I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post excerpts from your works in progress and give feedback to your fellow writers.
Post Reply
Nessa
Posts: 26
Joined: December 24th, 2009, 6:29 pm
Contact:

I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by Nessa » March 26th, 2010, 9:03 pm

REVISION BELOW

I can use all the critique I can get. Be rough guys. What I mainly want to know is if you like it and would you continue reading this...

I always thought my sister would be by my side, until today. I clutch the bible in my hands, willing myself not to cry. Standing on an elaborate alter I can see my sister’s light blue coffin open and empty. Her body too burned to present. My mother forced me into this stupid service, when all I want is to mourn her alone. I tear my nails into Mathew 8:21 - 22, somehow thinking I can quiet the person up in the podium reading it.

My mother turns towards me and slaps my hand as if I am a mere child. “Have a little respect for your sister, Anna,” she hisses.

I turn back to see a guy staring at me. He is wearing a black leather jacket, his midnight hair slightly tattered and long. He doesn’t fit in. I wonder how he knew my sister, and why he stared at me now. Perhaps it was because I was simply an uglier version of her. The same bright green eyes and long brown hair. He gets up and leaves when the priest starts his speech and I feel my feet itching to stand. I want to follow him, but I imagine my mom’s anger if I left, so I stay in my spot.

My sister’s friend Janice is sitting next to me and she is not afraid to show her tears. I don’t know why I am. I guess I still can’t believe what is happening. Like a distant dream, a nightmare that I will soon wake out of. I pinch myself hard. The priest is saying something but I don’t listen, I can’t. My mother gets up and slowly walks to the podium; he must have called her up to say farewell. She is as old as I have ever seen her now. Her face is covered with a black mesh net that hangs down from her hat. She holds a white handkerchief in her hand. It’s really noticeable on all the black she is wearing.

I will be next. I gulp. I had promised my mom to write a speech but when I had stared at the paper, I choked. My fears of this reality engulfed me. Now I sit here with nothing but miserable guilt. My mom starts to speak and my cell phone rings. It’s probably Dex but I can’t answer. Suddenly all the heads turn my way and I am the centre of attention. Not in a good way. They hate me; even despise me for being unlike my sister. But I don’t care. I just want to talk to Anna. I want to tell her what’s going on. I turn off the phone and look down at the bible that sits on my lap, waiting for my mom to continue and waiting for them all to look away.

When I look up again my mother is crying though that doesn’t keep her from sending me an evil eye. It’s beyond my knowledge to understand what I had done to her. I had nothing to do with Anna’s death, but maybe my mother blames it on me. Maybe she wishes I were the one dead. I do too. Anna didn’t deserve to die. She was planning to accomplish so much.
My mom slowly forms every word in her mouth as if it were a difficult task. The speech is very long and Anna would have called it cheesy. She would have laughed and disregarded the whole thing saying that it wasn’t worth it. I think I know her that well, but then again at times I doubt myself. My mother is almost done now. It looks like she feels comfortable up there in the podium. My heart thumps. I don’t want to get up there before all the people that hate me. The priest helps her down and whispers her a few words of kindness. Then he calls my name.

“Scarlett.” He looks at me from under his glasses.

My mother must have said something about me to him. She is walking back now, pushing past me like a stranger as I get up. I fidget with the seam of my jeans as I make my way. They are all staring at me. Watching me, just like a group of hungry vultures. They all want the same thing from me, tears and words of sympathy and loss. But I am not going to grant them that satisfaction. Anna wouldn’t have wanted me to. The priest makes room for me at the podium and I clear my throat.

The noise I make echoes through the small church. I gulp. My heart rate must have hit 200 beats a minute for now I feel miniscule droplets of sweat forming on my brow. I wipe the cold sweat off with the back of my hand. I can’t recognize the people that packed the church. Those relatives must be so distant that I didn’t know they existed. Why did they even bother to come if they have never bothered to visit us when Anna was alive? I guess it is just how humans work. You cherish things more when they are gone and I guess the same goes to me with Anna.

