Monday, February 14, 2011

500 Word Critique: YA Paranormal

I got another request for critique, and again the author has decided to identify herself! So, please welcome Christine Danek, and the first 500 words of her YA paranormal. Like last time, I'm pasting the full story without my comments first, so as not to influence anyone with my opinions.

YA Paranormal
3:00 am. Those numbers glowed green, staring at me, letting me know I wasn't sleeping. I couldn't. If I did, who knows what injury I would wake up with. Every night a dream would consume me, and when I woke, something on my body was cut, bruised, or almost broken.

I started at the ceiling. The fan squeaked and wobbled, trying to produce air flow. It wasn't succeeding. I turned over, hugging my pillow. What was happening? Maybe I should see someone, but who? A doctor? Padded room for sure. Is there such a thing as a dream specialist?

A branch scratched the window. I turned over again. 5:00 am. Where did the last two hours go? Adrenaline pumped through my veins, accelerating my heart. My T-shirt was damp and clinging to my back. What happened? Did I dream, again?

Bang. Bang. Bang. I jumped up. Someone was at the front door.

Who could be here? My parents are out of town. As I crept down the steps, I grabbed a brass candlestick from the small glass table in the hall. How I would use it, I don’t know, but I felt I needed something. The shadows of the trees danced behind the sheers.

Bang. Bang. Bang. My heartbeat throbbed in my ears and the candlestick shook in my hands. With my back to the door, I took one deep breath, perched up on my toes, turned, and looked out the peephole. Black bangs with a small purple streak and pale flesh filled my view in a weird distorted peephole way. The tension in my chest lifted. I fumbled with the lock and swung the door open.

“Graham?” I held the candlestick behind my back. He had both his hands on each side of the door frame. His damp hair created points across his forehead and sweat trickled down the sides of his face. “Did you run here?”

His dark, brown eyes searched my face, then behind me. “Sadie? Are you okay?” He stood up straight, his shoulders raised and lowered as he caught his breath.

“Should I be hurt?” I set the candlestick on the bench in the foyer. He walked passed me.

He turned on his heel and faced me. His black T-shirt stuck to his chest, defining every muscle underneath. “You just called me. Frantic. You sounded like you were hurt.” He cupped his hand on the back of his neck.

“I was sleeping. So, no, I didn’t call you.”

“Yes, you did. I was watching a movie with…” He paused. He knew I would be pissed. “Avery, and you called me, crying, hysterically. Saying someone was in the house.”

I crossed my arms. “Avery?” Did he have to say her name? He certainly didn’t wait long to start dating after we broke up.

He cocked his head to the side and rolled his eyes. “Is that why you called me? So you could ruin my night.”

“No. I didn’t call you. You ruined your own night as well as mine.” I fiddled with the tie on my pajama bottoms. Nothing like scaring the crap out of me and rubbing the new girlfriend in my face.

My Comments
A very intriguing beginning!! I’m totally hooked, and want to read more. You’ve introduced a couple really big questions and I’m dying to find out the answers. The prose reads quick and easy, and I settled into this piece with very little effort. Nice job!

3:00 am. Those numbers glowed green, staring at me, letting me know I wasn't sleeping. I couldn't. If I did, who knows what injury I would wake up with. Every night a dream would consume me, and when I woke, something on my body was cut, bruised, or almost broken. (Interesting!)

I started (stared) at the ceiling. The fan squeaked and wobbled, trying to produce air flow. It wasn't succeeding (why? Because it’s broken or because it was so stifling hot? A little bit more here would paint a vivid picture of the setting). I turned over, hugging my pillow. What was happening? Maybe I should see someone, but who? A doctor? Padded room for sure. Is there such a thing as a dream specialist? (these thoughts are fantastic and really raise the tension—now *I* want to know the answers to these questions :) )

A branch scratched the window (I really like this detail, but I think we need a bit more to make it work. Earlier, the fan wasn’t able to create air flow, and now there’s wind blowing branches. I know that two hours have just passed, but if you give us a bit more detail with the setting, like the gust of wind along with the branch, then maybe this will be more seamless). I turned over again. 5:00 am. Where did the last two hours go? Adrenaline pumped through my veins, accelerating my heart (if she was really pumped full of adrenaline, she’d be thinking about whatever had caused it and not so much about the adrenaline itself. I think the focus should stay internal here rather than external). My T-shirt was damp and clinging to my back. What happened? Did I dream, again? (A bit more. If she had dreamed, was she injured? Does she look for an injury?)

