Sunday, April 3, 2016

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Pattinson

Name: Lana Pattinson
Genre: YA Contemporary / Time Travel

Why the hell did I let Javi talk me into wearing this to school? I have fairy wings over my pink skeleton t-shirt, blue clip-on hair extensions, and his rhinestone belt. The original Rhinestone Cowgirl Fairy. I'm all for dressing up on Halloween, but this is absurd.

I dig deep into my locker and ignore the catcalls of “drama queen” from the self-appointed fashion police, aka the drill team. Javi swore that this outfit would display my artistic side, but instead it’s a PSA about what not to wear if you want to survive high school.

If I have my way, Javi won’t be surviving high school either.

Sarah stands next to me, spinning her combination lock. She looks perfect and beautiful and didn’t bother dressing up. If I had her foot-long eyelashes and even longer legs, I wouldn’t have to dress up either. I scan the hallway, but no one’s watching. "Here." I slip her the contraband in a brown bag.

Big brown eyes stare back at me. “Abby, what’s…?" Sarah opens the bag and laughs. "You think I need a paper bag for Outlander?

I blush. "It’s from my mom's bookshelf. There are some...intense...scenes in it." Not that Mom would notice. She’s on call at the hospital so much, sometimes it’s like living with a stranger.

"Awesome." Sarah shoves the bag into her locker. Every time she slams the door shut it rattles my mirror. "You going to the game tomorrow?"
I stick my tongue out, mostly at my own reflection, and unclip the hair extensions. “Duh.” Of course I'm going to the game tomorrow. Every. Single. Friday. Because football is the main religion in Texas, and I’m a front-pew fan. Not of the game, exactly. Just one tight end in particular.

"I wish..." Sarah sings the opening song from Into the Woods, this semester’s musical. "Have you seen him today?" She loves teasing me about my crush. The senior football player who doesn't know I exist. 

Sarah’s got a nice boyfriend and shiny hair and if I didn’t know her so well, I’d probably hate her. I probably do hate her, just a little. My green eyes have always been the jealous type.

"I wish..." she prompts.

As if on cue, Austin Richards swaggers by in slow motion, like he's in a shampoo commercial, except his hair is shaved so close to his head he should be advertising shaving gel instead. I wish...

He's got his letterman jacket on, and is followed by his usual entourage of wide receivers. I imagine him spotlighted from above, breaking into song, and I join him in the middle of the hallway, all eyes on us, as we're crowned Homecoming King and Queen.

Before I can stop it, Sarah’s song escapes my mouth. "I wish...I wish to go to the festival." My voice bounces off every hard surface in the hallway— the linoleum tile, the rusted metal lockers, the steely glares from the popular kids. Stupid, stupid earworm.

Of course Austin just breezes by, no eye contact, like I'm invisible, like I’m not even alive. Which is normal for me, I guess.

The hall fills with the sound of snickers and backslaps. And I'm dead, burning up inside, my cheeks buzzing with the stings of a thousand hornets, and I wish I fit into my locker like I did in middle school. I wish.

“We’re late.” Sarah locks her elbow in mine and we walk to the theater. Javi’s already there, his long brown legs draped over the row in front of him. 

"Hey it’s the Olsen twins," he says, which is ludicrous cause I’m short-ish and redheaded while Sarah is tall with glossy black locks. But Javi’s known for his outlandishness. Which is also why he’s wearing the bottom part of my pink skeleton pajamas-turned-costume.

Sarah can’t help herself. "Javier, you missed Abby serenading Austin."
"Details. Now." Javi's hands are so animated I think they’re about to turn into birds and take flight.

"Calm down, jazz hands." I dump my bag in the front row of seats. "I..." I look at Sarah, who’s bouncing on the balls of her feet. "You tell him."

She claps her hands together. "Austin was in the hallway, and Abby went into her I’m-in-a-Glee-daydream-mode and sang Into the Woods.” Sarah breaks into song. “I wish... I wish to go to the festival." The acoustics of the room amplify her enchanting voice, and I half expect forest creatures to start gathering. So unlike how my version sounded earlier.

"What did he say?" Javi asks.

I shake my head. "Nothing but snickers, and I don’t mean chocolate."

Javi sits forward and rests his chin on his hands. "Did he look good at least?"

"Like an angel." I slump into the chair next to him. We ache for the same person. But Austin isn’t gay, and he doesn’t date non-cheerleaders. Maybe that's why Javi's my best friend. We bonded over our obsession two years ago. And ever since, the couple most unlikely to attend a football game has done just that.

