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2022-09-26 - Minifyre - 4G Ch1v2 (G, V) - 4,986 words


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Hi, everyone! Thanks for reading! Feel free to share whatever came to mind & in particular: 

  • What's cool/interesting
  • Immersion breakers (e.g., didn't: believe, care, or understand)
  • Feel free to share your thoughts on what promises you think are being set up.
  • And if you've read the old version, is this draft a step forward or backward?

Thanks for reading & sharing your thoughts--I appreciate it & hope you're having an excellent day!

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Ok, first off I'm super interested in this story! It's pretty unique (I'm not super familiar with ghost stories, so this is just based off of what I've read.) I all the vivid detail you use to bring the story to life. I also really like how the story starts out with the normal everyday world and transitions into everything with the ghost and the supernatural elements. I was also a fan of the issues O was having at school and how I could relate, but how they were more interesting than anything that would ever happen in my school.

One page one where the senior with a slider is mentioned I'm confused whether you're referring to a burgee,  a different type of phone, or  something else completely.

at the end of page one it says "If you got hit with all the colors, they weren't supposed to be sprayed anymore." This is a bit confusing, the sentence goes from talking about you to talking about the colors. 

At the bottom of page three it says "Nice hair, W!," D said again," This is a little confusing, I wasn't sure whether O was being referred to by a nickname or if D was talking to some other character.

Near the top of page six it says "At least she could put the envelopes to better use as scratch paper." I was a little confused here, was she using envelopes she receiving as scratch paper? Were the envelopes she wasn't sending being used as scratch paper? Was it something else entirely?

The idea of O having been in a mental hospital is an interesting one, I definitely would be interested in hearing more about her stay there.

I feel like the story is being set up for O to deal with the kids at her school, and the ghost. There's a lot of detail about how to ward off a ghost, maybe that will come into play later. There's also quite a bit of time spent on how O likes art. The fact that she likes art and is attacked by colors is an interesting correlation, and I'd be interested to see if anything more comes from that.


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Congrats on your second sub! I didn’t have the chance to read the original submission (sorry), so I’m coming in as a pair of fresh eyes here.

The interpersonal dynamics between your protag and the other students feel strong, although I do think the scene itself went on a little long. And you have what seems like a pretty solid inciting incident, though I feel like I need to understand a little more of the relationship between the supernatural and the mundane (for lack of a better term) to really get invested in it.

Which was one of the big immersion breakers you asked about – I don’t understand very well how the supernatural interacts with the protagonist’s world. Some people know about it, but not many? Maybe? It feels like a day-to-day part of O’s life, but her parents maybe don’t know about it to the point they had her institutionalized? What about how O herself feels about all this? Does the supernatural stuff get the way of whatever her other goals are in terms of life, school, fitting in, etc? Or is it something she actively wants and pursues? Etc. You don’t have to answer all of these questions in the first chapter of course, but I have many questions and I think better understanding some of them would help ground me.

As for disbelief, I touch on this in my comments below but – acknowledging that kids are jerks and that adults often don’t do much about this, this seems like a very … obvious form of bullying and mischief that should be acknowledged by someone, even if it doesn’t do any good.

Last comment is, I wonder what audience you’re writing for? The opening scenes felt like they were meant for a young-ish audience, I think because they focused on school and home dynamics so heavily, but the POV switch at the end makes me wonder if it’s intended as adult fiction.

As I read:

I always giggle when people use “Canada,” no qualifiers, as shorthand for “very cold,” but I do realise that some folks actually do this…

So “hairspray” in this case is actually hair dye? Yes?

P2 So mental hospital/asylum is pretty dated language, even when flip phones were common, and stuck out for me as the setting seems relatively modern.

P4 I think the interaction between the school kids is helpful to establish O’s position in the narrative, but it also feels like there is a lot of it for just an establishing shot. I’m looking for some forward motion at this point.

It also feels like she’s been on the bus quite a while since saying “this is my stop”…

“Even the grass wanted to leave” – nice.

