Sunday, May 13, 2018

1st 5 Pages May Workshop- Wyatt Rev 1

Paige Wyatt
Never. Sometimes
Genre: YA Contemporary

“Fiona, did you give Brendan White a weapon?” Principal McKay asks as he neatly folds his hands on his desk and, I shit you not, hunches over like he’s Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

I’m sweating and my thighs are stuck to his pleather couch that is supposed to look classy but really screams WalMart chic. I don’t want to be suspended, or worse, end up in detention with all the other burnout degenerates of Middleton North High School, but I don’t like lying, either.

Today was going to be a good day. My mom finally let me dye my hair pink last night, I’m wearing my new Rancid t-shirt, and Lily did my makeup this morning so today would be special. I just wanted to get Brendan’s attention, not to aid and abet in the beat down of Connor Easton, but I couldn’t say no when he asked to borrow my wristband. 

“Weapon?” I ask, because when in doubt, play dumb. It’s double standard bullshit anyway. He didn’t give a shit last week when Connor snapped a picture of my ass and put a “Wide Load” banner over it, or when Lily’s brother Thrasher found a deep scratch etched into both sides of his van yesterday. Principal McKay is only out for blood because tomorrow is the first night of football regionals and Connor is the star quarterback who now, thanks to Brendan, has three broken fingers on his throwing hand. 

Mr. McKay tosses a plastic bag onto his desk in disgust, and when I lean in to examine it closer, I can see why. Sealed inside is my wristband. The safety pins that were once clasped closed are open and there are chunks of bloody flesh on their sharp tips. My face is expressionless despite my increased heartbeat. “I have no idea what that is.”

“Several teachers confirmed that it's yours.”

I shrug. “It’s not.”

“Are you sure?” His salt and pepper mustache twitches as his eyes bore into me. 

“Yes,” I say, hoping the word sounded steadier than it felt as it tumbled out.

He leans in to give this impression that he’s about to tell me something no one else knows, but I can see through this act. Every adult I know has tried this on me at least once in the past few years, but I can spot the disingenuity like a turd in a punch bowl. “Fiona, you’re a bright young lady. Taking all honors classes.” He sighs and it’s unnecessarily loud. “But since your father passed--”

I flinch and he notices because he holds up his hands as if to say he’s not going to force me to talk about it.

“You’ve been dressing differently.” He wrinkles his nose as he takes in my all-black clothing and stops at my nose ring.  “You quit the basketball team. And I just don’t think you’re hanging around with a good crowd.” 

He means Thrasher, Lily, AJ, and Brendan because they’re the only people I hang out with period. I look at the clock to escape his gaze. I’m late for class, and I just want to get out of here. “Thanks for the concern, but I need to get to Geometry.” 

After a few minutes of questions about the wristband which result in him not being able to prove it belongs to me, he writes me a pass and I’m out of the office as fast as my Converse-clad feet can take me. 

Lily is hunched over her phone outside the office, her thumbs flying. She should be in Geometry too, but of course she’s waiting for me because that’s what best friends do. “What did McKay want?” she asks without looking up.

We fall into step as we walk. “He asked about the wristband. I said I didn’t know anything.”

“Good. You can’t get expelled, too.”

“Expelled?” I stop so fast she almost crashes into me.

She leans in, her rainbow braids falling over her shoulders. “They’re expelling Brendan this time.”

Expelled means I won’t see Brendan on my way to English class, or stare at him in Geometry, or sit next to him at lunch and pretend I don’t notice our legs touching under the table. “Who told you that?”

“Thrasher said he’s out ten days while they decide if he’s expelled or not,” she explains as I try to compose myself.

“Have you talked to Brendan?”

She looks down at her phone. “He hasn’t replied.”

“Damn.” I kick a locker so hard my toe aches. 

She squeezes my shoulder and her brown eyes meet mine. “Nothing we can do about it now except maybe get revenge.”

My stomach lurches at the look in her eyes, so I decide to change the subject. “We should go,” I sigh. “We’re already late thanks to McKay’s inquisition. The one thing I can control today is my A in Geometry.”

When we arrive, Connor’s younger cousin Landon stares at me like I’m some undiscovered species. I learned a long time ago not to back down when people do this, so I stare back. Landon looks away first, thank God. Today has been a shitshow and I don’t need him making it worse.

After class I’m headed out the door thinking about Brendan when someone taps me on the back. I stop short and almost knock Landon over. He looks like he’s straight out of a Hollister commercial with his Captain America haircut and basketball t-shirt. Most of us have to stumble through high school with zits and crooked teeth, but Landon’s looked disgustingly perfect since we were little. “Hey,” he says.

I haven’t spoken to Landon since last year, and our conversation ended with me screaming at him about how we weren’t friends anymore. “What?”

He holds up a pencil. “You dropped this.”

