Jul 22 2010

Cassandra’s Writing Forum

Published by at 10:31 pm under Review Forums

My name is Cassandra and I’m a senior in college (YM and sociology major). Writing is mainly a hobby for me; I haven’t thought much of publishing other than in the last couple years. However, I’m afraid that although my stories have decent plots, they are over-ridden with too much pointless romance. And I like to think there is more to a story than romance.

Currently, I’m doing a complete rewrite of one of my novels. It is a YA action-romance superhero novel. Perhaps comparable to Meg Cabot’s supernatural novels when she still wrote under her name Jenny Carroll (such as the Mediator series and 1-800-Missing.)

Summary: Adaline is a high school student by day and the superhero, Volt, by night. But when her family relocates to small-town Indiana, she’s forced to retire her Volt persona. Can she survive the normalcy of the ordinary life or will The City’s pleas for Volt drive her insane? To top it off, high school athletes have been falling ill with a mysterious life-threatening disease. Throw in a love triangle between her next-door-neighbor and the small-town super and you have yourself quite the shocking story.

I don’t plan on posting too much about my overall plot because I don’t like the idea of having the entire synopsis and storyline posted online. However, I may post scenes that I am having difficulties with or would like multiple opinions on. In addition to this, if somebody is interested in learning more or taking a more active role in reviewing, then I would like to correspond through emails.

Thanks!

19 responses so far

19 Responses to “Cassandra’s Writing Forum”

  1. Cassandraon 30 Jul 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Oh yeah!

    I’ve been writing long enough to have thick skin, so as long as you don’t blatantly flame without saying anything constructive, then fire away with any problems you have with my work.

  2. Cassandraon 30 Jul 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Here’s the first chapter. I’m trying to wok on tightening conversations and working on showing, as opposed to telling. Any other advice would be wonderful.

    THE CITY TIMES: Weeks Away From Volt’s Five Year Anniversary

    Preparations are well under way for Volt’s five-year anniversary as The City’s Hero. It was only years ago that The City was counted as one of the most crime-ridden cities in America. Yet when Volt came storming into town, the criminals didn’t stand a chance. Now The City is hailed as one of the safest—and cleanest—places to live in the world. With so many accomplishments in Volt’s super-charged hands in so little time, there have been rumors of inducting him into the Super’s Hall of Fame . . .

    Chapter One: Teenaged Rebellion at its Greatest

    When my parents sat me down at the rarely-used dining room table, I assumed it was to announce their divorce. It wasn’t like we were much of a family anyways. Just three people who happened to live in the same building. I didn’t feel even a prickle of apprehension when my father told me that he had been transferred to some rinky-dink town in Indiana. I assumed that this was fabricated to ease the pains of their separation. But when the next words out of my father’s mouth were, “We’re moving to Shelton in three weeks,” my world came to a crashing halt.

    “Moving?” I demanded, jumping up from the table, my chair clattering to the ground, as I looked wildly at my father and mother. My heart started beating erratically as shockwaves coursed through my veins. “We can’t move.”

    “Adaline,” my mother murmured. “I know that this must come as a shock for you—”

    “Can’t you two just get a divorce instead?”

    “Why would we get a divorce?” my father asked as his brows creased together. Shaking his head twice, he stood. “I have some pressing matters to attend.” He had reached his daily limit of spending time with his family; now it was back to work.

    I glared at his back until he left the room before swinging around to face the mother. “I am not moving.”

    “You don’t have a choice in the matter. We’re a family Adaline,” my mother said.

    “Families stick together.”

    “You call what we have a family?” I motioned towards the empty seat that my father had vacated.

    My mother sighed deeply, looking at me with wide eyes that were quite discontenting. “I want us to be a family,” she said. “And I think this move will give us the chance.”

    “Urgh!” I screamed, spinning around and storming out of the room before I completely lost control. To the untrained eye, it may have seemed like I was the typical teenage rebel, having a panic attack because things weren’t going my way. But it was more than that. I was more than that. I didn’t want to stay in The City because it was the only place I considered home. I needed to stay here because The City needed me.

    They needed Volt.

    I ripped open the door to my bedroom, slamming it shut with a violent force as the barely contained electric waves rippled from my body. I gathered the excess force into a small ball in my hand, hurling it towards the innocent dartboard that was hanging on my wall. The dartboard didn’t stand a chance against my wrath; it instantly caught fire before falling to the ground in a messy heap of charred bits I would be forced to later clean.

    I was shaking. I couldn’t stop shaking. I curled up in a ball on the floor, willing myself to calm down enough to focus . . . the electricity in my blood was so hot that everything I touched was becoming super-charged. The light bulb in my room grew brighter before the glass finally burst, my room turning dim. I squeezed my eyes shut as I took deep and calming breaths. I wouldn’t be moving. I couldn’t move. If my mother couldn’t see the importance of me staying here, I would just have to talk to Bentley. He would know what to do. He always knew what to do. I focused on those thoughts until I had finally calmed down enough to pick up my cell-phone without blowing up its battery. With a practiced composure, I dialed his number and waited for him to pick up. I heard the click of his answer; I spoke before he could say a word. “Bentley, I need you.”

    I walked out of my front door without informing either of my parents—they wouldn’t notice me gone anyways—before breaking out into a full run the sixteen blocks it took to get to Bentley’s. People gave me strange looks as a shot by them and when I ran into a few without pausing in my stride, they hollered obscenities after me. But I couldn’t be bothered with trite things such as apologies when my mind was in such a mess. I only stopped once I faced the sprawling mansion where my former nanny now lived.

    Keying in the passcode to the front gates, I rushed down the long driveway before finally entering into my sanctuary. This was where I would live if only my mother wouldn’t continue to act like she cared. As it was, I had to sleep in my so-called home at least five nights a week. “Adaline,” Bentley said, striding towards me in the foyer, his thick, graying eyebrows were pressed together in concern. “You sounded so upset on the phone; what’s amidst?” He grasped my shoulders before pulling back from the large spark which resulted from the gesture. “You’re out of control.”
    I took a shaky breath as I clutched my hand to my racing heart. “It’s my parents,” I moaned. “They want me to move.”

    Two cups of tea and a half-dozen biscuits later, my mind had finally cleared enough to realize that my situation wasn’t that bad. I didn’t have to go. Yes, my mother carried a ridiculous mantra about being a “family” but I had only one year left of high school; no parent in her right mind would move a teenager during her senior year of school. My mom would see reason. And if I couldn’t make her then Bentley would be the one to do it.

    “Do you really think my mother would let me stay here?” I asked, observing the wooden panels of his spacious sitting room. It would be just like the old days when he would watch me at my own house. Only now, Bentley was the richer one. Generous inheritances from unknown uncles can fall into the laps of even poor British men who make their living as professional nannies.

    “I cannot think of any reason she wouldn’t, Adaline,” Bentley said. He took me back to my house to talk to her within that very hour. As I had expected, my mother hadn’t even noticed that I’d left. However, she didn’t seem very happy to see me returning in the back of Bentley’s town car.

    “How many times have I told you not to leave the flat without telling me first?” my mother snapped when Bentley and I walked into the townhouse.
    I stared at her for a few moments, slowing counting backwards so that I wouldn’t lash out. I was angry, yes. Angry that she thought she had any right to parent me after she spent the first twelve years of my life acting as if I didn’t even exist and the next four treating me as if I was just steps away from joining a gang. “Bentley would like to talk to you,” I said instead, my voice clear, calm, and deliberate.

    My mother pursued her lips before looking up at Bentley with her arms crossed. “I figured as much. Come on.” She inclined her head towards her study before giving me a pointed stare. “You stay here.”

    As soon as she shut the door behind them, I ran up to the door, pushing my ear against the heavy wood. At first I could only make out segments of sentences. Words such as school and uprooting and family were said, but I couldn’t tell if my mother was caving into Bentley’s entreats. Suddenly the volume in the room increased as Bentley apparently lost his temper.

    “Woman!” Bentley snapped. “Can you not see reason? The City is her home; this city is the only place she has ever known. And now you want to pull her away from it all just one year before she graduates?”

    “She is my daughter—”

    “And where were you when she fell ill with the chicken pox or was struck with stage fright? I do not recall you celebrating a good portion of her birthdays—”

    “Stop!” my mother cried. “I cannot help what I did in the past, but can’t you see that I am trying to make up for those lost years?”

