Sunday, November 19, 2017

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Peterson Rev 2

Name: Alanna Peterson
Genre: Young Adult Mystery


Valencia Roberts, Shaved Ice Hut employee and aspiring gastroenterologist, can’t wait for the all-night company retreat at Seven Seas Water Park. Not only will she be able to spend time with her co-worker/girl-crush Carmen, but she'll also get the chance to prove to management that she’s supervisor material.

The only downside: her nemesis, the lifeguard Bryce Dawson, will also be there. Which might give Val the perfect opportunity to exact revenge for what he did to her sister the previous summer... as long as she can avoid getting caught by his dad, who happens to be the general manager.

But when her register comes up $100 short, Val is suddenly in danger of losing the job she depends on. Convinced that Bryce is trying to sabotage her, Val becomes determined to prove he took the money. During a team-building treasure hunt that soon spirals out of control, Val’s plan unravels as secrets are revealed, uncovering an even bigger mystery—one that could have life-changing consequences for them all.


I love my job, but today has been brutal. It’s way past my usual break time—when will someone rescue me? As the shaved ice machine spews snow into yet another cone, I glance past the counter to the water park beyond.

That’s when I notice Bryce Dawson. He stands in his lookout spot at the wave pool’s edge, flaunting his impeccable pecs, his blue eyes squinting at the waves.

The pool is so crowded 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 of the shaved ice machine 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, letting his hand linger on her arm, 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?

I wish I could report Bryce for abandoning his post, but that wouldn’t 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.

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 at the retreat tonight, I’ll have the perfect opportunity.

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

But my revenge plotting will have to wait, because right now, I’ve got a job to do. I finish up the snow cone and hand it to the wet-haired little kid on the other side of the counter. She doesn’t look pleased when I place the red-and-green-and-yellow cone into her outstretched hands.

“It’s supposed to be rainbow.” She sounds semi-heartbroken, as if her whole afternoon at the water park has 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 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 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.

“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 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? I mean, we’re not supervisors. I think all the other people coming are either supervisors or managers.” She’s looking right into my eyes as I talk. Her intense focus makes me nervous, which tends to give me a touch of logorrhea. (Like diarrhea, but with words. I learned this very useful term while helping my sister study for her medical terminology course, back when she wanted to be a nurse.)

“Don’t know. Guess we’ll find out,” Carmen says.

“Do you think they’re, like, testing us or something? Seeing if we have what it takes to get a promotion? Since Aidan quit, they must be looking for a new kitchen supervisor.” I try to say it casually, even though I want to become supervisor just as badly as I want to get revenge on Bryce Dawson.


  1. A shaved ice employee looking to exact revenge at a water park company retreat is a fantastic concept, and there are some pieces in place for a great setup here. The only thing I'd say about these pages is that there is a whole lot going on, and much of the meaty part of this story, we learn from the inner monologue of the protagonist. The act of telling the reader "tonight, he'll pay" and letting us know that there is some kind of revenge plot for what Bryce did to her sister comes across as a little Bond villainy; I think what I'd rather see is some kind of direct interaction between Bryce (such a classic guy-jerk name) and Val so I can see what their relationship is like first-hand. Does Bryce know she hates him? Or does she put on fake airs when he's around, stoking his ego to set him up for what's to come later?

    If you can simplify the business of these first few pages, maybe by creating a tension filled scene that both lets us get to know your characters and sets up some kind of unknown stakes that will make themselves known as the book goes on, I think you'll have a very strong start here. This is a fresh idea, and the use of present tense is a good one in this case, as it limits what your protagonist can know and thus allows the mystery element to develop organically. The best mysteries are the ones that we don't really see coming, so I'd love to see if you can set up later events by establishing some initial tension between your characters.

  2. Hi Alanna!

    Great pitch! I loved learning Val's other motivations other than just getting revenge on Bryce (which I assumed there would be!). I really want to read about the treasure hunt and what's going to happen to make everything get out of control. I also like the stakes here--not only does she have the revenge piece (and I really want to know what happened to her sister!), but she also could lose her job.

    Your pages are once again well done and I really enjoyed seeing the progression from the first week. As was already stated, you have a fresh idea and it definitely makes me want to read more.

    I also like Alec's suggestion of some interaction between Val and Bryce to show us a hint of the animosity between them (if it's indeed mutual).

    Awesome work here! I wish you nothing but the best and I hope to find this on the shelves someday!