P5/6 – honestly, I’d kind of forgotten about the ghost thing, which seems to have been almost entirely dropped between the first paragraph and now except for one other reference. Is this something that is a large part of O’s life, that she spends a lot of time on? Is it something she tries to avoid? Etc.

P8 Why does her mom’s braille display need headphones? Or, is she going back and forth between the braille display and a computer?

Ah, I’m glad to see O’s mother react to the bullying and such at school. I know that kids are jerks, and that there is often very little teachers can/will do about it, but this sort of really obvious bullying (and general throwing dye at people, which seems like it would get expensively destructive in a hurry as far as clothes, property, etc) seems like it should garner some sort of action from the adults.

Since the ghost has never appeared to people other than O before, the ghost’s attack seems like a good inciting incident. But, I think a little more setup/foreshadowing of this escalation prior to the attack would be helpful. Right now, the only time I’m feeling any actual tension re: the supernatural stuff is where the ghost actually appears.

Edited by Silk
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Congrats on the second sub! I think this definitely cleared up some of the issues with the first round. I have some similar thoughts to @Silk about the lack of explanation for the supernatural, and also the dated use of "mental hospital" and "asylum." You might want to find some more up-to-date words.

I also think the first sequence with the hairdye/spray went on far too long, when the inciting incident is about a ghost who can evidently kill people and animals. That seems like a much bigger concern, and it seems like the MC is more concerned with her hair being dyed than potentially coming home to a murdering presence in her house. Switching the importance of those two things and building up some of the worldbuilding about what can and cannot hurt a ghost might bring things better into perspective.

Notes while reading:

pg 1/2: The whole spirit color/spray paint thing is pretty complex to explain. How pertinent is it to the story? I think it's mainly showing off that she has white hair, but it could probably be condensed a little to get to the interesting parts: that she used to go to a spirit academy.

pg 4: J doesn't seem to knwo O that well at first, but gets pretty chummy with her before she leaves. I'm not sure if they're supposed to be friends or aquiantances.

pg 5: I'm a little unclear on "the ghost." It sounds like a single ghost has been following her around? Is it the same one she tried to get to show up with the priest?

pg 7: "She wished the house wasn't haunted and that they'd been plagued by a sad wispy ghost lingering out of sorrow."
--That they weren't plagued? Or is this talking about two different ghosts? Confused.

pg 7: "But no, they'd been afflicted with the third type of spirit"
--ok, got it now. This paragraph is a little awkward. You're burying the lede here that their house IS haunted by a malevolent spirit. That should maybe be in the first paragraph of the story.

pg 8: "Her stomach churned "
--she seems very blase about confronting the ghost. I think "malevolent spirit" is what's bothering me here. I feel like she should be more concerned than, "well, let's try this batch of materials and see if it has any effect."

pg 8: "hadn't died protecting her"
--This sort of thing. Did the spirit kill a pet? I'm expecting a lot more emotion, and maybe parents to wonder why an animal was frozen to death...

pg 8: "a bit of frost leaked through her sock"
--ususally water leaks through. Was there a patch of frost just lying on the floor?

pg 9: "let her switch study hall for art class."
--I'm not sure why this would be a big deal, and what it would help. She'd stll be at the same school, right?

pg 11: "No! How could prayer have failed?"
--this doesn't do a lot for me, because it hasn't been really set that prayer DOES work on ghosts.

pg 11: Again, it seems like she should have been a lot more scared before now, if the ghost could do all this.

pg 12: so what happened with thr thing that didn't pass through the ghost? We linger on that for a second, but then it doesn't seem to have done anything.

pg 13: There's a lot of chaos in here, and I'm not certain if any of the items she's using is supposed to have an effect.

pg 14: I'm not sure what T.E. has to do with the rest of the chapter, though I suppose that might be explained later.

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I had a similar reaction to @Silk and @Mandamon.

The school part was engaging for a little bit, but then it went on too long. There were some mentions of the ghost during it, but not quite as much fear as there could have been given how powerful the ghost is. I honestly wasn't expecting the ghost to be quite that powerful based on the mc's reactions and thoughts about it, so it threw me a bit when it broke her mom's legs. I'm assuming the ghost has some reason for not injuring the mc so badly. 

