Monday, April 21, 2014

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Mayberry Rev 2

Name: Marty Mayberry
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Title: 100 Kisses

My fear of flying wasn’t the only thing standing in the way of the goals I'd made for my summer in Rome. I met my first nemesis in a grim-faced TSA Agent who looked more like a troll than a man. When he stabbed a finger my way, I cringed.

Groaning, I followed him into the glass room by the x-ray machines. The three-inch heels I’d thought were cute when I’d put them on in Portland clacked on the floor tiles. Damn things had rubbed blisters already. “They just called my flight.” I fiddled with my backpack. “I didn’t mean to be late. My roommate got a flat tire on the drive down from Maine, and-”

“Bag,” he barked, gesturing to the table.

I scrambled to comply. I might be from the sticks, but I read the headlines online. You don’t irritate airport security and live to tell about it.

By the time I’d stuffed everything back into my carry-on, which wasn’t easy considering I don’t pack light, they’d called my flight a second time. Ditching my heels, I clutched them to my chest and raced barefoot to my gate. Let me just say, while I ran for exercise, I hadn’t considered my potential for hurdling until I leaped to avoid a toddler.

I skidded to a stop beside an Alitalia woman shutting the door to the Jetway. “No! Please.”

Her lips tightened as her eyes followed the sweat funneling down my face.

“I need to be on that flight,” I said. Otherwise, I’ll have to swim to Rome.

Heaving a sigh, she opened the door and spoke into the tiny microphone clipped to her shirt. “Hold on. One more.”

Fighting the urge to hug her, I flashed a bright smile and limped down the corridor.

My phone chimed. I’d have to turn it off the second I boarded, so I swiped into my email fast. A message from Dr. Giordano, my long-distance mentor:

The final details for Monte Testaccio are in place. The Project Managers expect you at the dig on Monday.

An eek slipped past my lips. I couldn’t restrain myself whenever I thought about the archaeological internship Uncle Peter had arranged for me. An entire summer piecing together amphora shards to reveal clues about an ancient civilization’s past. Monte wasn’t nearly as exciting as his dig at the Colosseum, and the stipend would barely pay my fall tuition, but I don’t balk when opportunity knocks.

Rather than wiggling my butt, I unearthed a scrap of dignity and typed a reply instead:

Thank you for all you’ve done for me. I’m looking forward to finally meeting you.

After my uncle introduced us via the internet, we emailed daily. Such a sweet old man. He took time from his hectic schedule to send notes about the project I’d participate in, support before a test, and insider tips that gave me a considerable edge over my University of Southern Maine classmates.

I crept into first class, intent on sneaking up on my twenty-one-year-old, identical twin cousins, Natasha and Catherine, aka, Nat and Cat. I hadn’t seen them since my high school graduation, three years ago. We’d grown up like sisters, but college pulled us apart. After my uncle and aunt divorced, they’d spent summers in Rome with their dad. I’d stay with them while I worked at the dig. Our plan to meet at the gate flopped. Thank you, Mr. TSA Troll.

Deepening my voice, I tapped Nat-or maybe it was Cat, because I never could tell them apart-on the shoulder. “Excuse me, Miss, I believe that’s my seat.”

She jumped to her feet and slapped her hands to her face. “Oh. My. God. Maddy? It IS you. You’re skinny!” We hugged, and she kissed my cheeks in bobbing European fashion before holding me at arm’s length. “You look absolutely gorgeous.”

“She always looks gorgeous.” My other cousin stood in the aisle, her green eyes sparkling. “How you been, hon?”

“Great, umm . . .” I bit my lip as my gaze flew back and forth between them, trying to find a clue as to who was who. Their black hair stood on end, adorned with fluorescent pink tips. The hair, along with their tall, slender shapes, gave their pointed features an elven appearance. Like our mothers, we inherited the same pale skin and black hair. Although I wore mine longer and hadn’t considered pink.

Thanks for my lack of height, Dad. Why couldn’t that come from Mom too?

The cousin I hugged pouted. “I’m Cat. Can’t you tell?”

I gestured to the jewel winking in her nose. “Keep that, and I’m set.”

“When we decided to get piercings, I made her go with the opposite side,” Nat said. “People should be able to tell us apart. Especially guys.” She glared at Cat. “Nothing’s worse than finding your sister hefted on the sideboard, her lips cemented to your boyfriend.”

“We’re talking Louigi here.” Cat drooped against her seat and fluttered her eyelashes. “I couldn’t help myself. Wait till you meet him. He is so freaking hot you’ll want to lock lips with him yourself.”

