Friday, November 29, 2013

(52) YA Fantasy: ENERGY BENDER

TITLE: Energy Bender
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Growing up in an agrarian, intolerant village is difficult for Adelaide who doesn’t understand why she can feel and harness the emotions of others. She guards her sickness, afraid that if anyone found out she would be sent to the Cradle Grave prison camps. When a girl her age goes missing, the Elders have questions for Adelaide that probe too far into memories of her own kidnapping years ago and threaten to expose her secret.

Adelaide felt the grief before she heard the wailing. She was walking to the schoolhouse when a heaviness settled in her feet and then lodged in her chest. Every breath hurt, her limbs ached. She wondered if she was ill. Then she heard the crying. It came from inside the house she was passing, its dirt yard swept clean with a broom. Someone in that house, a woman by the sound of it, was in so much pain that her emotion radiated all the way outside to Adelaide. She stood rooted to the ground, confused and afraid of what she was feeling.

“Skunk, what are you doing?”

Adelaide cringed at the voice behind her. She turned and saw Billy Blount approaching.

“Nothing, I just…do you hear that?” A high shriek punctuated the crying.

Billy spat on the ground. “Dirty blood in that house. Best stay away ‘til they re-sanctify the place.”

“What happened?”

“Baby came in the night. Harelip. The Elders took it.”

“Took it where?”

“Doesn’t matter, does it? It was different-blooded.” Billy appraised her. “What are you, soft?”

He smiled in the hard way he reserved especially for her. Most people wouldn’t look her full in the face for so long. Adelaide covered the right side of her face with her hand.

Billy sneered. “I guess you would be soft. You’re practically different-blooded yourself, aren’t you, Skunk?”

He reached out and pulled her long braid, hard. Adelaide knocked his hand away.

Billy laughed. “Could have been you, Skunk.”


  1. Just the way a good story should start. The voice is strong, the tension high, the situation intriguing. Good job.

  2. Yep. This one does the trick. Intriguing premise and a well-written character interaction.

    A couple of nits:

    1) "She wondered if she was ill." This line struck me as odd, since both the logline and the rest of th entry lead me to believe she should be used to this experience.

    2) "Adelaide covered the right side of her face with her hand." I'd suggested letting us know now why she covers her face, unless there's a very specific storytelling reason for holding off.

    But yeah, I'd read on for sure.

    Best of luck with it!

  3. I love how you described her feeling the grief. That was very powerful.
    I also like the names you've chosen (incl. nickname), and the tension Billy brings to the story immediately. I'm glad you didn't say right away what was on her face - as a reader I want time to wonder about this. Will be fun watching the bidding on this entry!

  4. This is intriguing, but I think the best parts (the community and how Adelaide is different) are getting diluted here in the 250.

    If Adelaide is feeling all this grief, shouldn't it carry through as Billy is talking to her?

    Also, if she is different-blooded and guards it, how does Billy know about it to taunt her? Also, how is she guarding it?

    First line is great, but I also want to break up that first paragraph a bit and weave some of those details throughout the rest of the 250 as she's talking to Billy. If she has an emotional reaction, or is trying to hide it, can he tell?

    A pick from the log line: "Growing up in an agrarian, intolerant village is difficult for Adelaide who doesn’t understand why she can feel and harness the emotions of others." I'm not sure how these two things connect up. The village is intolerant of what exactly? And how exactly does that make it difficult for Adelaide?

  5. I liked that you start the story immediately, and you've created a nice tone and mood. I can feel the uncomfortableness of the situation, and I'm immediately immersed in her world..

    It could be stronger if that opening parg was shown instead of told. Perhaps replace phrases like 'was walking' with 'walked." Instead of saying she felt the grief, say how the grief affects her. It works as is, but showing would bump it up a level.

    Good luck!

  6. I loved the mood of this intro. Gorgeous! I agree you could bring us even further into the action, but overall this really works. I get an immediate sense of the character, the culture, AND your character's strange power. That's a lot to convey in 250 words and you did it beautifully.

  7. The challenge of writing a character who is an empath is finding a descriptive texture and balance of show/tell for EVERYTHING they could potentially be feeling, all the time -- how they process their own feelings, and others'. It's a huge job for a writer. Adelaide's feeling of being jarred into the awareness of grief lets the reader know right away that even if she knows this sort of thing CAN happen to her, she's never gotten used to it. Keeping the overwhelming experience of other people's emotions from becoming numbing starts on page one, and I think this first page strives to emphasize how this isn't something you really can get used to. Well done!

    Good luck!

