Monday, April 15, 2013

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Danek Rev 1

Christine Danek
Young Adult Paranormal

Chapter 1

Death is a strange beast. You hear so many theories on what it’s like on the other side. Then you hear about those people who died for like a minute, and came back from the dead claiming they’ve heard angels, saw a white light, or felt calm and peaceful.

It’s totally not true.

Realm 17 has been nothing but one big disappointment. Seriously, a boarding school for seventeen year old spirits is not where I thought dead people went.

For the past five and a half months, I’ve repeated this routine. Wake up, get dressed, meet Kat, my best friend, and go to class. Yes, dull, but there’s one part that puts a teeny smile on my face. This one moment sends tingles to areas that make me blush.

Scooting back on the window seat, I take in the quiet before the rush. On Earth, I wasn’t an early riser, but here, I am--mainly because of this everyday thrill. From this window seat, I can see everything. It’s on the main stairway from the dorms to the classrooms. There are ten levels. The classrooms and anything school related is on level six and seven. My dorm is on level three. Anything above seven is for all those who pretty much “followed the rules” on Earth or were at least as close to pure as you can get.

The bell rings and students pass by all wearing the same thing--white shirt, black skirt or pants, and black shoes. They walk up the steps to class in one heaping mass of spirits. Some are in pairs chatting about assignments. Some of them are alone and avoid looking at me.

Then I see him.

Asher Cane.

He comes up from the bottom floor, taking each step just like the others, but slows on the landing, glancing at me. A black curl falls over his left eye as a slow smile indents up his cheek. He’s your typical hot boy in sea of monotony, and I like it. He turns and follows the others to class. I’m not supposed to have these feelings, but I do, and since we’ve been secretly flirting since I got here, I plan to talk to him . . . today.

“Hey, Becca.” Kat waves her fingers in front of my view. She arrived in the Realm a few weeks after I did. Her death was from an allergic reaction to shellfish. Who knew? We clicked since we had a similar life on Earth—the life of luxury.

I glance at her, hoping that my narrowed eyes give a hint of disappointment. “Seriously? You’re totally ruining my day.”

Kat peeks over at Asher. “Sorry.”

Asher disappears down the hall.

“Ready for class?” Kat’s blonde hair is pulled back just like mine into a simple ponytail. She’d be gorgeous if she could wear it down, and some light blue eye shadow would make her pale turquoise eyes pop. But here? Nothing. We can’t enhance anything that may be tempting.

God! What I would do for some OPI nail polish.

“Not really.” I follow her out to the hall, blending in with every other student and glance back towards the window seat. Sunlight stretches across the floor of the landing, seeping through the stained glass window of an angel with her arms spread, her yellow hair flowing, and rainbow colored glass surrounding her form. I know I’m dead, but really, do they have to remind me at every turn with the overexposed images like this one? Give me a freakin’ break. “Did you get any yellow slips?”

Kat yawns. “Nope. Nothing. You?”

“Nada. I swear I’m not going to make the deadline. No chance at a final test.” It’s expected to earn a final test in six months. The instructors slide you into a body on Earth and you’re supposed to help influence that person to make better choices in their life--taking everything we learn here and apply it there. If you don’t you’re punished. It’s pretty much bull if you ask me.

Kat stops and puts her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t say that. We’ll get one soon. Maybe they’re just waiting for the coolest person to put us into. Maybe someone famous.”

“One can only dream,” I murmur. “But, we have to get one or its isolation time for a whole month.”

Kat pops her lips. “Be positive.”

“How? I’ve failed every written test—“

“Have you even studied?”

A bunch of students scoot around us. The “goodies” as we like to call them. They live on the top floor. The ones who were basically angels on Earth. The only reason they’re here is because they may have had one or two impure thoughts like jealousy. Most of them smile and laugh, which makes me want to gag. The new guy, Jackson, looks at me with his hazel eyes. It almost creepy and stalkerish. I squint back and am tempted to give him the finger, but an instructor is standing on the landing.

I take each step like I have weights on my feet, distancing myself from the crowd and continue my conversation with Kat. “That’s beside the point.”

“They may just give it to us. There are millions of spirits that need some good influence.”

“And probably 99% of them, I don’t want to inhabit for a month even if it means getting on the reincarnation list.”

“You’re doing a good deed, that’s all a test is, then you get back to Earth to live—“

“As someone else. Plus, I have to forget my old life.” I stop short. “The whole idea is frustrating. I like who I am, was, and never wanted to die. What’s wrong with that? I just want to go back to the way it was.”

