Sunday, June 11, 2017

1st 5 Pages June Workshop- Mainero Rev 1

Maria Mainero
YA Contemporary Supernatural
The Life You Stole

The first weekend of the summer before senior year, and my boyfriend of two weeks might break up with me. No biggie. In eight solid years of experience with Dave, as a friend, he’s never let me down.

As a boyfriend?

Maybe I let him down.

 “He’ll be here,” Darcie promised as I scanned the parking lot for Dave’s truck. In front of us, the long concrete breakwall stretched out into Caseville Harbor, where Lake Huron rippled with tiny waves, blue and glassy, under the dusky pink of the setting sun.

At the end of the walk, a pile of large boulders in the water, and voices. “It’s just Kelsey and Darcie.” I ducked through the railing and stepped over lapping water to the first rock. Just Kelsey. Not someone they wanted to see. Like Dave.

On the large center rock Queen Bree and her clone Cate are pink and blonde flamingoes in a flock of jocks and other seagulls. “Hi all!” I forced confidence into my voice, and squeezed in on a rock with Darcie. One of the guys tilted a beer can in our direction. “Thanks,” I said, as Darcie held up her hand to decline. This was a mistake. What if Dave did let me down? The icy aluminum in my palm made me shiver.

 “Too early for shorts in Michigan,” Darcie commented, cozy in her buttoned-up flannel and black jeans.

“They’re not shorts, they’re capris,” I argued, scrunching my self-pedicured toenails in Parlez-Bleu Francais, feeling overexposed.

“Are you giving Darcie another fashion class, Kelsey?” remarked Bree, to laughs from her loyal subjects.

“I already flunked—I wore black for my senior pictures,” Darcie replied.

“We wouldn’t recognize you if you wore pink,” said Cate, echoing Bree’s bored derision.

 “The day I wear pink, kill me,” Darcie declared. “Slit my throat, drench me in my own blood and bury me in a garbage bag. A black one.”

Bree, in pink jeans, and Cate, in a pink pullover exchanged a smirk, as everyone laughed. I sipped my beer slowly, the way Dave taught me at my first high school party. “Just drink a sip or two,” he told me. “Hold it for a while, then put it down somewhere. You can do that all night long, and never get wasted.”

No matter how many beers I abandoned, he always claimed I was buzzed when I tried to flirt with him. Always said he’d never take advantage of me. I always pretended to be grateful for that. Welcome to the friend zone. Our friendship was too important to screw up with a relationship. Yeah, he really said that. But for one wonderful week, I thought I proved him wrong. And then I proved him right.

 “Just talk to him,” Darcie kept telling me on the drive up to Caseville. That’s what I dreaded.  I knew what he’d say. This was a mistake, let’s just stay friends. I knew what would happen, the awkward conversations, the gradual distancing.

I knew what I’d feel.  I was feeling it already, waking up from unsettling dreams where Dave refused to listen to me or take my side. But Darcie was right about one thing. I couldn’t avoid him any longer.

 “Look who’s coming,” muttered Jarrod from the lookout rock, where he sat watching for the police or harbormaster. I knew from his voice it couldn’t have been Dave, but my heart still thumped in anticipation as I stood up.

The thumping rang in my ears and my breath stopped. Not Dave. Calvin. Calvin Baker. Slouching as he came towards us, in his denim jacket, with his scruffy dark hair obscuring his eyes. Just the way he’d looked in my dreams.

He wasn’t supposed to be here. He belonged with the stoners and the losers. Not with us. Not in my dreams.

Darnell hopped past me across the rocks, meeting Calvin before he was in earshot. The two of them walked towards the parking lot, talking. I took a breath, fighting off the panicky, adrenaline-charged feeling I’d been waking up to every day.

“What’s wrong?” Darcie’s voice came through all echo-y. I turned. Everyone was watching me stand and stare like a slack-jawed loser. I sat down abruptly. 

