March 16, 2018 at 6:02 pm #346868
Newbie writer, here. I’d love any feedback on this very rough first draft of Chapter 1 of a YA paranormal romance I’m working on. Thanks =)
Running is cruel and unusual punishment. It should only be used if you are being chased by an ax murderer or there is a chocolate buffet at the end of a long hallway.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for either of those events. At six months old I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that could’ve easily deteriorated my body if I didn’t keep up with my treatments. Daily exercise has always been a part of my treatment plan, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always enjoyed it.
To make it tolerable, I found the most colorful running pants and tops to wear and blasted pop music into my earbuds from the phone strapped to my arm. Today’s outfit was neon pink and purple from top to bottom: pink and purple swirls on the leggings, Pepto-pink sweatshirt, and a pink hair band to hold my long blonde hair out of my face. Aside from the color making me smile, I knew it made my slight frame more visible along the logging road through the woods beyond my house.
There were just enough houses on our street to call it a neighborhood, but past the dozen or so homes along the pavement the road basically faded out into this old rocky trail through the forest that was once used for hauling logs out of my beloved forest. That industry moved out of these mountains years before I was born, leaving nature to her home. I have always loved living here in the country, with fresh air and trees all around.
This was one of those perfect Appalachian September days: blue skies with cotton ball clouds, cool but crisp air, and a golden tint to the trees. In between songs I could hear the birds singing their praises of the beautiful day. So it was slightly easier to convince myself to lace up my shoes and get this run over with.
The trail starts just past my house where the pavement turns to gravel then to packed dirt mixed with huge chucks of limestone. It makes a gradual descent into the valley, over a creek that swells from three feet across to six or more depending on the weather, then takes a massive leap up the side of the next mountain before leveling off.
The beautiful day and motivating music gave extra power to my twig-like legs. I made it to the top quicker than usual, then cruised along the plateau until I noticed the sun dropping below the trees. The shadows beneath the canopy grew swiftly. I turned back, picking up the pace until I reached the steep hill back into the valley.
I was picking my way carefully down inline of shifting dirt and rocks when I felt a tingle along my neck, as if I was being watched.
For a few more steps, I ignored the sensation, but I paused midway down the slope when the eeriness intensified. I yanked my earbuds out and started to turn to my left when something bursts out of the forest on my right and plowed me into the ground.
The first thought that flew through my panicked mind was that I was going to be in a heap of trouble with my parents if my phone was broken.
Nano seconds after that, I simultaneously became aware of each pointed rock that I had landed on and the shadowed figure of a shockingly strong but small woman straddling me and holding my bony wrists to the earth.
In the dimming light I could just make out her toothy smile, the black pools of her eyes, and her dark stringy hair curtaining us. My heart galloped as my mind reeled to find a way out of her iron grasp.
“Wha-what do you want?” I rasped.
She leaned in, forcing her rotten breath into my nostrils. “Revenge,” she answered in a voice far too sweet for her haggard appearance.
“Who are you?” I tried to wrestle my hands free but she might as well have been twice her size for the force that she used to press me into the dirt.
“There was a time all the Earth knew my name,” she leaned back, giving me a reprieve from the rank odor of her breath. “I was more beautiful, more powerful than you could possibly dream to ever be. But it was not enough. Never enough.”
I didn’t expect any sane answers from her, but I thought I would buy myself a little time by keeping her talking.
I was wrong.
I didn’t know about the knife she had strapped to her ankle until she swiftly released my hands, released the dagger from its sheath, and raised it above her head in both hands.
This was the point where I should have grabbed a rock to knock my assailant unconscious or performed some ninja move to free myself. What I did instead was stare in horror at the maniacal grin on her heart-shaped face, my mind and body in a frozen state of shock. That second of time stretched for what seemed like forever. Like I would be doomed to lie on a bed of rocks with the point of a dagger hovering above my heart for all eternity.
Just as I resigned to my fate and closed my eyes, I heard a man’s voice shout from some distance in the forest behind me. My eyes popped open, searching for the source of the voice and praying that whoever it was could help me.
The woman’s face was twisted in fury as she looked toward the sound. Her attention quickly snapped back to me and my breath caught in my throat at the unearthly ferocity in her face.
“Move, Ariel!” a deep voice shouted.
Hearing my name from an unfamiliar voice startled me into action. I managed to twist left just as she plunged her arm toward me. A huge knife pierced the earth exactly where my chest was moments ago. My legs were still trapped beneath my attacker, who was pulling the dagger from the ground for a second attempt at my life.
I was kicking and scraping at the ground to get away when a large figure collided into her. The two bodies slammed into the forest floor on the opposite side of the trail with unearthly screeches and shouting in a foreign language.
I scrambled to my feet and caught a glimpse of a man in a white shirt struggling with the inhumanly strong woman in the brush along the trail. A thousand thoughts spun through my mind, rooting me to the spot.
Run away and don’t look back. You’re lucky to have survived this long but your luck is surely running out.
No, stay and help the man who saved you. That woman is freakishly strong and could hurt him. Call the police. If the phone still works.
He knows your name. How does he know your name?
“Ariel, run! You must go!” he shouted between grunts as the madwoman clawed and beat at him.
I hesitated only a moment before sprinting towards home as fast as my bruised and battered body would take me. Each breath was like razor blades inside my chest, each pump of my legs burned every fiber of muscle.
But above the pain and fear, all I could think of was that deep voice saying my name as if we had known each other all our lives. It sent chills through me but I was too exhausted to interpret those feelings.
June 1, 2018 at 2:50 am #655727
I’m not the best critic, but I’d like to say I really enjoyed this! As someone who really enjoys running, I felt bad for the MC. I like how descriptive you were as well. =) Keep up the good work!
July 11, 2018 at 4:29 pm #656604
Hello, Laceymarie! Hey, I have to say that the first few sentences drew me in immediately. I agreed with the MC that running should be reserved for running from said axe murderers or towards chocolate buffet fountains/tables! You did an amazing job with putting the reader in the head of the protagonist, her health and why she has to keep herself active. I thought the pacing went at a good clip. You didn’t bog the reader down with a ton of backstory in the beginning. You also did a great job with setting and atmosphere, especially when Ariel got the feeling of being watched. I thought she was a goner until the new stranger popped out of nowhere, saving her from a certain death. I even thought it was realistic that she froze initially but then she got her wits about her and took off when given that second chance! I would definitely like to find out what happens. All in all, I didn’t find any errors or detractors present in this piece. It read very well and shows great promise!
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