“Hey, it could be worse; you could be in Asher’s position. If he doesn’t get a slip soon, he’s facing the upper realm of hell. Speaking of Asher, have you talked to him yet?”

“No, but I plan to. I need to satisfy our flirtatious desires and find out if he knows anything about sliding illegal—“

Heavy footsteps come up behind us as we turn on the landing, ready to head up the other set of stairs. Panic spreads across my chest. Kat and I flatten against the wall as two armed elite soldiers march past. Their gold armor chest plates reflect the lights, giving off a disco ball effect on the walls. No one knows who they are other than spirits working under the winged warriors who protect heaven. These guys protect the Realms.

In their hands are long black stun swords. The long sleek cylinder resembles a blade and the handle is a square box with four pea sized green lights, flickering on the side. At least the lights aren’t red. That’s when they’ve contained someone. If the guards feel the need to use their swords, your spirit is trapped in darkness, punished, and only God will decide if you get another chance. Whenever that would be. That thought gives me the chills and fear clenches my stomach.

Students hop out of their way as they turn down the opposite hall.

“There seems to be a lot more guards lately.” Kat pulls her ponytail from under her backpack strap.

“I heard something evil was disguising itself in another Realm. It’s all a crock if you ask me.” I bite my lip to cover my fright. “I wonder what the boys look like under those helmets.”

Kat giggles. “Becca you’re always thinking of one thing.”

“Oh, like you’re not.”

“Um. Not as much as you do.” Her cheeks flood with pink.

The crowd ahead of us slows and we stop on the stairs. I lean on the railing. The guards are scanning us. New security stuff they started a few days back.

Tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, a button pops on my white oxford shirt, and I hastily re-button it. The cuff of my sleeve inches up a little and I catch a peek of my black Mickey Mouse head silhouette tattoo. It reminds me of my younger brother, Tyler.

He is another reason why I want to back to Earth. Before I died, he was arrested for drug possession, which is totally not like him. He’s the good one and I wasn’t. And I want him to stay that way, but after his fifteenth birthday his need to impress is sending him down the path I took.

“I spoke to Zac about his test and Tyler,” I say to Kat.

“You’re lucky that the body he was in made it easy to spy. What he did say?”

“He said Tyler was hanging with Roman Franks.”

Kat sighs. “THE Roman Franks! I wish I could’ve hung out with him.”

“I did, and as fun as it was, he’s a scum bag and a drug addict.”

Roman Franks is the hottest pop star around and my dad’s number one client. Since my dad is his agent, Roman performed at my sweet sixteen then he did a private show for me in the back of his limo.


  1. Hi Christine,
    Great revision! I love the placement of the stained glass paragraph – it’s a much better fit. The changes you made added to an already great start. Well done!

    I’m a little confused about the sentence “I spoke to Zac …” It could be just me, what am I missing here?

  2. Thanks Jeanette. That is a trouble spot of mine. I'm trying to convey that Becca has spoken to someone who finished their test and they happen to be near Becca's brother. She had asked this person to spy on him to find out if he was okay. I think I have to add some more dialogue to clarify. Thanks again.

  3. I'm getting a better sense of who your MC is now! Maybe you can bring her desire to help her brother in sooner? That would help balance her likability for me. It's tough because I see how you have so much to explain. Perhaps you're starting in the wrong place? Just a thought. I wish there was another way to get it in without so much info dump. Hmm... maybe a class scene? A lecture on the importance of receiving a test assignment that she can find obnoxious. Like they have to remind me? Or something? IDK. Can one of the elements wait to be introduced? Asher perhaps until the end. Could she think how much she hates the whole thing until she's reminded about the one bright spot? Or the guards? Though I like their presence a lot... Just thinking out loud here. It's a cool story.

  4. I was confused, because you talk about a 'written test' and 'the test.' This early in the story, a 'test' at school still brings to mind a written test. So when Becca says "I spoke to Zac about his test and Tyler," I pictured Zac taking a written test. Would you want to call the 'in body' test by another, more imposing, name? Trial? Practicum? Field Trip?

    Just a thought!

  5. Thanks for your feedback. A lot more is explained in the next chapter--in a classroom seen. I've tried to sprinkle it through instead of making it an info dump in the first chapter. There is a lot to explain, but I thought I would try and do so much and then in later chapters explain more. I will see. I will also think about another starting point. I thought this one might be good because it's a turning point for her.
    I will make the test more clear. And I like the idea of another name for this final "test" they take.
    Thanks again for your feedback, it is very helpful.

