Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Grab My Heart #34

TITLE: Next To Me
GENRE: YA Gothic Ghost

What if you made a promise to someone but 170 years later, you broke it?

A small blackboard sign outside O’Neill’s Irish Pub, on the opposite side of the road, caught my eye. It read: Trouble sleeping?

“Ah! Yer man? He’s proving right popular there today. Straight on and down the stairs,” he said pointing straight ahead. “Now, would ye care for a pint or a bit of carvery?”

“No, thank you,” we replied in unison.

Cautiously we made our way down a set of narrow wooden stairs and noticed the door at the bottom. The lighting was poor, and the bulb emanated a reddish glow that reminded me of an Indian restaurant we used to frequent regularly on Lexington Avenue that had since shut down. God, how I missed that butter chicken dish.

I put my hand to my nose; the stench of urine was overpowering. Mom made a sick face and pointed to a sign saying ‘toilets.’ Ugh.

Softly, Mom pushed down the handle of the door and stepped inside the room, I followed her and spied a massive man with his back to us. Empty cans from a party the night before littered the floor and the room stank of stale beer.

His black hair was shaved to the scalp and his head was shaped like a full moon. He rocked gently back and forth in a trance-like motion as he talked to someone behind a pillar; hidden from view. I could hear her soft sobs and I watched as he comforted her. I felt awkward. We stood there for a few minutes until Mom decided the stench was too awful to bear and stomped over to a chair not far from where the others sat.

The man instantly swung around to face us.


  1. Out of the ordinary, maybe not what an editor is looking for, but I LOVE YOUR PITCH! Would like to see the first man speaking before he speaks. I had to reread to see if I missed something. When you begin with we, I think you can go ahead and say Mom and me.
    I like that it begins with the sign. Maybe even condense it to begin with what the sign says.
    I would read on.

  2. I like the first sentence, though I don't think you need "on the opposite of the road." The next line was confusing; I don't know who "he" is or where he came from - they were outside looking at the sign in the first sentence. I think you could either take it out or say who is speaking (e.g. the bartender). Also, I think it would be good to specify who "we" are the first time they are introduced. Pronouns without a referent are confusing.

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  4. First, I love your pitch! As soon as I read it I wanted to read more and know more about your story. Second, I love the tone and atmosphere of this, you set it up so well and vividly. The only critique I have is that I want to know who the MC is right away. I want to know they’re their with their mom right away instead of just seeing “we”. I have no idea who the Mc is from this which can work as long as it’s stated quickly after this. And then I have no idea who “he” is whose speaking that first bit of dialogue so that gave me pause. I’m really intrigued by this though and just from this first page I personally would want to keep reading!

  5. Your pitch is great! So simple and really makes me want to read more. The opening could be stronger with giving us some set up before unknown pub guy's dialogue. I like when they do enter the room with the massive man, it's more arresting than the journey to find him. I do want to keep reading to see how this confrontation goes down.

  6. I feel bad for disagreeing, but I do not love the pitch. I didn’t find it engaging and everything I’ve learned from agents and editors recommends against using a question for the pitch. Obviously, there are always exceptions to the “rule” where it can work, but this one didn’t for me.

    Without a full identification dialogue tag, the first spoken line reads like the blackboard is the one speaking because we don’t know who “he” is. Logically it is the barkeep, but it doesn’t actually specify that. Also, “said” and the action do not need to be used at the same time for the tag. The action alone is sufficient. “We” should be identified upfront as Mom and the MC. Eliminate the use of “was” as much as possible for tighter writing and deeper POV. I was a little curious why a mother would bring her teenager to a place like this, but then got lost near the end and my interest didn't hold. Also, the MC wouldn’t know exactly why Mom decided to stomp over to the chair. The MC could guess it was the stench, but short of being in Mom’s head or Mom voicing it, the MC couldn’t know. We do make assumptions about people’s actions all the time, so I guess it could fall in that territory, but for me it read a bit like head-hopping.

  7. For me, the pitch was also a no-go. It's an interesting concept, but it's a rhetorical question--something that seems gimmicky and false. There's no mention of the main character, no mention of the choices they face. You have fifty words. Use them!

    The writing is strong, and you set the scene deftly. But I'm not sure who the characters are (and the pitch doesn't help) so I'm floundering. The "he" dialogue tag is confusing, and I'm not sure who the MC is with until a little while later, where "Mom" is introduced. This might be just me, but I wasn't sure if she was the MC's fellow traveler or not. And again, I don't have any sense of the character. I don't even know his name. Putting a few of his thoughts in all this, illuminating his personality just a bit, might help a ton.

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