The last thing I could imagine was losing myself in a kiss. Don’t fool yourself, Madison. Who would kiss you? I flinched as my mind dragged me to the she’s-so-fat-she’s-unkissable slam someone wrote in my high school yearbook. Mortified, I’d rushed home and cried while I ate an entire package of Oreos.

Smoothing my hands over my now-narrow hips, I shoved the image away. I’d shed Fatty Maddy, just like I’d dropped one hundred pounds. Only twenty more left to go. And as for my unkissed status-

Nat hugged me. “You look amazing.” Awe gushed in her voice.

Their flattery sent elation through me. “I took up running.” And stopped binging.

“I need to start exercising.” Cat frowned as she pinched the muffin top smooshing above her designer jeans.

“You can run with me anytime,” I said. “I do forty . . . fifty minutes a day.”

“Please be seated, ladies.” A steward posed behind Nat, staring down his long nose at us.

I tumbled into the seat next to Cat and we buckled up.

“You’ll knock Raffaele completely speechless,” Nat said.

“Who?” My brow wrinkled. “Oh, you mean Dr. Giordano?”

She shared a blank look with Cat. “We just call him Raffaele.”

My eyes widened. “I could never be so forward with an esteemed colleague.”

Nat laughed. “Just how old do you think the good doctor is?”

I shrugged, my face overheating. So I admired an old guy. He reminded me of Indiana Jones, and I never could stay away from those movies. Or from crushing on a guy three times my age. “We never discussed it. From the formal way he spoke, and his extensive knowledge, I’d say . . . sixty-five?”

Nat nearly spit out her drink. “Close enough.” She coughed and smacked her chest. “But Raffaele’s not a doctor.”

“He’s your father’s partner,” I said.

“Is that what he told you?” she asked.

“No, I just assumed,” I raked my hair off my face and tried not to whine. “Our conversations weren’t set up like Match dot com. We talked about archaeology most of the time.” Maybe it was a retirement hobby for him, rather than his lifelong career.

“He’s Dad’s assistant. He doesn’t have a PhD, so you should call him Senor.” A sly look danced across Nat’s pretty features. She glanced at Cat, and their eyes did that crazy, silent twin-exchange-thing they’d perfected at five.


  1. First off, thank you for your supportive comments over the past weeks. I really appreciate your thoughtful feedback and hope that I have been some help to you as well.

    I can’t believe you have managed to write three almost entirely different openings in this short time. Kudos! I have to say, your writing style in all three is smooth and enjoyable. Also, each one of the submissions has, in my opinion, been better than the one before.

    Here is what I really liked about this one:
    • The way you deal with Dr. Giordano is nice – more subtle. I might still back off a bit on how much the cousins say… just a hint to the reader make the reader feel smarter later when they “figured it out”
    • The information about her being called “unkissable” when she was fat and never having been kissed, etc was great because it linked to the title and I assume the premise. This is essential stuff to get into the first five pages!

    Now, I hate to say this, but I still am not sure that you are starting at the right place. I think the idea you have is to build up the tension for the reader by having Maddy be late for the flight, which is good for a bit. But ultimately, what does this tell us about Maddy? How does it hook us into the story? Because after 1-2 pages she does get on the flight, the tension is gone, and I don’t feel like anything that happened in those pages matters to the rest of the story.

    All the really juicy stuff comes out once she meets up with the cousins. Maybe that is where you should start. I would leave out all but the essential back story for now. We need to know about the dig and that they haven’t seen each other in years and their father’s link to Dr. Giordano. But the rest can wait. Try doing as much of it as possible in dialogue.

    Is her fear of flying important / part of her personality? If so, use it more. It is mentioned and then forgotten. It could be useful in this scene if it builds up an important element of her personality, like lack of confidence or being generally fearful. It could be mirrored at the end when she has changed (in many ways) and is not scared to fly home.

    I just thought of another possible starting point. What if you begin at the gate where she is begging to get onto the flight. She’s late because she waited until the last minute because she dreads boarding the plane. She’s battling with herself in that she really wants to go and is begging to get on the flight, but inside she is scared to death and wishes the lady will tell her no. A scene like this could show us more about her personality, making it relevant, especially later after she changes. Just a thought.

    I wish you all the best with this story. I like Maddy and think she deserves all of the 100 kisses she has coming to her!

  2. Hi Marty,

    You've done an amazing job melding everyone's suggestions together to make a really great beginning.

    I am really curious to how her fear of flying comes into play. Is that still an issue Maddy has? Because while I really, really like the banter between her and her cousins, would someone that scared of flying be able to focus on a happy reunion or full of dread that she couldn't quite hide?

    1. I wanted to add to Sylvia's suggestion of changing the story beginning bc she was putting off boarding bc she was scared. I liked that idea, but if you didn't want to change where you opened the story, you could at least change the reason she was late from her roommates flat tire to being a situation where she's trying to talk herself out of being terrified. Again, this could all be a moot point if fear of flying isn't an issue for Maddy anymore.