  6. I like the changes you've made! Maybe if you somehow bring in the fact she wants to help her brother sooner, it would add a layer of character and show a softer side side of her?
    Over all, nice work. Really!

  7. I enjoyed this reading even more than last time. I love your story idea. Your descriptions and dialogue are strong. I got pulled away from the story when you explained about earning a final test.

    I agree with the others that you have something special here and just need to keep reworking. They have some great suggestions..

    I saw a couple of mistakes that are a simple fix. When you tell, It's expected to earn to earn a final exam. I think you mean to say, We're, or the students??

    In your paragraph, A bunch of should be it's...
    and in another place a word is missing, Another reason why I want to(get)back.
    Please keep working on this story. I'd love to read more!!

    1. I'm glad the details helped. I get scared to overwrite, but it's better than underwriting, which I tend to do. Thanks for the feedback. I type super fast so sometimes I skip words. Thanks for pointing it out.

  8. I loved the new details you added. The way you positioned the stained glass description worked well. Your story engaged me.

    I like the suggestion of coming up with a name for the Final Test where she will be inside some else's body.

    When you first place Becca in the scene, I need a little transition.

    You can write it better, but this is what I mean:

    Realm 17 is housed in one large building. I can see everything from my window seat on the stairway that connects the dorms to the classrooms. Scooting back in my seat, I take in the quiet before the rush. On earth, I wasn't an early riser, but here I am--mainly because of this every day thrill.

    I liked how you expanded on the floor ten Realm 17'ers. Do those without impure thoughts get reincarnated directly?

    The goodies living on the top floor made sense, eg they're closer to heaven. But then you said Asher Cane was facing the upper realm of hell, and this felt like a contradiction to me.

    The part with Zac confused me a little.

    You've written an amazing first chapter. With just a few tweaks, it will be perfect.

    1. Thanks Lauren. When you say contradiction for the upper realm of hell--is it because you think that the people of heaven would never put someone there? I'm trying to give them an ultimatum. If they are not ready in a year to go on their trial then they must be tainted and therefore need a heavy punishment to realize what they have done wrong. In Becca's case, her six months is almost up, so she's facing isolation with no interaction with anyone for a month. It for her to reflect on where she needs to be. Sorry, I rambled. I'm just curious if I should just make it another type of punishment other than hell.
      Thanks again.

    2. Hi Christine,

      You didn't ramble. Your world is fascinating to me. :-)
      Your explanation makes sense to me.
      Is hell a temporary or permanent sentence? I'm curious.

      Actually, though, I meant something else by my comment. Sorry for not being clearer.

      In conventional terms, heaven is UP and hell is DOWN. Since you housed the nearly perfect Realm 17'ers on the top floor of the building, I thought you were being conventional. It made sense to me. The goodies are closer to heaven.

      But when you mentioned the upper realms of hell, I thought perhaps you were reversing the directions, eg. Hell is UP and heaven is DOWN.

      Or is it a many-storied hell, and the lower you get, the worse it is? In that case, the upper realms of hell would be kinder than the lower, correct?

      I was reading very carefully for clues about your world. Most readers probably wouldn't notice something so small.

    3. I understand your confusion. Thanks. Hell is broken up into levels and the upper realm of hell is beneath the lowest realm of heaven. Yes, the further down you go the worse it is. I will have to think about how to make this more clear. The instructors in the realm indicated to the students that it is permanent unless God decides differently, which I think I describe in a later chapter. Thanks again.

  9. Hi Christine,

    I love the changes! It definitely flows better. There's only a few awkward spots, such as:

    I’ve repeated this routine. Wake up, get dressed, meet Kat," I say blend these two sentences by hyphenating in place of the period.


    "Yes, dull, but there’s one part that puts a teeny smile on my face. This one moment sends tingles to areas that make me blush." I think these two should be connected as well. Something like, 'Yes, dull, but there’s one part that puts a teeny smile on my face; one moment that sends tingles to areas you don't want to know about.'

    And instead of the following lines being dialogue, perhaps rewrite as Becca's thoughts:

    “You’re doing a good deed, that’s all a test is, then you get back to Earth to live—“

    “As someone else.

    Also, there needs to be emotion and a pause in this following sentence where Becca address Kat:

    “I did, and as fun as it was, he’s a scum bag and a drug addict.”
    Perhaps something like, 'no you don't, i counteract, as fun as it was, he’s a scum bag and a drug addict.'

    I also agree about bringing Tyler in earlier.

    As I said before, I'd read this story. The concept intrigues me. =)