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Untitled YA Fantasy Novel -- Chapter 1

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Old 02-12-2010, 11:59 AM
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Default Untitled YA Fantasy Novel -- Chapter 1


This is the first chapter of my YA fantasy novel. I have not managed to come up with a title yet, unfortunately. I am planning on posting each chapter on here, some in sections because they get long.

Here's the rundown for this chapter:
Genre: As stated, Young Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 2,151 words
Type: Chapter of a novel
Recap: None yet
Disclaimers: None
Critique Requested: Detailed would be very welcome, but any constructive critique is fine with me. I'm mostly looking for help with making sure there is enough description, dialogue, etc. Is there too much or too little of anything? Do I need to add more backstory or should that wait till later in the novel? Does my main character and the situation draw you in? Pretty much all the basics about writing a story are what I'm looking to confirm about this story. So any help would be great.

Now for the chapter.


~*~

Chapter I

The Ring

An hour before her life changed forever, Alana Gordon was sitting in chemistry class, trying to pay attention to Mr. Jemond’s lecture on predicting outcomes, instead of staring at the clock. Unfortunately, the clock was winning.
Finally, the hand ticked toward the last minute of class. Alana slid her notebook and textbook together, fingering the ring on the chain that she always wore around her neck. At last, the bell rang and she joined in the flurry of motion to stow the rest of her things and get out of the class as quickly as possible. She quickly slipped the ring and chain back inside the collar of her blouse. Over the sounds of the class packing up, Mr. Jemond called, “Don’t forget the assignment due tomorrow. You all know my policy on late work.”

All of Alana’s books were in her messenger bag and she was slinging the strap over her head when she heard a familiar voice call from behind her, “Alana!”
She turned and found herself face to chest with her best friend Brandon. While she didn’t mind admiring Brandon’s nicely built chest, it was far easier to have conversations with him when looking at his face, so she tilted her head back slightly till she could see his midnight blue eyes.

“What’s up Bran?” she smiled.

“What’re you up to later?” he asked, slinging his arm around her shoulders as he steered her out of the classroom. She could feel the warmth of his skin through the thin fabric of her blouse. She had to force herself not to shiver at the goose bumps it raised on her arms.

“I have a project due in chemistry tomorrow, so I’ll probably be working on that all evening,” she replied, “Why?”

“I need some help with my history project,” he said, grinning sheepishly, “It’s an essay.”

Alana rolled her eyes, “You always need help with your essays.”

“That’s because I know that you are the best,” he replied, guiding her toward their lockers. Alana narrowed her eyes at him, thinking that she would rather be something besides Brandon’s study buddy. She decided not to bring that up now. Brandon still had no idea that she felt more than friendship toward him. If he did, he wouldn’t be so casual about throwing his arm around me like he does.

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” she said, bumping him in the side as they stopped in front of their lockers, “but, yes, I’ll help you. Don’t you have soccer practice now?”

Brandon checked his watch. “I have exactly four minutes before I have to be in the locker room. Why? Are you that eager to get rid of me?” He pouted comically and she gave him another playful shove, deciding not to care about the annoyed glances from the other students when that put Brandon in their way.

“You’re ridiculous,” she told him as he grinned unabashedly at her. Looking around she saw a gaggle of girls heading their way, “And you need to leave before your ‘adoring fans’ find out you’re talking to me again. You know they hate it when you go slumming.”

“Stop it,” he said with a frown, “You know I don’t care what they think.”

“Yeah but you don’t have to put up with their not-so-subtle wise cracks when you aren’t there,” she replied, “Now go, or you’ll be late again. I’ll meet you at the hideout after practice.” With that, Alana turned him around and shoved him down the hallway in the direction of the locker rooms.

Once he was on his way, she turned her attention back to getting the rest of her books and putting them in her messenger bag. After she had them all, she closed her locker and headed down the hallway.

As she was making her way through the crowd of kids also heading home, she felt a hand close around her forearm and yank her to a sudden stop.

“Alana!” the owner of the hand squealed.

“Hi Lexi,” Alana said, smiling at Lexi, her other best friend. As she stepped back, she couldn’t help feeling the tiniest prick of jealousy at Lexi’s perfect caramel-colored skin. Alana hated her uncharitable thoughts, but sometimes she couldn’t help being jealous of Lexi’s pretty much perfect looks. Along with her beautiful skin, Lexi had gorgeous hazel eyes that sparkled when she laughed and black spiral hair that bounced when she walked. Not to mention she was tiny.

