Sunday, May 21, 2017

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - McDermott Rev 2

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

Sixteen-year-old Julie Jackson can punch through brick walls and shrug off knives and bullets. The only problem is using these powers is a crime that could land her in prison for the rest of her life, or worse.

A generation after the Supranormal War shook the world, Julie lives in hiding with a group of other gifted teenagers, called Supras. They try to stay one step ahead of the Normalizers—a ruthless police force immune to their powers. 

Julie decides to break their cover by rescuing a frightened young Supra called Steve. His rare powers, which can counteract the Normalizers' immunity, could be the secret weapon they need. But first Julie must face her greatest fear and discover the truth of their origins. If they succeed in their desperate mission, they may finally become the heroes the world told them they could never be.

SUPRA/NORMAL, complete at 78,000 words, is a YA paranormal novel with diverse characters and series potential. It will appeal to fans of the X-Men or Supergirl.
Chapter One

I walked up to my class that morning and saw the mandatory blood test list posted by the door. They only ever tested people to decide if you were normal, or a supra. If your blood came back positive, you were pretty much screwed.

I scanned the list quickly. Two of the names on it were students I barely knew, both in lower grades than me. The last name was mine. I was scheduled to report to the nurse’s office at ten-thirty the next morning. They normally tested us at birth, and again when we reached puberty. Somehow I had slipped through the cracks. Until now.

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. If this was a story, I’d be one of those teenagers desperately hoping to get 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 already knew what the result would be. What really scared me was everyone else finding out.

I am a supra. I had kept that secret since I was twelve years old.

I sat with my friend Journey at lunch shorty after seeing the list, my mind still reeling from the news. We were both sophomores at Kurtzberg High, and she was the only person I was close to. It was a perfect relationship. 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.

For once I wanted to talk about myself, to tell her about the test the next day and get some reassurance that it was nothing to worry about. But I was afraid to even bring it up.

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 that looked perfect for running fingers through, dreamy hazel eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and a nice smile. I spared him an appreciative look, even though dating fantasies were 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. Normally my gaze would have stayed with him for a while, but not that day. Journey did look over, though.

“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?” I didn’t really care why she thought he was weird, but any conversation was a welcome distraction from my impending doom.

“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. A girl who’s probably going to be in jail by this time tomorrow.

I fell silent. Journey gave me a serious look, finally catching on to my mood.

“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.”


“Just try it.”

I spent the rest of the day thinking about which of Journey’s suggestions I would attempt to get out of the test. None of them sounded very hopeful, and I was drawing a blank on any better ideas.

When school got out, I 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 Supranormal War. But we just accepted that living in the projects. 

I passed a piece of graffiti that I had seen many times before. Someone had stenciled a flying superhero on a brick wall and spray-painted a red ‘no’ sign over it. No supras had been seen in public for years, but the hatred was still strong. Why had I never thought about that until now? It was amazing what having your own head on the chopping block did for your outlook.

My mood didn’t improve when I got back to our tiny, rundown apartment. My
brothers were eating junk food while my loser stepdad snored on the couch. He drifted in and out of our lives like an alcoholic wisp, usually only showing up to make trouble. My mom had probably asked him to watch the boys until I got home, not that he had any parenting skills.

Right on cue, as soon as I had finished eating, he stumbled out of the apartment, mumbling, “Say hi to your mom for me.” He would go bar crawling or whatever he did while she worked her night shift. It might be days before he returned, which was fine with me.

I tossed and turned for hours that night while my two brothers snored loudly in the bedroom we all had to share. Privacy was not part of my life. But I would gladly spend the rest of my life stuck in a room with them if it meant getting out of the test. I needed them, but more importantly they needed me. There was no one else to look after them.

I 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.

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.


  1. I like your pitch, however, like all of our pitches, it could use with some tightening up. Here is my suggestion:

    Sixteen-year-old Julie Jackson can punch through brick walls and shrug off knives and bullets. However, use of such powers is a crime. A generation after the Supranormal War shook the world, Julie lives in hiding with a group of other gifted teenagers, called Supras, who try to stay one step ahead of a ruthless police force immune to their powers.

    Julie decides to break their cover to rescue Steve, a frightened young Supra with rare powers that could be the secret weapon they need. First, Julie must face her greatest fear and discover the truth of the origin or Supra’s. If she succeeds {in their desperate mission}[I would be clear about what this is here and what the price is if she doesn’t succeed it], the Supra’s may finally become the heroes the world told them they could never be.


    I like the changes you’ve made to the first five pages. You’ve made her more real, but still think if you could just get us to the test sooner, it would amp it up a notch. Even if she was just standing in line waiting.

