Friday, November 30, 2012

(49) YA Supernatural Thriller: Haunted

GENRE: YA Supernatural Thriller ala Lois Duncan

A sixteen-year-old nurses' aide walks the dark halls of the hospital, feels the presence of something not of this world, and learns she must hurry if she wants to save her mother and several others from eternal torment.

It's nine-thirty, the eighteenth of December, and I'm huddled in a chair in the hall outside the nurses' station, trying not to listen to the eerie sounds. The floors creak and the walls whisper as if they're alive. I wish a patient would turn on her call light to give me something to do.

I've just finished charting the pulses, respirations, and temperatures I took on patients. It makes me feel adult to chart like the nurses do.

I was supposed to have gotten off at nine, and if Mom was still with us, she'd have called and made sure the nurse let me go on time. She'd have said in a worried voice, "Samantha has school tomorrow and she needs her sleep. She shouldn't be working so late. Is there anything wrong over there?" She might even have driven over from the house and rapped on the nurses' office door.

At Huntington, the nurses run the hospital at night and if somebody's late reporting in to work, they make you stay until somebody comes in to relieve you. I've been working at the psychiatric hospital for a month to save money for college. I've adjusted to it during daylight hours, but I always feel jumpy at night.

The lights at the ends of the hall haven't been fixed even though I reported it to the nurse in charge. Not being able to see down there makes me wonder what's happening in the oppressive darkness.


  1. Nice creepy descriptions and a sympathetic main character.

    A psychiatric hospital is a great place to stick a bereaved teen. I thought the paragraph about what her mother would have said was particularly well written.

    I think this one's going to do well!

  2. Perfectly creepy premise, and love the Lois Duncan reference. Not sure if I'm sold on starting your first line with a date, unless it has some massive significance later on. Even so, I wonder if it would be more powerful to start with "I'm huddled in a chair in the hall outside the nurses' station, trying not to listen to the floors creak and the walls whisper as if they're alive." Even cutting out "eerie sounds" would work -- that way you can show the eerie sounds with your lovely sensory description and the reader will definitely be able to understand that they're super creepy :)

    The rest of the 250 words give me a definite sense of something scary about to happen - nice job.

  3. I'm a Lois Duncan and am intrigued by your manuscript. I really like rlynn-solomon's suggestion for tweaking the opening line, and I agree that showing me some of these things rather than telling would make your opening even more powerful and creepy. But you've set a nice tone in these first few paragraphs--nice job!

  4. Working in healthcare, I'm a little curious how a high schooler gets a job at a psych hospital doing actual patient work like charting. That might be a hang-up for some readers. There are definitely ways to get your YA protag in there, but I would suggest making sure the details on how she got this job are realistic. Maybe she volunteers there for honors society service hours.

    I like this idea of a thriller in a psych ward--it's like a good episode of Supernatural or a scary movie :) I agree, the time and date feels a little awkward in the first line unless it's significant to the story. I suggest combining the next two lines to remove the redundancy of saying eerie sounds and showing the eerie sounds; you can say she tried not to listen to the floors creak etc.

    I like how you work in that if mom was still with us, she would have called to make sure the nurse let her go. That's a great way to show the issues without an info-dump.

    My last note is I think your pitch seems a little vague; more specifics will ratchet up the tension. Best wishes!

  5. Good creep out job! I'm not bothered by the date at all. It almost feels like a continuation of the respiration, temperature, pulses recording vibe and it quickly and simply grounds us - it's night and it's cold. Like Stephsco I had to wonder about a hospital allowing a school kid the responsibility for a whole ward. Last thing - is the title original enough to do your story and your writing justice?

  6. I love the premise!! Super creepy!

    I think the first paragraph could be cleaned up a bit; it's a bit wordy. I don't think the date is necessary, and you could get rid of "in the hall."

    Also, like another commenter said, I've never heard of a sixteen-year-old working as a nurse's aide (I could be totally wrong). An easy fix would be to make her a bit older 17/18, and have the job be some kind of intership or work co-op (something like that). IMO, that would be more believable. Along those lines, I'd get rid of "I've just finished charting the pulses, respirations, and temperatures I took on patients. It makes me feel adult to chart like the nurses do." I just can't imagine a 16 yo having that kind of responsibility, and the phrase "It makes me feel adult..." really isn't necessary.