I'm sort of under the impression that only the mc knows about the supernatural, but I'm not 100% sure, especially since some clergy were mentioned. I didn't know if  those people knew about the real version of the supernatural or not. And there were parts of the story where I wasn't sure if the parents knew and other parts where  I was sure they didn't know. Not having a firm enough grasp on the relationship between the supernatural and the mundane sort of pulled me from the world. 

The other thing that broke my immersion a bit was believing that kids could actually get away with the tagging / that it would be allowed at the school in the present day.

And the POV switch was actually bit of an immersion breaker too. Though what worked about that was I was wondering if the vigilante was actually some how involved with ghosts. 

Otherwise, it felt like an improvement from the previous draft.

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Hi, everyone, thanks for reading & sorry for the late response!

In summary, I wholeheartedly agree the opening went on too long and am grateful for the feedback that's making it easier to "kill my darlings," so thank you all for that!

Going forward, I'll attempt to clarify the relationship between the supernatural and the mundane being like that of the real world[1]. And I'll tweak things so that it's more plausible the parents don't know while also conveying that the ghost seems more threatening before it shows up. But that'll be in another revision of this chapter I won't share here (twice is enough).

Also, I'm thrilled that the bullying aspect seems unrealistic--as that means no one had to actually go through that[2]!

@Silk As for the target age range, no matter how hard I try, it seems everything I write seems to skew adult, lol. I'm shooting for YA, but will see where the story ends up by the final draft. And the Canada bit amuses me as well[3]! Though at the moment, I'm leaning towards keeping it in as it succinctly sets the stage time & place-wise.

Hairspray[4] & mental hospitals... I'm wondering if this is a bit of a geography/dialect thing. I'm in complete agreement on asylum being dated[5], though the term mental hospital is still in use where I live[6]. Personally, psychiatric hospital seems older--though that's not what Google seems to say & my take's probably colored on my research on a certain shuttered institution. Out of curiosity, does anyone feel like sharing what words/phrases are in use for mental hospitals where they're from? (i.e., rural Midwest: mental hospital & loony bin[7]) Anyway, thanks to all who raised this issue so I can look into it more & approach a sensitive topic with the appropriate amount of care.

[1] i.e., the vast majority of people are *highly* skeptical and think there's something wrong with whoever talks about it seriously.
[2] Class color day my freshman year seemed quite surreal--kids covering their faces with bandanas, sunglasses, and hats while dressing alike to confuse teachers as they ran around spraying kids. All the while, I wondered why the administration wasn't doing much about it. Thankfully, by my senior year, the practice seemed to die out entirely.
[3] For goodness sake, some parts are further south than the northern continental US! (Not that there'd be much temperature difference at similar longitudes.)
[4] Yes, it's hair dye, but it's also sprayable--so we just called it hairspray back in high school. Confusing, I know.
[5] I wasn't happy with asylum's inclusion in that passage but opted for it rather than a repeat of mental hospital. I'm hoping a rewrite will end up with only one reference to that type of place to avoid stale/datedness.
[6] Admittedly, the rural Midwest is most certainly behind the curve.
[7] I've never used the latter as slang in my personal life and doubt I'll do so in this book, either.

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1 hour ago, Minifyre said:

Hairspray[4] & mental hospitals... I'm wondering if this is a bit of a geography/dialect thing. I'm in complete agreement on asylum being dated[5], though the term mental hospital is still in use where I live[6]. Personally, psychiatric hospital seems older--though that's not what Google seems to say & my take's probably colored on my research on a certain shuttered institution. Out of curiosity, does anyone feel like sharing what words/phrases are in use for mental hospitals where they're from? (i.e., rural Midwest: mental hospital & loony bin[7]) Anyway, thanks to all who raised this issue so I can look into it more & approach a sensitive topic with the appropriate amount of care.

