Wednesday, January 14, 2009


GENRE: YA paranormal romance

I should have left. I should have gotten in my car and driven home. I
should not have started walking. Alone. At night. Toward a haunted

Though that last part wasn't intentional.

I should've called home and told my mom I couldn't find it. The truth.
Even if it did sound pathetic.

I should've gone into the stadium and waited for the game. By myself.
Even more pathetic.

I should've checked inside the school. Again.

But I didn't do any of that.

I took a walk. Walking never felt pathetic. It felt purposeful. Even
by myself. Even if I had no destination.

I turned away from the stadium's glaring lights and crossed the
street. At the corner, a bright orange sign tacked to a post caught my
attention: Haunted House, Free Today Only.

The horror movie scenario entered my head uninvited. Lonely girl goes
to mysterious haunted house and winds up dead, or worse. Eaten by a
zombie? Turned into a werewolf? The other way around? I didn't know
which was most likely. I avoided scary movies. Maybe zombie

I would not be going to any haunted houses. Not by myself. Not ever.
Even free ones. I'd never understood people who chose to scare
themselves for fun.

My stomach growled, reminding me I hadn't eaten dinner, reminding me
of the pre-game barbecue no one had told me was canceled or moved or
whatever had happened. I dug in my purse, hoping to find chocolate.


  1. I remember this story from the last contest, and I can see that you've improved it greatly!

    Even though there is no dialog, I'm still HOOKED!

  2. This feels choppy to me. I think you can get away with a bit and it suits the voice, but it seems to go on for too long, making me want to skim forward to see if something happens.

    I think you need to get to the haunted house sign faster and bring out more of what does happen, (rather what should or shouldn't have happened), pulling us deeper into the story--make sense?

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  3. You have a flair for the dramatic, yet you can turn around and make fun of it, which I like.
    Maybe dial it down a touch. Your narrator's voice is really choppy. As I'm only reading a small part, I don't know if you drop that choppy style.
    But I'm intrigued. I know she's going to end up in that haunted house in spite of herself.

  4. I'm intrigued by the situation and feel for the character, so I would keep reading. The choppiness would probably get on nerves after a while, though.

    Good luck!

  5. I'm intrigued and would definitely read on. I think you could probably get to the haunted house part a little sooner just so something happens sooner.
    Loved this, though

  6. A few too many should-have's for me. Am excited to see what happens next though!

  7. Giving me so much of what she should've done right off the bat doesn't vibe so well for me.

    It makes me expect, after several lines of I should've, 'then I wouldn't be in this mess'. But you don't give that. Your MC is just walking in the direction of someplace she didn't intend on going, which can be cool.

    Narrative voice is on fence between your character's voice and your voice as an author. Would like more of the character to shine through. Some single word cuts could help there.

    Half and half hooked.

  8. I like the voice at the beginning. It sounds exactly like a girl mentally berating herself. But I agree that it is a bit too choppy later - like the description about why she walked. Crunch some together for a fifteen-word sentence.

    I get the sense that something happens just after this. A zombie jumps out in front of her that she battles off with her unknown mental powers? A car barrels down the road and she teleports herself out of its way?

    I'm not hooked yet, but I'd read more if some action happened soon.

  9. I'm with the others--it's a bit choppy. A few too many "should've"s. But an interesting start, despite this--I would read more, if only to find out what happens next!

  10. "I should've called home and told my mom I couldn't find it."

    At first I thought the "it" was the haunted house. Once I reached the end, I realized it was the pre-game barbecue. Maybe it would be better to clarify this the first time it's mentioned.

    I'm intrigued and would read on to see what happens.

  11. I was hooked last time and I am once again. What an improvement. Great job!

    You might want to cut down on the choppy sentences. If not now, then make sure it isn't like this for the entire book.

  12. I liked the I should've's. I thought it gave voice to the MC.
    It is a little choppy, but unless the whole thing's like that, it didn't bother me too much.

  13. I know I liked this the last time you had a version up, but it just occurred to me that this could have been sharper if you just started in front of the sign with her standing there reading it.

