TITLE: THE BODY THIEF
GENRE: YA Paranormal
I never should have left the house.
So stupid. So incredibly stupid. I scolded myself for the thousandth time and looked at the clock. The minutes pressed forward. I squeezed the railing beneath me until my knuckles smarted and took a deep, calming breath. One more, just to make sure my voice would stay steady when I spoke.
“Do you think it’ll happen here?” My voice sounded almost completely normal. Not scared.
Jai glanced in my direction. He let out a soft puff of air and then, “Jesus, Callie. It’s not going to be you. Stop looking like you’re going to puke.” So much for trying to act normal. I should know by now he’d be able to see through any act of bravery I attempted to wear. This whole dumb night had been my idea. I don’t even know why now. I wanted to show him, and myself, that I wasn’t going to hide like a scared little baby waiting for the big bad to pick me off.
Yep, super brave. That’s me. Sitting out in the open, scared enough to pee myself, but I was still doing it. Facing it. Whatever it was.
One more hour. Anyone could do that. Then the city-mandated curfew would kick in and we’d all be shuffled to the exits and sent on our way. It wasn’t late, but the sky had already faded into pitch-black and the crowds grew thin. I sat on a metal railing, hidden from view behind a food truck with my best friend and eight-year-old cousin beside me. I haven’t been outside on this night in five months. Not since they put together the connection between the new moon and the girls who had died. Eleven of them so far. Each and every one matched a simple description: brown hair, pale skin, and sixteen years old.
Hell, it could be me. What was I doing out here?
I fiddled with the ring around my thumb.
Neon colored flyers plastered the walls and scattered the ground promising rewards, begging for information. At least once a day, I found a poster containing a black and white picture slapped on a wall throughout Ojai, California. The girls always looked sad. Every one of them. Almost like they knew what was to become of them.
I really should go home. Lay in bed with the blankets pulled over my head. Maybe a book, or a movie, or anything that took my mind off of tonight. I stiffened and lifted my chin. No. I was out and I was going to enjoy myself damn it.
The Peddler’s Fair weekend used to be the busiest weekend in Ojai, but now only a few of the brave straggle between the tents lining the street. Strung light’s flicker in the street’s puddles. Food wrappers littered the ground, and some of the tent’s owners began to disassemble. I used to love the fair. I loved the food and the games and the people.
I like your opening. It promises something interesting right off the bat.ReplyDelete
The line about the railing beneath her makes it sound like she's on top of the railing, not holding on to it.
As she looks and the clock, and has the conversation with her friend, it makes me feel like they are out waiting for something specific. Something that they are expecting. It wasn't until later that I realize she's just nervous about something that could happen, and they are only out because they want to have a good time.
I think the last paragraph should come before some of the other things you have written. I don't really feel grounded in the scene until then.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I really liked this. I got a strong sense of the MCs voice. Also it didnt feel too paranormal up front which for me was a selling point. I'm not that in to paranormal but I would read on for this one.ReplyDelete
I agree with the previous comment I wanted to know where she was sooner. I didnt know if they were inside or outside. Actually I'm still not sure.
I really like the voice and find the concept intriguing. The first sentence pulled me in. I wasn't as pulled in by the next paragraph because it wasn't giving the reader a sense of the situation.ReplyDelete
I agree with the above comment about not feeling grounded until the end. To make this opening stronger, I would suggest rearranging the paragraphs--move the last few paragraphs after the first sentence to better ground the reader.
I like the voice, but I want something to happen. (I'm assuming this is either an opening or an early chapter.) The first sentence is great, the voice is solid, but the action is missing. The setup also is highly similar to that of the reaping scene in The Hunger Games.ReplyDelete
Clearly there's a push-pull between building tension and getting the story underway. One way to handle this is to start with a brief starburst of action and then reflect on how the MC got there. "My body a foot off the ground, head thrown back, neck taught, blood pulsing through my aching carotids, and all I could think about was my decision to leave the house. So stupid. So incredibly stupid...."
Neck taut, not taught! Why doesn't this thing have an edit function? Gah!ReplyDelete
There is a palpable tension which I like in an opening. I wonder if the sequence could benefit from some more intense focus - that is, really concentrating on all the things that ratchet up the fear rather than undercutting it with thoughts of lying in bed under the blankets or big picture info that might wait until later.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I think you missed a word here: "I wasn’t going to hide like a scared little baby waiting for the big bad to pick me off."
I would continue on reading as I like the possibilities. Well done.
I agree with the commenters above who suggested starting with the last paragraph. I couldn't tell where or when the scene was taking place until I got to that, so it was impossible to picture the action.ReplyDelete
I'm also left wondering why these three are sitting around waiting instead of trying to enjoy the fair. Why stay if they're not having fun?
To put us more in the moment, I wonder if they could have this conversation while doing something more active, like eating funnel cakes or waiting in line for a ride. Maybe they see the crowd thinning and discuss whether they should go too. In short, more doing, less sitting around agonizing.
