Saturday, August 22, 2009

How's My Writing? Call 1-800-Do I-Suck?

I kid. I kid. I know my writing doesn't suck, it's pretty good, I just want it to be better.

Here's the first two chapters re-done in first person (prologue has been removed and chapter two is in a separate post below). I wasn't very sure about it at first, but I think I just might like the POV change.


A call at two in the morning was never a good thing. “Justine, sweetie, wake up.” And now I was getting one. It was dark. Not early morning, crack of dawn dark. More like middle of the night, what-is-my-mother-doing-there-standing-over-me-in-her-pajamas dark. I couldn’t see her face, but the clock told me it was 2:13am. This wasn’t going to be good.

“What is it?” I wriggled out from under the covers, trying to get my bearings. My mother clutched a phone in one hand. No, this wasn’t going to be good at all.

“It’s Mrs. Martinez. She wants to know if you’ve heard at all from Gwen tonight.”

“What? Why would…” It took me a moment to get it. Something had happened to my best friend. I was suddenly wide awake and reaching for the phone. “Mrs. Martinez? Hi, it’s Justine. What’s going on?”

I had known Mrs. Martinez for over ten years. The lady was unshakeable. She never raised her voice, never lost her cool. Not even that time Gwen and I had come home covered from head to toe in mud when we were little. She had just stared at us in horror, burst into laughter, and grabbed the garden hose. Now her voice wasn’t much more than a hoarse whisper. I had never heard her like this. “I’m sorry to wake you up,” she said, as polite as ever, even as her voice trembled. “No one’s heard from Gwen since 11 o’clock. She went out with her boyfriend then on the way home, her car broke down. We can’t find her, or the car. We were hoping…”

“I haven’t heard from her. Not since around 7pm,” I said, trying to break the news to Mrs. Martinez as gently as possible, even as I tried to process the news that Gwen was missing. “But I’ll help you find her. Where was she last seen?” I rolled out of bed and headed to the dresser. My mother was glaring at me. I ignored it. Something had happened to my best friend. I had to go out and try to find her.

Mrs. Martinez hesitated. “I know you want to help, Justine. You’re as afraid as we are. I understand, but it’s 2 in the morning and there’s just not that much you can do right now.” Bullshit. There was plenty I could do. But my mother was standing there, arms folded across her chest, staring me down.

Mrs. Martinez’s voice cracked for a moment before she pulled it together. “Keep Gwen in your prayers and we’ll let you know when we get some news, and call us if you do hear from her.”

“I’ll do that,” I promised. “Can you at least tell me where her car broke down?” I was already formulating a plan in my mind.

“Justine, I know you too well to tell you that. If we hear from her we’ll let you know. Could I talk to your mother?”

I handed the phone back to my Mom, listening in while I turned on the lights and rummaged through my drawers for some clothes. My room was up on the second floor of our family’s Cape Cod, painted in a tropical blue with Bruce Lee posters on the walls and a neon purple chair in the corner. Gwen sometimes joked that I must have been color blind, but I just liked it that way. Who said colors needed to coordinate?

“It could be something as simple as her cell phone running out of power,” I heard my Mom say, practical and level-headed. Then again, it wasn’t her daughter that had gone missing. If it was, my Mom would be kicking down doors and interrogating suspects to get her kid back. For a moment, I wondered if perhaps my mother was right, maybe Gwen would be giving her parents a call anytime. But no, I knew better. Sure, Gwen and I had had our adventures, but Gwen didn’t stay out late without checking in. Gwen didn’t forget to call. My best friend was in trouble.

“Hang in there, Gabriela,” I heard my Mom say. “She’ll probably be calling any minute.” No, Gwen would never scare her parents like this, she would’ve found a way to contact them. If she hadn’t called, it was because she couldn’t.

My mother hung up the phone and arched an eyebrow at me. I was standing there, my clothes piled in my arms. “You’re not going out,” she said, and I knew she meant it. My Mom wasn’t exactly a big lady, she was skinny, about 5’5”, with curly brown hair and a narrow face, I wondered sometimes if we were related, but somehow she always loomed larger in my imagination.

“I’m supposed to go back to sleep? Gwen would never stay out till two in the morning, especially on a school night, and she’d never not check in. She could be hurt, or kidnapped…” I didn’t know if I’d win this battle, but for Gwen’s sake, I had to try. She was out there, in trouble. The more people she had searching for her, the better.

“Or she could be someplace without cell phone service, getting her car fixed,” my Mom said. I usually wasn’t annoyed by her logic. “I know this isn’t like Gwen,” my Mom softened her tone a little, “but you can’t launch a one-woman search operation for her. Which is what I know you’re planning to do. Try to get some sleep and we’ll see what the situation is in the morning. We’ll help however we can, but Gwen’s two hours away and you running around South Jersey in the middle of the night isn’t going to do anyone any good.” It could do Gwen some good.

“You promise you’ll wait?” my Mom asked.

“She’s in trouble, I know it.”

“You don’t know that, Justine.”

I looked my Mom up and down. Maybe we were related after all, she was as stubborn as I was. I leaned against the dresser, pissed off. I wasn’t eighteen yet. Hell, I wasn’t even seventeen. I couldn’t do as I pleased, and there was the chance my Mom might’ve been right. If I disobeyed her on something this big, I’d be grounded for weeks, and then I’d never be able to help Gwen. Not to mention, she’d be watching to see if I snuck out. “OK, we wait until the morning then we’ll see.”

“I know it’ll be hard, but try to get some rest.” My Mom touched my cheek. I was fighting off tears. Tears of frustration that I hadn’t won this round. “You can keep the phone by you if you like.”

“OK,” I said, swallowing hard. “But in the morning, I’m going down to Avalon.”

Thankfully, my Mom didn’t disagree with me. Or we might have had an epic battle then and there. “Hopefully Gwen’ll call her parents and you won’t need to.”

The moment my Mom stepped out of the room, I dialed Gwen’s cell. It went directly to voice mail. I tried sending a text message next. No reply. I really don’t know what I was expecting. I would’ve tried her boyfriend next, talk to him about what had happened, where Gwen had last been heard from, but I had never met him, I didn’t even know his last name, much less his phone number.

I turned off the light and stared out the window at the moonless night, wondering where Gwen was right now. Deep down, I knew it was bad. Gwen wasn’t going to be returning my call tonight. That didn’t stop me from keeping my phone by my side. First thing in the morning, if Gwen hadn’t turned up safe and sound, I promised myself I’d drive down to Avalon and tear the place apart looking for her.


  1. Good writing; makes me want to keep reading. A few places it could be tightened or needs a touch of copyediting. I.e., it's my mom, not my Mom.

  2. Thanks. :) The copyediting is easy to do, and I'm even pretty good with fixing pacing and dialogue. I've just got to make my MC real and relateable...and I'm still learning how to do that. But hopefully I'll get there.