Sunday, April 15, 2018

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Larson Rev 1


Name: Kim A. Larson
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Stop Mr. Ryden

The spiral-ringed notebook slips from my fingers and drops to the floor. That woman! She—she was in my dream last night. Who is she? And why is she at Walmart? 

Elle, my cousin and best friend, waves her hands in front of my face. “Earth to Anna.” 

I stare at the woman through a maze of back-to-school shoppers. Her short shorts and tank top cover way too little of her fortyish figure. In my dream, she wore a red blouse, white scarf, and navy pants. Like an American flag. She stood next to an open door, against a white backdrop with words written in black letters. Words I can’t remember. 

“Anna . . . Anna . . .” 

While still pondering my dream, I’m thrust into a vision of this woman sorting through a bin of school supplies. When it ends, I nudge Elle and nod toward the woman. “She’s going to buy the yellow highlighters.” 

The woman rummages through markers, note cards, and pens before tossing yellow highlighters into her cart. 

“Wow! You’re good.” 

“Not really. I saw this before—” 

“Haven’t we all.” She flings her long hair over one shoulder. “Every August—getting new school junk. You think we get our ninth-grade planners here or at school?” 

“Seriously, El, I had another vision.” 

“You did?” She bounces into my personal space. 

I turn my face from her warm spearmint breath and from what feels like looking into a mirror. Our hazel-green eyes and straight blonde hair are identical, but then half the girls I know wear their hair this same way. 

“Come on. Spill, already.” 

That’s what I get for showing off. Now she’ll want details, explanations, information I don’t have. To be honest, I like seeing things ahead of time. But I can’t control how or when it happens, and I get anxious not knowing what to do with what I see. It feels like a burden, a responsibility I’m not ready for. 

I take a deep breath. “There’s not much to tell. I just saw her doing what she did, only a few seconds beforehand.” A flash of dream resurfaces, and I brace myself for Elle’s reaction. “She was in my dream last night, too.” 

Elle grabs onto my shoulders and bounces. “For real? That same woman?” 

I nod and pull away. “She stood by an open door with something written behind her. I wish I could remember what.” 

“Yeah, how cool would that be? But what’s up with dreaming and having a vision of . . . her?” Elle gives this woman the once-over. “You think God is trying to tell you something? Like when your dad crashed his car?” 

“Maybe.” I scowl at the mention of him. 

“I still get goose bumps.” Elle shivers. “If you hadn’t had that dream and prayed, your dad might not be alive.” 

“Lucky me.” I cross my arms. He’s all but dead to me anyhow, dropping out of my life after Mom divorced him. “Lane seven’s shortest.” I rush to get in line and out of this conversation. 

After Walmart, we walk to Elle’s. She jabbers nonstop, which is normal—and sometimes annoying—but today it’s a relief. That woman’s image is stuck in my head. It’s not like I want to think about her, but if my dreams and visions are from God, aren’t I supposed to try to figure them out? Not that I want to. It’s a should—as in obey God. People’s lives may be at stake. 

When I dreamed about Dad, I awoke in the night knowing I should pray that he’d live. Maybe I should have prayed the accident wouldn’t happen, but that’s not what came to mind. Now, nothing comes to mind about this woman. I can’t even remember the entire dream. Evidently, God wants me to know or even do something. But what? If only he’d make things clearer. 

I spend the night nestled in the spare twin bed in Elle’s room. Since Mom and I moved to our dumpy apartment, I’ve slept here more times than there. A harvest moon casts a warm glow on the wall. I brush my hand against the velvety wallpaper: stripes of powder-puff pink. The never-been-changed d├ęcor comfort me, except for the border of Disney princesses coming loose in spots, which resembles my life too well. 

A breeze from the open window flutters the lacy curtains. Princess Elle snores softly, always the first to fall asleep. What worries does she have? She wants to change schools. Swim in a bigger pond. Did I say pond? It’s more like an ocean. But what does it matter? Socially, I’ll sink just the same. 

Okay, so pinning this on Elle isn’t fair. When I’d asked God about changing schools, I sensed he wanted me to, like it was part of some bigger plan. 

Well, God, I’m reminding you of that. I’m really going to need you. I love you . . . 

As I drift into unconsciousness, the woman’s image flashes through my mind. Now I’m awake. What about her, God? I listen but hear nothing. Why won’t you answer me? I try to recall more details from the dream, but I can’t. 

If only I could get back to sleep, then I might dream about her again. I slow my breathing and quiet my mind by recalling Bible verses. God loves me. He has a good plan for my life. He gives to his beloved even in her sleep. But what he gives is hard for me to understand . . . accept . . . embrace. 

At daybreak, I bolt upright in bed. “Elle, wake up!” My heart pounds in my chest. “I know what’s on the whiteboard!” 

“Whiteboard?” She rolls over to face me. “What whiteboard?” 

“The whiteboard the woman in my dream stood in front of. The name Mr. Ryden appeared in black letters behind her, inside the shape of a stop sign.” 

“What’s that mean? Who’s Mr. Ryden?” 

The image of Elle’s neighbor pops into my head. “Doesn’t he live down the street from you? The P.E. teacher and football coach at the high school. He’s a Mr. Ryden, right?” 

“Yeah, Ride’em Ryden. What about him? And what about that woman?” 

“Maybe they’re married.” 

“Gross. Who’d marry him?” Her face puckers as if sucking on a Warheads candy. “He’s like a possessed Rottweiler.” She growls, showing teeth. “I feel sorry for that woman just being in the same dream as him.” 

