Tuesday, January 13, 2015

First 5 Pages January Workshop - Rev 1 (second attempt!)

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. Here we go, I thought. He stood up as soon as he 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 Future Class of 1999” banner that hung across the rec center wall. Then he stopped to pull out a flask and take a not-so-discrete gulp. One of his buddies slapped him a high five.

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

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

“Hey there,” the girl sitting next to me said, looking him up and down. 

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

“My friend over there—” he began, grinning over his shoulder at the group of guys behind him. One of them flashed him a double thumbs-up. “He bet me twenty bucks that isn’t your real hair color.”

Even if Future Frat Boy 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 who’d said hi to him 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 some money,” I said evenly. 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 pushed her way out of the booth. “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. 

Of course they did.

“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. The names actually slipped past me this time, too. I was distracted. And I wasn't really used to paying attention to the names of other girls. I could count on one hand the number of girls at my high school who’d still talk to me after the details of my sister’s accident had gotten out.

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.” His hands mimicked explosions with each “ping.”  

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

“Yes.” I cut him off in a voice that was as cold as I could muster. So cold that if I’d been speaking in comic strip bubbles, he’d have been able to see the word dripping icicles. “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 tried 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 me to come dance.” 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.

The color of a penny. My sister had said that about my hair, too, back when I was about six. Then she shook her head sadly and added that it was too bad that all copper eventually turned green, like the Statue of Liberty. I’d checked the mirror every morning for over a year, hoping to catch a verdant glimmer. No such luck.

I squeezed my eyes together tightly, making everything go black. I thought I’d managed to block out my memories of my sister.

Except apparently I hadn’t done all that well, since she’d been the only person to ever call me Penny, and “Penny Lane” was on every mix tape I ever made. My signature song. Because everyone needs one. 

I scowled, and people on the dance floor cleared out of the way. It wasn’t enough that Creepy Frat Boy had ruined the evening for me, he had to go and ruin my signature song as well. Asshole.

I’d almost made it to the door when I realized that the two girls who'd stuck it out with me at the table were following me. I hesitated just a minute. 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 felt as though I was practically screaming up to the girl’s ear. Jesus, she was tall.

“No, the hitting-on-you thing.”

I stared at her blankly a minute, not sure whether she was serious. Most people realize right away that I must get hit on a lot. “Yeah, pretty much.” I finally spit out. “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. She’s used to being the one all the guys are after.”

“What?” I felt like I seemed to be saying that a lot. I was still a little dazed, I guess, from having spent the better part of the past two days stuck on a cross-country trip in a U-haul with my mom. 


  1. Hi Kim,

    I like the imagery of the eyes throughout since it's a very human focus. The opening feels a little choppy to me as I read it aloud, so possibly combine a few phrases? Like, "Don't look up, I told myself, but I did. I always did, like taking a stupid dare."

    Good fix for the setting. I have no confusion about where she is or what she's doing there. In the booth paragraph, I'm still unsure why she's so defensive against the boys. Yeah, avoid tools at all costs, but more motivation is implied but not explained early on.

    I really like the paragraph about her hair and her sister's commentary about copper! It's really well done and empathetic.

    Finally, I would also like to know more about the stakes and maybe something about her attitude. I think she's teetering on the brink of being one of those characters who is really good looking and everyone wants her, but she's too "cool" for it. The frat boy part is fine since her reaction is totally expected and normal, but she's coming across just a bit frigid, and I don't think that's what you want her to be.

  2. Thanks for reposting this. I see you've cleared up a few small things. Watch out for "eyes."

    If I were an agent I'd read more. I'm curious as to where it's going. She is obviously good-looking, so I'm wondering how you're going to make her relatable, as most YA/NA features ordinary people going about their lives. So how does she go through life as a beautiful person?

    What does she want?

    What is her flaw?

    These are the things you'll have to make clear as you move forward. I'd also like to know about her sister's accident. What's going on there?

    I would say that in the next few pages you'd have to make it really clear what she's all about: where/who/what she wants. Readers don't wait to fall in love with a character. You have to grab them right away!

    Good job.

  3. I think your pages read more clearly now. Great job! And I like the addition of the detail about the sister. I’m really interested in what happened to her and how that affects Ping.

    The “What?” is in the last paragraph kind of threw me. What the other girl had said was not that complicated. If Ping can’t hear b/c of the speaker, then we shouldn’t see the words, maybe drop some of them out with ellipses to show key words missing. If you just want to introduce the cross-country trip, you could change the internal to something like, “if I knew the evening was going to turn out like this I would have crashed early instead. I was still dazed, I guess, from…”

    The biggest thing, for me, is that Ping is not really likeable. Picking on the frat boy…ok. But not remembering any of the girls names and expecting it to be clear that she gets hit on all the time? She sounds pretty full of herself.

    I hope that help! Looking forward to reading more next week!


  4. Dear Kim, you've done a good job of revising your first five pages. I especially like the hints you've placed in the story about the sister's accident. I don't mind your MC being unlikeable but I would like to see her in a more vulnerable light as well. That way, even though she is unlikeable I can understand why she is acting the way she is acting, and give her a break!! I like your opening line, it drew me in. I felt something dire was going to happen. However, I must tell you that when the scene then develops into simply a "drunk" frat guy trying unsuccessfully to hit on her, I was somewhat disappointed. You use a lot of adverbs and I would caution against that. However, if you don need to use them, then consider strengthening the rest of the sentence: the verbs, the nouns etc...One example in 10th paragraph: "Tell your friends....." I said evenly. Perhaps you could use the word "hissed or challenged" instead of "said." In paragraph 11, you end one of your sentences with "closing the door....from the situation." This is a given based on the fact that the girl next to the MC is giving up her seat. Let the reader come to this on his/her own, gives so much more power to the story. As to the info in paragraph 15 about the MC's sister's accident. It seems that this is important information that maybe would have more punch if you placed it closer to your beginning. Add to that a full paragraph on inner feelings/dialogue on the part of the MC about how her sister's accident has impacted her life. The way it is now, you seem to gloss over something that is integral to the reader's understanding of who the MC is and why she acts the way she does. This goes back to what I said earlier in this post about highlighting a vulnerable side of your MC. I feel that there are too many characters floating around these first five pages: the MC and all the girls surrounding her; and then Jason and all the guys surrounding him. Perhaps think about cutting out many of these non-important characters and focus, really focus on the conversation between Jason and the MC. This is a good revision and one I know will only get better. Virginia