Sunday, January 4, 2015

First 5 Pages January Workshop - Pierson

Name: Kim Pierson
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Title: Skipping, Jumping, Leaping


I felt the guy’s eyes on me before I saw him. Don’t look up, I told myself. 

But I did. I always did. It was like taking a really stupid dare. I knew that nothing good could come of it, and still I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure if that makes me crazy or just stupid.

His eyes were waiting for mine. Damn. He stood up as soon as we made eye contact, taking it as an invitation, or a challenge, maybe. He started walking over, his lanky frame temporarily eclipsing part of the limp “Welcome BU Class of 1999” banner that hung behind the bar.

I was sitting all the way on the inside of an oversized booth, the crowd of girls I'd just met a wall between me and any guy who might be tempted to approach. The wall technique had worked before. Not today, though. Didn’t even slow this one down.

“Evenin’, ladies,” he said, his voice a faux drawl.

Maybe, just maybe, he was going to hit on someone else. 

“My friend over there,” he said, pausing to look over his shoulder, presumably at someone at the bar, “bet me a drink that that isn’t your real hair color.”

Even if he hadn’t been looking right at me, the hair reference had to make it clear to everyone at the table who he was talking to. The girl next to me rolled her eyes. I couldn’t even judge. If I had been watching this unfold, I’d roll my eyes, too.

“Tell your friend he owes you a drink,” I said evenly. Although it appeared he may have had one too many already. I raised my eyebrows at the girls around the table. “Like anyone would choose this color,” I said, in what I hoped was a self-deprecating tone. I was trying to save the evening — which meant getting rid of this guy as quickly as possible. Tonight was supposed to be about making friends. Girl friends.

It was too late, though. The girl who had rolled her eyes got up. “I want to dance,” she said. “Maybe you want my seat?” she offered the guy, closing the door on any hope I still had of extricating myself from the situation. Most of the other girls stood up too. Shit.

“Oh, yeah, great, thanks,” he stammered, nervous now that he had made it through his script. He tripped over the exiting girls in his haste to slide into the booth.

“I’m Jason,” he said, to no one and everyone, although his eyes were on me.

The two girls who hadn’t deserted me for the dance floor introduced themselves. They'd told me their names before, back when I'd first come in, but there had been too many people for them to register. And I have to say the names slipped past me this time, too. I was distracted. And I wasn't used to paying attention to the names of other girls. 

I went last. “Ping,” I said.

“Excuse me?”

“My name. It’s Ping.”

“Ping. Really? You wouldn’t be bullshitting me, would you? Isn’t that the sound a radar makes when another sub is getting too close or something? Ping, ping.”  He made a “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” hand gesture with each “ping.”  

It was too early in the evening for this, I thought. And besides, that was sonar. 

“Yes,” I said, cutting him off in as cold a voice as I could muster. So cold that I could practically see the word dripping icicles as I said it, like in a comic strip bubble. “It’s short for Penelope Ann.”

“And how the heck is ‘Ping’ short for ‘Penelope Ann’?” the guy scoffed.

How indeed? Maybe he wasn’t as drunk as he seemed.

“It just is,” I replied, trying to keep my voice neutral. “No cute backstory. It’s just what they call me.”

“How ‘bout you give me your number so I can call you?” he suggested, winking broadly.

Could I have given him a better opening? Really? I’d been dealing with guys like this ever since I turned twelve and got boobs and I couldn’t do better than that?

“Sorry,” I said with a small smile. “Hey, I think—” I paused a second here, unable to remember Eye-Roller’s name, before just saying the first name that came to me “—Karen wants us to come dance,” I said to the other girls. I pushed my way past him. “Have a good evening, Jason.”

“You, too, Penny,” he replied. “Hey, Penny!” His voice grew louder as I reached back to grab my purse before walking away from the booth. “Now there’s a name that suits you! You’ve got hair the color of a penny!” He was shouting by the time I reached the dance floor.

Penny. I’d always secretly wanted to be called Penny. To the point of putting “Penny Lane” somewhere on every mix tape I made. Because everyone needs a signature song. 

Hearing the name from this frat boy’s mouth, though, I was happy to stick with Ping. The guy gave me the creeps.

I was a little surprised when I realized that the two girls who'd stuck it out with me at the table were following me. I had planned on just walking straight through the dance floor to the exit. But now I hesitated. And then the taller one said something.

“What?” I hadn’t thought the music could get any louder, but apparently we were now next to a speaker. The evening just kept getting better.

