Monday, July 15, 2013

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Frye Rev 1

Name: Cassie Frye
Genre: YA Contemporary/Paranormal Twists
Title: Fade

The girl in the bathroom mirror is not me.

I swallow the knot in my throat, and run a shaking hand through my hair—hair that is now thick, brown, and curly. I used to be a blond, I used to be taller, and I used to be thinner. Now, this strange girl looks back at me, with hair that feels fake; like hair on a doll.

There’s a knock, and my head jerks toward the noise. Whoever it is, probably heard my scream moments ago. It's the most natural reaction when you wake up in someone else's body. “Meredith, is everything okay?” The female voice asks.

My name is not Meredith—it’s Hana—and I’m almost about to correct the woman, but hold my tongue. Better not to arouse suspicion. No one would believe my story anyway. They’d sooner think I was crazy, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I am perfectly sane. So I take in a sharp breath, to keep from losing it.

“Yeah,” I croak, before returning to my reflection.

What happened last night? I know I went to a party, but I don’t remember much of it. Did I get drunk? It seems unlikely, given the pajamas I’m wearing. Plus, I’ve always been cautious. A partier, yes, but never reckless. In fact, I was the designated driver last night, sworn off booze so that my friends and I could get home in one piece.

I scowl, and watch as the stranger in front of me wrinkles her nose as well. No matter how long I stare at that damned mirror, my reflection doesn’t change. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Then I remind myself that this bathroom is unfamiliar, with its pastel colors and old, worn towels; and the woman’s voice is unfamiliar. She called me Meredith.

I have no idea how I got here, or who the heck Meredith is, which is probably why I’m still shaking. I can’t help myself. I feel a pressure rise in my chest, and proceed to let my legs drop by the toilet. Vomit comes up, as hurling noises fill the room.

“Honey, are you sick?” The woman asks. I dry heave a few times, before I can catch my breath. When I feel like the nausea spell is over, I wipe my lips and flush the toilet.

“I—I’m fine.”

Perhaps this is a dream. I force my breathing to slow at the thought. Dreams had a tendency to feel real. They also had a tendency to be a bit on the weird side. This has to be a dream. Pretty soon, I’ll wake up, imagine having to live the rest of my life in a different body, and laugh.

A collection of tears blurs my vision. This can’t be happening. I’m imagining things.

“Maybe you should get some rest," the woman suggests.

Who is this woman, anyway? “Just leave me alone!” I snap. There's a silence that follows, and I begin listening to my breath. In and Out.

Then the woman bangs hard on the door. “Meredith, open this door!”

I need to get rid of the woman, so I try not to freak out. I try not to yell, when I turn the lock and open the door. The woman before me looks a lot like the girl in the mirror, except older. Meredith’s mother, perhaps? No wonder she’s concerned. “Please,” I tell her. “I’m fine. I just need a moment. I’ll be down in a sec.”

“Should I call the doctor?”

A doctor is the last person I want to see. “I’m fine.” How many times do I have to say it? Probably until I believe it.

"I'll get you some water, then. " She heads down the stairs without waiting for an answer. Then I close the door, lightly, even though I want to slam it.

I take the silence as an opportunity to recollect my thoughts.

One: I am not in my body.

Two: This is not my home.

Three: I need to find out what happened last night.

My stomach gives little twisty jolts. This is crazy. A part of me refuses to accept the first two facts, but the evidence surrounds me. Something isn’t right, and I need answers. I turn on the water; the sound of running water is soothing. Then I gather the liquid in my cupped hands, and splash it on my face. My arms feel heavier, I think, and I notice my fingers are a bit shorter as the water rushes over them. Nails are bitten to the stub. I shudder. A nail bitter.

When I look at the mirror for a third time, I can’t help but pray that I’m mistaken, but the same brown-haired girl is looking back. No illusion.

And then I see it. I’m seeing double, another Meredith standing right beside me in the mirror. I blink, and look to my left, where she supposedly stands. No one. Maybe I’m seeing things.

“Hello, Hana."

