Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FLG: #1 500-words

TITLE: Gallop
GENRE: YA paranormal

When I was a little girl Dad insisted monsters couldn’t get me so long as one person in the house loved me. Mom was always more matter-of-fact: she said she’d shoot them before they could make a move. I never believed Dad—Mom packed more credibility since she had a gun tucked against her hip most days.

That was when Mom being a cop was a good thing. These days I worried more about her ticketing me for reckless driving. Believing in monsters was something I’d outgrown, like Santa Claus.

My scooter, a seventeenth birthday present from my parents, buzzed closer to the restaurant where I was due to pick up my best friend Noah. The speed limit was thirty, but I was pushing fifty. The Tern, in all its tourist-attracting crap, popped into view when I turned the corner. Surfboards, old nets, and plastic crabs swayed in the frigid, salt-scented wind. With the first fingers of winter creeping over Long Beach Island, it felt like I’d never get the chill out of my bones.

When I pulled into the parking lot, Noah waved from his favorite position: slumped against the front wall. His twin brother Rick was digging in the trunk of the ancient car they shared.

“Mac! How’s the convent? Feel like home yet?” Noah asked after I’d powered down the engine. Rick slammed the trunk closed at the same time. The sound crumpled over the blacktop. It was a quiet morning other than the squawk of seagulls and rush of waves a block away.

I slid off the helmet. “It’s not a convent anymore.”

“Doesn’t matter. That place is creepy as hell. I can’t believe your parents insisted on moving into it. It’s like living a horror movie or something.”

“Try staying there. I thought I was going to get frostbite. We slept in the living room last night because the place is so dirty. Doni and Kara are helping Mom clean right now.”

“How’d you get out of that?” Rick asked. He pulled on a jacket and leaned next to Noah.

“Dad needs help putting the fishing boat to bed for the winter, so yeah. I’m sure I’ll pay for it, though. I’ll bet Doni and Kara get the good bedrooms.”

Noah laughed. “There are good bedrooms in a convent?”


“I know, I know,” Noah said. He pulled a stocking cap over his close-cropped, dark hair. “It’s not a convent anymore.”

“Well, it’s not.” Even as I said it, I could hear my defensiveness. It was a convent—it looked like one, and it even had a weird, musty smell that reminded me of nuns. Or what I imagined nuns smelled like, since I didn’t know any. And a heavy, awful feeling lurked in the corners. “I guess if you’re going to be a nun, it was a good place to live—right on the bay.”

Noah eyeballed me. “Yeah, in a freaking fortress.”


  1. Living in a convent? Awesome. I love how your beginning hints at monsters to come.

    Your second sentence in the second paragraph has some tense problems. (These days I worried) These is present tense and worried is past. I know you're trying to move away from the childhood stuff you mentioned before but it comes across as confusing.

    Another sentence: His twin brother Rick was digging in the trunk... should read: His twin brother, Rick, dug through the trunk of the ancient car they shared. (Get rid of the was ...ing)

    Your little bit at the end with the heavy feeling in the corners hooked me. Although I'd remove the word awful. Let your readers figure out that it's awful.

  2. I liked the first paragraph, but it didn't seem to connect with the rest of it. I assume it will later on. As to the rest of it, you have some tense issues, and the scene ran just a tad too long. However, I like the set-up and am curious as to where this is going.

  3. Really like this. The dichotomy between her parents, and the whole "Mom said she'd shoot them before they could make a move really caught my interest.

    "I can't believe your parents insisted on moving into it" seems a little formal for a teenage guy to his BF. "I can't believe your parents bought that place" or "are making you live there" feels a little more natural.

    The last two lines of dialogue "I guees if you're going to be a nun ..." and "Yeah, in a freaking fortress" also feels a little forced. I don't know why living on the bay would be good for a nun. Feels like this was thrown in to "set the scene" of the convent, but doesn't feel like natural or topical dialogue - though it's hard to tell without the full text. Maybe something more along the lines of "at least I got to live on the bay - they may have been nuns, but they could pick a location." or something like that, to include the setting info without being too expository.

    But I really, really like it. I would definitely keep reading!

  4. LOVE the first paragraph. It really shows the parents' character and how they might have shaped Our Heroine as she grew up.

    For time jump clarity, in the second paragraph, perhaps "Those were the days when Mom being a cop..." and "Lately, I worried..."?

    I love the convent setting! That's awesome. I think it might be a little more natural if they were actually AT the convent so we could see it ourselves, rather than getting a memory description, but I definitely believe her friends would randomly tease her about it.

