Sunday, November 12, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Peterson Rev 1

Name: Alanna Peterson
Genre: Young Adult Mystery

The wave pool is so crowded today 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 Dawson.

He appeared at the edge of the 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, flaunting his impeccable pecs, his blue eyes squinting at the waves.

The shaved ice machine’s whirring blades slow to a stop, and I shape the fluffy mound with my gloved hand. But as I drizzle cherry syrup on the cone, the sharp blast of a whistle startles me, and I turn just in time to see a flash of Bryce’s red trunks as he dives into the water.

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

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 when the crowd parts, I see that the “victim” is actually a bikini-clad teenager. Her arms are wrapped around Bryce’s thick neck. It looks like she’s about to kiss him.

He sets her down and they start talking—flirting, from the looks of it. My initial relief flares into anger. Does he think this is all just a game?

The whole thing makes me want to puke, or at least report Bryce for abandoning his post. Not that that would do any good: he only works here because his dad is the general manager. To Eric Dawson, and everyone else, Bryce can do no wrong.

It isn’t just little stuff like this, either. He gets away with everything. Including what he did to my sister.

I’ve had enough. That girl smiling up at him has no idea who he really is, and this will just keep going on and on, unless…

Unless I do something about it.

And tonight, I’ll have the perfect opportunity.

But my revenge plotting will have to wait, because the line at my hut is getting longer. I finish up the snow cone and hand it to the wet-haired little kid 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. 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!”

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.

But even 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.

“Hey Val, could you get me a large Diet Coke while I make this shaved ice?” Carmen asks.

“Aye aye, cap’n.” I regret my dorky response almost immediately, but to my surprise she snort-laughs as she loads more ice into the machine.

After we fill the order, there’s a brief lull when we have no customers. Carmen rips off her gloves and tears the ponytail out of her black hair, re-fastening it into a messy bun that somehow looks elegant.

I tuck a strand of my own short, mousy-brown hair behind my ear and ask her, “So, are you going to the retreat tonight?”

She turns to me, surprised. “Yeah. Why?”

“I am too! I saw another sleeping bag in the office when I brought mine in, and Vince said it was yours. Why do you think they asked us to come?"


  1. Hi Alanna,
    Strong revision-- you clarified several things, and Val's anger at Bryce is palpable. I like how you set up his father as the owner, because if she wants to keep her job, whatever revenge she takes will have to be done quietly.

    A couple questions that came to mind-- before Carmen shows up, Val's line is "getting longer" but within minutes, they have a lull to talk. The other thing that felt less vivid than the rest was her reference to "mouse-brown" hair which feels cliché.
    Other than that, I'm rooting for Val, wondering what Bryce did to humiliate her sister, and hoping she gets a chance to act.

    1. Thanks Sue! Good catch on that inconsistency (and good point about "mousy-brown" too). Appreciate your feedback!

  2. Alanna! I love the revisions you did. This second draft does a better job of making Valencia's tone less dark, but still has that touch of ominousness.

    In one of the paragraphs, Valencia mentions a little girl who is chunky, and it reminds her of herself when she was younger. I didn't know if body image issues plays some role in Valencia's life, but I felt like the line "I know what this is like," could be taken out. The previous line about the little girl's figure is enough to hint that maybe there's a reason Valencia sympathizes so much with her, beyond just feeling sorry for her. If Valencia is self-conscious about her figure, I'm not sure that has to be revealed right then.

    The 'I wish this were a chemistry lab" lines also felt a little awkward, like it was forced. I know you definitely tried to dial back the dark tone, and I get what you're trying to do with that paragraph, but for some reason it seemed out of place.

    I'm still dying to know what Bryce actually did to Valencia's sister and what this retreat they are going to is all about. Good luck on the rewrite!

    1. Thanks, TK! Good suggestions. I think you're right about cutting that line in the paragraph about the little girl. I decided to cut the chemistry lab stuff too--the scene flows a lot better without it. Thanks for your feedback!

  3. Hi Alanna!
    I'm still loving the tension of this piece and the feelings it brings out in the reader of needing to know the backstory of Bryce and Val's sister. I do miss that original gotcha moment from the first paragraph, but it seems I was outvoted on that one :)

    Just to echo what Sue said, the lull in business and the shift to the retreat conversation seems to have happened abruptly. Other than that, I love the rich sensory descriptions and the voice here. Good luck with the final round!

    1. Thanks Michelle! It's good to know that you miss the previous opening paragraphs... I'll continue to play around with them. I appreciate your feedback!

  4. Hi Alanna,

    Okay, don't hate me. I like your other opening better (I'm talking the first few paragraphs) -- there's an immediacy to it, that I don't feel here BUT -- I do like how you toned down the more malicious tone of Valencia's voice,(imagining his hand in the blades) maybe that makes the opening seem less mean-spirited with the drowning comment? Or it could be your opening paragraphs were more succinct in the first version. The first sentence of the third paragraph is in past tense - and that takes away from the flow. (really ask yourself if you need it) I also like some of the details you added here - the sharp blast of a whistle - really brought me into the scene. I felt the tension while Valencia waited to see what happened.

    I think you can take out the lines/section that begins with "It isn't just little stuff like this either.." I know that's where Valencia mentions her sister, but it is almost too much at this point...find another place to mention her sister within the next line. We've just seen him act like a jerk so if you just continue into "I've had enough...(after the paragraph about him just having the job because of his father) I think that packs more of a punch. I also liked "Tonight, he's going to pay for what he did to my sister" from your first pages. That's a pretty powerful line and also one that made me want to read on and find out what Valencia had in mind, so maybe you can incorporate it here.

    I agree that the chemistry lab line seems a little awkward - is there any way you could make it funnier - like the part where you describe her walking the plank? I'm not sure what you mean by potency either - I think you could expand on that a little. Maybe a potion to give him zits or grow hair on his back - something gross and more descriptive than "knock out his potency" - which is a little vague.

    I also really like her interaction with Carmen. You can tell she's someone she admires.


    1. Hi Robin, that's okay! I did kind of feel like it lost something this time. But I'm glad to have the chance to try out different openings during the workshop to see what's most effective. I like your suggestions--very helpful. Thank you!

  5. Hi Alanna!

    I see there is differing opinions on the new beginning - and that's to be expected! Go with what feels right to you. To be honest, only once have I stuck with my original (worked and reworked) opening, usually it's about my 7 or 8th that finally works, so I feel your pain!

    I like the new beginning, but I do understand what Robin is saying. Maybe after Bryce Dawson, you could add something that hooks the reader and makes them want to keep reading. Maybe something like He stand there...., but when I'm through with him ...... Then the line I loved from last time - He'll pay for what he did to my sister. I'll make sure of it.

    You have a talent for descriptions - truly - but I'm wondering about shifting some to later in the chapter, so that you emphasize the hook and let Valencia's great voice shine through in the first few pages. The walking the plank, chem lab, snow cones, churros, and almost drowning felt like too many to me. Also, why can't she have a churro?

    One other thing you can smooth out is the tone - it goes from very funny, to dark/revenge, to funny, to revenge, to attraction. It's good to have multiple facets in a manuscript, but it is bouncing back and forth too much in these pages, so that I'm not sure exactly how to feel - will this be a funny revenge type story? Something darker?

    And of course, that's just one opinion! Go with your gut and instincts. I look forward to reading next week!



    1. Hi Erin, Thank you for your thoughts! Sure is hard to get those opening lines just right, but all the feedback here is helping a lot. Good point about the tone as well; the story is a bit of a blend between funny and dark, so I want to reflect that here but agree that it's a bit disjointed right now. I'll work on smoothing that out more. I really appreciate your feedback!

  6. Hey Alanna.
    I love the shuffling of info you've done with the opening few paragraphs. It reads so much more clearly now.
    Perhaps insert some description of what Bryce and the girl are doing to let her see that they're flirting from so far away.
    Really like the way you inserted the tidbit about Bryce having done something to the speaker's sister. Very naturally woven in, and feels true to the voice.
    Maybe add a word or two explaining what about tonight makes this the perfect opportunity to get revenge on Bryce. "And tonight at the retreat, I'll have the perfect opportunity" or whatever.
    The interaction with the little girl getting the snow cone works really well now.
    Add in a bit more about why she's excited to see/doesn't want to leave Carmen.
    Churro description is making me drool...
    Really great changes, can't wait to see the final product!

    1. Good suggestions--thanks for your feedback, Steph!