Monday, May 19, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Simpson Rev 2

Name: Melody Simpson
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Title: Break Along the Fault


A boy I’ve never seen before shot me. On purpose.

I don’t know anything about guns but I saw him raise his. Look me in my eyes and pull the trigger. The fall to the floor hurts. Bodies scurry around me, towels are thrown at my waist. My heart throbs so fast it might explode.

If I had seen him aim the gun sooner, I would have run for cover. There was no time for cover. There was no chance for me. Blood seeps from my chest. Cold dances around me as ice packs land on the kitchen tiles near my feet. My focus blurs as the outline of the letters in my name draw out before me on my grave.

My grave. Mom and Dad and Jedediah will have to bury me. I’m only sixteen. This can’t happen now. I haven’t married...graduated…run my first marathon. I was training. Hard. I put my body through the ringer. I’ll never be able to run again.

“Take her to...” a voice trails off even though it’s the only thing I want to focus on right now. The pulsing in my ears quiet. I can’t hear a sound besides my fading heartbeat. I want to hear my father’s hearty laugh, my boyfriend’s favorite swampy tunes, my best friend’s triumph when she scores the best stadium seats. Never again.

The blood bubbling under my hands, the alcohol being held in a stranger’s by my side, I can’t smell. Will I ever be able to smell my mother’s tangerine scent again? This party is draining every bit of me.

The weak, hairy arms pulling me up, I can’t see. I need to see my brother. Where is he? I need to see him one last time so I don’t forget his face. I need to call out his name one more time so I can hear the syllables form in my mouth but his nickname is all that comes to mind and even that’s too much to say. Diaho.

A girl’s long, auburn hair brushes against my skin, tangles in the red on my chest as she pulls me to the side or forward. I have no sense of direction. Is she moving me to the bathroom? Those few feet away feel like millions. In science or history or health, I don’t know, we learned you should never move an injured person. Call 911. Wait for the first responders. They’re not waiting.

They’re killing me. Two hands, three, four are on me now. Dragging me up, up, up and I’m falling. Out of my skin.

“Karsyn Dale Grant, please step forward.”

The beanstalk colored walls of Moira’s kitchen surrounded me less than twenty seconds ago. The sweat of a hundred people filled my nose a minute before. The Peach Smirnoff lingering on my tongue from a kiss is gone too. I can’t feel my chest, my toes, I can’t feel. Darkness stands before me. Where am I? What is this place? Am I…dead?

Somehow I manage to turn around and my surroundings come into focus. It wasn’t darkness but stars. They’re all around me. Oh my God, I’m dead? Really dead. Alone. From Mom and Dad, Diaho, Moira and my love. My first and only love. The stars stretch out for miles in every direction but there’s only me in between without a map.

No prom. No graduation. No reconciliations with old friends. No trip to Paris. No more family reunions in Italy. No kids. Who can live these memories with me? No one. Ever. I’ve reached the end.

Take me back. Please, take me back now.

Turning around with a destination but no direction, four yards ahead sits a desk larger than any I’ve ever seen, even in courtrooms on TV, with the finest maple finish and three worn men perched behind it. All three could have walked off the Mayflower but it’s the busy one in the middle who catches my attention. His voice thunders through me, holding me frozen in place. “Grant, move forward,” he says louder, still dry but with less patience.

I was being carried away and now I’m higher than the planes I traveled on for half marathons around the country. Mom wanted to take me to see the world. I told her to save her flight attendant perks for when I’m ready for the marathons.

What happened? The words won’t come out.

Taking documents from the man on the left and stamping the papers individually before passing them to the man on the right, the working middle man doesn’t wait for me. “As of this moment, 9:52pm on Friday, June 23, 2017, the council is thrilled to inform you that you are officially a guide for the living.”


“For every major and minor violation of the moral system which you have committed in your sixteen years of life on earth, you are now required to right each wrong by assisting the living as they face similar conflicts.”


“You may show yourself to the individual or push the idea into their mind. This assignment is expected to be completed in seven years time. It is essential this list be maintained. Revenge and, or other forms of closure you may have in mind are not encouraged. This is your closure.”

Who’s system? I push myself to speak. “What system?”

The middle man’s eyes cut deep. He motions for me to step closer. “You are not a guardian angel. You are not protecting anyone. The only being you are protecting is yourself. Here is your inventory of wrongs.”

Without giving myself permission, I reach for the scroll with both hands but find I only need one. The scroll isn’t heavy at all. This is it? I let my hand drop a little to confirm the weight.

Before I’ve opened the scroll, he begins again. “What you currently see on the scroll are your wrongdoings from the last month of your life. When you have completed month 198, month 197 will appear.”

I was shot and I’m the one holding all the regrets. I hope I’m still here, wherever here is, to see my killer right this wrong which brought me here. I begin to laugh, unable to sort out my emotions. I’m dead. “What happens if I don’t do this?”

He motions towards the scroll and I hand it back. He stretches the parchment all the way out as I lean forward to read the text at the bottom.

On Monday, June 23, 2024, upon completing her task as a guide, the soul of Karsyn Dale Grant will acquire peace for eternity. Upon failure, the soul of Ms. Grant will be bound to the Moneo plane to be consumed by her remaining faults until her soul breaks apart. Time Remaining: 61,360 hours.

“Breaks apart?” I whisper.

He blinks. “Your soul will exist forever but you will never be whole again.”