    Bentley’s voice lowered considerably on the last statement; so much so that I almost couldn’t make it out. “And a fine job you’re doing too,” he said, his words racked with sarcasm. I scrambled out of the doorway just before he stalked out of the room. Inclining his head slightly, he gave me a look of indescribable defeat. “I’ll be seeing you Adaline,” he said before leaving the premises.

    My mother rushed out of the room, her own eyes wild with grief, before locking them with mine. “Adaline—”

    I squeezed my eyes shut, the anger pushing my powers to the brink. “I don’t want to hear it,” I said, my ears humming with static. I followed Bentley out to his car, intending to go with him and never return to this so-called home.

    “Go back inside,” Bentley said in a collected, measured voice. I shook my head violently. He sighed at my crossed arms. “Well, you are not coming with me.” With those words, he shut the door in my face and had his chauffer drive him away.
    I looked back at the townhouse, through one of the windows I could see the perfectly manicured hand of my mother, her profile barely hidden from view. With a sardonic salute, I turned and left our yard.

    By now it was late in the afternoon; the streets were full of traffic, people pressing on their horns in a rush to get home after a long day of work. On the corners, I breathed in the refreshing scent of hours-old hotdogs as I reveled in the feel of hard concrete against my feet. I looked up towards the tips of the metal skyscrapers which graced our skies and around to see the mosaic of people of all cultures, all of them in their own worlds as they laughed, screamed, and flirted into their tiny cell phones. They were completely unaware of the evils which lurked at the edges of their joy. They thought they were safe . . . they were safe. But how was I supposed to protect them if I lived hundreds of miles away?

    I wandered the streets for about a half-hour before I came across a small and dirty looking building beside a vacant alley. Ordinarily, I would scope this place for signs of criminal activity—defend the public from the grim reality of violence and all those other things that good supers are supposed to do—as it was, I was more interested in the blinking day-glo sign that hung in the front: Tattoos, Piercings, and Alternative Hair Salon.

    If my mother wanted a teenaged rebel, I’d give one to her. Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the door and entered the small place with a determined stride. The inside looked even grungier than the outside, if that were possible. The floor looked liked it had never known the love a mop and the solitary window was caked in grime. The walls were covered in pictures of previous customers; all of them had at least three facial piercings and sleeves full of tattoos. My eyes located the back door—a super always knew alternative escape routes—before finally landing on the owners of this fine facility. Behind a glass counter sat a woman with a purple Mohawk, a leather vest, and tattoos littered up and down her arms; beside her was a beef and muscular man, who also had a sleeves full of tattoos, his bald head gleamed in the dim lighting.

    They looked like they made their living drinking in pubs and stealing purses from little old ladies. Not the kind of people I would associate with—or even touch with a ten-foot pole, unless kicking their asses—however, these were desperate times.

    “Are you lost little lady?” The man asked as he leaned up against the counter and leered at me. I raised my brows as a show of indifference. He may have looked tough, but I had beaten tougher.

    “I want a tattoo.”

    “Got ID?” The woman asked, chomping loudly on her gum, before blowing a bubble as big as her head. I clenched my fists in annoyance. I despised gum chewing almost as much as I despised crime.

    However, I shook aside my irritation as I shot back, “Do you need it?”

    The man laughed loudly, his voice echoing through the small building. “Wanda, this girl has gumption. I like it.”

    The woman, Wanda, rolled her eyes. “You like every girl who walks into this place.” Leaning up against the counter, Wanda popped her gum again. “Let me guess; this is some sign of teenaged rebellion?”

    I pushed back the flood of red that threatened to press against my cheeks. I hated it when strangers made correct assumptions. But then again, I walked in here without notice and demanded a tattoo, and I certainly didn’t look like the kind of girl who got tattoos on a daily basis.

    “Honey, a tattoo is about expressing yourself—”

    “Or getting so drunk that you stumble into the first tattoo parlor with your now-ex-lover.”

    Wanda gave the man a look of exasperation. “If you want to get back at whatever your parents did to you, I would suggest something a little more visible and a little less permanent.”

    “Like what?” I asked her, a bit cautious at the wide grin that was forming on her lips. An hour later, my long blond hair was gone. Not only had it been cut above my chin in messy layers, but Wanda had turned it blue. And not just any ordinary blue either. If there can ever be an ordinary blue hair color. But bright, brilliant, blinding blue; the kind of blue that you only see in manga or anime. Strangely enough, I loved it. But more importantly, my mother would hate it.

    How was that for teenaged rebellion?

  3. Ragged Boyon 30 Jul 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Overall, I liked this chapter and definitely keep reading. I’m not that great at reviews yet, but I do have a few concerns/comments:

    “beside her was a beef and muscular man, who also had a sleeves full of tattoos, his bald head gleamed in the dim lighting.” -I think you forgot the ‘y’ on beef. And I’m not sure if he has sleeves full of tattoos or just one sleeve full of tattoos. Minor mistakes.

    -I like the characterization of the two counterculture people at the tattoo parlor. There actions and dialogue struck me as very natural.

    Some of the dialogue in some places felt a little unnatural. For example, “I have some pressing matters to attend” and ” “You sounded so upset on the phone; what’s amidst?” strike me as slightly odd. I can understand Bentley eloquence given his background, but I left in the air as far as the father. However, this doesn’t strike me as a major issue so I think it’s fine. And I figured you were English so I’m not sure what the norm is for discourse.

    That’s all I can come up with. Sorry if it’s not a lot of help. I’m not that great at dissecting literature just yet. But if you ever need help with things like powers, characters, dialogue, events, and general brainstorming I’d be glad to help.

  4. Cassandraon 31 Jul 2010 at 12:19 am

    Actually, I’m not British . . . although for some strange reason, people think that I speak with an English accent. It’s really just a classy speech impediment. ^_^

    Bentley is supposed to speak with a kind of eloquence. Her father, not so much. Let me know if you ever read any dialogue that sounds unnatural or forced. I’m trying to work on that. Somebody told me I needed to watch a few hours of BBC to help me with phrasing and popular slang terms which are actually used. Haven’t gotten around to that yet.

    Your comments were really great. I read my chapters over dozens of time and still miss so many nuances. And I find that the best way to learn how to review is to review. If you’d like, I could send you an email sometime tomorrow with the overall plot of this story and how it fits into the over-arching series. Some of my ideas are pretty solid, but others are still in the brainstorming process. I’m also trying to work on weaving my scenes together so that they seem more natural as opposed to a bunch of separate events the MC happens to take part in.

  5. Cassandraon 31 Jul 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Character Reaction Question:

    Out of curiosity, how do you think a super would react if another super managed to find out their identity?

    In my original story, I had my MC, Adaline totally freak out when the super, Flyboy, found who she really was. However, she had only met him once when he guessed who she was.

    On the other hand, in the new version, the two are already chummy when Flyboy figures out who she really is. She’s initially freaked out, but then she’s kind of impressed that he figured it out. Only angry because he won’t tell her who he is. After having a conversation with her confidante back in The City she is more suspicious of his motives and they end up having an argument about trust.

    Do you think that would sound believable for a character who regards her secret identity highly? Adaline tends to be overly confident, has a superior complex (although because Flyboy is a super, she tends to regard him as an equal), highly pissed that she lives in a small town, and preoccupied with The City’s reaction to her disappearance.

  6. Cassandraon 31 Jul 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Furthermore, do you find it believable that a high school reporter with proof that Volt has been in the small town would agree not to show anybody about it in exchange for a full, undisclosed report of why Volt left The City in exchange? (Particularly if the reporter is led to believe that he’s on a long-term undercover mission.)

  7. Cassandraon 09 Aug 2010 at 12:27 pm

    In the original version of this story, the following scene played an important part in the later plot development. However, in the new version, I took that particular aspect of the plot out. My question is if you think that this scene gives enough information about the early development of my main character, or if it’s best just to nix this scene all together in lieu of (This is currently the first “action” scene of the book; however, about __ pages later, I have another–and better–action scene and it’s with another super.) If you think I should keep this scene, what are ways I could improve or shorten it?

    Thanks for your advice.

    While running through an empty road in a ritzy part of The City, I came across something unusual . . . a window cracked slightly open. To the untrained eye, the window may have seemed ordinary. But I had been trained to find the out-of-ordinary in the commonplace.

