Sunday, November 13, 2016

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Thompson Rev 1

Elizabeth Thompson
Young Adult-Contemporary
Being Whitney

Chapter 1

As summer ended, Whitney had packed up everything she owned, said goodbye to the only friends she’d ever known, and been driven eight hours north to a new house, a new town and what would become a new life. Her mom had wanted anything except what their old life in California had been, and that was what she got. What Whitney wanted didn’t matter.

They pulled into town as the sun set, casting long, ominous shadows across the two-lane main street of Millersburg, Or. and Whitney cringed realizing the lack of anything passable as a store she’d ever be caught dead in. They turned at the second of two stoplights and Whitney watched the small neighborhoods of fifties houses give way to a newer development, which, in turn, gave way to farm land. Whitney stared into the fields of emptiness, wondering where she’d ever find a place for herself in this foreign land.

Their mom flung open their rustic front door enthusiastically and waited for Whitney and her little sister Mable to return her joy. Whitney faked a smile as she squeezed by, heading up the creaky century-old stairs to her new room. The same pinks and greys of her old room filled the space around her, but warm dark brown furniture replaced the brushed steal industrial feel of the furnishings she’d spent the last four years with.

Whitney followed the two long streams of orange light cast upon the ancient wood floors to two tall windows looking out over her drive and the endless fields beyond. Her eyes were drawn to a tractor, making perfectly straight passes across the tan grass in the field nearest her house. She watched, mesmerized by the farming as only a city girl could be, until he reached the last row, parked the tractor near a beat-up old truck and climbed down. Only then did Whitney see that the ancient old man she’d pictured inside the tractor’s enclosed cab, was actually a bare-chested, blonde haired teenage boy. His jeans hugged his hips perfectly as he climbed into the truck and drove off leaving Whitney with a little hope for this foreign land.

Chapter 2

Whitney spent week before school started lounging in her new pool, spending more time with her sister than she had in years and secretly waiting to catch another glimpse of farmer boy. It was a solitude existence that left her both wondering who she’d become and excited about the start of school. That was, until the worn yellow school bus dumped her outside dilapidated Millersburg High School and her alien status hit her full force.

Working her way across the yellow lawn in front of the school, she heard kids greet each other, warmly reminiscing about their summer. They talked about afternoons fishing at Bond’s Pond, stargazing for hours in Jasmine’s far field, wild bonfires at Dylan Johnson’s house and weekends spent riding ‘quads’ at the beach. Whitney shook her head; nothing at all made sense.

Outside Whitney had felt invisible to the hundreds of kids around her, now however, navigating the long hallways, she felt all eyes fall on her. The entire school seemed to watch her with purpose, shamelessly sending more judgment and scrutiny her way than she had ever known, and she’d been in school with the epitome of mean girls since first grade. Up ahead she spotted four girls, wearing clothes no one in California would be caught dead in, cowering from everyone who walked by, except for Whitney. As Whitney approached they turned and stared. Whitney looked away quickly, unsure how she was a spectacle in this world where they wore wranglers with chew circles on the butt pockets, drove huge trucks followed by plumes of dark smoke and apparently, didn’t do their makeup or hair. She ducked into the nearest bathroom and checked her reflection. Staring back she found the same long brown hair, round freckled face and light brown eyes she’d seen every day in the scalloped mirror of her California bathroom, yet she felt nothing like that girl. She missed that girl.

Whitney moved silently towards first period, avoiding eye contact at all costs, and slid in next to the most normal looking girl. She spent most of the period tuned-out to the muttering of the teacher and instead lost in careful consideration of her new classmates. A very pretty girl with long blonde hair curled to perfection and carrying herself with a confidence that demanded attention, and three decently attractive boys, with cute jeans joined the normal looking girl right before the bell and while still country, they at least looked human. Beyond them though, she saw little hope for even trying to fit in.

With class winding down first day chatter filled the room and Whitney sat awkwardly, highly aware of the whispers surrounding her.

Finally one of the cute boys turned her way. “Hey new girl?” he said, “Where’d you move from?”

Whitney turned around cautiously. “California.”

“Awesome! Do you surf?” he asked. His buddies all smiled.

“No,” Whitney replied.

“Do you know anyone famous?”


“But you’re rich, right? You look rich.”

“Like everyone in California is rich dude,” his friend threw in.

Whitney struggled to understand if they were serious. “Not really.”

The bell rang, and the trio of boys headed for the door. “She’s got to be rich,” she heard them say on their way.

“Ignore them,” the normal girl said. “We all do.”

Whitney smiled.

“I’m Ivy, and this is Brynley.” The pretty girl smiled and swung aside her perfect hair.

“I’m Whitney.”

The girls smiled briefly before catching up with the boys in the hall and leaving Whitney to wander towards where she thought the science classes were held.

Whitney didn’t talk to another person for a full eighty-nine minutes. If the stares had stopped, she would have doubted people could even see her. They didn’t though and instead the eyes followed her through biology and into drama, the most dreaded class on her schedule.