“I…I want...” I stumble on my words knowing that the things I feel I can’t express. My mother is glaring at me and I don’t blame her. I would have done the same if my daughter would not have been able to choke out a single word on her sister’s funeral. My hands tighten on the podium and I suddenly feel claustrophobic in the church. It isn’t something I have ever felt before but the feeling is so real that I can’t help but panic. I have to get out. My mother will kill me but I can literally feel the walls pressing me in. Trapping me in a box. I hate being trapped, ever since I almost drowned.

My feet start to run and I dart out the back door even though I command them to stop. It’s like they have a mind of their own now. I don’t run far. Just out back where me and Anna used to play as children. The day is humid and sunny, not like I want it to be. Grim and rainy. Everything is wrong, out of place. I lean against the back wall of the church and shut my eyes. I want to disappear.

“Want a smoke?” I didn’t even notice the guy the stood right beside me, leaning on the church wall. It is the same guy that I saw at the church. ‘The stranger’ I call him.

“I don’t smoke.” For some reason I think that he expected that. I turn around and look at him. He is almost a head taller than me and no older than eighteen. He smells like the ocean. But water doesn’t comfort me, it scares me and that’s exactly how I feel about him. He takes the cigarette that he had offered me and lights it with a match, as he inhales. I hate cigarettes and the way they smell of chemical poison. Dad smoked and he ended up dead.

“Are you skipping out on the ceremonies Anna?” The way he looked at me made me stay alert. Yet I felt a strange attraction to him.
Last edited by Nessa on March 27th, 2010, 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kenpochick
Posts: 84
Joined: March 12th, 2010, 4:41 pm
Contact:

Re: I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by kenpochick » March 27th, 2010, 11:22 am

Nessa wrote: I always thought my sister would be by my side, until today.(It seems this would have occurred to her before the funeral, maybe it didn't sink in until now or something like that.) I clutch the bible in my hands, willing myself not to cry. Standing on an elaborate alter I can see my sister’s light blue coffin open and empty. (Is there a reason that the coffin is open? Typically the body would still be in the coffin even if it was badly disfigured and the lid would just be closed.) Her body too burned to present. My mother forced me into this stupid service, when all I want is to mourn her alone. I tear my nails into Mathew 8:21 - 22, somehow thinking I can quiet the person up in the podium reading it.

My mother turns towards me and slaps my hand as if I am a mere child. “Have a little respect for your sister, Anna,” she hisses.

I turn back to see a guy staring at me. He is wearing a black leather jacket, his midnight hair (Maybe it's just me but I'm not sure if you mean black or blue here?) slightly tattered and long. He doesn’t fit in. I wonder how he knew my sister, and why he stared is staring at me now. Perhaps it was is because I was simply an uglier version of her. The same bright green eyes and long brown hair. He gets up and leaves when the priest starts his speech and I feel my feet itching to stand. I want to follow him, but I imagine my mom’s anger if I left leave, so I stay in my spot.

My sister’s friend Janice is sitting next to me and she is not afraid to show her tears. I don’t know why I am. I guess I still can’t believe what is happening. Like a distant dream, a nightmare that I will soon wake out of. I pinch myself hard. The priest is saying something but I don’t listen, I can’t. My mother gets up and slowly walks to the podium; he must have called her up to say farewell. She is as old as I have ever seen her now. Her face is covered with a black mesh net that hangs down from her hat. She holds a white handkerchief in her hand. It’sreally noticeable on all stands out with the black she is wearing.

I will be next. I gulp. I had promised my mom to write a speech but when I had stared at the paper, I choked. My fears of this reality engulfed me. Now I sit here with nothing but miserable guilt. My mom starts to speak and my cell phone rings. It’s probably Dex but I can’t answer. Suddenly all the heads turn my way and I am the centre center of attention. Not in a good way. They hate me; even despise me for being unlike my sister. ButI don’t care. I just want to talk to Anna. I want to tell her what’s going on. I turn off the phone and look down at the bible that sits on my lap, waiting for my mom to continue and waiting for them all to look away.