“Nothing,” I said. I wanted to tell Darcie about it, but not in front of everyone. I could hear it now. Kelsey thinks stoner Cal is dreamy.  Thankfully, Darnell came back alone, and settled in with the other football players. A lighter flickered and a smoky sweet smell drifted towards us. Darcie coughed.

“Walk with me?” I suggested.

We scrambled back to the breakwall away from the others, and leaned on the blue metal railing. The last sliver of sun sank into the water as I watched.

“I had a dream about him,” I said.

“Dave?” she asked. “He’ll be here soon, I promise. Don’t worry.”

Don’t worry. How could she be so sure? “He was in it too. But I mean Calvin.”

“Calvin? What’s up? You look freaked out.”

“I am freaked out. I dreamed he died in a car accident.”

 “Ooh, that is freaky.”

“But then he showed up at school, and everyone was all excited he was still alive. Hugging him and everything.”

 “Let me guess.” She raised pinched fingers to her lips and inhaled.

I snort-laughed.

“It’s not that funny,” Darcie said, snickering.

“Oh my God.” I giggled and wiped my eyes. “I’ve been obsessing, thinking it’s some kind of premonition or warning, and now you tell me I psychically predicted a toke.”

“Kelsey Jones—Weed Psychic,” she proclaimed. “It’s a gift.”

“A stupid gift,” I said. “I was obsessing, because in the dream, when he came back, it wasn’t him. I knew it, but no one would believe me.”

Why do you have to make everything a confrontation, Kelsey? Dave’s dream-voice accused me.

“Who was it?”

“That was weird too. . . . “

“Sa-weeeet!“ Jarrod called out, standing up. “Check out Dave’s ride.”

Under the lone parking lot light, Dave’s height and short blond curls were unmistakable as he got out of a gleaming red convertible. He set the car alarm with a beep-beep and blink of headlights, and headed out to us.  

People swarmed past us and surrounded him, asking if he’d traded in his truck for the Camaro. “Just trying it out,” he said. His dad owned the car dealership, and I could tell everyone wanted to check out the car, or get a ride, but Dave didn’t offer.

He walked past me and Darcie with a friendly “Hey,” and headed out to the rocks. Somehow, Darcie made sure we ended up sitting across from him, where I tried to analyze his brief glances in my direction as he cracked open a beer.

 “I can’t wait to ride in that,” Bree cooed at Dave. “Is that one of the cars for the parade?”  She couldn’t let anyone forget for a second that she’d won the Miss Atwater crown. I didn’t know how I was going to stand being on the dance team with her all summer, listening to her fake laugh and her fake friendliness.  Darcie kicked me gently, like that was going to inspire me to speak up. I gulped another big swig from the beer.

“Look who’s back,” Jarrod muttered.

It was Calvin again. My spine tingled and Darcie and I exchanged glances.  “Hey,” he said, making his way through the railing. “My ride ditched. Need a ride back with one of you.”


  1. I have to say, I keep wanting this to be in present tense. Something about the past tense here honestly trips me up as I'm reading it. However, I understand if you have your reasons for this.

    When the girls start arguing about fashion, there may be an opportunity to make them even more sarcastic and biting, but in a more humorous way. I really want to laugh at their bickering as it is so mundane. I'm not sure if sprucing up the dialogue will help, but setting the world and really describing the characters here could be the trick. I'm having a hard time picturing it all up to this point. With that being said, I love your comparison of the girls to flamingos. It's great!

    I love your opening and the midpoint to the end are great and interesting. The beginning just needs to hook me in the same way the rest of it does.

    1. Thank you for your help. I want to make the girls a little more sarcastic and biting, so that's a good point. Since Kelsey's hanging out with these people for a little bit before the rest happens, I feel like I need to have some dialogue. My goal was to use this dialogue to show Kelsey as a bit more focused on appearances than her friend Darcie, and a bit insecure in this group. I had hoped tightening it up would help, but you are right, it needs to be a bit more emphatic, and interesting.

