Monday, October 8, 2012

11 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Simone

Author: Heather Simone
Genre: YA - Paranormal
Title: Barely There

Nothing could’ve prepared me for seeing my own name etched in a cross on the side of the road. The blood drained from my face at the sight of the treated two-by-fours nailed in the shape of a cross. My sophomore picture from last year sat on the ground next to red roses, my favorite yellow carnations, an orange and brown stuffed cat, and several teddy bears. Balloons, tied to the cross, bobbed in the breeze, the helium no longer kept them above the overgrown grass and weeds.

I pinched my arm. “Ouch!” There must be some mistake. I didn’t remember dying. I couldn’t have forgotten something as big as death. “Come on, Phoebe, think!” I shouted to myself.

I bent and reached for one of the teddy bears leaning against the cross. My hand tingled as it permeated the stuffed toy. I gasped and tried again, this time with the balloons. My fingers coasted through the ribbons connecting the balloons to the wood. Chills coursed my body creating goose bumps on my skin. This had to be a dream. I flicked at a balloon to have my fingers tickle their way into its middle while it kept shape.

I surveyed the area. Nothing struck me as odd, at first. The guardrail had some slight damage to it. People needed to pay attention to where they were going. Probably someone texting or putting on make-up while behind the wheel. Stupid.

My eyes followed a bird flying overhead in a cloudless sky. It swooped over the water rushing in the river below the bridge. I didn’t remember the water that high the last time I drove past here. Yet, that wasn’t what caught my attention. There were tire tracks, right from the guardrail, into the water.

My heart stuttered into overdrive. No. I never text while I drive. I never put on make-up. I learned my lesson after I popped a tire while changing the station on the radio two weeks after I received my driver’s license. One more accident and I would lose my truck. That was the threat, and my parents always stuck to their word. Incident free for six months now.

I looked back at the cross. It stood next to the damaged guardrail and tracks to the river. It was too much to process.

I shook my head searching my brain for clues. Nothing. I couldn’t remember having an accident. There had to be a mistake, or a coincidence. I mean, there could be another girl in town named Phoebe. Right?

A car sped past plunging into a puddle. Water splashed onto the cross, stuffed animals, and me.

“Jerk!” I screamed after the car.

That’s it. My head snapped up watching the car disappear around the bend. I would stop someone and ask what happened. San Angelo’s not that big, someone should know.

I stood next to the road waiting for another car to come along. Then I waved my arms like a fool. The car didn’t slow at all and the old woman driving was maybe and inch taller than the steering wheel. She probably couldn’t see me.

I waited another few minutes for the next car to drive around the bend. When it did I waved my arms to no avail. The man driving paid me no attention.

For the next car I jumped out into the middle of the street. This person would stop and tell me what happened here. My heart hammered as the car approached with no signs of slowing. I waited until the last possible moment before jumping out of the way.

“Hey, you could have killed me!” I screamed after the car.

The lady driving gave no signs of seeing me. As if I were invisible to her. I ran my fingers through my hair. It was dry. I looked down at my clothes they were dry.

“Crap! Oh, crap!” Maybe they really couldn’t see me.

I paced up and down the hill beside the river trying to figure out what happened. I couldn’t remember anything going wrong. I pinched myself, several times, and felt it each time.

“It’s just a dream, that’s all.” I closed my eyes and told myself to wake up. When I opened my eyes I stood in the same spot. I sighed heavy and dropped my head into my hands.

I needed answers. How to get them was the problem. As I pondered my options my pulse quickened and my breaths came quicker. I needed to calm down, then I would find my brother and ask him what was going on. He would know.

I closed my eyes and pictured the garden of waterfalls by the San Angelo Visitor’s Center, my favorite peaceful place to relax. When I opened my eyes I stood next to one of the waterfalls.

One second I stood by the cross, and the next, miles away at the heart of San Angelo by the Concho River. A little oasis in the middle of West Texas where cotton grew, cattle roamed, and tumble weed actually tumbled across the flat highways, which stretched for miles and disappeared somewhere beyond the horizon.

“Okay, just a new dream. You’ve had plenty of crazy dreams before, Phoebe,” I told myself. “Calm down.” I took several calming breaths before noticing movement out the corner of my eye.

A woman jogging towards me caught my attention. I waved my arms in hopes she could see me, but she made no effort to change course as she neared. At the last possible second I jumped out of the way.

Shaken to the core I allowed my feet to carry me to the banks of the river. A soft, barely noticeable breeze blew past. The water hardly rippled in response which allowed for flat smooth reflective surface. Beautiful.

I glanced into the water, no reflection. Nothing. The sixteen year old girl with big chocolate eyes and medium length straight brown hair everyone recognized as Phoebe did not peer back at me.

I had no reflection. I gulped back the fear rising inside. Calm. I needed to relax.

I stuck my hand in the water. Strange, I couldn’t feel the cool fluid. Instead, a gripping cold rushed from my toes to my neck. I tore at my throat with my free hand as my airway constricted and I gasped for air. Stars sparkled at the edges of my vision and I fell onto my back. With my hand out of the water, my breathing returned to normal and the icy grip released me.

My eyes stung – tears threatened to burst free. I blinked them back. I refused to let them break free.