“So, guess what I just found out,” Lexi said, bouncing up and down and sending her mass of black curls flying around her face. And once more, Alana was reminded of why she couldn’t hate Lexi.

“What?” Alana asked, smiling despite herself, as she kept walking. She had learned a while ago that being serious around Lexi was almost impossible.

“I got in!” Lexi started bouncing even more. At her announcement, Alana stopped and turned to face her friend.

“You did?” When Lexi nodded, Alana broke into a bigger grin and wrapped Lexi in a massive hug, “That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you!”

“Thanks!” They started walking again, Lexi chattering about the acting camp she had just been accepted to. Alana smiled, nodded, and enthused at all the right moments as they made their way to Lexi’s car, but her mind was elsewhere. At some point during the walk she had taken out her ring again, and was playing with it.

“Alana?” Lexi asked, poking her shoulder and bringing Alana back to the moment, “Did you hear me?”

“Um,” she mumbled, biting her lip and once more concealing her necklace.

“Were you daydreaming about Brandon again?”

Alana felt her face heat up. Her guilty silence apparently gave Lexi that answer she needed. “You were. So when are you going to tell him that you like him?”

“How about never. We are both perfectly happy being just friends.”

“Yeah, sure you are.” Lexi said as she unlocked her car and tossed her backpack in the backseat.

“Oh be quiet,” Alana replied, opening the other door and throwing her messenger bag on the backseat next to Lexi’s bag. Then they both climbed in Lexi’s car and Lexi pulled out of the parking spot.

“So what are you doing this afternoon?” Lexi asked as they made their way through the line to leave the parking lot.

“Brandon needed some help with his history homework,” Alana replied, fiddling with the button on her blouse. Alana didn’t need to look at Lexi to know she was leveling her I-told-you-so stare at her. “By the way, have I told you to shut up yet?”

“Yes and it doesn’t help. So did he ask you or did you ask him?”

“He asked me,” Alana muttered, still playing with her button.

“Oh really?” Lexi asked. Alana looked up to see her waggling her eyebrows suggestively. Alana glared at her and kept silent. Saying anything else would just give Lexi more ammunition. Thankfully, a few moments later they pulled into Alana’s driveway.

“Have fun with Brandon this afternoon. And call me tonight.” Lexi called after her as Alana ran up to her front door and unlocked it. She turned around and stuck her tongue out at Lexi once before heading inside.

Once in her house, Alana headed to the kitchen in the back. Her house wasn’t all that big, but it was comfortable. Once in the kitchen, she checked for signs of her mother. All Alana found was a pink sticky note on the fridge saying her mom had to work late again that night. Sighing, she turned around and headed up stairs to change out of her skirt and blouse for her meeting with Brandon.

Her room was at the top of the stairs. She headed in and tossed her messenger bag on her desk chair. Then she opened her dresser and started rummaging through until she found her favorite pair of jeans and a cute t-shirt to wear. She changed into the clothes, careful to tuck the gold chain her family ring hung on back under her shirt when she was dressed. After that, she figured out which books she’d need to get her homework done that night.

Finally, she was ready to head to the place she usually met Brandon. Grabbing her refilled messenger bag, Alana slung it over her shoulders again, and then headed downstairs. On her way to the kitchen, she locked the front door. In the kitchen, she grabbed an apple and a bottle of water, and then headed out the back door, locking it behind her.

Setting out from her back porch, Alana made her way into the nearby woods. Brandon lived on the same street, and always had, so they had spent a lot of time exploring the woods just outside their backyards. That was how they found their Hideout in the first place, and heading there then was second nature. Alana didn’t even think about it, just walked, her feet and mind knowing exactly where to go, freeing her to daydream about her time with Brandon. It was because she was daydreaming that it took her so long to realize her ring had started growing warm, something that had never happened before. Alana noticed an odd sensation emanating from her necklace. Pausing on her way down the path, she fished the golden chain out from under her t-shirt. She frowned, wondering what was going on.

