Sunday, March 11, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Thakare Rev 1

Name: Sanyukta Thakare
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Gilmore Girls meets Switched at Birth.
Title: Time And Again

The spark of Ashley’s cigarette ignited the cheap whiskey she threw on the leather jacket he had been sporting all night as a genuine Cole Haan Vintage Lamb Moto. The lying cheat screamed at the sight of the bright burning flames caught in an instant, while the room filled with the smell of burning plastic. In an attempt to take it off, he trashed his surroundings, not burning anything yet. What next caught on fire made Ashley laugh, his proud brown luscious hair would never be the same. Looking at her laugh, this time unlike it happened, he launched at her screaming in pain.

Ashley screamed in anticipation and got thrown out of the dream. The bright sun coming down through her window hit her eyes hard as she tried to adjust to the light. She noticed the gray t-shirt she fell asleep in had turned a dim gray in patches. Rubbing her eyes in circles with her palms she pulled on her dark auburn hair. What jolted her out of the dream had been more than the attack, the life like boy and the screaming. It was the door calling for her attention. Moving her laptop and the history books that surrounded her, she got off the bed losing her balance, threw on a clean t-shirt with a single shade and answered the door.

Randol Myers, Windrip’s local postie stood on the porch with a wide smile across his face. It wasn’t part of his job, just the kinda guy who smiled at everyone. He passed her the brown envelope and his standard black scanner for Ashley’s signature.

“Says it’s from Pemerson Lawyers. Don’t forget to give it to your mother.” He smiled again, handing them over.

“Thanks, Sure.” Ashley shut the door and dropped the bundled package on the kitchen counter, examining its outsides. At first, she stood still and just stared at and didn’t open the sealed package, but soon snapped.

She paced around the crowded living room resting her eyes on the envelope looming on their beige kitchen counter. In hot bold black letters, it read Pemerson Lawyers. The room grew smaller as her patrolling corner increased. All the tossing and turning gave her a splitting headache but what matter stayed inches away from her, in the sealed package. Spiraling deeper in thoughts, she plunged into self-doubt. Could the notice be for her? Did she relapse? She hadn’t been part of any foul play at school as long as she remembered. Maybe a few clashes with her former clan but that’s nothing worth calling the lawyers over.

However, Ashley’s opinion held no mass in front of the Windrip High winzes who had their own sense of righteousness or the entire school that hated her to the core. The thought of being publicly called out yet again dried her throat and the urgency to know what the package held consumed her. Three more steps and it would be in her hand. First step in and the flickering yellow lights of her mother’s blue Ford Fusion beamed through the window, behind her.

Without thinking she jumped the remaining two steps, grabbed the letter and scratched the sealing sticker off. It pulled a little piece of the brown paper off making it impossible to cover up. Ashley didn’t care she would have to come clean eventually. For now, she needed to know whose ruin it dictated and didn’t have time to read the detailed bunch of pages that came falling down. The doorknob clicked, and Ashley turned wasting another second. She picked up the scattered papers without stuffing them in and ran to her room, next to the entrance hallway.

The end and the beginning of the papers always had names, always. She’d seen it in movies. She could hear her mother walking in, moving towards the living room. Rushing through the pages twice as fast, she found only one familiar name in two places, luckily not hers. Valerie Lockwood rested at the start and a signature hard to read at the end of the paper, she figured it’d be T. Lockwood that looked like an N.

“Ashley, did Randol stop by?” Ashley heard Valerie pass by her room.

In a fit of panic, Ashley blurted, “One sec Mom.” she stuffed the papers back in again and walked out. Fidgeting as though she committed a crime.

“You said something?” Ashley asked clearing her dry throat.

“Randol told me he dropped something off earlier. Did you get it?”

“Oh, Ya. It’s in there. I’ll get it.”  Ashley stumbled at each word, pointing her room.

Ashley pushed the package towards her mother. “Here.” The Roman font still daunting her, Ashley’s eyes widened thinking about the words she’d found inked on the papers.

Valerie dusted her hands and took charge of the papers, “Did you open it?” she looked at the torn sticker.

“I was curious, I am allowed to be.”

“Who is it from?” Valerie asked.

“I don’t know, all I saw that it had your name, and a signature that I think… ” Ashley watched her mother carefully remove the papers and calmly began at the first page unlike her. In less than three seconds her expression changed from calm to a full-blown chaos. She chewed on her lips turning them a thin straight line and touching her face again and again.

“That’s fine, I got it. Thanks.” She looked at Ashley suspicious and covered the papers instantly. 

“Who is it from?” Ashley dared to ask.

Still lost in thought, after several pauses Valerie said, “It’s from a friend, nothing important.” She continued fidgeting around the kitchen avoiding Ashely.

Suspicious Ashley stood in right before her so she couldn’t avoid her, “Is it from uncle Tony? Is it the shop again?” The topic had always been off-limits in the house. Ashley learned to live with the distasteful memories of Tony and Valerie arguing every now and then. Though they remained on good terms with his wife Becky, the arguments never ended.

