Feb 7, 2010

Sample Pages- AM I WORTH IT?

Click here to read the first sample page submission.
Click here to read the second sample page submission.
Click here to read the most recent query.

*** Just a side note - its been a few months since I posted a revision of this story because I got really frustrated trying to revise what already existed. Finally I decided to tone down the MC and give him a little more mystery in the first chapter. I still don't know if its the right place to start but at least I'm no longer stuck.

I attempted suicide exactly once a day. Twice would be excessive. It would lose its value. I was starting to think it already had and I was starting to like it here.

Enjoying a blistering cold November in Chicago after spending my entire seventeen years in California was not part of my plan. I should hate my life right now, but I didn’t.

And it was so wrong for me to be happy.

I made my usual climb up the rocky wall. My hands numb from the cold wind, but the feeling was exhilarating. I couldn’t deny that. San Jose had such mild weather compared to this. The way the bitter cold steals your breathe, stings the tips of your fingers and toe. It was fascinating.

When I reached the top of the mound of giant rocks, I looked out at Lake Michigan spread before my eyes. It wasn’t California, but damn, it was beautiful. Even with the bite of a cold winter.

I closed my eyes and I was there again, with her. The girl I was sentenced to spend a lifetime with.      

“Every weekend it’s the same fucking thing, get drunk and party, maybe hook up with some random girl. Don’t you ever get tired of it?” I glanced over at my friend, he wasn’t even listening. He was watching a group of girls dancing.

“Hey Dan, someone’s checking you out,” Trenton sang.

He handed me another shot glass of whiskey and pointed at a short girl with dark hair across the room.

“What’s her name, Hailey or something?”I asked.

Trenton laughed and shook his head.”How many shots have you had? You never forget anyone’s name.”

“Six shots . .  .Hannah,” I remembered.

He moved beside me leaning against the counter. “What do you say? I don’t think you’d have any trouble getting in that girls’ pants. She totally wants you.”

I laughed and my head spun even more. “You’re such an ass, Trent. If I were a chick there would be a warning label tattooed across your forehead, I’d make sure of that.”

“We can’t all be as God damn charming as you,” he said.

I rested my head in my hands massaging my temples, wishing I hadn’t drank so much. Exactly thirty seconds later, I got a whiff of perfume.

“Hannah Fuentes,” I said, without lifting my head. 

“Dan Anderson,” she answered, giggling.

One strike against her already. Giggling girls were a little bit of a turn off for me, or maybe they just seemed fake, rehearsed.

“So you remember me?” she asked.

I lifted my head meeting her brown eyes. “Yes, we had Biology Freshman year. You sat in the third table on the window side of the room next to Byron Silverman.”

Her face lit up with a look of excitement- possibilities.

I cursed myself silently. Now she was going to think I spent the past two years dreaming about watching her bend over to pull a pencil out of her bag or something.

“See what I mean? God damn charming,” Trent muttered, as he walked away.

“You want to dance?” she asked.

Damn! Why didn’t I go home early like a good little Senator’s son? “Okay.”

She grabbed my hand and pulled me to the middle of the giant living room with the rest of the drunken upper classman. The music was fast and loud, the beat, the lights, my spinning head, none of it allowed me to think clearly and I knew this wouldn’t end well.

Then she was kissing me, her tongue dancing around in my mouth. It wasn’t a bad kiss, but it wasn’t love.

And it should be.

The vibration coming from my pocket shook me out of this morning ritual. My pounding heart slowed just a little before I flipped open the phone.

“Hi Steve.”

“Dan, where are you? I got up at five thirty and you were gone. Did you go out last night?” he asked, putting on his concerned uncle hat.

“Do I ever go out?”

“No . . .well anyway, I have a favor to ask.”

I groaned more out of habit than real distress.

“It’ll get you out of first period,” he taunted.


I sighed and start to climb down.

Not today. I was still a fucking coward. Again.


I walked in to the audio visual room a few minutes late. A blond haired woman stood in front of the T.V. with a notebook and a pen. She was the only one in the room.

“Are you Christian?” I asked.

She continued to stare at the T.V. “No, I’m atheist. My parents are Catholic.”

I laughed. “Okay, and you don’t have a French accent either.”

“Nope sorry, but I could give it a shot.”

I walked over and stood beside her, looking at the T.V.

“Damn, I thought we had it locked up.” She shook her head at the giant robot still intact and gloating after demolishing the other one in the ring.

I examined the screen a little more closely.  “What materials are you using on the outside?”          

She didn’t get to answer because a girl came skidding in the room, flustered and pink in the face. “Are you Christian?”

The woman next to me laughed. “This is still the audio visual room, isn’t it?”

The frantic girl put her hands in her face and moaned. “Oh God! He’s probably wandering around the school without a clue where to go.”

“You must be Claire Ramsey. The girl who’s battery died,” I said.

She looked up at me and I found myself staring a little too long at her green eyes. The genetic improbability of green eyes was so fascinating. Plus, she was gorgeous and something about her was different . . . honest maybe.

A virgin. She had to be a virgin.

“How did you know my name?” she asked.

“I was supposed to be your replacement, but if you’re here then my work is done.” I started to walk toward the door and she grabbed my arm.

"Wait, I’m not sure I can do this?” She bit her lower lip nervously.

“Do what?” I asked smiling because it wasn’t surgery or anything life or death.

“Translate.” She shook her head. “What if he uses slang or something not in my third year text book?”

The honest concern that filled her voice was so endearing. “Okay, I’ll stick around.”

This is bad Dan, resist the guilty pleasure. You’re already living with a girl. When I looked at Claire’s face again, I knew I couldn’t be an ass and leave her hanging, but I wouldn’t get personal either. Ever again. I committed myself for life to someone else. It was marriage in the worst sense.