    2. Also, I clearly need to edit my own comments, as I say, "a bit" a bit too much. :)

    3. You're totally on the right path!

  2. Maria, this beginning works so much better! All cliches avoided and straight to the conflict. The only thing that didn't quite read right was:
    As a boyfriend?
    Maybe I let him down.
    This makes it sound like Kelsey let Dave down as a boyfriend. Maybe replace it with: But in a relationship? Maybe I let him down.
    I still feel the fashion talk does nothing to push your story along, unless Kelsey wearing shorts or Darcy preferring black play an important role in the scenes to come. I'd like to know more about why Kelsey and Dave's relationship failed and why she's so on edge, and about Kelsey's creepy dreams instead. That scene reads a bit too trivial to be in your opening chapter.

    1. Thank you. I hear what you are saying about the fashion talk. I did have a purpose, which was to try to show the contrast between Kelsey and her best friend Darcie, where Kelsey is more superficial and insecure and Darcie is more comfortable with her own style. It was supposed to be a personality thing, not specifically about clothing, I just thought clothing would be a natural way to get these girls to reveal a little about their personalities. If you have any other suggestions, I welcome them. I feel like I need to have some dialogue, people don't just hang out in a group of friends/frenemys and not speak.

    2. Maria, I don't think you need the clothes conversation to show personalities of Kelsey and Darcy. You've already done that :) While Kelsey accepts beer just for appearance sake (and her bf had to teach her how to not get drunk), Darcy refuses it. This shows how Kelsey wants to fit in and Darcy doesn't care. Here's your contrast of insecurity/confidence. You also don't wanna fall into a stereotype trap. There are plenty of bffs in YA who wear all black and are deep thinking, snarky, and confident. This stereotype rarely holds up to reality (take this from someone who went through a Gothic phase in college. The clothes doesn't define you.)
      You also show Darcy's maturity when she advises Kelsey how to deal with Dave, that they need to talk.
      As far as the dialogue goes, How about you simply speed up Calvin's appearance? You don't need a ton of dialogue when the guys shows up almost immediately after the girls. And then you have plenty of dialogue afterward between Darcy and Kelsey, and when Dave comes.
      Of course, all suggestions are humbly offered. It's your story; I'm only giving my personal opinion.

    3. Thank you. It's hard to see things clearly after many revisions, so your explanation helps.

  3. Hey Maria!

    I loved your opening. Great job on the edit! I'm getting a better sense of what's going on, and I like how you clarified that her and Dave were friends first before they got into their relationship.

    I'm in agreement about the talk about clothes. Maybe instead you could use the time where she can have some internal dialogue? Maybe explain about her dream or why she let Dave down? Just a thought.

    I'm still wondering if this dream she had freaked her out because she has had dreams before that were premonitions or if this is just the beginning?

    I really like where your story is going. It's spooky near the end and I feel a great set up coming on. Great job!

    1. Thank you for your feedback.

      Regarding the dream, yes, this is just the beginning, which is why she hasn't been giving it a whole lot of thought until the guy she dreamed about actually shows up, unexpectedly. If she were to think about it at all, it would be more focused on Dave's role in the dream where he argues with her.

      I like your thought on explaining more about why/how she let Dave down, which I do touch on later in this first chapter. But maybe I could refer to her feelings on that sooner.

  4. Hi Maria,

    I like the tighter first lines. I did think you switched to present tense for a second when you said "her clone Cate ARE pink and blonde flamingoes" I think it should be "were" but that's minor. I like the past tense myself, present always trips me up a bit--I loved the Hunger Games but it was hard to get used to at first.

    I get such a better sense about what's going on--you tightened up the dialogue made it more clear who is talking. That said, I have some thoughts. I do agree with Gea to a point. My interpretation wasn’t that the fashion is the take away, it's her perspective on it. But I don’t know how to express my thoughts entirely without examples so I don’t mean to overstep but the easiest way for me to do this was by tweaking some things. So if you still want to include the fashion talkt, maybe you could just tighten it up a bit more like:
    “Too early for shorts in Michigan,” Darcie commented, cozy in her buttoned-up flannel and black jeans.