    Jackpot.

    The street was still abandoned. Within thirty seconds, I was through the window and sure enough, the room had been trashed. This was recent. Whoever did this was either still in the house, or he or she had just left. Being that I didn’t notice anybody on the street, I chose to believe that the burglar was still there.

    I grabbed my beeper to page my contact, Officer Lewis, before creeping out of the room. By the time the police arrived, I would have the criminal detained and ready to be thrown in jail. I saw a dim light down the hall. This criminal was definitely an amateur; the fight would be over before it began.

    The burglar was as clichéd as they came. He was wearing all black with a ski cap. “Am I interrupting?” I questioned, leaning against the doorframe.

    The burglar jumped and turned around, whipping a gun out. Why did they always think that they could get me with mere bullets? With a lazy flick of my hand, I sent bolt of electricity at the gun; the man, startled at the shock, instantly dropped his gun. “Stay back!” he warned, as if I should be the one afraid.

    I ignored him as I punched him in the gut and grabbed his right arm, shoving him against the wall. The man whimpered, but I didn’t care. I had no sympathy for the unlawful, especially no tonight. I was pulling out my police-issue handcuffs, which I was given for being an honorary member of the force, when I felt the cock of a pistol against the back of my head. This was a complication I had not anticipated; thankfully, I thrived on complications.

    “Let him go,” the woman said. What every girl dreamed of for a date. Dinner and a break-in.

    The gun was shaking wildly against my temple. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

    “Calm down lady,” I said. I thought about just giving her a major jolt, as I did to her boyfriend, but the idea of the jolt causing her finger to push the trigger—thus sending a lead bullet through my brain—did nothing to appeal to me.

    I raised my hands in mock surrender and took a few steps away from the ostentatious offender. The man rushed to the woman’s side and I turned to face the couple. Beneath my mask, my eyes bulged in shock. I was staring at one knocked-up woman; she looked ready to pop out at any moment. And she was still trying to steady the gun in her hand. This was not the kind of thing I was prepared to handle. Beating up a woman, easy.

    But messing with an unborn child . . . I never hurt the innocent.

    “Now let’s talk about this.” I took a step forward, uncertain as to whether I should use my powers. What if jolting her resulted in some kind of radiation poisoning, or worse, caused her to miscarry?

    “Volt . . . dude!” A split-second of smug pride coursed through my veins at the criminal’s recognition. The fact that he considered me to be a man didn’t bother me; it only added another layer to my disguise. “We just want to give our babies a better life.” There were two of them in there? “We both know that these people have way too much money. What’s a few grand to them? Nothing!”

    Except that it wasn’t this couple’s few grand. “The law doesn’t work that way.”

    “Please! We’re trying to provide for our babies.” The woman burst into tears and her hand was bouncing so hard that I was sure she was going to fire the gun at any moment. This had to stop. I would have to risk a small shock; with a flicker of my hand, I sent a jolt of electricity at the gun. The gun clattered to the ground, shortly followed by the very pregnant woman.

    I rushed towards them, trying not to show the concern I had for the unborn children. A super always had to stay in charge; criminals would pounce at any show of sympathy in an instant. My eyes ran quickly over her body. Other than the gaunt hollowness of her cheeks and her bloodshot eyes—neither of which I caused—she looked healthy enough.

    “The both of you might as well stay calm,” I said as I grabbed hold of the dropped gun and slid it to the other side of the room. The man stared at me with an anguished betrayal. I pointedly looked away from his eyes as I cuffed the two of them together. The police would be arriving any moment, but I could already tell that the woman was just seconds away from attempting to make another move, so I did what I usually did when I had time to pass and criminals to hand off. I focused my energy on creating an ongoing electric cage, which kept the criminals at bay.

    The electricity actually hummed all around the perimeter I had made; not wanting the electricity to injure the babies, I made the cage larger than I normally would, but it was still lethal enough to render them unconscious if they were so stupid as to try and cross it. “If I were you,” I warned the couple. “I wouldn’t move or you’ll get a shock that you won’t wake up from.”

    They sat in the cage, huddled together, as I waited for the police to arrive. My contact, Officer Lewis, was the first on the scene. “Is that them?” he asked me lowly with a quick glance at the couple before looking again, his eyes growing large. “Is she knocked up?”

    “So it would seem,” I replied lowly.

    Lewis shook his head with a low laugh. “Unbelievable.” I didn’t stand around to watch him read them their rights. My work was done. Some may think that I was being coldhearted for handing the young couple over to the police, but the fact still remained that they broke the law.

    And I was created to uphold justice, not cave in to mercy.

  8. B. Macon 09 Aug 2010 at 3:13 pm

    The newspaper opening is a bit heavy on exposition. I think there are more artful ways to show that crime has improved considerably rather than telling us. For example, at a micro-level, you could show us one street and wryly observe that, after Volt, people realized they could sell things on a street that weren’t drugs. Alternately, if you go with one person telling us how much Volt means, I’d recommend making it a character in a personal op-ed kind of piece rather than this objective overview. (If the voice is lively enough, readers can look past show-don’t-tell issues).

    “Yet when Volt came storming into town, the criminals didn’t stand a chance. Now The City is hailed as one of the safest—and cleanest—places to live in the world.” These details could be shown. Since this is the fifth anniversary, I think one logical place to start would be his first appearance five years ago.

    I feel the first chapter’s title could be more effective, but the first two sentences of the paragraph are pretty awesome. It’s so much out of the blue compared to the average superhero story and I like that.

    –I’m not very fond of the electrical pun from the mother (“this must come as a shock to you”). It’d be sort of okay, I think, if it came from the daughter (because she knows), but if the mother doesn’t, then the pun makes it sound like the mother knows things she doesn’t.

    –“I have some pressing matters to attend.” Is this voice appropriate for this character? (It sounds a bit lofty and self-important). Also, I would recommend replacing “attend” with “attend to” or “resolve.”

    –He had reached his daily limit of spending time with his family; now it was back to work. I think this could be shown.

    “You don’t have a choice in the matter. We’re a family Adaline,” my mother said.
    “Families stick together.”
    I would recommend keeping “Families stick together” on the same line as the mother’s other lines. Otherwise, I think it’ll sound like the daughter is the one saying “families stick together.”

    “You call what we have a family?” I motioned towards the empty seat that my father had vacated. I think this could be rephrased as “This is a family?” I gestured to my father’s empty seat.

    “But it was more than that. I was more than that. I didn’t want to stay in The City because it was the only place I considered home. I needed to stay here because The City needed me.” I like this self-importance, even though she’s expositioning how much she thinks of herself.

    It’s not clear to me why people are yelling obscenities at her. Is she running in traffic? (It’d be a cool image, if she is).

    “What’s amidst?” I think the word “amidst” should be “amiss” here.

    I’d like more personality from the nanny. Something more than a purely positive, supportive relationship, perhaps. Maybe a hint of conflict or tough love.

    “Nanny” strikes me as a word usually applied to women, so I’d recommend replacing it with something more fitting for Bentley (a guy). He speaks like he’s an aristocratic butler, so maybe “butler” would work. When I heard Bentley’s name, I assumed it was the surname of a woman.

    “Do you really think my mother would let me stay here?” Could I recommend making this more forceful? “I want to live here” or “I’d like to stay here.” I think that would make it sound like she’s more committed to not moving and sort of caught up in the moment/not thinking clearly or perfectly politely. (Also, she strikes me as slightly selfish, so it would make sense if she weren’t 100% considerate of what her mother would want to do).

    “Generous inheritances from unknown uncles can fall into the laps of even poor British men who make their living as professional nannies.” I think this could maybe be a bit more stylish. Maybe give us a fitting detail about where he got his money. Is he the long-lost heir to the Pez Dispenser fortune? Maybe something that reveals something about his family? (For example, you could suggest that he’s the odd man out of his family if his family is into something utterly crude and low-brow, while he’s a hard-working nanny that sounds like a butler).

    ““I cannot think of any reason she wouldn’t, Adaline,” ” I think you could work in a bit of conflict and/or coyness here. “I hope she wouldn’t, Adaline, but it’s hard to say…”

    “she spent the first twelve years of my life acting as if I didn’t even exist and the next four treating me as if I was just steps away from joining a gang.” This is an artful way to tell us she’s sixteen, I think. Well-handled.

