Author Topic: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)  (Read 200 times)

Offline klclou

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YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« on: April 06, 2021, 01:14:58 AM »
Hi all. I've been working on this for years. Is this getting anywhere near interesting yet?
-----------------------------

“I’m sorry!” Cordy apologised, hurrying toward Flip as the first bell rang.

The water had been like glass that morning, flat and still and reflecting a sky as blue as summer. Floating in that deep calm, her arms stretched wide, Cordy had forgotten all about meeting Flip at the cafe before school. She’d forgotten everything.

“I totally lost track,” she explained, bracing herself for a lecture on tardiness.

Flip did not understand the pull of the water. Flip’s morning routine consisted of makeup, hair wrangling and strong coffee. The idea of morning swims, full breakfasts and running too late to order a latte horrified her.

“Forget it.” Amber eyes gleamed beneath Flip’s platinum bob. “Have you seen him yet?”

“Seen who?” Cordy asked.

“You haven’t, or you’d know who I’m talking about.” Flip drained the last of her takeaway latte and dropped the empty cup into a bin. “There’s a new guy and he is lush.”

Cordy grinned. That was exactly the sort of thing that would keep Flip’s mind off her lateness. She felt a spark of gratitude to the unseen stranger.

Flip wrinkled her nose as she flicked Cordy’s damp braid. “What is this?”

“My hair. I didn’t have time to dry it.”

“You’ll be sorry it’s not out when you see him,” Flip predicted, in a sing-song voice.

“I think I’ll survive,” Cordy said drily.

Flip shook her bob, a knowing smirk on her lips. “Just you wait.”

“O-kay,” Cordy shrugged, struggling to prevent her eyes rolling.

By the time they swung into English and settled into their usual desk, Cordy had forgotten all about the new guy. She’d just put her things down when a hush swept the room. She looked up to see what was happening, and her breath caught in her throat.

He stood in the doorway and his eyes were the sea and she was drowning.

“Told you,” Flip hissed in her ear.

She tore her eyes away to look at Flip, but Flip was staring at him too, her lips parted as if to drool. Cordy hoped she hadn’t looked like that, but suspected she definitely had.

Her eyes slid back to the stranger, hungry for more. Green eyes waited, cool and direct. Something arced between them as their gazes locked. It felt almost like recognition, though she was certain she’d never seen him before. She wouldn’t forget that face.

Dark eyebrows emphasised those dreamy eyes and tousled black hair framed the squared angles of his jaw. A strong, straight nose drew her eye to full lips, currently set in a mocking curve.

Long seconds passed. Her cheeks burned, but there was so much to look at she couldn’t stop staring. She was in danger of making a complete fool of herself without saying a word.

Ronan saved her. He walked through the door, jostling the stranger as he passed. The stranger turned, a rebuke ready on his lips, but stopped dead when he saw Ronan.

Ronan stopped too, staring as intently as Flip had, but he didn’t look ready to drool. A groove appeared between his eyebrows and his lips became a thin, hard line. The new guy looked faintly embarrassed before lifting a shoulder and turning away.

Ro must know him, but I don’t think he likes him.

A twinge of disappointment surprised her. Why should it matter if Ronan didn’t like him? But, somehow, it did.

The stranger started toward her. She feigned an intense interest in the torn corner of a fingernail—his eyes weren’t catching her again. A pleasant shiver ran through her as he brushed past, as though he’d run a light fingertip across the nape of her neck. She waited for the sound of his things hitting a desk somewhere behind her before she allowed herself to look up.

Ronan was still at the front of the room, staring after the new guy. His eyes dropped to hers and she smiled. For once, her smile was not returned. The groove between his brows deepened before he, too, walked to his desk.

What’s that about? Cordy wondered, mentally replaying last night’s phone conversation. They’d talked about Surf Sports and which of the equally horrible maths assignments they’d chosen. He hadn’t seemed upset when they said goodbye.

Someone doesn’t like the new guy,” Flip observed, throwing a glance toward Ronan, “but it sounds like everyone else does.”

Whispers and giggles floated through the air around them. The stranger was a fresh breeze through autumn leaves. Cordy wondered how many would fall for him. 