M said...

First of all, I have to tell you that these pages have a great voice!

Alright, here are my quibbles:

a) attempted suicide once a day. Really? I'd change it to "contemplated" once a day, otherwise he just sounds...well, incompetent.

b) the transition b/t looking over the mountain and being at the party isn't clear enough to me; I thought it was a continuity error at first instead of a flashback/memory.

c) "Her face lit up with possibility" is what I think you should change that sentence to.

d) I would cut the "Damn!" and just leave it at "Why didn't I go home early like..." Exclamation points are rarely justified, and I feel like it's stronger and snarkier to just begin with "Why"

e) I have a very hard time buying the "not a bad kiss, but it wasn't love. And it should be." If he's fully back in the memory of the moment, why would a teenage boy be thinking that he has to love every girl he kisses? And if his Present Self is commenting on his Past Self's behavior, that demarcation is just not clear enough for me.

f) "not today...I was still a fucking coward." -- Emphasize that he's back in the present more, give some description of the height, set the scene. Then have him pull back. Also, the "again" doesn't work. Perhaps. "I was a fucking coward. Still."

g) the "different...honest...virgin" conclusion isn't working for me. Maybe..."There was something vulnerable about her. A virgin. She had to be a virgin." Or something. But the "honest" adjective isn't hitting the right note.

h) "the honest concern"--change to "genuine concern."

i) "This is bad...resist." I'd change to "Resist the guilty pleasure, Dan."

Otherwise, very nice work. I'm liking these pages quite a bit!

Shelley Sly said...

I agree that you have excellent voice. Your character is very real to me.

My concerns are with the second scene. I had to go back twice to figure out why he was in an audio visual room. It could just be my confusion, but I think a little more explanation (without over-explaining) could be useful.

I also agree with M about the attempted suicide, and would also go with "contemplated" instead.

You write well, and I look forward to reading more of this.

RCWriterGirl said...

I agree with M. My first thought was, no one attempts suicide once a day and comes up empty. Not to mention, suicide research indicates males tend to be more effective at suicides -- more likely getting the job done when they actually attempted. I think cotemplating suicide is what you meant.

Like M, I think the flashback transition needs work. It wasn't clear that he was going back to the past, or that he was back at the present until after you'd read a couple lines. Something that takes us back..something as simple as, "I remember the moment as if it was yesterday."

I remember reading the query for this, and knowing what is going on, what ultimately happens, I feel there's something improper about these lines: "I committed myself for life to someone else. It was marriage in the worst sense." I think when your readers realize he's referring to the woman he raped with this, they'll find it offensive. Yes, I recall he was drugged and thought it was consensual, but your protagonist is a rapist and so I think you've got to be more careful with your language. I think you need to focus on how he feels about what he did, and really keep terms that describe a relationship between the two of them (such as marriage) to a minimum.

The voice is really good and the story is pretty interesting, but you really have to tread carefully, as this it's hard to pull off rapist as likeable guy.

Good luck.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I agree with the previous commenters, I think they all have good points. I especially think the transition to the flashback has to be more clear. I had to go back and reread because I was confused.

Also, you need to set the scene more in the AV room. I felt a little disoriented, ground the reader.

As always, love your voice.

Julie said...

Thanks for all the great feedback!

M - love your suggestions. "Contemplated suicide" is the phase i was looking for but couldn't quite grab.

In the actual document the flashback is in italics so its more clear to the reader.

Shelley - the audio visual room is just a meeting place for the students to meet in this situation. I could add a simple line of narration to explain why.

RC - I get what you're saying about likability. My intent in using the word marriage is to emphasize the fact that he isn't going to let himself forget Hannah. No matter how awful it makes him feel to allow the memory to surface over and over again.

Its like he's a prisoner in his own mind, not letting himself experience any form of forgiveness. If he can't force himself to "jump off the cliff" then he forces him self to remember what he did in great detail.

I need to rewrite the query but I've taken out any form of psychiatric help and the fact that he tries to turn into a geek. He's just more of silent loner in this version. No trivia bowl or AP classes despite his genius IQ (which he keeps secret). Maybe I'll think of some better wording for his relationship.

ali said...

I really liked the voice of this AND was intrigued by what was hinted at in the story. Don't have anything to add to what the previous commenters said, just wanted to add encouragement.

Emily said...

Overall I liked this excerpt, but I think it would benefit from some serious editing.

I found a few errors:

Para 1: It- indefinite pronoun. Clarify

Para 4: breath, not "breathe." Definitely fix this. Also, the sentence starting with "The way" is a fragment. Combine with the following sentence.

Para 7: It is unclear who is speaking.

Para 8: "Sang" is a weird word choice. Made me think of High School Musical. Not what you're going for I think.

Para 13: girl's not "girls'" unless there's an orgy I don't know about...

Para 21: "I lifted my head meeting her brown eyes." His head met her brown eyes? Did he just headbutt her in the eyes? That could hurt...

Para 36: "taunted" doesn't seem like the right word. Tempted maybe?

Para 39: I would cut the word "Again." but that's just me.

Para 50: "The frantic girl put her hands in her face" I think you mean 'face in her hands' or I'm really confused.

Para 51: Whose, not "who's"

Para 58: Textbook is one word.

As you can see you also have a lot of paragraphs, but that is a stylistic choice.

I think your pages show good voice and hint at an interesting story. I did find the shift in scenes confusing though, I think you need to clarify what is in his head, and what is happening presently. Get this edited carefully however, because malapropisms are a sure way to be rejected.

Good luck-

Aimless Writer said...

This is not a query.
But it's interesting.