I really enjoyed reading this but I did have one suggestion. Like a few others have said, I struggled to picture the scene. I'm not sure about moving the final paragraph right to the top – I think it's much stronger to start with character than setting – but I think you could definitely move it a bit higher.ReplyDelete
If you moved it above the mention of neon flyers maybe you could incorporate these flyers into the setting a bit more e.g. she can see them plastered across the tents lining the street.
Just an idea.
*[or another idea. if you did start with the final paragraph maybe you could put the flyer bit into this paragraph. That way the opening would create the setting and also introduce the mystery of the missing girls sooner which, for me, was the most intriguing part of this opening]
But I really enjoyed reading this. The tension was great!
The premise has definitely caught my attention. I want to know what "it" is and why so many sixteen-year-old girls are being taken at night.ReplyDelete
What hindered my reading, though, was the constant switch between the present and past tense. It made me loose my footing a few times; I had difficulty telling what was happening and what was a memory (especially in the last paragraph).
Also: "Strung light’s flicker" should be "Strung lights flicker". You never know when a typo will cost you an agent!
I would definitely keep reading. Good luck!
You have a great sense of voice in this passage. I noticed the difference in past and present tense and it made it a bit confusing. You have a few "had been" that you could easily replace with 'was' to tighten up your prose -- but be careful b/c that can lead in passive voice.ReplyDelete
That being said, I like the voice enough I would keep reading.
I would also suggest setting the scene a little in the beginning. Try weaving the setting and the inner dialogue together in the narrative a little more, that way the reader can be grounded in where they are as well as caught up in the mc's emotions. Also be sure to stick with one tense--you had a mixture of past and present there.ReplyDelete
I took your words and regrouped them to give you an idea:
I used to love the fair. I loved the food and the games and the people. Up until a few years ago, the Peddler’s Fair was the busiest weekend in Ojai, but now only a few of the brave straggle between the tents lining the street.
Yep, super brave. That’s me. Sitting out in the darkness, hidden from view behind a food truck, scared enough to pee myself--but still doing it. Facing it. Whatever it was.
I squeezed my palms around the metal railing until my knuckles smarted and then took a deep breath to steady my voice.
“Do you think it’ll happen?” I sounded almost completely normal. Not scared.
Jai glanced in my direction. He let out a soft puff of air and then, “Jesus, Callie. It’s not going to be you. Stop looking like you’re going to puke.”
So much for trying to act normal. I should've known he’d be able to see right through my act of bravery. This whole dumb night had been my idea. I don’t even know why now. I wanted to show my best friend, and maybe even myself, that I wasn’t going to hide like a scared little baby waiting for the big bad to pick me off.
So stupid. So incredibly stupid. I scolded myself for the thousandth time and looked at the clock. One more hour. Anyone could do that. Then the city-mandated curfew would kick in and we’d all be shuffled to the exits and sent on our way. It wasn’t very late, but the sky had already faded into pitch-black and the crowds grew even thinner.
I hadn’t been outside on the night of a new moon in five months. Not since they put together the connection between it and the girls who had died. Eleven of them so far. Each and every one matched a simple description: brown hair, pale skin, and sixteen years old.
The exact description of me. What was I doing out here?
I fiddled with the ring around my thumb, watching the reflection of the strung lights flicker in the puddles on the street. Neon colored flyers scattered the ground promising rewards, begging for information. The posters had become commonplace--black and white pictures plastered on the walls throughout Ojai. The girls always looked sad. Every one of them. Almost like they knew what was to become of them.
So obviously this isn't perfect and only you can know your story enough to tweak it to perfection, but maybe this can give you an idea of how to weave it all together.
Nice work and intriguing premise!
Wow. Thanks everyone! All of your comments were so helpful and I can't wait to jump into this scene and tweak it to make it the best it can be.ReplyDelete
My thought was to cut everything and start with the last parg. Nothing happens at the house so there's no need to start there, and what follows is a lot of chatter.ReplyDelete
If you start the story with the last parg, you start on scene. From there, give us an idea of why they're there and what they're waiting for, and do it through action and dialogue, rather than having the MC explain. Let the story play out.
You have an intriguing way with descriptions. I just felt like it took way too long for the action to start. Other than that good job. Try moving the paragraphs around a bit so as to keep the pace up.ReplyDelete
As other's have mentioned, I can see this definitely starting with the last paragraph! You can weave in the important stuff after. Maybe standing in line and a flyer catches her leg. Then she describes the girls missing and her friend tells her it won't be her, etc. I feel all the stuff about home and tension standing around is slowing the story.ReplyDelete
As for the "big bad", I also read it wanting something to follow. If you are naming "bad" as the thing/person unknown for the deaths, maybe capitalize it. Otherwise, I'd add a word or rephrase.
I'm intrigued though and would read to find out why the girls have died and what was killing them.