With those eyes, too many, she thought, and then, with faint alarm, I might be one of them.

Ms Smith cut across the room on her long legs, red curls bouncing. The heels of her black boots tapped smartly across the tiles and she slid an armful of folders onto her desk. She turned to face a quieted room.

“Ah, Dylan, I see you’ve found your way here. Class, I’m sure you’ve all noticed our newest student, Dylan McEachen. He’s just moved here, so I hope you’ll make him feel welcome.”  Ms Smith showcased white teeth in a brief, bright smile.

Dylan. It was the perfect name. Musical. Poetic. It brought Dylan Thomas to mind, with his salt-slowed winds and sloeblack seas.

Cordy usually loved her double English class but today it was a life sentence. She could feel those disconcerting eyes at her back.  She was dying to get another look at their owner, but she could hardly just turn and stare. She packed up her books minutes before the bell and was the first out the door.

Flip caught up at the lockers. “What’s the hurry?”

“Nothing. I just want to get outside.” Cordy didn't add, ‘before Dylan’.

***

Her haste was rewarded. She was perfectly positioned in the quad, ready to take Dylan in when he pushed out through the double doors. He was tall and broad-shouldered with a narrow waist and moved so gracefully he almost flowed down the steps. Cordy was staring again but at least this time he didn’t know she was. He was even better looking than she’d thought. He made the dull ochre walls of the quad look like an artfully selected backdrop.

So hot,” Flip breathed.

“Yeah,” Cordy agreed.

“I knew you’d like him!”

“Who wouldn’t?” Cordy’s reply was casual, but inside, she shared Flip’s excitement. When Dylan’s eyes met hers, something inside her had jolted to life.

“Finally!” Flip crowed.

Cordy threw Flip a sidelong look. Her excitement was a little over the top. Cordy suspected it had something to do with Ronan. If Cordy liked Dylan, that meant she wouldn’t be interested in…

Ronan burst through the doors and grabbed Dylan’s arm as he started across the quad. Dylan turned, offering a wary smile, but Ronan’s lips were set in a grim line. They stood, eye to eye, talking to each other with quiet intensity.

“Ronan definitely doesn’t like him. Come on. I wanna know what they’re talking about.” Flip slipped an arm through Cordy’s and dragged her, only half unwillingly, toward them.

They got there in time to hear Dylan say, “then you know I can’t talk about it”.

His voice was as thrilling as his eyes—low and firm, with a lilt she couldn't quite place. Scottish? Irish?

Ronan opened his mouth to respond but snapped it shut when he spied them.

“Can’t talk about what?” Flip asked brazenly.

Dylan flicked his eyes over her and looked away without answering, stranding them in awkward silence.
 
Undeterred, Flip turned to Ronan. “Come on, Ro. Aren’t you going to introduce your friend?”

Ronan’s response was instant. “He’s not my friend.”
 
“But you do know each other,” Cordy stated. That much was obvious.

Ronan shook his head. “Not really. I’ve heard stories.”

Dylan’s lips assumed a sardonic twist. “He doesn’t know me. No more than you do.”

His eyes locked on Cordy’s as he spoke and Cordy found herself falling into them again. They were so green, startling against the long black lashes that framed them. That feeling returned—that he saw her, that he knew her. It sent a thousand lights sparkling through her—and he knew that, too.

“Unless you’ve heard of me as well…sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” He smiled at her—a full, wide smile that warmed his eyes to emeralds and filled her stomach with butterflies. He was so overwhelming she almost missed her cue.

“My name’s Cordy. I don’t think I’ve heard of you. Should I have?”

Dylan’s smile faltered and he exchanged a long look with Ronan. The eyes that returned to hers were bright with speculation.

“Oh, come on.” Flip sounded exasperated. “You two have some kind of secret. Spill!”

Dylan’s eyes settled on Ronan. “Someone has secrets.” His tone implied it wasn't him.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2021, 10:29:17 AM by klclou »

Offline Odd John

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2021, 07:10:14 AM »
Hi. It's encouraging that you've stuck to your guns and are still working on this MS.

I would very much like to crit this post, but it is very difficult to read in non-standard paragraph format -- two huge blocks. If you would please convert it to standard paragraph form, I'll give it an immediate crit. (Please tell me you have NOT submitted to Agents in this format!)

