YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post excerpts from your works in progress and give feedback to your fellow writers.
Post Reply
Jessica Lei
Posts: 3
Joined: January 17th, 2011, 5:42 pm
Contact:

YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by Jessica Lei » January 18th, 2011, 5:32 pm

Hi! I've received some interesting feedback on my first 500 words and I wanted to know what other people thought as well :) I'm mainly concerned with whether or not there's tension or conflict and if you'd want to keep reading based on this small excerpt.

Any opinion/suggestion is appreciated. Many thanks!


7 days before the War

Ayla knew the island as well as she knew the cabin she lived in. The red alder trees near the western coast yielded the best twigs for the wood-burning oven her dad loved to use. She finished her chores in record time and set her bundles of wood outside the open door. The whole cabin smelled like cinnamon and fennel seed as she moved through the hallway.

She peeked into the kitchen, her dad standing over their ancient stove. He dipped his finger into the pot for several seconds before he pulled it out for a taste. He smacked his lips and continued to stir.

Ayla laughed and said, “I’m back, Dad.”

He glanced over his shoulder and smiled big and bright with lines by his eyes. “When’d you get so fast, kid?” he said. Several stains colored his white apron, a souvenir her uncle had bought him from a human boutique shop. “I’m not even half-way done with dinner.”

“Well…” she said as she crossed the hardwood floor from the hallway to her dad. “I wanted to save some time for other things.”

“Certainly you didn't want to spend extra time watching me cook,” he said with a low chuckle.

She leaned forward over the pot, but her dad covered her eyes. His cold hand smelled like soil after rain. The damp, decaying odor used to make her wince away from him, but she’d learned to suppress it. Her dad was her dad, dead or alive.

“No cheating,” he said, pulling her away and uncovering her eyes. “I want your birthday dinner to be a surprise.”

A surprise? The cinnamon smell of her favorite dessert couldn’t have been a bigger giveaway, but he didn’t need to know that. He enjoyed surprising her too much to ruin it for him.

Ayla moved from his side and opened the refrigerator. “I thought maybe I'd pick up some extra ingredients...” She pretended to survey their stock and added, “For dinner.”

He chuckled. “You’re cute.” He crossed his arms over his chest, a wood spoon in one hand. “Sure. Pick up what you want. You have fifteen degrees.”

“Fifteen?” she asked. Ayla wrinkled her nose and shut the refrigerator. The round trip to the northern tip of the island, where the door to Ekarkara hid in a rocky cliff, wasted eleven degrees of time on its own. “How am I supposed to shop and wish Loran a happy…”

“…birthday?” he finished for her with a big grin. He tugged on her bun before turning to the stove. “You’ll figure it out.”

Her father’s intuition possessed unfathomable accuracy, which she hated a lot.

“You’re sure I can’t have a bit more time?” she asked, just in case. “It’s my birthday.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the head. “I’ll cry if you’re late. It’s my birthday, too.”

His brown eyes sparkled in the sunlight through the kitchen window, a harrowing comparison to the grey magic that had coiled in their depths eleven years before. She rolled her eyes away from him. She didn’t want to think about his sacrificed magic or the reason why they shared a birthday. Not right now.

mnaylor3
Posts: 33
Joined: January 6th, 2011, 3:28 pm
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by mnaylor3 » January 18th, 2011, 10:04 pm

After a read through, I think there might be tension because of the last couple of lines - but I'm not very sure.

I do wish Alya was striving harder to get what she wanted. It must be important if she wants to do this other thing on her birthday, but I don't think I get the full effect.

Anyway, keep at it.

Nicole R
Posts: 186
Joined: September 30th, 2010, 4:40 pm
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by Nicole R » January 20th, 2011, 12:48 pm

Hi Jessica,

To answer your specific questions: I think you can increase the tension by streamlining your action. You create a subtle tension, but it feels like it's just kind of shimmering in the corners. I think you can increase it. You can probably delete some of the specific actions and reactions re: the dad's cooking.

As is, the scene seems to have two areas of focus - 1) cooking/getting ingredients for dinner, and 2) wishing Loran (whoever he/she is) a happy birthday. I'm not sure these work together as equals. One should be Alya's main goal and has to take priority in the scene. By the time you introduced Loran and a door to Ekarkara and the idea of degrees as a time measurement, I was already so captivated by the dad and Alya's relationship with him that I wasn't ready to care about the other stuff yet. Which is probably bad, since I'm guessing you want me to pay attention to that! :)

That said, I'd definitely want to keep reading! Lines that I absolutely loved:
Jessica Lei wrote:a souvenir her uncle had bought him from a human boutique shop
Jessica Lei wrote:Her dad was her dad, dead or alive.
You do a great job of weaving this info in naturally, yet I found it to be the most intriguing stuff in the entire excerpt! And the whole "same birthday" idea...I just have a feeling that's going to be some cool foreshadowing.

Anobile1
Posts: 45
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 2:04 am
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by Anobile1 » January 23rd, 2011, 1:55 am

First of all, the first paragraph doesn't grab me. It feels a little awkward and dream-like. It's hard to tell what's going on, yet there's a lot of specific details. The details are good, but it might be good to balance them with clearer action. I's also say this applies to the rest of the excerpt, but it's most apparent in the first paragraph.

I do really like the writing, though. It's just that it seems a little vague, despite all of the wonderful details.