My name. My real name. The voice comes from my right, and when I turn, she's there. Meredith. But I’m Meredith. Or at least, I’m in her body. I cast a wary glance at the mirror, to find both of us standing side by side. We’re identical, save for the pajamas I’m wearing and the yellow shirt and faded jeans she’s wearing. I blink, four times, hoping she’ll disappear.

She doesn’t.

I open my eyes to find Meredith standing there, her hand rubbing against her left arm and lips pulled tight. It’s then that I notice she’s an exact image of Meredith, but not…fully formed. As if she’s a projection of light. As if she’s a ghost.

My heart pounds as I take a few steps back, almost falling into the tub. In shock, I blurt out the first words that come to mind. “What’s going on?!”

Meredith, though, just stares. She walks, or more accurately, floats around me, as if she’s inspecting me. I feel chill bumps rise on my arms, but I’m too frozen in shock to rub them down. When she doesn’t answer, I’m barely able to ask how she knows my name. Obviously, if she knows my name, she knows what happened. And more importantly, she can tell me how to get out of this body.

“I suppose you know what happened. You’re in my body now, and I’m…” Meredith moves her hands, up and down her body, “well, you get the picture.”

“Obviously,” I snap. I want her to get to the point.

“And I know your name, because I switched bodies with you. Have you already forgotten?" There’s a pause, and her lips move, like she’s about to say something else, but no words come. With a frustrated moan, she turns.

“HEY!”

She keeps floating away, so I take a few quick strides and reach out to grab her arm. My hand passes right through her, like she’s made of air.

“Tell me how we switch back,” I hiss.

That gets her attention, and Meredith turns to face me. Her lips are pulled tight again, her fists clenching and unclenching. There’s a moment of hesitation, before she lets out a shaky breath. I get the feeling that she’s not happy about the situation. There's a sad look on her face. It's the kind of face one makes when giving bad news.

“I don’t think you want to switch back,” she tells me.

“Why?” I ask.

“Because you’re dead.”

14 comments:

  1. Cassie,
    This beginning is much improved. From the point at which she meets her "real self" to the end, I love it. The problem I have is with credibility before that moment. I put in a suggestion below and some comments. Perhaps her first response should be to vomit.
    I have an idea where you're going with this and I REALLY like it. Its a huge challenge to make her reaction credible. After you set the stage, the story flows.
    K.D.


    The girl in the bathroom mirror is not me.

    I swallow (forced down?) the knot in my throat, and run a shaking hand through my hair—hair that is now thick, brown, and curly. I used to be a blond, I used to be taller, and I used to be thinner. Now, this strange girl looks back at me, with hair that feels fake; like hair on a doll.

    There’s a knock, and my head jerks toward the noise. Whoever it is, probably heard my scream moments ago. It's the most natural reaction when you wake up in someone else's body.
    Comment: I’m not sure there is a natural reaction to waking up in some else’s body.
    I’m almost about to correct the woman, but hold my tongue. (remove almost or about) Better not to arouse suspicion. No one would believe my story anyway. They’d sooner think I was crazy, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I am perfectly sane. So I take in a sharp breath, to keep from losing it.
    Comment: This is better, but I still have trouble with credibility here. I would be wondering if I were crazy. I would say some pretty stupid things to other people that would make them think I was crazy.

    I scowl, and watch as the stranger in front of me wrinkles her nose as well. No matter how long I stare at

    I have no idea how I got here, or who the heck Meredith is, which is probably why I’m still shaking. I can’t help myself. I feel a pressure rise in my chest, and proceed to let my legs drop by the toilet. Vomit comes up, as hurling noises fill the room.
    Comment - you’ve got some great stuff here. How about just switching it around? Could she see herself, vomit, and then see herself again giving her a few minutes to ground herself before dealing with an outside person. And oh yea, I definitely could see myself puking if this actually happened.



    Then the woman bangs hard on the door. “Meredith, open this door!”

    I need to get rid of the woman, so I try not to freak out. I try not to yell, when I turn the lock and open the door. The woman before me looks a lot like the girl in the mirror, except older. Meredith’s mother, perhaps? No wonder she’s concerned. “Please,” I tell her. “I’m fine. I just need a moment. I’ll be down in a sec.”