Thanks!
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Offline klclou

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2021, 10:31:42 AM »
I've put line breaks between the paragraphs. Is that what you mean? This software just strips everything out, so no, I haven't sent it to agents looking like that.

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2021, 11:16:16 AM »
My notes are mostly plot related down at the bottom.  :)

Quote
“I’m sorry!” Cordy apologised, hurrying toward Flip as the first bell rang. I've read that it's risky to start a novel with dialogue. Some agents don't like it, because it's difficult to infer who a character is when they're instantly speaking with someone else. It's difficult to know how they're speaking too, because you don't know them yet.

The water had been like glass that morning, flat and still and reflecting a sky as blue as summer. I'm sure this means as blue as a summer sky, but it's not totally clear. Another comparison might serve this sentence better. Floating in that deep calm, her arms stretched wide, Cordy had forgotten all about meeting Flip at the cafe before school. She’d forgotten everything. I'm wondering what kind of watere we're dealing with. Fresh or salt, a lake or a lagoon? Or maybe just a pool in the backyard.

“I totally lost track,” she explained, bracing herself for a lecture on tardiness.

Flip did not understand the pull of the water. Flip’s morning routine consisted of makeup, hair wrangling and strong coffee. The idea of morning swims, full breakfasts and running too late to order a latte horrified her. This paragraph seemed to start in Flip's POV, but the tone makes it clear that it's Cordy. But I'd spell that out upfront. Something like "It had always annoyed Cordy that Flip didn't understand the pull of the water."

“Forget it.” Amber eyes gleamed beneath Flip’s platinum bob. “Have you seen him yet?”

“Seen who?” Cordy asked.

“You haven’t, or you’d know who I’m talking about.” Flip drained the last of her takeaway latte and dropped the empty cup into a bin. “There’s a new guy and he is lush.” Side note: I love "lush" being used in this way. I've only ever heard it on British tv shows, usually Welsh characters. So this brought a smile to my face.

Cordy grinned. That was exactly the sort of thing that would keep Flip’s mind off her lateness. She felt a spark of gratitude to the unseen stranger.

Flip wrinkled her nose as she flicked Cordy’s damp braid. “What is this?”

“My hair. I didn’t have time to dry it.”

“You’ll be sorry it’s not out when you see him,” Flip predicted, in a sing-song voice.

“I think I’ll survive,” Cordy said drily.

Flip shook her bob, a knowing smirk on her lips. “Just you wait.”

“O-kay,” Cordy shrugged, struggling to prevent her eyes rolling. Is she saying okay with a pause in the middle of it here? I'm unsure.

By the time they swung into English and settled into their usual desk, (I think desks are typically understood to be for one person, so "their desk" threw me a bit.) Cordy had forgotten all about the new guy. She’d just put her things down when a hush swept the room. She looked up to see what was happening, and her breath caught in her throat.

He stood in the doorway and his eyes were the sea and she was drowning.

“Told you,” Flip hissed in her ear.

She tore her eyes away to look at Flip, but Flip was staring at him too, her lips parted as if to drool. Cordy hoped she hadn’t looked like that, but suspected she definitely had.

Her eyes slid back to the stranger, hungry for more. Green eyes waited, cool and direct. The comment about his eyes being the sea made me assume they were blue. Something arced between them as their gazes locked. I'm unfamiliar with "arced" being used in this way. I'd choose a clearer word. It felt almost like recognition, though she was certain she’d never seen him before. She wouldn’t forget that face.

Dark eyebrows emphasised those dreamy eyes and tousled black hair framed the squared angles of his jaw. A strong, straight nose drew her eye to full lips, currently set in a mocking curve.

Long seconds passed. Her cheeks burned, but there was so much to look at she couldn’t stop staring. She was in danger of making a complete fool of herself without saying a word.

Ronan saved her. He walked through the door, jostling the stranger as he passed. The stranger turned, a rebuke ready on his lips, but stopped dead when he saw Ronan.

Ronan stopped too, staring as intently as Flip had, but he didn’t look ready to drool. A groove appeared between his eyebrows and his lips became a thin, hard line. The new guy looked faintly embarrassed before lifting a shoulder and turning away.

