August 3, 2011

Getting 'Girl Who Haunts Me' Through the Door

Got an email from Gabriela Lessa about her contest with Sourcebooks. To enter, I need the first paragraph of my manuscript. I also need it to be at its best. So I'm soliciting help! Here's the first paragraph. Help me improve it?

I woke in my own bed, but not in my room. Blinking a few times, I remembered why – I'd only slept in this room one night and it wasn't familiar yet. My alarm was still going off, but it wasn't right above my head, where it used to be. Stretching, I slapped the snooze finally, pulling the pillow over my head for a moment. New house. New city. New school. Well, nothing for it but to face it.

Two paragraphs later he sees a girl reflected in his mirror and the driving force/antagonist is introduced.

Pitch: Unknowing, Jared has been haunted by the ghost of his preschool friend for years, but when his family moves from her hometown, her presence becomes undeniable.

OR: After moving to a new city, Jared is haunted by the ghost of his adopted parents’ daughter, who has lived quietly through him for years.

(Changed 11am MDT - I had flipped this pitch and for some reason blogger didn't save it.)

Feel free to offer suggestions on the pitch as well. Thanks for your readership and any help you can provide.

If you'd like a more detailed synopsis, here's one I wrote for Fictionista Workshop:

Starting his first day in a new school and a new country, Jared expects to have a bumpy ride. He doesn't expect doors slamming, lights turning on and off, or a creepy girl with glasses staring at him all the time. He's also startled by the odd reflection of a girl in his bedroom mirror. Although he once believed in ghosts, most strongly in the years following his parents' deaths, he put such fantasies aside after nearly being held back a grade. He starts questioning their existence again. He isn't ready to believe in all ghost stories, but he is starting to accept that the odd things happening around him might be the result of a specific ghost -- Kimmy, the daughter of his adopted parents. She died in the same car crash as Jared's parents, and he had forgotten his preschool friend entirely.

Despite the poltergeist's intrusions into his social sphere, Jared manages to make friends and earn a place on the football team. He also meets an odd pair, Shy and Bekah, who are somewhat isolated as visible minorities. Jared slowly breaks the shell around Bekah, a black girl who feels ostracized in a school full of white kids. He also wins the interest of the head cheerleader, Emily. Known as a matchmaker for the team, Emily doesn't try to pair Jared up with any of the other girls, but makes his mouth dry and palms sweaty as she tries to get to know him. Meredith, the strange girl that is always staring at him, adds to the list of girls surrounding him and making him the envy of his football teammates.

It is Meredith who finally identifies the ghost haunting Jared. She has been able to see and hear ghosts since the death of her own mother and sister. Never finding their spirits, she is instead visited by many others. Kimmy, the ghost haunting Jared, is thrilled to be noticed and acknowledged. Understanding how Kimmy died, Meredith is able to posit why she has remained hidden until now. So young when she passed, Kimmy assumed the young boy sleeping in her bed and loved by her parents, was herself. Puberty had its hand in her realizing that she was not Jared, but the move from the home she had always lived in snaps the thread holding her seamlessly as a part of Jared. Free for the first time, she becomes frustrated and angry, jealous of the people around Jared and longing for a life of her own. Her friendship with Meredith helps, but it isn't until the Day of the Dead, when she is unable to leave her grieving mother, that Kimmy truly sheds Jared to be an entity unto herself.

After so long a part of Jared, Kimmy tries to possess his friends as she once shared his body and life. Her intrusions do not all go unnoticed, and in the end, Jared must find a way to give his old friend peace or continue to be haunted by her ghost. A special kiss, with the trappings of magic about it, finally allow Kimmy to share the body of Emily, Jared's girlfriend, and thereby share his life in a new way.


  1. LOVE the first sentence!!!! Then the second sentence kind of takes it all away. I think you could do without it because you tell us later "New house. New city. New school." And what do you mean by, "Well, nothing for it but to face it." What is "it" supposed to be/mean?

    Sounds spooky!!! Good stuff!

  2. The pitch suggests that the MC is the ghost, but the para is in Jared's POV -- you might want to rethink the pitch.

    I have been told by three different agents that I shouldn't start my novel with someone waking up. No matter how well done, it is considered a cliche by agents and editors. Couldn't you write somthing like "I slogged into the bathroom. The tiles were icy but Mom hadn't unpacked the rugs yet. New house. New city. New school. Well, nothing for it but to face it." and then add the ghost in the mirror? That would get immediate attention.

  3. I also didn't understand the "Well, nothing for it but to face it." sentence.

    And I agree with the wake up scene being cliche. But I also really like the short sentences with the "news". Could you start with the mirror part?

    I think I prefer the first pitch, but I don't like starting it with "unknowing". And I think there is a better way to say she's been with him all along he just didn't know it until he moved to the new place.

    But I love that your MC is male, and I'm super curious how this story plays out. I must admit...I love this sort of story. :)

  4. You have a great voice, especially if this is directed to a younger audience. I like the first pitch. I, too, have been told, by NUMEROUS people not to start a scene by waking up, and that is just how one of my entries starts (should probably change that). Loved Cat's suggestions on how to switch things, I think they would work. Interesting concept!

  5. I like your second pitch - it's more succinct and clear. And it's true that they say starting with waking up is a cliche. On the other hand, your first sentence is amazing. Maybe you could go from that to a description of the things that feel wrong - the lighting and shadows are wrong, the smell, etc. It would tell us about the MC by showing us what he notices, and it would also put us more deeply into his head.

    Cat's suggestion to have him see the ghost in the mirror is interesting, but I worry that you would thrust us into the action too soon, before we got to know the MC.

    Best of luck, whatever you decide to do!