Monday, May 5, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Simpson

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


If he shot me from farther away or an inch or two lower, it wouldn’t hurt this much. At least that’s what I keep telling myself to ease the shock. I don’t know anything about guns but I saw him raise his. Look me in my eyes and pull the trigger. The blood is seeping from my chest and I am hot. I’m cold. I am burning. If I hadn’t seen him aim the gun, I would have thought I’d been punched. I would have run for cover. There was no time for cover. There was no chance for me.

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

The fall to the floor hurts. Bodies scurry around me, towels are thrown at my chest. My heart is throbbing so fast it might explode. Cold dances around me as ice packs land on the kitchen tiles near my feet. My focus is blurry 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. All I want to hear is 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? Never again.

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 all that comes to mind is his nickname 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 a million. 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 were surrounding 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. All that stands before me is black. Where am I? Don’t freak out. Am I dead? Don’t freak out.

Somehow I manage to turn around and my surroundings come into focus. It wasn’t black. It was 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 Disney marathon. No prom. No graduation. No trip to Paris, France. No more family reunions in Italy. No wedding. 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 right 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 as dry but this time 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. What happened? The words won’t come out.

Taking documents from the man on his left and stamping the papers individually before passing them to the man sitting at his right, the working middle man doesn’t wait for me to come. “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 wrongdoing you have committed in your sixteen years of life on earth, you are now required to right your every wrong. You will be assisting the living in deciding positive life choices as they run into conflicts you once found yourself in on earth.”


“You may choose to 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.”

I push myself to say the words. “What is this place?”
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. Do you understand, Ms. Grant?”

I nod.

“Speak up, Ms. Grant.” He gestures to the councilman on his right, transcribing.

“I understand.”

With the other two men looking down on me as well, my legs give way as I follow the direction of the middle man’s hand. “Here is your inventory of wrongs.”

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

“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.”

Great. I was shot and somehow I’m the one holding all the regrets. Random bits of episodes from supernatural TV shows pop into my head. None of them depicted this. Heaven. Hell. Limbo, all the time. Never this. My eyes skim over the list.

* On Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 7:33am, I kept the extra change the new drive-thru cashier gave me at Starbucks.

I was in a rush.

* On Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 2:51pm, I stole 3 pills from Hannah’s Adderall prescription bottle while in Moira and Hannah’s bathroom.

It was finals week! I needed help to study. Mo said she was thinking about taking some...or asking her sister for one to see how it felt. At least that was going to be her excuse. I don’t know if she used it.


  1. Hi Melody -

    I have to say right from the get-go that this is a really strong opening! SO visceral! You write with great sensory and sentimental detail and it's paced in a way that I'm feeling it with her but you're not drawing it out too long, either. Basically, I'm in--with you. That's the mark of a great opening. Suck me in and then...keep it up for a whole book. :)

    Loved "falling out of my skin." There was only one place that I can think of that I yearned for you to be a bit more inventive or to challenge yourself for a metaphor and that was the paragraph with the "I'm hot. I'm cold. I'm burning." I think, given what I've seen, that you can push yourself in a moment like that.

    A comment: The "For every wrong done" paragraph; it has a really strong 'and the moral of the story IS...' feeling and I think many teens will about-face and run from an author stating the moral of a story. IMHO. With such strong writing, I'm afraid for you to turn off teens by broadcasting the intent. When asked if she understands and she verbally says she does, I was thinking that as a teen, I'd be FULL of "but wait..." "are you saying?" type questions. I might challenge what's being told to me. Her mistakes are uniquely her own. Is she to somehow find parallels from her own mistakes and help people not make "similar" ones in their own lives? OR, is she to go and try to make right what she's done? (Which, I think, she was told she couldn't do.) So there was a bit of questioning and not understanding for me and I wondered how a teen in her situation wouldn't be peppering the "authority" with questions. I mean, what's the consequence? She's already dead, right? :)

    I hope you see what I mean. There's a balance to telling us what's expected of her without giving a teen ANY reason to put the book down because they assume they know what moral will be spoon fed to them.

    Please know how strong an opening I think this is. My plot suggestions are only that, suggestions that I think might "lure" the reader more than lead them by the nose. I'm excited for you to keep going! Thanks for sharing your work and being open to suggestion!

  2. Hey Melody,

    Love the idea behind the story. Your main character has a strong voice and comes out from the page. I agree with Tracy in that maybe the main character might react more realistically to teenage readers if she's more feisty against the verdict.