    Overall, I liked it and would definitely read more! Wishing you the best of luck! :)

  7. Hey,
    Enjoyed the writing here. I thought the logline could be more to the point (more specific), but it was grabbing nonetheless.

    "It makes me feel adult" probably could use "like an adult", but it's still okay.

    "Oppressive darkness" seems to rub me the wrong way.
    Spooky, maybe, but oppressive gives me the impression of some physical harm that's happening to her. Which might be what you're going for, so if that's true, keep it.

    Good luck!

  8. Great start! Creepy but not overboard. I agree with deleting the date from the first line. If it's important you can slip it in later.

  9. This gave me goosebumps. The date and her age as a nurse's aide didn't throw me off. I'd keep reading, but with a few more lights on. Good luck!

  10. Great creepy start! I'd suggest a specific title for the hospital in the logline - I think 'walks the dark halls of the Huntington Psychiatric hospital' will add a bit more of the creep factor, imho.

    Love the excerpt. I didn't mind the date and time; in fact, I assumed it was relevant. Sort of like 'this is the time and date things are going to change for her.' And I love that the lights are out down the hall. It gives us a hint that things aren't quite right here. Is it that the nurse just doesn't care enough to take care of it, or something supernatural, or a little of both? I'd definitely read on to find out!

  11. Nice job setting up a creepy scene. Your first line is a bit long in my opinion. I think it would work better if you shortened it up. I LOVED your second line because it immediately gave me a picture of the creepy surroundings she was in.

    I liked how she imagined her mother asking if "anything was wrong over there" because it hinted that maybe her mother knew something of the evil mentioned in the logline.

    Nitpicky comment: It seemed odd that the lights were not replaced in a hospital. I didn't really buy it, and thinking about if it was believable took me out of the scene.

    Good luck in the auction!

  12. Spooky.

    There's something ominous about the nurses running the hospital at night, and along with the flickering lights at the end of the hallway, I'd be enticed to read more!

  13. Let’s start with the title: I think it’s too general. And when I say that, I mean that I’m sure that if you want to Amazon right now and typed in “Haunted” you will come up with at least a dozen books with that title. You don’t want confusion, and you want your book to stand out.

    Now the logline – I found this a bit confusing. I know what you mean by “walks the halls of the hospital,” but as it reads, it seems as that’s all she’s doing—wandering lost down halls—and I know that’s not your intent. Also, it feels quite general. I’d love specificity that comes from your narrative. What’s the girl’s name? What hospital? There is, I’m sure more to your narrative than the sense of a presence that spurs your main character to action. You can move in a little closer to, again, make this a logline that’s relevant to your book first and foremost.

    I’m not averse to the date and time, if you do more of it – someone else said they saw it as a continuation of the charting. I think this could be clever if you really set it up as though it were so, and that means adding more of the “charting” details. Perhaps, how many people are on the ward, how many bedpans she had to change, whatever. But, as it sits right now, I do agree that it’s a little odd.

    In that first paragraph, I’d also suggest cutting “trying not to listen the eerie sounds,” since you do such a lovely job of showing them in the next line. I think you can do some similar tightening throughout.

    You’ve cleverly handled weaving in the fact that Mom is no longer around, but the worried line of dialogue that Mom “would say” just rubs me wrong. I think it undercuts the creepiness of your scene, and is weighing the text down, because it goes on too long. Can you cut this down? Do you even really need mom’s commentary?

    I also have some trouble with suspending disbelief about your setup. I can believe a teen would be a nurse’s aide in a hospital, though always with supervision, and as a nurse’s aide the tasks he or she might be allowed to do would be fairly limited, I’m sure. I find it harder to believe that a psychiatric hospital would hire a teen in this capacity. If your premise isn’t believable from the start, your reader won’t engage.

    You have a good sense of how to keep your reader on edge and create a creepy set up, and that’s not easy.

  14. dominic.dinere@judiciary.state.nj.usDecember 3, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    I think your story is very, very good. I like it alot. I already have goosebumps from reading the first 250 words... can't wait to read the rest!

    Best of luck to you!

  15. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    5 pages

  16. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:15 AM