Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #13

TITLE: Love Is Fake, You Know
GENRE: LGBT Coming-of-Age

6-24-02, Monday, 5:03 AM

I have a weird secret ambition that this journal will be discovered and I’ll end up like Anne Frank or something. Except nothing I write flows quite like Anne’s stuff did. And with any luck I won’t be dying any time soon.

Benjamin probably thought he was doing me a favor when he said that writing down your thoughts can help relieve stress. I told him I’m not all that stressed but he bought me this book and said I should consider writing anyway. Aside from my irrational hopes for future journal fame, what pushed me over the edge toward writing tonight was my fight with Jacob. It seems easier to write about it in here than to bother telling Benjamin. Benjamin would just pretend to listen for five seconds and then change the subject to himself. He can’t stop himself from giving advice—but only when I don’t want it.

Jacob said something that made me want to reach through the phone and punch him. He seemed to think I’d be willing to completely give myself over to him without a second thought. I was so mad and hurt! I mean, we’ve only been going out for 55 days. But then he told me what he really meant, and I was so glad it wasn't what I thought. What he actually meant was that our relationship feels so easy—NOT that I’m…well, you get it. He apologized a million times and said he was sooooo sorry and that he would never ever treat me like that. It’s not that I don't believe him... I really do trust him. It was just a misunderstanding, right?

I hope Mom doesn’t wake up again. She’s yelled at me a couple of times tonight/this morning for not going to sleep. Oh well. I’m not tired. Not really.

My hand just fell asleep... Ow…

6-26-02, Wednesday, 12:40 AM

Jacob said he’d call after 8 tonight, but he never did. There’s still time. I haven’t gotten online all night just in case.

I’ve only seen Jacob once since we were officially together, and only once before that. He’s always so busy that he can never go anywhere with me. Just last night he got back from Florida with his friends; today he’s going to his parents’ lake house “for a week or two.” At least I can talk to him on the phone and online once he gets there. And at least I’ll see him throughout the end of the summer at band camp and band practices.

This year I’m going to be in high school. Finally! And Jacob will be there with me!

You might be thinking I shouldn’t be excited about seeing him at school since I’m mad at him. But we always make up after our fights. I know everything will be fine by the time school starts, even if it is two whole months away (that literally feels like an eternity!).


  1. I feel a lot of sympathy for this protagonist. We all know how 8th-9th grade romances end. But I'm not engaging like I would if I could see the character in action, rather than flat on his own diary page. I would keep reading, but I want to get out into his real world. That could entirely be a personal bias! Good luck.

  2. I love the voice for this character! That's very well done, I feel like I'm in his/her head. However, I have no idea if this character is a guy or a girl, and letting us know that and your character's name would be helpful! In some other diary books (Georgia Nicholson, Bridget Jones) the character walks readers through a scene where they interact with other characters and I think that would work well for you here, especially when h/she mentions the argument with Jacob. You could show the fight instead of telling us they had one which would also strengthen the scene. (Also, one minor thing, who is Benjamin? A sibling? Psychologist? Step-parent?) The voice is so strong, I think showing us more of him/her would really make this story pop! Good luck!

  3. I like the first paragraph, but the second paragraph was problematic for me. I feel like you're trying to explain why the main character is writing this journal and it's just not necessary. Dive into the good parts and bring us along for the journey.

    Also, the voice didn’t pull me in as much as I wanted. The author of the journal is obviously young, I think he/she should be more tentative, unsure of themselves, but when it comes to voice, it’s a very subjective thing.

    Good luck!

  4. The one problem I have with the voice is that it seems too "aware" that the journal is being read by an audience. I realize that it is a difficult balance because (of course) it IS being read by an audience but somehow that fact should seem absent from the writer's words on the page.

    But, I do like the voice that is there. I can be patient to find out who Benjamin is. I would like to see the writer in his daily life ( I am assuming male) and how it contrasts with his persona on the page.

    Anyway, an interesting enough beginning to make me carry on.

  5. I like the concept and find myself really hoping the writer is a boy, there aren't enough of those stories out there!

    That said, I had trouble engaging with his/her voice, largely, I think, because I didn't know what the writer's goals were - what they wanted. I understand they're young and those goals may change on the hour, but I think it would only make the opening more engaging. It could draw us into the writer's character and help ground us in their life. As well, I'd suggest just saying what Jacob said that's so offensive. Then your protag can respond. Currently your introducing it and then summarizing, the other way will make it more immediate.

    Small editorial note to keep an eye out for where you need commas and try to cut extraneous words.

    Good luck! I think you've got something very cool started here.