“Actually, it was a cafĂ©,” She pointed a finger at Ashley’s face, “the one and only in Windrip at the time. We owned it and you didn’t even get to see it. I can’t ever let it go. One last thing we had left of your great-grandfather and Tony had to go sell it off with your father.” Valerie’s rage turned into shame in a flash. She looked down sighing loudly, releasing her rage she promised, “It’s not from your uncle.”

They never talked about Ashley’s father. And if by chance such an incident took place, it would only mirror feelings of disgust and resentment. Early on Ashley hated not knowing him and rebelled for not telling her. When last Ashley asked of him, Valerie gave her all the answers she needed.

‘It’s no use talking about dead people, who never cared about you when alive.’

What seemed hard to understand at the time, became a part of her with each passing year. She never discussed him even when a rare situation like this arose, it got easy to ignore. She didn’t care what happened to him, he reeked of a jerk as a father and as a husband. The one who stayed next to her was Valerie, what on earth would make Ashley think about the man who never even appeared before her beautiful heavy green eyes, gened from her grandmother.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hey Sanyukta!

    My last comment disappeared. Seems I deleted it ... :/ Oops.

    This was much better than the last time. I like how you stuck to one conflict, allowing us to build questions about that instead of feeling confused about everything.

    I found the first paragraph difficult to understand. The first sentence was long, and I had to reread it a few times before gaining an idea of what you meant. The rest of the paragraph had to be read slowly, too, for me to understand what was going on. I think it could benefit from shorter sentences to quicken the pace considering what was happening. Shorter sentences quicken pace and increase tension.

    But then, SHE WOKE UP! I don't know whether you're aware of this but beginning with a dream isn't the strongest way to start a story. It draws the reader in, we're interested in what's going on, and then we find out it wasn't real, and we feel cheated. In a way, it acts as a hook to lure the reader in, but in reality, it loses them. You need to ground the reader into the reality of the story right from the word go.

    It's clear something happened, a crime that perhaps had her in jail, and although the dream could be a memory of what she'd done, we don't know this. I think the previous start where you launch into the envelope is the best beginning.

    A little further down, you say 'I soon snapped'. This is a tell of what's to come. It removes the tension because the reader knows she's going to open it. If you stick to showing instead of telling, we are left wondering what she's going to do. She's pacing. What's in it? We have to know! Ahh, she's opening it! ... You see?

    There's also a few times you use the word 'suspicious'. In your revision, try to find other words or cut them out to avoid repetition. It pulls us from the story.

    Overall, great work. It’s much stronger already.

    I hope this helps!

    Happy revising! :)

  3. Hi Sanyukta,

    The first line is a bit clunky and seems a bit passive. There’s a lot going on (run-on) and I had to reread this a few times to take it all in. I think you could rework this for a better effect.

    I would avoid using a dream for your beginning altogether. Maybe start with her answering the door. But I prefer your earlier version.

    I really like some of your descriptions.

    I think “winzes” was a typo. If not, maybe explain who these are. I remember the first version had women so I assume that’s what you meant.

    I found a lot of this confusing. I think you’re trying to add too much in your beginning. It’s tempting to put everything in right away, I know I struggle with this as well, but it risks confusing the reader. Start with a couple of main ideas and let the audience process these points before throwing more at them.

    To that point, you raise a lot of intriguing issues. The clan, rehab, the school hates her etc. that makes me interested to learn more. But you don’t mention them again and I feel disappointed. Maybe introduce one of them and explain who they are and what effect they have on Ashley.

    Great job in limiting the conflict. I want to know whose exam Ashley wanted to see but I want to know about the package more. I think you were wise to stick with this.

    There is a lot of telling that you could change into showing for a stronger image.

    I still don’t know much about Ashley. How old is she? A freshman or a senior? What does she want? What makes her tick? I think if you give more about these things, it makes it easier for us to connect with her.

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.


  4. Hi, Sanyukta,
    I still like the tension being created by this envelope, but the reader doesn’t get there as quickly this time around. Be careful of starting the book with a dream sequence. Often agents and editors prefer when writers start stories with the actual action of the story rather than with a dream. If you are trying to give us the information about this incident with the fire and the attack, it would be best to work this in somewhere after the actual start of the story.

    When Ashley first gets this envelope, you talk about how she stares at it and then snaps, but she doesn’t feel any anticipation or anxiety over the envelope. How does she feel about it arriving? These feelings of hers will help create tension and make the reader want to really know what’s inside that envelope. However, after you say she snapped, she didn’t actually snap because she walks around staring at the envelope for a while. Then, when you get to what could be in the envelope, she says, “Could the notice be for her? Did she relapse? She hadn’t been part of any foul play at school as long as she remembered. Maybe a few clashes with her former clan but that’s nothing worth calling the lawyers over.” At this point, the reader doesn’t need to understand what all this entails, but the fact that she might have “relapsed” or “clashes with her former clan” seems like part of her character so the reader may want a bit of what this means. Relapsed from what? Clashed how? A couple clarifying phrases will help the reader feel grounded here.

