Author Topic: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2  (Read 162 times)

Offline Krispy915

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Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« on: March 04, 2020, 04:20:19 PM »
Newbie here, but very interested in honest critique.  Thank you to all that take the time.



Chapter 1

   There they were again, swirling around my head like some sort of a tornado.  They came and went like the breeze.  The voices were mixed, some not even in English, yet somehow, I could understand them.  There were those that traveled through me, soft, like wisps of smoke and others more urgent and aggressive and most especially, loud.
   Iíve been hearing them almost since I could remember, three years old or so-The voices of the dead.  In the beginning, before I understood what I was listening to, I wasnít bothered.  I didnít understand that I was the only one hearing them.  They kept me company in my solitary world.  In my small family my idiosyncrasies were accepted and almost ignored.  I was the only child in my household and being a first-time parent, my mother didnít know any better.  She tolerated my differences, until she began bringing me to the homes of cousins and friends and could see that my behavior was different than the other children I was around.   I didnít play, I watched. 

The first time I could remember it happening, I was about three years old.  I found myself sitting under my grandmotherís buffet table in her dining room.  No one seemed to even notice I was there, just quietly letting the world go by, playing with the fringes on my grandmotherís oriental rug.   I heard a meow and then a purr.  I knew it was from my cat, but I couldnít see him.  It startled me at first, I kept looking around me, but then I just calmed down and waited.  I started to feel him there in my lap and it comforted me.  After a few moments, I heard my mother crying.  She had just come in from outdoors and announced that she found my cat, dead in the front yard.  But I smiled. 

She asked, ďWhy are you so happy, Salem?  Jasper died, and we wonít see him again.  Do you understand what that means?Ē  Well, I guess I didnít.  I was only three and as far as I knew, Jasper was lying in my lap. 

My mother named me Salem because of her obsession with the stories of the witches in Salem, Massachusetts.  I donít think she would ever expect me to grow up and have this issue of hearing the voices of the dead.  I never knew my father.  He left my mother and I when the strangeness of me became evident and neither of us ever heard from him again.  The adults in my life growing up were my grandmother, Catherine, my mother Mercy, and me.

We lived a quiet life, off a dirt road in the west side of New York, a little town called Lily Dale.  We were nestled against Lake Erie and very close to Pennsylvania.  Our town had only about 275 residents, you would know anyone you passed on the street.  It was a great place to grow up, a small town feel but for a child it was amazing.  My town has its own Fairy Trail.  You can find fairy houses built by the townspeople along the trail and even a graveyard to bury your pets.  Jasper ended up there Iím sure.  There is a lot of spirituality in Lily Dale.  Mediums everywhere, it was a requirement of the town that you be a spiritualist, a career my mother was hoping for.    My mother worked for one of the mediums in town and I didnít see much of her growing up.  My grandmother was always there for me.  She tended to all my needs, and as a young child, I was put to bed before my mother came home for the day.  My mother was always the dreamer, looking for something better and wanting to get out into the world, into that spiritual life.  Grandma was the one who was content and tried to teach me that as well. 

ďBe thankful for what you have, SalemĒ, she would say when I got upset because I was denied something.


But Mercy was always telling me to look for more, to reach for the stars and not be happy until I could grab one.  I never called my mother Mom, or Mommy.  It just wasnít me.  I always called her by her first name.  I liked it and it fit her.  But it wasnít an easy way to live, being pulled in two directions, but I managed.  I had the voices to keep me company when grandma was cleaning, and Cee wasnít around.
 
But those days are long gone.  Those voices I heard as a child gave me the life my mother wanted.  She and grandma were still living their solitude in that small house away from everyone-my mother never achieving her dream of experiencing the voices of the afterlife.  I had people swirling all around me-on the streets, in my home working, at the market-almost everywhere.  And at night, alone in my house when it was as quiet as the town can be, I had the voices and especially Jasper who I could still feel curling up on my lap.  Someone with my gifts has no peace, they are always with me.

As Jasper curled against me, some of the voices would overcome me.  Jasper was my cushion against them.  He held them off so that sleep could come.  Occasionally he couldnít.  Sometimes the stronger ones would come through.  Those nights were not easy for me, I couldnít leave those voices without comfort.  I had to help, no matter how I did it, I helped.  Some required research, some just thought.  But I felt it was a calling, something I was born to do.  They came to me for a reason, and I had to help them find their answers.  I promised myself that I would never allow my life to interfere with their needs. 


2.
Salemís day always began with a phone call from Cee.  It interrupted her getting ready for work, but Cee was jealous of Salemís life.  She needed every little detail of what was happening.  She didnít talk to her mother very much about her abilities, Cee was envious of those too.  She was convinced that Salem would be contacted by a witch, someone who was burned but not guilty.  Her fascination has never waned from when Salem was a child.  She had spent much of her life reading incessantly about that time period.  Any documentary or film that had anything to do with the witches of Salem were saved on her DVR, never to be erased. 

Grandma was always annoyed by her motherís fascination of witches.  Grandma was a spiritual woman as well, going to the little church each Sunday morning and chatting with the older women at the tea social that always came after mass.  That was why Salem was always attracted to the light, rather than the dark.  She absorbed it, allowed it to flood her thoughts and directed her readings.  She wouldnít allow the dark through, if she did it would never leave. 

Grandma was a traditional old lady.  The apron never left her body unless she was dressing up for Sunday morning.  On those days she wore her best blue dress and red flowered hat.   During the week she seemed to be always in the kitchen cooking up something good to eat.  There were endless cookies and pastries to try on any given day.  Grandma loved cookbooks and stored them on shelves she had installed in the pantry.  She was trying new recipes every day and they were always sweet.  It was a miracle Salem didnít weigh 300 pounds!

Salem had gotten little sleep last night.  She didnít want to go into what kept her up, Cee would worry too much and insert herself into Salemís thoughts.  She kept much of what came though away from her mother.  TMI and Cee was crazy calling her back home.  She wanted to be there when the voices came strong.  She wanted to see it and possibly feel it, but Cee interfered.  She talked and held Salem, interrupting the process, trying to feel what Salem felt. 

That was the reason she needed to move into town, rather than off the dirt road.  She needed the space, away from her mother.  Cee could be suffocating sometimes, too involved with her daughterís gifts.  Salem became one of the floods of mediums in that small town, but she had many repeat customers.  She made sure her readings leaned to the light, and her customers loved that, so they came back and often.

Salem was a beautiful young woman, slight in frame with large green eyes that almost became amber when she was entranced.  She kept her long dark reddish hair in tiny braids tied up at the back.  She was a true red head, but certain purple dyes helped with the effect.  The clothes she wore were more to attract the visitors to the town.  They reflected the 60ís and the hippie craze.  Whites and many purples and dark blues and blacks.  And she always wore jeans.  The dresses and skirts she had to wear for affect covered them nicely, but they were always there underneath.  She didnít feel right unless a worn pair of blue jeans were on her body, torn if possible.  She led a quiet life, didnít really date or have a man in her life.  She didnít need one, she felt comfort in her own skin, not inviting more voices into her life.  She did what she wanted, not allowing anyone around her to dictate her actions.

She was lucky in a way, to not have her father around most of her life.  It would have been a life of argument between him and her mother, and who knows how that would have affected her.  He died when Salem was about thirteen years old, leaving her a great sum of money.  Even though he couldnít take her idiosyncrasies, he never forgot about her.  If she chose not to work, she wouldnít have had to, but becoming a medium allowed her some peace.  If she could placate the voices, they eased and allowed her quiet.  She bought a traditional Victorian house in town and rather than keeping the old-fashioned look, she had it painted a light purple, her favorite color.  She kept the trim white.  It wasnít the usual look, but it certainly allowed customers to feel the supernatural spirit surrounding her and her business.  In the front, she was lucky enough to keep the stained glass that accented the windows, still allowing bright light to encompass the inner home.  She had a long white porch where she and Jasper could watch the day go by, listening to the many beautiful wind chimes hanging from the rafters.  Jasper never left her side, her protector from the angry voices that sometimes came. 

She had a full morning of readings that day but promised her mother she would visit later.  She hadnít seen them recently and missed Grandma and her cookies.  She would make sure to stop by the little store that sold items to the mediums.  She wanted some tinctures and crystals that were running low.  She didnít really need them, but as a medium it gave her customers a more spiritual sense around them.  The tarot cards she had were not that special, she wanted something more decorative to help with the ambience of her studio.
She left the phone call with Cee and got herself ready for a customer she hadnít seen before.  She retreated to her studio and repeated a prayer she said always before a reading to keep the darkness away. 

Dear God of Mercy and Light,
Keeping shadows from my sight
Allow the light to flow around
Hear my worship from the ground.
Bring only kind words from my speak
And help those who choose to seek.


   This prayer had worked for her always, it allowed those that came to her no darkness in them.  She trusted it and herself to always allow the light.  It was her mantra and she repeated it often during the day.  When she rose in the morning and before sleep each night, as well as before and after each reading.  It protected her just as much as Jasper did, and Salem believed it was the reason Jasper was still beside her. 
« Last Edit: March 04, 2020, 05:22:49 PM by Krispy915 »

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2020, 06:16:12 AM »
Overall I found this rather too derivative of 'The Sixth Sense' - Salem hears dead people rather than seeing them. There's also a strong undercurrent of spirituality and witchcraft that doesn't help create a believable world. It became rather a muddle. Salem's mother and grandmother are apparently mediums, yet they fail to notice she can hear the dead.

The style of narrative is also very 'telling' - it reads like a newspaper report or a witness statement rather than a story. You record everything second-hand but we don't get to see very much first-hand. There's hardly any dialogue either, so your characters don't leap to life from the page the way they should.

It's a decent enough start and you write reasonably well, but I found these two chapters rather heavy going. For an opening to a novel, there's very little here in terms of plot or style that would encourage me to continue reading.

Offline Krispy915

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Re: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2020, 07:02:51 AM »
I appreciate your critique, I do need all the help I can get. I don't understand the remark that I'm recording second-hand.  Can you expand on that Please? Thank you

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2020, 07:26:21 AM »
This is written in past tense - you're recording events that have already happened rather like a newspaper report.
I'm not suggesting you change to present tense narrative, but you have already set an invisible barrier between the characters and the reader. You (the author) are hovering above the scene, telling us about what's happening in a rather clinical way instead of allowing us to watch everything unfold from the perspective of your characters.

By distancing the reader this way, it's difficult to engage with the story and your characters. Intimacy is particularly important if you want the reader to empathise your main character. Because we're looking at each scene from such a distance we're less likely to care what happens to her. That's partly one reason why writers are encouraged to 'show' rather than 'tell'.

Try Googling 'Narrative Distance' or 'Psychic Distance in Writing' and you'll get a better idea of what I'm rambling on about.

Offline Krispy915

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Re: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2020, 07:28:54 AM »
thank you again, I will definitely take your suggestions.  Much appreciated!

Offline NerdiViola

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Re: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2020, 06:12:05 PM »
I browsed through a few different stories, but yours was the one I stopped to read! I like a lot of your descriptions in the first several paragraphs (really most of the first chapter), but I think you should wait to explicitly say "the voices of the dead." Let the readers guess that's what you mean long before you actually reveal it. That being said, don't build up the drama around it too much since the readers may have already figured it out, depending on when you actually drop the "voices of the dead" part. Hopefully that makes sense.
I'm not entirely sure where you're going with the second chapter, but I'm sure that's just because it's so early on. What I noticed about this chapter is that you carry on with the very explanatory tone, which worked for the first chapter since it sounds like someone's reflections on their life, but with this 3rd-person-limited POV you have in the second chapter, it would be better to do some showing rather than telling. Show us how her grandma is traditional, or is religious, or all of those things. Show us how Cee is jealous. They don't have to be long, extensive scenes (likely you can put it all in one brief scene) but give us some real-time dialogue and actions rather than narrative summary.
Best of luck!

Offline Krispy915

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Re: Salem, Ch. 1 and 2
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2020, 08:20:50 AM »
Thank you so much for your suggestions!  I will take them to heart and make some changes.  I was feeling like I was going the wrong way with this but your critique gave me lots of hope.  So thankful to you!