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Author Topic: A Matter of Balance
Tess
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Rewritten piece, hopefully improved, due to helpful feedback from others around here. 2633 words, chapter one to a YA book I hope to finish some day. Has to do with a computer game that might be sentient, but the first chapter only touches on the game part. Love to get feedback from anyone willing. Here's the first 13.

* * *

Liz Wilston, on a sunny afternoon in August, sat in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, eating lunch with her parents and younger brother. After a morning traversing the city by foot, she enjoyed the chance to rest. Wasn’t her idea, exploring a city for vacation. If she had any say in matter, she would have taken a cab to see the sights, but nobody cared what she thought.

“I propose a toast,” said Dad, holding up his water glass. “To a fine summer, and the start of a new school year.”

“May the upcoming year be better than the last one,” Mom added, raising her ceramic tea cup.

Brian, the brother, pushed his half-finished egg fooyoung aside and shook his empty coke glass. “I need another coke.”

Liz hated his one-liners, always phrased like a joke. Wouldn’t be so bad, if Mom and Dad didn’t think it cute.

“Drink your water,” said both parents, smiling.


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HuntGod
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quote:
Wasn’t her idea, exploring a city for vacation.

This doesn't make any sense.


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HSO
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What Hunt said and:

What's the deal with all the missing words in this? Is it Liz's voice I'm reading here?

Also, I didn't get the one-liner bit.

But, this all may be because I'm not a YA and I never read YA stuff growing up. I was firmly rooted in Asimov and other SF writers.


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Tess
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Thanks, to both of you. Small stuff us easy to fix. I think I neglected to say I could use readers. Rewritten first 13:

* * *

Liz Wilston, on a sunny afternoon in August, sat in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, eating lunch with her parents and younger brother. After a morning traversing the city by foot, she enjoyed the chance to rest. It wasn’t Liz’s idea, exploring a city for vacation. If she had any say in matter, she would have taken a cab to see the sights, but nobody cared what she thought.

“I propose a toast,” said Dad, holding up his water glass. “To a fine summer, and the start of a new school year.”

“May the upcoming year be better than the last one,” Mom added, raising her ceramic tea cup.

Brian, Liz’s brother, pushed his half-finished egg fooyoung aside and shook his empty coke glass. “I need another coke,” he said, smirking, as if telling a joke.

Liz didn’t find it funny. He only acted that way because Mom and Dad encouraged him.

“Drink your water,” said both parents, smiling.

* * *

Gosh, the first 13's tough. Is it wrong to jump directly into a scene with minimal information, first thing? Sorry to those with little interest in YA. Fortunately, feedback is optional.

[This message has been edited by Tess (edited January 25, 2005).]


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Survivor
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I thought the first version was fine, though perhaps saying that Brian's one-liners were always phrased like jokes is a bit redundant, since one-liners are a type of joke.

Anyway, I remember this being promising before even though you never got to the juicy part. So I wouldn't mind reading this version at all (unless some horrible personality affliction has struck you, rendering your work unrecognizably different--you think it can't happen but it does).


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Kolona
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Although I like the rewrite better, the first sentence still sounds too much like a set-up, a mini-info dump. The paragraph might be more interesting if you fed some of the info into the action/thoughts of the whole paragraph. For instance, instead of identifying the city in the first sentence, substitute 'San Francisco' for 'the city' in the second; instead of a weather report in the first sentence, work the sunny afternoon into the sentence about the morning.

I'd be game to read the rest.


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Tess
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As always, the suggestions help. Thank you, and one more time:


Liz Wilston, one afternoon in August, sat in a Chinese restaurant, eating lunch with her parents and younger brother. After a morning traversing San Francisco by foot, she enjoyed the chance to rest. Her legs hurt, and she no longer liked the idea of spending vacation time exploring a city. If she had any say in matter, she would have taken a cab to see the sights, but nobody cared what she thought.

“I propose a toast,” said Dad, holding up his water glass. “To a fine summer, and the start of a new school year.”

“May the upcoming year be better than the last one,” Mom added, raising her ceramic tea cup.

Brian, Liz’s brother, pushed his half-finished egg fooyoung aside and shook his empty coke glass. “I need another coke,” he said, smirking, as if telling a joke.
Liz didn’t find it funny. He only acted that way because Mom and Dad encouraged him.

“Drink your water,” said both parents, smiling.


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W. Rought
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Just two things I can see to improve on what you have here.

--------------------------------------------
1. On a sunny afternoon in August, Liz Wilston sat in a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, eating lunch with her parents and younger brother.

Less breaks and the sentence flows more smoothly.
---------------------------------------------
2. Liz’s brother, Brian, pushed his half-finished egg fooyoung aside and shook his empty coke glass. “I need another coke,” he said smirking, pleased with the timing of his humor.

I think this is more of what you are trying to say. Don't use this word for word, I just threw it in there to make the point. Many times I find myself doing the same thing, not writing exactly what I mean.
---------------------------------------------
I hope this helps ya some. The start seems good but as the others, I am not a YA, I may have been once...but that was so long ago I have forgoten what it was like nor do I know how YAs are no adays to give a better critque.

[This message has been edited by W. Rought (edited January 26, 2005).]


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Tess
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Definitely helps. Thanks. Amazing, how you can't see things in your own work that you'd probably pick up in other's.
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JBSkaggs
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I read a lot of YA and I work with a lot of kids. May I make a suggestion. You might let Liz actually think her thoughts.

example:
"I need another coke," he said smirking.
Spoiled rotten smart-alleck. He needs a spanking.

I think if you show her actual comments and judgements you connect us to her.


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Tess
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Hi Skaggs, I see your point. I've been struggling with that kind of approach, using italics to signify the thought, and I'm having trouble making it work here.

Notice how, in this particular instance, your suggested sentence make Liz seem nasty. Liz definitely is off base in some of her assessments, but I need to make the reader sympathize with her, not hate her. I'm also afraid of employing such penetration into her thoughts so early, before the reader gets to know her, and during a scene that’s relatively light.

I've seen other people use the technique you suggest, and they manage to capture the voice and the feel of a piece right off. It's not happening for me, and that may in part be an indicator of my skill level. I hope not.


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JBSkaggs
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I didn't see her as being nasty I saw her as being a teen. And teens (even good ones) make snap judgements and labels of people. Rapid intense emotion is the hallmark of the teen. In this age group it is desirable to make your character bigger than life. You don't have to show her as nasty. But if something is irritating her or angering her your average teen is very likely to have a snappy comebasck or comment handy even if it is internal.

As far as penetrating the character too soon, in my opinion the sooner you establish firm connection with the protagonist the more likely the reader will care about the character.

Remember YA fiction for the most part is fast paced and usually more compact than adult. (excluding the Harry Potter and Eragon books.)

These are only my opinions.

As an example read the opening to the Seventh Son listed in OSC library on this website.

And keep writing!


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Tess
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I see what you mean. I'll have to look at it again. Thanks for the input.
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Gwalchmai
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I'm willing to take a look at what you've got so far.
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Tess
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Has anyone else looked at the opening to "Seventh Son," posted in the OSC library? I had trouble adjusting to the immediate penetration into the main character's voice. I had to reread the first paragraph a couple of times to get it.

Now, in OSC's case, I'll put up with it, because I know I'll adjust and appreciated the story in the long run, but if he used an anonymous name and posted the first 13 on this part of the site, I'm not sure I'd respond favorably.

[This message has been edited by Tess (edited January 28, 2005).]


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Survivor
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Yeah, when you can take it for granted that people reading your text will already have read several of your stories, you get some advantages. That's just the way things are.

Be grateful for what you have. You can take it pretty much for granted that your readers will speak your language and understand the "universal" concerns of your species. Don't be getting all greedy and coveting what others have.


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QuantumLogic
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quote:
And teens (even good ones) make snap judgements and labels of people. Rapid intense emotion is the hallmark of the teen.
Just because many teenagers are like this, doesn't mean you should assume any given teenager is like this. I know some who aren't. I also know plenty of adults who make snap judgments, and I think the general tendency toward intense emotion in young adults is almost entirely due to our culture.

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pixydust
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I would just like to second what JBSkaggs advised. My manuscript is YA and I learned by reading-reading-reading as many YA novels as I could get my hands on. What ever you do--make it real. Teens HATE fake. And they can smell it a mile away. I'm also a youth leader. Trust me you may have chosen the hardest audience. Plus look at the competition. Yikes!

Other sugestions to check out of your local library:

The Giver, by Louis Lowry
Over Sea, and Under Stone, by Susan Cooper
Artemis Fowel, by Eoin Colfer

Each one of these has a different style of writing.

Another sugestion. Go sit in the bookstore or the library and just read the first page of as many books as you can in the genre your aiming at (ex. YA/Chick-lit, YA/ Fantasy, ect.)

As to the first sentence. My advice--though uneducated--is to scrap it and jump in with both feet. Advise the reader another way where they are and why they're there. In action, thought, and dialogue.

There's my five cents--I hope it makes sence.

Rachel

[This message has been edited by pixydust (edited January 29, 2005).]


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Rocklover
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Hate to play devil's advocate here,and I don't want to be negative, but your opening does not interest me at all. I think your idea could be dynamite, but I would move this entire first piece to a second section and create a brief but much more attetion-grabbing intro. Somewhere, in your first thirteen lines needs to be a hint that something is up, or soon to be up; something extraordinary, or dangerous, or quirky, or abnormal in some way in going to happen. If I don't get hooked in the first 13, I'm outa there as a reader. Although your scene is well written, it doesn't grab me.
Think about it.

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Tess
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pixydust,

Thanks for the advice and for the reading list. I too have lots of YA stuff laying around, due to my three kid's reading habits and the ease of ordering through Scholastic Book Clubs. We own all three you mentioned, and I've read the first and last. Susan Cooper wasn't a hit in my house, my older daughter snubbed it back a few years ago and it's collected dust since. I may take a look at it now. It’s the first book of a series, I see. The Giver was required reading in her English class, but is tough going for some kids. All the kids like Artemis Fowel, including my son, who’s a tough customer.


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Tess
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Point taken, Rocklover. These first 13 sure can be a bear. I'm sure I'll be rewriting the beginnig when I finally reach "the end" for the first time, and many more times in between.

QuantumLogic, I agree, not all teens are like that, but I think my protagonist is. I find I need to pit her against all sort of people, peers and adults alike, and a bit of an attitude is one of the mechanisms she uses to do this, and one of her flaws. As part of the maturing process, she'll have to learn to deal with the associated fallout over the course of the book


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Survivor
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Sorry, but this is a book, not a short story. To keep me reading for the first chapter of a book, all you need to do is avoid making any embarrassing mistakes. And trying to set your hood way too early is just the sort of embarrassing mistake I'm talking about, so be careful.

Some hooks can be set very early. Others cannot. You can try for a quick hook, but if it isn't working, don't kill your story over it.


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Tess
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Just want to say that I appreciate the range of opinions I find on this web site. I know the opinion of readers out there is probably much more varied. Survivor’s last comment drives home a truth we all need to remember as we happily rip into each other’s work. Do what you think works. Pay attention to criticism, but don’t let it paralyze you.
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