The term I've heard used most often for a mental hospital is psych ward, hope this helps.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey, interested to read this revised version. (LBL's sent by email.) Sorry I'm a bit late getting to this version.

In summary, as with the first time, I liked a lot about it, and when they action comes, it moves quickly, and is exciting. The scene setting is interesting, I just think there is too much, and it slows the opening down too much, and there is quite a bit of repetition about the hair. I definitely think this has good potential though.

Specific comments.

(p1) - Good first line, I think. Not spectacular, but really interesting, giving info and posing questions. I like the opening paragraph too. It gives the MC a goal, and also explains key things about the world: Ghosts are real; heroes are not.

I've emailed a tracked document with line-by-line comments, which I hope are useful. Of course, they are all suggestions, but it takes too long to say "This is just a suggestion" every time! So, they come across quite direct, sorry! :rolleyes:

The more you use exclamation marks, the less effective they are, the less impactful. A search of the document shows me there are 38 instances of "!" That is an awful lot. I really got quite annoyed by them, quite quickly. Often, when you used them, the dialogue tag also said "she shouted" or something like that, so there also was a doubling up of emphasis.

(p4) - I wasn't convinced that the bus driver would be so invested in the hood thing that he would 'fume', also, it really threw me that people were smoking on the bus. And the driver wasn't bothered about that, students smoking on the bus? I struggled to believe that, and it didn't seem relevant (more on that later).

(p6) - I don't know what 'scratch paper' is.

"Overhead, jagged scars..." - I'm finding it slow. There's a lot of description that I don't think is really serving the atmosphere. I get that it's winter, it's dark and it's cold. For me, you only need to say that a couple of time. Seems to me this is a pretty long chapter for YA, and that the forgoing scene setting stuff could be clipped fairly hard.

(p9) - "she asked before taking a sip of water from an odd glass they'd bought at the thrift store" - If this water is used as a weapon to fight the monster then fine, but if it isn't important it, and a lot of the other incidental detail in the 8 pages preceding this, I think, should be cut down pretty hard. Colour and setting are important, but minor/unimportant details are deadweight that slow the reader down from getting to the drama, etc. [p.s. I didn't see the water being used so, while it's a nice detail, it doesn't really serve any purpose, for me: It doesn't add to character, or setting, and just ends up being more words, IMO.]

(p11) - "white hair being marred with every color her fellow students had in their pockets and more" - I'm getting pretty bored of this; it's really being flogged. This must be the fourth separate time it's come up. Not necessary to dwell on it so much. We get, we remember what happend a few pages bach, it doesn't need to be fully repeated. Trust the reader to be able to remember stuff.

(p12) - "NO!" Oliv cried" - This is where the action kicks off, the excitement, the drama, and just a bit earlier, the tension dwelling as the ghost appeared. There is good stuff in the opening 10 pages or so, but I still think it just takes too long to get here, and that the opening would be more tense, more dramatic, if much more attention was paid to pacing, and less to repeating set up. I think there might be some darlings in the opening that maybe need to be slayen, or some details that could be moved to after this first encouter.

(p14) - Oliv's head bounces off the wall three of four times, to the point where it becomes noticeably repetitive. Personally, I would change it up a bit and have different parts of her being hurt. I feel like two head bashes would be plenty. Also, repeated blows to the head make concussion much, much more likely.

Braille - neat, and total works in context, but does it say anything? Is it an Easter egg for readers that know Braille?

The second scene... For me, it's a complete bomb site. I have no idea what is going on, and I think it's really unclear how many characters are in the scene, what they are doing, how they are releasing to each other and what the scene looks like. I got pretty frustrated at this point, to the point that I might well have stopped reading. I think it needs to be much clearer what is happening in this scene.

Hope this is useful :) 

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On 06/10/2022 at 2:05 AM, FlowerGirl said:

The term I've heard used most often for a mental hospital is psych ward, hope this helps.

Yeah, I almost commented on use of the phrase 'mental hospital' being problematic. It's the sort of thing one editor might call out and another might let go, maybe?

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