We head backstage for our costume fitting. The play's not for another six weeks, but Mrs. Beasley wants to make sure she has time to make alterations. Sarah changes into a long red gown which accentuates her in all the right places.

But I'm stuck with a green Shakespearean princess dress, cut super low. Like I’ve wandered past trollop territory and into serving-wench land. I hope Mrs. Beasley can fix my top.  

Javi runs past wardrobe, stopping to make moon eyes at Sarah. "Look at you, Little Red Riding Hood." She smiles and curtseys. He puts one hand on his hip and one finger to his mouth and inspects me. “Hmm, I’m not sure the ‘girl from Brave turns slutty’ look works on you.”

My eyes narrow and I clench my jaw. I really am going to kill him.


After class, I drive to San Antonio University to meet my brother. Nick’s inside by the help desk, wearing his trademark 50’s style glasses and scrubs he probably stole from Mom. "Ready? I had to sign a waiver because it’s from a private collection. So none of your delusional tendencies tonight."

Okay, so I'm a bit...dramatic, like Javi. But I have to read a stupid book for a stupid European history report in Mr. William’s class, since I got a stupid C on the last test. So this is for extra, extra credit. Save-my-ass credit. Like, do-this-or-don’t-get-into-college credit.

"No flash mobs either,” Nick grunts.

Why did he have to bring that up again? The headline read High School Drama kids infiltrate the University library. “Hey, our Time Warp performance has been YouTubed more than 2,000 times. A record, I believe, for our school.”

Nick ignores me. “Only one person is allowed in the Special Collection room at a time.” He pushes his glasses up his nose. “I need this job, Abs.” 

“You act like I want to go to Ohio.” 

“So don’t screw this up.” His arms are crossed, and he’s actually waiting to hear me promise. 

"I'll behave." My voice is crumbly, resigned to the fact that this is my final warning. Dad’s been grumbling about Mom letting me run wild. One more slipup and I’m on the next plane to Cincinnati, playing babysitter for Dad and the Stepmomster’s new spawn. Buh-bye, social life. It would kill me to see Mom hurt again.

I have got to get into college stat.


  1. Lana,

    The voice is fun. I like Abby. We have tension (HS drama type of tension) that almost everyone can relate to. We have a goal (Date the football star, probably will not happen, goal will change). We have obstacles, many obstacles. The characters are really fleshed out in just a few words (Javi is well done). I love your title, the reference to football as religion (can I ever relate—love me some football), hiding books in brown paper bags, (Who hasn’t done that? Mine was Stephen King in grade school).

    In one place I thought there was some minor telling that took me out of the narrative just a bit:

    My green eyes have always been the jealous type.

    And one sentence that I read as spoken dialoged but was internal:

    “Duh.” Of course I'm going to the game tomorrow.

    The first paragraph was good, but I though some rearranging and tightening could make it better. Maybe start out with:

    I'm all for dressing up on Halloween, but this is absurd.

    Overall very compelling, but I do wonder about originality. I think (Based on the tile) that it will be original, but you have a classic set up with the not-so-popular kid that’s friends with the beautiful, popular girl, and who’s very, very best friend (who really gets her) is the quick-witted gay guy. These characters seem a little stereotyped to me.

    Again, I loved the voice. I laughed several times reading this. Good stuff.

    1. Hi Jeff -thanks for the comments! Yep, I'll work on showing their non-stereotyped selves earlier...:)

    2. It's hard to judge the stereotype thing in 1,250 words. I wish I had more. Just FYI I asked my wife--big Outlander fan--to read your opening. She loved it!

  2. Great voice! Abby sounds like a lot of fun! I also like your description of the football hero walking by.

    There were a few things I wasn’t clear on. Abby is dressed up, but her friend isn’t. Why is she dressed up? Is it Halloween or is she dressed up to support the football team? Mentioning a couple more costumes or lack of costumes might help. I didn’t understand the drama queen comment either, and don’t know what a PSA is. Sorry.

    I wanted more context for bursting out in song in the hallway. It sounds like this isn’t the first time she’s burst out into song. Can she usually sing better? Did she have reason to think it would win over the football guy? Why doesn’t her best friend help her? Is she mad that her best friend doesn’t help her? She is so putting herself out there with this move that I want to know more.