I shouldn’t correct Elle, but I can’t help myself. “You know we’re not supposed to talk about people that way, El.” 

“Then how are we supposed to talk about such creeps?” 

“We’re not. Sometimes it’s hard being a Christian.” 

“Well, I know Ride’em isn’t married.” She scoots to the edge of her bed. “I never saw that woman before yesterday.” 

“Maybe he’s going to ask her to—” 

“Then yell STOP!” 

“Hey, maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m supposed to tell her ‘Stop Mr. Ryden,’ and she’ll know what it means. I can only tell what I see.” This feels right. 

“You really think you’d tell her? Or even see her again?” 

“If I’m supposed to tell her, I’ll see her.” Obeying God is mandatory in my book—and in his also. 

“You’d go up to a complete stranger and say, ‘Stop Mr. Ryden’?” She shakes her head. “I couldn’t. Would you tell her about the dream?” 

“I guess, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense.” 

“Like any of this makes sense?”


7 comments:

  1. Hi Kim,
    Thank you again for sharing your pages!
    The beginning reads a lot tighter so that’s great. I would be careful of using the word “visions” unless you’re talking about proper visions. So considering changing: “While still pondering my dream, I’m thrust into a vision of this woman sorting through a bin of school supplies. When it ends, I nudge Elle and nod toward the woman. “She’s going to buy the yellow highlighters.” The woman rummages through markers, note cards, and pens before tossing yellow highlighters into her cart. To a tighter version of: I ponder my dream as the woman sorts through a bin of school supplies. I nudge Elle. “She’s going to buy the yellow highlighters.” The woman rummages through markers and finally tosses yellow highlighters into her cart.

    I’d also consider cutting: “I turn my face from her warm spearmint breath and from what feels like looking into a mirror. Our hazel-green eyes and straight blonde hair are identical, but then half the girls I know wear their hair this same way.” And stay with her asking about the vision. You can sprinkle personal details throughout, but not at the cost of moving the story forward. I’m also not certain we need: That’s what I get for showing off. Now she’ll want details, explanations, information I don’t have. To be honest, I like seeing things ahead of time. But I can’t control how or when it happens, and I get anxious not knowing what to do with what I see. It feels like a burden, a responsibility I’m not ready for.” It’s a lot of internal info that doesn’t really tell the reader much, and serves to slow the story. If you delete and start with your MC’s response “I don’t know…” then the reader gets a richer sense of how she feels right there within the dialogue, which is key. In this same way of tightening, I think you could get at the message for Mr. Ryden sooner. I hope all this helps. It is a matter of tightening what you have here so the direction of the story is made clearer and these pages will pop! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. However, she has dreams and visions. So I guess I'm not getting that across yet. I appreciate your comments. I will try to incorporate them in the next revision. Thanks!

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  2. Great revision. I think this is so much stronger. I think this could be tightened up even a little bit more. I got a lot more interested when we got to the part about Ryden. That's when I felt the story pick up and gain traction. i do like that you keep some good intrigue and don't tell us everything at once. I wonder if you want to save what happened with her dad for a little later on. Just something to think about.

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  3. I think you did a great job this time describing what was happening – that she’d had a dream before – and even a better job describing the actual woman at Walmart (hilarious description btw).
    I loved that you clarifying the dream about her Dad – that she prayed and that’s what prevented it from happening; that was something I was confused about before.
    I also really liked that you brought in Mr. Ryden in earlier (I don’t think he was mentioned last time?). Bringing him in makes everything much more suspenseful!

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  4. When Anna is thrust into her vision at the start, could you give us a little more about what that feels like? Since this is such a significant element of your story, I think you can make this a bigger moment the first time around. Right now it goes by very quickly and I almost confused it with part of her dream. I'm still not clear on what the difference is between her visions and dreams. Do you need both? Is there any significance to Anna seeing in advance that the woman will buy highlighters?

    Anna says her gift as a burden and she doesn't always want to figure them out. This seemed to contradict what she said about liking to see things ahead of time.

    You mention Anna prays for her dad to live after she dreams about the accident (does he die in her dream?). I love the faith side of this story and I'm intrigued by how you're going to use those elements, but story-wise this feels passive. Is there a more concrete action Anna could also take to change the result of her dad's accident? I think something like this could help set up that her dreams and visions are real and have consequences depending on whether she listens to them or ignores them.

    Could you go straight from Anna and Elle seeing the woman at Walmart into the conversation about what Anna should do about her and Mr. Ryden? Going home, sleeping, and having another dream first slowed things down for me. You include enough uncertainly about what the dream means that I don't think you need to take so much time before Anna remembers what was on the whiteboard (in fact, you could use this tension of Anna trying to remember before the woman leaves, in case there's something she needs to do right away).

    I didn't miss having the conversation with Aunt Cindy in these pages. I think getting to the meat of her dream about Mr. Ryden is more important (at least based on your title ☺).

    -Jim-

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  5. I am still wishing that I could see the woman as the MC does right off the bat and how the MC feels about seeing her in real life (blase, concerned, etc) versus in her vision. I agree with S.M.'s comment on tightening up the yellow highlighter bit. I think that if the MC is not concerned about having the visions it could be funny to have her just pointing out what will happen and not really thinking twice about it. Or, if it is still a shocking thing, be able to feel that shock with her.

    I'm also curious about the consequences of either ignoring or listening to/doing something about the visions. What in her past convinced her that she should be making a choice to either do something or not about her visions?

    Thanks for letting me read!
    Hannah

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