On the chain hung the heirloom that had been in her family for generations, going back to sometime before the civil war, or longer; Alana’s mom wasn’t exactly sure. It was a beautiful gold ring engraved with six stylized symbols, each of a different force in nature: the was a tongue of flame, a wave, a swirl of lines that her mom said represented wind, a bolt of lightning, a mountain, and a leaf. Alana had found all that out on her sixteenth birthday, when her mom gave her the ring. Now though, the ring was doing something she had never seen it do before; it was glowing and thrumming. She watched it for a few seconds, but it didn’t stop. Then, as she was staring at it, something her mom had said came to mind.

It was the day she had given Alana the ring. She had just explained how long it had been in their family when she said, “There’s one more thing you need to know. There is a chance that someday this ring may start acting strangely; it may start to glow or vibrate or even both. If it ever does suddenly come to life, you have to put it on.”

“Why?” Alana had asked, frowning at her mom’s odd command.

“I can’t really explain why,” her mom had told her, “all I know is that your grandmother told me the same thing when I turned sixteen and her mother told her. It’s something that goes along with carrying the ring.”

“Did it ever glow or vibrate when you had it?” Alana had asked as she stared at the heirloom.

“No. It just hung on its chain. I wouldn’t worry about it. I think it’s an old family tale, that just gets passed down with the ring. Just wear it and treasure it, and give it to your daughter when it’s time.”

With that, Alana’s mother had placed the chain around Alana’s neck, then hugged her.

Now, on the day she was supposed to be meeting Brandon, the ring was glowing, doing the very thing her mother insisted would never happen. Looking around, Alana saw what she already knew; she was alone in the middle of the woods.

Alana hesitated, unsure what to do. She kept hearing her mother’s words, telling her to put the ring on. Her grandmother had even said to do that too. But now, when the ring was actually doing the thing that Alana had believed it never would, she didn’t know what to do.

Part of her wanted to hurl the ring and chain as far away from her as possible. The fact that it was thrumming and glowing was a little frightening. But another part of her, the part that had romped through the woods with Brandon playing at being pirates and superheroes, wanted to put the ring on and see what happened.

These two sides warred for a few moments, before the adventurous side won out. Carefully, she unclasped the chain from her neck and pulled the ring off of it, before slipping the ring onto her right ring finger.
For a moment, it seemed like it wasn’t going to change anything. Then a blinding white light shot out of the ring, causing Alana to jam her eyes shut to keep from being blinded by the brightness. With her eyes closed, she suddenly felt as if she was being hurtled through the air, then without warning, she blacked out.

~*~

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Old 02-12-2010, 02:49 PM
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This was a very good read but I had a few problems with it. I found the part where Alana was staring into Brandon's chest was over done, making it sound a little cheesy. That could be only something I found wrong with it though. Also, when Alana and Lexi were having their conversation I found that you repeated their names too often. You could have mentioned their names less and I still would have caught on to who was talking. I also think it was too hasty of an explanation for the ring being a family heirloom. It happened so fast it seemed like it was an excuse for something fantastical to happen. The last thing I noticed was when Alana was feeling like throwing away the ring, that didn't seem like a convincing feeling to me.

I think there was a perfect ratio of dialogue to description. It was an easy read, very well written, I couldn't find many spelling errors or grammatical errors, though my grammar isn't too good so it could have just been me. The way it was written it made me want to read more, and I hope to read your other chapters when you post them.

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Old 02-12-2010, 05:07 PM
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As someone who is also writing a YA [realistic] fiction novel, it's great to see someone else on the same general path.

I will say is that the language is casual and believable. Again, being a high schooler, I can clearly imagine everything the characters say in the context of being that age.

Overall, it's very good. Keep it up!
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Old 02-13-2010, 08:44 AM
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Mr. Gryn: Thank you very much your feedback. It was very helpful. I did have one question about the heirloom section. You mentioned it felt like it went by too quickly. Does this mean you believe I should lengthen that particular section to make it more believable? Thanks again!

