Sunday, February 14, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Clark Rev 1

Name: Mari Clark
Genre: YA Mystery

When I’m on my board waiting to catch a wave, I don’t care how buoyancy counteracts gravity to keep me afloat. If I launch myself into the air for a jump shot, I’m not concerned with the mechanics of lift. And three weeks ago if I’d been a passenger on Flight #111, I wouldn’t have spent my last seconds wondering which one of Newton’s three laws of motion was responsible for plummeting my plane into the Atlantic.

Thankfully, I didn’t go down. Lucky for me, my feet are planted on terra firma in Barbados. Just saying, if I ever plunge to my death, I hope my final wipeout is aboard my custom-made Firewire—because that’s how I want to go out. My father, on the other hand, will probably be calculating pitch angles and contemplating g-forces on his deathbed.

My dad’s a good guy. His ability to solve complex electromagnetic wave problems is the reason he’s here. The strange anomalies on this island are a career opportunity for him and good luck for me—he’s letting me tag along to surf.

“Come on, Travis. The ocean will still be there on the other side of the airport.” My father drops a hand on my shoulder and turns me away from the water.

An orange-vested worker directs us inside the terminal and that’s when the emptiness hits me. The line at immigration? We breeze through. Shops and kiosks? Half of them are shuttered. The only movement is a lone baggage carousel snaking around, readying itself to spit out luggage.

Despite the doomsday feeling, I’m not worried.  Lack of tourists is expected after a psycho billionaire builds a weird-ass machine that causes a plane to crash.

Finally, an official-looking suit marches up with his entourage trailing behind. The Minister of the Interior has arrived. “Apologies, Dr. Hutchinson. Last minute political shenanigans,” he says, pumping my father’s hand.

One of the two men shadowing comes over and picks up my duffle, and the other one grabs my father’s laptop case and carryon. The two men are much younger, maybe not even that much older than me. I offer up a fist-bump to the one closest. “Thanks, dude, but I can manage.”

The guy flashes a crooked-tooth grin. “No worries.” He eyes my Warriors jersey and mimes throwing a ball into a basket.

For a sixteen-year-old, I’m tall. And unlike the rest of my family, sports are my thing. “Yep,” I say. “I play b-ball. You play? Who’s your favorite? Please don’t say LeBron.”

The guy shakes his head no to my first question and answers “Jeremy Lin” to my second. Only, it sounds like “Jar-uh-me Lean.”

I love this accent. Back home, girls would be all over this. More importantly, Jess would be on it. I wonder if I’ll pick it up while I’m here. “Yeah, he’s great. By the way, I’m Travis.”

“Nigel,” he says, sticking out his hand. The other guy introduces himself as Alastair.

“Cool. Uh, excuse me,” I say, spotting a sign for the men’s room.

As soon as I enter, I take out my cellphone with a slight nagging of guilt. I’ve been lectured ad nauseam by my mom about limiting my texting and downloading.

Instead of getting on my case, my mom should be thankful I’ve even made friends since she and my dad moved me across the country in the middle of my junior year!

I’ve made two decent friends since moving from Cali to Boston. Here’s hoping one of them—Jess—isn’t “just a friend” much longer.

I text: This place as happening as Griffith Park Zoo. Or Dodger Stadium postseason.

She answers right away:  Wha? Where r u?

I shake my head, amused. Jess doesn’t always get my SoCal references. Good thing she’s so damn adorable.

Ocean looks amazing. Can’t wait to surf.

I don’t mention that a plane’s wreckage lies scattered among the waves like a museum installation piece, even though the only reason I know about such artistic things is because of Jess. She took me to Boston’s Institute of Contemptuous Art last month. Okay, Contemporary Art. In my head, it’s still contemptuous art. As payback, I dragged her to a Red Sox game.

Jess:  Send me pic of beach so I can drool.

Me:  Only if u send me one of u so I can drool.

Hesitating a moment before adding Lol, I hit send.

I rub my fingers over the fake tattoo on my wrist. Jess drew that last night after she showed up at my house while I was packing. I’d spent the better part of our flight here trying to decipher its meaning, figuring if I stare at it long enough it’ll tell me whether we can take this relationship past the friend zone.

After our bags arrive, we breeze through customs and exit the terminal, heading for the deserted parking lot. Nigel piles our bags and my board in the back of a black SUV while Alastair takes the right-side driver’s seat.

We pass miles of green sugarcane fields. When I spot a sign for Soup Bowl, my heart flip-flops. According to Surfline, my go-to guide, sometimes you get decent sets, sometimes you get close-out waves. But Soup Bowl is a notorious spot I’ve been wanting to surf forever.

The Minister says something to Nigel, who turns and hands the local island newspaper with the headline “Devil’s Playground” splattered across the front.

My father skims the article, while I subtly read over his shoulder. I catch a few key words and phrases—Satan’s sinkhole, baffling billionaire, mysterious magnetic machine—before my father folds the paper and passes it back to the Minister.

We cruise by half-built houses and colorful shacks. We pass a rum shack, a stone church, a cemetery, a chicken farm, and a Rastafarian sitting alongside the highway. The dude’s leaning against a Coca-Cola billboard and waving at cars—stoned out of his mind or friendly. Either way, I’m digging this. Occasionally, my nose is assaulted by the burned-toast smell of cane fields on fire. I recognize the aroma from our Hawaiian vacation a few years back.

A few minutes later, the Minister announces, “We’re here.”

Awesome. We’ve arrived at the wacko billionaire’s compound. I lean forward, anxious to finally see Peter Knightsbridge’s freaky machine.

My father notices my excitement. “I’ve never seen you so enthused about a reception,” he observes.

“Reception?” I repeat, like an idiot.