    I don’t think Bentley adds enough to this scene. He’s making the same points the daughter would, in largely the same way she would. I’d recommend differentiating their roles/perspectives more.

    “My eyes located the back door—a super always knew alternative escape routes—before finally landing on the owners of this fine facility.” I like this detail. This is, I think, the first indication that being a superhero is a major part of her life.

    “I despised gum chewing almost as much as I despised crime.” This statement would make sense coming from somebody like the Punisher or Batman (who lost their families to criminals), but I’m not sure it fits this sixteen year old that doesn’t seem particularly angry or violent. Perhaps you could hint at what her motivation for fighting crime is?

    “You like every girl who walks in this place.” Haha.

    “Let me guess; this is some sign of teenaged rebellion?” I think this could be less articulate. “Let me guess. Teenaged rebellion?” or “Let me guess. Momma won’t let you date?”

    “I hated it when strangers made correct assumptions.” Could you show this?

    “Or getting so drunk that you stumble into the first tattoo parlor with your now-ex-lover.” I think it could be clearer that the guy is delivering this line.

    I would recommend ending on more of a cliffhanger. (IE: leave us hanging on what the rebellion is, and make us open up the next chapter to find out it’s an electric blue haircut).

  9. Cassandraon 09 Aug 2010 at 7:00 pm

    B. Mac

    Thanks for looking over this chapter. Your dialogue suggestions really helped. I’m also working more on showing, not telling. So anytime when you think it’s too “telling,” just let me know!

    Adaline lovingly refers to Bentley as her “manny” — hired because her mom didn’t want her dad to have an affair with a female nanny. I wouldn’t want his position to be titled as butler because he was hired solely to take care of Adaline–especially when her parents left her in The City while they traveled. I think “babysitter” would be too trivial a word to use and “caretaker” makes me think of old people. Can you think of a better suited word for him? (And perhaps the juxtaposition between men who work as nannies adds character, I dunno.)

    Bentley comes off as supportive in this chapter because it’s a contrast to the fact that he practically smothers her while she’s in Shelton and later. It’s important she depends on him so heavily–and he comes off as so protective–now in order to set up her drive for independence from him and how he reacts in the future. I will work in a bit of resentment for him treating her like a child in The City chapters though so it doesn’t seem so unbelievable when they start fighting.

    The electrical pun was actually an accident at first and then when I reread the chapter, it made me giggle slightly. I suppose it is a bit too obvious/cheesy. I will say, though, that her mother knows more than Adaline thinks. (And I also have good reasons as to why she doesn’t tell Adaline that she does; she isn’t cryptic for cryptic’s sake.) That being said, I’ll change her dialogue there.

    I’m about 98 percent positive I’m going to ax the newspaper articles in the story all together. In my mind, I see chapters beginning with a picture of the ripped off tops of newspapers (very stylistic), but I don’t think that it works as well just seeing it on the screen. (I was also taking a journalism class when I first started writing this book so I used this book in order to practice some of the methods I had learned.)

    This first chapter was purposefully made as normal as possible . . . showing her “human” side (for lack of better term) before looking at the contrast of her alter-ego. How do you feel about her detainment of the burglars later on?? Right now I’m thinking about streamlining “The City” chapters a bit more–take out the burglar scene and mentions of her birthday (as seen in the chapter that I emailed) and that scene with her mother, jump into the celebration and super battle, and perhaps turn the three chapters into two. If I do that, then the first chapter will def. end with the cliffhanger of the super showing up. Then the second chapter would end on the cliff-hanger of her moving to the suburbs.

    Do you have any suggestions for chapter titles? I may just change it to chapter
    two’s title–if I combine the two–which will be something akin to: “Nothing Says Superhero like an Action Figure.” Only, hopefully I’ll find a way to phrase it that doesn’t sound so lame.

  10. B. Macon 09 Aug 2010 at 7:49 pm

    For chapter 1’s title, what would you think about something like “Indiana? I’m a Superhero!” (No offense to my fellow Hoosiers, but there isn’t very much epic crime in Indiana).



    As for the character reaction question (“Out of curiosity, how do you think a super would react if another super managed to find out their identity?”), I think it depends on how much the character values her secret identity, on how he finds the identity and on how she learns that he knows the truth. If I accidentally revealed my secret identity to you or if he learned in the process of doing something innocent/friendly (like responding to a malfunctioning emergency communicator), I wouldn’t mind too much because it’s my own fault. In contrast, if he stalked me to learn the truth, I think it’d be a major breach of friendship.

    If it were just a case of him correctly guessing who I was, I think that’d be okay (although it would probably make me worry about the quality/safety of my secret identity–how easily could a supervillain think through it like he did?).

    Also, in what context does she learn that he knows? If he’s been stalking her and just mentions that he knows her identity to screw with her, I think that’d be a real ass thing to do. (Especially if he knows she has a superiority complex going on).

    “Furthermore, do you find it believable that a high school reporter with proof that Volt has been in the small town would agree not to show anybody about it in exchange for a full, undisclosed report of why Volt left The City in exchange? (Particularly if the reporter is led to believe that he’s on a long-term undercover mission.)

    I think it depends on the reporter’s goals. My guess is that most overachieving high school journalists are 80% focused on breaking a story that will get them noticed by an Ivy League school and 20% worried about anything else. Personally, I’d feel like I was getting shafted if I knew a superhero’s secret identity and that he was living in a small town and the only crumb he/she would give me was an explanation of why he left.

    Then again, it depends on how much the journalist knows. Let’s say the journalist only has really good guesses at this point and can’t prove anything. Under those circumstances, the explanation of why Volt left is probably more newsworthy than printing accurate but mostly unfounded speculation about Volt. Also, I think it matters how much people care about why Volt left. If this is the biggest mystery in town, then breaking it might be a huge boost to the student’s college applications. If Volt has some crazy condition like “I’ll tell you, but you can’t print anything,” I’d say no dice. At the very least, I’d make a counteroffer of “How about you let me get the scoop on your return to crime-solving? You’ll return to the City for a day to deal with some major crime and I’ll be there when the brawling starts.”

    I think it also matters how much sympathy the reporter has for Volt and/or how much of a softy he is.

  11. Cassandraon 09 Aug 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Well . . . other than all those dead bodies I’m convinced are hidden in the cornfields.

    I agree about the reporter, which is why I’m finally going to ax her character. Her main reasons for being in the story were in the first version and I’m afraid her catching onto Adaline’s secret would force the readers into believing a contrived plot. There will be a reporter-type in the story, but he won’t catch onto how Adaline and Volt may be related as rapidly.

    Title Ideas . . . I’ll add the new ones I’m considering for the first three chapters to see if you think they all have the same feel to them or if I need to work on being more concise.

    1: I Have Better Things to Do than Move to Indiana . . . Like Save the World
    2: I Can Take Any Villain . . . Except my Parents
    3: Life in the Land of Cornfields, Cows, and Cookie-Cutter Houses

    Suggestions? Modifications?

  12. B. Macon 09 Aug 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I think #1 and #2 have a lot of potential.

    In particular, #1 feels very effective to me. For a minor tweak, I would suggest replacing the elliptical phrase (“… Like Save the World”) with a parenthetical phrase. I Have Better Things to Do than Move to Indiana (Like Save the World). For humorous effect, you might include another thing she’d rather do than move to Indiana to suggest that she’s not cut out for the move.

    I think #2 could probably use more style. Also, I worry a bit about whether #2 suggests that her parents actually are villains. Maybe something like “You Don’t Need a Death-Ray to be a Villain (Exhibit A: My Parents).”

    #3 doesn’t suggest anything about superheroes or that her family is moving against her wishes, so I don’t think it’s particularly effective.

  13. Cassandraon 19 Aug 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Going to go back to chapter titles later . . . I’m going to try to write first and then go from there. I really like the parenthesis idea, though. It’ll look more visually appealing than the . . .

    Since last I wrote on here, I have cut out a lot of the first and second chapter and combined them into one. So technically, this post is longer than the last. However, as an overall story, it’s shorter. I took out the scene where Bentley went to Adaline’s house. I do agree that it was too redundant. But I’m not ready to give up on the idea that he was her “nanny.” Perhaps one day, he’ll evolve into a tutor . . . and maybe I’ll even use the handy “find and replace” mechanism on Word.

    Before reading, here are some notes referring to things you recently posted.

