Saturday, November 4, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Peterson

Name: Alanna Peterson
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Title: CAPTAIN VALENCIA

I cannot take my eyes off of Bryce Dawson. He appeared at the edge of the wave pool while I took today’s billionth shaved ice order, and settled into his lookout spot as I placed a wad of damp dollar bills into my register.

Now he stands there in his red shorts and visor, his tanned biceps gleaming under the sun, blue eyes scanning the waves. The pool’s so crowded today that I can’t even see the surface of the water. It’s just this sea of people and inner tubes rising and falling, rising and falling. It’s hypnotic, but not relaxing. In a pool that full, it would be way too easy for someone to drown.

If it has to be somebody, I hope it’s Bryce.

The whirring blades slow to a stop, and I shape the ice with my gloved hand, still sneaking glances at the wave pool. But as I drizzle cherry syrup on the cone, Bryce disappears from my peripheral vision. I turn just in time to see a flash of his red trunks as he dives into the water.

My stomach clenches. I stare at the bodies floating in that pool, waiting for him to come back up, wishing I hadn’t been thinking about people drowning.

This can’t be happening. Not again.

The red syrup overflows, leaking out of the white cone onto my glove. I set the bottle down, then jab at the stainless steel counter with a paper towel, still keeping an eye out for Bryce.

Finally, he emerges. He’s carrying someone up the pool’s sloped ramp, but a crowd blocks my view. All I can think is, not another kid, not another kid.

When the crowd parts, though, I see the “victim”: a bikini-clad teenager whose arms are wrapped around Bryce’s thick neck. It looks like she’s about to kiss him.

Bryce flashes his white teeth at the crowd. He’s smiling. Like this whole thing is a TV show where he plays the starring role.

He sets her down and they start talking—flirting, from the looks of it. The whole thing makes me want to puke, or at least report Bryce to the manager for abandoning his post. Not that that would do any good.

But tonightTonight, I’ll finally have a chance to do something about him.

Tonight, he’s going to pay for what he did to my sister.

The line at my hut is getting longer. I finish up the snow cone and hand it to the wet-haired little girl on the other side of the counter. It’s way past my usual break time, and I’m very tempted to take a bite out of it. I restrain myself from slurping up the juicy ice, but she doesn’t look pleased when I place the red-and-green-and-yellow cone in her outstretched hands.

“It’s supposed to be rainbow.” She sounds semi-heartbroken, as if her whole afternoon at the water park has just been ruined by the shaved-ice girl’s inability to keep blue syrup in stock.

I probably shouldn’t care. But something about this kid yanks at my heart. Maybe it’s her chunky little torso, the way the swimsuit fabric stretches taut against her belly. I know what that’s like, and want this to be a good day for her. “I’m sorry. I told you. We’re out of blue raspberry.”

It’s been at least an hour since I radioed the kitchen asking for more. I’m also out of churros, and about to reach mission critical on nacho cheese stock. Pretty soon everyone in line will start revolting, demanding their amusement park snacks. Maybe they’ll get so angry that they’ll force me to climb to the top of the highest slide tower and walk the plank. That’ll teach the kitchen staff to forget about me! They’ll feel so terrible about my untimely demise that they’ll erect a tombstone for me in the faux-graveyard out by the shipwreck in the jungle. Here lies Valencia Roberts, the best Seven Seas employee ever to shave ice.

Luckily, it doesn’t come to that, because right then I notice Carmen in the distance. Yes. They sent Carmen! She’s pushing a cart piled high with supplies: churros in their foil-covered steel pan, three bags of nacho cheese, a fresh bottle of blue raspberry syrup.

The little girl is turning to leave, but I call to her, “Wait!” even though I should be helping the next person in the endless line. I point to Carmen, our savior. “More’s coming! Hold on a sec and we’ll fix up that rainbow!”

She grins at me, and I grin back. Working at the local water park isn’t the most glamorous summer job ever, but there’s something satisfying about making people happy. Even if I’m just handing them a paper cone full of water and sugar and food dyes.

I unlock the back door to the hut and Carmen steps inside, the squishy silver bags of nacho cheese cradled in her arms. I grab the blue raspberry syrup from the cart and screw the pour-top on. Then I give the little girl a generous drizzle. She skips away, satisfied.

“Who’d you murder?” Carmen asks, eyeing the red syrup pooled beneath the shaved ice machine.

“I’ll never tell.” I shoot her an enigmatic smile before helping the next customer in line, a mom in gigantic sunglasses who orders a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The fragrance of citrus fills the entire hut when I crank the lemon squeezer. “Thought you guys forgot about me,” I say to Carmen, careful to keep my tone light.

