Sunday, July 10, 2016

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Gabriel Rev 1

Name: Kimberly Gabriel
Genre: YA thriller
The damp air scrapes my throat and burns my lungs every time I inhale. It’s heavy and unusually cold for this time of year – not that anyone else here seems to mind. Instead, hundreds of tourists taunt me with their perfectly capable lungs as they flock about Navy Pier like it’s the only acceptable place to celebrate Labor Day Weekend.
Their impulses are flawed like that. They come from places like Plainfield, Iowa and Hartville, Ohio where I’m sure they lead normal lives. But here, tourists become hoarders of magnets and sweatshirts and shopping bags all plastered with the New Chicago emblem. Even the ones trying to blend in amble along with the same blithe expression, marveling over the city’s height and the way its buildings shimmer on a gray day like today. They eat their Dot’s ice cream and take pictures of the Rejuvenation mansions along Lake Michigan, while disregarding their immediate surroundings and ignoring the warnings about walking in groups fewer than four.
They’re easy marks. No wonder the mob targets them.
My breath hitches, and my chest tightens just enough to push the air back out of my lungs. I glance at my purse slumped beside me on the weathered slats of the bench. As tempted as I might be to reach for my inhaler, today is not the day to show that kind of weakness. I pull the sleeves of my sweater as far over my hands as they will go and pick up the Truman Capote book lying face down in my lap. I begin to reread the same paragraph I’ve read at least a dozen times in the four hours I’ve been here. But before I finish the second sentence, I’m already distracted wondering which of these tourists is about to die.
The lanky guy with the red stubble and flannel shirt, sporting a designer trucker’s hat that cost more than my entire outfit. Or the pudgy woman wearing pantyhose, tennis shoes, and a blue monochrome outfit. She’s easily the adult version of Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka after turning into a giant blueberry. The second I mark them as potential victims, I envision their beatings and how they will begin. A fist in the back of the neck, an uppercut punch in the gut. The first hit comes out of nowhere – a seemingly random attack from a guy in the crowd. Then within seconds, dozens of teenage mobbers materialize, swarming the victim like a colony of flesh eating ants – hitting and kicking to death.
Like they did to my dad.
I pinch the bridge of my nose, burying the images, and remind myself to stay vigilant.
I skim the crowds looking for police officers, a SWAT team, for some kind – any kind of back up. On a clear day, you can see the arch above the dock street entrance a half-mile away. Today’s too gray to make out much past the Ferris wheel in the middle of the pier. Still, I don’t see any kind of reinforcement. I’m not sure why I bother to look. I knew they weren’t coming the second I reported what I’d discovered to CPD. When I called them, I didn’t even need to tell them I was Lia Finch for the operator to dismiss me like a delusional high school kid schitzing out over some random comment she found on the Internet. She assured me she’d pass my note along to a detective before condescendingly remarking the Flash Mob Era is behind us. For the last two years, every city official has denied any implication the mob has been lying dormant, waiting for the right moment to reemerge into society. They act like the nickname “New Chicago” will make tourists forget the attacks, mostly aimed at them. It’s scary sometimes what people are able to convince themselves.
My breath hitches again, making the inhale shallow and unsatisfying. I close my eyes, relax my shoulders, and curse the weather for changing too quickly this year. I breathe slowly and methodically – a lame attempt to convince my body it really isn’t that hard.
A phone chimes next to me.
My head snaps toward a girl as she walks up and sits beside me on the bench. She’s nineteenish. Bronze skin. Copper colored hair slicked back in a tight ponytail. Her oversized scarf conceals her neck and half of her face. Sunglasses. Clearly a local. Likely hiding her identity. She could easily be a mobber. I jerk my glance away and take another deep breath.
I grab the pendant on my necklace, a tiny four-leaf clover imprinted on a silver disk, and start twisting the chain around my finger. To my left, a captain, a first mate, and another crew member stand at the end of carpeted ramp leading to a mini-cruise ship. The captain and first mate greet each tourist climbing aboard with a reassuring, artificial smile. The third crew member stands at ease, though he hardly looks it. His eyes shift around erratically, no doubt looking for any sign of disturbance.
There’s a hotdog vendor hamming it up for each customer with a fake Italian accent, while the popcorn vendor next to him takes money and scoops popcorn in one sinuous motion. His eyes never leave the crowd.
Not everyone is foolish. No matter how much time has passed, most locals remain cautious and skeptical. We count on it for protection. I briefly consider the crew member and the vendor know something like me before quickly dismissing it. If anyone else knew about the attack, they wouldn’t be here. Not without reason.
I pick up my phone and check its battery life before chucking it back in my bag. No one’s ever caught enough footage of an attack to incriminate anyone in it. But if someone were to record the start of an attack and everyone on the pier in the moments before it broke out, it would lead to convictions – maybe even the start of annihilating the mob’s existence. I know it would. With CPD acting so complacent, it’s the only choice I have.
My eyes flicker twenty feet to my right where a teenage boy sits hunched over at the base of some monument. Eighteenish. Broad-shouldered. He jams his hands inside the pockets of an oversized New Chicago hoodie like he wants to be mistaken for a tourist. Headphone wires disappear beneath his hood – a hood conveniently concealing his facial features. He’s been sitting like that for over an hour. Even though he seems to be alone, he fits the profile of the attackers. I can’t stare at him longer than a few seconds at a time without getting a piercing pang in my gut.
“Will you sign a petition to preserve our city’s parks?”
Again, my head snaps to my left to find a short pixie-like girl holding a clipboard tight against her chest addressing the copper-headed girl sitting next to me. Copperhead doesn’t look up. She’s wearing headphones. Conveniently. Something I wish I had right now.
By the time I bury my face in my book, Pixie Girl has already turned towards me.
“Do you like our city’s green space?”
I keep my head down cuing her to move along but Pixie Girl is undeterred.
“We’re collecting signatures today to stop the Rejuvenation Project from selling off the parks along Lake Michigan. The Lakefront Ordinance dates back to 1919 and has protected that land…”
I make the mistake of looking up…


