Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 #YayYA BONUS Entry #25: Within and Without

Name: Deborah Maroulis (@yaddathree)
Genre: Contemporary
WITHIN AND WITHOUT
35 Pitch: Sixteen year-old Wren ignores her feelings for the Greek farm hand and dates her long-time crush. But when he takes things too far, she must decide if the illusion of love is worth her health.

First 500:
Hair twisted into a bun and ear buds in, I pushed play on my favorite song and shoved my phone into my pocket. I glanced at the borrowed suitcase taking up what little floor room existed and braced myself for one last try. I gripped the closet handle and tugged. With my entire body weight, I pulled. But instead of the door sliding open, it broke free from the track, sending us reeling and my phone tumbling. Boxes of Home Shopping Network’s finest spilling after us. My collection of favorite band t-shirts and headphones tangled in between Fed-Ex and first class mail. 
I wiggled myself from the door, ignoring the floor’s strangled protest under my weight. With my foot, I slid the phone toward my outstretched hand and hoped the glass wasn’t shattered. 
As I turned the screen, I muttered the first prayer I could think of. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep When my playlist stared back at me unharmed, I sighed in relief. The only mantra I could remember was now the patron prayer of cell phones.
I pushed myself from the floor only to crash into one of the million shelves lining my new room. Each one held some of Granny’s precious dolls that looked too much like my mom for comfort. Phone in hand, my arm shot up to defend against another whacking and sent one of Granny’s prized dolls careening toward the floor. 
I gasped, eyes wide. One hand propped me up and the other held my phone, the one connection to the outside world until school started. And I couldn’t hold it and save the Mini-Mom plummeting to instant death. 
Granny’s forced smile and disappointed eyes flashed before me. She would nod and tell me it was an accident. All the while picking up shards of its ceramic face like discarded tissues at a funeral. 
I’d been here all of five minutes, and creepy or not, these dolls meant the world to her. Mini-mom it was.
I tossed my phone toward the pile of boxes and shirts, hoping it’d land on its back. My hand closed around stiff fabric just in time to save Ms. Porcelain from her ultimate demise. Standing slowly, I placed her back on the shelf smoothing her hair and lace frock as best as I could, hoping she looked all right. I tried tucking the tag that bragged, “Made by Marie Osmond” under the stand, but then it stooped sideways. 
Seriously, who buys dolls designed by a weight-loss spokesperson, anyway?
I backed away slowly to avoid another disaster and looked for my phone. This time, when I reached for it, tiny bumps pricked my fingertips. I closed my eyes and hung my head. Once my mom saw my cracked screen, I would be laid to sleep. No prayer needed.
I stacked the boxes back in the closet Tetris-style. Somehow there were three left-overs, not to mention all my stuff I was supposed to be unpacking and making comfortable.

Sixteen-year-old Wren believes her bulimia helped attract her long-time crush. But when he pushes her into a physical relationship she’s not ready for, she must decide if the illusion of love is worth her health.


Hair twisted into a bun and ear buds in, I pushed play on Death Cab for Cutie and shoved my phone into my pocket, ready to take on the closet door one more time. Gripping the handle, I tugged. With my entire body weight, I pulled. But instead of the door sliding open, it broke free from the track, sending me reeling and my phone tumbling. Boxes of Home Shopping Network’s finest spilling after, and my collection of band t-shirts and headphones tangled in between Fed-Ex and first class mail. My borrowed suitcase taking up the rest of what little floor room existed.
I wiggled myself from under the door, attempting to ignore the pinch of my jeans in all the wrong places. With my foot, I slid the phone toward my outstretched hand and hoped the glass hadn’t shattered. It was the one connection I had to the outside world until school started.
As I flipped the phone over to check the screen’s lifespan, I muttered the first prayer I could think of. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.  When my playlist stared back at me unharmed, I sighed in relief. The only mantra I could remember was now the patron prayer of cell phones.
I pushed myself from the floor only to crash into one of the million shelves lining my new room, each one holding Granny’s precious dolls that looked too much like my mom for comfort. My arm shot up to defend against another whacking and sent one of Granny’s prized dolls careening toward the floor.
I gasped, eyes wide. One hand propped me up and the other held my phone. And I couldn’t hold it and save the Mini-Mom plummeting to instant death.
Tossing my phone toward the pile of boxes and shirts, I prayed it’d land on its back. My hand closed around stiff fabric just in time to save Ms. Porcelain from her ultimate demise.
Granny’s forced smile and disappointed eyes had flashed before me like one of those near death experiences all over late night TV. She would’ve nodded and told me it was an accident, all the while picking up shards of its ceramic face like discarded tissues at a funeral. I’d been here all of five minutes, and creepy or not, these dolls meant the world to her.
I placed the Mini-Mom back on the shelf smoothing her hair and lace frock as best as I could, hoping she looked all right. I tried tucking the tag that bragged, “Made by Marie Osmond” under the stand, only making it slump sideways. Exhaling a snort, I shook my head.
Seriously, who buys dolls designed by a weight-loss spokesperson?
I backed away, parkouring the closet fallout to avoid another disaster and looked for my phone. This time, when I reached for it, tiny fissures threatened my fingertips as I slid my hand over the screen. I closed my eyes and hung my head. Once my mom saw the cracks, I’d be laid to sleep. No prayer needed.