    Not sure if the should've lines were in the last version, but they bothered me here. My first instinct was to just skim past them.

  14. I love your premise anf her overall tone. But it feels very choppy. There's alot of fragements, repetition, and use of the word "should." It kind of break sup the tension of her regret and setting the stage, With some tightening I think it could be a real grabber. I'd read on.

  15. Personally, I don't mind the "choppiness" -- it fits the voice and the character. Granted, I wouldn't want an entire novel of choppy sentences, but it seems to work well in this part.

    I'm hooked!

  16. Good starting out with the haunted house. I just think she thinks a little too much at the beginning. Otherwise, it looks like you're shaping up an interesting story and I would look at a few more pages to see if I'd like to read more.

  17. Nicely dramatic, but I'm a bit at sea here - is this a real haunted house or a fairground one? Why does she say she's walking there, but then she says she won't? The message you're giving me isn't completely clear (though I've read it more than once) and I really need it to be. The very short sentences are effective for pace up to a point, but I think you overuse somewhat.

  18. I like the pacing and there's good stuff in here. The writing is good...I'm just not hooked. Could be the genre!

  19. I think I remember this one from a previous secret agent too. I liked it then and I like it now as well.

    I do agree with Angela -- some of it feels choppy to me. A little chop provides a great sense of immediacy, but too much weighs me down as a reader. I start looking for the character's real voice.

  20. I'm on the fence with this one. I like how you set the mood, but I'm just not sure about the voice. Is it a real haunted house? If so, why would it be "free", etc. A little confusing.

  21. Hooked me…
    Because the opening was great. Amped up the suspense, even though it did seem a tad dragged out. But it was good. I sense conflict, and I’d definitely keep reading because I’m sure she’s going to meet someone or something from that house.

  22. Hooked. I also had a problem with all the shoul haves in the beginning, but not because they were there, but because I had no way to know if she was listing them in chronological order (which might then allow me to guess at what she was talking about. Weird. But for some reason it bothered me.)

    I didn't mind the short sentences. Thought it helped create a bit of mood, and I would definitely read on to get to this free haunted house.

  23. I'm intrigued. I like the MC's voice very much (though she's not named and needs to be)--feels authentically YA and original, esp. the bit about what happens to lonely girls in haunted houses. I agree that you need to get to the haunted house quicker, but I'd definitely read on!

  24. I read this one when it was posted up here and immediately thought the same thing as most of the posts have confirmed: "should've" needs to go after about the third one. I do love the rising tension and the voice reminds me of a lot of other snappy voices in the genre without being overly similar which is great but I'd like to be thrown into that dang house. If it's Halloween or close to it and she's hungry, it needs to start with her looking for chocolate and knowing that the haunted house is the only place to get it. Give me some ghoulish action!

    Far enough to say I'm hooked but I want something happening soon. Nice work!

  25. Started out interesting, but lost me in too much explaining. Writing could use tightening. I think it's too much, I didn't know what the focus was. You pulled off a scary tone overall.

  26. I'm hooked, but...

    I like the voice, and I'm going to be blunt.

    The voice sounds like a boy to me. Perhaps the MC is a bit of a tomboy.

    Instead of "find it", maybe "find the bbq".

    I still like it.

  27. I like it, but the flow needs work. Try reading it aloud.

  28. I agree with the too many 'should have's' Otherwise I liked it.

  29. Unlike many of the others who have commented here, I like the rhythm you create with your shorter sentences. I would cut back on the "should haves" and shorten the first half of your entry for greater overall impact.

    I really like the starting point of this book and would love to see where you go from here. :)

  30. My curiosity is piqued, and I would read further to see if you get so some action.

    There's a time and place to use phrases. I felt you used them too much in this selection. And the repetition of "should've" got tiresome. Pick a couple of them and rewrite/delete the rest.

  31. I love the title and the voice, but by the end the staccato sentence structure detracted from the flow...and digging for chocolate took the tension away for me. Not sure I'd read more