  1. Kimberly,

    The tension continues to be great in your first five pages. I get the feeling that no one is safe. You are a talented writer, and you do a great job with this revision. It’s tighter and simpler — in a good way — and allows the reader to focus on the MC and her sense of dread.

    A few suggestions (take or leave — I barely know what I’m doing with my own writing and feel, so giving advice to others is strange):

    1. What if you opened your MS with an attack (either the imagined attack of a tourist or the attack of MC’s dad) then went into MC describing the current scene? Just an idea.

    2. I like how you imply that Lia knows about the attack, but could it be even more clear? When she talks about recording the attack, instead of saying “if someone were to record the start of an attack..” could she be more active? Like - “No one has ever filmed footage of an attack. But that changes today. They’re not getting away with it again…” or something like that.

    3. I think there are a few places where you can omit words and generally tighten up your writing. For example -
    “But here, tourists become hoarders of magnets…”
    “But here, tourists hoard magnets…”
    “...while disregarding their immediate surroundings and ignoring the warning about walking…”
    “...while ignoring their surroundings and the the warning about walking…”

    Writers have totally different styles, so seriously take my suggestions with a grain of salt. You are a talented writer, and I hope that I get to read more of your MS.

  2. Thank you so much for your feedback and suggestions. I think you're dead on with points 2 and 3. Great, great points. #1 is a bit trickier to implement. You're not the first person to suggest I start with the dad's attack. But because the attack is two years prior, I'd worry it would read like a prologue. Still, you make another really good point with #1. The attack at the pier starts just a few paragraphs after this last line here. Maybe it still needs to be sooner? You've got me thinking! Thank you for that!!

    And for the record, I think you absolutely know what you're doing with your own writing, and you've given me great advice on mine! ;) It's been a pleasure swapping pages!

  3. Kim,
    I think you've done an awesome job on your revisions!

    I really like how you say the tourists are easy targets. It builds the suspension and keeps me wondering what they are targets for. Then when we get to the part that they die, it's a nice revelation. I like the way you built it up!

    I like the way you offset the sentence about her dad dying. It makes it more dramatic, and I can almost hear all the emotions hanging on to the end of that sentence (even though nothing is said).

    I really like how you put in the bit about Lia Finch calling the operator, and they dismiss her! It turned our narrator into an untrustworthy one, and it also sets up how she has to be on her own in this thriller. I really like this paragraph and thought maybe you should break it out from the other paragraph, to give it more attention.