      The line "Monte wasn't nearly as exciting as his dig..." Threw me. Does the mention of the Colesseum come into play later on?

      Another thought and this could be just my family and not how other families work... But Maddy's mom and Nat-Cat's mom are sisters. But now Nat-Cat's parents are divorced so Maddy's uncle isn't her uncle anymore, right? In my family, when non-blood relatives divorce, we aren't close to them anymore. But maybe because Maddy and her uncle share a love for archaeology, they're still close. I don't know. Just something I was thinking about when I read this. Probably isn't an issue with other families :)

      You've created a relatable character so I'm sure I will see Maddy on a shelf soon! Best of luck.

  3. Hi Marty

    You've done a spectacular job revising your first five pages over the last month. It's getting so much more clear and so much better. You've really taken everyone's suggestions to heart and done a great job incorporating them.

    I would still like to get a more clear idea of what exactly the central conflict to the story is going to be. You introduce quite a few potential conflicts (weight, cousins, flying, etc.) I'd try to stick to and focus on the most central conflict in the first five pages and then gradually introduce some of the other conflicts into the story more subtly.

    But I love how this has grown and changed and gotten so much better over the last weeks. Great job!!

  4. Thank you everyone for your suggestions. Since I sent this in, I've cut more of my beginning, 1200 words more. I removed her fear of flying and begin the story with her cousins boarding the plane in Paris, joining her for the last leg of the flight to Rome. This way my inciting incident comes into play much sooner.

    I really appreciate all the help and encouragement I've received here to make this better.

    Best of luck to everyone with their MSs!

  5. Hi Marty,

    This has come such a long way from the original version. Congratulations on all your hard work and especially for being open to the feedback. I know it is really hard to put your work out there, and you’ve done a great job of integrating the feedback but keeping this your own.

    I think this is almost there. However, I still think you are starting a drop too late.

    When you get to the line “I skidded to a stop beside an Alitalia woman shutting the door to the jetway.” I perk up! That makes me want to read more. Again all the stuff that comes before is a bit too mundane. Most of us have been through airport security many times and that’s not enough to grab us. And it leads to telling a bit too easily.

    I’d drop it all and then start there filling in the barest of details (oh and be careful—I’m 99% sure once the door is closed there is no reopening it—legally. I know this from first hand experience! So don’t say the door is closed).

    “I skidded to a stop beside an Alitalia woman who was about to shut the door to the jetway.

    “No! I’m here! I’m here!” The flat tire, the blisters from running to the gate in three-inch heels, the too-close-for-comfort pat down courtesy of a grim-faced TSA agent. They can’t all be for nothing. I plead with the my eyes and my voice. “Please.”

    Her lips tightened as her eyes followed the sweat funneling down my face.

    “I need to be on that flight,” I said.

    Otherwise, I’ll have to swim to Rome.

    Heaving a sigh, she spoke into the tiny microphone clipped to her shirt. “Hold on. One more.”

    Fighting the urge to hug her, I flashed a bright smile and limped down the corridor.

    My phone chimed. I panicked. This was my first time flying. Would I get trouble for having my phone on now? When did I have to shut it off?

    Slowing my pace, which somehow made the blisters burn even more with each step, I swiped into my email. More panic. A message from Dr. Giordano, my long-distance mentor. He changed his mind, I know he changed his mind. He’s going to tell me not to come and I would spent the past six hours packing and repacking a bag that’s on its way to Rome. Without me.”

    Better, but you get the idea!

    I like the history with the cousins—much more sense and makes Rome as a whole make more sense for all three of them.

  6. Oh, I just see you've changed it further. I'm sorry my feedback was a bit late this week! I wish you the best of luck with this and please let me know how things go for you. I'm @loriagoldstein on Twitter. Thanks for participating!!

  7. Congrats on your amazing work, Marty. This third draft is such a major accomplishment. I'd definitely turn the page to see what happened next to Maddy! One word-choice that bumps me out is "esteemed colleague" - I can't picture any college kid I know using that phrase. Otherwise, though, the language is impressively tighter, the pace lively, and Maddy's character is coming through clearer and clearer. There are so many fine comments above that I don't think any more detail is necessary here but, at this point, I'd push on to finishing the whole ms as I think you've got a solid first-five now from which you could probably use a break. "Enjoy" (never sure if that's the right word) writing the rest of the novel and then give it another pass once you know how the ending goes so you can enhance foreshadowing and otherwise refine those paragraphs in the context of your finished plot. Congrats on fantastic, hard work and best of luck with your project!