“Hey, are you okay?” The guy’s voice behind me could have frightened me to death if I wasn’t already dead. I had to be dead. It was the only explanation for why no one could see me. Out of habit I blinked back the tears so he wouldn’t see them. Not like he could see me anyways.

My heart sputtered to a stop when I turned around.

He was ruggedly cute, around my age, wavy dirty blond hair tousled, long baby blue board shorts and a loose fitting white t-shirt. I looked at his feet and as suspected, he wore sandals – plain black ones. He was the surfer version of my laidback cowboy brother. What I could not understand was the fact that he stood there looking right at me.


  1. pleasantly spooky:) do we have a romance about to happen between dead teenagers? Intriguing!

  2. Heather, I think you have a really great concept here. I think Pheobe's voice is great and I can see her concerns and what her goal is--why is she looking at her own grave. I also love that there is a guy that can really see her so early on.

    My only worry is that this may come off as kind of cliche for a Paranormal. It's sort of the same about Suspense/Thrillers and such, opening with a dead body or a killing. Having someone dead staring at their own grave may come of this way.

    Maybe you could have her know she's dead right on and not believe it's a dream, but having her click through her memories of places so she can figure out why and how it happened. This way her goal stays the same, but you can focus on the way she travels, which will make your story stand out since I think it's really neat and don't recall seeing this anywhere else. Does that make sense?

  3. I loved her reaction to touching the water. Great start! Intriguing. The cars going by, three of them, maybe could be cut down to two to keep the rhythm going.

  4. I love this and I feel you've done a great job jumping right into the action and creating a mystery.

    A little pickie:
    My eyes stung – tears threatened to burst free. I blinked them back. I refused to let them break free.

    Burst free and break free seem redundant.

  5. Love that I can connect with Phoebe's voice right away. Some descriptions are spot on. On the other hand, her reactions can come across as a bit cliche, for eg., when the car splashes on her or when she's trying to convince herself it's a dream. Slow down a bit and let the emotions flow more naturally onto the page. Love the ending! I like the way you introduce 'her' guy and her way of describing him totally resonates!

  6. I think what distracts me the most from the story is that I keep wondering: Did she wake up on the side of that road? How did she not realize she was dead until then? Especially when people tend to leave those roadside memories after the person's been dead a while... How much time has passed from her death until that moment?


  7. I think you have good bones here, but I want to really experience this with your MC. Right now it feels like I'm reading, I want to experience. I don't buy that she's behaving realistically. Maybe bringing more sensory details in, taking it slower with the internal thoughts and plot would help. Fun premise.

  8. You have some wonderful things happening here. I also like the voice, but I feel it prose does drag. The scene with the cars could be condensed. I was a bit distracted with lots of "I's." First person is very difficult to write without using them, but try to keep them to a bare minimum.

    Also the hand and arm waving, perhaps you could mix it up a bit with a different gesture.

    I really liked the end. A strong finish.

  9. Overall, this is an intriguing story that makes me want to read on. I love that there is this guy who can see her. I want to know what happens with him. The bit with the freezing water is especially nice as it is unique and creates a vivid image. Also, the thing about no reflections is great, too!

    A couple things I want to point out.
    Bits of “talking to oneself” can come off as a bit awkward and take the reader out of the story. For example: “I pinched my arm. “Ouch!”” Possibly the protagonist may do this, but the reading of it draws us out of the story.

    Since we find out in the first paragraph that she is dead (and she determines this, too), I wonder if then it is worth spending so much time on then confirming she is dead. The reader knows she is dead. She guesses she is dead. Can the story move on from here? Otherwise, we’re left spending the rest of the piece playing through actions we’ve played through in other books. To make the book stand out and distinguish itself, consider jumping directly into the action at this point. Which brings me to the next thing I want to point out…
    …which is the lack of dialogue. Engaging the reader with dialogue will help hook the reader right in. If things start moving immediately (possibly with the interaction with the guy), we would get dialogue, action, and a story that will be more likely to stand out.

    I’m excited to see where this goes next! I’ll be looking forward to reading the revised version!

  10. Hi Heather,

    You have created a fantastic opening image and you clearly have a gift for creating powerful and unique situations. That said, I suggest that you include her name on a ribbon attached to the balloons or something in paragraph one, skip paragraph two entirely, choose the strongest of the "tests" she used to convince herself she is dead, for example the fingers coasting through the ribbons and the fingers tickling their way through to the middle. Those are very successful. For me, the physical descriptions of her reactions, goosebumps, chills, pinching, etc. we're less successful because I ended up wondering how those worked if she was dead instead of reading on. It felt like you dwelled on her disbelief too long, so maybe the piece would be stronger if after those two examples of not being corporeal, she tries to flag down the car, fails, jumps to the riverbank and immediately meets the boy. I think you could probably cut this down to eight fantastic paragraphs and get us to the dialogue with that boy and the heart of your story right away. Readers are going to love him, by the way! And don't be afraid to use a deeper,point of view to let you skip some of the basic movements and actions.

    I'm really looking forward to reading more of this.


  11. Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you are a brilliant writer. I actually added your blog to my favorites and will look forward for more updates. Great Job, Keep it up.. :)teddy bears


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