I stacked the boxes back in the closet Tetris-style. Somehow there were three left-overs, not to mention all my stuff I was supposed to be unpacking to make myself comfortable, as Granny insisted.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Deborah!!!

    First off, this sounds like an interesting concept, especially the health part in the pitch. So I'll start with the pitch:

    Sixteen year-old Wren ignores her feelings for the Greek farm hand (is he flirting with her, or is there any reason she would be ignoring the feelings? Does she have any or just doesn't realize. I know a pitch only has so many words, but these are things to consider) and dates her long-time crush. (this tells us she doesn't like the greek guy, and has admired someone else, so it doesn't really connect with the words 'ignored her feelings' above.) But when he takes things too far, she must decide if the illusion of love is worth her health. (Has she had health problems in the past? Or is this new because of her crush's seemingly adventurous or rebellious spirit?)

    500:

    The opening paragraph is good, just left me confused at the word "us" being mentioned, since we only see the Main character, her phone, and ear buds. So is she referring to them as alive or is someone else there helping her tug?

    Loved the line: Each one held some of Granny’s precious dolls that looked too much like my mom for comfort... but the line that follows makes it sound like she's in a fist fight with someone for some reason to me.

    The section where she's imagining what would happen if the doll broke made me think at first it actually did, until you mentioned she gives up her phone to catch it. Maybe if you switch the ordering, her save the doll, then explain why and what would happen if she didn't will help the flow.

    The line: Seriously, who buys dolls designed by a weight-loss spokesperson, anyway? is funny, but feels out of place, since we have no real connection to Marie Osmond.

    "I would be laid to sleep. No prayer needed." is also hilarious.

    The only real thing that I couldn't figure out is what she was trying to open in the beginning and why she wanted to until I read over a second time. (Then I started noticing things and it became all the more funny.)
    This feels like a pretty lengthy section to get a suitcase in the closet and to describe the mommy dolls, as funny as it is, for an opening. It also took me a bit to realize she's at her grandmother's house in a room she usually stays in, or at least, that's what I concluded.
    But, the voice is great and full of snark! She definitely sounds like a 16 year old.

    I hope this helps!! :D

    -Bethany

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Deborah,

    Pitch: I love your pitch! Of course, I've seen it before, I think on the facebook pitchwars forum. One thing I think a blind reader could find confusing is who the "he" is when it comes to the he who takes things too far.

    500 words:
    Oh, there's so many great things here! I can envision the poor girl trying to move into a room that has no room for her. It might help to ground readers better by starting out with a line that clearly tells us the MC is moving into a new room (is it temporary?), something like: My room for the summer contained exactly three cubic feet of space for all of my possessions (terrible example, but hopefully it gets the point across).

    A few details/language choices which you may want to reconsider: descriptions like "hair twisted into a bun" (seems unnecessary to mention based on the description that follows, is this something she does a lot in the book?), the "floor's strangled protest" (makes me think she is in an unsafe house which should be condemned), the mention of "us" twice in paragraph 1 (is that her and her phone?).

    I love the description of the Marie Osmond dolls, also the borderline hoarding tendencies of her grandmother. I did wonder whether teen readers would know Marie Osmond. She is a pretty recent Nutrisystem spokeswoman so hopefully most will.

    I've always been intrigued by your story (even though I read mostly fantasy). Good luck and I hope this helps some!

    Julie (#3)

    ReplyDelete
  3. 35 words: I kinda wanted a description of the long-time crush, since you gave me a description of the other male lead (Greek farm-hand.)

