Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are You Hooked? Young Adult #1

GENRE: YA Historical

In 1984, the son of a marijuana cultivator falls in love with the daughter of the local sheriff who vows to eradicate the illegal marijuana trade.  The sheriff will do anything to stop the young love including breaking the laws he swore to uphold.  Romeo and Juliet retelling. 

Before my machete cuts into the stalk of the marijuana plant, the leaves shake.  My immediate thought is an earthquake; something on the lower spectrum of the Richter scale,  Maybe 3.5 or 3.6, just enough to cause a low rumble that vibrates the ground.  Then it hits me and it’s too late. 

Descending on our property is a convoy of white and green patrol cars, their lights flashing.  They speed towards us not giving me much time.  I should have known this was coming; the signs were there, the presence of the Blackhawk helicopters flying low to the ground over the past week, but during harvest season, there are more helicopters in the sky than birds.

“Run.” I drop my machete and race into the redwood forest with my cousin Benny one-step behind me.  The Mexican workers rattle off in Spanish before they scatter like a flock of geese being chased by a dog.

I want to run to the house, warn dad, but I don’t have time.  Dad always talked about this day coming, he knows the risk involved in a million dollar a year marijuana business.  

Taking shelter in a magnolia bush, I slow my breathing as to not give away my whereabouts.  Benny climbs an oak tree, hiding amongst the branches and leaves.

“Come out and act like a man,” Tyson says.  I don’t know Tyson but know of him.  His tan shirt, which he more than likely used a half bottle of starch, appears unyielding.


  1. Comments by CAB: I love the clear visuals in this detailed, smooth opening. I feel like I'm already getting to know the MC through his actions, especially the comment about leaving his father. The suspense of the chase is so real that I would like to see a little bit more of the chase before you introduce Tyson. You could get more personalization of your MC at the same time you give a little more to the setting. Great opening!

  2. I agree that this first page is exciting, but because I know nothing about the world or characters, the excitement is almost lost on me. I felt a little detached from the narrator because I hadn't had a chance to really sink into his skin before chaos broke out. You might consider backing up by even a few minutes so we can get a better sense of the setting and the work the narrator is doing.

    If you do decide to back up a bit, you can still build subtle tension into a quieter opening page. For instance, if the narrator ducks and looks to the sky every time a helicopter passes over, or if his muscles are always tensed to spring, we'll get the idea that this is no idyllic harvest scene. You could even wait to reveal that the crop is marijuana until the opportune moment.

    Also, there were a few grammatical issues (mostly punctuation errors) that tripped me up. The second sentence, for instance, could be revised to something like this: "My immediate thought is an earthquake--something on the lower spectrum of the Richter scale, maybe 3.5 or 3.6, just enough to cause a low rumble." ("That vibrates the ground" is a little redundant; we know what a low rumble is.) In the second paragraph, you're missing a comma: "They speed towards us, not giving us much time." In the third paragraph, you don't need the hyphen: "... with my cousin Benny one step behind me." And I'd redo the fourth like this: "I want to run to the house, warn Dad, but I don’t have time. Dad always talked about this day coming. He knows the risk involved in a million-dollar-a-year marijuana business." Small things, but you always want to put your best foot forward.

    Good luck to you and WEED!

  3. I'm not a huge fan of "drop directly into the action" openings. That's partly a personal preference, but it also makes it hard to care about characters we don't know at all yet--I'd sprinkle in a little more character and world-building before jumping right in here -- perhaps with some dialogue or something happening between him and his father.

  4. Starting with your character doing something illegal and then running just makes me root for the cops to catch him. If you could ground us a bit more on the side of the character by even showing some hints of personality, of likeability, or something intriguing about him first before the cops show up then I might be more likely to get concerned about him and keep reading.