    And then I see it. I’m seeing double, another Meredith standing right beside me in the mirror. I blink, and look to my left, where she supposedly stands. No one. Maybe I’m seeing things.

    “Hello, Hana."

    Comment: I love this part – where her “real self” visits her all the way to the end of the passage. Very intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It was so much fun writing that second half, when Hana and Meredith interact. Their interactions are the most interesting aspect of the book, I think.

      I also plan on taking into consideration the credibility of her reaction. Trying to get it right has proven difficult, but I agree with you on the vomit suggestion. I plan on moving that up toward the top. It's a great idea, and on I agree will add credibility.

      Also, Hana's unwillingness to think she's crazy has a lot to do with her pride, but I can see how she might have doubts. I will work better to convey that in the next revision.

      Thanks so much for your critique!

      Delete
  2. Hi Cassie,

    Oh I like the new opening a lot better. And the ending! Yowza! This catches me a lot quicker than the previous pages.

    The little bit about the bathroom being different kind of took me out of the urgency of the situation. Maybe you can bump it up earlier like, “The girl in the mirror isn’t me. This bathroom isn’t even mine. And the room that I just ran through to get here wasn’t mine either. I’m in someone else’s body, in someone else’s house and that’s someone else’s mom banging on the bathroom door.”

    Or something like that maybe? I know she’s panicking, but maybe think of other things like ‘I need to get to a phone, I need to call (Best friend’s name who went to the party), Maybe she knows what happened.’

    And the “Something isn’t right, and I need answers” line seems a bit redundant since things are obviously definitely not right and she just listed that she needed to find answers for #3 on her list.

    I’m wondering if Meredith and Hana went to the same school or something. I assume they would have to have met to body swap or something. Or Maybe Hana just never noticed Meredith at school or something?

    Definitely wondering about what Hana forgot. And would definitely read on after that last line

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    1. Thank you! I definitely see your point about the bathroom. The description does seem little out of place. I like the idea of her scrambling to find her phone. I think I'll mention it in the next revision.

      And you're right about Hana and Meredith (hehe). They both did go to school together, but Hana never noticed Meredith. Hana ran with the popular crowd and Meredith didn't.

      Again, thank you for the critique!

      Delete
  3. Great job, Cassie. I think you’ve really nailed this. I only have a few in-line comments, and one “larger” comment. Basically, try to keep things tight-tight-tight! Once Hana sees ghost-Meredith, you can probably cut back some of Hana’s thoughts and dialogue. Get us to that *awesome* “You’re dead” bit as soon as you can.

    Otherwise, this is well on its way to being polished! Great, great job!

    --

    “The girl in the bathroom mirror is not me.” --> NICE.

    “Better not to arouse suspicion.”--> I’m not sure you need this since the next line (“No one would believe my story anyway”) is stronger.

    “They’d sooner think I was crazy, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I am perfectly sane.”--> Again, I’m not sure you need this—not with the previous comment. I think short and sweet is good here.

    “What happened last night? I know I went to a party, but I don’t remember much of it. Did I get drunk? It seems unlikely, given the pajamas I’m wearing.”--> But…these aren’t her pajamas, right? It just doesn’t seem like she’d connect what she’s currently wearing to her inebriation state the night before since she might have “switched” into this body after Meredith had on her PJs. Make sense?

    “I was the designated driver last night, sworn off booze so that my friends and I could get home in one piece.” --> So then she already KNOWS she didn’t get drunk. You could just have her think something like, “I knew I hadn’t gotten drunk. I was DD last night—I’d promised to get my friends home in one piece.” Obviously just an idea, but you see what I mean, maybe?

    “I scowl,”--> A scowl doesn’t feel strong enough. I think I’d be leaning in to the mirror and scrutinizing every inch of my new body…while also wearing a look of total shock and horror. Clearly that’s just how *I* would react, but I think most readers are going to want to see a touch more freak-out from Hana here.

    “I have no idea how I got here, or who the heck Meredith is, which is probably why I’m still shaking. I can’t help myself. I feel a pressure rise in my chest, and proceed to let my legs drop by the toilet. Vomit comes up, as hurling noises fill the room.”--> I like this. Maybe just cut the previous paragraph and go straight to here. This feels natural to me.

