Sunday, May 14, 2017

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - McDermott Rev 1

Name: Arran McDermott
Genre: Young Adult paranormal
Title: Supra/normal

Chapter One

When I first saw my name on the sheet telling me to report for a mandatory blood test, I was sure it had to be a mistake. They only ever tested people to decide if you were normal, or a supra. If your blood came back positive as the latter, you were pretty much screwed.

I stood in the school hallway as the others kids passed back and forth, wishing I could reach through the glass and tear up the sheet. There were only two other names on it—both students several grades younger than me. They normally tested us at birth, and again when we reached puberty. Somehow I had slipped through the cracks. Until now.

If this was a story, I’d be one of those teenagers desperately hoping to get picked. To be chosen for something special. But having powers the average person could only dream of was no gift. If you had the cursed gene, your options were to run and hide or turn yourself in to the authorities. I wasn’t even scared of finding out the result. What scared me was everyone else learning what I already knew.

I am a supra. 

I learned that when I was twelve years old. No one else knew about my powers, with one exception. By the time I reached my sophomore year at Kurtzberg High, I was your average don’t-stand-out-in-the-crowd girl. I only had one friend, Journey, and even her I kept at a careful distance. She didn’t seem to notice how little I talked about myself as long as she had someone to discuss her weirdly erotic anime dreams with.

I sat with her at lunch that day, my mind still reeling from the news of the test the next day. She caught on to my mood right away.

“Julie, you okay?” she asked.

I nodded. I looked around the lunchroom as I ate and noticed Steve Peterson heading our way. He was a star athlete in the same year as me, and my latest and most intense crush. He had shaggy hair you wanted to run your fingers through, dreamy hazel eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and a nice smile. You get the idea. But at that moment, fantasizing about him was the furthest thing from my mind.

“Hi,” he said cheerfully as he passed our table. I gave a half-smile, but said nothing. He sat down at a table with his loud buddies. I stared at him for a second, then quickly looked away.

Despite my attempting to play it cool, Journey noticed my look. “Girl, he is cute,” she said, in between chugging milk. “I can see why you like him. But he’s kinda weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“He never hangs out with anyone outside of school or games. I’ve known a whole bunch of girls that have asked him out, but he always turns them down. He’s quieter than you, even.”

“Maybe he’s just shy.”

She pulled her glasses away from her dark brown eyes, giving me a dubious look. “For real? Dude’s a basketball star, and he ran for class president once. Shy ain’t part of the package. I think he thinks he’s better than us. He’s a snob, you know?” She shrugged. “But if you wanna try asking him out, you go right ahead.”

Yeah, right. A girl like me dating the most popular guy in school.

I fell silent. Journey gave me a serious look.

“Why you so down, girl? Normally dream boy puts a smile on your face for hours.”

I checked no one close by was listening and told Journey my fears about the test. She laughed at me.

“A supra test? That’s what you’re worried about? I took mine a couple of years ago. It wasn’t no big thing. You’re the most norm person I know. If your life was any more boring, you’d be dead.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

“So why you freaking out over this? Everyone has to do it.”

“Well, I hate needles. And what if they find something else in my blood? Not supra powers but something else . . . bad?”

She wrapped a braid around one of her fingers and grinned. “You been doing drugs or screwing some guys I don’t know about?”

“No. Maybe I’m being paranoid.”

“Look, if it’s that big a deal, there’s ways to get out of it, at least for a while. Just pretend to faint or throw up or something. Hell, tell them it’s that time of the month. Almost anything will work.”

“Really?” I said, doubtfully.

“Just try it.”

I spent the rest of the day thinking about what would be the best way to get out of the test and coming up blank. I just didn’t have Journey’s talent for trickery.

I left school and walked home as slowly as possible, giving myself time to think. The dirty, crumbling buildings around me looked like they hadn’t been repaired since the War. But we just accepted that living in the projects. My mood didn’t improve when I got back to our tiny, rundown apartment. I tossed and turned for hours that night while my two brothers snored loudly. We all had to share a bedroom, and privacy was not part of my life.