    The end dialogue -- living by the bay -- does seem a little forced and unnatural, like they might have already covered that topic. (I'm curious -- though willing to wait a little to find out -- whether she just moved into town or she's been there and just moved within the town. It seems like the latter, since she already has a best friend?)

    All in all, I think this is a pretty strong piece. Aside from a couple minor quibbles, it's in good shape.

    Re: was digging/dug -- you can leave was digging, since I assume Rick was already digging in the trunk when Mac showed up. Sometimes -ing verbs ARE appropriate.

    Best of luck!

  5. I smiled when I read this. I like your voice. The only thing I didn't get was why it would be good for a nun to live near the bay.

    I love the location.

  6. I love the opening! I like the give and take of the teens.

    I'm from a different part of the country. But him being seventeen and only having a scooter threw me off. Cars are the norm here. But maybe thats a good different for the character and his family...setting them apart.

    I like the ending that it gets back to the forboding feel of the beginning.

  7. Lovely first sentence! I'm kinda very over paranormals, but the convent setting is nice and I like the monsters hint.

    I think this has a voice problem. As people have already mentioned the dialogue seems a little stiff, and actually there is something about this character/her voice that doesn't feel very female to me. If the first sentence didn't say "little girl" I wouldn't have guessed it.

    As is, this isn't super compelling to me and a paranormal would need to get very compelling very fast to catch my eye these days.

  8. I liked this and the whole convent idea. I agree with the other comments that some parts seem forced with the dialog, but I didn't see any major tense issues.

    I'm curious, and I'd keep reading because I wonder if paranormal aspect of this story has anything to do with the water, or convent ghosts, or both.

  9. I like the tone and setting of this, but agree that the dialogue is stilted. Information can unfold slowly, naturally, as we get to know the characters. Do you really need to tell me that Noah is Mac's best friend? Won't I figure that out pretty quickly as I read? Won't I figure out that a teenager moved wherever her parents wanted to live? Remember to be wary of too much exposition.

  10. I enjoyed the voice of the narrative, and there are several mysteries brought into this first page - monsters, living in a convent - made me want more to read. And I love gun-totin', monster-shootin' Mom as a character already, even though we haven't met her yet. The comment about what nuns would smell like made me giggle out loud.

    Another commenter mentioned that the voice didn't seem feminine, but I thought of her a tomboy (her name is Mac, and she has several friends who are boys), so it didn't bother me.

    The dialouge does need some work to feel more natural, but other than that, I would keep reading.

  11. I liked the opening, but the rest didn't live up to those first few paragraphs.

  12. I hate to echo everyone else, but I agree that the first paragraphs were really great, but the rest of the story unraveled pretty quickly for me. Her inner voice feels fresh, but the once the characters interact it didn't feel as natural and didn't build as much intrigue as I'd need to feel in order to keep reading.

  13. Loved the first paragraph -- it really set the tone and genre for me. As for the rest: I always struggle with pages containing stories that try try to filter in a lot of "background"-type info into the first few paragraphs. I'd much prefer you let me sense at least a little bit more tension -- yes, in the first 500 words.

  14. Well, I just gotta say that I really like this. :) The voice doesn't resonate too... feminine, I suppose, for me, and I actually forgot she was a girl until I read through the comments. Maybe try reinforcing her gender just once more somewhere in there?

  15. The writing is good. I feel like I know these characters (or wouldn't mind knowing them).

    I feel a little cheated by the opening paragraph. I know it's only the first 500 words, but I think the opening paragraph about monsters and mom with a gun got me expecting something different.

    I love the opening paragraph, and I think you did a good job adding a couple creepy hints with the convent. So I'd definitely keep reading to find the fulfillment of that promise. That was just my first impression of it.

    I like Jodi Meadows' suggestion of starting it IN the convent. Might allow for more creepiness and fulfillment of the opening paragraph's promise.

  16. I'm going to echo the other comments here. I was very drawn in by the opening paragraph, but that great voice didn't hold up for me throughout the rest of the piece. Also, paranormal is tough these days, unless it's something that's really standout.

  17. I think my comment yesterday got eaten...

    I would read on, I'm intrigued by her living situation and I like the banter. But if something pretty darn thrilling didn't happen in the next five pages or so, you'd probably lose me.

  18. I also thought the idea of living in a convent--and what a teenager might feel about that--is interesting and compelling. The tenses were problematic for me in paragraph 2, and I am worried that the language throughout is a bit clunky. I agree that paranormal needs to be amazing these days. The convent idea is a start, and is a better lead than her mother as cop.

  19. Lots of good comments! I enjoyed the opening paragraph, and agree with other commenters on some of the verb tense issues which need some editing. I think if more of a hint of the paranormal is suggested when describing the convent, that would make the tension a little stronger.