    I’d love to read more of this story.

    Catherine Garrett

  2. I enjoyed your pitch the way it is now. Good job. You painted your world, showed us your character, and gave us stakes. Stakes are needed in pitches (especially since this goes into a query). I'm not sure about using X-Men or Supergirl as comps, some agents might see it as "too big" but I think it will still work.

    I'm loving the pages as well. The dialog seems natural and the scenes flow together. I'd say you did a very good job.

    Good luck!

  3. Query: I feel like you could tell us a little bit more (without adding words) about how being either on the run or revealed as a supra sends her life onto a new trajectory - a new struggle.

    1st5: Good revision. I think the tone is significantly more believable now that she's really preoccupied with the test. One thing seemed unlikely - that she wouldn't have thought about being a supra much until her name was on the sheet (when she saw the graffiti). It seemed like you used repetition to amplify this. I wonder if it would be more powerful if you mentioned her stress fewer times, but with more emotion when you do. Maybe words like panic, or showing that she's sweating, heart pounding, head spinning, etc. Those seem reasonable for a young girl at risk of going to jail for life.

    You've definitely built the suspense. I think this is much closer to feeling quite realistic. I want to read more!


  4. Arran,
    The opening lines still aren’t there, for me.
    “I walked up to my class that morning and saw the mandatory blood test list posted by the door. They only ever tested people to decide if you were normal, or a supra. If your blood came back positive, you were pretty much screwed.” Rearrange the information, maybe:

    The list of mandatory blood test participants was posted by the door, and my name was on it. Somehow, I had slipped through the cracks when everyone is tested at birth and puberty. That is, until now. I had to report to the nurse’s office at ten-thirty tomorrow morning. When my test comes back positive for supra, I’m pretty much screwed.

    Maybe it’s just me this week, but I like everyone’s, including my own, revision from last week better. If your story is complete, find an author in the same genre who critiques other writer’s work. Let someone read the whole thing and them advise you. So many questions we have about these pieces presented here is because we are unaware of what is on page 6-?.

    Good luck, Julie

  5. Hi Arran,

    Great query! Work a bit on the grammar/tense and on making sure the words are punched up, and you've got a solid pitch here.

    This is also a solid revision. I still love the premise, but I have to say that I feel like you've stepped back a bit on the voice here, and I don't feel the emotion there or the sense that I'm compelled to read. You've got the sequence down, and all the elements in place, so the emotion is just the final layer.

    To me, if feels like your first line in this revision might be something like:

    I've known that I'm a supra since I was twelve years old, but I've managed to keep it secret. Until now.

    (Or something like that--I'm just suggesting this wording to avoid the tense confusion that you're dealing with right now.)

    After that, I would suggest starting with some serious emotion--shown via a physical reaction--as she sees her name on the mandatory sheet that she's checked every morning since she first found out, checked it as if it wasn't a big deal, as if it wasn't the difference between freedom and prison--or worse.

    You have all the elements in place, but I don't *feel* it yet. I don't feel her terror, and I don't feel her bravery, her determination, her aloneness at not having anyone to tell.

    This is a kick-ass story, and I think you're almost there, but you need to get into a deeper point of view. Literally put yourself in her shoes and feel what she is feeling, see what she is seeing, notice the things that look different to her now that the worst has happened. And think outside the box. Don't go for the obvious emotions or the things that anyone would notice. Look for the ones that reader won't expect, because they're the ones that they'll be fascinated to read about.

    This is a great story idea, but the elements have been done before. To make it really stand out, you have to get deep into her head and show us what makes her special. : )

    You've got this. Good luck with it!

    All best,


  6. From Hillary:

    Arran, your pitch is very strong. I really liked the X-Men and Supergirl comps. Although I think it could help to add another comp in the mix that is a little different from the other two. In your actual pages, I felt that the verb tenses could be a bit muddled so I would pay attention to what should be in the past vs present tense.

    Other than that, this is a cool idea!

  7. You've done a great job slowing down and letting us see what's going through her mind and on the timeline! As pointed out above (and I don't want to beat a dead horse) you need to pick a tense and be careful. I've had that problem before as well, but it's an easy fix it just takes patience.
    I see what Martina is saying about the emotion. The voice is still there, but it's blending a little with a lot of other things I've seen even though it's good. I think you need to go deep. Show how she feels through her actions and follow up with some internal monologue that makes her feelings clear (maybe based on something in her past). You won't lose the voice and humor, you'll just deepen it and make the story completely irresistible!

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