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First Page: Skye Chase – YA Superhero Fiction

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Silence is one of my talents.

I slipped out of bed without making the slightest rustle of bedsheets. I felt the click of the door handle, but I knew how to open it without disturbing the peace. I’d done this so many times before, I didn’t even have to think about my actions as I flew–wait at the corner for the first guard to sweep his flashlight along the hallway, good, go–and went down, turn at the first left, left again, last door on the right.

The soft knocking was the only sound I made up to that point. The light from under the door became striped where a man’s feet stepped. Then the door creaked open slowly allowing a streak of light to spill into the corridor and make everything glow until I hurriedly went in and closed the door behind me.

“Good evening, Skye,” Dr. White greeted me with a nod and kind smile. “Your escape went smoothly, as always?”

He walked around his desk and sat in his office chair as he spoke, reaching over to his bookshelf to turn down his classical music so that it was just background noise.

“Yup,” I said, taking my usual spot across from him. “Happy Friday.”

“Happy Friday,” he acknowledged, “and happy birthday.”

“Oh, thanks.” I’d forgotten about that. Wow. I was seventeen today. I had spent five years in this hellhole. Vaguely, I wondered if I would be here long enough to someday forget what the outside was like. As much as I dreaded the possibility of it, I almost hoped I would.

“I have something for you.”

He reached for his drawer and I immediately looked right through the wooden desk out of curiosity.

“Money?” I said skeptically before he had fully retrieved the twenty-dollar bill. What was I supposed to do with twenty bucks in this place?

Almost as if reading my mind, Dr. White held it out to me and said, “You can save it to use if you ever escape. There’s a lot more to escaping than just escaping, you know.”

I accepted it without a word, thinking that escaping was hard enough by itself.

“So tomorrow’s another playground day.”

I nodded. Playground days happened twice a week. They weren’t very interesting on the days I didn’t try to escape. Basically, we just went outside for a couple of hours. Soak up some sun and breathe the sweet mountain air. There wasn’t actually a playground; that would draw too much attention. There was a tarmac area and a dirt area, fenced in by a simple fence on the inside and a tall electric fence around everything.

“Are you going to try to escape again?”

I sighed and lifted my elbow to show him a bad scrape. “I’m not at full health yet. So no.”

He nodded. “Maybe next week.”

Dr. White knew me well.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked, leaning forward in my seat as if about to diverge a well-kept secret.

“Always,” he responded factually.

“How come you never tell anyone when I tell you I plan to escape?”

It was something I had asked a few times before, but I always forgot the answer.

“Several reasons,” he replied, “the first of which being that I wouldn’t mind very much if you were to somehow leave this place. Second, I don’t know how you would manage to escape anyhow, so it would make no difference whether I said anything or not. Lastly, given your track record for attempted escapes, everybody already knows.”

“But they don’t know when exactly.”

“That’s true, but even you don’t know that, do you?”

I only shrugged.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 06:04:43

    Is the relationship between these two characters central to the story? If it is, maybe it makes sense to spend your valuable first-page real estate establishing it. Otherwise, though, I think your story starts somewhere else. A lot of the dialogue here felt exposition-y, right down to the narrator acknowledging “It was something I’d asked a few times before, but I always forgot the answer.” Unless your narrator has memory issues, she’d only be forgetting the answer if she didn’t care too much, and if she doesn’t care, why should we?

    There were also a few rough spots in the writing. In the first paragraph, did you mean for the present tense section to be italicized or something? I think it definitely needs to be set off more, or, given that you’re saying the character ISN’T actually thinking about what she’s doing, maybe set off less by blending it back in to the rest of the past tense narrative.

    I think I like the setup, and I kind of hope the relationship between these two characters IS central to the story, because I think I like them both, but I’d prefer it if they were given more to do on this first page, rather than just sitting there discussing things they both already know for the benefit of the readers.

  2. Carol McKenzie
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 10:32:36

    I echo Kate’s comments. If this relationship isn’t important, then you may have started your story in the wrong place.

    But given what you’ve got here, I’m intrigued. I like the premise, I think I like Skye enough to want to know why, at 13, she’s in what appears to be some kind of high-security (mental?) facility? Is she drugged? Does that make her forgetful? Is she delusional? Does she really believe she has super powers, or is she just really smart? Did she suspect he was giving her a twenty and convinced herself she looked through the wood of the desk? Does she escape?

    I think there are enough questions, for me, to want to read further. But, in order to enjoy the story, there are a few issues with the writing.

    You have a few wonky, redundant turns of phrase and places where you could tighten up the writing. This, for example:

    “The soft knocking was the only sound I made up to that point. The light from under the door became striped where a man’s feet stepped. Then the door creaked open slowly allowing a streak of light to spill into the corridor and make everything glow until I hurriedly went in and closed the door behind me.”

    “up to that point” is redundant. It makes me slow down to read the extra words. “a man’s feet”…don’t give away anything, until we need to know. You could have written “…became striped as someone stepped up to the door.” Leave us in suspense as long as possible. Skye may know who’s there, but we don’t need to.

    Take out all the adverbs. “until I hurriedly went in” is awkward. “Until I slipped in” “Until I went in”. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing” for some basics on writing, and specifically his thoughts on adverbs…his main point being, get rid of them wherever you can. You can cut them from your dialog tags as well.

