Sunday, April 9, 2017

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Collins Rev 1

Name: Timothy Collins
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Title: Neffers

The toe tag on the decapitated body read: IF FOUND, CALL (512)576-3038, so fifteen-year-old Del pulled out her iPhone.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Del said, circling the shirtless decaying corpse. She maintained a perimeter outside the buzzing flies and fluid soaked ground but breathed easier knowing it wouldn’t answer. “I’ve seen other dead people, you know.”

Seen. Created. CollectedSame difference.

The burning Texas sun played spotlight for the headless body starring center stage. Nothing else in the forgotten hay field warranted a second glance. Del spied a turkey vulture gliding in a copycat pattern around the body. She reached her sweat drenched hand down, snatched a piece of gray limestone from the dirt, and launched her projectile at the hideous black bird.

“Get the hell outta here! He’s mine!” Del’s fumed, stretching the Deadpool t-shirt with her outstretched arms. The vulture settled into the field’s lone oak tree and voiced its displeasure, but, for now, Del owned her prize uncontested.

She sneered at the corpse. “He’d eat you if I let him, but you’re my entrance fee.” Del flipped her head toward the oak masquerading as a kickstand for her ten-speed bike. “And them.”

Dead bodies were a one-way ticket to life in jail for most, not a bloody precursor to salvation.

Dad better not be full of shit. His bedtime stories, or nighttime tales of terror, as my little sister called them, mentioned headless bodies with phone numbers attached. Today was too much coincidence to be a coincidence.

Nervous excitement drove Del to chew her last unbroken nail to a jagged nub before dialing. She figured most people would be afraid to call, but they weren’t in her situation. How many people needed to find a magical cure for cancer, like yesterday.

What if no one answered?

The option to call the cops had long since passed. They would canvas the field. Talking her way out of one dead body seemed plausible, but not half-dozen. While her underground fort kept them hidden from sight, their putrid scent would no doubt betray her.

“Yeah?” Gruff and tumble on the other end, but welcoming in an odd way. “You got Pez.” Del strained to hear him over the hum of the idling truck engine behind the man’s voice.

“Pez, who the hell you talking to?” A garbled male voice in the background asked.

“I found something I think belongs to you.” Del opted not to slow play her hand. Time wasn’t an ally.

“I’m listening,” Pez said.

“A body. Male. Fat and goopy. Like, ‘loved Taco Tuesday’ fat.” Del noted the corpse lacked fingers. No blood ran from the wounds. “And no head.” She performed a quick pirouette to verify she didn’t miss it in the open field.

Nope. No head. No smell. Maybe the perfect guy.

“Should I be freaking out?” Del asked.

Silence swept over the abandoned field. She dug her teeth into her sun-chapped bottom lip.

“No need to freak out. We’ll take care of everything. Can you tell me where you are?” Pez asked.

The background voice chimed in, louder and filled with subtle rage. “Did you put your phone number on a dead body?”

“Do you think I’m stupid? I’d never give out my phone number, Dermit,” Pez paused. “This is your phone.”

Del jerked forward, laughing so hard the jet-black iPhone slipped from her hands. It bounced harmlessly into the white milky substance oozing from the body. She hesitated but relented and plucked it from the goo.

“Five-second rule,” she muttered, wiping the phone clean on the hip of her jeans shorts before putting it back to her ear.

Trashing these as soon I get home. Not sure how I’ll explain to Mom how I “lost” another pair of shorts, though.

 “Just find out!” The background voice faded, but his anger resonated through the phone.

“Relax. You’re gonna burst a blood vessel.” Pez cleared his throat. “Still there, kid?”

Kid? Doubt many fifteen-going-on-sixteen kids achieved my body count.

“I’m here,” she said.

“Text me your location,” he said, before lowering his voice, “and if you keep this between us, I’ll make sure there’s a little something in it for you.”

Del’s fingertips danced nervously across the touch screen tapping out her location.

“A magic fountain of life,” she muttered. “Dad better be right.” The stories were entertaining and all, but what Del needed more was hope.

His words ran through her head:
It’s like those trays by the convenience store cash register.
Give a penny. Take a penny.
But instead, the fountain treats lives as pennies.
Give a life. Take a life.

Del amassed enough bodies for six lifetimes, twice what she needed. If these guys coming weren’t who she thought they were, that number would have to increase to eight.

“You’re the first headless body I’ve seen, though. I’ll give you that.” Del relented her guardian’s prowl and knelt near the body. “If you truly want to impress me, you’d answer.”

Ears or no ears, the dead made the best listeners.

“Can I tell you a secret?” She cupped her hands around her mouth and leaned in close. “We’re not alone in this field.”