    I like that New Chicago is a rejuvenation project, sort of like how Detroit is being rejuvenated. I missed that the first time I read the name. Maybe when you first mention New Chicago also mention the nickname? That way, the reader isn't thinking this a futuristic/dystopian New Chicago.

    I also liked how you kept the MC's asthma present throughout the opening. It made it more real, and I even felt the difficulty of breathing like the MC. Great imagery!

    I've put a few of my suggestions below (feel free to use or ignore any of my suggestions!)

    1. I really love your world building with the rejuvenation mansions and New Chicago. I like the specifics of the Dot's ice cream, but you had set up this really good imagery of a New Chicago (which my readers mind is thinking came out of some war) and rejuvenation mansions. The Dots pulls me back into our present world (this may be what you are going for!). If you are wanting to go for a futuristic world, it would be cool to see something other than Dot's, maybe some worldbuilding/futuristic food. Just a thought!

    2. This is minor, but when the character starts thinking about the people who are going to die, should there be a question mark? Since she is uncertain?

    3. I thought this line was fantastic and maybe deserved its own paragraph? That's just my opinion though! Also, the sentence felt like it needed 'to believe'. on the end. "It’s scary sometimes what people are able to convince themselves."

    4. Why does the flash mob committee violence? For the sake of violence? Or because they think they are making the world better? Does Lia have an idea or theory why they do it? If so, it may be interesting to bring that into the opening.

    All in all, I really love your story. You're a great writer, and I love the way you describe certain actions or people! I look forwarding to seeing more of your work!!

    1. Thank you for your comments Christian! You make some really great points! I love your comparison to Detroit and how it's being rejuvenated - yes! Very much like that. My backstory it that the Flash Mob murders drive away the tourism industry leaving Chicago desperate for revenue. Because of it, they sell off protected lakefront property to homeowners to build million dollar houses. I toy with how much to give away initially - maybe I need more? Maybe I can establish a bit more in my query? I'm still trying to find that balance.

      City officials try to dismiss the attacks as gang violence. (There were violent flash mob attacks a few years back in Chicago that were gang related - it was scary!). However, Lia's trying to prove that a syndicate of organized crime is behind the attacks as a way to control people. It all unfolds, but not really until chapter 3. Again - maybe that's too far away.

      Thank you for getting me thinking and pushing me!!

  4. Kim,

    I am so interested in your story - it makes me really question who the mob is and how the world got this way - It's almost dystopian. When I was reading, I couldn't help but pause when I read:

    "Like they did to my dad."

    This opened me up to a whole slew of possibilities. Like what happened? I love it.

    The only paragraph where I got a little disconnected from the story was the following:

    "Not everyone is foolish. No matter how much time has passed, most locals remain cautious and skeptical. We count on it for protection. I briefly consider the crew member and the vendor know something like me before quickly dismissing it. If anyone else knew about the attack, they wouldn’t be here. Not without reason."

    I think the sentence about the crew member and vendor is what throws me off when I'm reading. What is it they know? Is it the idea that locals remain cautious and skeptical or is it something else?

    That's really about it - I really want to know more and that's wonderful! Can't wait to see what you have next week:)


    1. Thank you Christian! Amy Nichols suggested that line - it was a great suggestion! Thanks for pointing out the other paragraph. I will fix that for my next round! Much appreciated!

  5. Kimberly,

    I so love the tension and suspense of your story. I like the pieces of information you wove in about Lia and why she is there. I also think you did a good job trimming back on some of the characters you mentioned in the earlier version. There was only one description that pulled me out of Lia’s POV and that was when she commented on the sailor’s eyes, but I felt she’d be too far away to notice that. Changing that to head movements might make more sense.

    Someone raised a point earlier about how Lia is protecting herself while trying to watch for the mob to start, and I still wonder about that. I almost feel that being out in public she is making herself a target. I also think that her plan to whip out her phone is slightly flawed. If she is not filming the whole time, she won’t catch the beginning in her footage.

    Without knowing the layout of the dock, I wonder if a better place for her to be would be someplace slightly hidden where she could have a good view but not be in the middle of the action. I also think that if she really wanted to catch the mob, she’d try to be recording before it started (set up a tripod and mount her phone or a mini-cam). I don’t know about accessibility of technology or her resources, so that may or may not work. The cliffhanger ending of her looking up at the petition girl makes me wonder if the plot hangs on her being in the open though. Another thought would be for her to hide but something brings her out when she shouldn’t be (like seeing someone defenseless that she wants to get out of the way). Or maybe she is discovered in her hiding spot. Just some thoughts and maybe totally off-track.