    "The beanstalk colored walls of Moira’s kitchen were surrounding 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. All that stands before me is black. Where am I? Don’t freak out. Am I dead? Don’t freak out."

    Love the descriptions of the sensory experiences she had that are now fading. The last part, where she's speaking to herself could perhaps be changed to better illustrate the modes in which someone speaks to themselves.

    My last comment is that you could perhaps leave us with a more tense ending instead of one about Moira's drugs, since she is a character we don't yet know yet and aren't invested in.

    Overall, great introduction, I'm drawn in and want to learn more. Thank you for sharing with us!

  3. Hi Melody,

    This was a really good opening. I felt like I was right there going through it all with Karsyn. There were some phrases I loved: “The blood bubbling under my hands, the alcohol being held in a stranger’s by my side, I can’t smell.” And, “The beanstalk colored walls…”
    All of the details were really clear and I liked the voice. I felt like it moved forward at a good pace, and you didn’t linger for too long in any one spot.

    As I was reading though, I had a few questions: Why was she shot? Was it simply wrong place, wrong time? I wanted her death to mean something, but that’s probably just me. I also want to care for Karsyn and since I don’t know anything about her, it’s hard to worry for her. She’s a runner—does she really travel all over the country for half-marathons?

    Also, maybe she doesn’t need to protest her fate, but she could question it. Anyway, I’m excited to see where this goes!

  4. Hi Melody,

    This is a great opening, and a great hook! Right away I'm interested. I was shocked that she died, so that's great. But she wakes up in this strange foreign place, and she immediately just goes with the flow. You have a great chance for tension here. We know nothing about her, so let Karsyn shine. Is she someone who questions authority (it doesn't seem so) Does she feel wronged (it seemed that she did!) Continue with her strong voice. "Me! I'm the victim!" or some such. She might ask why some guy she didn't know shot her. Let her interaction with this board show us what she's made of, what makes her tick. And like her, I've never seen this either, so more please! I'd like more description before she's given her list of wrongs. But overall, great job. I can't wait to see what you do for next week!

  5. Hello Melody,

    This is definitely an action-packed beginning and it kept my attention. I could easily feel her pain, I honestly felt a little uncomfortable reading about all the blood (which is good, it's not a bad thing to make a reader uncomfortable sometimes). It creates this feeling of being on edge.

    To echo what was said before, I think there needed to be more conflict between the people she's talking to at the desk and herself. She clearly is upset about being dead and she doesn't know who shot her, so I would assume she'd be "dying" with questions. The nodding and statement of understanding really detracts from the moment.

    I too sensed some confusion about whether or not she's supposed to right her wrongs or if she is meant to guide other people making similar mistakes. I think the reading of the list is a little flattening because of this. I also wasn't ready to come down from the action. She sort of gives up, I would assume she would at least mentally be fighting for reasons why.

    Overall, great job! I very much enjoyed reading this.

  6. The opening paragraph for your story really grabbed my attention. So you definitely accomplished the mission of hooking me as a reader.

    Your descriptions and word choice invoke descriptive imagery and paints an excellent picture. The surreal nature of her experience of death is palpable.

    The MC's reaction to the new place she ended up seemed a bit too accepting. She's sixteen, a runner, and with all that she was leaving undone from her short lifetime, a less agreeable reaction to her new role in the afterlife would certainly be understandable, possibly anticipated.

    Overall, I'm thrilled to have had a chance to read your opening and hope any and all comments provided will help in strengthening your first five.

    Thank you Melody :-)

  7. What a wild opening! Terrific writing and strong imagery. That said, I feel like I kept reading for 2 reasons, not one: I read because the language was great but I was kind of looking for something I didn't find--some sense of understanding of the set-up that didn't come--something still feels like it needs a bit of a fix. The above comments all seem to tackle this as well. The three things I think are most in need of tightening are (1) too much exposition (mc is being simply told that she has to right all her wrongs--a bit of an infodump); (2) the death, though fabulously written, does not really connect to the plot that you're setting up for (righting wrongs)--maybe there should be some kind of link to her dying thought process--maybe regrets about things she's done wrong and not just stuff she'll miss; (3) the murder--I think we need more about who shot her and why there was a guy with a gun in her kitchen (?) -- I feel a little bit lost, place-wise, throughout the scene (is she at home, at a party, is it day or night, who are the people abandoning her, are they abandoning her and why?). And maybe, just maybe, this isn't the opening scene--as intense as it is--maybe we need to know who mc was in life a bit first or something? Anyhow amazing and unique start. Sorry for my belated comments but I am so looking forward to your next draft!