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Tatiana Schlote-Bonne

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Everything posted by Tatiana Schlote-Bonne

  1. Hi Jinju, this is great! Your prose is beautiful and rich in sensory detail. This first chapter is brimming with tension with both internal and external conflict: your MC's struggle as a mother and her daughter's predisposition to being a slave or not; the class that your MC is trapped within and her love for her child. I also enjoy how close we are to your protagonist's PoV. One of my favorite moments: This is great. Love it. We have a goal and conflict and the voice is spot on. My suggestions are mostly nit-picky: --There's a lot repetition on a sentence level, which I understand is for an emphatic effect but it ends up feeling redundant and clunky. Like, the three blues in the first sentence are at least one too many blues. I also wouldn't use a weak verb like "was" in an opening line. Instead, the first line could be, "The bright blue feather drifted through the air, gleaming against the red and gold grasses of the tundra, outshining even the lakes and ponds that pooled up every summer on the treeless plains. It was as blue as the sky on a clear arctic day." (I know I sound super nit-picky but needless repetition is the sort of petty thing agents/editors look for.) --This exchange: I'd probably just make it "But--" in the second instance, just so your reader isn't reading the exact same words again. --This line: God, how I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them! "Hate" becomes less effective the more it's used. Honestly, "God, how I hate them." stands much stronger to me on it's own. I'd even make it its own line for emphasis. Less can definitely be more! This line: Skin stockings, skin underslip, fur overdress, skin inner slippers, fur outer boots, hoodless parka. The problem with the repetition here in addition to it feeling redundant is that I'm getting hung up on the word "skin"? Like "skin-colored" or are these literally made of skin? They don't have cotton or nylon or whatever in this world so they're making stockings out of....skin? Is it like hide? Regardless, you could lose the word or at least change up the words: Stocking, hide underslip, fur overdress, inner slippers, fur outer boots, hoodless parka. I'll stop there! My advice is to just comb through and make sure you don't have any needlessly repetitive phrases or words, and that any repetition is being used sparingly and effectively. Great work!
  2. Hi Minglu! You have a rich world, and as we established at the conference, a fantastic premise! This first chapter has nice conflict and action, but I'm a bit disoriented and unsure of what's really going on especially on the first read. At first, it's unclear what the Theikos is, and overall there's kind of just a lot meaningless words coming at the reader--I think the Theikos is the faction Lydia is part of? An easy way to deliver that exposition without info dumping it is to just go deeper into Lydia's PoV. So like, instead of "If there was such an organized ruckus, there was something the Theikos needed to know" it could be something like, "This ruckus wasn't good. In fact, it could mean war (insert overheard dialogue.) Lydia's pulse quickened. She had to get home to tell the other members of the Theikos they could be in danger." (Rewritten this way, it's clear that this is a *big deal* and also spells out the fact that Theikos = group of people under threat and Lydia is with them.) The above quote is a nice sensory paragraph that lets me into Lydia's PoV. I'd encourage you to stay close to her PoV like this and use those sensory descriptors! I couldn't really visualize much of this chapter, so adding some details like "Her black hair (or whatever color) whipped around her face in the wind etc" would help me see Lydia. When Marcus shakes her shoulder, is his grip strong, gentle, etc.? Is he a big guy, little guy? Dark skinned, light skinned? Lastly, I'll say that the raid happens very fast. I don't really get what is being raided yet or what's at stake, so I'd consider spending a few more pages in the "normal" before the bad guys rush in. Can we get more detail about the setting? Some intimate details of Lydia's home that she's worried about? Then when the raid happens, your reader will feel this place under threat instead of wondering Wait where are we, why does this matter, who? In fact, since the raid seems inconsequential and more for the sake of showing us Lydia's magic (which is very cool!), I'd consider if you could rearranging the scene this way: 1. Lydia and Marcus stroll through the market and observe the Forum, some interiority about why this info matters 2. Go home to Theikos friends and update them on the bad news. Go about making curses etc. doing "normal world things", get us to care a little about these characters by showing their appearances/personalities/quirks/goals 3. Raid happens. Lydia and friends watch from inside their hideout, Lydia uses her magic to spare a woman's pain (nice way of making her sympathetic btw.) Lydia and friends fret about their future (good way to tell us the stakes without it reading too info dumpy). Still end on Lydia thinking about her disdain for Rome (it's a nice poetic ending of the chapter!) If you reorganized the chapter this way, then the scenes will be continually ramping up in tension rather than escalating and declining, and overall it seems more organic. I hope that makes sense! I'm always around to chat ideas--feel free to DM me on Twitter! All best, Tatiana
  3. Edit: so far these opening pages have been working in querying, so I'm not revising them anymore for now. Thanks! Hello, this is my opening scene (my whole first chapter, actually, since it's 4 pages single spaced.) This introduces the antagonist (though my protagonist doesn't know Griselda is the antagonist yet,) establishes the setting of Whitefall and the conflict of Lucina's memory loss, and foreshadows the soul-eating monster (aka Griselda) conflict. Hopefully, Lucina comes off sympathetic and enjoyable to read about too! Chapter 1: Transition Numbness I think I might be a ghost. My limbs are weightless. Feathery. I bring my hand up to check, and yep, it’s see-through. Shit. My life is over. Literally. I’ll never get to travel to the Amazon rainforest. I’ll never adopt another rat. I’ll never have sex. I hate the concept of "virginity," like a girl who has sex is impure. But now, that’s all I can think—I’m a virgin ghost girl. I shouldn’t have told Silas I wanted to wait until senior year. I should’ve done more. So much more. Why am I not freaking out? A wave of hysteria should be hitting me like a wrecking ball, but for some strange reason, it’s not. Normally, I have a panic attack by lunch. I don't even know where I am or how I got to this place. I’m standing in a wooden shack stocked with pickaxes and corroded barrels. The room is windowless, the air hot and stuffy, but there is a door ahead. I should find out what’s on the other side. I step forward, reaching for the rusty handle, but my hand swipes through. Oh, right. I walk through and emerge in sunlight. I'm on a dirt street, old wooden buildings to my left and right, each place with its name painted on the front: SILVER BELLE SALOON, MOJAVE BANK, COYOTE HOTEL, LADY LUCK CASINO. This doesn't look like California, at least not the part I'm from. It’s too quaint for hell, but not nice enough to be heaven. Purgatory, maybe? And if it is, what did I do to deserve this? I try to picture what happened when I died, but all I remember is getting out of my chemistry final and heading home. The plan was to change, then go to the beach with Silas. We kissed, I put my backpack in my car, and then, nothing. My memory fogs over. I clench my eyes, trying to picture it all again, but can’t. It’s an impenetrable haze, like trying to remember a dream I’d had weeks ago. Voices come from inside Lady Luck Casino. I step closer and peer through the window. A transparent man is dealing cards to two women wearing vintage halter-top dresses. By the slot machines, a teen boy folds over into a back bend, his ribs pointed toward the ceiling, and scurries around like the girl from The Exorcist. He reaches out and fist-bumps a shadowy humanoid shape drifting by. A slight smile tugs at my lips. Horror movies are my favorite. I'd made Silas see all The Conjuring movies with me in theaters. He'd clung to me and watched through the cracks of his fingers. Now I am a ghost. He would find that funny. Well, maybe after he gets over my death. Why am I still so calm about that? Trying to parallel park normally has me short of breath, blood pounding in my ears. Maybe that's it: no blood, no anxiety. A pale, thin middle-aged woman floats toward me from across the street, her feet hovering a few inches above the ground. “Hello, dear.” She fixes the collar of her Old Western light blue, long-sleeved dress. “I’m Griselda, the director of Whitefall, and we're so excited to have you join us. How was your transition into the afterlife?” “Umm,” I say, trying to think of an answer, but still, no memory of how I died. “Poor thing. Must’ve been a rough death." Griselda frowns, her brown hair billowing around her head, like she's floating in a pool. "It's normal to feel a bit out of it. All new ghosts experience Transition Numbness as they adjust to their new reality. Don’t worry.” She pats my shoulder with her cold, gelatinous hand. I shiver. “Your memories and emotions will all come flooding back soon. What’s your name, dear?” “Lucina. Is this purgatory?” “No, dear.” Griselda laughs. “Whitefall is our little oasis where we can exist freely and practice haunting.” “Am I in California?” “This is an old mining town in Nevada. All new ghosts spawn in areas rich with spiritual energy. Spirits need community. You’d be lost and alone if you spawned where you died.” Where I died. Right. That could’ve been on the side of the freeway, or maybe I made it to the beach and drowned, got carried away by a riptide—that was always one of my biggest fears, yet I'm picturing it happening to me now, and the idea doesn’t scare me at all. It's kind of nice. “How long does the Transition Numbness last?” “Not long. Usually clears up in a few hours.” I nod. Hopefully, the memories of my death aren't too bad when they return. “Come along, dear,” Griselda says. We drift by the next building: a barbershop, its candy-cane sign faded from the sun. Griselda’s reflection passes in the mirrors lining the back wall, but I don’t see myself. I stop and lean forward—I do have a reflection, but from this distance, it’s almost invisible. My brown eyes are colorless. My curly black hair floats around my face in transparent strands. I should’ve worn a cute sundress instead of this old David Bowie t-shirt and baggy cargo pants, which make my translucent legs look puffy. I wave to myself, barely noticing a blur in the air. “Why am I translucent but you’re not?” My voice is monotone, and the question comes out more interrogative than I meant to sound. “If you don’t mind me asking,” I add quickly. For all I know, it’s rude to ask in ghost culture. “We ghosts are capable of a range of solidity, depending on how we want to interact in the world. Translucent, you can only touch other ghosts, but soon you’ll learn how to interact fully with the world again.” “Oh.” I guess it makes sense. We pass Town Hall, the largest and tallest building on the street with a pointed roof and broken archtop windows. Inside, rows of ghosts watch a dark-haired man hovering by an old projector. He displays a slide of an abandoned building with the title: Stairwells, Hallways, Elevators—How Can Liminal Spaces be Inhabited for Maximum Dread? A woman in the front row raises her hand. Did I really just finish my junior year of high school, only to die and end up right back in classes? I have the worst luck. Griselda keeps moving. I follow. The desert beyond town is vast, mountains lining the horizon. The ground is dry dusty earth, the only plant sagebrush: a brittle, greenish-brown shrub, a tumbleweed before it begins tumbling. For a fleeting moment, I miss the palm trees and sea breeze of my hometown, but then the numbness returns. Griselda stops in front of an old house, white paint peeling from its siding, broken steps leading to the front door. A charred brick chimney sticks out of the roof. “This is where you’ll be staying.” She passes through the wall. A sagging, floral print couch and a faded piano occupy the living room. The floor is littered with charred bits of wood from the blackened fireplace, and across from the couch is an old…microwave? It’s square with buttons and knobs. I get closer and realize that it's actually a TV. An ancient one. “Camilla inhabits this space as well," Griselda says. "She's around your age. I’ll let her know you’re here.” She leads me upstairs to a small bedroom with a stuffy, mushroom smell. A stained, sagging withered bed is against the wall, a desk and peeling leather chair across from it. A pile of dusty human remains—skull, finger bones, a few strips of rotting leather—lie in the corner by the closet. Griselda sits in the chair, yanking open the creaking desk drawer. She pulls out a notepad and pen. Maybe this room has special furniture only ghosts can use? I try to sit on the bed, but I fall through the mattress, my body and head submerged beneath the fabric. I leap out. “It's okay. You won’t get stuck or anything, dear,” Griselda says, peering at me over her shoulder. “Unless, of course, it's an inanimate possession gone wrong. Poor Jefferson…” She shakes her head. “But don’t worry. As a new ghost, you’ll first establish your Unfinished Business and learn how to solidify.” She writes on the notepad. “Then you can decorate, clean up the room." She gestures at the bones like they’re forgotten dishes. “Camilla will accompany you to your Unfinished Business meeting tonight. In the meantime, try to make yourself comfortable.” She slides the notepad closer. “This is your lesson schedule.” “That’s it? I just go to ghost school now?” “While we do offer lessons, it’s not exactly ‘school.’ There are skills to learn. Traumas to sort out.” She smiles at me, and drifts through the wall. “Oh,” I say to no one. I thought there’d be some process, some attempt to move on to heaven or hell, but maybe those don’t exist, and I get to go full poltergeist right out the gate. I’m okay with that. I look over the note. Unfinished Business Counselling: Mondays, 10 pm, Town Hall Haunting Skills: Tuesdays, 8pm, Casino Animal Spirits: Wednesdays, 3 pm, Saloon Sounds better than my fall schedule of AP Gov and Calculus II. I stand by the desk, running my hands over my arms, feeling the cool, gummy texture of my translucent skin. If I press hard enough, my fingers dip through, like penetrating a bubble. It’s oddly satisfying. If only I’d felt this relaxed during life, then maybe instead of worrying about each word I'd ever said and what every single person I met thought of me, I could've enjoyed things more. The sun begins to set. Shadows spread across the room. My chest tightens. My cold, viscous fingers suddenly feel wrong and foreign. Do all people become ghosts? Are my grandparents here? My dad? Will everyone at school think I'm stupid for dying so young? I'll never graduate. I tried so hard to get As, for nothing. Has my family heard the news of my death yet? Is my mom okay? Silas? My lips quiver. Will my mom feed my pet rats? She probably will, but she won't remember that Minky needs chia seeds. He has back pain. I turn around, almost stepping into the human remains. I close my eyes, and slowly count to ten. For a minute, I return to the peaceful numbness, but the tightness in my chest returns, and I hear a scream: guttural, wet, and not mine. I look around the room. My chest pain eases. The house is still, the curtains fluttering by the open window. I close my eyes again—the scream echoes in my head. Oh god. Something horrible must’ve happened when I died. I pace back and forth. Maybe I checked my phone and drove headfirst into traffic. Or what if there was an earthquake? Or a gas explosion in my house and my family is dead! But then they'd be here, right? Think positive. I count from ten to zero. Whatever happened is done. I hug myself, waiting for the memory of my death to come flooding back, but it doesn't. I’d almost rather not know, except, never knowing would torture me. I groan and run my hands through my translucent hair. My fingers catch on strands of something viscous. It’s clumps of a clear gooey substance. Saliva? Ectoplasm? I hold it closer to my face, and I'm hit with a smell: pungent, rotten, and strangely familiar. I try to place where I know this scent from, but can't, and the longer I smell it, the more my stomach pits with dread. I fling the goo away, and a drop of it falls beside my translucent Converse. I look at the floor through my shoes—something's uneven about them. It takes me a moment since my clear skin and clothing look the same, but then, I see it: my right shoe is missing, and so is my big toe. What the hell happened to me?
  4. Ny Pitch 1. Story statement: Teen ghost must find a way to defeat the soul-eating monster and save her friends 2. Antagonist sketch: Melinda is a Wraith, an eater of souls, but before she was an evil ghost, she was a normal herb-growing woman in a small Conneticut settlement in 1691. She was caught in bed with her lesbian lover and her girlfriend accused Melinda of witchcraft to save her own reputation. Melinda was hung, and when she awakened as a ghost, she sought revenge on the town and ate the souls of every resident. She became obsessed with the power it gave her. She especially desires to eat ghosts because she can wield their special haunting abilities (Unheimlichs) as though they are her own. Melinda is the founder of Whitefall, the community and school for ghosts where my story takes place in present time. She tries to eat Lucina, my protagonist, when she first spawns but can’t because Lucina’s Unheimlich is Empathy, a rare power and the antithesis to Melinda’s power-hunger. She erases Lucina’s memory of trying to eat her, and Lucina starts her afterlife in Whitefall without any knowledge of this event until the midpoint when she regains her memories. Melinda’s on a quest to consume 1,000 ghost souls to reach immortality. When Lucina’s friends are in danger, she uses her Empathy to possess Melinda. The two engage in a battle of will and memories, and Lucina’s love defeats Melinda’s avarice. Breakout titles: Lessons in Haunting and Other Ghost Practices Lucina the Teenage Ghost Tell Me How I Died Comp titles: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson (funny coming of age YA horror from 2018--similar in humorous tone, teen angst, and feminist undertones.) Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (#1 best seller in YA ghost stories, published September 2020--similar mystery and utilization of ghosts, though mine is more ghost heavy and from the PoV of a ghost) Logline: When an insecure teen ghost pieces together the mystery of her death, she unlocks dark secrets in the afterlife and must find the strength to save herself and her friends from a soul-eating monster. Inner conflict and secondary conflict: Lucina feels judged by everyone and struggles to be honest about her feelings and ideas. She’s more comfortable as a bystander than an active participant in society, and she’s timid and unsure of her newfound ghost abilities. To feel safe and accepted, she has to be behind her emotional walls. Scenario: When Malik, a ghost boy from class, and Lucina go on a trip to haunt, he confides in her the things he regretted from life, and he expresses genuine sadness over his death. Lucina feels awkward and can only laugh this off because this kind of genuine vulnerability makes her uncomfortable. Secondary conflict scenario: Lucina runs into her boyfriend from life in the afterlife—he died in the boating accident with her. He assumes the two of them are still together, but Lucina has moved on and has a new ghost boyfriend. She doesn’t know how to break the news to her past boyfriend, so she avoids telling the truth until it all blows up in her face when she, her new ghost boyfriend, and her old boyfriend from life are stuck haunting together. Setting: Main setting: Whitefall, an abandoned mining town in rural Nevada, where my ghosts reside and take haunting lessons. The ghosts have their Unfinished Business meetings in the old rickety Town Hall. They take Haunting Basics and Possessions 101 in the casino, where they also gamble. Melinda, the Wraith and antagonist, uses the mines as her feeding ghosts, pulling new ghosts beneath and devouring them where no one will notice. Haunting trips: my protagonist and her fledging ghost friends go on practical haunting trips to the suburbs where they haunt apartments (rich with spiritual energy, many opaques living close together, landlords who assure them the noises are just bad plumbing etc.) as well as flashier places such as Fremont street in Vegas, campgrounds, and a mansion in Conneticut. Ghost settlements: my ghosts visit other ghost towns, like the abandoned factory in Chicago. The All is Lost chapters take place in an abandoned asylum which serves as a prison for ghosts. Minds and Melinda’s guts: Lucina’s Unheimlich allows her to read memories and emotions, and she “swims” through people’s minds, seeing their memories encapsulated in bubbles like they’re clips of a movie playing. The final battle takes place inside Melinda’s stomach, where all the ghosts she’s eaten before are trapped and powering her. Lucina’s been eaten, she’s trapped in the smooth muscle and blood with hundreds of wailing spirits. She possesses Melinda, inhabits her mind, and uncovers her repressed memories to overpower her and release the trapped spirits
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