Friday, November 30, 2012

(30) YA Paranormal Mystery: The Channels

TITLE: The Channels
GENRE: YA Paranormal Mystery

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Clare can hear people’s thoughts, but a family history of mental illness creates a fine line between what is delusion and what is paranormal. Only Colin’s touch can make the voices melt away, but Hannah’s already heard the one secret she can’t keep: Colin’s cousin is stalking his next prey.

Silence has a sound. When the mind goes blank, I hear it. Jagged with static.

The sound changes when people’s thoughts stream in, their words joining the hiss in my head. When the channels open, nothing can control the flood of secrets. The voices come and I’m blown away, swirled in words, numb from the shock.

The static comes first.

A song of secrets, second.

Tuning into my own crazy radio station.

Chapter 1

I walked into my high school’s cafeteria with a scab on my forehead and my eyes on my feet. The scent of greasy food I didn't want to eat felt heavy in my lungs. I snuck a look around the room. School hadn’t changed at all. The lunch cliques, maybe a little, but the orange tables and worn floor and scowl-faced lunch ladies were the same. The feeling that I didn’t want to be there was also the same, times one hundred. The only good part about school, that day or ever, was Kate, my best friend since ninth grade. I spotted her at our corner table gabbing with a neighboring group, but she stopped mid-sentence when our eyes met and leapt up to crush-hug me until I could barely breathe.

“I’m soooo glad you’re back,” she said, pulling me by the hand toward the bright orb where I slid my tray of food. “I’ve missed you like crazy.”

“It’s good to be back,” I lied. I couldn’t stop thinking about the word she used, crazy.


  1. Love the poetic feel of the opening lines and how they convey how the "voices" feel to the MC.
    I'm a little disoriented, wondering if the MC has been absent from school for a while, or why she is noting that "school hadn't changed ..." Maybe a clue as to what's happened here?
    Love the last line about the word "crazy"--it really makes me wonder in a good way! :)

  2. I like the poetic lines at the beginning as well. I also liked the mention of a "scab on my forehead" because it's so reminiscent of being a teenager (so much self-consciousness).
    I, too, felt a little confused about how long Hannah had been absent from school. I was also unsure what the "bright orb" was. Maybe use more basic words since it's just a cafeteria.

  3. Good comments from the others. Since I like that not everything is revealed right away, I like that we get just enough clues to know she's been absent from school, and has some kind of scab...and the word crazy comes in to play. I think these would make any teenager want to read more. Good luck!

  4. I really like this. I loved the opening before Chapter 1. Seriously, loved it.

    And I enjoyed the rest of your writing too. My only other comment is that the narrator seems a bit gloomy--which is fine--but I hope within the pages or something that there's some spark of genuine happiness/cute snark/ect. to balance her out and make her even more relatable. (Just like how you show that school sucks *but* she's got the friend!)

    Anyway, I liked this and would keep reading! Good luck!!

  5. Just the thought of hearing a song of secrets had me hooked.

    My only nitpick is the size of the opening paragraph in Chapter One. It's a huge bite to digest in one go. I suggest dividing this into two paragraphs by adding a break before "School hadn't changed at all." to let us spend a moment with Hannah before we get swept up in the setting.

    Great stuff!

  6. I know what you mean, but the feet seems like a really dirty and inconvenient place to keep ones eyes!

    Otherwise, interesting and I'd love to know how much of her crazy is real and how much is because of her gift.

  7. I really loved the opening to this. It has a very poetic feel and I almost had to readjust when I hit Chapter 1.

    You set a very visual scene with the cafeteria and her voice seems very real to me. I also am drawn in by the combination of mental illness/paranormal would would definitely keep reading.

  8. Great first line! I loved the opening! The crazy versus paranormal thing sounds interesting. I'd love to see how it plays out.  

  9. Just as in an earlier critique I said the logline was revealing too much, here I feel it’s a bit too cryptic. (And guys, I know it’s not about the logline, but I pass this information along because it will help you when you’re preparing those dreaded query letters.) The first sentence of your logline is quite strong until you get to the divide of delusional and paranormal. I don’t know what that means. Should it be “otherworldly” or some such. Be careful of using “paranormal” in this way – the connotation is now too associated to a genre, and a very wide genre at that, so the word doesn’t have much punch here. I like the mystery surrounding Colin, but I have no idea who he is. And the image of the cousin stalking prey is great, but clue us into what sort of paranormal stalking we’re talking –demon, werewolf, zombie, whatever. When you get into YA paranormal, the type matters a lot. (I know you wouldn’t think it matters so much, but it does.)

    Now the sample, itself! I liked your opening. It’s lyrical and grabs my attention as a reader quite effectively. I particularly liked the staccato of the final three sentences. You align your style to it’s substance, and that’s done very well, indeed.

    Once you get into Chapter 1, I think you can tighten this up. Is it important to say that it’s Clare’s school, or that it’s even the high school cafeteria? Isn’t that information clear through the context clues throughout the paragraph? Do you need the line “School hadn’t changed at all?” Isn’t that sentiment emphasized through her description of the table and floor and lunch ladies?
    I agree that this big paragraph might be better broken after “times one hundred.” The focus is changing, and so should the paragraph.

    One thing that’s bothering me—this is me being nitpicky—you can’t feel a scent in your lungs. I like the image you’re trying to paint, but you’ll have to go about it a different way.

    I wasn’t drawn in by the beginning of Chapter 1, but I’d probably read a little bit more given the intro.

  10. I think your writing is very, very good - agree with Alison about the scent in the lungs - it made me stop and think about how that would work, exactly. Don't ever give a reader an opportunity to stop, especially on a first page.

    Paranormal is an insanely tough nut to crack right now. That said, I love the way you show us how her ability impacts her. It makes me curious, and I'd read a bit more.

  11. Your logline intrigued me, but the prologue was telling not showing, no thank you.

    BUT your first line "I walked into my high school's cafeteria with a a scab on my forehead" - that totally hooked me. Of course I have to know what happened to her! And why she's been gone for school for a while, apparently.

    Not sure what the reference to the bright orb was.

    And the last line was great too.

    I wish you'd ditched the prologue so I could sample a few more sentences from this first scene. I definitely want to keep reading.

  12. Beautifully written opening that sucked me in. I'd definitely keep reading and think teens will too. Relate-able and interesting premise teens will be drawn to. I say this as a teen librarian aide and mom of avid readers as well as YA author.

    Every opening, page, transition, dialog, etc., will go through revisions with an agent and then an editor and this sample is already very clean, so don't worry about removing words or sentences you love in order to make it stronger.