When I look up again my mother is crying though that doesn’t keep her from sending me an evil eye. It’s beyond my knowledge to understand what I had done to her. I had nothing to do with Anna’s death, but maybe my mother blames it on me. Maybe she wishes I were the one dead. I do too. Anna didn’t deserve to die. She was planning to on accomplishing so much.

My mom slowly forms every word in her mouth as if it were a difficult task. The speech is very long and Anna would have called it cheesy. She would have laughed and disregarded the whole thing saying that it wasn’t worth it. I think I know (knew?) her that well, but then again at times I doubt myself. My mother is almost done now. It looks like she feels comfortable up there in the podium. (That's inconsistent with having to form the words slowly.) My heart thumps. I don’t want to get up there before all the people that hate me. The priest helps her down and whispers her a few words of kindness. Then he calls my name.

“Scarlett.” He looks at me from under his glasses.

My mother must have said something about me to him. She is walking back now, pushing past me like a stranger as I get up. I fidget with the seam of my jeans as I make my way. They are all staring at me. Watching me, just like a group of hungry vultures. They all want the same thing from me, tears and words of sympathy and loss. But I am not going to grant them that satisfaction. Anna wouldn’t have wanted me to. The priest makes room for me at the podium and I clear my throat.

The noise I make echoes through the small church. I gulp. My heart rate must have hit 200 beats a minute for now and I feel miniscule droplets of sweat forming on my brow. I wipe the cold sweat off with the back of my hand. I can’t don't recognize the people that packed the church. Those relatives must be so distant that I didn’t know they existed. Why did they even bother to come if they have never bothered to visit us when Anna was alive? I guess it is just how humans work. You cherish things more when they are gone and I guess the same goes to me with Anna.

“I…I want...” I stumble on my words knowing that the things I feel I can’t express. My mother is glaring at me and I don’t blame her. I would have done the same if my daughter would not have been able to choke out a single word on at her sister’s funeral. My hands tighten on the podium and I suddenly feel claustrophobic in the church. It isn’t something I have ever felt before but the feeling is so real that I can’t help but panic. I have to get out. My mother will kill me but I can literally feel the walls pressing me in. Trapping me in a box. I hate being trapped, ever since I almost drowned.

My feet start to run and I dart out the back door even though I command them to stop. It’s like they have a mind of their own now. I don’t run far. Just out back where me and Anna used to play as children. The day is humid and sunny, not like I want it to be. Grim and rainy. Everything is wrong, out of place. I lean against the back wall of the church and shut my eyes. I want to disappear.

“Want a smoke?” I didn’t even notice the guy the that stood right beside me, leaning on the church wall. It is the same guy that I saw at the church. ‘The stranger’ I call him.

“I don’t smoke.” For some reason I think that he expecteds that. I turn around and look at him. He is almost a head taller than me and no older than eighteen. He smells like the ocean. But water doesn’t comfort me, it scares me and that’s exactly how I feel about him. He takes the cigarette that he had offered me and lights it with a match, as he inhales. I hate cigarettes and the way they smell of chemical poison. Dad smoked and he ended up dead.

“Are you skipping out on the ceremonies Anna?” The way he lookeds at me made make me stay alert.Yet I felt a strange attraction to him.
You have some issues switching between past and present tense in this scene but I'd be interested enough to keep reading.

Nessa
Posts: 26
Joined: December 24th, 2009, 6:29 pm
Contact:

Re: I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by Nessa » March 27th, 2010, 12:50 pm

kenpochick - Thanks for your reply. this is my first time with present tense at all so I am a bit of a newbie. I think I am getting the hang of it though. Thanks for your hints!