    I’m going to pick on your dialog for a minute. Your MC and the doctor sound a lot alike, and while the dialog is rather spot on for a seventeen year old, I’d like the doctor to sound more adult. You haven’t given me any clues as to what he’s like, other than he listens to classical music. You can do that with dialog. But in his case, you have some dialog with contractions (the playground sentence) which sound similar to Skye, and then these long, convoluted sentences that I think are an attempt to make him sound more adult. It’s jarring. Dialog is hard to write. When it’s good, it sings. When it’s bad, it jars the ear.

    “Several reasons,” he replied, “the first of which being that I wouldn’t mind very much if you were to somehow leave this place. Second, I don’t know how you would manage to escape anyhow, so it would make no difference whether I said anything or not. Lastly, given your track record for attempted escapes, everybody already knows.”

    “the first of which being” can just be “first.” The rest of the sentence is clunky. You can ditch “anyhow.” The rest can be tightened. Last reason, everyone knows what? She’s tried to excape, or she’s going to try again?

    “Several reasons. First, I wouldn’t mind if you were to escape. Second, I don’t know how you would manage, so what difference would it make if I said anything? And besides, given your track record for attempted escapes, everybody already knows you’re going to try again.”

    That’s a lot of critique, but I like what you’ve written and I think it can be better. And it’s all technical stuff you can fix, or learn to fix. If you’re addicted to adverbs, do a Word search for “ly” in your manuscript and remove as many of those words as you can. Read Stephen King’s book, read online about why adverbs are considered telling and not showing.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck. Also, if you have a blurb, I’d love to read it.

  3. Carol McKenzie
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 10:35:59

    I wrote a really long critique, but today I’m considered a spammer, and am unable to post the comment again as I’m also considered posting duplicate content. Hopefully the system spits out my comment later. Mercury must still be in retrograde :)

  4. Michele Mills
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 11:20:15

    I agree with everything Kate said. I’d also like to add a tiny observation. In the first two sentences you have three words with S and L- silence, slipped, slightest. It hurts my ears.:) If you substituted at least one for a different word, the beginning would sound smoother.

    Good luck!

  5. Michele Mills
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 11:27:32

    @Carol McKenzie: I also agree with everything Carol said! Kate and Carol are both so spot on, there’s not much left to say. Carol, your comment didn’t show above mine until after mine posted. The planets aren’t aligning correctly for me either!

  6. Kierney Scott
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 15:26:06

    I really like this. I think the starting point was good as it was a clever way to give backstory. I would keep reading. Please let me know when this gets published (you can find me on fb or twitter) because i will buy it. Good luck!

  7. lisa
    Jun 14, 2014 @ 18:57:58

    Apart from the technical issues (like diverge instead of divulge), I’m in.

  8. SAO
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 00:32:53

    This would be stronger with some stakes and some tension. I was drawn in by starting with her escape, but then she just went down the hall to chat backstory with some prison administrator.

    Further, you tell us the prison is a bore and her escape attempts are so futile even she doesn’t expect to succeed: “Vaguely, I wondered if I would be here long enough to someday forget what the outside was like” and “Playground days . . . weren’t very interesting on the days I didn’t try to escape.”

    The “escape” we do see isn’t really an escape. It’s more like breaking curfew, worth a few demerits at any boarding school, sure, but not much more than that.

    You’d improve this a lot by giving Skye a goal. For example, if she’s practicing for a serious planned escape and she needs info from the doctor. That would inject tension into the scene.

  9. test
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 02:42:08

    test comment.

  10. test
    Jun 15, 2014 @ 02:48:42

    2 test.

  11. Maria
    Jun 16, 2014 @ 06:47:32

    The first line is in present tense. Is this meant to be in italics?

    The second paragraph doesn’t have enough setting, so I’m not anchored in the scene. I gather we’re in a bedroom because of ‘bed’ and ‘bedsheets’. But there’s a bit of distance in ‘I felt’ and ‘I knew’, and we’re given a line of backstory of how she’d done this so many times before. The flew and wait at the hallway line was confusing for me, because there could be, “The door handle clicked, and I slipped outside without disturbing the peace. I flew to the corner, waiting…” So there are a lot of extra words at the start for me and it needs tightening to ensure clarity. I didn’t understand the third paragraph at all. Sorry.

  12. Daisy
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 09:56:29

    I liked this. I did find the number of repetitions of ‘escape’ a bit annoying though- and a bit confusing, since the first time it seems to refer to her leaving her bedroom, whereas thereafter it seemed to refer to something a bit more ambitious. Also, I didn’t like the first sentence much. If we’re expecting superpowers, ‘silence’ isn’t a very impressive skill. It seems to mean ‘I can leave my bedroom at night without waking people’- well, I can do that!

  13. Cassie
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 09:00:06

    Dear author, I found this a very intriguing and interesting piece. I’m a big superhero fan and I’m absolutely hooked. Some aspects of the writing need polishing but overall, it’s a very clean piece. If it’s finished and you are interested in submitting it to a digital first publisher, I’d love to read more. You can send it directly to me at [email protected] and mention Dear Author; however, I’m unlikely to forget this. Whatever you choose to do, best of luck and do let us (me!) know when it’s out so I can read the rest.

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