Bang. Bang. Bang. I jumped up. Someone was at the front door.

Who could be here? My parents are (were—the rest is written in past tense) out of town (quick note: there may have been some accidental loss in formatting and this looks like it could have been in italics as thoughts. You could put it back that way, or you could just change ‘are’ to ‘were’ and you still have her thoughts. Personally, I prefer that method because it feels more seamless to the story. But other people feel differently and you should do what feels best for you). As I crept down the steps, I grabbed a brass candlestick from the small glass table in the hall. How I would use it, I don’t (didn’t) know, but I felt (not needed—less is more here) I needed something. The shadows of the trees danced behind the sheers.

Bang. Bang. Bang. My heartbeat throbbed in my ears and the candlestick shook in my hands. With my back to the door, I took one deep breath, perched up on my toes, turned, and looked out the peephole. Black bangs with a small purple streak and pale flesh filled my view in a weird distorted peephole way. (awesome! Great voice here) The tension in my chest lifted (why? Let us know who he is so we can feel relief along with her. Wouldn’t she wonder why he was here before she opened the door? Would she wonder if something had happened to him since he looks like he ran there? And, wouldn’t that decrease and increase her tension at the same time?). I fumbled with the lock and swung the door open.

“Graham?” I held the candlestick behind my back. He had both his hands on each side of the door frame. His damp hair created points across his forehead and sweat trickled down the sides of his face. “Did you run here?”

His dark, brown eyes searched my face, then behind me. “Sadie? Are you okay?” He stood up straight, his shoulders raised and lowered as he caught his breath.

“Should I be hurt?” I set the candlestick on the bench in the foyer. He walked passed me.

He turned on his heel and faced me. His black T-shirt stuck to his chest, defining every muscle underneath. “You just called me. Frantic. You sounded like you were hurt.” He cupped his hand on the back of his neck.

“I was sleeping. So, no, I didn’t call you.”

“Yes, you did. I was watching a movie (not sure I buy this, not at 3 to 5 am. Most parents would make their kids’ friends go home, and it’s too convenient for both Sadie’s and Graham’s parents to be gone this particular weekend. So, is it necessary for Sadie to have blacked out between 3 and 5 am, or is it enough to move it up to maybe 11 to 1 am? What’s the most important piece here? The fact that she can’t sleep, or the fact that she blacked out?) with…” He paused. He knew I would be pissed (then would he really say her name here? Or is it enough for Sadie to figure out who he meant?). “Avery, and you called me, crying, hysterically. Saying someone was in the house.”

I crossed my arms. “Avery?” Did he have to say her name? He certainly didn’t wait long to start dating after we broke up. (great way to introduce this info!)

He cocked his head to the side and rolled his eyes. “Is that why you called me? So you could ruin my night.”

“No. I didn’t call you. You ruined your own night as well as mine.” I fiddled with the tie on my pajama bottoms. Nothing like scaring the crap out of me and rubbing the new girlfriend in my face.
***

So? What did you all think? Thoughts, questions, comments? Or, feel free to gush if you loved it. :) If you want to read the full first chapter, go here.

7 comments:

kellyhashway said...

I liked this but I did have an issue with the time of day in some places. When someone knocks on the door, she wonders who it is, thinking that her parents are away. But to me, wouldn't she be wondering who would knock on her door in the middle of the night? Also, the fact that the visitor was up watching a movie at that time was a little strange.

I like the writing though.

Tabitha said...

Same here (as in, I also liked it, and also had the same issue). :)

I also thought she should have been more afraid for Graham, because if he's knocking on her door in the middle of the night then there's got to be something wrong.

Christine Danek said...

Thanks Tabita. You're critique has been extremely helpful. I look forward to reading the comments.

cleemckenzie said...

Middle of the night knocks always produce more terror in me than this, but the writing's solid.

LM Preston said...

I enjoyed this and I love to read suspense. I believe some jarring issues is the focus on the time. Also, it seemed a bit strange that she didn't have a problem opening the door that late at night. Some grammar issues also popped out, but other than those items above I still wanted to read more.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

I'm intrigued. A good beginning, once the few minor details are fixed. Good thoughts.

Dark Angel said...

Good opener even if it starts with the MC sleeping which is a big no-no. I'd like to read more. Gonna head on over to her blog.

Besides I need more great YA to publish! ;-)

Sherry Soule

Acquisitions Editor
Crescent Moon Press

http://www.darkangelwritingandreviews.com/