    500 words: There's a great sense of humor in here (I liked the "mini-mom" line.) The prose is also tight and strong. One thing I wanted was a bit more detail. What's the MC's favorite song? The dolls look like her mom--what hair color or facial design does that mean?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Part One – I’ve exceeded the max allowable characters, so I am posting 2x…

    Hi there – I can’t wait to jump in!

    Your Pitch:
    Chicago Manual of Style says to do this: Sixteen-year-old…so, small correction there. Just add another en dash. I like your first sentence and to me it sets up your story as a love triangle / girl trying to figure out her feelings. The second sentence doesn’t tell me enough, though. When he takes things too far, it could mean he’s pushing her sexually, it could mean he’s abusive…too open for interpretation. Can you be more specific? Same comment about her health – maybe he’s pressuring her to be thin and she’s becoming anorexic? Maybe he’s jealous for her obvious regard for the Greek farm hand and slaps her. Specificity will help a lot here and set the tone of the MS.

    Your First 500:
    OK, loving your first line. Sets the mood, sets the era. When you said this: “I glanced at the borrowed suitcase taking up what little floor room existed and braced myself for one last try.” I thought she was going to try (again) to close it / zip it up / snap it shut. When we cut to “I gripped the closet handle and tugged” I was a little thrown because I didn’t know what the closet had to do with the suitcase. I kept reading and realized that it’s to ground the reader in the fact that she is unpacking / moving in. I wonder if it would be better to mention the suitcase a few lines later?

    As others have mentioned, “us” should be “me,” in two places: “…sending us reeling and my phone tumbling” and “Boxes of Home Shopping Network’s finest spilling after me.” Also, if her phone is in her pocket, assuming she’s a teen wearing jeans, I’m surprised it popped out of her pocket so easily. Not a big deal, just a little surprising.

    You say “favorite” 2x in the first paragraph. Your narrative is already voicey, which is awesome, but I think you can up it even further by specifying the favorite song and the favorite bands. And it will tell us so much about the character. If she pushes play on “All the Single Ladies” and has a collection of “Britney Spears t-shirts”…big difference in her character if she pushes play on “Back in Black by ACDC” and has a collection of “Pixies t-shirts”… I’m gonna think something totally different about her :-)

    This is confusing to me: “ignoring the floor’s strangled protest under my weight.” What does this mean? The floor is protesting due to her weight? Why? I can see how her body might be protesting the weight of the door, if the door fell on her. Think it needs a little more clarity.

    I think the action here can be a tad clearer: “As I turned the screen” can become “I held my breath as I flipped over my Iphone to look at the screen.” Otherwise, it sounds like the phone is face up and she’s just turning it in her palm. I also guessed it was an Iphone.

    “The only mantra I could remember was now the patron prayer of cell phones.” Is there a patron prayer for cell phones?? LOL. I must learn it.

    Beautiful line: “Each one held some of Granny’s precious dolls that looked too much like my mom for comfort.” I also love the Mini-Mom comment. Nice voice!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Here's Part Two :-)

    At this point, I realized we are getting an in depth play by play of the MC falling. Down to which hand is doing what. Do we need this amount of detail?

    This gives an excellent impression of the Grandmother: “Granny’s forced smile and disappointed eyes flashed before me.”

    In the first instance of Mini-Mom, both m’s are capitalized. In the second instance, only the first m is capitalized. I don’t think it matters how you do it, only that you are consistent.

    Suggest to remove the adverb (you use slowly here and again in the last paragraph – slay that sucker) - you already have motion (it’s implied), and add a comma after shelf: “I placed her back on the shelf, smoothing her hair and lace frock as best as I could, hoping she looked all right.” Just a suggestion for better flow. Totally your call.

    Suggest to add a few words for clarity…in place of “it” I suggest “the doll” and instead of “stooped” I suggest “slumped” but I think it depends if these dolls are sitting or standing. I pictured them all sitting, for some reason, which is why I suggested slumped: “I tried tucking the tag that bragged “Made by Marie Osmond” under the stand, but then the doll slumped sideways.”

    Remove slowly, I don’t think you need it…maybe replace with a showing action? “I backed away, stepping over the chaos cluttering my room, to avoid another disaster and looked for my Iphone.”

    Have you ever shattered a phone screen? I have and it’s the worst feeling in the world. But it’s not tiny bumps pricking your fingers. It’s more like tiny glass fissures snaking over the surface. Sharp enough to cut if you press hard enough. Suggest you describe it in that manner, instead of bumps.