“Weren’t you listening?” He takes off his glasses and frowns.

No, not really “Uh, sure.” I’d been too distracted by the Soup Bowl sign, picturing myself riding some epic waves. “This reception’s at the home of Peter Knightsbridge?”

He shakes his head in exasperation. “No, this is the home of Ian Van Stiles.” My father finishes wiping the lenses and looks at me like I’m supposed to know who that is.

 “I’m not sure that name sounds familiar,” I say slowly, gauging my father’s reaction as to how pissed he is I wasn’t paying attention.

“He’s one of the wealthiest men on the island. Is funding the investigation."

“Sorry, drawing a blank.”      

My father rolls his eyes. “The Minister mentioned he has an attractive daughter about your age.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Van Stiles is throwing a shindig to welcome us to the island.” He cuts his eyes to the Minister. “Isn’t that nice?”

Unlike my mom who uses sarcasm as a weapon, I can never tell with my dad. I’m guessing . . . not thrilled.

I shoot a thumbs-up sign to the Minister anyway. “Great.”


  1. This is much better. Feels tighter. You've trimmed away some less important details and given us a cleaner, clearer picture of Travis. And, as the mom of four sons, I feel like you've got a strong grip on the "boy voice" - it reads authentically to me, for what it's worth :) One question I do have is whether Travis is really not AT ALL concerned about surfing amidst plane debris and/or in a place where a machine wreaking such havoc more generally. This might be tricky within the more in-the-moment boy voice but maybe it's a point where a little more emotional insight might be worth trying--something that'll really make us feel a twinge of some kind for Travis's situation or something he's learned from his recent being-dragged-cross-country life experience.
    I'd surely turn to the next page. One thing that I would be looking for as I read on to pages 6-10 is something to give me a sense that Travis is going to have a hand in solving the mystery--that the mystery belongs not just to his scientist father but to him, our teen protagonist, specifically. I feel like you're setting it up well (he'll go out into the water; cute daughter of local wealthy dude--maybe she knows something) and would be excited to feel that moment when Travis gets the first inkling that this mystery might be somehow his to solve--that he's not just along for the surf. Great work!

  2. This is so much smoother than your last submission, and your last submission was smooth.

    Your opening is still a little awkward. I like the way you introduce it, but I still get the vibe that Travis was somehow involved with the plane crash. Work it over a couple of times to ensure the reader understands that his location is the only connection.

    The line about the museum installation piece is a little forced.

    When Travis is talking about friends, he repeats the word ‘friend’ too many times.

    So this tattoo he’s trying to decipher, what does it look like?

    Lots of alliteration in that newspaper article.

    When you’re describing the things they pass in the car, I wouldn’t include the Rastafarian in the list, as he’s the only thing that’s not a building. Give him his own sentence.

    Describe exactly what the Soup Bowl is. I know it’s a surf spot, but I still can’t shake the feeling it’s a restaurant. What about it makes it unique?

    Much better job of describing Travis’s past. As your book progresses, you’ll need to describe his father further. Are they close? I’m getting the impression he’s kind of an absent minded professor type, but that could change.

    I assume Alistair and/or Nigel will be fairly major characters. You might postpone their introduction until a little later. And the bit with texting Jess is nice, but I might wait until we get a better handle on Travis before he contacts her.

    We still need a name for this island, whether it’s Aurora, Barbados, or St. Madeup. Is this place more like Jamaica, Cuba, Bermuda, or what? Most teenage readers won’t care, but we do need kind of a general setting/name.

    All in all this is an intriguing beginning, and I have no doubt the rest of the book is just as good.

  3. This felt much smoother. When he thinks about surfing in the wreckage, it'd be interesting to see how he imagines getting around the parts in the water. Does he plan to jump over them? What will happen when he falls? I think adding a hint fear here would be good contradiction to what he shows the world.

    Good work!

  4. I like your adds to explain their location and more about Travis's background. Much easier read! I'm very intrigued about this reception they just arrived at. I'd definitely keep reading.
    Just one catch: "He's one of the wealthiest man on the island. Is funding the investigation." It looks like you left out a word in the 2nd sentence.
    Awesome job!

  5. I agree that this whole piece reads smoother. I am still a bit mystified about the beginning. I feel like the first two paragraphs are illustrating for the reader what some of the most significant info to the story will be, and I'm left a little confused as to why Travis is giving so much thought to the plane crash if he wasn't involved in it. I think if you can provide a little more explanation about that, the piece as a whole will be more polished.

    Good luck with the next round! Nice job!

    1. Hi everyone & thanks for the feedback!

      Given your comments and the ones above, I'm going to play around with this and see if I can clarify a bit more without taking away anything.

      Yes, I do raise a lot of questions. Since this is a mystery, some of these things are necessary to the plot. (I'm trying to plant clues. Later in the story we learn the billionaire is dead and his son is missing. The plane crash is a big part of the story.) I'm still going back and forth between calling this a mystery versus a thriller. In an earlier version when it was a thriller, it was a lot more action right off the bat.

      I do appreciate these comments. They're been very helpful! Many thanks!!

  6. I liked this version. Each character was distinctive. The Soup Bowl was cleared up. The interest in Jess is tighter. I like the basketball introduction. Because Travis isn't listening, teen curse, we get to learn about the mystery machine and the reception when his father explains it to him. I also like the paragraph describing the setting and the comparison to the Hawaii vacation home. This is a believable world. I do like the interest in Jess and the tattoo. Very authentic, fun world to explore. So your character is sporty with surfing. Is this the motivation for him to come on a business trip with his dad? How did his dad get him to leave Jess behind? Travis seems okay to pick up and leave; is it because this is very temporary assignment? I'm taking notes and plan to go back and really compare drafts. This was fun to read. Thanks