Monday, April 8, 2013

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Danek

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. “Did you get any yellow slips?”

“Nope. Nothing. You?”

“Nada. I swear I’m not going to make the deadline. No chance at a final test.”

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 gum. “Be positive.”

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

“Have you even studied?”

“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. 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.”

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

“He said Tyler was hanging with Roman Franks.”

Kat sighs. “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,

    This boarding school for spirits is quite an intriguing concept. Very nice!

    The dialogue is realistic. Becca's voice comes through clear and strong. Her love for her brother is endearing. And Asher happens to be my son's middle name. =)

    I like the idea of the characters having to pass a test before reincarnating; however, the type of test wasn't exactly clear to me. I'm curious to know what the test requires. Something about inhabiting another body, is that right?

    I know we're not supposed to line edit but I thought you'd appreciate knowing that the following line is missing a word: “You’re lucky that the body he was in made it easy to spy. What did () say?”

    But what exactly does this line mean? I'm assuming it has to do w/ the test, yes?

    I love your idea of the elite soldiers protecting the Realms and the evil disguise hiding elsewhere. That's superb!

    The only parts that rang a tad false to me would be the gum popping. The school is so strict w/ other things, why not this as well? Also, the clothing is too earthly. Maybe change it up a bit. And the soldiers swords seem too Star Wars-y for my taste. Just my humble suggestions. =)

    Otherwise, you've piqued my interest. I'd definitely keep reading!

    1. Hi Pasha! Thanks for your feedback. The test does require them to go into other bodies to influence them for good. I will try and make that more clear. Your other comments make a lot of sense and I will keep them handy when I revise.
      Thanks so much,

  2. Hi Christine,
    Great beginning!! This is a clear and unique setting, love the characters, and the writing moved the story forward. I got hooked immediately, but wonder if you changed the order of paragraphs after the line: This one moment that makes me tingle. Then you described the stained glass window. Maybe start with seating on the window seat and seeing all and then add the description. Your dialogue is wonderful and your descriptions of Asher and the chest plates reflecting the light...
    I love the idea of being reborn and hoping to go back and do some good on Earth. You have a perfect place to add some humor or enlighten us with what kind of test they are studying to be sent back.
    Just a note about another word left out in the sentence another reason why I wanted to ___ back. I think this is a fun story and would love to read more!! Thanks for sharing...

  3. Hi Christine,

    Your first paragraph hooked me! What an interesting premise. It has a lot of potential. I hope Becca gets to "inhabit" someone soon.

    At first I wondered how anyone could inhabit someone who already has their own spirit, but after reading further it seems that the "visitor" becomes a sort of spiritual guide. I would like to know a few more details about this in the first chapter, as well as more about the test. It doesn't have to be a lot. Just enough.

    Nitpicky stuff:

    The paragraph about the stained glass feels out of place. It takes me out of Becca's blushing mood because she expresses annoyance.

    I'd like to know more about isolation. It doesn't have to be in chapter 1, though.

    This quote needs attribution: "I spoke to Zac ...," I tell her.

    Because I pictured the elite soldiers as Roman due to their gold breastplates and helmets, I was slightly thrown off by the name Roman Frank.

    I love the overall austerity and atmosphere of the Realm. You do an excellent job of building tension, first with Asher, then with yellow slips, and then with the plethora of guards.

    I like that Becca wants to help her brother. If there are millions that need help, though, it seems unlikely that she'll return to a place close to him. Earth is a big place. Perhaps there can be a rule that you're sent to help others in your old neighborhood.

    Excellent beginning!

  4. Thanks Lauren! I really appreciate your feedback. The stained glass window paragraph has been my issue. I keep switching it around. It originally was the beginning paragraph, but I tend to like it better more into the chapter. I will play around with that. Isolation eventually gets explained in another chapter. I've finished the first draft of this manuscript and I'm trying to make sure I explain everything so this helps.
    Becca does get to inhabit someone, but she gets into the body illegally to be close to her brother. She does start to mention it in this but stops because of the soliders.
    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Christine,

      I'm glad that you have worked out a plausible explanation for how Becca gets close to her brother. Entering a body illegally is consistent with her personality. And adds a lot of tension. Yay!

      The stained glass paragraph has to go in a place where it doesn't interrupt Becca's musings and anticipation of seeing Asher. In the stained glass paragraph, Becca expresses her annoyance and disgust, and therefore disrupts the reader's anticipation, too.

      You could leave off the "I know I'm dead" part, but I loved that.

      Honestly, I can't see a place for it in this chapter that wouldn't interfere with the flow that you've so beautifully created.

    2. I may just cut it. It's one of those kill your darlings paragraphs. I think it expresses her voice and some scenery, but it may have to go. I may find another place for it to go or maybe re-write so it fits as she walks with Kat. That may be better. Thanks again.

  5. Your first paragraph drew me in right away. I loved reading while nodding my head and agreeing then BAM! you tell me it's not true! What a way to pique my interest:)

    The tension is great. I felt it through out the pages which is what you want to keep readers turning the pages!

  6. Hi Christine,
    Caught my interest with the juxtaposition of the first two paragraphs! You have responded to the previous comments so well that all my questions have been answered.

  7. Christine - Hi! Sorry I'm running behind this week! I love the idea and your characters. Your dialogue is great. I'd like some clarification on the rules as far as the tests and what their aims are and why. You touch on it, but I'd like it more clear even if that means parsing it out and not giving it to us all at once. On those lines, I'd like less talking (with disguised info dump I know I'm mean) and more description and action in these opening pages. I don't mean battling evil action, just more going on that's active. I want to know are these "students" all the same age? If so, where do adults and younger kids go? If not, can you point that out? Tell us more about your uber cool world! Can't wait to read the revision!

    1. Thanks Lisa. I appreciate your feedback. How much detail of the rules is needed? I didn't want to tell too much. I have sprinkled it through another chapter, but should I describe the whole process?
      The students are all the same age. You go to each realm according to your age.
      Thanks again for your feedback. It is very helpful.

    2. It's a tricky balance, I know! You might need to play with it a little. The best I can give you is that you want the reader to have questions, but only enough to entice them to read further, not so much that it isn't clear. Sorry I can't be clearer!!

  8. Hi Christine,

    Great premise!I wondered the same thing as Lisa about where the adults and younger kids go. Is Realm 17 just for 17 year olds?
    Also, it seems like the two girls knew each other before they died, when they are talking about Roman Franks. I feel like if they did know each other before, I need to know pretty quickly how they both died and ended up together. Otherwise, it affects my suspension of disbelief.
    Adding on to what Lisa said about action, there is a lot happening to her and around her. I would like to see her doing something, even if it's something as small as getting up and going after Asher to talk to him before Kat shows up.

    Looking forward to the revision!

    1. Thanks Jan. Yes, realm 17 is just for 17 yr olds. The girls did not know each other, but Roman is world famous so everyone would know who he is. The info one becca's death comes further into the story so I will try and pull more up.
      Thanks again for your feedback.

    2. Ah okay. You might could make it clearer that Roman is someone famous by having Kat say something like "THE Roman Franks? "