    What does it meant to be “laid to sleep?” Does this mean she’ll be punished? Sent to bed? Seems a little steep for a 16 year old.

    Tetris-style. LOVE IT. Do teens still play this game? Totally addictive.

    What does the second half of this sentence mean? “…all my stuff I was supposed to be unpacking and making comfortable.” Making comfortable? How could she make her stuff comfortable?

    Thank you so much for letting me read! I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Regards,
    Danielle

    ReplyDelete
  6. Pitch: Good set up, but what goes too far?

    500 words: Who is the us you are referring to in the first paragraph? Is it your MC and her phone? If so I'm not sure it works. I love the image of all of the boxes from Home Shopping Network. I could picture it and connect to people who have an addiction to that channel. I love this image of her trying to make the space her's despite that it is clearly cluttered with stuff.

    There is some really good humor infused in this opener, but I got muddled down and confused by the action of what was going on. It could be ordered differently to flow better. I love your MC and her thoughts. The essence of a teen is definitely felt and made me smile.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Deborah,

    I like your pitch, just would like clarification on who goes too far as others have said. I like the idea of what's happening here but I would like more detail as to where she is specifically. It would help ground the reader. I also think the dolls that looked like your mom would be a good place to add a more detailed description and could even use it to compare her own looks or something similar. I do think that the action is a bit stiff, and could flow better. I enjoyed the humor of the MC!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Deborah,

    This is an intriguing excerpt, and I love Wren's relatable sense of humor. I also love how you mirror Wren's emotional discomfort with her physical discomfort being someplace she literally doesn't fit.

    35 Word Pitch: It's good, but I'd like to know how Wren's crush goes too far and the connection between this and her health. In fact, I'd rather you cut down on the details about the Greek farmhand if you need the space to make this clearer.

    500 words: This is very engaging and relatable. I like how the ordinary everyday details, like the Marie Osmond dolls and the broken phone screen, show us so much about Wren's relationship with her mother and grandmother. And Granny's personality comes out so strongly in the sort of things she likes to collect and owns.

    You have a lot of action in here, and while that's good, sometimes it seems a bit excessive, and hard to follow. "My collection of favorite band t-shirts and headphones tangled in between Fed-Ex and first class mail." Were the t-shirts in her suitcase or in the closet? It took me a bit to figure out whether Wren was packing to leave or unpacking to stay.

    Like others have said, Wren referring to herself as "us" confused me.

    "I wiggled myself from the door." I wriggled myself out from under the door, maybe? Did it land on her?

    I love that the first prayer she can think of is "Now I lay me down to sleep." So relatable. (My sister once answered the phone with this; it really becomes rote!)

    When the doll falls and Wren has to choose between saving it and her phone, this moment seemed far too long to me.

    "All the while picking up shards of its ceramic face like discarded tissues at a funeral." That's awesome imagery. Hints at how much the dolls mean to Granny.

    "Seriously, who buys dolls designed by a weight-loss spokesperson, anyway?" This cracked me up, but felt a little bit forced? It seems like buying dolls is the weird thing, not who made them?

    With the last sentence, I'd stop with "unpacking," or explain she's trying to make herself comfortable, or the room comfortable for her.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It was a very enjoyable snippet and I found Wren easy to relate to (despite being old enough to remember when Marie Osmond made a TV show, not dolls), and the voice is great. I just think you need to condense the action just a little to make it flow.
    Good luck!

    Kimberly #4



    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Deborah!

    Your story has lots of great humor in it. I love your voice, and this opening holds my interest.
    You hint at her character - not wanting to disappoint her mom / grandma, but also having a bit of attitude.

    I *think* your phrase “Boxes of Home Shopping Network’s finest spilling after us” should be connected with a comma to the sentence before, or if you prefer the feel of a separate sentence, change the verb to spilled. “Boxes of Home Shopping Network’s finest spilled after us.”

    I like Julie’s idea of a set up sentence for what she’s doing before she opens the closet.

    Love the prayer. Made me laugh. Love your line about the dolls - it really is a nice description.

    My guess is that the health issues in this story are mental/emotional (am I totally off?). I think I'm leaning this way because of the hoarding issue in her family makes me think her family is already dysfuntional, which can set her up to come under more unhealthy dynamics in a boyfriend. It might help your pitch to allude to the actual issue the boyfriend has, and the actual health danger that develops. I see you are at your word limit so I know this is tough.

