|Remember this is just an opinion. Only you can judge your own piece to its ultimate form. I write this to be helpful. I certainly learn a lot more when someone is completely honest about my work. I hope you feel the same.
Ruby took a two-pack of Excedrin off the shelf, tossed them to the back of her throat and swallowed hard. She made a fresh pot of coffee—extra strong, and poured herself a cup, two
1) Opening paragraphs intrigue me which is why I almost always put them in my reviews. This one is a mix of showing and telling. Let's break it down.
2) The opening line is great. You really show this, but the second one is very much telling. SHOW me the actions of making the coffee. Don't just tell me it happened. For instance, "Ruby snagged a Folgers' Turkish blend coffee packet, dropped it into the maker and pressed 'Brew' She heard the familiar tap tap tapping of java flow into the pot. The aroma soothed her." I hope you see that scene.
3) I might offset the 'two sugars' with a dash for emphasis. Like so: She poured herself a cup -- two sugars. That's minor though.
Ruby dropped her head in her hands. The pain was excruciating. “Go fill the cigarette
4) Again a mix of showing and telling. The pain was excruciating is telling. You might rephrase like so: Her aching head throbbed to the beat of her palms.
Ruby went to the washroom, took a wet cloth to the back of her neck, leaned against the sink and momentarily closed her eyes. If only she could go home and go to bed.
5) Seems abrupt from the dialogue. I know she's 'ditching' Gary, but from the reader's standpoint this doesn't come across well.
6) You have a decent amount of adverbs. Words like earnestly, unexpectedly, likely, certainly, fortunately are all, as one reviewer of mine put it "lazy description", and should be avoided. Let the reader determine if it was unexpected or fortunate. If you write the sentence well enough with great word choices, the adverbs become unnecessary. The reader will come to the conclusion that something was unexpectedly, fortunately, etc. A lot of time you can delete the adverbs and it often reads better too. Try it! You'll see. Search out all those -LY ending words. The 'momentarily' for instance can be deleted. I think it's obvious this is a momentary reprieve from Gary's jabbering.
7) If only she could... This is telling. SHOW me what she's thinking. It can be simple like this: If only I could just -- go -- home. Not only do you show doing this, you deepen the character you've created -- drawing the reader in and keeping their attention. In other words, they can relate. A simple statement of 'If only she could...' doesn't do that. I hope you see what I'm saying.
8) Passive verbs -- This piece contains many passive verbs. was, were, is, has, etc. are all passive. Replacing these with action verbs like: trembled, crashed, smeared, chuckled reveals the story so much more.
Ruby checked her watch. Eleven o’clock. Gary was right. They hadn’t had but two
customers in the last hour. Besides, Gary was draining on her nerves.
9) SHOW me. Ruby glanced at her watch. Eleven O'Clock. Oh, God I can't take his jabbering! But he does have a point. We had two customers in the last hour. Do you see how different this is? The reader gets to 'get inside' Ruby's head. She is our window to this little world.
Gary disappeared into the men’s room. She smiled, thinking to herself, Granny’s
probably ‘preciating’ his manly stream this very minute from her throne on high. She shook thethought from her head with a shudder and groaned to herself, “I need to get a life.”
10) Put the thoughts in italics. I love the shook the thought from her head with a shudder line. Excellent showing there.
11) It was good advice... It was the tall one... It was hers. It was the same SUV...
"It was..." IMO is a terrible start to a sentence. It -- What is it? Was -- a passive verb. I don't have many hard and fast rules in writing, but starting a sentence with "It was..." is a NO. Why? Because often you can 'flip' that sentence, insert an action verb, and the reader will love it. It was... just lies there. For example: 'It was good advice and she intended to take it' could become 'Ruby prided herself on being independent, but Shirley's words rang in her head -- she intended to heed them.
From the back room where she was gathering packs of Marlboro’s a vehicle pull into the parking lot. Big & Rich were belting Save a Horse; Ride a Cowboy” on the radio. Her head throbbed again in pain. A youth staggered out of a Mercades-Benze Suv and vomited all over the front of himself.
12) Best showing passage! Look at the word choices here! Gather, Marlboros, (I think you meant pullED), Big & Rich, belting, throbbed, staggered, vomited. Great action verbs! Nice detail. Needs a bit of work on the passive verb conjugations, but nice choices and you can really see and feel and hear what's happening. Nice.
She glanced at the clock. Twelve-ten. Shirley was late for her shift and she found herself yearning for Gary’s presence.
The tall youth turned from Ruby and yelled, “Come on boys, the beer’s on me.”
“You got some ID cause we don’t sell to minors.”
“Did ya hear that, fella’s? She don’t sell to minors. Yes, I do indeed. I do have an ID.”
13) Fella's should be fellas. No possessive here so no apostrophe needed.
14) Twelve-ten would be better as thought. (Italics)
15) The 'Shirley was late'... sentence is all telling. SHOW me. This is a great 'use thought' moment here.
A mangy stray she called “Jake” came up behind her. “Hey, Jake ol boy, where ya been? Haven’t seen you in a while.” She gave him a friendly scratch behind the ears rubbing the scabs left by ticks, fleas and old wounds that comes from being a confirmed street-dog. “Good to see ya boy.”
He perked his ears at her touch, showing off fringes of hair that stood straight up then
drooped over like silver droplets on a spider’s web. He swallowed a piece of jerky whole. “If you’d learn to chew your food, you might enjoy it more,” she told him with a pat on the rump. Jake pressed his wet nose into the palm of her hand.
16) Putting dialogue inside a paragraph is tough to do effectively. Break the dialogue onto separate lines. It makes it easier to read and prevents 'blocks' of writing that readers usually avoid.
17) We have a story incongruity here. She put the jerky in her pocket and now the dog eats it?
18) I like the images you portray here. 'like silver droplets' 'pressed his wet nose into the palm of her hand'. Well done.
19) You need to watch your verb tenses throughout. You switch to present tense several times. Example, 'Picking up an old trashcan, she threw it at the vehicle, hoping...' Two present and one past tense. Most of the piece is in past tense. Just keep it there.
You have a solid piece here, but it needs a lot of work to show more than tell. I certainly hope that I've been helpful in that goal.
Verbs -- Action for the plot -- moves the story along. Keep me interested.
Detail -- sensory touch, see, hear, taste, smell... flavor to the story soup. Force me to see what your mind sees. Hear what your ears do. Use all the senses. It's what makes good authors, great.
Word choices -- emotion... pick that word that fits just OHHH.... so well. Slide it in there and steer that reader. Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me angry.
Keep writing and good luck in the contest.
Review submitted as part of the