Making her way towards the front of the theater, Whitney passed, row after row of giddy, dramatic teenagers overjoyed about getting to act out someone else’s drama for a change. She cringed as she took a seat on the edge.

A short rundown of the rules and expectations proceeded the energetic drama teacher passing out two bags of M&M’s with the only instructions being to grab some, but not eat them yet. When the bag reached Whitney she hastily grabbed a handful and passed them on.

“Okay, kids.” The teacher said, “To get to know each other, you’re going to share one thing about yourself for every M&M you took.”

Whitney stared at her M&M’s in horror as a quirky brunette turned around with the same face.

“How many did you take?” She asked.

“17,” Whitney replied.

“I took two handfuls…forty-three,” quirky girl said, defeat permeating her eyes.

Her pain did ease Whitney’s terror a little, but Whitney knew, just by looking, that this girl had a plethora of interesting facts to share. Whitney did not.

The stress of the first day compounded within the dilapidated theater as students started sharing. Whitney stared at the sea of unfamiliar faces, anxiety twisting tighter as each unwelcoming person finished.

“I’m Everley, by the way,” the quirky girl whispered.


Everley, in her worn jean shorts and flowy flowered tank-top seemed far from someone Whitney would friend, or even find, in California, but she wasn’t in California anymore.


  1. I wanted to say that I took the advice to remove the first part of the story where Whitney's conflict with her dad is shown. My worry now is that all the narrative at the beginning isn't exciting enough so advice on that would be great.
    I also decided to leave it third person POV for this revision. I wrote it in third person because I plan to use this as the first in a series of four novels, each written focused on a different girl: Whitney, Brynley, Ivy & Everley so I thought this might be a better way to get more of all girls into each story, but if people still feel like 1st person would be better I'll do that next revision.
    Thanks everyone!

  2. I didn't read the advice about the conflict but I'm wondering why you would remove it? Is it not important to the rest of the book? It was probably the most emotionally engaging part of the story for me.
    I agree with you that starting where you did doesn't pull me in.
    The POV makes sense, especially if you're going to write the rest of the book that way. I'm struggling with that decision myself.

  3. Hi Elizabeth!!! I can tell you worked so super hard on this! You ask any author...When it comes to making it, hard work, dedication, and perseverance mean more than anything.

    Lisa and I are actually working together to try to get you where you need to go with the story. We are so excited about helping you, and we figured two heads...and all that!
    We have one request for you, though, before we dig into this revision and make our comments.

    In one sentence, please describe your main, #1 conflict.

    That will help us figure out which direction to go! :)

    1. Janet, thanks for your help and hope!
      The main conflict is Whitney's search for who she is.
      Her dad's years of pushing her to be one thing (basketball star) and her move have left her so lost. Leif (tractor boy) is going to help, as are Everley, Ivy and Brynley.

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  5. You did a lot of changes here, and you really have mastered your settings. For example, the description of fifties houses giving way to newer developments then to farms. I knew right what you were talking about. The same thing goes with the brushed steel. You know your settings backwards and forwards.

    Sadly, though, on this revision I agree with Toasha. I miss the opening with the father’s pressure. It was the most emotionally engaging part of the story for me. That was the bit that really grabbed my attention. Your present opening with the description of the house is certainly more fleshed out, but it feels flat. There isn’t that spark, that unique thing that really lights up my brain. (Admittedly, that’s a tall order with the amount of revisions you did in only a three-day turn around.)

    I see what your mentors might be getting at. Knowing what the *central* conflict of your story might be a guide for where to start. For example, this story could very easily start at the beginning of Ch.2 (with say 2-3 sentences of backstory inserted), in the moment where the guys talk to her, or it could start back with the father. Or it could start exactly where it starts now. It all depends upon what note you most want to hit.

    You’re a good writer. This version needs just that little bit more teased out to really make it shine.

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  7. I just realised I repeated your name Elizabeth in my comment when I meant to say Whitney so I deleted my earlier comment and corrected below:

    I understand your concern. I however didn't mind the omission of the first part of your original story. The only thing I noticed was Chapter 1 seemed a long narration without any dialogue at all... maybe having her be glum and uncertain and the mom try to cheer her up about the move being a new beginning. Or perhaps they have a mini spat concerning the move with a hint of earlier troubles with her dad and him being the reason why they're moving in the first place. Something to bring out the emotion in Whitney.

    That being said I liked the scene setting of the new home and description of the place.

    In Chapter 2, I felt Whitney's stress of trying to fit in and her self-doubts. Oh and I also appreciated getting a physical sense of Whitney:)

    Eager to see what direction you and your mentors will settle on.

  8. Hi, Elizabeth! I'm really eager to get to know Whitney; you've created such an interesting, relateable character with her. I agree with the above comments; I miss that first scene, too! That conflict with her dad was really fascinating and painful and poignant. I also agree that it would be great to have you dive deeper into these first two chapters, slow them down, include lots of dialogue and interactions between the characters.

    Good luck with the revisions; I'm eager to follow Whitney's journey!

  9. Hi Elizabeth--Just wanted to give you a heads-up, in case you haven't checked your email! ;)