Revised:

I always thought my sister would be by my side, until today. I clutch the bible in my hands, willing myself not to cry. Standing on an elaborate alter I can see my sister’s light blue coffin open and empty. Her body too burned to present. My mother forced me into this stupid service, when all I want is to mourn her alone. I tear my nails into Mathew 8:21 - 22, somehow thinking I can quiet the person up in the podium reading it.

My mother turns towards me and slaps my hand as if I am a mere child. “Have a little respect for your sister, Anna,” she hisses.

I turn back to see a guy staring at me. He is wearing a black leather jacket, his midnight hair slightly tattered and long. He doesn’t fit in. I wonder how he knew my sister, and why he is staring at me now. Perhaps it is because I was simply an uglier version of her. The same bright green eyes and long brown hair. He gets up and leaves when the priest starts his speech and I feel my feet itching to stand. I want to follow him, but I imagine my mom’s anger if I leave, so I stay in my spot.

My sister’s friend Janice is sitting next to me and she is not afraid to show her tears. I don’t know why I am. I guess I still can’t believe what is happening. Like a distant dream, a nightmare that I will soon wake out of. I pinch myself hard. The priest is saying something but I don’t listen, I can’t. My mother gets up and slowly walks to the podium; he must have called her up to say farewell. She is as old as I have ever seen her now. Her face is covered with a black mesh net that hangs down from her hat. She holds a white handkerchief in her hand. It stands out with all the black she is wearing.

I will be next. I gulp. I had promised my mom to write a speech but when I had stared at the paper, I choked. Now I sit here with nothing but miserable guilt. My mom starts to speak and my cell phone rings. It’s probably Dex but I can’t answer. Suddenly all the heads turn my way and I am the center of attention. Not in a good way. They hate me; even despise me for being unlike my sister. But I don’t care. I just want to talk to Anna. I want to tell her what’s going on. I turn off the phone and look down at the bible that sits on my lap, waiting for my mom to continue and waiting for them all to look away.
When I look up again my mother is crying though that doesn’t keep her from sending me an evil eye. It’s beyond my knowledge to understand what I had done to her. I had nothing to do with Anna’s death, but maybe my mother blames it on me. Maybe she wishes I were the one dead. I do too. Anna didn’t deserve to die. She was planning on accomplishing so much.

My mom slowly forms every word in her mouth as if it were a difficult task. The speech is very long and Anna would have called it cheesy. She would have laughed and disregarded the whole thing saying that it wasn’t worth it. I think I knew her that well, but then again at times I doubt myself. My mother is almost done now. It looks like she feels uncomfortable up there in the podium. My heart thumps. I don’t want to get up there before all the people that hate me. The priest helps her down and whispers her a few words of kindness. Then he calls my name.

“Scarlett.” He looks at me from under his glasses.

My mother must have said something about me to him. She is walking back now, pushing past me like a stranger as I get up. I fidget with the seam of my jeans as I make my way. They are all staring at me. Watching me, just like a group of hungry vultures. They all want the same thing from me, tears and words of sympathy and loss. But I am not going to grant them that satisfaction. Anna wouldn’t have wanted me to. The priest makes room for me at the podium and I clear my throat.

The noise I make echoes through the small church. I gulp. My heart rate must have hit 200 beats a minute and I feel miniscule droplets of sweat forming on my brow. I wipe the cold sweat off with the back of my hand. I don’t recognize the people that packed the church. Those relatives must be so distant that I didn’t know they existed. Why did they even bother to come if they have never bothered to visit us when Anna was alive? I guess it is just how humans work. You cherish things more when they are gone and I guess the same goes to me with Anna.

“I…I want...” I stumble on my words knowing that the things I feel I can’t express. My mother is glaring at me and I don’t blame her. I would have done the same if my daughter would not have been able to choke out a single word at her sister’s funeral. My hands tighten on the podium and I suddenly feel claustrophobic in the church. It isn’t something I have ever felt before but the feeling is so real that I can’t help but panic. I have to get out. My mother will kill me but I can literally feel the walls pressing me in. Trapping me in a box. I hate being trapped, ever since I almost drowned.

