Once again, I was incredibly humbled and impressed by the Hollywood Challenge samples you submitted. Every week I see improvement and expansion, both in the quantity of people submitting and the quality of each individual piece. And as always, I could only select a fraction of samples to display here. Keep up the awesome work, guys! It's a joy to be able to vibe off your creativity. I'm going to submit my own sample in a few days, so look out for that, too...y'all have inspired me!
From Lisa Aldin, The Stunt Girl:
The thing they never tell you about Hollywood--it may be the city of dreams, but it's also the city of nightmares. This is what goes through my head as I lay face down on the hot pavement, gravel burrowing into my cheek as Johnny's foot slams against the back of my neck. Again.
I go to a special place during these moments, moments where I hurt but not enough to say anything. I close my eyes and tremble under his weight. The gravel bits will leave pot holes in my skin again, same as yesterday, same as the day before. I will need to use a special lotion to sooth the ache until the next round.
In the distance I think I hear someone yell, "Cut!" but I don't break until Johnny helps me up. He brushes the gravel from my swollen cheek and smiles. "Hope I wasn't too hard on you," he says.
I shake my head and shield my eyes from the setting sun. A shadow falls over his beautiful face and I resist tracing his cheekbones with my electrified fingertips. Everything is static when Johnny's around. My shoulders are burnt and cracked from long days like this, days where I let him beat me, all for the sake of art. Or money. I'm beginning to wonder if there's even a difference.
Johnny takes me back to his trailer. As he applies the lotion to my cheek, he kisses my neck. He's the only actor on set who does his own stunts. He says he loves to be in the thick of it all. In a world of fake, Johnny craves something real. So do I.
I wonder if I will ever find it.
I love how Lisa starts us in media res--in the middle of the action--and evokes her MC's physical discomfort unabashedly, so we can almost feel the pain alongside her. Additionally, she sets up two complex characterizations within a few short paragraph, and articulates a WANT (truth/realness) for each of them. Awesome.
From Shaira Martinez:
The thing they never tell you about Hollywood--it may be the city of dreams, but it's also the city of nightmares. You know how they tell you how going to Hollywood to sign a contract with a major company is exactly like selling your soul? Well, they meant it. Literally. And now, since I've really always wanted to say this.... I'm Shea and this is my story. (That always sounded a lot cooler in my head.)
I moved to Hollywood just to audition for this big role in a movie adaptation for my favorite book. And I don't mean to brag, but I've always been a pretty good actress. I have some pretty epic stories about just how good I am, but that would take up a lot of time and I don’t exactly get a lot of it for free anymore. I went into the audition and nailed it. I’m not even kidding, they didn’t see a single girl after me. They just went ahead and said, “You’re it.” Though, at the time, I didn’t know being it was actually a bad thing.
The next day, I went over to SSProductions to officially sign my contract. It was creepy. As soon as I entered, dead silence hit and every head in the lobby turned my way. They looked ravenous.
“Wow, I guess they weren’t kidding when they said these people were like corporate zombies,” I said to myself. I had no idea.
Fast forward, I head up to Dante’s office. He’s owns SSP so he’s kind of a big deal. He has me sign a contract, which is fine, until he pricks my finger and blood drips all over it. I swore, apologized, swore again, and waited for them to kick me out, but instead, Dante licks my finger, looks me with his blood red – yes, red – eyes and says five words that ring through my head every minute of every day when I’m not being fed on by some vamp or incubus.
“Welcome to Soul Sucker Productions.”
Ha. Shaira wastes no time in impugning/parodying the Hollywood stereotype of blood-sucking agencies and soulless lawyers. I would totally read a book about the paranormal LA scene.
From Stephanie Monahan, "From California":
You tell someone you’re from California and immediately they think they know you. You must be a hippie, or a vegan, or one of those health nuts who eats only raw food. A surfer, a singer. Rich, or famous—probably both. And if you’re grown up in Hollywood, like me, they know that your life is like a movie. Sure, there may be bumps. But they’re only there to create a story arc, dramatic interest. In the end, everything will be okay.
On the bus, the sullen boy beside me brightens when I tell him I’m from California. Know any movie stars, he asks, wrapping ear buds around his wrist, and I nod. My golden hair falls to my shoulders like the mane of a wild horse. He can’t look away. He’s undressing me with his eyes. If I could, I would tell him not to bother. Once the shirt comes off, and he sees the bruises rising on my skin like disease, he’ll run off, scared that I’m contagious. I know. I’ve acted out the scene too many times.
So when he asks, I tell him about my amazing life. My father, the screenwriter. My mother, the dancer who gave up her career to stay home with me. I tell him I’m taking the bus to Houston to visit my best friend. I don’t feel bad about my lies. The thing they never tell you about Hollywood--it may be the city of dreams, but it's also the city of nightmares. He doesn’t need to know.
He asks if I’m an actress. More lies tumble out, but I tell myself they’re not lies, they’re lines, and I’m just doing my job. Today, I’m playing the part of a girl visiting her best friend. Tomorrow, I could be anyone.
This is a beautifully written submission. I love how Stephanie mentions narrative/story arc in the first 'graph, making this submission slightly "meta" (i.e., self-referential). And her almost-casual reference to the MC's bruising and troubled history, piques our curiosity and makes us want to read on. This is an excellent technique for generating suspense/interest at the start of the story. You want the reader to ask questions--he/she will then read on for the answers.