    “Probably until I believe it.”--> Nice line.

    “A nail bitter.”--> Typo. ;) Should be “biter.”

    “I open my eyes to find Meredith standing there,”--> When did she close her eyes? I know she blinked, but that implies opening again, no?

    “I suppose you know what happened.”--> Who says this? Is Meredith-the-ghost saying it? Or Hana? You’re in my body now, and I’m…” Meredith moves her hands, up and down her body, “well, you get the picture.”

    “Because you’re dead.” --> OH CRAP. Nice hook, Cassie. DANG.

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    1. AWE, Susan. <33 So glad you liked this even more! I definitely need to work on the credibility of Hana's reaction to the situation (including the scowl). And you're SO RIGHT about the pajamas. *facepalm* So glad you caught that!

      Thank you for the critique, Susan!

      Delete
  4. Hi Cassie,

    Wow, you totally re-worked this...for the better! It's even more jarring than it was before, and should grip the reader at sentence one.

    I agree with what's been mentioned in the above comments so I won't regurgitate it all here.

    Maybe it's me, but I get a bit confused when Meredith appears. Was Hana wearing the yellow shirt and faded jeans last night? Meredith is rubbing her hands along the body that is/was Hana's right? If so, wouldn't she have Hana's face? It's probably me.

    This opening is a winner, Cassie, and the set up would find me wanting to turn page after page until I reached the end!

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    1. Actually I need to think more about the clothing comment. Hana wasn't wearing a t-shirt and jeans the night before...and yeah...it's not making sense in my head either. So thanks for pointing that out!

      Very pleased you like this, though! Thanks for the critique! Now I'm off to work on revision. ;)

      Delete
  5. Cassie,

    The other commenters pointed out the few things that I thought. Overall, I think you did a great job of racheting up the tension, and bringing everything front and center. The only concern I have is that you went from one warned against beginning (waking up) to another one (looking in the mirror). However, with this story, I think it works since she is pulled out of the body.

    I'm wondering if we are going to root for Meredith at all. You set up a great hook, and I like everything that has happened up to this point, and I'm just curious about what's going to happen to her in the future. That's good because I want to keep reading.

    The only line that pulled me out was Vomit comes up, as hurling noises fill the room. It's really the hurling part of the sentence--not the fact that she is vomiting. Other people liked it so you may want to leave it.

    Mim

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    1. I don't remember reading about looking the mirror being one of those beginnings you want to avoid, but I'm glad you think it works in this situation. THere are always exceptions to rules, I guess.

      Also, I won't say too much, but I will say that I've tried not to make Meredith evil and unsympathetic. She's the antagonist, yes, but someone I hope that readers will eventually come to understand.

      Thanks so much for this critique!

      Delete
  6. Holy moly, Cassie! What a great revision! And that last line? Nailed it!

    If I could offer one suggestion that would still make a big difference, it would be for you to really put yourself into your ms's head and think where she is emotionally and physically at any point. Dig deeper into her POV, and I think you can make the reactions more natural and real, placing them in the proper order.


    I can't wait to see what you do for next week. The leap you've made is great!



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    1. EEK! Your comment made me smile! I'm so glad you think this revision is a huge leap from the first draft. Thanks for your suggestion and critique! :D

      Delete
  7. OH THAT LAST LINE!!!! YES!! Now I'm hooked. But up until then, I'm sorry I don't mean to be difficult because it is good, but I want it to be better than good. I'd go back and start at the party perhaps, but then again you land in a great place. SO if it was me, I would go with Martina's advice and really get in her head to connect us to the character more. Why do we care about her? Make us care more and boom - that last line? Great!

    Sorry I was late.

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    1. *fist pump* I so glad that this workshop made me realize this "twist" needs to be introduced as early as possible. ;) And I'm super glad you're hooked!

      And don't worry, I totally understand what you mean. While there's no denying I'll likely keep what I've written for the next revision, I'm not opposed to starting with the party scene (like you suggested). And just so you know, the scene IS described later. I simply thought an opening like this would be a better hook. I'm very torn.

      Thanks so much for your critique, though!

      Delete