    Also, this line, “her expression changed from calm to a full-blown chaos,” seems a little overdone. Full-blown chaos is pretty serious, and since her mom seems calm in the next paragraph, it doesn’t really fit here.

    In this draft, there are still a lot of conflicts pulling the reader in different directions. Currently, you have Ashley possibly being in trouble with that envelope somehow, the problem with the store, the attack at the beginning, and the poor relationship with her father. It’s a lot for the reader to take in. I would suggest focusing on one or two of these issues and developing those within these pages. The relationship with her father can come later. The attack may even come later if you show through her character how it might have affected her (i.e. she’s skittish, defensive, vengeful, etc.) so that when you do introduce this conflict, we understand how it formed her character. I hope that makes sense. Let me know if you have questions.

    Keep going! You’re doing well!

  5. Hi Sanyukta,

    I'm guessing you added the dream sequence to heighten the drama in the scene, but it's really not necessary--you've got plenty to work with as it is. As others have noted, opening up with a dream can backfire. My advice, save that part for later (ideally in real time).

    The envelope is still your best bet to anchor this scene. When it arrives, take your time showing Ashley's unease...a gradual burn up to the moment of explosion where she rips the envelope open.

    There are a lot of unexplained references still. A relapse. Her former clan. The windrip women (I think?). Her uncle. Her dad. The store. It's a lot to keep track of in 1250 words and leaves me with curiosity...but not a clear idea where the story is heading. Knowing what she's afraid of finding in the envelope would help. When she finds something entirely different, how does it affect the plot moving forward?

    Keep after it!

  6. Hi Sanyukta,

    I can see you did a lot of work on these pages, and that is not small feat so well done! I do want to caution you against starting the work with a dream. I read for lit agencies for many years and that was a big thing that would turn them off. Also, I don't think you need it. The envelope is the thing that pulls me through the story so my comments would be similar to last week. Keep us focused there. Let the reader see enough to keep us turning the pages. Your main character speculates a lot about a clan and a relative and other things but the reader doesn't need to know that backstory at this stage. If you let the reader see *a little* of the document--enough to make us gasp or worry or fear, then you've hooked your reader. So play around with what information YOU know is in the envelope and see what you'd be willing to show your reader in these opening pages. Set up the tension with the envelope but keep that tension tight as we get a glimpse at the documents, and the consequences they hold for your main character.

    Looking forward to reading your revision!!

  7. Hi Sanyukta,

    I liked your revision. Great work!

    The first paragraph was intriguing. I will echo what the others have said about the dream, that some agents don’t love that as an opening.

    I love this detail : “Randol Myers, Windrip’s local postie stood on the porch with a wide smile across his face. It wasn’t part of his job, just the kinda guy who smiled at everyone.” Great job on showing.

    I recently received feedback on my first few pages and the agent suggested to be careful about asking too many internal questions. For example with these:

    “Could the notice be for her? Did she relapse?”

    The agent suggested turning it into a statement instead or deleting the questions altogether to string on a bit of mystery.

    Just a thought :)

    I liked Ashely’s confidence here :
    “I was curious, I am allowed to be.”

    I don’t think you need the words in quotations : She continued fidgeting around the kitchen "avoiding Ashely".

    We know that she is avoiding her by how she is fidgeting :)

    I still love this line so much :
    ‘It’s no use talking about dead people, who never cared about you when alive.’

    I think there is a lot of hints and intrigue. Perhaps like others have suggested, focus a bit more on the envelope and give us a bit more :)

    Overall, great job! Looking forward to the revision.

  8. Great work rewriting but I think there's still some revision to be done. First, on a technical note, there are a lot of extremely complex sentences with dangling modifiers and conflicting tense structures. I'd have a good English lit student give this a read for grammar and construction. Two examples:
    "The spark of Ashley’s cigarette ignited the cheap whiskey she threw on the leather jacket he had been sporting all night as a genuine Cole Haan Vintage Lamb Moto. " So Many Verbs and passive constructions (he HAD BEEN sporting); "‘It’s no use talking about dead people, who never cared about you when alive.’" - technically, you need to complete 2nd clause with "when they WERE alive" - otherwise, the "who" feels like it could attach to YOU (still alive) and not the dead people.
    There's also some issue w/r/t keeping voices/characters distinct. For example, both Valerie and Ashley ask the same question in the exact same phrasing: “Who is it from?” - makes it difficult to keep track of which character is where (emotionally, plot-wise, etc.)
    Finally, dreams are fascinating but at the top of Ch 1 of a novel, they can read to an agent or editor as a device for dumping backstory. Don't be afraid to let Ashley begin in the moment and let the reader learn things along with her, as the pages go by.
    I think the best exercise for your next revision would be to write a very tight outline of every plot and character point you want to make in the first pages. Then, ask yourself if the reader can absorb all of it and keep connected to your MC with this much info. Maybe choose one or two specific images, plot points on which to focus and pare the rest away to save for later chapters.
    Again, apologies for not getting back to you until today. Thank you for your fine work and great luck with your next revision! - Stasia