beta club rewrite

Here's my rewrite of my WIP excerpt, originally posted on Roni's Beta Club. Let me explain that there is a prologue which details the events of May 2005. The "present action" in chapter one takes place in February 2005.

Have a gander. Let me know if you think I'm on the right track for infusing flashblack.

Chapter 1

     One might assume that if Laurel was going to have a near-mental-breakdown that it would have happened after David's death, after his vague and -- what could only be alledged -- suicide a la slap-in-the-face.


     Instead, it was three months prior (eerily, almost three months to the day) when Laurel nearly went bat-shit crazy.

     "Tell me about your childhood, Laurel," said Dr. Mian as he settled into an oversized chair. He turned to face her. She thought he had kind eyes.

     "Ah, yes. Childhood trauma. Don't all our stories really start there, all the way back in those formative years?" Twenty-four year old Laurel crossed her arms. She knew she was reaching, trying to sound like she was on the same level as her doctor.

      He raised his eyebrows, but he didn't stop her, so she kept going.

     "The deck might already be stacked against us, but the cards are still being shuffled and have not yet been dealt. Then, like lightning, some event or non-event happens or does not happen, and we are thrust into the wheels of fate, which are turned and clank."

     "Laurel," he said. His voice sang in paternal tones The way a father's voice should sound. "Try to tell me about your own childhood, not just childhood in general. What do you remember most?"

     Okay, fine, yes: she suffered from daddy issues. But she felt it poor form to use those issues as an excuse for the way her life turned out. Who didn't keep a skeleton stuffed closet, crammed full of those secrets that go bump after midnight? When she did allow herself to look back on her childhood, she pretended she was celebrating a middle-aged birthday; an emcee might have grabbed a microphone and crooned, Laurel Lancaster, this is your life! as he rolled the tape. A curly haired, cherry cheeked child would appear on a screen while the music of a merry-go-round faded in a bit atonally.

     Though it really wasn't true, because it couldn't have been the case, Laurel told her doctor she remembered it with clarity: the day her mother left her father.

     She was barely five years old; she hadn't started kindergarten. Who can recall details from that far back? Maybe people can. Laurel was sure she had blocked most of it out. What she knew for sure was this: her sister, Laine, was a screaming toddler. Carol, Laurel's portly mother, wore a fat lip and a powder blue housedress. Carol told her husband they were just going out for ice cream.

     Out the window of the office, the sky was a dull gray. A man in black shoveled the parking lot. His partner banged snow off the sign at the entrance, uncovering a little more of Brownsboro Retreat with each smack of his work glove. Laurel blinked back tears and stuffed her hands into the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt.

     She turned back to Dr. Mian.

     "We walked out into the heat of that summer in 1986 and never looked back. My mom put us in the car and we drove the seven miles to my grandparents' house, and we moved in."

     Laurel's Mamaw, Elizabeth Hutchings, was a warm, round woman who made butter and sugar sandwiches whenever Laurel came to visit. Mamaw welcomed them in with open arms, shooing Laurel's mother when she tried to stammer out an apology. Mamaw patted Laurel's cheek and sent her to the kitchen where one of those crustless concoctions waited, cut into a triangle on a paper towel.

     Laurel's Papaw, Calvin, wasn't home that afternoon. He worked for Farm Bureau Insurance and smelled of cigarettes, not stale cigarettes, but like bonfires in October. He traveled often, yet when he returned it was with the grandest of presents -- later that night it was a piggy bank already nearly full of shiny silver coins -- his absence was forgiven and forgotten. Mamaw and Papaw were married in the early forties, before the war. He had to marry her before he left, because she made him. That was the story, at least, that went around their dinner table and always got a good laugh out of the grown-ups. They hosted many friends and dinner parties, but they were the sort who would neaten their home before the cleaning lady arrived, embarrassed to show any sign of weakness, even in the form of dust bunnies.

     That night, Laurel crept halfway down the stairs and stood behind the banister to spy on the adults. Her chubby, childish fingers gripped the smooth, white bars until her knuckles became camouflaged in the same color.

     She watched her grandparents, sitting up straight on the couch, flanking her mother. Papaw smoothed her hair while Mamaw wiped her daughter’s tears. In the dark, drapes tightly drawn, family secrets could breathe. Laurel's chest rose and fell as she watched her mother in that moment, surrounded by two loving parents, strong Midwesterners who lost their son to AIDS. Now, they would now carry a daughter through divorce.

     "What I felt that day was jealousy," she said to the doctor. "My mother had a father, and all of the sudden, I didn't have a dad anymore."

     He nodded. "Keep going."

     They lived in Bedford, Indiana, the limestone capital of the world. The house was red brick with a wide front porch overlooking the main street in town. It sat directly across from the new city pool, a chaotic, loud place, foreign to Laurel. She was afraid of the water. The next morning, Laurel sat in her playroom and stared out the second floor window, mesmerized by the twisting water slide.


     Laurel glanced at Dr. Mian. His hands were folded in his lap and his head was cocked to one side.

     He was listening.

     "I sat there and wondered if the day would ever come when I would be brave enough to climb that mountain of steps and slide down it. I didn't know it then, but the day the call came would be that day."

Okay, what do you think, dearest readers? Do you like the back and forth between present and past? My plan is to finish the chapter in Laurel's past, with a paragraph or two at the end of the chapter where she is either finishing her session with the doctor or back in her room at the "retreat."

Please keep in mind that this is my first attempt at a massive structure change in the telling of the story.

Feedbacks: go!
Do your thingspice.


Jen said…
Well so far I think it's great. I don't do very many flashback scenes or revving up for one, however as a reader I thoroughly enjoyed the story and would have loved to keep reading. Guess that's part of the game, can't giveaway all your secrets!
laurel said…
I adore the VOICE. It grabbed me from the get-go. I'm willing to go on trips down memory lane with a narrator who keeps it zingy with a compelling voice. Awesome, Amber!
carissa said…
I love it! You've got so much talent, I can't wait to read the whole novel. :)
Jm Diaz said…
First off, You've been writing, so let me give you a hearty "hell yeah!"

I enjoyed this much more than the first one. Not that the first one was bad, this is just better.

The voice is consistent, and catchy, and easy to relate to... The flash back and quick back flash was done very well without distracting. Heading down the right path, you are... ;)
pinkflipflops said…
I totally just responded under the wrong post.. but i'm sure you can figure it out hahahaha.. sorry!
Yay!you! for writing. :) And I love that first paragraph.
Jenna Wallace said…
Ooooo! I love how this pulls you in -- much more showing then telling. We get to know the character (both characters actually) and connect with them. I think this a great improvement on the Beta club version. I definitely want to read more.
Ashley Stone said…
love it!!!! You're so talentedspice. xoxo

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