Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First 750 #6

TITLE: Colors Like Memories

I greeted his tombstone the way I always did--with a swift kick. The release of frustration was more than worth the sharp pain in my toes. The polished marble tilted to the left because of all my visits; a crooked tooth in the rows of pearly white graves.

I sat on the damp grass, folding my legs under me. "I keep hoping one of these days you'll be here waiting for me." The words were tradition. I couldn't keep myself from hoping I'd come over the hill to find him leaning over his grave, wearing a sly smile. He died so very long ago, but I couldn't stop wishing.

I leaned my head against my knees, wishing I could sleep. If I slept, though, I would dream of him, and that made things so much harder. I tried to explain this to him, but tonight I didn't have the will to pretend it was more than starlight that listened.

It wasn't so much a sound that made me jerk upright and glance over my shoulder. Something made me certain I wasn't alone; a tension in the air, or the rush of someone's breath, I wasn't sure which. For one heartbreaking second I almost saw him step out of the shadows, but the illusion scattered with a breath of wind. Scanning the darkness, I couldn't see anyone lurking in the expanse of headstones. Could a stray groundskeeper be working late? Another visitor to someone's grave? If anyone saw me, it would lead to problems I didn't want to deal with.

I kissed my fingertips and touched the top of the smooth white stone as I hurried to leave, alert to any movement in the cemetery. "I'll be seeing you," I whispered, wishing it were true. I wound through the sea of identical marble markers, making for the swell of ground at the far end of the cemetery where it was easiest to catch an updraft.

The small knoll overlooked the freeway below, which was a little too close for comfort, but at this hour there were no headlights streaking past. I stretched out my wings, their emerald green inky black in the moonlight. Each feather ached to catch a hint of breeze. I leapt from the ground, thrust down hard, and was airborne. I circled up, straining, until I reached an altitude where no one would see me from below.

Tilting my wings to swing north, my thoughts wandered to my destination. I said a silent prayer to whoever might be listening, hoping the lonely girl I was supposed to be guarding was safe in her bed. Visiting Frederick was the only thing that kept me sane some nights, but it did nothing to dispel the churning worry over Marcy. She deserved to have someone who wasn't struggling with their own grief, but she was stuck with me. Somehow, I had to help her.

As a Sary, saving Marcy was the only way I'd get to save myself.

Sary are the souls of children who die before they are born, before they take their first breath and are tied to the mortal world through flesh and blood. I was unable to take that breath of life, and the only reason I have a body is because I chose to join the Sary and serve humans in need. The alternative was eternity without a body--never being able to touch, see, taste, or feel. Most days I know I made the right choice, but sometimes I wonder what it might have been like to never know what a broken heart felt like. Those days, I'd take back my choice without a second thought.

The rest of the time, there was a good reason why I was here. I was allowed to help people. I showed them what it meant to live, and why committing suicide was not an option they wanted. When the time came, we were assured our work would be worth the price. The Sary would be rewarded--given the highest honors at the End of Days. Whatever that meant. For now it was reward enough to see the softest pink that rimmed the distant hills, reminding me I needed to get out of the sky and onto solid ground before the dawn. Even if I had to enjoy the sunrise alone.


  1. I like this! I think everything flowed well and you have a nice voice. I was completely caught off-guard with the wings! I picked this one to read because it was YA, not paranormal YA, but even though paranormal is not my favorite, I'd still read on. The premise is intriguing.

    The only nit-pic thing I have is--can several swift kicks really make a tombstone tilt?

    Good luck with your book!

  2. I love the first sentence - it says so much about the character, and shakes up our expectations straight off.

    The narrative is a bit slow after that, very thoughtful without much happening. Not necessarily a bad thing, but with lots of inner monologue you do run the risk of losing your readers.

    Then we get to the backstory. I really like the concept - it's just different enough from other supernatural stuff to be fresh, yet still familiar. However, I would be wary of giving so much backstory all at once. It comes close to an infodump. Try to find ways to weave the backstory into the immediate narrative rather than stopping the story for several detail-filled paragraphs (though, since I only get to read 750 words, I do admit being glad to read it all here ;).

    You have a strong, readable prose style. The only thing that stood out as a problem was the phrase "emerald green inky black." Two sets of descriptor-color in a row - pretty awkward. Find an alternative phrasing if you can.

    Good luck!

  3. I enjoyed this. I thought the first paragraph evoked a great image- the kicking of the headstone and the light humor makes me like the character straight away. I would avoid going into so much background/detail right away. Ofcourse, when she sprouts wings- you have to give us a bone but I wouldn't give it all away in an explicatory paragraph but scatter the details around in the following pages, making us hungry to figure out what and why she is.
    good stuff!

  4. I agree with the other comments. I really liked this up to the last two paragraphs. Those are infodump. Sprinkle that info in but make sure it's in character.

    Very cool concept, though!

  5. If "saving" Marcy is the only way to save herself, what about all the other people that he/she helps? Do they not count for some reason?

    Smooth white stones, all identical, and in neat rows makes me think of Arlington National Cemetery, and in turn makes me think that his dead F guy died in battle.

    The others have done a good job pointing out flaws.

    I really love this and would deffo want to read more.

  6. I thought the first three pargs worked very well. You started with a great opening line and a solid first parg. I would have liked to have known it was dark earlier as I didn't picture a sunny afternoon.

    The 4th parg took me completely out of the story. There was no transition between it and the 3rd parg. Perhaps say she heard something, or sensed something, then go into 'it wasn't so much a sound." It'll make a big difference in fluidity, I think.

    I couldn't believe all the gravestones in the cemetery were exactly alike unless it was a military cemetery, and even then, they tend to use crosses or plaques rather than gravestones.

    Once you mentioned updraft, I knew your character had wings. I did sense the supernatural angle at the beginning when you said he had died 'so very long ago.' but I wasn't certain of it until I read updraft. Nice clues.

    The last two pargs destroy everything you've accomplished to that point. Your story has stopped for station identification. Let me explain a few things, folks, is what they are saying. As a reader, I don't want the explanation. I want the story. I want her to get to Marcy's and see what's going on there.

    As someone else said, find a way to get all that info in as part of the story. Dribble it in, a bit here and a bit there. This is written well overall and the preimse is interesting, so most people (IMO) would stick with you even if they didn't get everything right away. Not knowing everything up front is one of the reasons we read on. Trust your readers. You don't have to spoon feed them.

    Good luck with it!

  7. The others have covered what stood out to me for the most part, you might watch sentences that end the same way, like the first two of the second para. and the word echo of "breath" in the fourth para. But for the most part, nice writing style. I'm very intrigued about the relationship between the Sary and Frederick.

    But definitely don't break the narrative to tell us what Sary's are--that jarred me. Overall, nice work!