Ro must know him, but I don’t think he likes him.

A twinge of disappointment surprised her. Why should it matter if Ronan didn’t like him? But, somehow, it did.

The stranger started toward her. She feigned an intense interest in the torn corner of a fingernail—his eyes weren’t catching her again. A pleasant shiver ran through her as he brushed past, as though he’d run a light fingertip across the nape of her neck. She waited for the sound of his things hitting a desk somewhere behind her before she allowed herself to look up.

Ronan was still at the front of the room, staring after the new guy. His eyes dropped to hers and she smiled. For once, her smile was not returned. The groove between his brows deepened before he, too, walked to his desk.

What’s that about? Cordy wondered, mentally replaying last night’s phone conversation. They’d talked about Surf Sports and which of the equally horrible maths assignments they’d chosen. He hadn’t seemed upset when they said goodbye.

“Someone doesn’t like the new guy,” Flip observed, throwing a glance toward Ronan, “but it sounds like everyone else does.”

Whispers and giggles floated through the air around them. The stranger was a fresh breeze through autumn leaves. Cordy wondered how many would fall for him. 

With those eyes, too many, she thought, and then, with faint alarm, I might be one of them.

Ms Smith cut across the room on her long legs, red curls bouncing. The heels of her black boots tapped smartly across the tiles and she slid an armful of folders onto her desk. She turned to face a quieted room.

“Ah, Dylan, I see you’ve found your way here. Class, I’m sure you’ve all noticed our newest student, Dylan McEachen. He’s just moved here, so I hope you’ll make him feel welcome.”  Ms Smith showcased white teeth in a brief, bright smile.

Dylan. It was the perfect name. Musical. Poetic. It brought Dylan Thomas to mind, with his salt-slowed winds and sloeblack seas.

Cordy usually loved her double English class but today it was a life sentence. She could feel those disconcerting eyes at her back.  She was dying to get another look at their owner, but she could hardly just turn and stare. She packed up her books minutes before the bell and was the first out the door.

Flip caught up at the lockers. “What’s the hurry?”

“Nothing. I just want to get outside.” Cordy didn't add, ‘before Dylan’.


Her haste was rewarded. She was perfectly positioned in the quad, ready to take Dylan in when he pushed out through the double doors. He was tall and broad-shouldered with a narrow waist and moved so gracefully he almost flowed down the steps. Cordy was staring again but at least this time he didn’t know she was. He was even better looking than she’d thought. He made the dull ochre walls of the quad look like an artfully selected backdrop.

“So hot,” Flip breathed.

“Yeah,” Cordy agreed.

“I knew you’d like him!”

“Who wouldn’t?” Cordy’s reply was casual, but inside, she shared Flip’s excitement. When Dylan’s eyes met hers, something inside her had jolted to life.

“Finally!” Flip crowed.

Cordy threw Flip a sidelong look. Her excitement was a little over the top. Cordy suspected it had something to do with Ronan. If Cordy liked Dylan, that meant she wouldn’t be interested in…

Ronan burst through the doors and grabbed Dylan’s arm as he started across the quad. Dylan turned, offering a wary smile, but Ronan’s lips were set in a grim line. They stood, eye to eye, talking to each other with quiet intensity.

“Ronan definitely doesn’t like him. Come on. I wanna know what they’re talking about.” Flip slipped an arm through Cordy’s and dragged her, only half unwillingly, toward them.

They got there in time to hear Dylan say, “then you know I can’t talk about it”.

His voice was as thrilling as his eyes—low and firm, with a lilt she couldn't quite place. Scottish? Irish?

Ronan opened his mouth to respond but snapped it shut when he spied them.

“Can’t talk about what?” Flip asked brazenly.

Dylan flicked his eyes over her and looked away without answering, stranding them in awkward silence.

Undeterred, Flip turned to Ronan. “Come on, Ro. Aren’t you going to introduce your friend?”

Ronan’s response was instant. “He’s not my friend.”

“But you do know each other,” Cordy stated. That much was obvious.

Ronan shook his head. “Not really. I’ve heard stories.”

Dylan’s lips assumed a sardonic twist. “He doesn’t know me. No more than you do.”

His eyes locked on Cordy’s as he spoke and Cordy found herself falling into them again. They were so green, startling against the long black lashes that framed them. That feeling returned—that he saw her, that he knew her. It sent a thousand lights sparkling through her—and he knew that, too.

“Unless you’ve heard of me as well…sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” He smiled at her—a full, wide smile that warmed his eyes to emeralds and filled her stomach with butterflies. He was so overwhelming she almost missed her cue.

“My name’s Cordy. I don’t think I’ve heard of you. Should I have?”

Dylan’s smile faltered and he exchanged a long look with Ronan. The eyes that returned to hers were bright with speculation.

“Oh, come on.” Flip sounded exasperated. “You two have some kind of secret. Spill!”

Dylan’s eyes settled on Ronan. “Someone has secrets.” His tone implied it wasn't him.

My main advice is that you start this off with some prose rather than dialogue. Put us in Cordy's head. Give us a sense of who she is (we don't have to know everything, obviously), and that way, when we join the conversation with Flip, we're more anchored to her and not trying to figure out who she is while another person is taking up half the airtime.

This note is pretty big, and I hope I don't freak you out by suggesting it, but I would also consider not opening with this scene, with Dylan showing up. I love a good romantic subplot. In fact, I write romance, so I love it as the central plot too, but a teenage girl reacting to the new boy isn't going to be what pulls an agent or editor into your story. Although, it would likely pull in plenty of teenage girls. I would have been one of those girls.  :) But with someone in the industry or even voracious readers, they know that this form of meet-cute isn't uncommon, so they're going to want to see something more unique to make them want to keep reading. Give us something that hooks us early on. I'm not saying change the way that Dylan is introduced to the story, necessarily, because I don't know enough about the story to make that kind of suggestion, but I am saying consider changing the way you introduce the story to the reader. You want to put your best foot forward, so give us a hint of what it is that makes this story different.

I like the evidence that Cordy and Flip know each other so very well. I'm a big fan of female friendships in stories. I'm intrigued by Cordy's love of the water. I have a feeling (and hope) that's going to come into play with the fantasy aspect of the story, especially given the names of three of these characters... By the way, if that was intentional (and I can't imagine that it wasn't), well done. And the tension between Ronan and Dylan is interesting too, as is Cordy's sense that Dylan knows her. It's feeling very folkloric to me, and that excites me.

I hope I gave you something useful in my review and that my scene suggestion didn't overwhelm you. I wish you luck!

Offline Odd John

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2021, 05:51:09 PM »
Hi all. I've been working on this for years. Is this getting anywhere near interesting yet?
-----------------------------

“I’m sorry!” Cordy apologised, said hurrying toward Flip as the first bell rang.

The water had been like glass earlier that morning, flat and still and reflecting a sky as blue as summer. Weak, summer is expansive and can get quite cloudy-dark. Maybe "turquoise". Floating in that deep calm, her arms stretched wide, Cordy had forgotten all about meeting Flip at the cafe before school. She’d forgotten everything. Vague. Which water? Lake, bathtub, ocean? I want to SEE it.

“I totally lost track,” she explained, bracing herself for a lecture on tardiness being late. (Too prim.).

Flip did not understand the attraction pull "Pull" sounds too much like the tide. of the water. Flip’s morning routine consisted of makeup, hair wrangling and strong coffee. The idea of morning swims, full breakfasts and running too late to order a latte horrified her.

“Forget it.” Amber eyes gleamed beneath Flip’s platinum bob. “Have you seen him yet?”

“Seen who?” Cordy asked.

“You haven’t, or you’d know who I’m talking about.” Flip drained the last of her takeaway latte and dropped the empty cup into a bin. “There’s a new guy and he is lush.” Add a word and he's "a lush". Is this the new "fleek"? Maybe something else.

Cordy grinned. That was exactly the sort of thing that would keep Flip’s mind off her lateness. She felt a spark of gratitude to the unseen stranger.

Flip wrinkled her nose as she flicked Cordy’s damp braid. “What is this?”

“My hair. I didn’t have time to dry it.”

“You’ll be sorry it’s not out when you see him,” Flip predicted, in a sing-song voice.

