Today, January 3, I, Amira K. Makansi, am 25 years old. A quarter of a century. When I was born the Berlin Wall was still around, the Internet hadn’t been ‘invented’, and ‘smartphone was a nonsensical word. Now I’m twenty-five, thinking about history and wondering where I will be in another twenty-five years. Birthdays are a great time to reflect on where we’ve come and where we’re going, and after an adventurous year as a twenty-four year old, I have a lot to reflect on.
I’d like to ask my blog followers and readers for a birthday present. It’s easy, and maybe fun: I’d like you to tell me what you think about this snippet I wrote a year and a half ago and recently rediscovered in a file on my computer. I read it again and thought it had potential. So, my dearest readers, for my birthday, I’d love it if you’d give me the best present of all: feedback. Positive or negative, funny or serious, just tell me what you think.
I have a history with suicides.
When I was three, I attempted the first time. A year later, my second, and not five months after that I tried again. Then my mother cried so much that I stopped for a few years and didn’t try again until I was eleven. When you’re a child, you easily forgive yourself your mistakes, so I forgave myself for my failures and tried again. Thirteen. Fifteen. And now I’m sixteen and trying a new one—a powerful one. I’ve doused myself in gasoline and I’m ready to light the match.
They’re all the same. Every time I try, I fail. I don’t know why. When I was three I tried to drown myself but I stayed underwater for so long without dying that my dad was able to jump into the pool and ‘rescue’ me. The next time I jumped off a bridge, but the fall didn’t so much as break my bones. Maybe I just didn’t pick a high enough starting point, I thought foolishly, childishly. That’s why I tried again so soon after. I snuck up to the roof of my mother’s office building—forty stories up, so they said—and jumped. At least I bled that time.
This time will be different, I tell myself. Surely even I won’t be able to escape the flames.
Because this time, the stakes are higher. This time, I have proof that they exist. And I need to kill myself before they kill me.
As you can see, there are a lot of directions I could go with this. It could be young adult paranormal fiction. It could be about psychological derangement, insanity. It could be a Victorian-style horror. It could be dark, otherworldly fantasy. It could be science-fiction. There are so many options, and I don’t know what I want to do with it. I don’t even know whether the protagonist is male or female. I don’t know what his or her name is. All I know is that I’m interested, and if you are too, I want to bring this snippet to life.
If there’s interest in it, I’d like to embark on a new foray in publishing: A reader-driven narration. If enough people are willing to join me on this journey, I’m going to turn this snippet into a blog serial. With the help of my readers, I’ll create the story. Once a week I’ll publish a new installment. They will always be free. After each installment, you can offer suggestions about which direction the story should go. What happens next? What are the characters’ names? What world is this set in? Who is the villain? What do the monsters look like? There are hundreds of questions that beg answers, and I need your help.
Of course, if you think it sucks, be honest. I won’t write it if there’s no potential. But if there is, then we have a story on our hands.
So leave a comment and tell me what you think! Here are the questions I need answered, for starters: Would you keep reading? Is the protagonist male or female? He or she doesn’t have to have a name yet, but if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. What is he or she so afraid of? And if we think of this as the prologue, what is the first chapter? A friend who kindly read the snippet suggested that I need to explain the protagonist’s first suicide attempt. After all, a three-year-old child attempting to kill him or herself is a disturbing concept, and it begs explanation. I thought maybe that could be the first chapter. Or not. I don’t know. Thoughts?
Thanks for helping to make my 25th birthday awesome!
Would you keep reading? – Audience-interactive story? I definitely would at first, it would depend on what direction it went.
Is the protagonist male or female? – How far could you take it without specifying?
What is he or she so afraid of? – Something that only the protagonist is aware of, but they completely believe. Let the reader wonder if it’s real or psychological, at least in the beginning.
And if we think of this as the prologue, what is the first chapter? – Chronological walk through the morning. Explain why there are multi-year gaps between attempts, and why today is the day for a new attempt.
Oh – Happ Birthday!
Thank you! I love it! Great feedback, & thanks so much!
You got me with the last line, so there is most definitely potential. I want to know what the stakes are. I think of literal stakes – weapons – too. I’m not sure where I’d personally go with it, but something in the supernatural realm, maybe?
It definitely feels supernatural to me, but it could also be psychological/internal. What is the child seeing that’s driving her to self-destruction, I wonder…
Hmm, I don’t if the young child haven’t those thoughts would work without raising suspicion; are other forces manipulating his or her actions. What kind of entity would do that?
More questions maybe.
Very speculative! I like it. Good point about the maturity. Need to understand why she/he is so horrified she’s driven to suicide. What is she trying to escape in the world of the living?
His name is Ying. Her name is Y’ang
Sucide is the only way to get out of the vicious reincarnation circle he’s been trapped in for years, an age long battle between him and her.
If she kills him, he’s forced on a crazy game of tag, to return in the next world and kill her. If she kills him she gets a period of time on earth on disturbed.
Twist to the story is he’s in love with her.
Many directions you could take it to. Good luck
For the record, I am a Christian. Don’t really believe in reincarnation.
Oh my god, that’s so cool. I love it. If I don’t write that with this story, I’ll turn it into a short story eventually. (Unless you want to claim it!)
Naa. I love writing, have loads of ideas. But I’m lazy. I have a book I’ve been writing for years. Pick my brain any time you like
Naa, its your story. Keep it. I love writing, have loads of ideas. But I’m lazy. I have a book I’ve been writing for years. Pick my brain any time you like
Her name is Dakota and she is a Harbinger, a race of nearly indestructable beings birthed to human parents before an apocalyptic event. Now, she must find a way to end her life before the mortals who summoned her can use her to end the world. However, the only ally she has is a man who loves her too much to let her go.
*so that’s my take on it. I think supernatural. I don’t know about YA because the suicide concept is pretty heavy, but I don’t know the genre well enough to say. As for 3 year olds killing themselves: my son at 3 repeated tried to hurt himself or the stupidest things. they have no grasp of death or even serious injury. They just know they are very angry or sad and they lash out.
Hope that helps. I for one, will be reading
You would naturally introduce the most awesome word into the story, Harbinger. That’s definitely going in there somewhere. Thanks, Jon 🙂
I think supernatural/paranormal/horror (what’s the difference, again??). I love the yin/yang idea from TipTim. Of course I will keep reading (I’m your sister.) I don’t think you need to assign a gender to the protagonist just yet. Wait, and see how it rolls out. Same with names. Pick something for now, but wait and see what the story turns into.
As for it being a prologue/first chapter – I think neither, honestly, at least in its “final” form. This reads more as a back-cover or a pitch. Take the elements apart , elaborate on them, dissect them, write more. Then come back to us. I need some questions answered, or at least probed, before I’ll want to dig in: who is “they”? what is the protagonist’s proof of their existence? was she being controlled by something else? I think IF this is the “prologue” for now, the first chapter needs to be the proof. Also, yes, you do need to explain the first suicide attempt. And I wouldn’t be sold on the protag being three yrs old at first – they could be older and it’d still be credible/creepy.
Good point – this is a pretty decent ‘sell’ and it doesn’t have to be the prologue to anything. I was just trying to set it up as a way to ask what the first chapter should be. So, proof of existence – that’s an important one. I’ll work on that.
I don’t really have suggestions about where it could go, but it should definitely go somewhere. 🙂 I would totally keep reading–I want to know who “they” are. I think a science-fiction or paranormal story would work well, though maybe a bit typical. A psychological take would be VERY interesting but probably too dark for me. 🙂 For what it’s worth, I immediately thought of the narrator as female.
I think it could be set in a science-fiction world but with dark otherworldly/fantastical elements that explain why the protagonist is trying to kill him/herself. I also read it as female initially, but I think I’m going to leave it ambiguous for as long as possible. Thanks for your write-in, Amanda!
I would definitely keep reading.
I honestly thought there was something more to the story after those first couple of lines. It’s disturbing that a child so young would attempt suicide, and I hoped there would be a legitimate reason.
As I was reading it, I pictured the protagonist to be female – but I agree with a lot of reckoner67’s comments. I think it’d be super cool to keep it ambiguous for as long as possible, perhaps for the entire story, so that the reader can identify with the protagonist for as much as possible. The same holds for what he/she is so afraid of – is there any way you could make it something so ambiguous that it would frighten all readers collectively, but also at an individual level? A purely psychologically driven horror story in which each reader participates as the protagonist? As for the first chapter, I think I’d start it with a typical day in the protagonist’s life, during which you reveal something about the things she’s afraid of.
Anyway I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but I hope it sparked some ideas! The thought of a blog serial sounds super cool. If you decide to go through with it, I’ll definitely participate!
Have a very happy birthday! 🙂
Sounds great, Hiba, thanks so much – I’m definitely into the idea of a ‘purely psychologically driven horror story’ and trying to think of ways to bring that to life.
Happy birthday Amira! Hope your day is going swimmingly 🙂
I definately thought this had promise. The last line is ace. I’d find it hard to read about suicide attempts but if you were to focus on the internal & external worlds and not the acts themselves be gripping.
Thought the narrator was female. Love the reincarnation cycle idea but could also see it going down the paranormal route.
Reader driven idea fab. Am in if you start this, n
Yeah, I think there’s a really dark/disturbing direction to take this in, and then there’s a less intense version of that. I’m aiming, I think, for the less-intense version. We’ll see, though 🙂
Yep, exciting. Loads of potential. Be watching curiously 🙂
I love this idea. Kinda like a variation of “and then” stories.
Right now, it reads like the VO for a movie or trailer, which is great as a jumping off point for us readers, but you could do more with it. I think your friend is spot on: expand the first attempt into a scene or a chapter. Also, perhaps sprinkle the other attempts throughout the novel in daydreams. For example, if she’s cooking in the kitchen, she could recall the time she stabbed herself.
There are a lot of hooks here–juicy questions that compel me to read further for the answers–and I have an idea for one more. I’d change the last line to: “And I need to kill myself before they do something even worse.”
Thanks, Peter! I think I am going to work on expanding the first chapter into something more. Everyone’s been giving me so much great feedback, I think this might really blossom…
I would love to read this as a YA dark fantasy/drama. Or any genre really, because it’s wholly engaging, and very raw. For a snippet, it packs a lot of pathos. The concept of a child so youngy trying to commit suicide, is enough ‘dark matter’ to speak for itself. I think an audience would commit themselves to reading on to learn more of the child’s involvement with his/her world.
I’m sorry it’s taken this long to say so – you never dropped a word earlier, you sly fox – but happy birthday! My goodness. Only 25. You have a much wiser head than a lot of older folks I know.
Hope you have an awesome day/night, liebling xxx
Thank you so much, Rachael! I’m definitely leaning towards dark fantasy, and I think with a sixteen year old narrator it lends itself well to that YA age group. I’m definitely trying to figure out a way to justify the notion of a child hurting him/herself, though as Jon pointed out, children a lot of the time don’t have a clue what they’re doing with dangerous objects or life-threatening situations.
He’s right. When I was about four, I picked it up broken glass in the park, thinking it was precious jewels. I wanted to take it to show Ma, but it cut my hands wide. And my little brother decided to hang himself by the neck between a low wall, and the ladder leading up to our cat’s little house. He was six. We have no idea why he did it, and he doesn’t remember doing it; but my parents were going through hellish arguments at the time. I still wonder if it impacted on him in such a way .. but he was too young to have any idea about suicide or self harm. God knows.
Sometimes, things happen for no reason at all.
Would I keep reading? Hell yes!
I didn’t get a sense that she (felt feminine to me) was afraid. The question I have is, what difference does it make if she kills herself before they kill her? She’ll be dead either way. Wouldn’t she prefer to preserve her own life? Is that what she was referring to when she said the stakes were higher? What would “they” gain by killing her themselves? The most important question, the reason I’d keep reading, is to find out what they want from her, what they’ll do to get it, before killing her. Her motivation for killing herself doesn’t seem to be simply avoiding death at someone elses hands, but keeping something from them. I sincerely hope you do start a serial with this!
Awesome! That’s a great question, too, Jess. Peter Samet suggested I change the last line to “And I need to kill myself before they do something even worse.” I think if I stick with it the way it is, it’ll imply some kind of life-after-death thing, which I’m not sure I want to experiment with. I don’t know.
I would keep reading if….
1) This is not the prologue.
2) The action starts quickly.
3) I don’t so much care about the previous suicide attempts. They could be lightly touched on or flashed back to, but I wouldn’t want to read a lot about them. Yeah, a young child trying to commit suicide begs some explanation, but it could easily be explained by the events (that she was afraid of happening back then) coming to pass in the present.
4) It feels like the action should pick up immediately from the end here; I really don’t want to have to backtrack too much in the narrative and I think that would turn me off.
5) I will read it anyway, so take my comments with a grain of salt! 😉
Interesting! thanks for your feedback. Maybe I can work the previous suicide attempts into the narrative in other ways? A lot of people have commented that they do want to hear about the prior attempts, so I’ll figure out something to do with them. But in the meantime, I’m definitely thinking that the first chapter should be exciting! Thanks for commenting!
Cool idea, I’ll mull over possibilities. It’s like those Choose your own Adventure books (yeah that’s how old I am). Happy birthday Amira! May the next quarter of a century be awesome to you.
Happy birthday, Amira! Hope you’re having an awesome, awesome day! ❤
I read & thought she was female, but then after seeing discussion I got the idea that it might be that she has many reincarnations (both male & female) & she remembers them all & that is the reason this time she wants to die ( & was committing suicides).
The other idea I got that she might have many other personalities (people, spirits, souls, lives… whatever else u can imagine) inside of her… might be real (psychological) though I’m more for a science-fiction fantasy with some darkness mixed with light & horror. You might even change genders throughout the series 😉
These persons inside might be those who tried to kill her & I loved the idea of hiding something… like what will happen if somebody else would kill her… how does it matter to her, to other people & maybe whole world…
Many options, many ways…
I’ll definitely read it & I didn’t feel fear either just strong will & wish to do what he/she wants no matter what…
& Happy Happy Birthday to you!!!