    The change to the conversation with her brother is abrupt. Again, it sounds like Abby has a habit of doing odd things that get her/others in trouble. But I don’t get the connection between the song in the hallway and how she might get her brother into trouble. Abby sounds like a very cool character but I’m not getting a clear enough picture to connect.

    I’d love to hear more about Abby and am interested to see where your pages go next week.


    1. HI Rebecca, thanks for the comments. PSA = Public Service Announcement. Ok, I'll look at the transitions / clarity of scenes. Thanks!

    2. Oh, that totally makes sense! Good luck with your rewrite and thanks for your comments!

    3. Oh, that totally makes sense! Good luck with your rewrite and thanks for your comments!

  3. Hi Lana! Thanks so much for letting me read. I'll mark comments as I go. :)

    First thing that strikes me is Abby's voice. It's clear with a snarky sense of humor. Love that! I like her intro-relationship with Sarah, and then my initial reaction to her constant reference to Javi is "Who is this???" Makes me want to keep reading, which is great! I would like to see a bit more development in the opening few paragraphs to give the reader a better grip on the setting. I understand she's at school, but other than for using the words school and locker I wouldn't know that. Try to use a bit more setting - even slight observation of others, smell of the janitor's floor wax, or whatever.

    I found myself a little confused during the part when Abby sees her crush in the hallway, the singing in her head, and such. For some reason, you lost me with the dual 'I wish.' I think if you add a little more direct description and action (don't forget the action) the reader will be totally pulled into that part of the scene. You seem to have a good sense of humor, so I bet you could throw in a few laughs, too.

    Javier seems like a hoot! I'd love to hear more from him, too. It makes me wonder why you moved on so quickly to Abby meeting with her brother. I'm assuming that part must have some importance, but do you need to have it in this opening segment? If so, maybe mention her needed meeting with her brother to Javier and then move forward. It might make a clearer connection as to why you must move on.

    Excited to read your revision! You've created some intriguing characters.

  4. Hi Sheri, thanks for your notes.
    Setting = totally get that, I'll try to layer it in more.
    Singing scene = hmm I'll have a think on how to attack that one...
    Javi/Brother = good point. I move on to the brother because the inciting incident happens in the library, two pages later. So hmm, more Javi! gotcha!
    Cheers, Lana

  5. Lana, welcome to the workshop!

    You are a talented writer. This piece is very clean and easy to read. Here are some of my thoughts:

    Opening paragraph shows plenty of voice and character details. I liked it.

    Contraband on the first page. Nice!

    Missing mom already alluded to--also good. Very good that you kept that part short for now.

    Football in Texas, football love interest, and "most likely to not go to a football game" all very good.

    Green eyes=jealous, good.

    When she bursts out in song, I think that's where it needs a bit of work. That should be a horrifying slow mo section when we feel her utter despair and humiliation. Perhaps she can slap her hand over her mouth? Or maybe her stomach drops and she hopes above all hopes that she didn't actually sing out loud, but the reaction from others confirms she did?? That part flew by so fast I didn't realize it was that big of a deal for her.

    On that same note, we should see/feel Sarah's reaction. Pity? Horror? Humor? How does the friend react? Does she quickly grab her arm and pull her down the hall? Does Sarah try to talk her off a ledge of sorts? Does she comfort her? Give us something there.

    Waiver for what? I had to read that twice because I thought I missed something. It was a few lines down that I realize it's for a book. I'd make that clear up front. And if it's extra credit, wouldn't the teacher supply the book? Why not get it at the public library? I'd address that. Maybe too many students needed extra credit, and all the books were checked out. Just one line is all you need to clean that up.

    Minor detail: When Javi says "Details. Now." that needs to be a new paragraph. New speaker, new paragraph.

    I'm not in love with the title, but that's a personal opinion. Have you considered something like "I wish?" Just an idea.

    Overall this is an excellent opening with plenty of breadcrumbs to keep us interested. Your voice is awesome, so bravo on that.

    Looking forward to your revision!

    1. Thanks Julie.
      the song part...good point! it definitely is a slo-mo sitch
      Ah, the waiver, yes...needs more explanation. good catch.
      THanks! Lana

  6. Hi Lana!

    Okay, so straight from the start I can tell this is going to be a fun read. I love the character interaction and the dialogue. Abby's voice is strong, and her sense of embarrassment and unrequited crush are very easy to relate to.