“We’ve been slammed all day, too.” She opens the nacho cheese dispenser and replaces the empty bag. “You can go take your break now.”

“In a minute. If you want to help the next person, I’ll clean up a little.” Though I can’t wait to eat, I don’t want to leave Carmen yet.

After finishing up the lemonade, I pile the churros into the warming oven, inhaling their cinnamon goodness. If only I could have one for lunch! Those crispy ridges, sandy with sugar; the soft interior, flaky and sweet… closing the door on that oven is literally the hardest thing I’ve done all day.

As I scrub the syrup spill, determined to forget the churros, my thoughts wander back to Bryce Dawson. I wish this were a chemistry lab, and these bottles were full of poisonous reagents instead of syrup. Maybe I could concoct a potion that would knock out his potency. Heh. If only shaved ice syrup was that powerful.

Actually, those ice-cutting blades are pretty sharp… if I could find a way to trap him here after dark, shove his hand inside….

Nah. Too bloody. And a waste of a perfectly good machine.

Besides, as satisfying as it would be to mangle his immaculate body in some way, that isn’t what I really want. I want to pull out the ugliness lurking inside him and put it on display for everyone to see. I want him to be ashamed. Humiliated.

I want him to understand what it was like for my sister.

But, the thing is, I can’t get caught. Bryce Dawson only works here because his dad is the general manager. And if Eric finds out I’m responsible… that would ruin everything.

12 comments:

  1. Hi Alanna!

    Yep, I want to read more of this! Great voice, great sense of scene and conflict. I love how it opens and I'm thinking the narrator is crushing on Bryce and then bam--she wants him to drown.

    I'm dying to know what Bryce did to the narrator's sister and why Valencia (love the name) wants him punished. She's also very sympathetic as she wrestles with not quite wanting him in physical pain. I can sense her desperation when she says she wants to "pull out the ugliness lurking inside him." It makes me want to find out more about this guy and what kind of creep he really is.

    This is a really great start! Thanks for the read!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback, Michelle! Glad you enjoyed.

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  2. Hi Alanna,

    Thanks for submitting! I loved, loved, loved Valencia's voice. It's so teen-centric - snarky and fun. I loved all the details that really brought the scene to life - like I wanted a churro after reading this! Well done.

    I think your opening is a bit misleading - At first it seems like Valencia might be attracted to Bryce, but by the third paragraph it's clear that she doesn't like him. I can't decide if the switch is an effective "wow" moment, or if it's too misleading.(Does it set the reader up to not trust Valencia?) Like maybe when Valencia describes seeing him, she doesn't make it soooo appealing, throw in something that makes it negative. That it's clear she's not admiring tanned biceps and blue eyes. (i.e....his calculating blue eyes scanning the waves) Also - there seems to be two different things going on - the drowning, which sounds like a serious issue if Valencia is thinking "not another kid" and something that happened to her sister - unless these are one in the same. That wasn't the vibe I was getting from that, I'm thinking Bryce did something different to her sister.

    What I'm trying to get at is that there's a lot of fun playful language,(the paragraph that starts with "It's been at least an hour" is hysterical) but also a dark undercurrent - Valencia wanting to humiliate Bryce - using a film comparison - I can't tell if this is more of a John Tucker Must Die or Heathers...kwim? I suppose it can be both but it read a little serious/somber (the drowning reference) then fun/playful (the waterpark details) then a little menacing (thinking of how satisfying it would be to mangle his immaculate body). I'm not sure who Valencia is yet, but I would definitely read on.

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    1. Thanks, Robin! That makes sense... I do want to set up an "all is not as it seems" vibe but don't want it to be at the expense of losing the reader's trust in Val. I'll try to work in some subtle clues about her feelings for Bryce in the first paragraphs. And good point about the tone as well. I'll work on revising to better reflect the overall mood of the story.

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  3. Hi Alanna!
    I love all the active details you use here to set the scene and character. Her voice is so strong and clear. This line "If it has to be somebody, I hope it’s Bryce." made me laugh, mostly because I thought she liked him, but then as I read on, it seems she's plotting revenge.
    The one place that made me question her consistency is with the little girl, I loved the detail and how it affected her, but I'm not sure why she swings from murder to the syrup for the girl bringing to mind "something satisfying about...[her summer job]" and back to revenge so quickly.
    Otherwise though, so many little details that set a dark tone for the mystery ahead, and you got me asking story questions like, "What happened to the sister?" and "Is this girl really capable of murder?" and "Who is Eric?" all of which would make me turn the page to find out more.

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    1. Hi Sue! That's a good point... I'll work on smoothing that out in the revision. Thanks for your feedback!

