Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #2

TITLE: Girl at the Wall
GENRE: YA fantasy

It’d been three days since she ran away, and the only street kids she’d seen were mutilation boys who cut their flesh to beg for alms. Even upper-zone girls like her had heard about Wall boys. They were supposed to be skillful pickpockets, so stealthy they moved like shadows, impossible to spot, and no one knew how they survived. Oh well. It didn’t matter. Street kids were probably all the same anyway, living on the tips of their toes, doing what they could to stay alive. Ayla was one herself now, and even dressed as a boy, she’d be in trouble soon enough. It helped that she was reedy and could hide in baggy clothes, but her luck couldn’t last forever. There were soldiers on every street, craven and hungry things that lurking in each dark corner.

Sweat dripped down her back. It was already noon and the air was so hot it coated her teeth. She’d been out here for hours now, on the lookout for a man in a beige suit. Her orders were to steal a black box from his pocket, but she didn’t know the first thing about picking pockets. Was she supposed to sidle up to her target, or distract him while she stole the box? She wiped a drop of sweat out of her eyes. There was a boy standing at the edges of the crowd. A Wall boy? No. He was too easy to spot, shifting from foot to foot with a goofy grin on his face. Maybe fifteen like her, he had curly black hair and a stocky build. He was so pigeon toed that if he tried to pick a pocket he’d be caught for sure. But no, wait a second. Now he was slipping a hand into the pocket of a man in a purple robe. The boy might be shambling and tentative, but he hadn’t gotten caught. So how hard could it be?

That’s what she told herself anyhow, as she dug into the bag of nuts she bought for a leeri from a vendor. There was only one left. When had she eaten them all? Suddenly, she was hit by a wave of sadness so big she couldn’t see to its outer edges. Her adopted father never let her buy food from the vendors. He had so many rules, so much fear in his voice. Vendors’ nuts were picked from the pollution swamps, he’d boom, and she’d die a slow and painful death if she ate one. Pthh. She popped the last one into her mouth and savored it. The nut was salty and good enough to hint of paradise the cults chanted about. She ran a finger along the bottom of the bag and licked it, wishing she had more.

No, more than anything, Ayla wished she could have her old life back.


  1. This is an interesting concept. I’m already intrigued by these Wall boys! I like the idea of boys so stealthy with their pick pocketing that they are like shadows. I do feel like this kind of starts in the wrong place, however. Or at least parts of the second paragraph should fit into the first. The way the first paragraph reads it seems that Ayla is looking for the Wall boy, when in the second paragraph we find out that she is looking for a man in a beige suit. Is she looking for the Wall boys to teach her how to pick this man’s pocket? If so, it’s not clear. Because I don’t know the story, I can’t say whether you should lead with the Wall boys info or the man in the beige suit. What I can say is going off of what is here, I think the second paragraph will give you a stronger opening. Hope that helps!

  2. From the start I'm a little confused about the difference between "mutilation boys" and "Wall boys." And do you mean "mutilated boys" instead? Since the remaining paragraphs focus specifically on Wall boys, I'm also not sure why the "mutilation boys" (or "mutilated boys") are relevant enough to mention in the first sentence.

    There are a few typos that hindered my reading. In the first paragraph, "that lurking" should be changed to "that lurked" or just "lurking." In the second paragraph--Wouldn't the boy be standing at the "edge of the crowd" instead of at the "edges of the crowd"? I doubt one boy can cover all the edges at once. Also in the second paragraph--I'm not sure if you can wipe a drop of sweat away after it's already in your eyes. I'm having trouble picturing that. Maybe the drop is on its way to Ayla's eye? Also, if it's only one drop, how could it be in both her eyes?

    I was taken off guard by the "purple robe" in the second paragraph. I understand this is a fantasy novel, so I'm hoping that something as outlandish as a purple robe will make sense later. That being said, it stands out starkly against the "beige suit" that Ayla is looking for. Is there a reason that you'd be able to find such drastically different fashion choices in the same crowd?

    I truly love the final sentence. It makes me wonder about Ayla's past, and I'm sure that a fantastic background story lies ahead. I want to keep reading and figure out how she got where she is!

  3. I think there's a great concept here, but it's hiding behind first-draft writing, as the two preceding commenters have pointed out.

    There are also two openings interwoven - the beige suit and the awkward pickpocket. It's like you're trying to throw it all at us at once. Each is intriguing, but together as opening paragraphs I find them confusing.

    Also, look through half-closed eyes (or without glasses - or with them if you don't wear them) at the story. You have three large, equally sized blocks of text. Break it up. Some long grafs, some one-sentence critters. Some compact sentences, some with multiple clauses.

    All that aside, I very much want to learn more about the characters and the events that have brought the MC to this past - and learn how she's going to maneuver around this alien world.

  4. I'm fascinated by the world you've created but I agree with everyone else, there's immediate confusion between the Wall Boys and the Mutilation Boys (I'd capitalize to make it clear this is a slang term for them and not a typo). The mention of the beige suit assignment seems to come out of nowhere as well and all the detail lavished on the other pickpocket seems unnecessary, unless he plays a larger role in the story.

    I am wondering if this is fantasy or more dystopian/sci-fi, because as I read this, I'm picturing a fabulous post-apocalyptic city and not dragons and castles (of course, fantasy can be more than that).

    But as the others have said, if you break up the paragraphs and clarify those first two paragraphs, you'll have a great opening. I'm so curious about this world!

  5. I agree with other commenters - there is still some clunky writing here that is getting in the way of an interesting concept. One of the things that interested me the more - her orders - was kind of buried in the second paragraph.

    Personally, I would have liked more immediacy in the beginning - starting with her searching for the man in the beige suit or studying the other pickpocket, something that lets us see more of your character in action.

  6. Right off the bat, I really like the concept. However, I feel like a lot of it was a kind of info dump. Instead of jumping into your character's head and what she's doing, there's a lot of information on the world. Though very interesting, it would be amazing to see it displayed through contact, maybe your MC seeing these mutation boys in person, watching their habits or having a confrontation?
    If all street kids are the same, does that make Ayla one, too? There are a lot of opportunities to show much of what your saying, and I think that it may spice up your beginning. I really like the taste of Ayla's voice, though!
    OO, your second paragraph really picks me up and draws me in. I like the details in it. Actually -- in my opinion -- these feels like the paragraph that you may want to start with.
    I think a lot more feeling could be put into this. I have a lot of facts that make me feel bad for Ayla, but not how Ayla feels. However, I really love the concept and the firm grasp that you have on your world. I think it could be refined more, but there's definitely a lot of potential.

  7. There are enough interesting things here to keep me reading, but it could be improved upon if you showed us this scene instead of telling us about it.

    Think of it as the opening scene in a movie. Show us this place. Maybe she passes by a Mutilation Boy and tosses a few coins in his cup. Maybe a soldier tells her not to loiter about. Show us the crowd milling about, all while she searches for the man in a beige suit, and while she's looking for him, she can then spy the Wall Boy. Show it, don't tell it.