congrats on your brave revision! "Phase one of operation Eco Warriors” feels like a better place to start the story. And the dialog in this new opening gives me an even stronger sense of where Lark is positioned in Peacesylvania.

    Suggestions: You could give Lark's relationship with Petie greater clarity in his introduction. And I wonder if their "magical moment" could have arrived after an eco-related crime. I think that would bring more focus.

    I've enjoyed your opening over these weeks and am eager to read the rest of Lark's Rebellion.


  5. I like the place you start. I'm still having a little trouble with her telling how she feels. It's sometimes contradictory too. Like her feelings about Petie. At first she seems totally in to him, then bored with him, then into him again. I really think you could benefit from a couple of character exercises where you get into her head and figure out exactly what she wants, why, and what she needs (is it the same thing?). Have that clear in your head while you're doing this. Is she upset about acting like a criminal? What's the line in her mind? Etc. It's a really neat concept, and I like what you have, I just think you have the opportunity to make it truly amazing.

  6. Hi Olivia,

    This starts strong by giving us an immediate sense of the setting. I do think you can make it stronger by dropping the "darling in discontentment."

    We can tell that she is!
    I think this revision also sharpens the focus on Lark's relationships with the witty banter and subtle linking in Lark's mind to her backstory with Petie.

    I think this can be strengthened by showing how Lark's ennui is broken by Petie's provocation. We know from your previous draft that Lark has an independent spirit and that's a character trait that would really power the narrative here.