  8. I really enjoyed your first line--it gave us that "something is different here" feeling and showed us your MC. Nice job. I also like where you've started the story and how we get some core concepts--the stakes of being different, the secret Adelaide guards and why--in a natural way. My only critique is the logline. It feels a bit disjointed with the sentence about Adelaide's ability then a missing girl and Adelaide's past--they two don't feel connected. Other than the logline, I would want to keep reading.

  9. I don't know why this felt more MG to me than YA, maybe Billy pulling on her braid or something, calling her Skunk, I don't know. How old are they?

    I think the scene is well done though, though have liked just a bit more description of where they are.

  10. Great hook! I am drawn to Adelaide and want to know why she has the power and also read more about what has happened to her. Billy is a great contrast to her character––seems like a bully who has bought in to whatever system is in this world. Love the description of place--can picture the dirt-swept yard and want to know more about the setting.

    Love this!

  11. I really love the tone and the feel of this. I also think the worldbuilding is handled very well. In less than a page we know that the MC has some sort of powers, that she's different due to (most likely) a birth defect, and that theirs is a society that does not stand for different people.

    I do think, however, that the writing could be tightened. There seems to be a lot of telling in places where things could be shown, or already are. An example:

    "She stood rooted to the ground, confused and afraid of what she was feeling."

    confused and afraid of what she was feeling is pure telling. And in fact, I think you already show us that she's confused and afraid by how she stands rooted to the ground.

    Also, in regards to the logline, I would watch the tense shift in the second sentence. I think it would read stronger as:

    She guards her sickness, afraid if anyone finds out she will be sent to the Cradle Grave prison camps

  12. Is this the reading legacy we want to leave our children?

  13. I really like the voice of this. It's a strong logline with strong writing to match. Others have had good questions in terms of logistics ie - if she hides her gift, why does Billy think she's soft? But it really doesn't matter. I would read on for sure.

    Also to echo others, it sounds middle grade to me. Something you might consider as MG seems to be doing really well in the market right now.

  14. I want to start out by echoing some previous comments (specifically Wade, Valerie and Tracy Townsend) about logistics and, especially, the showing/telling problems inherent in empath characters. VERY difficult to pull off well, so I applaud you for the scene you've created here. Definitely wanted more of the emotions bleeding through in her confrontation with Billy; though it does read more as MG than YA in the name-calling and hair-pulling.

    Also, as for Billy: the first thing he says to her is a grammatically correct question? I'd almost prefer something along the lines of 'Get out of the way, Skunk.' to which she could reply 'do you hear that?'
    I've read a number of YA books recently that have far too grammatically correct bullies so maybe that's just me :)

    Love the thought of 'cradle grave prison camps' and how they tie into this society you've set up. Good luck!!

  15. Ditto what Peter said. There are a few places that this could be tightened up which have been pointed out already, but I really like this entry and would definitely read on.

  16. The other commenters gave great advice, but I want to look at this story from a marketing standpoint.

    First of all, the name "Energy Bender" will have to change. There is a very popular cartoon series on Nickelodeon called Avatar the Last Airbender that has a certain technique called Energy Bending to alter one's soul, and that of others. Because that show is current and popular you may have a copyright infringment if you go forward with that title. Just a heads up.

    Also, I don't mean to be Mr. Know It All, but emotions are not an energy. The spirit is an energy because it sustains our body, we cannot live without it. Concurrently, if you look up the meaning of the word "energy" you will find that the word spirit is a synonym.

    Emotions are a frequency that radiate from us like radio waves. The difference is that we cannot see them, nor can we tap into it. This sort of ability is a trademark of telepaths.

    So in hindsight, the use of the word "Energy" to denote a person who can harness or tap emotions is incorrect. In fantasy lore, you MC is what is known as an Empath.

    Your story is unique in this regard, and it will be nice to have something other than dreary dystopian nonsense or gorgeous vampires to read about for a change.

    Good Luck. ^_^

  17. I'll do 50!

  18. Hi there!

    I know it’s difficult to write an empath well, but I agree with previous commenters that you’ve done so. Kudos! I’m rather put off by Billy Blout (that name!), however. His cruelty to Adelaide is so overt—I believe that if you were to give him more dimensionality, his taunts would hold more depth. Right now he feels very simple and one-dimensional. He’s a bully—but why does he bully? Paying attention to his character motivation will immediately elevate your dialogue and descriptive language.

    I’m afraid that your manuscript will draw comparisons to THE GIVER, which is widely considered one of the best children’s books written. That’s a tall order to fill and I don’t want you to keep being disappointed when it happens. Focus on drawing out the elements of your story in your pitch and excerpt that will set it apart from THE GIVER in the market and make it innovative and different. This feels more dystopian than fantasy at the moment—make sure that editors and agents know why you perceive it as a fantasy novel!

    Best of luck in revising—you have the potential for something here!