Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #5

TITLE: Melanie + Kalith

Fourth of July in DC felt like being in an actual war zone. Thick plumes of smoke christened the air. The constant sound of things exploding was inescapable and getting around was a nightmare. The entire city was outside wondering around like zombies. Some frantic looking to feed on the next bit of excitement they could find. Others in a daze lost in the madness and beauty of the night. Every route alternated between blocks of empty streets, eerily dead like no one had ever lived there, and neighborhoods erupting with activity. The closer you got to downtown the more people there were. Tourist were frisked, checked and herded behind metal barriers for safe keeping. Downtown it was an orderly well run war. But in Petworth where we were it was chaos.

A bottle rocket flipped back Melanie’s hair barely missing her face.

“That’s it! I’m about to go fight a 10 year old.”

She took two steps towards the edge of the porch eyeballing a group of boys on their own porch across the street. Annoyed was the emotion that Melanie expressed most vividly. Her eyes caught fire and she pressed her lips together in a way that just made them look fuller and more attractive. I’d better talk her down.

“They’re just having fun.” I got up from the rickety lawn chair I was sitting in and stared out with her.

“Not to sound like an old person but those kids are out of control. Where are their parents?”

“Where are your parents?” I flicked her American flag paper cup.

“We’re in high school, they just fell out of their mothers’ wombs, they need supervision.”

“Come on.” I grabbed her hand. “Leave them alone.” I sat back down in the lawn chair and she plopped down in my lap. I took her cup and drank the rest in one gulp.

“Hey,” she protested.

I didn't know what burned worst the overpour of liquor or all that sugar.

“I’m just making sure no one’s trying to rufie you. It’s my civic duty as your boyfriend.” The taste lingered in my mouth. I tried to scrape it off my tongue with my teeth. “What is this?” I asked, “it’s terrible.”

She was already preoccupied.

“Marquis!” she called out to a group of even younger boys on the sidewalk, “come here.”

He saw her and a big goofy smile spread across his face. Melanie was a good looking girl, any guy would love attention from her, even a little guy like this.

“You know that kid?” I asked.

“That’s my little cousin”

She knew the whole city. Marquis shuffled up onto the porch. He gave me a dirty look.

“Marquis you know those kids?” Melanie pointed across the street. She wasn’t going to let this go.

“Yeah, that’s Matthew, Dominick and Chris. They go to my school. They’re jerks.”

“They keep shooting things over here. They’ve been trying to kill me all night.”

“You want me to get em Mel.” His little face lit up.


  1. This is a YA Contemporary I too was over excited in submitting and somehow left that out.

  2. I've lived in the DC surburbs all my life, so the setting made me smile.

    I was fine with the set up, my main concern was with all the little spelling and grammatical mistakes. If I'm seeing them in the first couple of pages, which should be the most polished, I assume there will only be more the further into the story I go.

    For example, "wondering around like zombies" when you probably meant to say "wandering."

    Or "a bottle rocket flipped back Melanie’s hair barely missing her face." I think that sentence would benefit from a comma.

    Also, some of the sentences struck me as a bit choppy. Focus on polishing your pages and give me a bit more of the narrator's voice and I think your opening pages will be much improved.

    Good luck! I'll be checking in all day, so if you have any questions, let me know.

  3. Melissa... Thanks for the critique! I have SOOO many questions. I see you have a blogger would you mind if I emailed you? I don’t want to clutter the comment area.

  4. Sure, go right ahead. My e-mail address is in my profile.

  5. I found the first paragraph a bit long and I don't think you need all of it. Maybe pick the parts that most evoke the feeling you're trying to describe and the voice of your narrator and cut everything else.

    Be careful of POV. How does your first-person narrator know that people are getting frisked downtown or that it's well run there? Why is he thinking about that at this exact moment?

    I liked the dialogue though - the banter, the rufie joke, it felt really natural and theinteraction between the characters (like drinking her drink) was well written,

  6. Oh, that first sentence! I don't see great hooks very often, and this was a breath of fresh air.
    "The constant sound of things exploding was inescapable..." Maybe it's because I'm a country bumpkin, but I don't quite understand this. I'm imagining actual explosions and -- since this is a contemp -- I don't think that's what you want.
    "... and getting around was a nightmare." This is a good place to show instead of tell. Actually in the rest of the paragraph you proceed to tell how absolutely dead it is in the city, which kind of seems to contradict having a hell of a time getting anywhere.
    I love the setting you drop in the first paragraph, but for me, you kinda lost that steam that you built with the first sentence. More concise might be better.
    "where we were it" I think this can be cut as it would be assumed.
    "I’d better talk her down." I'd really like to see how your MC feels here as, I've had a wonderful view of the surroundings and Melanie, but I've no view or care for your MC.
    Watch out with your comma usage. A lot of them could be cut entirely, or replaced with something else.
    All in all, these interactions are adorable and your voice really shines through in them. I'd keep reading because I'm curious to delve deeper into these relationships.

  7. I also like the first line. I went with the assumption this was contemporary given the title (now I see it is), so what follows the first line kind of threw me; I kept wondering, IS this a war zone? Probably not all of what is said is needed, because there's a lot of space dedicated to logistics of the city, and then we zoom in on two characters sitting in lawn chairs. It's almost a let down because I assumed more action--people running around, all this stuff exploding. Now I see they are simply watching fireworks.

    To back up, I suggest replacing anything vague with specifics. "things exploding" could mean many things. Do you mean fireworks and firecrackers? Just say that. "Getting around was a nightmare" for who? Since we don't yet know whose story this is, we don't need to know this, or about "others" lost in a daze. Just keep the focus on what the character can see, hear, smell, for a few lines, then bring it right to your characters.

    It might also work to show your characters navigating through the streets, with a destination in mind. This might be more engaging than sitting talking, but just an idea. Is there a way to work in the name of your MC?

  8. I wondered why you started with a description of downtown DC when your character isn't even there? Why not start with a description of Petworth, where the story is taking place, so we can see what kind of neighborhood they live in?

    I thought the dialogue sounded natural and was the strongest part of the submission. On the other hand, how important are those kids across the way? Perhaps give us more about your MC, who is the least represented here.