Wednesday, January 14, 2009


TITLE: The only way forward

One minute before nine. And the feeling was getting worse.

"One more minute until my doom." I muttered. My fingers were gray and trembling. The room was frigid with over-zealous air-conditioning.

"No, one more minute until my doom." Sylvia whispered back. I glanced at her. She looked perfect as usual, her brown hair perfectly styled and gleaming under the fluorescent lights. She even had make-up on. Who wore make-up to take a final exam?

"Please put all your study materials away now." Mr. Johnson announced. The class made a collective groan and, for a moment, there was no sound except for the swish of paper as Mr. Jones passed out a thick sheaf of test booklets.

The exam slid in front of me and my eyes shot to the first question: 'We know from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity that time is relative to the speed at which one is traveling. What other forces affect the passage of time?'

My heart flubbed a beat, and then began to pound frantically. The pencil I was clutching fell from my fingers and clattered on the floor.

"No. Not now, not now." I whispered. But it was too late. The walls of the room darkened and seemed to move farther away, as though I were falling into a tunnel. And then there was pain.
The pain came so quickly it felt as though I had gotten stabbed in the chest. I collapsed onto the floor, my arms pressed against my heart.


  1. The first sentence intrigued me, however I finding my self getting lost further in the story.

  2. I really like this. You think the feeling is about taking the test, but then you ealize she is holding off on something worse.

    The first sentence grabs you, but I don't like the next paragraph. Something about it throws me off - wish I could tell you what. It just doesn't seem to flow into the rest of the page for me.

  3. Well, I have mixed feelings on this.

    I'm first thinking some horrible death. Then I'm surprised by the setup to find it's an exam - I like the setup, but it threw me in an amusing way.

    But then I'm thrown off course by the details that go into describing Sylvia. Possibly her description is useful for us to understand her part in the story, but I don't know yet if she's a MC or not, so it slows things down.

    And then I don't have an idea of what strange phenomenon is happening to this person, but it's obviously more than taking a science exam.

    I would continue reading.

  4. I would continue reading, but I totally lost track of "the feeling" in all the description of Sylvia and the test. By the time the feeling reappears, (and it's the most important thing since it's what you start with) I've forgotten that's how you started. Maybe you can have her fight off the feeling successfully once, THEN introduce Sylvia and the test? Also, I'm assuming the quiz on relativity is relevant? :)

  5. I would keep reading. Definitely.

    I would change a few things: You tend to repeat words {doom, perfect, pain), which works for effect if done once, but multiple times just makes me think (if I'm thinking like an agent) lazy writing. Also, "The pain came so quickly it felt as though I had gotten stabbed in the chest" seems like a cliched way to describe something so obviously important to the passage.

    Good luck in the contest!


  6. I'm on the fence. I'd keep reading, but maybe lose, "One minute until my doom."
    One minute before nine. And the feeling was getting worse. The over-zealous air-conditioning turned my trembling fingers gray.

    Something like that. Just make it more active, not passive.
    Like I said, I'd keep going, but it could be tighter.
    Good luck.

  7. For the most part, I liked this. There are a few bits that are awkward and/or could use tightening--heart flubbed a beat, made out a collective groan--but I'm still interested.

  8. I like this, I'm intrigued, and I wanted to read on. Something is going to happen at nine o'clock - but what? And how does it relate to the subject of the exam question, because it presumably does. I also liked the way both the MC and Sylvia are anticipating their doom - but for completely different reasons. I'm sniffing a paranormal thing going on here and I'd like to know what it is.
    Beware: physical 'symptoms'; I hate pounding hearts of all kinds, and 'pounding frantically' takes you too close to cliche. Less can be more, my friend!

  9. I was put off at first by the over-reacting of the characters until I read further and saw the situation. Then, I really liked it. I would surely keep reading to find out what was happening, whether it was something paranormal or simply a panic attack. I don't know if this is a mistake but you said once the teacher was "Johnson" and the next time you say "Jones". May want to take a look at that. Otherwise, great job!

  10. Hooked!

    The only thing is I spotted a few places that needed comma's, but other than that, very well written.

    Good luck!

  11. I liked the opening, too. It hooked me in. And then I was a little let down that her "doom" was really a final exam. Then I got excited again at the end and would definitely read more!

    One really nitpicky thing: the teacher asks for everyone to put away test materials. Everyone groans and then there's no sound but him handing out tests. When do they put materials away? I got hung up on this little thing. It's not too important in the grand scheme, but thought I'd mention it.

  12. It hooked me, but I did wonder if "I" was male of female. At one point, he seemed to be checking Sylvia out, but then commenting on the makeup seemed to be something a girl would do, not a boy. Maybe make the gender obvious right away? Maybe Sylvia could mention "I's" name?

