Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Name That Genre: Critique Round #5

TITLE: The Ouija Thrower
GENRE: YA Paranormal Fantasy

At Misdemeanors Academy for Paranormals (MAP), or suck-it club for rich and spoiled brats, they called me Janna the psychic klutz . That's because the first time they asked me to control a Ouija, I blew a few someones across the room. Too bad MAP Academy didn’t have cheap furniture and modern decorations.

Gee, one week into the program, and I already owed them big, like millions in damage. So, when I was summoned to the library this morning to be handed the keys and put in charge of inventory, I thought someone had loosened the brains’ screws of the two men standing in front of me and sent the bolts away. Because that also made me responsible for the Ouija boards and for my parents’ future double mortgage. At sixteen, it was no way to start.

“You’re the girl,” said the superintendent, his eyes gleaming with malice, while the director shimmied his large frame through the door of the archaic library.

I tried to dial my parents’ number to warn them behind the superintendent’s back, but the snoopy little rogue cast a spell on it and it rang the dean’s office in Stanford, which was near, but not affiliated with MAP.

The superintendent slid his index fingers in his jeans pockets as if holstering his guns, and winked. Yes, winked!

I gulped. “You can’t put me in charge,” I said.

“Why not,” he asked, creasing his eyes, his spaghetti frame leaning backward.

“Unless... er… I’m being paid.”

His ogling dime-size eyes scrutinized me. “Why would you think we’re employing you? This isn’t Club Med.”

He pushed me toward the door and I stopped in the doorway. “I’m already up to my collar bone in debts. I mean, I sent students to the hospital, reduced walls to cinder, and made confetti out of antique vases.”


  1. I like the voice of this entry. It really draws me in. The phrase blew a few someone's is an awkward phrase to me. It would be more personal if you mentioned names of who was blown across the room. Also I don't know how much a 16 year old knows about a double mortgage. My kids understand mortgages but not a double. The thing I was really thinking about is why she owes so much money. Does a paranormal school not have insurance? Seems reckless of the superintendent

  2. I like the idea and the MC's voice. I did find a couple lines confusing and wasn't sure if perhaps my confusion was due to typos? brains' screws vs. brain screws? Also, I didn't get how the MC thought she'd be able to dial her parents without the superintendent know -- while he's standing right in front of her? Or is a word missing and it supposed to read: 'I had tried to dial...'?

    Again, this looks like a fun idea and an enjoyable read.

  3. I like the main character's attitude and you set up nicely that she's in trouble which is good. I also found the phone thing a bit confusing everything seems to be happening so fast. It feels rushed.
    It feels to me like we are a few paragraphs or pages into the story already rather than at the beginning. It might be good to start where she gets the news that she's in charge and develop that more. Spell out the conversation between her and the poplin charge. I think that would help.

  4. I agree about the phone being confusing. I think this sounds like a fun read though. It needs to be tightened up. The parent's double mortgage was also confusing. It might make more sense if she thought she was being sent to the office to be expelled then find out she's not. Good luck!

  5. The voice of this intro is good and I like Janna. I sympathize with her plight. The idea, so far, seems cool.

    So if Janna is at MAP, does she think of herself as a rich and spoiled brat? I'm not sure about the possessive punctuation in "brains' screws," and I'm not sure what "sent the bolts away" means.

    I'm having some trouble with logic, here.

    There seem to be a few jumps from one idea to the next that don't feel very fluid to me.

    If this is a school for rich kids, I would assume the school has funds and insurance, so I'm not sure why she owes millions of dollars... maybe just the deductible? Unless damages by paranormal means aren't covered.

    Why is the super gleaming with malice and acting threatening and being all, "You're the girl"? They called her there; shouldn't they expect it to be her?

    She tries to call her parents when the superintendent speaks to her... but I can't really tell about what or why this is the most crucial time to call them. Will there not be time to call them in five minutes? Is all hell going to break loose the very second she's in charge? Why did he want her phone to ring the Dean's office?

    I guess the question I'm supposed to be asking is why on earth would they put her in charge of anything if she's know to destroy things... My guess is that they're trying to put her family more in debt, and I'm not sure if that's the conclusion you want me to draw. Something feels off about the exchange from "You can't put me in charge," forward. If she's a student and this is a student job, it would make sense that they're forcing her to work off some of her debt.

    It feels a bit like we rushed into this library thing without enough grounding to the situation or the character.

    I think "Why not" need a question mark at the end.

    The name of this academy makes it seem like juvie for paranormal kids... but rich kids don't usually end up in juvie. I'm not sure what to make of the place.

    But I like Jenna, and I'm eager to see what happens to all the inventory when she gets her hands on it.

  6. I am confused on a number of fronts, most of which others have mentioned. The superintendent had a large frame in one line and a spaghetti frame in the next mention? And is a sneaky rogue an actualy creature or are you calling the superintedtent a sneaky rogue?

    All of it feels like the dialog could work as a screen play where we are watching and getting clues, but as dialog and narrative alone, I cannot tell who is talking and what it means.

  7. You've thrown the reader directly into an unfolding conflict, which is great. The setting is a school for kids with magic powers, crossed with juvenile detention? I'm unclear whether this is a place to train kids with psychic powers or a place to imprison them.

    I didn't realize until the second read-through that there are three people in the room: the MC, the director, and the supervisor. The fact that one has a gun makes this sound more like juvie -- but the MC's response to the way they are treating her indicates that their bullying is unusual.

    If someone has to shimmy through a door, either they are Hagrid-sized, or that door is tiny.

    "I sent students to the hospital. . ." Try reading this sentence out loud. It doesn't flow as dialogue should.

    Thanks for the opportunity to critique your work!

  8. I agree with most of the comments. You may want rewrite for clarity and logic. Something that hasn't been mentioned yet - in pargs 1 and 2, we have a girl standing somewhere and talking to no one. Now, I know she's supposed to be talking to me and all the other readers out there, but she can't. She can only talk to the people who exist in her world. Perhaps start with her entering the library and cut those two pargs.

    And a different angle on something that has been mentioned. Why would it matter if she destroyed a bunch of furniture? If they all have magical abilities, wouldn't at last one of them be able to magic the furniture back together? Or poof the old stuff away and conjure up some new stuff? If you have a story with magic or superpowers in it, you also need a set of rules on how that magic works and it has to be consistent if its going to be believable.

    You've created a fun character and what looks to be an interesting premise. Just give the opening a deeper look.