She pushed a pile of dirt over the “dude milk” as she referred to it. Dude milk seemed harmless compared to whatever name some scientist would label the white ooze. Maybe they’d name it after her. God, she hoped not. That’s not the way she wanted to be immortalized. There was a better way if one was inclined to believe the ramblings of a dying man.

The corners of her lips turned higher when she saw a clear spot close to the body. Del tossed a handful of dirt onto the corpse’s chest. The clump floated on the soggy flesh. She continued until his nipples became a buried treasure.

“Sorry, dude, not a fan of Moobs. You know, man-boobs.” Del leaned in closer and molded the dirt into a bikini. “Everyone’s going to be wearing one of these this summer. All natural, organic dirt bikini. The Dirtini. It practically sells itself!”

The digital readout on her iPhone read ten after three. More troubling was the eighteen-percent juice left on the battery. She rolled her eyes realizing she didn’t ask the guy how long it would take them to arrive.


  1. Hi Tim, the revisions you've made are definitely an improvement, so great job there. In terms of constructive criticism, my main issue is I'd like more to happen in the first five pages. If you're desperate to keep the full description of her throwing a stone at a bird and her bike being leaned against a tree nearby, you've got about five different descriptions of the body. If you could condense these down, maybe move the iPhone falling into the 'dude milk' up a bit to where she's first contemplating making the call, then you've got more room for some action that way. Or, if you're attached to all of those maybe you could try cutting out the dirtini. That doesn't really add much.

    But there's nothing there that I don't like, I'm just trying to help you find ways to get a bit more happening in the first 5 pages of your story. Everything else is spot on, for me.

    I hope my comments help :)


  2. I agree with Lorna. Your revisions definitely improved this piece a lot. There were a few spots where her internal dialogue still sounds a little bit like narration to me, but that's really easy to fix. The diction is fantastic and funny and the descriptions of the dude are startling and visceral. I kind of like the dirtini part (it brings disturbing levity to the situation, which I weirdly enjoy), but I agree it could be cut out for more to happen. I'm trying to find other things to nit pick, but over all it runs pretty smooth, sets the scene/character/problem well and leaves me with questions that would make me read on (even though I don't normally do horror.) For some reason, Dell jerking over to laugh still makes me pause, but I'm not sure why. Again, from what you've set up it seems to match her character, so it might be the transition? Or it could also just be me.

    Thanks for sharing! Love the piece.


  3. Hey Tim - I still love, love love this. It's so gross and funny and kind of dangerous. I think you're cleaned it up and made some great pace improvements, I agree with Courteny, there are a few lengthy spots of internal monologue, but those are easy to trim. Some of the conversation with the daed body might be tightened, too. I keep thinking about the first sentence, it starts so shocking and then goes to pulling out her iPhone, which is so pedestrian and hilarious. A good first sentence is gold. Well done, I say!

  4. Hi Tim,

    Disgusting entertainment and I love every bit of it. Del is hilarious and yet still basically a kid, so the scenario she's in is entertaining to no end.

    Others have already mentioned the internal dialogue and the early descriptions, so the only thing I'll add is a suggestion for both.

    For the description in the beginning, can it be condensed to one paragraph? A brief reveal of the weather, the field, the vulture, etc., before jumping into the phone call?

    For the internal dialogue, can she continue to speak at the dead body? Maybe grumble how it better be worth it, like her Dad said?

    Just a couple of tiny suggestions - as Lorna mentioned, I'm loving everything, just tightening up everything so agents will have no excuse but to keep reading.

  5. Excellent revision. Del feels much closer to 15 this time around both in her actions and dialogue. As the others have said, the internal dialogue may skewer your chances. The reason is because it's a passive approach to conveying what is going on in the character's head. Make it active by including either the dead body or her surroundings. You don't have to necessarily do it every time, but the more you include in dialogue, the less you end up in a narrative voice.

    Take this line for example, "Kid? Doubt many fifteen-going-on-sixteen kids achieved my body count." What if she actually said that to Pez? Not only does it shows she has gumption, but puts Pez on the spot to react and gives you a huge opportunity to reveal his character. If he responds gentler, the audience thinks "okay, well he's a thug, but not a complete asshat since recognizes he's talking to a child." If he fights back and puts her in her place, now the audience looks at him like he should be lynched. The other thing is that it gives us some sense of Del. She's a tough cookie to star with, but when she's backtalking to someone like Pez...we are left with surprise, interest in how a young girl can be unafraid of such a calloused or not calloused character. Use the dialogue to build your characters, your world, your scenery, your plot.

    Again, a very nice revision. I'm excited to see where you go with this.