I snatch it out of his hand as his cousin Evan rounds the corner. Evan is shaped like a gorilla except I’m pretty sure any gorilla is smarter than he is. You’d think with all their money, the Eastons could buy him a brain. “What’d your boyfriend do to my brother, hambeast?”

I don’t dare show how much the insult stings. “How creative. A fat joke.”

Evan tugs my hair like we’re in third grade. “You look like a clown with this bubblegum hair, frogbeast. Is that better?”

I try to stay as calm as possible even though I’m sure he’s going to hit me. “I’m sure Brendan can break your hand, too.”

Evan’s jaw clenches and he steps closer. “You better watch your back, bitch. We’re coming for you and all your goth friends.”

Landon inserts himself between us, which stops Evan because Landon is tall. Last year he was the only freshman to make the varsity basketball team. “Let’s go.” Landon keeps his hands on his cousin’s shoulders as they walk away. 

As much as I hate to admit it, Evan’s threat rattles me. Ever since Brendan started fighting back when Evan and Connor would mess with one of us, the whole school has been on edge. I watch the back of Landon’s head as he continues down the hallway toward the cafeteria. 

Lily appears, taking the spot to my right and following my gaze. “What's his problem?”

I keep my eyes on Landon and imagine what would happen if Lily knew the truth about him and me. “I’m think Brendan started something we’re going to have to


  1. That last line should read “I think Brendan started something we’re going to have to finish.” So sorry about that!

  2. Hi Paige - I love this revision! You've moved the action forward without losing any of the wonderful voice, great job. I'm still missing a little of the stakes, but I do like the hint at her father being the trigger point. One really nitpicky thing--you've got a couple of references that may date the manuscript (Rancid, emo), not necessarily for correcting, but something to be aware of.

    Awesome work!


  3. Hi Paige,

    I like the way you've used the meeting in the principal's office as a tool to relay exposition. It makes the office visit feel more important to the story and improves the flow quite a bit.

    This is minor, but I'd add a little setting for the mini-scene that takes place during geometry class. It wouldn't take much, but just something like sliding into a desk at the back of the classroom as the bell rings. It feels like we jump in and out of there quickly.

    Seems like it's coming together!

  4. Hi Paige!

    You are an absolute POWERHOUSE when it comes to voice. NAILED IT!! You've done an amazing job of rounding out Fiona's character, and I found her infinitely more interesting this time around. She's a fantastic enigma of tough, sassy, and smart, and I love her!!

    Honestly, I'm kind of at a loss. I don't want to give suggestions just because. I do agree with Adam that a splash more setting might be good. If I had to change anything else, it would be the amount of characters introduced in such a short time. Maybe axe a couple so we're not bombarded so soon into the story?

    But really, stellar job. Made me laugh out loud again, even though I'd read most of those humour lines last week. Love it, love it!

    ~Mary :)

  5. So... I am already starting to ship Fiona and Landon and I'm only five pages in...

    This is really good. As Adam says, maybe expand the class room scene slightly as this is a bit of a fragment at the moment.

    There are also a lot of names in a short period, but if they are all going to be pivotal to the story, that may not be the end of the world.

    Can't wait to see your pitch!


  6. Paige:

    Great work. I don't have much to say except small stuff:

    - You added some exposition in the beginning with McKay that I don't think is necessary and it feels to me like it's interrupting your flow. "Since your father passed" and "he takes in my all-black clothing" sound a bit "both you and I know" -- and more importantly, they don't sound like YOU (or Fiona). I don't think they're needed here, but others may disagree. (dying her hair pink, her attitude, and "all your goth friends" said it all for me)

    - SUPER nit-picky, but the "-clad feet" phrase feels out of character and I want it to just say "as fast as my Converses can take me." (Do kids say "Converse" these days instead of "Chucks"? Is my age showing?)

    Yeah. That's all I got. Best wishes, can't wait to see the rest of this some day!


  7. I do pretty much agree with previous comments, so I'm going to nitpick.

    This is a personal preference, but I'm not the biggest fan of books starting with dialogue. Chapters, yes, but not the first lines of works. Despite this preference, the line catches me and provides necessary expository information as well. So, well done. I'm torn.

    I think the next two paragraphs are good and funny, but I wonder if you could go straight into:

    “Weapon?” followed by some input, but not too much. It's not hard to know she's playing dumb, to me at least, in that I already got a feel for her as sarcastic and crass.

    Kicking a locker that hard seems dramatic, but then again, teens are dramatic.

    This line bothers me:

    "I haven’t spoken to Landon since last year, and our conversation ended with me screaming at him about how we weren’t friends anymore."

    I think you could show passive aggressiveness better somehow. Or, she would actually address him head on and make things super awkward for him. She seems like the type.

    I feel like some info is getting jammed together somehow. I know we feel we have to get to the point in five pages, but I'm not sure we always need to know everything as soon as possible. Solving that riddle of too much vs. not enough is one of the hardest parts of writing.

    Looking forward to seeing what this is all about.