Is there tension? Hmm... yes, a little bit. I can feel it hiding throughout, and it starts to come out in the last few lines. It probably needs to be brought out a bit more though. Do I want to keep reading? Yes. This story sounds very interesting. I can tell you've put work into your characters and the world.
My Blog: http://amorenanobile.blogspot.com/ (Most recent post: Inspiration Patterns and an Old Friend)

Jessica Lei
Posts: 3
Joined: January 17th, 2011, 5:42 pm
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by Jessica Lei » January 23rd, 2011, 6:51 pm

Thanks a lot mnaylor3, Nicole R, and Anobile1 :)

I'm beginning to see how I can increase the tension and take some focus away from Ayla and her dad (although I don't want to!) so the conflict is more apparent.

I'm a little confused about what qualities are dream-like or vague! Could you elaborate a little bit for me, Anobile1? :) Thank you!

Anobile1
Posts: 45
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 2:04 am
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by Anobile1 » January 23rd, 2011, 7:31 pm

Jessica Lei wrote:I'm a little confused about what qualities are dream-like or vague! Could you elaborate a little bit for me, Anobile1? :) Thank you!
Hmm... I'm not really sure how to elaborate. Calling it dream-like and vague is probably a little inaccurate, I have to admit. Lets see... it lacks a sense of... immediacy, I think. I don't feel involved in the character, but I feel very involved in the setting. What the characters are doing is buried a little under all of the details. On the first read-through I could smell the hallway and picture the forest and feel the coldness of his hand, yet I had to read it two or three times to notice everything the characters were doing and thinking. This makes it sound like you should cut some of the details, but I'd hate to see those details go. The details really appear to be your strongest point.

Well, that's the best I can elaborate, I think. Sorry, I'm not being very helpful. >_> Take this with an extra grain of salt.
My Blog: http://amorenanobile.blogspot.com/ (Most recent post: Inspiration Patterns and an Old Friend)

Jessica Lei
Posts: 3
Joined: January 17th, 2011, 5:42 pm
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by Jessica Lei » February 12th, 2011, 11:11 pm

A revision! I'm happier with it. Let me know what you guys think :)


Ayla had three things on her mind—finish her stupid chores, find a way to see Loran, and share a delicious birthday dinner with her dad—in that order.

But first, the stupid, stupid chores.

She knew the island as well as she knew the cabin she lived in. The red alder trees near the western coast yielded the best twigs for the wood-burning oven her dad loved to use. Usually she’d dawdle on the beach, watch the seagulls soar above the Sound, but she had a mission. A mission that included finishing in record time.

Not like anyone was timing her.

When she finished gathering everything they’d need for the day, she raced through the forest back to her home. Ayla set her bundles of wood outside the open door. The whole cabin smelled like cinnamon and fennel seed as she moved through the hallway. Torturous aroma, but she had to stick to the plan.

She peeked into the kitchen, her dad standing over their antique stove. He dipped his finger into the pot for several seconds before he pulled it out for a taste. He smacked his lips and continued to stir.

Ayla laughed and said, “I’m back, Dad.”

He glanced over his shoulder and smiled big and bright with lines by his eyes. “When’d you get so fast, kid?” he said. Several stains colored his white apron, a souvenir her uncle had bought him from a human boutique shop. “I’m not even half-way done with dinner.”

“Well…” She crossed the hardwood floor from the hallway to her dad. Could she tell him she wanted see Loran? “I wanted to save some time for other things.”
“Certainly you didn't want to spend extra time watching me cook,” he said with a low chuckle.

She leaned forward over the pot, but her dad covered her eyes. His cold hand smelled like soil after rain. The damp, decaying odor used to make her wince away from him, but she’d learned to suppress it. Her dad was her dad, dead or alive.

“No cheating,” he said, pulling her away and uncovering her eyes. “I want your birthday dinner to be a surprise.”

A surprise? The cinnamon smell of her favorite dessert couldn’t have been a bigger giveaway, but he didn’t need to know that. He enjoyed surprising her too much for her to ruin it for him.

Ayla moved from his side and opened the refrigerator. Maybe she could try a different approach to getting herself to Ekarkara. “I thought maybe I'd pick up some extra ingredients...” She pretended to survey their stock and added, “For dinner.” She could stop to see him on her way home.

He chuckled. “You’re cute.” He crossed his arms over his chest, a wood spoon in one hand. “Sure. Pick up what you want. You have fifteen degrees.”

“Fifteen?” Ayla wrinkled her nose and shut the refrigerator.

AllieS
Posts: 125
Joined: March 3rd, 2011, 3:19 am
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by AllieS » April 18th, 2011, 7:36 am

Not to try and totally spin you in a different direction, but I actually liked the first version better! Overall I thought that one had a more refreshing YA voice, rather than the stereotypical sort of expressions I expect, like "the stupid, stupid chores." I thought the first line about Ayla knowing the island so well, and then talking about the red alder trees, gave me a really nice description without boring me. I guess it's a matter of personal preference, but there was enough subtle conflict and mystery surrounding Ayla and her dad that I wanted to read on in either version. I like seeing dialogue between characters to show their relationship. Sorry if this confused you at all!

akila
Posts: 31
Joined: April 13th, 2011, 6:02 pm
Contact:

Re: YA Fantasy - First 500 Words

Post by akila » April 18th, 2011, 12:19 pm

I'm so sorry but I also like the first version much better, too. I think the two characters are very different --- in the second version, she comes across as a typical teenage protagonist in a YA novel but in the first one, she seems a bit more mature and worldly. I personally like description, too, but then again, I'm not a YA author so I don't know what's "in" in the YA world.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests