Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 1st 5 Pages Workshop- Soares

Name: Maggie Soares
Genre: #OwnVoices Contemporary Young Adult
Title: What You Have of Me

This is how you handle a paparazzi scrum.

Head up, shoulders back, sunglasses on (no anti-glare: anything you can do to ruin a photo is good). Flanked by two intimidating bodyguards. Hands relaxed: clenched fists means the internet’ll be speculating about what has you so angry within the hour. You look straight ahead and you don’t stop walking no matter what.

This is how I screw that up.

It starts when I’m coming out of my last exam and my dad’s voice starts bouncing off the empty lockers lining the hallway. It trips me up, because my dad’s sitting in an office downtown. My head jerks toward the sound, and I find the source: the guy beside me, a guy who didn’t say more than four words all semester, is wearing shitty headphones with the volume turned up too high. One song changes to another, and, yup, that’s Apollo Knight’s third studio album. Weird choice. Everyone always says that’s his worst one.

(I try not to take it too personally, since it was born the same year I was)

“That was impossible,” says Carly Smithers, who I only ever talked to in this class and probably won’t talk to again. She catches me mid-eye roll, and I stop myself.

I hum in vague agreement, even though the exam was ridiculously easy. I don’t know her well enough to know if she’s the type of person to run and tell some reporter I walk around thinking I’m smarter than everyone.

“Was that your last exam?” She asks. I nod. “Same, thank god. Now it’s just The Show.”

Carly stretches, one languid full-body motion that could only come from a dancer. She’s either still wearing her dance clothes, or she’s already wearing them, or they’re all she wears. She wouldn’t be the only one, most of the school in intense rehearsal-mode for the summer concert. She glides beside me and I feel small walking with her, my head at her shoulder.

I’m saved from having to watch Carly try and tell me I’m lucky I don’t have to perform at The Show and that weird, confused smile I always get, by my phone starting to buzz in my hand. When the theme song to Jaws starts playing, though, I cringe.

My dad’s PA doesn’t bother with hellos.

 “We’ve got a bit of a crisis here,” Mary tells me in a clipped tone that means something’s really hit the fan. “If you could make your way down as inconspicuously as possible, I’d appreciate it. I sent a car.”

“I drove to school today—”

She hangs up before I can ask her what she expects me to do with my car, and I clench and unclench my toes in my dirty uniform shoes so I don’t lose it with Carly still around.

“I have to go,” I tell her, but Carly’s staring at something on her phone. She looks up at me, eyes wide, and nods.

“Of course. Have a good summer.”

If whatever’s happening is already on Carly’s phone, Mary showed real discipline by not pulling me out of my exam.

Malcom’s waiting for me, outside the school but inside my dad’s least-conspicuous car, our arrangement for when he picks me up.

“How’d you do?” He asks as soon as the car door shuts.

“Come on.”

Malcom laughs. He knows Business in the Digital Age was my easiest A.

I’m tempted to take out my phone and search my dad’s name, find out what near-strangers like Carly, apparently, already know. Last time I did that, though, I found an article that claimed my dad hurt my mom when they were together. After the Twitter storm I stirred up with my response to that, Mary banned me from social media for a week and a half.

“Do you know what’s going on?” I ask Malcom. We’re already at a standstill on the freeway and I start tapping my foot. Dirt and glitter and other arts school shrapnel fall onto the otherwise-spotless tan car mats.

Malcom just shrugs, because nothing we do surprises him at this point. His hair’s greying at the sides, a little, or maybe it’s always been like that. I’ve gotten used to him being vaguely frazzled every time we see each other.

“Thought Mary was going to explode,” he says. “Y’know that vein, the one on her forehead?”

If Mary’s forehead vein has made an appearance, we’re in the danger zone.

“What office are we going to?” I ask.

“She’s got me going to Apollo’s house.”

That raises my eyebrows. A meeting at my dad’s label office means he’s fucked up. A meeting at his house means, probably, the end of the world.

“Jesus,” I brace myself for whatever this is going to be.

I run through scandals in my head. It’s probably not drugs, since Apollo Knight’s been famously clean for the past fifteen years (a voice in my head reminds me the longer he’s been clean, the bigger the scandal a relapse would be). As far as I know, he hasn’t been dating, so it’s not some gold-digger trying to come after us.

“What’s the plan?” I ask once all the possibilities start pressing on my windpipe and I have to make myself stop.

“Mary’s got security waiting at the gate.”

“Seriously?” I lean forward until my head’s almost touching the back of his neck. “We’re not going through the back?”

“Don’t shoot the messenger.” Malcom’s shoulder twitches.

If I’m walking up my dad’s driveway, that means three things. One, paparazzi are camped outside his house. Two, he wants people to see me getting there, so, three, whatever he did can be improved by us pretending we’re a happy family. A united front.

I start digging through my backpack for my emergency pair of jeans, letting out a little noise of accomplishment when I find them buried under a stack of flyers for The Show I said I would put up but forgot to.

“Mary wanted you to stay in your uniform,” Malcom eyes me in the rearview.

“Mary’s gonna have to live with the top,” I wiggle into the jeans under my skirt. “Every time I wear a uniform skirt in public I end up on niche porn blogs.”

Malcom doesn’t have anything to say to that, so the rest of the ride is quiet. I take a few breaths and try to make a list of all the things I have to do in my head, which lasts me the entire half-hour drive to my dad’s ridiculous mansion.

I’ve never seen it like this.

My dad’s managed to hold onto his A-list status through obnoxious guys my age who think he’s the Last Real Rock Star and the handful of number ones his label’s produced, but everyone knows Apollo Knight is not exactly at his peak. He might get papped grocery shopping every now and again, but we all know in a few years he’ll be surviving or dancing or racing with “the stars” on some reality show.

With the crowd outside his house, you’d think we’ve gone back twenty years.

There’s at least fifty of them, being pushed back by three security guys I know by face but not name as they try and swarm my car. Malcom tightens his grip on the steering wheel, because last week Mary lectured him about not revving the engine to freak swarms out anymore.


  1. Hi Maggie,

    I must commend you for your voice. Your narrator speaks and thinks in a way that is believable, even if her situation is something not many experience. The reader gets a pretty vivid picture of what this character’s life is like in terms of her circumstances (art school, famous dad, driver). I also liked the hint of mystery about what “The Show” is and why she doesn’t participate, and loved that little note about how she was born the same year of the dad’s worst album. It gives a little glimpse into the relationship.

    In my opinion, I would’ve like to know what the big news is by the end of these first five pages. The narrator spends a lot of time thinking about what it could be and reflecting about it, but by the end we still don’t know. I see what your intention was by building up the suspense, but I think some of what you include (the paragraph about how dad has held on to his fame but will end up on dancing with the stars) could be brought in later. Maybe when we actually meet the dad would be a better place for some of those details. I am certainly not an agent, but if these are the only five pages an agent gets to see with your query I wonder if he/she might want to get to the big news in these pages.

    While there was a lot of good reflection, I would’ve like a touch more emotion, but this may be subjective. I would’ve liked just a little bit about how this is making her feel, beyond just the general stress.

    A minor note: It seemed a little unbelievable to me that she wouldn’t check her phone for the news, even with the backstory you provided. Could the PA maybe cut off her phone service so she can’t comment like she did the last time?

    Overall, you certainly left me wanting more!

    I hope this helps.

    All the best,

  2. Hi Maggie!

    First off, I want to tell you how thrilled I am to be working with you. You're enthusiasm mirrors my own, and the GIF's you used on Twitter spoke to me! :) Your pages are wonderful, and I feel privileged to be able to give you my own perspective on things.

    I love your MC's voice. The way she speaks and acts tells us a whole lot about who she is as a person and I love that. I would have liked to know her name. Is there a way to have someone say it in the first few lines of dialogue?

    Also, there are many instances where you point out how fast the internet grabs information on your MC's dad, Apollo (love the name), so for me, it felt unbelievable she wouldn't race to check that out the millisecond she knew something major was about to drop. It took me out of the story a bit, and I agree that saying her internet had been cut off would be a great way to quell that.

    There are a few instances where you slip in "telling" instead of "showing". Not much at all, but I think tightening it up would help. For example, you start the present day by saying "It starts when I'm coming out of my last exam" and I think it would flow better with starting right at "I'm coming out of my last exam". This is completely subjective, but cutting it down like that brings me into the present a bit faster.

    You do a great job describing both Carly and Malcom, and it makes me wonder if either will become more of a main character later on. I found myself craving more of the same description on your MC. We don't have her name, and the only clue we have on what she looks like is when you describe her being a head shorter than Carly. Is there a way to sneak in a small description or two into the paparzzi articles she describes toward the end?

    Great job hooking me with your pages. I was dying to know what was going on, and after the first read-trough I was wishing there was more!

    A L Noelle

  3. Hi Maggie,

    I love your voice and the premise. Who doesn’t dream of being the kid of a rock star? You also set up a promise in the first section that she is going to screw up handling the paparazzi. I wish the scene would’ve been included in these pages. But, as others have pointed out, I’m not worried about how she’ll handle it. Except for responding on Twitter, which she learned from, she seems very level-headed. Does she learn the news from the paparazzi? If so, I can see her losing it. If so, it’s not fair for Mary to have pushed her to the wolves.

    How does she feel about her dad? Are they close? If there are rumors of abuse with her mom, how does her mom feel about him? Are they still together? Not much mention of mom. Who’s the family unit? Does she have siblings that will also be arriving? I’m not getting a sense of her family and her feelings about this family. Is it “normal” other than the rock star thing? Is it dysfunctional? Is it beyond dysfunction? I’d like to get more of a sense of that.

    Is this her house? I get the feeling that maybe it isn’t. I’d like to know. Is she headed home or to her dad’s? Is being summoned here (or to the studio) something she’s used to? If so, what other reasons had there been? If not, amp up her feelings about this. If it’s normal, let us feel that. If it’s not, let us feel that too. They’d be very different. Right now, she seems kind of detached from it all.

    She’s not friends with Carly. Does she have friends? A best friend? Is she feeling compelled to call him/her? Does she want to reach out to her mom? Again, I’d imagine her trying to get info or check in with those who might know or be affected.

    If she knows she’s on niche porn sites, she’s used to looking herself and her family up. She knows what’s out there. I’d think she’d want a peek of Carly’s phone, or at least try to look things up on hers. I like the idea mentioned that her service is cut. Or even if the driver had been asked to confiscate it immediately.

    What town are they in? Since she drove herself to school, I’m guessing not NYC. LA maybe? Somewhere else? You don’t need to say so in these pages, but a sense of where we are would be nice. Palm trees? Traffic? Snow? Weather? Mansion in the country or downtown?

    You did a fantastic job of building mystery. I really want to know what’s going on. I also really like the MC; although, I agree, that we don’t know her name and I want to.

    I’m very much looking forward to the next round. Thanks for that!