  6. Sorry, not hooked. I feel like you are just telling me backstory.

    Rather than 'tell' me you've only seen Jacob once since you're officially together - show me.

    Is Benjamin important in this opening scene? He doesn't seem to have an important role. You tell me he gives you the diary. Then you tell me he gives lots of advice. I don't get a feel for him at all, and wonder why he is introduced up front, when the romance is supposedly with Jacob?

  7. I do think you have a strong voice here, but I'm not connecting with the story because it does feel like all telling and I have no sense of any of the characters.

    If this is told from all journal entries, you may want to find a way to pull the reader into each scene more instead of just telling the reader what happened. If there is a mix of both journal entries and real-time scenes, it may work better to start with an actual scene.

  8. I absolutely loved the first paragraph and the comparison to Anne Frank. Then, it slowly started to fall flat for me. I thought the MC was a teen girl. I didn't realize I was wrong until reading some of the other comments.

    Also, I don't know who Benjamin and Jacob are. I think Benjamin is a school friend, but again realize I may be wrong.

    Maybe you can work in some of these details earlier and introduce your characters a little.

  9. I like the voice here, and I also loved the opening and the Anne Frank reference. But after that it didn't really pull me in.

    Although it would obviously be clear if one had the entire book in their hands, there's nothing here that tells us whether the narrator is a boy or a girl yet, so everything that's presented here just seems like 'situation normal' for a teenager, and it isn't quite intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading.

    Giving us a little more about what makes this character and his situation distinctive would engage the reader a lot more. (Like Deana, I'd also like to think that this is a boy, because it would be nice to see a story from that perspective.)

  10. I like the MC's voice, and I can certainly connect with the angst of preteen/teen relationships.

    With that said, I agree with a lot of the other comments. Show the argument with Jacob (which has the bonus of giving us the MC's name). Either take out the entire paragraph about Benjamin or shorten it to two sentences. If we really need to know that he gave the MC the journal, include it in a line of dialogue somewhere. If we don't need to know, cut the whole paragraph and move the necessary bits elsewhere.

  11. Curious on whether this is an epistolary novel or if there will be a break in journal entries to show characters interacting. All journal/letters has limitations; just something to consider. I was also wondering why this is set in 2002. Is there a specific reason it needs to be set in the near past?

    I agree with working in the name and gender of the MC. If you can also introduce naturally how the characters are associated with the MC; maybe like "Benjamin--who's supposed to be my best friend--though he was doing me a favor..."
    Readers need some context, which can be tricky to pull off in a journal format without it sounding like the narrator is explaining it to the reader. It suffers from not being able to show the reader these things more organically. It can be done, though. If you haven't already, I'd suggest reading through other books that use a letter or journal format for examples.

  12. After 500 words we know - a person who likes Jacob received a diary from Benjamin and is writing in it. There's a hint that something happened between this person and Jacob, but the actual situation is not shown or explained. So after 500 words, nothing happened.

    SInce this is LGBT, I am assuming the MC is a boy, but I don't 'know' that. It could also be a girl who thinks she's dating a straight boy and finds out later that he's gay (thus explaining why he's only seen her twice in 55 days.) The voice, to me, sounds female.

    My suggestion would be to clarify who the MC is. Male? Female? Perhaps work in a name, and then focus in on whatever it is you are trying to make known to the reader. Then show us that scene instead of telling it.

  13. Thank you all for the constructive criticism! You've given me a lot to think about. I have some ideas for what to move around, what to add, what to remove. You've been extremely helpful.

    As one of the themes of the book is gender stereotypes, there's a good reason why you're questioning the gender of the MC. This was a stylistic choice that might hinder my chances of getting noticed--but to me the importance of the message I'm trying to get across takes precedence.

    That being said, the MC's name is Morgan. I'm working on incorporating the name into the first 500 words.

    Thanks again!

  14. I too wanted more to happen sooner. I also wanted more details about all the characters. I ended up assigning the MC a gender in my head. I was leaning towards boy and figured the school interactions might clarify the gender. Or maybe not, now that I know that’s what you're going for. It’s an interesting idea and I wonder how people will react to it.
    There is a really interesting character “Franky” on season 5 of the show Skins (the UK version not the American version, which should be avoided at all costs). It’s androgynous/transgender character. Don’t know if your character is either (I’m leaning towards no). From the first 500 I feel like your character will be completely different from Franky. However, it might be worth taking a look at to see how a different medium went about doing something similar with a different character. The way they introduce and portray Frankie is particularly interesting. The show is on Netflix (possibly on Youtube as well). Take a look at ep 1 for Franky’s intro.

  15. BE--Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely pull up Skins on Netflix.