“Does that happen a lot?”

“The name thing?” I asked, feeling as though I was practically screaming up to the girl’s ear. Jesus, she was tall.

“No, the hitting-on-you thing.”

Oh, that.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I said, finding a quieter place for us to stand. “Actually, I get both that and the name thing a lot.”

“Well, we’ll try not to hold it against you,” she said.

“Sue will, though,” the other girl put in. “That’s her name, Sue. Not Karen. And she will hold it against you.”

“What?” I felt like I seemed to be saying that a lot. But who the hell was Karen? “Oh, no, I just made up a name to get away from the table. Today’s my first day. I don’t really know anyone’s name yet.”

“We’ve been here a few days,” the girl continued. “But I went to high school with Sue.”  She made a face. “I’m Jenna, by the way.”

I shook her hand. “Ping. But I guess you heard that.”

“Yeah.”

“You actually handled him pretty well,” the tall girl said.

“That’s Emily,” Jenna added.

“I told her my name at the table,” Emily protested.

“I know, but who could hear anything?” Jenna responded. To me, she said, “We’re roommates.”

“That’s cool,” I replied. “Mine’s not here yet. I was all for waiting for her instead of doing this mixer thing tonight, but the RA was insistent.”

“Have you already met her?”

I shook my head. I wished I had. We’d written each other a few times since the school had contacted us with room assignments, sure, but all I really remembered was that she was a vegetarian. I figured her for an art major. Or maybe philosophy. 

“Did you two know each other ahead of time?”

“Nope,” Jenna said, “just got lucky. The only person I knew ahead of time was Sue, and I figured I was better off taking my chances.”

I nodded. Probably smart. 

7 comments:

  1. Hi Kim 

    I like this. It’s interesting, light and I love Ping’s attitude. I already know she’s whip smart from what I've read.

    The only thing I really felt that needed changing were a few tense errors. and some minor things, very very small things that did not take away from the story at all.

    ** His eyes were waiting for mine. Damn. – I would take damn out. It reads as present tense here, not past. Or you could say - Damn. I thought.

    ** I was sitting all the way on the inside of an oversized booth, the crowd of girls I'd just met a wall between me and any guy who might be tempted to approach.** This is a really long sentence, I would shorten it up and get rid of a lot of the describing words. Possibly make it: I was sitting in an oversized booth. A wall of girls I just met blocked me from any guy who’d be tempted to approach. Something like that, streamline it a bit so it flows better. If you say it out loud it’s easier to revise.



    “My friend over there,” he said, pausing to look over his shoulder, presumably at someone at the bar, “bet me a drink that that isn’t your real hair color.” – you only need one that, or reword.


    It was too late, though. The girl who had rolled her eyes got up. “I want to dance,” she said. “Maybe you want my seat?” she offered the guy, closing the door on any hope I still had of extricating myself from the situation. Most of the other girls stood up too. Shit. – **shit is implying present tense here.** – (That’s a really awkward sentence I wrote lol. But you get what I mean. You could say, Of course they did… or something like that.)



    Hearing the name from this frat boy’s mouth, though, I was happy to stick with Ping. The guy gave me the creeps. **change this to that ,or the, this implies present tense.***



    Oh, that. - ***If she thought that at the time, you should add a tag, I thought or something like that, or reword. It feels like she is thinking the phrase at the moment the reader sees it. But its already been thought in the past. If that makes any sense. lol


    I really, really like this. I connect with Ping immediately. I’d want to hang out with her. No doubt about it.

    Great story, and writing. You had me with her the whole time. Picturing the interactions. :)

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  2. Hi Kim,

    Thanks for submitting your pages. I always say that the rhythm of the words on the page is one of the most important things in writing fiction. You can have great description, interesting characters and setting, but if your words don't flow, you're doomed.

    Hooray!

    You've got rhythm.

    Your pages flow well, and the voice is good. I only had a few comments.

    At first I thought it was a reunion. I finally realized at the end they were new students at college.

    "...bet me a drink that that isn’t your real hair color.”
    This threw me. Would they have drinks at this kind of event?

    I was surprised when the one girl offered the guy her seat. Why would she do that? Doesn't she know the Sisterhood Code? It seems like they would all pick up on the fact that this dude is a creeper, and would not want to leave one of their own in his circle. Even if the girls don't really know each other.

    I don't know what a Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star hand gesture is. (Maybe that's just me.)