I lay awake and thought about how all my good grades and efforts to stay out of trouble at school would soon count for nothing. Once the authorities found out my true nature, they would send me off to a special prison or God knows where. I had read stories of it happening to others before. All because of some stupid Supranormal War that happened before my birth.

In the morning I barely ate while my brothers shoveled marshmallow cereal into their mouths. The kitchen was really more of an alcove next to the living room, and an iron girder running overhead made it seem even more cramped. I looked over at the sink piled up with dishes and realized that wouldn’t get cleaned until I came home from school. If I came home.

Justin, a year younger than me, kept talking between bites about how he had seen all these new games at the store. He flipped a large wad of money that he was going to buy them with. I didn’t ask where he got this, but I knew it wasn’t pocket money. He had a habit of ‘finding’ cash, toys, or whatever he wanted. Our mother never questioned it.

Jeffrey, only nine, just sat in front of the TV and watched cartoons as he ate. The couch, which took up most of the space in the room, seemed to swallow him. They were both small but where Justin always looked cheerful, Jeffrey was often distant and sad. He was more like me, yet I had always being able to talk more easily to Justin. I guess the fact we were closer in age helped.

I thought of pulling a sickie and skipping school, but that would only delay the inevitable. My mom rushed around in a barely closed nightgown, getting things ready late as usual, and didn’t even notice my gloominess.Her face was tired and lined with worry. My loser stepdad was MIA, of course. He drifted in and out of our lives like an alcoholic wisp, usually only showing up to make trouble.

I knew as soon as we left she would sleep for the rest of the day. She didn’t need to work, since the city paid for our rent, food, and healthcare—one of the few benefits of being a low-income family. But she still hit the streets looking for customers nearly every night. It was the only way she knew how to get a little extra cash for stuff that wasn’t a necessity.


  1. I'm liking this version. We get a little more insight into Julie's homelife without going into infodump or too much backstory. It sort of shocked me about her mom at the end of this. Not in a bad way (and I hope Julie doesn't look down on her mom for it)...that is if it's what I think it is.

    One issue, you said "No one else knew about my powers, with one exception." Who is the exception? It can't be Journey since she called Julie the most norm person she knows. You sort of left us hanging there.

    Other than that, I didn't see anything else to change.

  2. Love your revisions and how this version provides more of the story. I like that you backed off on the guy she likes, giving us the subtle hint that he is quiet, just like Julie is. think he is a supra?

    What would be great is if the first paragraph was more intense instead of starting with the word 'When'. Something like - The manditory blood test was posted today, and my name was on it.

    In your opening paragraph, you have the line - I was sure it was a big mistake. But nothing supports this really. More like - Holy crap, I'm about to get caught. Or I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Because everything after that says Julie just slipped through the cracks...or did she?

    A lot of your paragraphs begin with I, so perhaps consider mixing it up. Great pacing though. Paragraph lengths are perfect. You do dialogue well and it sounds very natural.

    You say no one else knows about her powers, with one exception. Can you give us just a smidgen more? Don't give it away just yet, but is it someone close, someone who found out by a mistake, someone no longer in her life? Just to make me question it more?

    That's my two cents. I'm really interested in your story. Are you on Scribophile?


  3. You may be able to get away without "as the latter" in the first paragraph. I think that is implied with a positive test result, and it seems to weaken that sentence.

    P3: I wasn't even scared of finding out the result. This is a little awkward, and she already knows the result. Maybe replace those last two sentences with something like: "I knew what my blood would tell them."

    I agree that it is a little confusing what you are telling us in P5. You seem to be jumping back to when Julie was 12, and that you are going to reveal how she learned she was a supra. You also (inadvertantly?) made me assume that Journey was the one other person that knew she was a supra, then maybe not - maybe Steve.

    Steve is more intriguing in this draft, and I like that you've stepped into the story before she's dating him. It makes me feel like I am taking a smaller leap right off the bat, and now I can follow how that plays out without it being backstory. I also think this is better foreshadowing if he's either a supra or that one person that knows Julie is.

    Maybe make this two sentences: "We all had to share a bedroom. Privacy was not a part of my life."