“I think I’ll survive,” Cordy said drily.

Flip shook her bob, a knowing smirk on her lips. “Just you wait.”

“O-kay,” Cordy shrugged, struggling to prevent her eyes rolling.

By the time they swung into English and settled into their usual desk, Cordy had forgotten all about the new guy. She’d just put her things down when a hush swept the room. She looked up to see what was happening, and her breath caught in her throat.

He stood in the doorway and his eyes were the sea and she was drowning. Good back-ref to her time in the water.

“Told you,” Flip hissed in her ear. Too snakey. Maybe "purred". (Not sensually but with gloating satisfaction.)

She tore her eyes away Too trite. to look at Flip, but Flip was staring at him too, her lips parted. as if to drool. Um, way over the top, not credible even as exaggeration. "Parted" is enough, suggesting a kiss. Cordy hoped she hadn’t looked like that, but suspected she definitely had.

Her eyes slid back to the stranger, hungry for more. Green eyes waited, cool and direct. Something arced passed between them as their gazes locked. It felt almost like recognition, though she was certain she’d never seen him before. She wouldn’t forget that that face if she lived to be one hundred. "Arced" is too violently tangible and would be so even at a later stage. "Almost/like" -- Don't weaken with a redundant double uncertainty.

Dark eyebrows emphasised those dreamy eyes and tousled black hair framed the squared angles of his jaw. A strong, straight nose drew her eye to full lips, currently set in a mocking curve. "Twist" better?

Long seconds passed. Her cheeks burned, but there was so much to look at she couldn’t stop staring. She was in danger of making a complete fool of herself without saying a word.

Ronan saved her. He walked through the door, jostling the stranger as he passed. The stranger turned, a rebuke ready on his lips, but stopped dead when he saw Ronan.

Ronan stopped too, staring as intently as Flip had, but he didn’t look ready to drool overcome. A groove appeared between his eyebrows and his lips became a thin, hard line. The new guy looked faintly embarrassed before lifting a shoulder and turning away. Micro-movements slow the scene down and distract the reader.

Ro must know him, but I don’t think he likes him.

A twinge of disappointment surprised her. Why should it matter if Ronan didn’t like him? But, somehow, it did.

The stranger started toward her. She feigned an intense interest in the torn corner of a fingernail—his eyes weren’t catching her again. A pleasant shiver ran through her as he brushed past, as though he’d run a light fingertip across the nape of her neck. She waited for the sound of his things hitting a desk somewhere near behind her before she allowed herself to look up. Nice sequencing.

Ronan was still at the front of the room, staring after the new guy. His eyes dropped to hers and she smiled. For once, her smile was not returned. The groove between his brows deepened before he, too, walked to his desk.

What’s that about? Cordy wondered, mentally replaying last night’s phone conversation. They’d talked about Surf Sports and which of the equally horrible maths assignments they’d chosen. He hadn’t seemed upset when they said goodbye.

Someone doesn’t like the new guy,” Flip observed, throwing a glance toward Ronan, “but it sounds like everyone else does.”

Whispers and giggles floated through the air around them. The stranger was a fresh breeze through autumn leaves. Cordy wondered how many would fall for him. 

With those eyes, too many, she thought, and then, with faint alarm, I might be one of them.

Ms Smith entered the classroom and cut across it on her long legs, red curls bouncing. The heels of her black boots tapped smartly across the tiles and she slid an armful of folders onto her desk. She turned to face a quieted room.

“Ah, Dylan, I see you’ve found your way here. Class, I’m sure you’ve all noticed our newest student, Dylan McEachen. He’s just moved here, so I hope you’ll make him feel welcome.”  Ms Smith showcased white teeth in a brief, bright smile.

Dylan. It was the perfect name. Musical. Poetic. It brought Dylan Thomas to mind, with his salt-slowed winds and sloeblack sloe-black seas. Very fine phrase.

Cordy usually loved her double English class but today it was a life sentence. She could feel those disconcerting eyes at her back.  She was dying to get another look at their owner, but she could hardly just turn and stare. She packed up her books minutes before the bell and was the first out the door.

Flip caught up at the lockers. “What’s the hurry?”