    “Well we can’t all pull off the understated sex appeal of black and flannel. Besides, they’re not shorts, they’re capris.”

    Bree and her loyal subjects laughed.

    "What then? Am I supposed to wear nothing but pink like the rest of you? If that ever happens, kill me,” Darcie declared. “Slit my throat, and bury me in a garbage bag. A black one.”

    I think something like this would be a happy medium. Like I said, I like the dialogue but shorter captures that bite of high school girls. But as always, it’s your choice and I don’t know what anyone else thinks.

    I think it would also be good to divulge more about Kelsey’s relationship closer to the beginning, before she talks about the others out on the rocks.

    Maybe take out the “dave’s dream-voice” line that the following “that was weird too” closer to the end of your submission and replace it with something like “I was about to respond when—“saaaweeet!”

    Overall I think it’s a good edit, definitely sharper! But you could get more story in if things were tightened even more—and I definitely want to read more!

  5. Good suggestions Jason. Now I have to scrub them from my brain and come up with my own, haha. Mostly because I can't have Kelsey be the snide one or I'll start getting those "unlikeable" comments again. Trust me, I've been there.

  6. I honestly still find the insertion of Calvin whiplashy. It's like she's only thinking about Dave, then Calvin and the dream for 10 seconds, then Dave. If something is haunting her (whether that's the dream or Dave) I think you need to stay focused on that. This is only 5 pages of a single scene. She can't be obsessing about 2 different things. She can casually mention (or ignore) the second item as a plant for later, but her head needs to stay in one game.

    Either way, whatever you focus on, I do think we need more internalization. You don't have to tell us everything that happened with Dave, but give us some clue how she feels (and maybe what others know). For example, if the others know about Dave and the breakup, they might act differently toward her when he arrives (you know, like, "Uh oh, don't turn around!")


    1. Hi Holly,

      Thank you for your suggestions. I agree that reactions from the group can help reveal more about Kelsey's relationship with Dave and will work to improve that. I am also thinking through your concerns over the whiplash feeling, but it may be that's a feeling I WANT to achieve.

      I definitely appreciate your feedback. But I'm not sure how to remove Calvin without completely changing the direction and tone of the story. He is a major character, with POV chapters. His arrival at the lake sets off the inciting event. If I don't introduce him quickly, this story opens with only a teen girl in the doldrums over boyfriend woes, which isn't at all what the story is about. I don't have time to mention casually as a plant for later, because "later" happens at the end of this chapter, and next chapter is Calvin's POV.

      You've given me a lot to think about.


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  8. Hi Maria! Sorry I'm 'almost' late! But I'm here, now. Okay, I really like this beginning. It completely grounds me in the character, her possible problem, some insecurity, and her world. It's much more concise. I also think your reorganization of some details worked much better - ex: summer dance team, Bree...

    Two things: there are a few parts where 'pink' is in the descriptive. I don't think it needs to be repeated. 2nd: I'm very intrigued by her fear/heartache/worry over her relationship with her BGF Dave; however, I don't know enough about them yet to sink fully into them emotionally. I think these details are important in the opening pages, but the few snippets where you mention this Calvin kid really got me going 'ooh', got me emotionally. There's more mystery and intrigue where Calvin is concerned, which intertwines with her dream and worry. Maybe mention Dave as a worry, but how this dream thing with Calvin is diluting that or overshadowing it...whatever. And how that bugs her because her friendship with Dave (and possible relationship) has always been most important.

    One last thing referring to what I just said: I've based my level of interest on what you have here - thinking wherever the story is taking Calvin feels more drawing than Dave. But you know what's coming. I don't. So go with you gut.

    Thanks for sharing your work! Looking forward to your revision. :)

    1. Thanks Sheri, this helps a lot. The story does draw towards Calvin and the idea of "him" overshadowing the friendship/relationship with Dave is a very big theme in the story to come, so it would make sense to go that way here. Thank you so much for the input.