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  4. Hi Alanna, I loved the teen voice, the sunny pool setting with the contrast of the dark thoughts Valencia was having.
    I was a little confused by the 'This can't be happening again" line. Because it's a mystery, my first thought was maybe someone was drowning, but then the event with Bryce happened. I wasn't sure if that's what the line was initially about or if it was indeed about something more sinister happening at the pool (i.e. kids drowning and needing to be saved). Maybe I was the only one who misunderstood that point!
    Valencia's thoughts might have been a little too dark for me as an introduction to her. I don't yet know what Bryce did her sister, so my thoughts might change depending on that knowledge.
    Also, last line about Bryce's dad, I thought it might be interesting to have him appear, check in on his employees and then it is revealed that is Bryce's dad. I wonder what kind of person he is in comparison to his son.
    Great job, I definitely would love to read more!

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    1. Hi TK! Thanks for your comments--very helpful to know the confusing spots. I'll work on clarifying those!

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  5. Hey Alanna-

    This is a fun start for what appears like it will be a bloody summer read! I thought you evoked the water park setting really well. I also thought the voice was strong and I could tell what age you are going for right away.

    The first few sentences make it seem like the narrator is lusting after Bryce, so I was a little puzzled by the line where she wishes he was drowning. I'm not sure if you meant for that turn, but maybe try out lacing a bit of the narrator's malice in with her initial descriptions of Bryce and see how that feels.
    I like where she explains why she feels sympathy for the little girl. But I thought what she actually says to the girl sounded more irritated. You could make her words a little nicer there.
    I thought the "Who'd you murder" line was funny, and wished for a few more lines of banter between these girls.
    The final few paragraphs suggesting ideas for how to get back at Bryce confused me. I know she isn't literally considering these ideas, but I wondered why she was thinking about them at all, since she seemed pretty committed to taking her revenge when it first comes up (tonight it will happen etc). The intensity of those prior lines made me think she definitely has a plan for whatever's going down tonight, so the later stuff threw me.
    Definitely a fun and captivating start!

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    1. Thanks, Steph! Those are good points, and it's quite helpful to hear your reactions so that I can revise accordingly. Appreciate the feedback!

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  6. Hi Alanna!

    Wow, I am very impressed! You have a terrific voice, and your writing is lively and engaging. I would definitely read on!

    I also found the beginning a bit confusing Рit seems as if she is attracted to Bryce, then we realize she hates him. The opening of super cute guy feels a bit clich̩ to me as well. How about (and this is just a suggestion!) you rearrange it a bit and start with:

    The pool’s so crowded today that I can’t even see the surface of the water. It’s just this sea of people and inner tubes rising and falling, rising and falling. It’s hypnotic, but not relaxing. In a pool that full, it would be way too easy for someone to drown.

    If it has to be somebody, I hope it’s Bryce.

    Then go on to describe him.

    Of course I don’t know how the drowning – or if the drowning – relates to her sister, but if the drowning isn’t important, I’d cut it. I’m wondering what to focus on, if that makes sense – the past drowning, his part in it, or what happened to her sister.

    I LOVE Everything about this:

    I probably shouldn’t care. But something about this kid yanks at my heart. Maybe it’s her chunky little torso, the way the swimsuit fabric stretches taut against her belly. I know what that’s like, and want this to be a good day for her. “I’m sorry. I told you. We’re out of blue raspberry.”

    It’s been at least an hour since I radioed the kitchen asking for more. I’m also out of churros, and about to reach mission critical on nacho cheese stock. Pretty soon everyone in line will start revolting, demanding their amusement park snacks. Maybe they’ll get so angry that they’ll force me to climb to the top of the highest slide tower and walk the plank. That’ll teach the kitchen staff to forget about me! They’ll feel so terrible about my untimely demise that they’ll erect a tombstone for me in the faux-graveyard out by the shipwreck in the jungle. Here lies Valencia Roberts, the best Seven Seas employee ever to shave ice.

    You slice in physical description beautifully, and then the rest is not only hysterical, I can absolutely picture the setting, her job, the entire scene – in that one paragraph!

    Now, coming to the end. The stakes don’t seem that high to me. I don’t know what happened to her sister – but I’m guessing she wasn’t killed, or Carmen wouldn’t have said who’d you murder so flippantly. Her losing her summer job doesn’t seem like the end of the world, either. Like I said, I would definitely keep reading – you’ve done a great job. But if you tighten this up a bit, I think it will be amazing!

    I can't wait to see what you do with this!

    Erin

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  7. Hi Erin! I really like your idea of switching up the opening paragraphs. Will play with that and see how it goes! Also, good point about the stakes. I'm thinking about different possibilities for addressing this. Thanks for your helpful feedback!

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