Sunday, July 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Gabriel Revision 2

Name: Kimberly Gabriel
Genre: YA thriller
Title: FLASH MOB MURDERS
 
Pitch:
 
Lia Finch isn’t delusional or some neurotic conspiracy freak. But when she uncovers the details of the next Flash Mob murder, the Chicago Police dismiss her as unhinged. For them, her father, the city’s District Attorney, was the mob’s final victim ending the decade-long reign of terror. Even two years later, city authorities still blindly pretend his death wasn’t targeted. Lia knows better.
 
Desperate to prove them wrong, Lia heads to Navy Pier alone to document the impending attack. When dozens of teenage mobbers suddenly emerge from the crowd to swarm the next unsuspecting victim, amateur vigilante Lia finds herself trapped. It’s a grey-eyed mobber that saves Lia from her own rash impulses by throwing her off the pier. It nearly kills her, but it saves her life.
 
Now this self-professed loner and Flash Mob survivor suddenly becomes the city’s golden child. The media wants to exploit her. The mayor wants to parade her around as the poster child for a safer “New Chicago.”  And mobbers want her dead. If Lia’s going to finish what her father started and prove these attacks aren’t random or gang affiliated, she’s going to need help – even if that means trusting a fame-hungry reporter, and the mysterious gray-eyed mobber that keeps turning up in her life. Someone big is orchestrating the attacks. Now if only she can stay alive long enough to prove it.
 
1st 5 pages:
 
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 ignoring their immediate surroundings and the warnings about walking in groups fewer than four.
 
They’re easy targets.
 
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 two 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.
 
On a clear day, I should 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, my bench tucked into the pier’s far corner like an architect’s afterthought allows me to watch at least half the pier’s promenade.
 
I skim the crowds looking for police officers, a SWAT team, for some kind – any kind of back up, but I don’t see any reinforcement. I’m not sure why I bother to look. I know they aren’t coming. When I reported the Tweet I’d found to CPD, the operator dismissed me like a delusional sixteen-year-old kid schitzing out over some random comment she 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. 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.
 
People are able to convince themselves of just about anything to feel safe.
 
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.
 
Grabbing the pendant on my necklace, a tiny four-leaf clover imprinted on a silver disk, I start twisting the chain around my finger. Forty or so feet 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 head jerks back and forth, 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. Even though it’s been two years and seventeen days since the last attack, most locals remain cautious and skeptical. We count on it for protection. I briefly consider if the crew member and the vendor know about the mob’s return today 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. 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. No one’s ever caught enough footage of an attack to incriminate anyone in it. 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 where she stands 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.

10 comments:

  1. Hi Kimberly. I think your pitch should deliver tension and intrigue from the first line. To me, the "she isn't delusion, etc." gets in the way. I would get right to the point with that third sentence, saying something like, "When Lia Finch uncovers the details of the next Flash Mob murder, the Chicago Police dismiss her as unhinged." In the next line, consider changing "For them, her father..." to "To them, her father..." It's a subtle difference, but I think the meaning is clearer.

    I wonder if "amateur vigilante" should be moved up to the first sentence. Most descriptors are included with the first mention of a character in a pitch. So, "When amateur vigilante Lia Finch uncovers the details..." I think that works better than having it in the second paragraph.

    In that second paragraph, and again later in the third, you start using it and it's a lot. I would cut these as much as possible. For example, "It’s a grey-eyed mobber that saves Lia from her own rash impulses by throwing her off the pier. It nearly kills her, but it saves her life." I would revise this to focus on the subject and action. "A grey-eyed mobber saves Lisa by throwing her off the pier. The fall nearly kills her, but it also saves her life." Or something like that. It replaces the it's with specifics and makes it active. I also suggest taking out "her own rash impulses" to make it shorter. I think it's clear she's impulsive.

    In the final paragraph, I feel like things get wordy and bogged down. The repeated "wants" are great, but can you make them snappy? "The mayor wants to parade her around as the poster child for a safer “New Chicago.”" should be cut down to be as quick as the other two "wants". So it's boom, boom, boom; one right after another.

    The sentence with "and prove these attacks aren’t random or gang affiliated" gets wordy and bogged down as well. This is where her goal needs to be concise and stated with the same kind of tension you expect from a thriller.

    The final sentences feel like something is missing. Consider adding something along the lines of "Lia knows it" after "Someone big is orchestrating the attacks." Then it's linked closer to "prove it". I would also cut the "now" in the last sentence, since it echoes with the beginning of the paragraph. It's also edgier without it.

