First 500 Words: Shifting Greer’s by K.D. Bledsoe at Inkitt

(This story was found on Inkitt. I present the first 500 words as the author wrote them, provide notes on what works and what needs work, and then re-write the first 500 words. I try to keep the author’s voice but edit for clarity, formatting, spelling, grammar, etc. No offense in intended toward the original author. This is a writing/editing exercise that I thought would be fun, since this is something that I do mentally with everything I read — until I get lost in the story, that is.)

Original:

How do the stories begin? Oh, right, with once upon a time.

So, so here it goes:

Once upon a time, there was an overlooked, beautiful girl who longed for someone to come and notice her. Along comes a handsome prince on horseback to save her. They live happily ever after in a ginormous castle.

Well, you know what I’ve got to say to those stories? Bullcrap.

Fairy tales are stories written by lonely people that want to deceive the minds of the youth. But listen up kids, no one ever gets their happily ever after. Some messed up shit happens in life. Did you get that? Are you taking notes? You could be because I’m a prime example of someone not getting their happily ever after. Heck, I would even settle for Cinderella’s life before she met Prince Charming or whoever.

Because right now, my story belongs in the tragedy section of the bargain bin.

My castle comes in the form of a one-story house, parked on the side of a busy street, in a small crater in the earth in Washington.

And it’s freaking raining.

I stare up at the brick ranch style house with a scowl on my face. My one suitcase is on the wet ground at my feet. My brunette hair is soaked to my skin. I’m not wearing a jacket, just a think t-shirt. There’s a black pickup truck parked in the driveway. It has a bumper sticker for the high school in town. I can’t help but laugh. I haven’t even been to the school yet.

I can’t get my feet to shuffle up the cracked walkway. This doesn’t feel real. The last few months, I’ve been basically sleepwalking through my life. Standing here in front of my new home starts to wake me up a bit.

“You’ve been standing there for ten minutes now, are you going to go in?” Says a deep voice from beside me.

I gulp, “I’m working up to it.”

“It won’t bite, you know?” He chuckles.

I turn to look at the older man standing to my right. A shot of pain grips my chest tight as I look into his sparkling blue eyes. Leo looks almost identical to my mother. I wonder how long the pain will last every time I look at him. I wonder if it’ll ever get easier.

He gives me a forced smile as he noticed the look on my face, “One step at a time, remember, Greer?”

I nod. It all seemed so simple on the drive over here. I pumped myself up the whole plane trip. I told myself I could do it the whole car ride from the airport. So why couldn’t I do it now?  Why was this such a hard thing to do?

I vigorously nod, shaking myself from my stupor, and put one step in front of the other. I drag my suitcase behind me on its wheels. Leo keeps a safe distance behind me and…

What Works: First, the style is great. The beginning may sound a little cliched with the “once upon a time stuff” but, to be honest, even as a full-grown adult, a story that starts like this will still get my attention right away. Generally, when this opening is used, it’s in a romantic-comedy context, so to have it in the Action section, with the story description being that Greer is a teenage girl in witness protection after her parents are murdered is a fun switch. Also, I just like the voice of the character right off the bat.

What Needs Work: For a book in the Action section, absolutely nothing happens in the first chapter (I read ahead). The author also hints around about “the incident” and how she has a different last name now but if you read the summary before reading the book, this is not a mystery to the reader and it’s frustrating to have that reveal dragged out for so long.

Although the author is good at setting a mood, the writing could be more concise.

Also, the title should probably be “Shifting Greers” instead of “Shifting Greer’s”.

My Version:

How do the stories begin? Oh, right, with, once upon a time…

Once upon a time, there was an overlooked, beautiful girl who longed for someone to notice her. Along came a handsome prince on horseback to save her. They lived happily ever after in a ginormous castle.

Well, you know what I’ve got to say to those stories? Bullshit.

Listen up kids, no one ever gets their happily ever after. Life is full of some messed up stuff. Watch your parents be murdered and then tell me how there is such thing as justice, let alone happiness.

Right now, I’m standing in front of a red brick, ranch-style house, in a small town in Washington.

And it’s freaking raining.

There’s a black pickup truck parked in the driveway. Uncle Leo’s new truck. There’s already a sticker for the high school I haven’t started attending yet stuck on the tailgate.

The wind whips dark, wet strands of hair across my face, casting diagonal prison bars across the view of the house. I’m not wearing a jacket, just a thin, black t-shirt. There’s a sweater in the suitcase next to my feet. The material of the suitcase is not waterproof, so the sweater is probably as soaked as I am.

The cab dropped me off ten minutes ago, but I can’t get my feet to shuffle up the cracked walkway.

The front door opens and Uncle Leo steps out of the house. He fwoops open an umbrella and then jogs down the walkway, toward me. 

I love Leo but I have to fight the urge to run away. This can’t be real. It can’t be my life now.

Leo stops in front of me and tries to hand me the umbrella. I don’t budge, so he hovers over me awkwardly, using the umbrella to try and cover both of us.

“How long have you been out here?” he asked, sounding concerned and exasperated. His voice is deep, nothing like my mother’s, but his eyes are the same exact shade of blue as hers. A stitch cramps up my chest, like when I run too fast without warming up first.

A wry smile quirks my uncle’s lips, though the wrinkle between his brow still displays his worry. “Are you coming in?”

I nod, but don’t move.

His smile turns encouraging. “One step at a time Greer,” he says.

I take a deep breath and step forward. He moves aside and walks with me, still trying to hold the umbrella over both of us as I wheel my suitcase up the path.

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