No. The Peace in RIP has to be earned? No one ever tells you that. No one ever can. How can anyone do what’s being asked in seven years time? Is seven years up here the same as down there? It can’t be. It can’t.

I wasn’t afraid of dying. I ran from everything. Now I’m not so sure I’m right about anything.

He hands me back the scroll. “Questions?”

“Yes,” I say with force, deciding what to ask first. Who are you? How did you get this gig? Who shot me? Why me?


  1. Hi Melody,
    Once again, I enjoyed reading your first five.

    I didn't notice anything to suggest about beyond being jarred by the last sentence in this paragraph: The blood bubbling under my hands, the alcohol being held in a stranger’s by my side, I can’t smell. Will I ever be able to smell my mother’s tangerine scent again? This party is draining every bit of me.

    It could probably do well without that last sentence.

    Otherwise, I noticed and appreciated some additional questioning going on. Understandably so. Dying, by itself, can surely make a person want to question everything from dusk until dawn. But to find one's self being assigned some duty after all of that, well, yeah, questions are definitely necessary.

    Great job.

  2. Hi Melody,

    Congratulations on really making me feel everything Karsyn is going through. I can imagine my own thoughts running in the same wild way. I liked the additional questioning towards the end and her need for answers.
    There wasn’t anything that made me pause. It was smooth and clear and maintained an urgency all the way to the end of the five pages. I also really liked the last sentence—it makes me want to read more! Good job, this was great.

  3. Hey Melody,

    Great revision, like Jessica, I really feel for Karsyn.

    " He blinks. “Your soul will exist forever but you will never be whole again.”"

    Love this, it was perfectly solemn and yet threatening. Anyone, especially a teenager, would be thrown by that.

    Only one small comment:

    "How did you get this gig?"

    I was jarred by that line a bit, it may be just me but maybe there's another way to say that which would fit better with her voice.

    Other than that, I loved this revision.

    Thank you for sharing it!

  4. This is a wonderful revision, Melody. You get right to the heart of it in the first few lines. I do think you could clarify things more. Are those around her killing her? Or trying to save her? I imagined her at a party with her friends, and then unexpectedly, she is shot. Are her friends in on it or are they killing her by moving her?

    I love the image of her falling from her skin, and appearing again before this tribunal. I think you've done a nice job of capturing her confusion, but I still feel that she would have more questions as to what just happened to her. The solemn man could simply tell her that she had to let that go, and it would not be discussed or some such, but she would ask or wonder - Who shot me? Why? What's going to happen to him? You did a wonderful job of showing us how important this mission is, and how high the stakes are.

    I wish you the very best of luck!

  5. Hey Melody,

    I have really enjoyed this from the beginning, but it's been great to see it change and grow. I think the piece really flows and keeps up the pace. I love that Karsyn is angrier at the end, I really feel her passion for the wrong that's been done to her.

    I actually really the like the paragraphs that describe her dying, they're vivid and I feel almost uncomfortable reading it, but in the best way possible. I don't really have any revisions to offer, I feel like you've eliminated many of the issues and have really cut down the piece. Great job!

  6. Tighter, stronger. The writing quality is great. Structurally, it's a long dying scene, though, followed by exposition about Karsyn's post-death responsibilities that really isn't quite the reward I (as reader) was looking for after having survived (literarily, speaking) all that blood. I'm still unclear on the lifting hands, the location of the death scene, the boy who shot. I'm sure that will all be explained in time but it feels like the death is filled with small mysteries and we kind of know we're going to have to wait to find out all the whys later on which feels a little manipulative, maybe? I'm wondering if, instead of the giant desk, the exact rules of Karyn's "purgatory," etc., we couldn't find her dumped into an actual scenario in which she must make amends and we find out slowly, along with her, that she is actually fulfilling some kind of directive. I guess I'd still be inclined to question whether this is the very first chapter of the novel or if it's parts of a few early chapters or something? Keep up the great writing and exploring this plot. It is very intriguing and good meat for a novel. I am confident it will take shape as you continue to write.

  7. Hi Melody -

    I definitely enjoyed this version as you've incorporated her asking questions as the end. Of course the situation would seem so unfair and the line about being shot yet holding the regrets is awesome.

    For me, I feel like some of the internalizing feels repetitive. A line like "I put my body through the ringer" feels extraneous since you already said she pushed it hard. If you want to keep the line, my suggestion would be to connect it to the injury/shot. As in, she put her body through the ringer but still it was no match for a bullet. Othewise, it's repetitive.

    The line "This party is draining every bit of me" takes away the impact of the lines before it--of her loss and fear about never being able to smell her mom's tangerine scent. I get what you're trying to do with the line metaphorically but in this case, I think it detracts from the punch of the previous lines.

    "I wasn't afraid of dying. I ran from everything." confused me. People run from everything because they are afraid. Honestly, I think the whole line can go.

    It's such an impactful first scene and I'm immediately drawn in. I feel a bit of a soft landing toward the end, though. There is one line that keeps rising to the surface for me and I wonder if a version of it would make a great last line to the chapter. Pissed off... "I was murdered and I'm the one with the regrets?"

    Great work! Your flair for detail is really shown off in such a visceral important scene. I like that you aren't afraid of it and able to take your time to make the most out of small moments. Examine each and every line with the kind of eye that isn't afraid to ask: If this was gone, would I lose anything storywise? That will tighten the extra phrases to give the piece more overall impact. It's so strong already!