Sunday, May 12, 2019

1st Five Pages May Workshop - Hill Rev 1

Name: Laurel Hill
Genre: Young Adult Supernatural Thriller
Title: The In-Between

The wall of glass separating Ashton's bedroom from the back deck of his house protected him from the morning's Spring shower. He sat at his drawing desk, watching the aspens sway back and forth in the wind, fluttering their leaves to shake off all the clouds water.
The constant tapping of rain at the window was annoying. He couldn't wait for the pitter patter of mother nature to stop so he could flee the mother responsible for his own nature. The storm she created inside was torrential. Her tongue lashed out at him whenever she saw fit, causing him to strike back just as hard, triggering an unbearably loud thunder within his already shattered heart.
Dark grey clouds floated above their seclusion in the Pocono Mountains, teasing the time of day to look like night. The filtered light produced an eerie feeling, so he twisted the tiny knob underneath his small metal lampshade to brighten things up a bit. Still, it failed to lift the mood. He tossed his pencil aside, watching it bounce across the wood and roll off to the floor, then leaned back in his chair to give him enough space to open the top drawer. His neon-green bouncy ball rolled forward to greet him. He grabbed it from its dark stowage and went to lay down on his bed.
He was fully aware he was feeling sorry for himself as he rolled the rubber around in his hands, allowing boredom and loneliness to consume him. He wished he could hang out with Jake, but those days were long gone thanks to a stupid kitchen cutting-board they found last year in the charred remains of an old country house. A blend of fear and excitement overcame him when he saw that someone had turned it into a homemade Ouija board. Jake freaked out when Ashton started playing with it all the time and told everyone at school that he chose the devil over their friendship, ultimately destroying his popularity. Soon after, Ashton buried it in the woods near his house, not because he believed it to be evil, but because it caused the death of a friendship he had since pre-school.
The boy looked over at his phone lying on his bedside table and grabbed it to make a call.
Drums pounded in the background when his dad answered in a hushed tone. “I'm in the studio. Why are you calling?”
 “Can I hang with you for a while?”
The old man burst out laughing as if it was the most ridiculous question he'd ever heard. “No!”
“You know exactly why!”
Ashton listened to all the reasons he couldn't join his famous father on tour despite the fact he had a 4.0 GPA and could finish the last month online. "Whatever," he mumbled.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing." Ashton ended the call wondering how a parent would ever choose to keep their kid a secret from the world. Even worse - stop caring about their existence. He looked at the phone's blank screen and whispered, "I'm your son."
"ASHTON?!" his mom shouted from her bedroom.
He prepared himself for further conflict and sat up to yell back. "Now what?!”
Her feet stomped down the hallway to his room. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that!” she said, rushing through his doorway.
He noticed the eleven-lines between her eyebrows. “Go get some more snake venom injected in your face! I can actually see you’re angry instead of hearing your ever-annoying voice!” He knew she'd be fighting the aging process every way possible until she took her last breath. He hated how insecure she was and always condemned her for never taking off her makeup, even at night. The gym had become her church and she looked ridiculous doing lunges with her hands in the prayer position.
She reacted as if she had been slapped hard across the face. “What happened to you?” she whispered.
He sneered with contempt. “You.”
She let out a whimper of frustration and said, "It's like I don't even know you anymore," then turned around and left, never saying what brought her there in the first place.
He got up from his bed and slammed the door behind her. A loud breath of disappointment escaped his lungs and he threw the ball onto his bed, watching his down-filled duvet catch its fall.
It finally stopped raining, so he pulled open the heavy sliding door to go outside. Clouds of steam formed by the emerging hot sun floated across the wooden deck, brushing by him like a cat saying hello. He breathed in the strong scent of the forest. It motivated him to take a hike and he went back inside to grab his phone, earbuds, and a jacket from his bedroom closet. He mischievously plucked the red expensive designer name off the hook. It didn't belong to him. It was another gem he stole from Harley Martin's locker.
He found it his duty to make sure his bully felt equally violated whenever possible. It was his contribution to the school process of making sure people like him knew they still had enemies no matter how popular they thought they were. He knew Harley didn't have any real friends; they were always talking behind his back. It was social politics at its worst when the entire student body still crowned the senior and his conceited girlfriend Prom King and Queen.
A strange feeling as if he was being watched followed Ashton as he climbed the hill next to his house. He looked around to make sure it wasn't some wildlife that could bite him. His hand slipped across the moss-covered rock he grasped to pull him up the steepest part. A smile grew across his face as he wiped the slime across the jacket. It was sure to leave an ugly stain. Ashton always returned Harley's things once he'd grown bored with them, but left a mark of some sort to show where it had been since leaving locker 205. The last hint he left was a stinky mess on the bottoms of the white gym shoes he stole last week.
Harley stood soaking wet from the rain as he hid behind one of the large pine trees standing closest to the deck of Ashton's house. Cursing under his breath, he watched his favorite jacket ride the back of his worst enemy. He quietly thanked the sophomore for not sliding his bedroom door all the way shut. Now he could easily sneak inside and get all his stuff back, maybe even a few extra things for payback.
He plucked a pine needle from the tree and rolled it between his fingers, strategizing how he could go about his retrieval without getting caught. He could hear Ashton’s mother yelling from inside, so it would have to be quick. Her voice grew louder and he hurried around to the side of the home to see her come out the front door shouting for her son.
There was no denying she was beautiful. The sight of her chest heaving from anger took him to a familiar dark place in his mind, stirring his desire to have her no matter what the cost. Age didn't matter. He'd already been with women who were older and knew it would only take his gorgeous good looks to get her to do whatever he wanted.