    A couple things that tripped me up. The first sentence: "Why the hell did I let Javi talk me into wearing this to school?" At this point, I don't know who Javi is, or what "this" refers to, so it doesn't engage me right away. I think it might work better if you start with an action, like maybe the drill team cat calls, or have the wings get in her way or something. Then you could weave in the description of the costume.

    I had a hard time figuring out the timing for this snippet. At first I thought Abbey had just gotten to school, but then she was headed to play rehearsal--after school?--and then you said she drove to the University "after class." It felt like maybe her school day was one class long?

    This part felt awkward to me: ""It’s from my mom's bookshelf. There are some...intense...scenes in it." Not that Mom would notice. She’s on call at the hospital so much, sometimes it’s like living with a stranger." It sounds like Mom wouldn't notice the "intense ... scenes", which threw me because it's her book. Make it clear that the book's absence is what she fails to notice.

    After the scene break, you wrote "After class, I drive to San Antonio University to meet my brother. Nick’s inside by the help desk". This threw me because most universities have multiple help desks: at the registrar's office, student union, financial aid, etc. So make it clear right away this is the library. A little description of setting here would help, too, even if it's just something about how far away she parked, if she sees any other students, stuff like that.

    Overall, this was a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing where you take it!


    1. Hi Kim,
      thanks for the comments...I'll work to clarify things. good point on the help desk. It's clear in *MY* mind, of course :)

  7. Hi Lana. I love Abby! I was laughing hard in the very first paragraph. Abby is fun, quirky, and totally relatable so I was drawn in by just her voice. Also, you open with my favorite holiday so you had me at Halloween.

    The first question I have is with “Javi swore that this outfit would display my artistic side, but instead it’s a PSA about what not to wear if you want to survive high school.” If she realizes it is what not to wear, did she already get teased or strange looks? What lead her to that conclusion? I love the line so definitely keep it. It is a great example of her fun-loving snarky-ness but I just want to know how she got there. Also, what time of day is this scene? What importance does the fact that it is Halloween have on the story?

    I was also confused by the singing part and the having to sign a waiver part.

    You do a great job setting up empathy for Abby. She’s feeling awkward with the costume, she’s jealous of her friend Sarah who isn’t dressed up, and you get the sense she is often alone at home. These three factors alone are very compelling.

    I adore the lines, “Sarah’s got a nice boyfriend and shiny hair and if I didn’t know her so well, I’d probably hate her. I probably do hate her, just a little. My green eyes have always been the jealous type.”

    I liked it!

    1. Hi Linda - thanks for the comments. will work on clarity. Halloween is very impt but you don't know why until page 7! lol

  8. Hi Lana~

    Like I said on the others, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I totally appreciate your bravery. And, as with the others, I haven't looked at anyone else's comments, so these thoughts are all my own.

    I feel like your real strength is in the dialogue. There's something easy about the way your characters communicate that feels masterful and true to life. I just wanted to say that generally that's a gift, so you should make the most of it. And OMG the Outlander reference made me laugh, as did your title. I was once signing books right before Diane Gabaldon, and the line of middle-aged ladies was growing for hours. Anyway, one of them had her husband with her and he said, "Why am I here again?" She responded, "Because I have to meet this lady. She's the one who writes all the books about sex." I died.

    So, some questions as you revise:

    ~ My main issue in the excerpt was confusion. I had to read this through several times to make sense of it. I always assume I'm in an idiot mood when that happens, but I think in this case it's a real thing. What I finally figured out is that I think there's a cart before the horse issue. You mention Ohio before we have the information about the dad. You mention Javi before we know who that is, and Halloween is mentioned at random, before we're oriented in time and space, before we know anything about this girl except that she's insecure and delusional. It's like that through a lot of the text, so would you have a look and see if you can clarify?

    ~I also worry a little about stock characters in this piece. I suspect that might be the point as it gets turned on its head, but the jock hottie, the beautiful bestie, the dad with the new baby and horrible stepmom? Those are all very familiar. Can you find a way to let us know what makes these people real?

    ~As well, I'm curious as to why she likes this Austin guy, when he's clearly a loser, or that's what it seems like now. So, does he have some dark family history she's attracted to? Did she once see him feed a stray? It doesn't matter what it is, but in order to keep this in the realm of reality, can you give us something?

    This looks like it could be really funny, snarky, and magical. I'm excited to see your revisions! Hope this helped. Good luck!


  9. THanks for the notes, Estelle. I will work on the revision! Best, Lana