    Again, I am enjoying this and looking forward to reading what happens next!

    1. Thank you for your feedback and suggestions Lisa! Great point about coming out of Lia's POV with the crew member - very smart. You're also making a really great point about Lia being exposed. In my mind, I see her as impulsive and obsessed in the beginning. She makes careless mistakes. It's part of her arc. Maybe that works, or maybe I don't quite pull it off with this scene in a way that still makes Lia likable. I'm still trying to figure that out. If you have an opinion one way or another in light of this, I'm happy to hear it! Thank you so much for getting me thinking!

  6. Nice tightening. Quickly b/c I am typing on my phone...
    1. Good having Lia's name. Could use a bit more--actual age and/or grade, a sense of her size and movement style, or maybe a detail outside of flash mob issue.
    2. I am still slightly lost spatially. Could use another detail wrt physical relationships/ distances between bench, mansions, tourist boat.
    3. Still slightly unconvinced that a place afflicted with such dark history could continue to draw tourists--maybe you could clarify how long it's been since last murder and why tourists now feel safe.
    4. Most importantly, we need the "Why Today "? You hint at some kind of clue L has that something bad is about to happen. Maybe tip your hand a little more. Why has L chosen today to sit on the bench? What does this tell readers about their narrator that inspires them to continue this reading journey with her?
    Good luck with your pitch letter! - Stasia

    1. Thank you so much for the suggestions. You're right on all accounts! I already have ideas as to how I can fit these in. Thank you so much, Stasia!

  7. Kimberly, I thought your pages last week were really tight. Well, they're even tighter this week. My comments are very minute.

    Some suggestions:

    Consider cutting "No wonder the mob targets them" and leave it just "They're easy marks". That would maximize the impact without explaining too much. It would immediately raise tension as well as questions in the reader's mind without giving anything away.

    This passage gets a little wordy and could use some tightening up: "I knew they weren’t coming the second I reported what I’d discovered to CPD. When I called them, I didn’t even need to tell them I was Lia Finch for the operator to dismiss me like a delusional high school kid schitzing out over some random comment she found on the Internet. She assured me she’d pass my note along to a detective before condescendingly remarking the Flash Mob Era is behind us." If you reorder and splice some of the sentences, you can still get all the same info and meaning across: "I knew they weren’t coming. When I reported what I'd found to the CPD, the operator dismissed me like I was some kind of delusional high school kid schitzing out over some comment I'd found on the Internet. I didn’t even need to tell them I was Lia Finch. She assured me she’d pass my note along to a detective before condescendingly remarking the Flash Mob Era is behind us." Or something like that.

    And this sentence doesn't quite say scan: "It’s scary sometimes what people are able to convince themselves." Can you reword to say the same thing?

    The sentence "I grab the pendant on my necklace..." follows a sentence with the same I+verb structure. If you have her fingers do the action (wrapping around the chain or whatnot), you can avoid that I+verb echo.

    Is this sentence missing a "that" or "if" that would make it read a little easier? "I briefly consider the crew member and the vendor know something like me before quickly dismissing it."

    Consider moving the sentence, "No one’s ever caught enough footage of an attack to incriminate anyone in it." to after "I know it would". It changes the flow and logic of the paragraph a little.

    Can you clarify that the clipboard girl is standing? Every time I read it, I think she's sitting next to the MC until I get a couple of sentences later and see the copper-haired girl is still there.

    Finally, both weeks now it's give me pause that she's sat there for four hours. That seems like too long a time to me. Could it be just a couple of hours and still get the work done that you need to get done?

    These pages have me so intrigued. I want to know what happens next. You do such a great job setting up the tense situation and building that tension throughout. Really good work.

    Looking forward to reading next week's version.


    1. Amy - Thank you for your thorough critique. I think you're ideas and suggestions are brilliant. I just loved the line you gave me for this last revision: "Like they did to my dad." Several people commented on the impact that line had in this revision. Thank you for that!

      I've already implemented several of the suggestions you made here, and you're right - every suggestion strengthens the story. Thank you so much for your time and insight. I feel very lucky to have you as our guest mentor this month!