    When I write pitches I read them out loud in the "movie trailer" voice to see if they work. Give it a try. If you find it's going on too much or anything sticks out as difficult to read out loud, revise it. But I think this is a strong pitch. It just needs a little finessing.

    As for your pages: I think the paragraph that starts "I skim the crowds…” got a little wordy. When it gets to the part about "condescendingly" it's a bit wobbly. See if you can tighten that paragraph up a bit, taking out any words you don't need.

    Is there another way to say "my breath hitches" so you don't use it twice? And can "I jerk my glance away" just be "I glance away"? When you tighten up the language, you impact the speed of reading, which gives the reader an increased sense of tension. Likewise, consider changing "conveniently" to just "convenient". It has attitude and you can avoid using an adverb.

    When you revise this week, be sure to read it out loud and listen for anything that trips up your tongue or anything that echoes. If you find you run out of breath during a sentence, see if you can pare it back. With a thriller, you want your sentences to be snappy and to have forward motion. Your reader shouldn't feel like they're reading, if that makes sense.

    I hope these comments have been helpful! Your story is really strong. I've enjoyed reading it this month. Wishing you all the best not only with this story but with your writing journey!

    Amy

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Amy for your keen eye and the time you put into critiquing my pages and query. My work is better for it. I greatly appreciate all of your notes and really enjoyed hearing from you each week.

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  3. First, the revision: I think you're in a bit of that tricky space of fighting between pacing and keeping some lovely bits of descriptive writing. It's a balancing act but the result right now is that we've lost Lia's name again and become a little bit disoriented in terms of time/space/intention. For some reason, the opening feels a bit heavier to me--a little too much atmosphere before we (readers) know what we're supposed to be focusing on, a little too much attention to narrator's breath, a little too much set-up (pixie girl, hoodie boy) that is only MC observing without any payoff or orientation for reader. THAT SAID, in my own writing experience, now is the time to move FORWARD with the manuscript (not sure, of course, if you're through a first draft or where you are in the revision process) but it's definitely time to just let these pages marinate awhile. Given your obvious strengths as a writer, I feel confident that when you return to the opening in weeks (or months, depending where you are in your process), the work you have done here this month will be well ingrained in your subconscious and the revision will be much easier.
    THE PITCH: Amy's comments above are fantastic. I second her points and feel like she's given you such good guidance I don't need to repeat it here. One additional exercise I would recommend is to write a one-paragraph (4-5 sentence) synopsis and/or try writing flap and jacket copy for your book, considering what would draw readers, what details would slow the copy and make them put the book down -- try reading 10-15 jackets from one YA shelf at a bookstore or library (excluding those filled with blurbs or reviews) and THEN go back and write your own, trying to "beat" those jackets for readers' eyes.
    ONE PLOT POINT: If LIA believes her father's theory that the Flash Mob murders are neither gang-related or random, then WHY would tourists be easy targets? Wouldn't they not be targets at all? Is Lia looking for a specific person or type of person when we meet her on page 1? If so, we need to see that on the page. Perhaps a little backstory work--maybe a list of previous victims and a sense of the pattern Lia is seeing (not stuff that necessarily goes in the book but you'll write stronger for knowing it)--would help here.
    Congrats on some great work and I look forward to learning what happens next with this exciting concept. Happy Writing! - Stasia

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  4. From Tanusri:

    PITCH: Great title and such an interesting idea! There are so many good things about this pitch. I really like the opening line and the rest of it conveys just the right amount of information to pique the reader’s interest. One suggestion I have is that some of the sentences were a bit unwieldy and it may help to read it aloud to yourself a couple of times to make sure they convey exactly what you want to say.

    FIVE PAGES: The opening has a good mix of observation, description, and relevant background information and overall the first chapter provides a good sample of the story. I did wonder about the reasons for the CPD’s inertia and disbelief in the face of the events that have unfolded so far? Also who are these flash mobs? Are they targeting specific people or are these random mass killings? Is there a political cause that is in question here? I’m sure the answers will emerge in later chapters!

    All best,

    Tanusri

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  5. Kim,

    I'm really excited for your book! This is right up my alley for what I like to read, so keep going with it and get it published:) I agree with previous comments on your pitch that maybe some of the sentences get a little long and could be tightened ip a bit (I run into the same problem all the time). So going through it, see where you can narrow the sentences down a bit.

    Anyway, best of luck to you!

    Christian S

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  6. Kimberly,

    I love your pitch! I think you balance just the right amount of essential information and suspenseful details to hook any reader. The "amateur vigilante" description threw me, because it implies that she wants revenge through violence, when it seems that she just wants to video or catch the mobbers. I might remove or think of a different description. I agree with Amy's advice above to start with a line like, "When Lia Finch uncovers the details of the next Flash Mob murder, the Chicago Police dismiss her as unhinged. The city is safe..."

    Your revision was tighter and leaner...great job. I love this change...

    "...swarming the victim like a colony of flesh eating ants – hitting and kicking to death.

    Like they did to my dad."

    I keep wanting to somehow read the line, "I’m already distracted wondering which of these tourists is about to die" at the very beginning or in the first sentence or paragraph.

    That line is such a hook, that if you could somehow get it in your first sentence, you could really grab your readers. I also think it might help to make it clear that Lia has absolute knowledge of an attack. I know you added the tweet, but as a reader, I don't know if Lia is paranoid or really knows about an attack. I assume that we find out how she knows the Tweet is real or that the information was legit, but it would build suspense if the reader knows that something terrible is going to happen. I think that is even more suspenseful than wondering if an attack will happen or if Lia is just paranoid.

    I can't wait to read more of your MS, Kimberly. Nice words!

    Dan

    I

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  7. Hi Kimberly,

    I have enjoyed your pages so much and have been impressed by your tight, polished writing from the beginning. There is not a lot that jumps out at me to suggest. In rereading the opening paragraphs though, I do think you should move up the “They’re easy targets” line to right after paragraph one. That is such a shocking statement and I think it would work better to have the explanation of why come after the statement. I noticed other changes you made, like putting Lia off to the side and not in the open. With people continuing to come up to her though, it still seems to me that she is pretty accessible.

    My last thought was something related to her use of the word “tweet.” When I first read your pages, I thought it was in the future, albeit a near future. I wonder if using specific words like “tweet” might date the story. Honestly, mobbers would probably be more likely to Snapchat information since it disappears, but I think removing any specific platform name and just referring to a “message” might work best and not be distracting.

    I loved the detail of your pitch and learned a lot about where your story is heading. I did think there were a few details that could be more effectively placed. You don’t state what Lia wants until the second paragraph and why she wants it is buried a little in the first. I think both the detail that her father was killed by mobbers and she wants to bring them to justice should be in the first line or two. I also didn’t know from the pitch the gender of the “grey-eyed mobber” and that made me confused as how to read the person’s actions (potential friend or love interest).

    Again, I have really enjoyed reading your work this month and think you have an amazing story. Best of luck with it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Kimberly,

    I have enjoyed your pages so much and have been impressed by your tight, polished writing from the beginning. There is not a lot that jumps out at me to suggest. In rereading the opening paragraphs though, I do think you should move up the “They’re easy targets” line to right after paragraph one. That is such a shocking statement and I think it would work better to have the explanation of why come after the statement. I noticed other changes you made, like putting Lia off to the side and not in the open. With people continuing to come up to her though, it still seems to me that she is pretty accessible.

    My last thought was something related to her use of the word “tweet.” When I first read your pages, I thought it was in the future, albeit a near future. I wonder if using specific words like “tweet” might date the story. Honestly, mobbers would probably be more likely to Snapchat information since it disappears, but I think removing any specific platform name and just referring to a “message” might work best and not be distracting.

    I loved the detail of your pitch and learned a lot about where your story is heading. I did think there were a few details that could be more effectively placed. You don’t state what Lia wants until the second paragraph and why she wants it is buried a little in the first. I think both the detail that her father was killed by mobbers and she wants to bring them to justice should be in the first line or two. I also didn’t know from the pitch the gender of the “grey-eyed mobber” and that made me confused as how to read the person’s actions (potential friend or love interest).

    Again, I have really enjoyed reading your work this month and think you have an amazing story. Best of luck with it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kim,

    I enjoyed reading this final version! I like the addition of the navy pier and that she is tucked in a corner. I have been to the pier once (I'm from the deep south ha), but I remember the ferris wheel and pier. I like that she is tucked away.

    I also like how slip in the exact date it has been since the last attack. I am sure Lia would remember that since it was her father.

    I agree with Lisa on the tweet. I think message may be a good alternative, but that is entirely up to you!

    I think you have an awesome story and premise, and I can't wait to read more. I think your narrative flow is strong, and I like the voice of your character. I wish you all the best!

    ReplyDelete