    “Sorry,” I said with a small smile. “Hey, I think—” I paused a second here, unable to remember Eye-Roller’s name, before just saying the first name that came to me “—Karen wants us to come dance,” I said to the other girls. I pushed my way past him. “Have a good evening, Jason.”

    You can cut that last "I said" dialogue tag because she says “I said” up above in the same paragraph.

    There’s a lot of dialogue toward the last page. Can you add a little texture here? The room they’re in. Is there a table of food or drink? How many other people are scattered about and what are they doing?

    Lastly, I’m afraid this title isn’t doing anything for me. But that's subjective.

    Overall, though, this is good. Like I said, you've got a great flow and the voice is good. I do wonder, however, what, exactly, Ping's problem is. Where is the real conflict? What, exactly is the problem she needs to face? Other than Jason Creeper.

    Some might say that five pages is not enough to grasp that, but I think you need to in today's market. Is she sad about leaving home? Or, are her parents close? Is she worried about fitting in, etc. See if some of this relates to your character’s motivation and desires.

    Anyway, good job. Looking forward to seeing how it develops.

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  3. Hi! Nice so far. I like the writing. I do have a few comments though.

    Ping seems to have quite a chip on her shoulder regarding guys. I was waiting for an explanation (she's gay, she has an abusive or devastating history, etc.) but the closest I got was that she grew boobs early. So I guess I worry that A. Her demeanor is too standoffish to connect with readers (that and her dismissing learning anyones name) and B. There's no obvious conflict yet, which is important to at least hint at in the first five pages.

    If she's a freshman and her RA insisted she go to this thing, why is it at a bar where they serve alcohol to clearly underage kids? Or was the guy older? Make that clear.

    So my best advice is to give us a better understanding of who Ping is and what her goal/conflict is in some way. The voice is great. Just be careful to make sure she isn't too unlikable.

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  4. Hi Kim, You've done a really good job of establishing an interesting character who has a good voice throughout the pages. This being said, however, I would really like to also understand early in the story what the conflict will be for Ping. As it stands now, I have no understanding as to why she has this attitude towards guys. Although setting this scene in a bar is interesting, I question the decision by the RA to suggest first year college students attend a function held in a bar. In this day and age, no college would suggest this to incoming students. I also wonder if you need to introduce so many characters in these first pages? Ping, Jason, Sue, Karen, Jenna, Emily. Seems too many and I became a little confused. The writing flowed but I still need to know the conflict early on. Thanks, Virginia

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  5. Ping has a great voice. The reader gets the feeling right off the bat that she gets hit on regularly, even before she confirms it. Her internal dialogue is funny. And her dialogue with the other characters is good. I'd read more about her.

    I don't read new adult, so this may be clearer to others, but the only thing I really have as a comment is that I have no idea what the story is going to be about. I'd love a bit more of a hint than her being uninterested in the frat guy and interested in not alienating the girls.

    Other than that though, I only have nitpicks, and not even many of those. On the "It was to early for this...I thought." I'd delete the "I thought" to tighten. We know it's the mc thinking it.

    You could also tighten by cutting the dialogue tag when you also have an action tag. You don't need both. So "Yes," I said, cutting... could be "Yes. I cut..." or "I asked, feeling..." could be "I felt..."

    And I thought the sentence "But who the hell was Karen." was confusing. It could be cut.

    I hope these help and look forward to reading again next week.

    Rebecca

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  6. Hi Kim!

    For the first line, it looks like you had the same formatting issue I did, when something was supposed to be in italics but didn't come through. "Don't look up."

    In paragraph three, it should be "His gaze was waiting..." Also, I like the subtle establishment that the setting, but I immediately thought it was a reunion. Since this is NA, it's almost certainly a freshmen welcoming, so maybe make that a bit more clear?

    By the time she says, "like anyone would choose this color," I want to know what's so unusual about her hair.

    In the "two girls who hadn't deserted me..." paragraph, the last two sentences both begin with "and."

    I like the line about everyone needing a signature song :-)

    Finally, Ping's reaction after she's told that Sue will hold things against her struck me as "off." Since Sue is a stranger, wouldn't she wonder why Sue would care that some random guy hit on her? I'm assuming that Sue and Jason might know each other or Sue has a thing for him after a few days, but that would need a quick sentence to explain. Maybe Ping could ask that, or react with indignation somehow.

    All in all, Jason felt like a very real Frat-boy tool, and I like that Ping has a unique nickname and hair color.

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  7. Thanks, everyone, for all the great comments! I really appreciate the time you all put into reading and critiquing. I'm looking forward to getting back to work on this!
    Kim

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