“Nothing. I just want to get outside.” Cordy didn't add, ‘before Dylandoes.

***

Her haste was rewarded. She was perfectly positioned in on the quad, ready to take Dylan in when he pushed out through the double doors. He was tall and broad-shouldered with a narrow waist and moved so gracefully he almost flowed down the steps. Cordy was staring again but at least this time he didn’t know she was. He was even better looking than she’d thought. He made the dull ochre walls of the quad look like an artfully selected backdrop.

So hot,” Flip breathed.

“Yeah,” Cordy agreed.

“I knew you’d like him!”

“Who wouldn’t?” Cordy’s reply was casual, but inside, she shared Flip’s excitement. When Dylan’s eyes met hers, something inside her had jolted to life.

“Finally!” Flip crowed.

Cordy threw Flip a sidelong look. Her excitement was a little over the top. Cordy suspected it had something to do with Ronan. If Cordy liked Dylan, that meant she wouldn’t be interested in…

Ronan burst through the doors and grabbed Dylan’s arm as he started across the quad. Dylan turned, offering a wary smile, but Ronan’s lips were set in a grim line. They stood, eye to eye, talking to each other with quiet intensity.

“Ronan definitely doesn’t like him. Come on. I wanna know what they’re talking about.” Flip slipped an arm through Cordy’s and dragged her, only half unwillingly, toward them.

They got there in time to hear Dylan say, “then you know I can’t talk about it”.

His voice was as thrilling as his eyes—low and firm, with a lilt she couldn't quite place. Scottish? Irish?

Ronan opened his mouth to respond but snapped it shut when he spied them.

“Can’t talk about what?” Flip asked brazenly. Good, bringing on some drama...

Dylan flicked his eyes over her and looked away without answering, stranding them in awkward silence.
 
Undeterred, Flip turned to Ronan. “Come on, Ro. Aren’t you going to introduce your friend?”

Ronan’s response was instant. “He’s not not my friend.” Obvious. Don't underestimate the reader.
 
“But you do know each other,” Cordy stated. That much was obvious.

Ronan shook his head. “Not really. I’ve heard stories.”

Dylan’s lips assumed a sardonic twist. “He doesn’t know me. No more than you do.”

His eyes locked on Cordy’s as he spoke and Cordy found herself falling into them again. They were so green, startling against the long black lashes that framed them. That feeling returned—that he saw her, that he knew her. It sent a thousand lights sparkling through her—and he knew that, too.

“Unless you’ve heard of me as well…sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” He smiled at her—a full, wide smile that warmed his eyes to emeralds and filled her stomach with butterflies. He was so overwhelming she almost missed her cue.

“My name’s Cordy. I don’t think I’ve heard of you. Should I have?” Good. Cheeky drama.

Dylan’s smile faltered and he exchanged a long look with Ronan. The eyes that returned to hers were bright with speculation.

“Oh, come on.” Flip sounded exasperated. “You two have some kind of secret. Spill!”

Dylan’s eyes settled on Ronan. “Someone Someone has secrets.” (His tone implied it wasn't him.) Semi-obvious. Probably cut it. Also, cutting it strengthens "Someone has secrets." as being promoted to the final sentence in this scene.


Before I sum up, I feel obligated to offer this disclaimer/disclosure: I'm afraid YA Romance is one of my least liked genres. So you must take my crit with perhaps a tablespoon of salt.

Onward.

I'm not convinced that a "meet cute" (or in this case "meet Brad Pitt-Bon bon Jovi-love-child-drop-dead-gorgeous cute") can sustain the opening scene of your story. (I'm assuming these are the first pages.) Not even with the undertones of mystery and animus. It also strikes me as too unrealistic for everyone everyone to instantly be fond of the guy at first sight, though he may be as gorgeous as a devilishly handsome Angel with the gait of a panther. I'm nearly hoping he turns into a troll when he gets home.

That aside, your dialogue is very good, crisp and bright. And clearly you can turn a phrase. If the story moves into darker places, which is the suggestive undertone here, I would be very satisfied with that direction.
  :) :yes: :)

P.S. Thank you kindly for parting the paragraphs!
« Last Edit: April 08, 2021, 07:33:47 AM by Odd John »
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Offline klclou

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2021, 08:03:57 PM »
Thanks so much for the contributions and suggestions so far. This first scene drives me crazy. There is a preface to this but I never include it because everyone loves it...it is this first actual scene that causes the problems.

