Sunday, June 4, 2017

1st 5 Pages June Workshop- Mainero

Maria Mainero
YA Contemporary Supernatural
The Life You Stole

Chapter 1

Time to walk the plank. The long concrete breakwall stretched out into
Caseville Harbor, in front of me and Darcie. "He'll be here," Darcie
promised as I scanned the parking lot for Dave's truck.

Deep breath. Take the plunge. Short walk off a long dock or whatever. On
either side of us Lake Huron rippled with tiny waves, blue and glassy, under
the dusky pink of the sun hanging low in the west. The first weekend of the
summer before senior year, and my boyfriend of two weeks might break up with
me. No biggie.

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.

"Hi all!" I forced confidence into my voice, and sat 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 didn't want to see me?
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, looking at my self-pedicured
toenails in Parlez-Bleu Francais, feeling overexposed.

A ripple of laughter came from Bree, queen of everything. "Kelsey, are you
giving Darcie fashion instruction again?" She sat bridging two rocks, her
legs elegantly stretched out in pink jeans, Sperrys propped against the
other rock. Around her, her loyal subjects laughed in appreciation.

Darcie laughed too, unconcerned about being mocked. "She's a very determined
instructor. But I'm afraid I flunked my final exam by wearing black for my
Senior Pictures."

"Well, you'd have to, otherwise how would we recognize you?" said Cate,
Bree's bestie, and clone, right down to her Sperrys and gauzy scarf and
bored expression.

More laughs. Cate turned to me with a haughty swish of her hair and scarf.
"Seriously Kelsey, did you really think you were going to get her to wear
pink or something?"

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

Everyone laughed, as Bree and Cate exchanged a smirk. I sipped my beer, the
way Dave had taught me. "Just drink a sip or two," he told me at my first
high school party. "Don't finish it, 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," Jarrod muttered from his place on the lookout rock,
where he sat watching for the police or the harbormaster. I knew from
Jarrod's grumble, 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

"Nothing," I said. I wanted to tell Darcie about it, but not in front of
everyone. I could hear it now. Kelsey thinks stoner Calvin is dreamy.
Thankfully, Darnell came back alone, and settled back in with a few of the
other football players. There was a flicker of a lighter and a smoky sweet
smell drifted towards me. Darcie coughed, uncomfortably.

"Wanna walk a bit?" I suggested.

She nodded and we scrambled back to the breakwall, where we leaned on the
blue metal railing, gazing at the setting sun.

"I had a dream about him," I said.

"Dave?" she asked. "He'll be here soon, I promise. It'll be all right. Don't

Don't worry. How could she be so sure of that?  "He was in it too. But I
meant Calvin."


"Yeah, that's why I freaked out. I dreamed he died in a car accident."

"That is freaky," she agreed.

"But he showed up at school, and everyone was all excited he was still
alive. But it wasn't him. I knew it, and 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.

The football players 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, and we all followed. Somehow, Darcie made sure we ended up sitting
across from him, where I could try 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 really like your description here, although there are a couple of places where it's a bit heavy, especially with all these different people being introduced at once. A few suggestions:
    1) The way it starts, it sounds like she's walking an actual plank (like along the breakwall or something). I had to read this a few times before I realized that she was just nervous about approaching, although I am still not sure why since Dave isn't there yet.
    2) I think you need to put "Just Kelsey" in quotes so we know someone is saying this. I thought she was thinking it and thus assumed Kelsey was someone else, which left me very confused.
    3) The feelings over two boys in this short of a sample is quite whiplashy. Does she like Dave or Calvin or both? I honestly think you need to focus on one feeling about one guy at least for your first chapter.


    1. Thank you for this feedback. The two guys leave together at the end of the first chapter and get into a car accident, per Kelsey's premonition/dream, which sets up the rest of the story. So I do need to include them both. Thinking about how to do this in a way that reads more consistently.

  2. OOOH I like the creepy dream bit. Great job giving me the goosebumps with that! I'd definitely read on to see what happens. I also think you nailed the awkwardness and the anxiety Kelsey feels; I feel it too. In fact, I'd focus on these 2 things more and limit the fashion talk. Especially since it seems to come out of nowhere. Darcy's comment about shorts and the consequent banter about fashion choices seem like fluff. They add nothing of importance to the scene (at least it seems this way to me). I would also advise to cut down the first 2 paragraphs. Because we don't know your MC yet, all her talk of walking the plank and taking the plunge fall on deaf ears, besides the fact they are also pure cliches. We don't know what's going on and don't care as of yet. You do have a strong sentence there though: "The first weekend of the summer before senior year, and my boyfriend of two weeks might break up with me." I would make it your first. This way, the reader knows right away why Kelsey feels the way she does. Without this background, it's hard to relate to what she's going through. It's also a very hook-ey sentence :) Keep up the good work and best of luck!