PureHatTrick: Thank you so much. It's nice to meet another YA writer. I'm glad you found the dialogue believable and that you liked the chapter overall. THanks for your comments.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Kaylinn57 View Post
Mr. Gryn: Thank you very much your feedback. It was very helpful. I did have one question about the heirloom section. You mentioned it felt like it went by too quickly. Does this mean you believe I should lengthen that particular section to make it more believable? Thanks again!
Yeah, I would either lengthen it or (though it might be too much of a hassle) start the story somewhere near the time she get's the ring for her birthday. That's just my opinion though, you don't have to go with it.
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:48 AM
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If my crit seems blunt it's because I'm writing it as I read it so you can get a sense of what I'm thinking exactly as I'm reading. I also haven't read the other peoples comments.

- Nice first line.
- Maybe a little more description needed at the start or rework what you've got to get it to flow a little smoother.
- "She had to force herself not to shiver at the goose bumps it raised on her arms." I presume it's a good shiver? A little extra description of her feelings about this would make their relationship clearer.
- "careful to tuck the gold chain her family ring hung on back under her shirt" Why is it important for her to hide it? If it is important a hint here would intrigue the reader more, or maybe even earlier when it's first mentioned. It keeps coming back so I presume it's going to be very important to the story or a bit of backstory about Alana but I've no idea how it relates to her character. I
- "On her way to the kitchen, she locked the front door. In the kitchen, she grabbed an apple and a bottle of water, and then headed out the back door, locking it behind her." I got a little confused over the action here, a bit more description about her home would help explain not only what she's doing but perhaps an aspect of her character, we've seen how she relates to her friends but is her family life the same? Does her relationship with her family tie in with her ring?
- "If he did, he wouldn’t be so casual about throwing his arm around me like he does." The rest of the writing reads in the thrid person but this sentance reads as though she's narrating. If this is a thought she is having it needs to be clearer that it is so.
- Your description of Lexi is lovely and we get a good sense of Alana's character through her begrudginly admitting her jealousy. But the last line "Not to mention she was tiny." seems like it's tagged on, why is she jealous that's she's tiny? Is Alana abnormally tall? Or is Lexi the small but feisty type that people can't ignore; self-confident despite her size?
- When Alana gets distracted and ignores Lexi how does she feel? Is she guilty about ignoring her friend when she's really excited about the acting camp or is Lexi so understanding that she can forgive? Or is Lexi annoyed and not showing it? A little more here could strengthen our understanding of their friendship or hint at future trouble.
- "She turned around and stuck her tongue out at Lexi once before heading inside." The "once" is not needed (and is repeated in the next line "Once in her house")
- If the physical description of the ring occured earlier your description of it's change in the woods would seem more apparent to the reader, as we knew nothing about it other than it was a ring in didn't feel as magical as it perhaps could and should be.
- Her mother's insistance that nothing will happen to the ring seems a little odd coming after the almost grand sounding instruction that "there is a chance that one day..." If she were almost embarrassed to say it or says it as an afterthought it would also help the suddeness of it "coming to life" seem more magical. If I was told something like that I'd have spent years of my life running around woods, not only being a pirate but acting out what I thought might happen if the ring did come to life. Alana didn't believe anything would happen to the ring, but why didn't she? Has she "put all that childish stuff behind her" yet her subconsious keeps reminding her it's important? Is that why she plays with it so much?

All in all it was a good read. I'd have liked a little more "fantasy" in the beginning to draw me into it a bit more, it reads a lot like a romance. The ring is obviously very important, the description about it should come sooner and as this is what changes Alana's life and makes it fantastical it's the hook that your going to draw fantasy reades in with. Your descriptions of Alana's actions seem a little flat compared to the good dialogue you have going between your characters and the nice description of Lexi. If the story is going to centralise around Alana and you want us to feel what she's feeling etc then consider putting this into such descriptions. I'd like to know how she feels about small things like "the cumbersome weight of her shoulder bag" perhaps or why she feels she needs to lock the front door before heading into the kitchen.
If we feel "normal" alongside her then when the fantastic happens it's going to happen to us too and not feel as though we're just watching her.

I've a broad range of tastes in what I read, generally I prefer fantasy/sci-fi over "realistic" and enjoy anything from 8-12 year old fiction up through YA and even a few "adult" fiction. I agree with PureHatTrick952 that you've got the language right for the age range your targeting.
Keep it up.

Edit: Woah! I've just seen the length of my reply, hope it doesn't overwhelm. Any questions about any points just ask.

Last edited by Arin Lee; 05-25-2010 at 02:49 AM.. Reason: additional comment
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