    I think it's great to have stories like this for young women, though, to learn through the eyes of the MC what can happen, and what they can do.

    I really like this! Best of luck!

    Maria (#1) @MariaCMcDaniel

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Deborah,

    Like some of the others, I agree, more specifics in the pitch will make it stronger. How does the boyfriend go too far, and what health issues are triggered.

    As I shared with you before, I'd love a different opening, but this does well at getting to the voice and humor of your character. A lot of the details like the confusing "us" and ways to finesse the action and language have been covered above. I think you have some potential with the ending lines of this passage to get closer to the heart of what Wren wants, something along the lines of how SHE is going to fit in or be comfortable, not just her stuff.

    I know from other info you've shared the weight issues are something you're trying to touch on here, and so it makes sense that Wren would be sensitive and aware of the doll's weight loss spokesperson status. But I think the floor creaking under her weight is too subtle and also not quite right for the thought process of a girl insecure about her weight. More likely thoughts might be about how there's not enough room for her to move in the cluttered room, or how Granny wouldn't blame her for being fat and clumsy, but Granny's disappointed smile would tell the truth. I think the cluttered room could be a great opportunity for Wren to muse on how she doesn't fit in, literally or even figuratively, and touching on it briefly in the first 500 words will give strength to your choice to start her story alone in a room fighting with a closet.

    I hope this helps you tighten up the opening of your story. I'm intrigued by many of the details and would love to see it shine.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Pitch:
    Left me with a lot of questions, but maybe not in a good way :( Does the CRUSH take things too far? It just says “he” so I assume it is the crush but I did have to stop and think about it. Also, it sounds like she is attracted to both people?? On my first read through I just assumed she wasn’t allowed to be with the Greek farmhand, but then I realized the other guy was her crush. A little confusing that she’s interested in both guys as that doesn’t seem like a huge problem. Maybe clarify why she doesn’t just go with the Greek guy as that seems to be who she prefers (or it is implied that she prefers him anyway).

    500 words:
    I’m a little confused with your opening. Is she trying to OPEN the closet door or pull her suitcase through the door? I guess I’m confused as to why the door is so hard to open. (I know the closet isn’t really the focus of the story but it did leave me wondering ha ha). The first few paragraphs just feel a little jumbled or confusing as to what is actually happening. Also, in the first paragraph you say “sending us reeling” and “spilling after us.” Who is “us”? I was under the impression it was just your MC.

    I feel like she has way too much time to contemplate saving the doll vs. her phone. I get giving internal monologue, but it seems like she really ponders and then ultimately decides to save the doll when in reality there would only be a split second to make that decision.

    Overall, I like your writing style and voice and think there is a good story here. Hopefully I’ll get to read more at some point.

    Jackie (#5)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you, everyone, for your comments! I so appreciate you taking the time to offer feedback. Can't wait to jump in and revise!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey!

    One last comment under the wire--busy schedules will kill me--but I really enjoyed the piece! I think Wren's voice is fantastic, and you really encapsulate it where it doesn't fall away at any point. I would love to see more about why she's at her grandma's house, and why it bothers her so much that the dolls look like her mom. Did something happen to her? Or is it just unnervingly creepy? I hate dolls, so I understand Wren's aversion. :)

    For the decision to save her phone or her doll, she doesn't have a lot of time. Gravity is happening and the decision should be split second. You can explain after she saves the creepy thing as to why she chose it over her phone. Let the reader get nervous as she suddenly swipes to save it by the hem of it's dress, and then let them groan over the destroyed phone with Wren.

    I think once you clarify the stakes in your pitch, the 'us' in your opener, and that decision moment, I think this will be really strong!!

    -Mads

    ReplyDelete
  14. Live the new pitch. And the jeans that pinch in all the wrong places! Perfection! The last sentence in the first paragraph is a fragment.

    Suggestion for the doll falling moment to speed up the split second reaction:

    I gasped, eyes wide. Granny would (something) if i let Mini-Mom plummet to her death. I tossed the phone, and saved the doll, my fingers catching her stiff fabric (dress?) just in time.

    Then she can feel the relief at not facing granny's disappointed reaction, and after that, hope her hasty aim of the phone into a pile of clothes had cushioned the fall, etc.

    The ending is good here too. And voice still comes through.

    ReplyDelete