    I wonder if the rest of the family could be introduced through scenes, spread a bit deeper into the book. I think you raise the tension she feels to a much more reasonable level (high), but then it loses a little steam as she matter-of-factly starts describing the rest of our family to us. Possibly just focus on just one other family member to start, and how they might (or might not) be affected if she's shipped off for being a supra. It still seems like that's the gigantic black hole in her mind that should be frighteningly sucking her thoughts in. I feel like I want to be in a state of panic with her from the time she saw her name on the list until when she gets or does not get tested, but Julie is too calmly pulling me out of that mode to tell me about her brothers. This is certainly not all bad - it's a testament to the power of your creative concept. I do really want to be on the edge of my seat with the character you've created.


  4. Arran,

    I think you could easily blend the first two paragraphs together and get a better hook right form the start. Even starting with I thought I had slipped through the cracks, but my name was… or something like that. I guess I would like the suspense of not knowing what the test was for until maybe Journey asks her if she’s okay. I would also like to know more about what the setting looks like, especially when you start revealing her family. And, like the others who have commented so far, more info please on the only other person who knows she is supra.
    Good job, Julie

  5. WOW, this is a great revision. You really took the comments you got and ran with this. It's dramatically better than the first draft. The dialogue is solid and your characterizations are stronger here.

    I still think you could slow it down a bit. In particular, I don't think you can promise us an alcoholic drifter jerk and not include him in a scene. Why not do a quick scene of dinner with him showing up halfway through and blowing up a nice family moment?

    I also think that Catherine is right that your first sentence could be more dramatic. What about an excerpt from the list? Like:

    The following students must report to the nurse's office tomorrow at 4 p.m. for supernatural power testing:

    And then the names (your character's last, of course). Then you could go right into your character's response.

    There are two other things that stood out to me. First, if Journey has no problem coming up with a list of excuses to get out of the blood test, why can't Julie? (Oh, and why are there so many names beginning with J? I think your readers are going to get confused.) This seemed suspicious to me.

    Second, is Julie's mom a prostitute? That's what I got from that last paragraph. I'm all for edgy topics in YA, but this element seems too dark for the tone of the rest of the story. I think you can keep it, but you either need to make the rest of the story a lot darker, or you need to hint at it but not make it clear what's going on until later in the story. It kind of comes out of left field here, and Julie doesn't seem especially worried (although that part might not have fit in the first five pages).

    Great revision. You're on your way to great things.

  6. Wow! Much improved. I like her interactions at lunch and her voice. My biggest issue now is the timeline. I feel like you're jumping around a bit. You start when she's there for the test, then we go back to lunch, then slowly home, then it's breakfast the day of all of a sudden -- was that after the lunch that was that day? See? So just maybe go in order of what happened after the initial intro.

    I was also pulled out by your MC's reference to the reader (something like you get what I'm saying). Not sure if I go for breaking that fourth wall so to speak. It depends, but not sure it's necessary in this book.

    I would still like to see the world a little more. Maybe a few sensory observations thrown in about the surroundings and the world to fill it out and make it completely immersive.

    But you nail the voice, which IMHO is the hardest part!

  7. Such a huge improvement! Congrats! You've really worked hard at this. Her voice is solid and the action moves more logically and with more narrative drive.

    A few things that I think might make it stronger:

    1) I think your first sentence is somewhere around this poing: If this was a story, I’d be one of those teenagers desperately hoping to get picked.

    Then you could go on to explain (with room for voice! : )) that superpowers sound great in theory, but history has proven that's false--hint at things, but don't go straight out and say them. Leave room for the reader to be curious enough to want to keep reading to find out.

    2) Maybe make the paper prominent, show us what it actually says, and that way you don't have to actually spend time explaining.

    3) Your MC should be distracted by the paper, not the boy, otherwise you're dissipating the tension. Of course she can be aware of the boy, and her friend can assume that's what's distracting her, but don't lose all the good fear you're building up! : )

    4) The vision of her mother is so powerful. But there have to be other options she considers other than not going to school. Maybe she has to stay and fight for her mom, maybe the stepfather is dangerous and she can't afford to leave her mother alone with him. Something. Use this to make her have something she cares about more than she cares about herself. And show this. Have the stepfather in the scene. It can be two lines, but show--don't tell. : )

    Great revision! Keep it up!!!!!