  13. This is exactly how I felt whenever I took a test.

    Nicely done. I'd read more.

  14. The opening feels a bit repetitive, and the test taking doesn't grab me as a open point for a novel, but the unusual pain at the end does. I would read on to find out what it is.

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. I would definitely read on to find out what happened next. Nicely done.

  16. I'm hooked. It's the heart attack at the end there that caught me.

    I do think this could be tightened up a little bit, but I'm interested.

  17. I like the voice lots.

    One thing: you have Mr. Johnson and then you say Mr. Jones -- if there are two teachers they need more different sounding names. Even if there is only one teacher, Mr. Johnson sounds way too generic, imo.

    Also, are teens in today's world named Sylvia?

  18. Overall I liked this. You did a good job of setting up for 'doom'..then showing the two characters' ideas of doom were very different.

    One the exam, the other the actual pain.

    I thought the writing was good and I really wasn't confused at all about what was going on here. I'd definitely read more.

  19. Hooked! I liked this quite a bit. The ending cinched it-I wanted to read on.

  20. This is good. I would definitely continue.

    A couple of things:

    One minute before nine. And the feeling was getting worse. What feeling? I think she's worried about the exam. Try something like: One minute before nine and the knot in my stomach tightened.

    It's a little wordy. One place to cut:
    And then there was pain.
    The pain came so quickly it felt as though I had gotten stabbed in the chest.
    Stab indicates a quick, sharp action, so all those words really boil down to "Pain stabbed me in the chest."

    And a little telly.
    She even had make-up on. What did she look like? 'pouty, too pink lips'? 'kohl-lined eyes'? You use 'makeup' twice on the same line. Also 'perfect/perfectly'

    Look at every occurence of was/were/is and consider rewording. ie. 'The pencil I clutched...' instead of 'was clutching'. 'To be' is often both telly and wordy.

  21. I love this first page, though I (still) think you should start with the second paragraph (with the doom comment).

    I also like that you get into the heart attack more quickly than the last time I saw it.

  22. I agree, you should start with the doom comment. I like the dramatic way she thought she was doomed. Very teenagerey. I would read on.

  23. I quite liked this. It hooked me. I want to know what happens next.

    I didn't much like the word 'fubbed' in that sentence though.

    Also I would change the beginning of one of the firt two sentences to save repetition.

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  25. I'm hooked, but wavering.

    I think your second paragraph is strong enough to be the beginning. I like Sylvia's echoed sentiment, but maybe a switch of words would help us see her as a contrast to the MC.

    Also, "perfect" and "perfectly" in the third paragraph.

    Even though this scene seems to be about a girl and a test, you can still make it more active.

    "My fingers were gray and trembling." could be "My gray fingers trembled."

    Little changes like that will make us move through the scene faster.

    Plunge us into the action.

  26. Doesn’t hook me…
    Because it doesn’t make sense. I’m sure you explain further on, but everything here seems exaggerated: doom, falling to the floor, etc. Panic attack maybe, but didn’t catch me as an opener.

  27. I'm curious, but not intrigued enough by the writing to continue.

    Just a pointer, when you attribute a quote to a character, it should be punctuated like this:

    "One more minute until my doom," I muttered.

    But be careful on these, as well, because oftentimes sentences are punctuated as attributions, when they're really description of the character.

    In other words, if instead of muttered you wanted the word laughed, you would use a period because you can't laugh a sentence.

  28. Definitely lots of tension and mystery right at the front. I'm not sure I'm in love with the narrator's voice just yet, but I'd read the rest of the chapter to see where this is going.

  29. I like it... dying to know what happens next!

  30. I got lost in the tension of the "taking the test", but was definitely interested enough to read on. Good thing too, because I liked the last part vey much.

  31. It would be nice to no the sex of the MC. I think it's a girl. I like pounding by the way, SA. Using the word pain in two sentences does bother me, but I wold keep reading at least for a while to find out what's going on.

  32. Yes, I would be reading on in this one. I want to know what is happening to the mc.

    I liked this one a lot.

  33. I'm hooked. I want to know if she really has a heart attack during a final!

  34. I'm on the fence. I want to know what happened to her. But it doesn't totally grab me yet.
    You give good insight to what shes feeling as its happening.

  35. Interesting, but I'm not sure if I want to continue to read. I'm not sure if the test is the conflict or if there is something else going on. The ambiguity is annoying/frustrating me - but not enough to necessarily make me want to continue to read.

  36. Not hooked after the first line, although it's a grabber. The voice doesen't feel YA to me. I'd also consider ramping up the title a bit. Seems passive.

  37. I would read further just to see where the MC went, but I'm not in love with this.