  1. Hi Laurel, I enjoyed reading your revision. I definitely got the sense of Ashton's state of mind, his dysfunctional relationships with both parents, the loss of his friendship, etc. I like the dark clouds and rain in the setting mirroring his mood. I just have a few comments that would have helped me get into the story more quickly. It might be helpful to tighten up the first few paragraphs. The descriptions are nice, but could probably be more brief to get the reader into the action sooner.
    "The boy looked over at his phone" pulled me out of the story, because it made me wonder if it was someone other than Ashton. I noticed it last week, but it still caught me momentarily while reading this week.
    The line where Ashton whispered, "I am your son" to the blank phone screen truly connected me with his feelings at that moment. I'd love to see more of that added in, to show us what the relationships are like.
    You've set up suspense with the Ouija board and the super creepy teen lurking in the woods. I wasn't expecting his nemesis to be stalking him at home, so I never saw that one coming! Good luck with everything and thanks for sharing your work.

  2. Laurel,
    You really did approve your voice this round. It is solid and intriguing. Great job.
    You are introducing us to Ashton in the first chapter and his troubled state of mind (which comes across great). However, I wish there was something in this chapter that would tell us where we are going and what the problem of the story is. Even in the beginning of chapter 2 I'm not certain if the foreshadowed rape is the main arc (but I might be mistaken, of course).
    A little thing. You have a beautiful sentence in the beginning but it leaves me confused. "He couldn't wait for the pitter patter of mother nature to stop so he could flee the mother responsible for his own nature. The storm she created inside was torrential." -What kind of storm are you referring to? I'm not sure I get the reference.
    Thanks for sharing! Great work.

  3. Hi Laurel! Wow! I am in love with this deep edit. It's really hard to throw out all your words and start over fresh so you should be super proud. The voice is a lot stronger in these pages and we get to focus on your MC, which is great. You have a beautifully descriptive writing style, but I think you should pull back on it here and there. This will allow you some room in these pages to introduce your MC's conflict. In this revision, we don't see what obstacle is in place for Ashton. I'd like to see you bring that really clearly into focus. Maybe like a punch at the end of chapter one?

    You can remove some of the smaller actions. The opening of desk drawer, lying on bed, etc. to make room for bigger action that moves the plot forward. As an aside, I love the way you personify objects: "the ball greeted him".

    I do want to caution against being too harsh with parents. Even teenagers who have problems with their parents still acknowledge on some level that the mother/s or father/s are human and have feelings. Making the mom too much of a narcissist could make Ashton look unfeeling. I'd like to seem him struggle with his feelings for his mother. It doesn't need to be extensive. You can do this nicely since you've already done it with the dad as Ashton states, "I'm your son." That's a really powerful glimpse into the parent/child relationship without taking up too much page time.

    I am very eager to see what you do next! And as always, thank you for trusting me with your pages.


  4. Hi Laurel,

    This version definitely flows better and I have a more solid understanding of what's going on so good job there.
    Like others said, I think tightening up the beginning more would be a great idea. Having a stronger first line that reflects what happens in the plot is a good start. I've been having to do the same with my story but remember it's for teenagers and that much description will most likely lose their interest in the beginning of the story. I think your descriptive writing style is beautiful and that will help a lot later in the story when u want to slow down the pace.

    I definitely get a good idea about his relationship with his parents and feel sympathy for him over his relationship with his dad. Like Shannon said, I think giving more depth to his relationship with his mom would be good. Maybe they don't get along but he understands that she's been basically raising him by herself and he cuts her some slack because of that. Maybe he understands that her obsession with vanity is probably because his famous father is surrounded by beautiful younger women all the time...

    In the back of my mind I still want to know about his mother's and his "nature", especially knowing it's a supernatural thriller. And I also want to know more about the Ouija board/cutting board so good job throwing those tidbits in there.

  5. Hi Laurel!

    There's so much about this revision to love. You've definitely worked hard, and regrouping to rewrite material can be tough. You did a great job. I get a much better sense of Ashton's parental conflicts, which makes me empathetic towards him, but I'd like to know his relationship with his mom a bit deeper. I think doing this will ground the reader more in this world, but also in the character. Others have already mention the beauty of your writing style, and I totally agree. I also agree that finding the most important description and eliminating the rest will make what you choose more potent. Just choose carefully. Think about what description can connect/hint to story, plot, character, and goal.

    One thing: the idea of this wood and the Quija board has got me so curious! I can't wait to see where this all goes. You should be super proud of your work.


  6. Hi Laurel,

    This is an excellent revision. You fixed any POV issues, and the style feels consistent throughout. Both characters are creepy in different ways. I love Ashton stealing his former friend’s stuff and Harley creeping on Ashton’s mom. It also made me feel sad for Ashton about his dad. I think it might be good to give Ashton some redeeming qualities, a save-the-cat moment maybe, perhaps something funny, a relatable opinion... and I want to hear more about the handmade Ouiji board! Very fascinating.

    An idea...could you start with creepy Harley? And then Ashton leaves and his mom is in the house? Possibly don’t make her a jerk, just his dad, so we feel for her? Work on that dynamic a little if you want us to be nervous for the mom.

    I definitely think you should cut Ashton’s musings about the weather. The second paragraph line about the tapping getting irritating is good enough. Cut all the rest. Also, if it’s pouring rain, how is he going climbing? And why isn’t Huxley also wet?

    I think you did a great job overall staying in the character’s body in this revision, and now it’s going over the emotional through-line, and increasing tension. It does have an intriguing plot line though, and I am nervous for the mom!


    1. ooooh! Fantastic idea!!! THANK YOU, KIM! I am excited to try this out! ((doing a little dance))