    First, the change between: “I almost despise gum chewing as much as I despise crime.” I changed it to: “Sometimes I wished that gum-chewing was illegal so I could blow some steam off by taking the smackers down.” Better, worse, or just as bad in a different way??

    Bentley’s backstory. It’s not the most original, I’ll probably work on it later, but as far as the way it’s formatted. Is it visually appealing to read? “There was a time when I was the richer one. Bentley’s parents had cut him off when he declared his intent to move to the States—something about blue blood being stronger in the U.K.—but with his father’s death, Bentley had to inherit something. One percent of a multi-billion dollar corporation went quite far when it came to “comfortable living.””

    I changed the location of my “age” indicator. What do you think about the entire paragraph? Is it too expository for the moment? “My mother sighed deeply, looking at me with wide eyes that were quite discontenting. “I want us to be a family,” she said. “And I think this move will give us the chance.” Why did she think she deserved a chance? My mother spent the first twelve years of my life acting as if I didn’t even exist and the next four treating me as if I was just steps away from joining a gang. The last thing I wanted was to be a member of some sitcom-based family complete with laugh tracks.”

    In general, how do you feel about the way Adaline’s powers are described? About how they react according to her emotions . . . and her struggle to keep control? And also, how she uses them in a fight?

    And now from the newly-formatted first chapter. (You’ll recognize the second half of this as being the first half of my ‘fight scene.’) This will probably be the last time I look at this until I finish the entirety of this draft. It’s too easy to continually rework these chapters. My favorite way of procrastination is through editing!!

    When my parents sat me down at the rarely-used dining room table, I assumed it was to announce their divorce. It wasn’t like we were much of a family anyways. Just three people who happened to live in the same building. I didn’t feel even a prickle of apprehension when my father told me that he had been transferred to some rinky-dink town in Indiana. I assumed that this was fabricated to ease the pains of their separation. But when the next words out of my father’s mouth were, “We’re moving to Shelton in three weeks,” my world came to a crashing halt.

    “Moving?” I demanded, jumping up from the table, my chair clattering to the ground, as I looked wildly at my father and mother. My heart started beating erratically as shockwaves coursed through my veins. “We can’t move.”

    “Adaline,” my mother murmured. “I know that this must come as a surprise—”

    “Can’t you just get a divorce instead?”

    “Why would we get a divorce?” my father asked as his brows creased together. Shaking his head twice, he stood. “I need to finish some paperwork for the transfer.” Ten full minutes in our presence . . . he had reached his daily limit of spending time with his family.

    I glared at his back until he left the room before swinging around to face the mother. “I’m not moving.”

    “You don’t have a choice in the matter. We’re a family Adaline,” my mother said. “Families stick together.”

    “This is a family?” I gestured towards my father’s empty seat.

    My mother sighed deeply, looking at me with wide eyes that were quite discontenting. “I want us to be a family,” she said. “And I think this move will give us the chance.” Why did she think she deserved a chance? My mother spent the first twelve years of my life acting as if I didn’t even exist and the next four treating me as if I was just steps away from joining a gang. The last thing I wanted was to be a member of some sitcom-based family complete with laugh tracks.

    I screamed, spinning around and storming out of the room before I completely lost control. To the untrained eye, it may have seemed like I was the typical teenage rebel, having a panic attack because things weren’t going my way. But it was more than that. I was more than that. I didn’t want to stay in The City because it was the only place I considered home. I needed to stay here because The City needed me.

    They needed Volt.

    I ripped open the door to my bedroom, violently slamming it shut as the barely contained electric waves rippled from my body. I gathered the excess force into a small ball in my hand, hurling it towards the innocent dartboard that was hanging on my wall. The dartboard didn’t stand a chance against my wrath; it instantly caught fire before falling to the ground in a messy heap of charred bits.

    I was shaking. I couldn’t stop shaking. I curled up in a ball on the floor, willing myself to calm down enough to focus . . . the electricity in my blood was so hot that everything I touched was becoming super-charged. The light bulb in my room grew brighter before the glass finally burst, my room turning dim. I squeezed my eyes shut as I took deep and calming breaths. I wouldn’t be moving. I couldn’t move.

    As soon as I managed to calm down enough without short-circuiting the wiring in my room, I grabbed my emergency black backpack—which held my suit, cash, and an extra change of clothing; a super was always prepared—before climbing down the metal drainpipe that was beside my window.

    I walked to the front of the townhouse towards the gate, turning momentarily; through one of the windows I could see the perfectly manicured hand of my mother, her profile barely hidden from view. With a sardonic salute, I left our yard.

    By now it was late in the afternoon; the streets were full of traffic, people pressing on their horns in a rush to get home after a long day of work. On the corners, I breathed in the refreshing scent of hours-old hotdogs as I reveled in the feel of hard concrete against my feet. I looked up towards the tips of the metal skyscrapers which graced our skies and around to see the mosaic of people of all cultures, all of them in their own worlds as they laughed, screamed, and flirted into their tiny cell phones. They were completely unaware of the evils which lurked at the edges of their joy. They thought they were safe . . . they were safe. But how was I supposed to protect them if I lived hundreds of miles away?

    I wandered the streets for about a half-hour before I came across a small and dirty looking building beside a vacant alley. Ordinarily, I would scope this place for signs of criminal activity—defend the public from the grim reality of violence and all those other things that good supers are supposed to do—as it was, I was more interested in the blinking day-glo sign that hung in the front: Tattoos, Piercings, and Alternative Hair Salon.

    If my mother wanted a teenaged rebel, I’d give one to her. Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the door and entered the small place with a determined stride. The inside was even grungier than the outside, if that were possible. The floor looked liked it had never known the love a mop and the solitary window was caked in grime. The walls were covered in pictures of previous customers; all of them had at least three facial piercings and sleeves full of tattoos. My eyes located the back door—a super always knew alternative escape routes—before finally landing on the owners of this fine facility. Behind a glass counter sat a woman with a purple Mohawk, a leather vest, and tattoos littered up and down her arms; beside her was a beefy and muscular man, who also had sleeves full of tattoos, his bald head gleamed in the dim lighting.

    They looked like they made their living drinking in pubs and stealing purses from little old ladies. Not the kind of people I would associate with—or even touch with a ten-foot pole, unless kicking their asses—however, these were desperate times.

    “Are you lost little lady?” The man asked as he leaned up against the counter and leered at me. I raised my brows as a show of indifference. He may have looked tough, but I had beaten tougher.

    “I want a tattoo.”

    “Got ID?” The woman asked, chomping loudly on her gum, before blowing a bubble as big as her head. I clenched my fists in annoyance. Sometimes I wished that gum-chewing was illegal so I could blow some steam off by taking the smackers down.

    I shook aside my irritation as I shot back, “Do you need it?”

    The man laughed loudly, his voice echoing through the small building. “Wanda, this girl has gumption. I like it.”

    The woman, Wanda, rolled her eyes. “You like every girl who walks into this place.” Leaning up against the counter, Wanda popped her gum again. “Let me guess; you trying to be rebellious?”

    I pushed back the flood of red that threatened to press against my cheeks; she thought she was so clever. But I did walk in here without notice, demanding a tattoo, and I certainly didn’t look like the kind of girl who got tattoos on a daily basis.
    “Honey, a tattoo is about expressing yourself—”

    “Or getting so drunk that you stumble into the first tattoo parlor with your now-ex-lover.”

    Wanda gave the man a look of exasperation at his comment. “If you want to get back at whatever your parents did to you, I would suggest something a little more visible and a little less permanent.”

    “Like what?” I asked her, a bit cautious at the wide grin that was forming on her lips. An hour later, my long blond hair was gone. I stared at the creation on my head in disbelief. “It’s blue,” I finally managed to murmur as I stared at the messy layers which had been cut above my chin. And not just any ordinary blue either. If there can ever be an ordinary blue hair color. But bright, brilliant, blinding blue; the kind of blue that you only see in manga or anime.

    I raised a tentative hand towards my head, horrified at what I had just done. “Think of how she’d reacted if you inked her,” Wanda muttered towards the man, as her reflection shook her head in annoyance.

    “I should go,” I mumbled as I numbly handed her some money and stepped outside of the building. The sun had set and the wind was chilly against my skin. My cell phone beeped; I pulled it out of my back pocket, my hair momentarily forgotten as I saw the dozen missed calls. No surprise that there was no reception in that rat’s hole.