My feet start to run and I dart out the back door even though I command them to stop. It’s like they have a mind of their own now. I don’t run far. Just out back where me and Anna used to play as children. The day is humid and sunny, not like I want it to be. Grim and rainy. Everything is wrong, out of place. I lean against the back wall of the church and shut my eyes. I want to disappear.

“Want a smoke?” I didn’t even notice the guy that stood right beside me, leaning on the church wall. It is the same guy that I saw at the church. ‘The stranger’ I call him.

“I don’t smoke.” For some reason I think that he expects that. I turn around and look at him. He is almost a head taller than me and no older than eighteen. He smells like the ocean. But water doesn’t comfort me, it scares me and that’s exactly how I feel about him. He takes the cigarette he had offered me and lights it with a match–as he inhales. I hate cigarettes and the way they smell of chemical poison. Dad smoked and he ended up dead.

“Are you skipping out on the ceremonies Anna?” The way he looks at me makes me stay alert. I feel a strange attraction to him. But it’s almost like an invisible ripple that is gone now.

corriegarrett
Posts: 17
Joined: February 28th, 2010, 7:49 pm
Contact:

Re: I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by corriegarrett » March 28th, 2010, 11:28 am

I enjoyed the beginning of your story. The character has her own voice, which I hear is so vital for first-person novels. The only thing that tripped me up is that I can't figure out whether her name is Anna, or Scarlett? First her mom calls her Anna, and the guy outside does too. But the pastor/preacher says Scarlett, and she refers to her sister as Anna. Maybe this is part of the story, her identity confusion with her sister, but I think this early in the story it's just a little confusing. Otherwise I think this is a promising start. I want to find out about the dark jacket guy and whether he'll be a good or bad influence/friend, or perhaps a revelation into her sister's life... Good luck!

User avatar
ryanznock
Posts: 100
Joined: February 13th, 2010, 1:13 am
Location: Atlanta, GA
Contact:

Re: I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by ryanznock » March 28th, 2010, 9:07 pm

It's hard to put my finger on what isn't working, but it doesn't feel raw enough to be believable as the perspective of a girl at her sister's funeral.

You use sentence fragments a bit ('The same bright green eyes...' or 'Watching me, just like a group of hungry vultures.'), and maybe you're going for the sort of dull shock of grief, where the narrator is so overcome that she isn't processing full thoughts, just images and emotions. But it doesn't fit with the rest of the style, which has plenty of longer sentences. It's possible to have long sentences, and then to have the narrator's stream of consciousness run into a roadblock of sorts -- something traumatic, that she doesn't want to think about -- which could provoke fragmented thoughts. But as is, it's not working.

I suggest more concision and active voice in your descriptions. Things like "... I clear my throat. The noise I make echoes through the small church" ('I clear my throat. It echoes...'). Or "Her face is covered with a black mesh net" ('A black mesh covers her face'; though even that is kind of a weak image, because it's in no way unique, since every funeral ever in movies and tv and books has one of those veils). In present tense narrative I much prefer to read simple present tense verbs ("Janice sits") rather than present progressive ("Janice is sitting").

Also, be careful about balancing the character's inner thoughts with her perception of events outside her. It's challenging in first person because of the ease of starting sentences with 'I.' As is, she comes across a wee bit self-absorbed. I mean, that's a normal enough response to grief, but it makes it harder to empathize with her. That could just be my own reader bias, though.

Basically, this is her sister's funeral, and you're stating how she feels, but the standard advice in fiction these days is that you should focus less on explaining how she feels, and instead walk us through the scene that she sees. If you do it right, you don't need to explicitly state once what she's feeling, but we'll empathize enough and be deep enough in her perspective that we'll feel it too.

Good luck. I hope our advice helps.