  3. Hi Alanna,
    I have really loved seeing this character evolve each week. Her character and situation is so vivid, her goal concrete. The one thing I didn't quite understand was the budding "gastroenterologist"- which I am guessing will be important to the plot, but felt out of place with the other teen-centric details. I also wondered why she wants to be a supervisor and needs the job so much. Surely if Bryce hurt her sister, he'd already be wary of her, right? I loved that her drawer came up short-- she's in a bad spot. I would have loved to have a tiny detail or more about what kind of mystery they uncover during the hunt.

    The pages were great. It was interesting to see the added detail about logorrhea, but I'm not sure how it fits with her character and or the plot. The interaction between Val and Carmen was definitely amped up, and her want much clearer in this version (both the girl and the job- ha!)

    I've so enjoyed your pages each week. Thanks for all your great feedback. Good luck as you continue your manuscript!

  4. Hi Alanna!

    I've enjoyed reading your pages over the last few weeks. Your voice is perfect for YA and I'd love to see how the story unfolds.

    I liked learning more about Valencia in the pitch too. (are we going to see her desire to be a gastroenterologist play into the novel? If not, not sure you need it for the pitch) As far as "what he did to her sister the previous summer" I think for a pitch this is fine to keep as a mystery, but in a synopsis for an agent or editor, you need to be clear about what happened that spurned Valencia to exact revenge. Sometimes you will only have a synopsis, or maybe a synopsis and partial, to query - but you need to spell it all out there. (for future reference!)

    I also love Alec's suggestion in letting the reader see interaction between Bryce and Valencia in the opening section. It would definitely give us an idea as to whether he knows how Val feels about him, or if he's completely oblivious. Or if he knows and doesn't care. That would say a lot about this character too!

    Good luck with this!!

  5. Hey Alanna, I have loved seeing all of your revisions and I agree that your tone is perfect for YA.

    I really don't have anything to add beyond what others have said above. I love the idea of interaction between Val and Bryce to really show their strained relationship, and I also like the idea of hinting that Bryce did something to Valencia's sister, but not exactly spelling it out. Great job, I've enjoyed reading your pages!

  6. Hi Alanna!

    As others have said, this really is such a great, unique concept. Once again, you do such a wonderful job with descriptions, I truly feel like I'm transported to that water park!

    I love how you've amped up how much she wants to keep her job, and how important it is to her. You've also done a great job with her relationship with Carmen. I do feel that the start of this version - the first few paragraphs - aren't as compelling as they were in previous versions. It feels as if it's a sort of preamble, and I know you can do better! (I also know how hard it is to nail an opening - believe me!!!!) Did her sister work at the water park too? Maybe there is a way to start it, while getting in the setting and her sister and they mystery as well. Just a thought! Something like: As the shaved ice machine spews snow into yet another cone, I can't help but think about my sister. The many years we worked side by side. And then something about the mystery -there - and then Bryce.

    Other than that, I think you've done a fabulous job! Seeing an interaction between Val and Bryce would also add to the tension, I agree! That would be a great addition!

    It has been a pleasure reading your pages, and I wish you all the best!!!


  7. Hi Alanna!
    First off, aspiring gastroenterologiat made me lol. Can't wait to see how that comes into play...
    I really like how you capture the spirit of Valencia's voice in the pitch ("girl-crush" etc). That's hard to do and you've accomplished it very naturally.
    I really like your whole pitch actually. You've summed up the major players/events succinctly in a way that leaves me wanting more for sure!
    It's been fun to see your pages being fine-tuned over the last month. I always liked your drafts a lot, and they've only gotten better.
    For your final sentence, I'd suggest saying that she wants to be supervisor *almost* as badly as she wants revenge, just so you don't downplay the main plot thrust. And it would be interesting to hear why she wants to be supervisor, although maybe you go into that after the cutoff for the workshop...
    Anyway, awesome job and best of luck!

  8. Thank you all for your feedback! I think I went a little overboard trying to work too much information into the first couple pages...I like the idea of including an interaction with Bryce to let it all unfold a bit more slowly and naturally. I appreciate all of your thoughts--openings are hard for me so this workshop has been very helpful in figuring out what works and what doesn't. Thank you all!

    1. Openings are very hard for me, too - and I think most people! If I counted how many openings I've had for my next book I think I'd hit about 25! You have something special here, so keep at it!!!