    1. Thank you for the suggestion about the opening sentence. I'm trying it out, and will post it on the Facebook group. Would love to hear what you think.

  3. Maria—
    I keep wanting this chapter to be in present tense as opposed to past. I know this would be a major switch, but I do think it is currently missing out on the sense of urgency and immediacy it could have with present tense—something to think about!
    I also am drawn into the story right away. I love how you describe the world around the characters. It is engaging. I would, however, change your opening line to something catchier.
    In the middle of the chapter, I am taken out of the story with all the clothing description. We understand the characters enough without this, so you don’t have to be so specific here. With that being said, I love how you finish the chapter up, leaving the reader curious on what will happen next.

    1. Thank you for the ideas. Present tense just won't work for a number of reasons, having to do with the book as a whole. But I've tried a few other things with the opening few paragraphs. I'm posting them on the Facebook group if you want to suggest anything else.

  4. HI! First off, I love the setting and you describe it very well. I grew up an hour from Lake Superior and am still close enough to it to visit 3-4 times every year. Reading your descriptions puts me right back in my spirit home on the breakwater of Black River Harbor. To me it feels very authentic and that’s awesome!

    I do have to say I got a little lost as far as who the MC’s focus is on throughout the reading. I think it’s mostly due to there being such a large group of kids and we don’t know them yet or their voices. Maybe cut a few characters out in this first chapter. I personally like some of the fashion talk but I think you could cut out everything after “feeling overexposed”, and start up again at “I sipped my beer”. I think it leaves the best piece of your dialogue there because it shows the animosity between the two girls and what their characters are, while lessening the confusion and character count thus tightening things up.

    What you’ve got is a very good opening, detailed but not overdone. it’s subtly tense, you feel like something bad is on the horizon just beyond this calm before the storm but at the moment the beach is crowded with too many players. Drop some of them for now and bring them in later. They could still have been there on the beach, even if they don’t have much of a role or lines in the first chapter. But all in all I am so intrigued and want to know more about this paranormal along the shores of one of the great lakes.

    1. Thanks for your help. I'm making a few changes to try to show a better idea of the crowd without making the reader feel like s/he has to keep track of a bunch of characters. Trying to figure how best to do this. If I leave out names, and just reference, 'one of the guys' I feel like it's going to be even more distracting when I hit the heavy action at the real end of the chapter (a few pages past where we are now.) Will have to find out next week how I did!

  5. Hi Maria! Ooh, dreaming of dead kid coming back to life and ending up at school... You definitely have me curious. Let me start with what kind of sort of didn't work for me. The opening seems flat and a little disconnected from the rest of the piece. Almost like two different people wrote it. I get you're going for subtle, but it dragged a little instead of teasing the reader. There's a lot of description, which is pretty and all; but some of that could be cut to speed up the pace. One personal rule of descriptions: write what I'm feeling and seeing and then only keep what is absolutely essential to the world, character, and reader.

    The part where you mention the idea of her proving him wrong and then proving him right, is the first spot where it got interesting for me, made me go hmm... I think if you can insert that theme/thought at the opening (just something brief) you'll draw more instant impact. Also, maybe include a look back or something that tells the reader what she sees on a grander scale. It's more than the water and the sun setting. There are people there, a group. I didn't get that surrounding at first. I think it's important for feel and to plant the reader firmly into her world.

    Okay, voice. Yeah! You've created some nice voices here, characters that show who they are through voice and word choice. They feel real, which is what you're going for. Nice job. Saying that, I only start to feel them and become grounded in them at around the same point in the piece I mentioned above. I kind of feel like you could cut a bit at the beginning, tightening up descriptions and putting in more distinct character dialog to transport the reader to her here-and-now - she's stressed about her friend/boyfriend and some weird dream she had about a stoner getting killed. It's just some basic tightening. And the ending... I love the way you left us hanging! You've really got a pretty cool story in the making. I hope this helped. Looking forward to your revisions!

    1. Thank you, very helpful. I'm working on those opening lines, and will post a few on the Facebook group.

  6. Hey Maria!

    First, I love that the scene opens on a lake. It took me right back to summer time with friends in high school. Man, that was a really long time ago!

    I'll reiterate a bit that some of the dialogue was a bit unnecessary but where I think you could really use it more to add some depth to your MC. Was this her first dream where she had a premonition? Is there a correlation with Dave's dream voice speaking to her? There's a lot I'd really like to know about her.

    There's not much more I can add to that's already been said, but I will agree, cutting the fashion talk. It seemed a bit unnecessary. You're off to a fabulous start though!

    Great job!