Serzen
Posts: 139
Joined: February 6th, 2010, 11:42 pm
Location: Upstate NY
Contact:

Re: I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by Serzen » March 29th, 2010, 1:36 pm

Nessa,

Straight out of the gate: I like the verses you chose to reference. The cost of following/fellowship is an interesting topic.

I'm curious as to why Anna and Scarlett seem to be used interchangeably. It's not a deal-breaker, just curious.

One of the reasons that this feels stilted, I think, is an over-reliance on the verb 'to be'. It makes some of the formations difficult. Also, this reads as a recitation of a thought process, which is fine and probably what it is, but it reads too mechanically. If I may?
I turn back to see a guy staring at me. He is wearing a black leather jacket, his midnight hair slightly tattered and long. He doesn’t fit in. I wonder how he knew my sister, and why he is staring at me now. Perhaps it is because I was simply an uglier version of her. The same bright green eyes and long brown hair. He gets up and leaves when the priest starts his speech and I feel my feet itching to stand. I want to follow him, but I imagine my mom’s anger if I leave, so I stay in my spot.
I turn back and see a guy staring at me. He wears a black leather jacket and midnight hair slightly tattered and long. He doesn't fit in. I wonder how he knew my sister, why he's staring at me. Perhaps it's because I'm just an uglier version of her, the same bright green eyes and long brown hair, but without the rest of it. He gets up and walks out when the priest begins to speak; my feet itch to stand and follow him. I can imagine Mom's anger if I were to leave, though, so I keep myself rooted to my seat.
“I…I want...” I stumble on my words knowing that the things I feel I can’t express. My mother is glaring at me and I don’t blame her. I would have done the same if my daughter would not have been able to choke out a single word at her sister’s funeral. My hands tighten on the podium and I suddenly feel claustrophobic in the church. It isn’t something I have ever felt before but the feeling is so real that I can’t help but panic. I have to get out. My mother will kill me but I can literally feel the walls pressing me in. Trapping me in a box. I hate being trapped, ever since I almost drowned.
"I...I want..." I stumble on my words, knowing the things I feel but can't express. My mother glares at me and I don't blame her. I would do the same if my daughter couldn't choke out a single word at her sister's funeral. My hands tighten on the podium and the church makes me feel suddenly claustrophobic. It's not a feeling I've ever had before, but it's so real that I can't help but panic. I have to get out. My mother may well kill be, but I can literally feel the walls pressing in on me, trapping me in a box. I hate being trapped, especially since nearly drowning.

Hopefully you can see what I've done in re-casting some of the sentences. The active voice is always preferred. The passive has it's place, but is weak and limp. My suggestions serve to add strength.

Ultimately, you answer only to yourself. You may well have reasons beyond the first five pages to push the voice this way, and I'm not one to judge if you're purposely using the style. BOB knows I've broken enough rules myself.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

LaylaF
Posts: 19
Joined: August 17th, 2010, 12:11 pm
Contact:

Re: I AM ANNA - First Five Pages

Post by LaylaF » October 19th, 2010, 6:45 pm

I LOVE it!!

I was initially attracted to the title. And then as I read it, I literally sat on the edge of my seat. I hate to admit this, but I have been to alot of funerals in my life, and I can totally relate to this scene. People act weird at funerals, with loved ones dying and all. This makes me want to read more.

I haven't figured out the strike-out/redline system on this blog yet...so I'm writing out a couple of suggestions...
The priest helps her down and whispers her a few words of kindness.
This sentence is awkward. Maybe delete the word "her" so it reads...The priest helps her down and whispers a few words of kindness.

Another thought I had was her reference to being afraid of the water/drowning in a couple of places. I am assuming that it is an integral part of the story details of which will come out later...but I'd actually not include it here and save it to introduce later in your story. It seemed to jump out at me in an awkward sort of way. And I think her feeling of being closed in at the pulpit, can stand on its own merit w/o mentioning the fear of drowning.

Anyway...those are minor...I really did LOVE this excerpt! I wish you the best of luck on it. And would love to read more.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests