Author Topic: First draft- YA Novel exert  (Read 681 times)

Offline Tassiem

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First draft- YA Novel exert
« on: February 06, 2020, 10:47:43 PM »
Wilbur wasn’t a bad town. It would be a stretch to call it a good town though. A more accurate assessment would be that it was a typical small town. You get the average amount of small minded folk who can be found anywhere on the planet, in a percentage that always feels higher in a small town. Perhaps there really were more of them per body to be found in the hidden alcoves of society or perhaps their voices just carry better without the ‘big city distractions’ offered elsewhere.

There were your fair share of crazies as well, ranging from old Mrs. Barnes who had a tendency to throw salt at anyone who gave her a ‘bad feeling’ to Mr. Crabbe who was never quite the same after he retired from teaching at the old elementary school.

Every small town has its fair share of rumors and mythology, the empty air that could be occupied by buildings, people, or society at large instead filling with boogymen of all sorts. There is, of course, a sprinkle of truth to some of these tall tales. Perhaps the schoolyard tale about the sunflowers eating children who got wandered alone in their stock was related to the incident some fifty years ago when a deranged man took two children. Or perhaps it was a tale purely from the ever expanding imagination of youth.

And of course there were the rumor mills. There were ears and eyes watching every part of the claustrophobic country air, clinging on every piece of juicy gossip for their own purposes and with eyes that glossed over with judgement and sadistic glee. Perhaps this too was due to the lack of distractions that might otherwise occupy the bored and cruel.

It didn’t particularly matter whether Wilbur was good or bad, typical or abnormal though, the fact was that Tamika hated it here. She’d swore to herself she’d never return and yet here she was, dragging a suitcase along the stocks of sunflowers. The flowers danced gently in the wind, a simple two step that the wind led and the flowers followed submissively.

Those flowers used to terrify her once upon a time. The schoolyard legends of what could happen hidden beneath the bright sunny flowers, among the itchy spines and slapping leaves. It didn’t bare thinking about.

Those fears seemed silly now. The flowers were much less daunting at eye level. Somedays it did pay to be tall--although she could do without the broad shoulders that always made her feel uncomfortable.

Sweat was building up under her wig and she regretted wearing it on her trip home. She knew summers here well enough to know that they were the best times to go natural with her hair. It wasn’t far from the bus to her parents home but she momentarily regretted her decision to refuse a ride from the airport.

Six hours in the sky, two hours on a bus, and now a fifteen minute walk with only heat and sunflowers as her companion.

“Fuck me…” She grumbled, her own words getting swallowed by another gentle breeze and joining the pas de deux in the field of flower field. She spared a disturbed single thought for whether or not the flowers would consider that an invitation.

Just another cruel little thought to join in her nightmares. She groaned, if she saw so much as one yellow flower out of place she was going to burn the entire field down. Or at least she’d wish she could do so just to see the last of those horrible flowers.

Mercifully her parents home finally came into view and the sight alone was enough to make every ache in her body complain louder. Her lower back bitching about the cramped economy flight, her nose making it’s unforgiving nature known by bringing up the stinky man from the bus, and her fingers asking to see the manager over the weight of her suitcase.

Still, that strange freedom to complain brought upon by the familiar sight of home had its own shadow and couldn’t help but interject about the other problems.

She didn’t have the time to really dwell on that though. Two strong arms wrapped around her shoulders and a chin rested on her head. “Tami! Why the hell didn’t you ask me for a ride?”

“Because I didn’t need one.” She rolled her eyes with a laugh, pulling out of his arms.

Duante pouted, despite his height and size, he could pout like the best of puppies. Tamika was too used to it to give it any credence though, continuing up the drive to her parents front door with Duante following after her.

“Is that any way to treat your highschool sweetheart?” He couldn’t keep a straight face even as he said it and she couldn’t help but resent the reminder.

It wasn’t that she regretted it. They’d gotten together for the right reasons and broken up for the right reasons.
That didn’t make it any less of a foolish game of youth that she would rather forget.

She was spared having to chastise him because of the second hug of the day. Her mother had swung open the front door and all but crushed her with the weight of her love. Tamika’s muffled protests about the heat falling on deaf ears.

“Oh my sweet baby’s home.” she pulled away just enough to take in her daughters features, examining her critically for any major changes. “Where have you been? It’s been too long!”

“University, ma.” Tamika replied weakly, affection and nerves bubbling up despite herself.

Her mother tsked, guiding her inside and welcoming Duante in after her like he was a part of the family. Considering how inseparable the pair had been since birth, he might as well have been her brother.

“That’s no excuse! What about summer break? Winter vacation? Holidays? My sweet baby, all alone in the big city. Making us proud.”

Oh god, it was the cheek pinch.

Her mother was every bit the sort who would poke, pinch, prod, and groom anyone within her reach. Most especially towards her daughter.

It wasn’t so bad when she was seven but at twenty-two, it was a bit much.

“I was working, you know that. And I’m here now.” She pointed out, hoping the words didn’t sound too impertinent.
Her mother was as strict as she was kind. Tamika never knew quite what to expect but she kept her words respectful as much as possible.

Still, it was a sore subject with ehr and it was hard not to complain loudly that this horrible town was exactly why she’d worked every holiday and vacation since she’d started up at university.

“Give her a break, Mrs. B.” Duante pleaded with a sweet smile that always made her mom melt. Tamika was at least forty percent sure her mother wanted a son more than a daughter, but those thoughts had to wait in the corner while she was ushered to the dining room table. “She just got back.”

“If she didn’t want to get a lecture, she should have come home. Eat, eat.” The last words were directed towards Tamika and she did so obediently.

Her mother's impressions of her favorite foods were all on display, ready and waiting for her. A welcome feast for the runaway daughter.


She would never in her entire life be able to admit to her mother that she hated the taste of the homemade loaves of bread. It was the pride of her mother's heart that she made the best loaf in town, which was objectively true, but it said a lot more about the competition than the loaf.

She was exhausted, overheated, nervous, and she’d already had a large lunch. But she ate and let her mother shower her in equal parts affection and chides, the saccharine moments accented with Duante’s contributions.
It was when she was choking down the boiled spinach that her brain tuned into the conversation at hand.
“--and I heard that Sara wanted to come too--” Duante was saying conversationally, causing Tamika to literally choke and kick him under the table.

Her mother looked over to her in confusion. “Who’s Sara?”

Tamika heaved in air when she managed it, speaking far too quickly and far too nervously. “Friend from university, we took a few classes together.”

Duante had already figured out his slip up but the damage was done, the pair of them had drawn an unnecessary amount of attention to Sara.

Leaning on the countertop curiously, her mother pressed for information. “You’ve never mentioned her to me.”
Mentally Tamika apologized for what she was about to do. Duante nudged her foot apologetically but remained silent.
“Uh…. she’s kind of bad news.” Tamika said, looking as guilty as she felt. “I didn’t really think you’d like her.”

“Why wouldn’t I like her?” she sounded more hurt than offended and Tamika felt her stomach sink further as she sought out something true to say about Sara that her mother could understand.

“Well, uh, for starters she’s an atheist.”

The air felt momentarily sucked from the room as her mother made a sound of understanding.

“I can see why you’d think that.” Her mother smiled, not unkindly, but there was a bit of an edge to it. “But I don’t mind if you have some friends who are going to hell, so long as they don’t drag my baby down with them.”

It stung. More than she cared to admit. Even as her mother gave her a half hug and filled the room with more saccharine affection. Even as Duante left while mouthing ‘sorry’ when her mother wasn’t looking.

It was something of a daze until she’d finally managed to retreat back to her old bedroom and collapse onto the plush sheets of her teenhood. She knew she must have responded appropriately to the the inquisitions her mother made because she was now free of it, but she would be hard-pressed to even summarize what they talked about. She could make an educated guess though but what would be the point?

She turned over in her sheets, attempting to force her endless thoughts to stop. At least she didn’t have to bother greeting her father, he was off on a business trip and who knew when he’d get back.

“Home sweet home…” She whispered to herself, hating the words as much as she hated the town. Sweet and claustrophobic. It was inevitable she’d run out of excuses to avoid the place but she couldn’t help but resent how close she’d got to graduation before the country pulled her back down.

“Come home, sweetie.” Her mother had said, all soft and uncharacteristically vulnerable. “You’re not working, right?”
Of course her mom had stalked her social media and of course she’d been foolish enough to share her summer plans online. You just couldn’t tell old mums that you’d rather prance around on beaches and hooking up than to visit them.

Perhaps the circling thoughts acted like counted sheep or perhaps exhaustion finally took its toll, one way or another Tamika happily accepted the invitation to a dreamless sleep.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2020, 11:04:26 PM by Tassiem »
thank you

Offline Dustin91

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Re: First draft- YA Novel exert
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2020, 12:11:10 AM »
Hi Tassiem,

I'm afraid this excerpt didn't do much for me. The lofty, cynical philosophizing came across as melodramatic, and left me uninspired and apathetic toward whatever our angsty MC was so annoyed with. I don't read much young adult fiction, so perhaps I'm not the most equipped to comment. But I believe in 1,800 words something needs to grab my attention and make me at least curious, preferably utterly captivated, about what happens next.

Instead we get this jaded, incredulous young character, fresh home from the enlightened nether realm of College with an edgy new perspective, laboriously juxtaposed with the bucolic culture of her hometown, droning on ad naseum about how she no longer fits-in in this setting--a pas de deux, one might perceive, where one dancer is slouched against the wall, arms crossed, too cool to participate. Where is the reader meant to be hooked?

Sunflowers eating children is actually a concept for a short story I would be interested in reading.

Dustin


Offline PIJ1951

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Re: First draft- YA Novel exert
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2020, 09:09:18 AM »
My initial feeling is that most of this is you, the author, clearing your throat. 90% of the intro is repetitive and rather boring. Wilbur is set in small-town America. We get this without the long-winded, Stephen King-type local history lecture and the weird urban myth surrounding the sunflowers. If any of this is relevant it can come later.

There's only one thing the reader needs to know at this point in the story.Tamika hates Wilbur, but she's back in town. Why?

Unfortunately any sense of intrigue is lost as soon as this segues rather too quickly for my liking into high-school romance and domestic tedium territory. You don't seem to be sure what tone this story will take on. Is it meant to be dark and suspenseful or frothy and hopelessly shallow?

Tamika's failure to visit home even once whilst studying in university followed by this sudden reappearance makes no sense. Duante's slip-up likewise. How does he know about Sara? Have he and Tamika kept in touch? Her loathing of him suggests not. As for his puppy pout and their being inseparable from birth (really?) - it's sickly and totally over the top even for Hollywood. And do you consider her mother's reaction the normal behaviour of a woman who has not seen her daughter in three years? Stuffing the girl with food?

I'm assuming there will be some kind of plot twist sooner rather than later. Sara's atheism is hardly shock material. Unfortunately, as it stands this rather dull opening scene is more likely to drive readers away than encourage them to turn the pages, YA or otherwise. Tamika's behaviour doesn't ring true on any level and the rest of the cast are stereotypes.

Openings are notoriously difficult to get right. For what it's worth, I write YA fiction and this rather uneventful, long-drawn-out excerpt does you no favours. YA audiences are a discerning bunch and rarely make allowances for uninspiring material. I suggest you start your story elsewhere and make sure it hits the ground running.

Offline pclark333

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Re: First draft- YA Novel exert
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2020, 09:52:33 PM »
Hi.  I’m your friendly neighborhood grammar nitpicker and I’m going to point out a few things that will make your work easier to read and understand if you change them.  Farther down the road when a publisher gets a hold of your work, they’ll expect to see no trace of the things.

Perhaps the schoolyard tale about the sunflowers eating children who got wandered alone in their stock was related to the incident some fifty years ago when a deranged man took two children. --  “…who got wandered alone” doesn’t make sense.  Do you mean “who were wandering alone” or “got caught wandering alone,” perhaps?

It didn’t particularly matter whether Wilbur was good or bad, typical or abnormal though, the fact was that Tamika hated it here.  --  This is a run-on sentence, meaning two separate sentences joined by a comma.  The two sentences should be divided by a semicolon or made into two distinct sentences, but in this instance wouldn’t a semicolon make it sound good?

The flowers danced gently in the wind, a simple two step that the wind led and the flowers followed submissively.  --  Just a note that this is beautiful, poetic phrasing.  It makes me think that something beautiful is going to happen next, or soon.

It didn’t bare thinking about.  --  I think you mean “bear” which means to carry or support instead of “bare” which means to uncover.

Those fears seemed silly now. The flowers were much less daunting at eye level. Somedays it did pay to be tall--although she could do without the broad shoulders that always made her feel uncomfortable.

It wasn’t far from the bus to her parents home but she momentarily regretted her decision to refuse a ride from the airport.  --  parents’

She grumbled, her own words getting swallowed by another gentle breeze and joining the pas de deux in the field of flower field.  --  “…in the field of a flower field” doesn’t make sense.

She groaned, if she saw so much as one yellow flower out of place she was going to burn the entire field down.  --  This is a run-on sentence.  Wouldn’t two sentences sound better?  “She groaned.  If she saw so much as…”  Second comment – maybe more of a question.  Did she groan audibly or in her mind?

her nose making it’s unforgiving nature known by bringing up the stinky man from the bus  --  I know you know this already because you used it correctly in another point of this chapter, but since the possessive of “it” is “its” not “it’s”.

“Is that any way to treat your highschool sweetheart?”  --  Try using the standard “high school” instead of the very unusual “highschool” unless you want to convey a very special point.

Tamika’s muffled protests about the heat falling on deaf ears.  --   This is a sentence fragment instead of a complete sentence so it really sticks out in the paragraph of otherwise complete sentences.  Do you mean “fell” instead of “falling”?  Fell would turn it into a complete sentence.

Oh god, it was the cheek pinch.  --  Writing god with a lower case g risks alienating readers.  If you don’t have a very special purpose behind the lower case g – and I see you might! – then you won’t make your reader stop and think why you used a lower case g rather than the standard capital G.

“I was working, you know that. And I’m here now.” She pointed out, hoping the words didn’t sound too impertinent.  There’s something wrong with the dialog tag here.  Let me try rewriting it with the rules I was taught:

…I’m here now,” she pointed…

“If she didn’t want to get a lecture, she should have come home.”  --  I think you mean “shouldn’t”.  One trick to avoiding this kind of thing is reading your own work aloud.  You’ll hear things that you’ll miss when reading.  I have actually witnessed a pro writer do this as a last step before submitting her work.

Duante had already figured out his slip up but the damage was done, the pair of them had drawn an unnecessary amount of attention to Sara.  --  This is a run-on sentence.  Wouldn’t it still sound good as two sentences?

It was something of a daze until she’d finally managed to retreat back to her old bedroom and collapse onto the plush sheets of her teenhood.  --  Usually “daze” is used differently and I’ve never seen the way you used it.  If you’re not making a crucial point, it would be better to use daze conventionally.  As in, “She was in somewhat of a daze until she finally managed…”

At least she didn’t have to bother greeting her father, he was off on a business trip and who knew when he’d get back.  --  This is a run-on sentence.

You just couldn’t tell old mums that you’d rather prance around on beaches and hooking up than to visit them.  --  I think I know what you’re trying to say but that’s not what the words say.  Try reading it out loud and you’ll probably hear what’s wrong.

Perhaps the circling thoughts acted like counted sheep or perhaps exhaustion finally took its toll, one way or another Tamika happily accepted the invitation to a dreamless sleep.  --  This is a run-on sentence.

Offline Tassiem

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Re: First draft- YA Novel exert
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2020, 02:30:45 AM »
Thank you, pclark333. It's really rare to run into such a constructive and helpful critique. You really took the time to give me constructive and instructive advice and I really appreciate all of the effort you put into it. I hope you have an awesome day, dude. I'll make sure to apply your advice! :)

On that note, I'm also interested to take a look at your work. You have a charisma in how you write (even when it's a critique) that I would be really interested to see how it shows in your own writing! I'll keep an eye out for your work if you wind up posting anything.
thank you