I have written it with or without more front material. Readers want more front material, but people I've paid to critique it always want it cut to the action - the actual starting point of the story. This story doesn't exist without the arrival of a dark stranger as the catalyst for everything else, so that's where they say the action begins. I am leaning toward a kind of second preface at the beginning of the chapter because that is what readers want, but it's so confusing. I personally believe most agents chuck a manuscript after about 4 paragraphs if it hasn't grabbed them, and I don't know how well someone floating in a river and maybe thinking over their recent history is going to grab them, but that's where it would start if not here. This book goes on to become something rather different but it starts here!

And we're talking about an exceptionally good looking person in Dylan. He makes an impact because everything about him is designed to. There is no way to bring this character in without people noticing him specifically for his looks. If I ignore his looks and their effect, it's like I'm writing without eyes. He's not a vampire, but in terms of looks (if you subscribe to the vampirism makes you uber hot version of vampires) he may as well be. He isn't a contemporary human, but this is Cordy's POV and she is like, the most completely pragmatic character. She's not even thinking vampire. She just thinks he's the hottest guy she's seen and can't believe he's noticed her. My biggest problem is trying to convince the agent this is not going the same way as Twilight. 

Flip and Cordy's friendship is a big element in this story, as is water. You are right on about the names MKWrites - it's folkloric, probably very much in the way you are thinking. With a bit of a twist.

Offline Odd John

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2021, 07:50:22 AM »
For me, more material isn't the issue. Different material is.

As noted by myself and others, a "meet cute" opening (with or w/out mystery/animus) is unlikely to be compelling enough to convince an Agent to move forward with a partial/full request. I'm not saying you should omit this scene from your MS, just that it be moved somewhere close by. I can't help but think that you surely have more compelling material for your opening hook than what this attempts. If not, I believe you have a writing task in front of you!

The only alternative to a new opening I can think of is to make the mystery/animus much stronger, more vibrant, gripping. And put in the very first sentence. Also hoping you avoid the "V-word" in your text.

Again, best of luck to you!  :) :yes: :)
« Last Edit: April 08, 2021, 07:55:36 AM by Odd John »
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Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: YA Contemporary Fantasy (Strong romantic elements)
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2021, 04:39:08 PM »
Quote
I have written it with or without more front material. Readers want more front material, but people I've paid to critique it always want it cut to the action - the actual starting point of the story. This story doesn't exist without the arrival of a dark stranger as the catalyst for everything else, so that's where they say the action begins.

Starting the book where the story begins, to me, is the right move. And since Dylan is the catalyst, I'd play around with the scene itself. Having a new boy show up can become something fresh and intriguing, if you add some conflict or some comedy. Does he have to show up in class on a day where nothing happens? Does he have to walk in and just sit down like he does? Could Cordy maybe slam into him in the hallway, because they're both late, instead of seeing him for the first time while she's sitting in the classroom? Could she be completely distracted by a fight she had with someone the night before, and when Dylan walks in all the other girls drool, but she doesn't even notice him until he asks to borrow a pencil, and then she falls out of her chair? Not great examples, but you get where I'm going with this. Adding some interest might fix the issue. Another option: Does he even have to show up at school the first time we see him? Is there somewhere else he could arrive? I'd brainstorm a bit.

And you can even give us more of Cordy's personality without changing too much. Like having us meet up with her while she's running late instead of the second she sees Flip. Or have us in her head, thinking about some aspect of her home life or school, while Flip talks in the background, unheeded, and then suddenly Flip says something that makes Cordy have to actually listen to what she's saying. Again, not great examples, but you can dig around in the scene and bring out more of Cordy and create more intrigue without having to fight against the action or add a whole big preface to it. 

Dylan's attractiveness is obviously preternatural. I might spell that out a bit more. And if Cordy is pragmatic, I'd reword her description of him, because it doesn't come across as a practical reaction. It comes across as normal attraction. Nothing wrong with normal attraction of course, but it sounds like that's not what you're going for.