    I smirked as I scrolled through my mother’s name over and over again, finally stopping when I saw Bentley’s name blinking back at me. By now, I was sure my mother had called him, demanding that he bring her precious daughter back home. He was probably worried when I didn’t pick up the phone; I hated making Bentley worry.

    I called him back. He answered on the first ring. “Where the bloody hell are you? Your mother has been harping at me for hours.”

    “I’ll be there in a few,” I muttered before breaking out in a run. The motion in my legs felt refreshing. People gave me strange looks as a shot by them and when I crashed into a few without pausing in my stride, they hollered obscenities after me. But I couldn’t be bothered with trite things such as apologies. I only stopped once I faced the sprawling mansion where my former nanny now lived. There was a time when I was the richer one. Bentley’s parents had cut him off when he declared his intent to move to the States—something about blue blood being stronger in the U.K.—but with his father’s death, Bentley had to inherit something. One percent of a multi-billion dollar corporation went quite far when it came to “comfortable living.”

    Keying in the passcode to the front gates, I made my way down the long driveway before finally entering my sanctuary. This was where I would live if only my parents wouldn’t continue to act like they cared. As it was, I had to sleep in my so-called home at least five nights a week. “Adaline,” Bentley said, striding towards me in the foyer, his thick, graying eyebrows were pressed together in concern. “What did you do to your hair?”

    “It’s my parents,” I snapped. “They think they can make me move.”

    A cup of tea and a half-dozen biscuits later, I had explained the entire story to Bentley, right up to my now blue hair. He wasn’t pleased with the change, but it was starting to grow on me—especially if my mother’s reaction was half as bad as Bentley’s.

    We sat in silence for a few minutes as I observed the wooden panels of his spacious sitting room, before I made my declaration. “I’m staying here.” Bentley looked at me for a moment before nodding his head. It had been decided. My mother would see reason; I went up to my bedroom while Bentley made the call.

    That night—like I did most nights—I donned my Volt suit and took to the streets. I was hoping that I would find some crime on the streets that night. It seemed as if criminals showed up less and less around The City, much to my dissatisfaction. I hoped to find a few unfortunates at least; I really need to blow off some steam.

    Unfortunately, I returned to Bentley’s that night with no criminals to clobber. There was something to be said about being good at what I did… at the rate I had been putting away criminals in The City, I was practically out of a job.

    My mother didn’t bother coming after me until the next afternoon. I had just finished my daily workout routine and was about to go upstairs to take a shower when I heard her at the door. “Where is she?” she said.

    Bentley, the dirty traitor, stepped aside to let the woman in. I contemplated running to my room and locking the door, but figured I should probably get this confrontation over with as soon as possible. If my mother expected me to return with her, she was in for a surprise.

    I entered the foyer with my arms crossed, the perfect picture of a rebellious teenager. I watched, being sure to keep my face indifferent, as my mother stared at me; her eyes blinking once, twice, three times, before she finally found the will to speak. “Your hair,” she said. “It’s blue.”

    “And you win the award for the most obvious statement of the day.”

    My mother shook her head, a clear indicator of annoyance, before she handed me the duffel bag that was in her hands. How had I not noticed that bag before? I prided myself on seeing details and I didn’t notice a stupid bag. But it didn’t matter; I had won. I knew she would see reason.

    “I understand that you are upset, Adaline,” my mother said. I held my breath as I waited for her to continue. “And you can stay here for as long as you need. But you have to understand that we are all moving to Indiana whether you like it or not.”
    Breath released. I ignored the static that was now ringing in my ears. She wasn’t going to see reason. I wasn’t going to leave. If this was a battle of wills, she better believe that I would win out in the end.

    I spent the next couple weeks angrier than I had ever felt before. Criminals must have realized this because in all that time, there was only one robber that I came across and he surrendered so quickly that I didn’t even have time to lay a proper punch in his face. However, nothing could detract from the joy that I experienced when my annual celebration rolled around. It was like Christmas, the fourth of July, and my birthday all rolled into one.

    And as my fifth-year anniversary of saving The City from bad guys, this celebration promised to be extra-special. There had been rumors floating around The City – ones which included me in the Super Hall of Fame.

    I woke up before dawn and padded into Bentley’s study, still in my pajamas. He was already waiting for me. There were still a few more hours before The City’s celebration, but until then, it was time for our annual tradition. He squeezed my shoulder gently as he asked, “Are you ready for your new Volt suit?”

    There was a cardinal rule when it came to supers: They are nothing without their suits.

    And I took great pride in the suit that Bentley had designed for me five years ago. It was red and black, lightweight, yet heavily padded with bolts of lightning that separated the two colors. I wore a two-part mask; the lower half had an effective voice-distorter in it, whereas the upper half hid my eyes and my hair, which I always stuffed under a skull cap. The visor was also equipped with handy functions such as night-vision and infra-red detection. Around my waist was a standard utility belt, stocked with all the things a super would ever need.

    All of my suits were designed the same; however, Bentley updated the functionality of them each year as I improved in my own skills as a super. Trying on my Volt suit had never failed to cheer me before, but it felt oddly hollow that year.

    I turned towards Bentley, pulling off both parts of my mask to look at him. “What will I do if I have to leave?” I questioned softly. “How will The City survive without Volt?”

    “No talk of the future today love,” Bentley said shortly. “You have a celebration to attend and it would do no good if the guest of honor appeared late.”

    Nobody threw a party like The City threw a party. The entire main block had been closed for the celebration and everybody, except those with the most pitiless employers, were given the day off. There were booths full of steamy hot food for sell and stands that handed out t-shirts with my face plastered across them. There were loud and flashing rides and performances from some of the hottest bands—all of them who wanted my autograph.

    As always, I arrived on a large and dazzling float which had first weaved its way through most of the main streets. The streets were packed with people wearing a wide variety of clothing from jeans and t-shirts, to formal three-piece suits and full-length gowns, to saris and turbans and hijabs. Children held up hand-drawn posters that showed renditions of me saving the day and a few lacey unmentionables had even made their way onto my float. One was a cute red polka-dot bra that looked to be about my size.

    Yet another perk to being a world-renown superhero.

    I waved at the boisterous citizens from my float, wishing that they could see the smile that was bursting across my face. The electricity inside of me was surging as my heart pumped in double time. I flung twisted bolts into the sky as one of the drummers from the marching band acted as thunder. Lightning lit up the air as I spun around and danced to the beat of the drum.

    These were my people.

    As I stepped off of the float, the cheering mob of admirers swarmed me. My ears hummed in excitement as photographs and drawings of me were flung into my face. I signed each of them with my lightning bolt flourish. Me; all of these people were here for me. A low laugh erupted from the back of my throat as currents burst from my body.

    The crowds jumped back at the feeling of the minor shock that flowed through them and I took their reaction as my cue to step onto the podium. The surprise from the accidental shocking had faded and they were all cheering once again. With a practiced motion, I held my hands up in the air. Instantly the crowd grew silent, save for one brave woman who screamed, “We love you Volt.”

    “And I love all of you,” I said. “I love The City . . .” I launched into an impassioned speech about the importance of justice in the world and why I was always tough on crime. The audience was riveted by my words; after all, Volt was nothing if not a keeper of justice. Justice was the foundation of everything I believed in. It was what I fought for.

    Near the end of my speech, however, I made sure to appeal to the overly-sympathetic listeners by throwing a couple sentences about keeping the children safe from dirt of crime that we find on the streets and making the world a “better place” for future generations.

    I ended my speech with a statement that thrilled the audience to no end, although it made me a little nauseous to say. “We may not all have super powers, but we can all be heroes.” I was the only true hero in this city, after all.

    The crowd roared in response as they waved their posters and I resisted the urge to bow on the spot. Suddenly, a street team appeared in the center of the road and began performing a dance number that they had created in my honor. I watched in amusement as they began flipping over one another. I laughed in delight as they moved into a reenactment of one of my most recent battles. I clapped in merriment as they ended their performance with my stellar victory. My attention was diverted slightly when a few people tried to rush the stage, wanting to just touch my hand; however, the police that manned security kept them at bay.

    When the crowd had finally calmed down from my inspirational speech, the mayor walked up beside me with a large plaque in his hand. I had a room full of statues, trophies, and plaques at Bentley’s house, but I knew intrinsically that this particular plaque was something more. It was the one I had been waiting for.

    Mayor Gibbon was fairly young for a mayor and always stood with perfect posture. He grabbed my hand firmly before smiling at the constantly flashing cameras. I followed Gibbon’s gaze as he finally spoke in a proud, yet decidedly pompous manner. He never looked straight at me; instead, he constantly posed for the camera.

    As if anybody cared about him.

    “Volt, for your good deeds in virtually eliminating crime from The City, we the citizens of The City, and the leaders of the world would like to present you with this highest honor of achievement, placing you as the 103rd member of the Superhero Hall of Fame.”

    I gripped the plaque tighter, resisting the urge to tear it from the mayor’s hand, but the cameras were still flashing and I had to show Gibbon up. My hand, which had gone temporarily limp in the mayor’s, regained strength as I shook his hand more vehemently.

    He smirked slightly as he finally relinquished the plaque and patted me, quite roughly, on the back. “Of course this isn’t all The City has for you. Every super knows that when you are inducted into the Hall of Fame, you get a very special kind of effigy created in your honor.” I cringed at his word choice, but instantly brushed it aside as Mayor Gibbon motioned towards his assistant who held a small box covered with black cloth.

    I held my breath as I prepared myself for what was about to be presented. It was the one thing that every super longed for; the thing that sealed their immortality long after their demise.

    Not that mine would come anytime soon.

    The electricity in my body began to flow through my blood as I waited for its unveiling. The mayor threw off the cloth with a flourish, letting the world see the wonder of the tiny action figure. I felt the electricity gather together inside my heart so rapidly that I was afraid I was going to burst into a random light show. “We would also like to present you with the first-ever Volt—”

    I shrieked as I was handed little mini-me, no longer able to contain the pure joy that I felt. “This is so freakin’ awesome!” The crowd stared at me with slight confusion before I covered up my reaction with a low chuckle. Soon everybody was laughing
    along with me as I resisted the urge to do a happy dance in front of all my citizens.

    Before I could begin with the slow-motion robot, the crowd parted with loud gasps. I frowned as I looked for the source of their reaction, surprised to see a pair long and decidedly flaccid arms weave their way through the people; the green limbs knocked aside anybody who got in their way. Suddenly, the abnormal arms reached out and grabbed me by the throat, pulling me back towards an unknown locale. Instantly deciding that I wanted to make this locale known, I sat back and enjoyed the ride.
    The crowd, on the other hand, didn’t see the fun in the moment; within seconds, the carefree laughter disappeared as terror encased the block.

    “Volt!” I glanced up to see that I had arrived at my destination. “Prepare to meet your doom.” I rolled my eyes. The screaming began; most of the crowd ran in horror while a few stood where they were in rapt and petrified awe. I stared at the bright green mask that covered my opponent’s face. If his costume was any indication as to his skills at world domination, he was definitely going to fail.

    With an annoyed sigh, I gripped his wrists and focused on my ever-present reservoir of electric energy. It was time to kick this villain’s ass. Electricity burst from my hands with enough force to kill a regular man—we supers had more stamina—but I was still surprised when his grip didn’t lighten.

    I frowned at the elastic super’s erratic laughter. “Your little powers won’t work on me in this volt-retardant suit,” the man said as his hands gripped my throat tighter. I attempted electrocution again, upping the voltage. It only inspired more guffaws. I was going to have to kick this super’s ass the old-fashioned way. “The Recruiter sends his regards,” he said with another crazy cackle.

    My ears hummed at the name as electricity swarmed rapidly through my blood. If Stretchy was one of The Recruiter’s boys, he was going to be sorry he ever existed.

  14. B. Macon 20 Aug 2010 at 5:40 am

    Hey, I’m headed to work right now, but please leave a reminder in the next 12-36 hours and I’ll get right on it.

    –BM

  15. Ghoston 20 Aug 2010 at 9:29 am

    hey Cassandra,
    So I read through your first chapter and I liked it your the most part. I thought the first paragraph was amazing. It was well thought out, well written, and gave me the instant idea that the main character was kind of cocky and a rebel. Some of your descriptions were over detailed. For example, when you wrote that volt’s dad shook “his head twice, he stood.”, I was kind of sucked out of the story, because I started to think that I have never seen anyone shake their head exactly twice. My point is, I think its an unnecessary and destracting bit of detail.
    The other thing is that I think volt’s tantrum in her room was a little melodramatic, because it seemed to me that she was about to go all Peter Petrelli in kirby plaza because she was moving. That seems a little over the top to me when I first read it and even more so when I learn the she was a super about to get inducted into the hall of fame. It seem kind of strange to me that she should be on the verge of popping over something as trivial as moving when she has saved the City and several occassions. I guess it shows an inconsistency in her control over her powers. I think it might be better if she gets mad and uses her powers irresponsibly than to get mad and lose control of them. You could always have her zap some old stuffed animals her parent gave her or something like that.
    The only other thing that bothered me about the chapter was that I had no clear idea as to where this story is going. I know that it is only the first chapter, but I felt more like I was reading a long diary entry of some teenager then listening to a first person narritive. I feel like the character has no conflict. I mean sure she argues with alot of people, but I can’t tell what her purpose is, what is driving her, what are her goals.

  16. Cassandraon 23 Aug 2010 at 11:49 am

    It’s been a bit longer than 36 hours, B. But consider this your reminder.

    Thanks for the comments, Ghost. Did you read the latest version that I had posted or the first one that’s up? There are a few changes; some things have been taken out and it ends on a different note.

    I’m glad that you mentioned her powers, I’m looking to see how to balance them right now. In my original story, her powers were almost completely removed from her. In this new one, I want her emotions to control her powers to an extent, but I was afraid that I may have gone overboard in this newly written version. So I’m hoping to have a happy balance with that. I do like the zapping the old stuffed animals, though. That picture makes me giggle.

    For the first fourth of the story, her conflict is the fact that she has to move and it addresses some of the struggles that she has with moving and school, and also with having to deal with her mother and with another super who DOESN’T really care if she’s some all-famous super (thus the internal struggle). This carries the story until she managed to find a mystery within the town, which shows her solving this case . . . all while still dealing with the internal struggles of not having the recognition she feels she rightly deserves. And let me say if you’ve ever experienced moving . . . it can be quite a big deal, especially for teenagers. So I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be the hero of a city and knowing you have to leave all that fame behind just because your father decides to get a transfer.

    Let me know if you see any other instance of a detail that’s too much. Sometimes I feel like I’m overly detailed and sometimes I feel like I brush over something too quickly. Again, it’s all about the balance! I wasn’t sure if I liked the “shook his head twice” thing either. To be honest, I don’t usually deal with exact numbers.

  17. Ghoston 23 Aug 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Cassandra,
    Conceptually, I like the idea for the first part of your story. I moved 13 times before I turned 18 so I understand the tramua and conflicts that are involved in moving. I think if the over all emotional plot to this book is going to be about your heroine adjusting to her new life and new role in the universe then you should start the story on her first day in her new home. I have always been told that a story should start at the beginning of the conflict, and in this case I think that conflict is how your heroine deals with moving to a new town and not the actual move itself. I think you should start your book in a manner similar to the first book of the twilight series(hopefully you can handle an opening like that better than Stephanie did. If you are wondering what I mean see the post here on superhero nation).

  18. Ghoston 23 Aug 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Sorry for using multiple comments, but I just had another thought. You might also want to consider changing volt’s status as a veteran superhero to a novice. I think that volt will be a more appealing character to young adults if she is going through the same kind of finding herself that the readers themselves are going through in real life. Also, I think as a character she will be more realistic. To me it seems a little weird that she would be so accomplished as a super and still be able to have hidden her extracuricular activities from her parent. Zapping a few petty thugs here and there is one thing, but doing enough world saving to merit a spot in the superhero hall of fame is another thing all together. She would either have to have the world’s most neglectful parents or the dumbest. I mean if very time a giant monster attacks your the city you live in and your kid is never in arms reach while the superhero is doing your thing, I think you would eventually put two and two together or lock your kid in their room just so you would know they were safe.
    Anyways, it was just something that jumped out at me so feel free to ignore me if you like. By the way, I read your most recent draft.

  19. B. Macon 23 Aug 2010 at 8:48 pm

    “Sometimes I wished that gum-chewing was illegal so I could blow some steam off by taking the smackers down.” I like it. It develops her personality/voice in an interesting way. It suggests that she’s partially a superhero for the excitement, which feels refreshingly honest. I think that’ll raise the stakes for her later–if excitement/stimulation is your thing, an Indiana town is probably like a knee to the face. Indiana and Hoosiers have many endearing traits, such as boundless faith and devotion in the wake of catastrophes, particularly catastrophes named Notre Dame football coach Charlie “3-9” Weis, but it’s almost as boring as Iowa. (Our police blotters are pretty awesome, though).

    Is Bentley’s backstory important? If not, I’d recommend paring it down. Maybe: “He was quite poor when he came here. His parents closed his trust fund after he left the U.K., but he ended up inheriting 1% of a billion dollar corporation.” If he’s an important character later, maybe add a sentence about his decision to become a butler. (I think it’d be interesting if nobody knew why the son of a British magnate felt called to be a butler).

    MOM: “And I think this move will give us the chance [to be a family].”
    MAIN CHARACTER, internal: Why did she think she deserved a chance?
    Personally, I’d prefer dialogue to a thought here. Maybe “What makes you think Indiana will make you a better parent?” (More polite: …will be any different? More introspective: “…will fix us?”)

    “The last thing I wanted was to be a member of some sitcom-based family complete with laugh tracks.” I’d change sitcom-based to sitcom and “complete with laugh tracks” to something clearer. It sounds like you’re trying to show that what she’s objecting to is that the family the mother wants is imaginary/unattainable, so maybe “complete with an empty set” or “layers of makeup and scripted lines.”

    “I didn’t feel even a prickle of apprehension”–I think you could show this. Maybe she does something that shows this is an utterly uneventful moment for her. Maybe grabbing another hand of potato chips? (She might even swallow one when she gets surprised).

    “I assumed that this was fabricated to ease the pains of their separation. But when the next words out of my father’s mouth were, “We’re moving to Shelton in three weeks,” my world came to a crashing halt.” I think it might help to cut “but when the next words out of my father’s mouth were” because they bury the most important part of the sentence. If you’d like to foreshadow the gravity of the announcement, I’d recommend adding a separate sentence.

    I love the paragraph starting “Moving?” I think “We can’t move” should be on its own line, though.”

    “Can’t you just get a divorce instead?” Haha.

    ““I need to finish some paperwork for the transfer.”” What do you think about “I’m signing the lease.” right before he marches out.

    “spending time with his family.” –> “family time.”

    I would recommend changing “The City” to “the city” across the board. It feels a bit too comic booky for this story, from what I can tell.

    I like the detail about the emergency black backpack.

    “With a sardonic salute, I left our yard.” Left our yard could be “walked off” or “left” or maybe something more stylized like “escaped.”

    “Ordinarily, I would scope this place for signs of criminal activity—defend the public from the grim reality of violence and all those other things that good supers are supposed to do—as it was, I was more interested in the blinking day-glo sign that hung in the front: Tattoos, Piercings, and Alternative Hair Salon.” I would recommend cutting the stuff about what she ordinarily does. It’d be more effective, I think, to show what she ordinarily does by having her do it earlier. (For example, when she’s in the city, include details that suggest she’s looking out for trouble).

    “Not the kind of people I would associate with—or even touch with a ten-foot pole, unless kicking their asses—however, these were desperate times.” I think you could make this clear in the description. You can use details to show that she holds them in disregard/contempt.

    “But bright, brilliant, blinding blue; the kind of blue that you only see in manga or anime.” I think this could be “Brilliant, blinding blue; the stuff of manga and LSD overdoses.”

    “This was where I would live if only my parents wouldn’t continue to act like they cared.” Could you use details to show that she feels comfortable/at home here?

    “It’s my parents,” I snapped. “They think they can make me move.” This could possibly be shortened to “My parents think they can make me move.”

    “the entire story to Bentley, right up to my now blue hair” could be shortened to “everything.” I think we can infer that she’s explaining it to Bentley because he’s the only other one in the conversation.

    “He wasn’t pleased with the change,” Please show this. For example, you can play up his reaction to the hair.

    “I really need to blow off some steam.” I think you could show this by showing her getting antsy/anxious. Maybe she starts crackling whenever something scurries down a dark alley because she gets her hopes up.

    “at the rate I had been putting away criminals in The City, I was practically out of a job.” Could be “I had practically put myself out of a job.”

    “Bentley, the dirty traitor,” Haha.

    “I contemplated running to my room and locking the door, but figured I should probably get this confrontation over with as soon as possible.” Is this necessary? If she doesn’t try locking the door, I think you can cut it.

    “And you win the award for the most obvious statement of the day.” I think this could be more stylish.
    “I prided myself on seeing details and I didn’t notice a stupid bag.” If she’s detail-oriented, I think you could convey that by focusing more on small details, particularly those of interest to a superhero. For example, she might glance at everybody she comes across to make sure that they don’t have bulges under their jacket where you’d hide a gun.

    “I spent the next couple weeks angrier than I had ever felt before.” I think it would really help to show this. Could you give an example of her anger? For example, maybe she punches him out anyway after he surrenders. (I’d recommend keeping it light, though, because otherwise she might seem a bit sadistic).

    “ones which included me in the Super Hall of Fame.” This came out of the blue for me. For one thing, it suggests that there are many superheroes and they seem to be pretty well organized. One way you could cover this is to say that she’s the only superhero in this city, but many cities have one.

    You mentioned before that she’s a girl who is a guy superhero. How does that work? One way you could bring that up is to have somebody like the mayor address him as sir.

    I like the shoulder squeezing. It shows genuine affection. [UPDATE: Is it genuine? Maybe you could suggest that he’s trying to butter her up.]

    “There was a cardinal rule when it came to supers: They are nothing without their suits.” Could be: “Supers are nothing without their suits.” Or “What can I say? We supers are nothing without our suits.”

    “And I took great pride in the suit that Bentley had designed for me five years ago.” If Bentley knows, I would recommend suggesting that when she explains why she can’t leave town.

    “It was red and black, lightweight, yet heavily padded with bolts of lightning that separated the two colors. I wore a two-part mask; the lower half had an effective voice-distorter in it, whereas the upper half hid my eyes and my hair, which I always stuffed under a skull cap. The visor was also equipped with handy functions such as night-vision and infra-red detection. Around my waist was a standard utility belt, stocked with all the things a super would ever need.” I’d recommend shortening this to focus on important functions. “The mask distorted my voice and hid my hair. The visor handled night-vision and infra-red and my utility belt held everything a super could ever need but a sidekick.”

    “The entire main block had been closed for the celebration and everybody, except those with the most pitiless employers, were given the day off.” I like your style!

    “…performances from some of the hottest bands—all of them who wanted my autograph.” I’d recommend replacing bands with something like “rock stars,” because a rock star is a person and it’s hard to think of a band wanting something personal like a signature. Also, I think this is a dangling modifier. “Them” appears to refer to “Performances from some of the hottest bands” rather than just “the hottest bands.”

    “formal three-piece suits and full-length gowns, to saris and turbans and hijabs.” Good use of details. Big improvement.

    “world-renown superhero”– I think it should be world-renowned.

    I love the detail about the bra that’s just about her size.

    “We may not all have super powers, but we can all be heroes.” I was the only true hero in this city, after all.” I think this makes her sound a bit like a douche. Maybe instead of “I was the only true hero in this city, after all” could be something like “At least until supervillains showed up. Then pretty much all the cops in town find tickets to write or reports to file.”

    “As if anybody cared about him.” I like this. It’s a bit more mild than “I was the only true hero in this city, after all.”

    When she says “demise,” I think you could suggest what it is that kills them. Maybe more specific than dying in battle. For example, maybe a superhero gets killed by a villain because he gets complacent and unwary. That’ll suggest that she values vigilance.

    “Not that mine would come anytime soon.” I’d recommend replacing this with “An action figure.” Alternately, maybe add “action figure” to the end of “We would also like to present you with the first-ever Volt–“, because it makes it easier to understand what she means when she says “mini-me.”

    “Prepare to meet your doom.” I rolled my eyes.” I like this.

    “If his costume was any indication as to his skills at world domination, he was definitely going to fail.” Could be more stylish, I think. “If he put the same amount of thought into world domination as he had into his costume, he’d have trouble conquering a grade school.”

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