  4. This is a very strong start. I love the voice and am on board with the premise. What follows are a few thoughts for your consideration on tightening what is already a solid opening. Feel free to discard!
    1. MC's name. I'd be inclined to have Carly or Malcolm refer to MC by name to help readers connect to the narrative.
    2. Technology. It's near-impossible to keep teens offline (high schoolers have to log on just to turn in homework) so the virtual lock-out feels contrived. Maybe MC can find a headline that HINTS at the situation without spoiling the reveal (or could misunderstand a headline and then be gobsmacked when she learns the truth).
    3. How does MC "screw it up" per PP#3? If the novel is about how MC screws up her facade, we need a bit more about the facade she's trying to maintain (and why), not just the "how" of sunglasses, open palms. She also does not appear to screw anything up in these pages, so I keep waiting for her to fulfill her "screw up" promise.
    4. You're flirting with info-dumping backstory moments and secondary character development (e.g., how MC tweets about parents' (failed) relationship to yield phone ban; details of Apollo's career twilight; Malcolm's grey hair, shoulder twitch, AND frazzled-ness; Carly Smithers dancer stuff (do we meet her again? why is last name needed for someone MC purports to hardly know?)). Also, is MARY a key character? What gives her authority over MC's phone? If she's just a device for the internet ban and destination choice after "scandal," perhaps trim or cut her references.
    I think your KEY REVISION CONSIDERATION is ensuring that MC's desires, actions and agency claim the strongest share of words per page, and that she is not overtaken by secondary characters OR exploration of Apollo's life and scandals. This is MC's story, not simply her reaction to her dad. MAYBE, on these opening pages, hint at what in MC's life might be threatened by her father's mysterious situation. Is she happy at arts school? What is her talent? Why doesn't she have to perform in The Show?
    IN SUM...You need just a modicum of tightening to make this un-put-down-able! Maybe pick 1 or 2 items from our comments to address. I am genuinely looking forward to your revision. This is the best first five I've seen in several months. Happy Writing! - Stasia

  5. Hey Maggie!

    Thank you for sharing your work with me. As with all feedback, remember these are only my opinions, so keep what works for you and ignore the rest.

    You've received a lot of great feedback already, so I'll keep my comments brief.

    You're voice is truly amazing! Spot on for the age cat and just a touch snobby, which I think fits this kind of character.

    I always recommend searching your MS for adverbs and seeing if there's a stronger verb or adjective to be used instead. And I also saw a number of words ending with "ing" which can denote passive voice. Ex: 'I was walking,' could be 'I walked.' I think tightening up the pages this way will give you more room to get to the reveal in these first five, which everyone is dying to get to!

    Other than that, you have a great start here and we all want to know what happens next. Good luck with your revisions!


  6. Hey Maggie,

    Thanks so much for submitting your pages! They were really fun to read.

    As others have already said, your voice is really fresh and strong. It gives these pages a really sharp, dynamic feel. And your opening lines are terrific -- "This is how you handle a paparazzi scrum.... This is how I screw that up." Love that!

    The premise of your story is intriguing, as well. The idea that being born into a life of privilege and fame can really make your world so complicated and even hellish (especially when your dad is always making headlines for the wrong reasons) is so compelling. It requires a different sort of world-building that may not involve magic or dragons but can feel just as foreign.

    All that is working very much in your favor.

    What I think these pages need most of all, though, is a sense of what the stakes are for your MC. Having her father involved in some unnamed headline-worthy event is good for building some mystery, but without some insight into why it really matters for your main character, it risks feeling a little academic. After all, your MC has money and privilege -- so what if her dad embarrasses himself? How will that really impact her life? Can we hear through the MC's thoughts what happened to her last time dad screwed up? Did she get sent off to live with her insufferable mom last time dad had to straighten out a mess her created? Or is it something else? You mention a meeting at his house means the "end of the world," but what does that really mean? Why is it so terrible for the person through whose eyes we're seeing the world?

    To help make some room for these additional insights, I think you might be able to lose some of the real estate you've devoted to The Show -- unless, of course, The Show is a truly pivotal event that is critical to the story. But since the MC isn't even participating in The Show, I don't entirely understand why it's making an appearance in your first five pages.

    Finally, I feel like the point at which you end your pages feels a little soft. "Malcom tightens his grip on the steering wheel, because last week Mary lectured him about not revving the engine to freak swarms out anymore." It's more about Malcolm and his driving habits than it is about your MC and how she's about to walk into something that's going to change her life (I assume) in some profound way.

    So the bottom line here for me is you have a great premise and a great voice. Now you just need to focus on crystalizing why I should care about your inciting incident. Remember, these five pages may be the only ones you can get an agent to read -- they may be the difference between a full request and a pass. So you need to really make your reader be itching to read on.

    I hope you find that helpful. This is a fantastic start, Maggie! I can't wait to see what you do for round two!!!

    All best,
    Rob, 1st 5 Pages Mentor