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Friday, February 8, 2013

Five YA Story Starts-- Do they work magic for you? by Kitty Griffin

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

How do stories draw you in? Do you appreciate the quick slap, the story that drops you into the volcano as the earthquake cracks the world? Or do you prefer Hoovering-- the slow pulling and when you go to look away, you can't you just have to find out what happens next?

Here are five story starts. These are recent YA fantasy stories with an anchoring to a familiar fairy tale.  

Just by looking at the covers to "Cinder" and "Scarlet" you can immediately find the anchor story-- Cinderella and the slipper (only look at that ankle, what's up with that?) and Red Riding Hood.

Here is how "Cinder" starts-- see what you think, the slap or the suck...

     The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw on gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean.
     Tossing the screwdriver onto the table, Cinder gripped her heel and yanked the foot from its socket. A spark singed her fingertips and she jerked away, leaving the foot to dangle from a tangle of red and yellow wires.

   Does that grab you?

   How about the pitch line?

   "Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population.  From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl...Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg."

Let's look at the sequel, "Scarlet"

     Scarlet was descending toward the alley behind the Rieux Tavern when her portscreen chimed from the passenger seat, followed by an automated voice: "Comm received for Mademoiselle Scarlet Benoit from the Toulouse Law Enforcement Department of Missing Persons."
     Heart jumping, she swerved just in time to keep the ship's starboard side from skidding against the stone wall, and threw down the brakes before reaching a complete stop. Scarlet killed the engine, already grabbing for the discarded port screen. It's pale blue light glinted off the cockpit's controls.
     They'd found something.
     The Toulouse police must have found something.

A livelier start, but are you drawn in? You decide.

Read each of these openings. Which one do you want to keep reading? Why? When you understand why, then you are on your way to understanding what you like. When you know what you like to read, you'll know what you'll like to write.

Believe it or not, some writers never understand that lesson. All they want to do is write something that sells, not realizing that if they don't like it, no one else will. If your heart isn't in it, people will know. Especially editors. 

A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

     I'd try to hold on to my stass dreams as long as I could. It's a game I would play, struggling to keep track of those misty images that were so easily lost. I'd try to keep mysef in stasis, keep my heart beating to slow to feel, refuse to wake up my lungs. Once or twice I managed to hold on so long that Mom panicked and turned on the resuscitator.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

(Please note: "Fathomless" has a long prologue, but for this exercise, we're starting with chapter one)

     My sisters love this place.
     It smells like sand and cigarettes and cotton candy, like sunscreen and salt. The scent builds up all summer, and now, at the height of tourist season, it's so thick that I think I could wave an empty bottle around and it would fill with liquid perfume.
     We cut through the Skee-Ball parlor and emerge on the main drag of the Pavilion, lights and sounds everywhere, crowds of people with terrible sunburns. My sisters giggle to each other, the two of them perfectly in step ahead of me. We are triplets, but they are the twins, a perfectly matched set with high eyebrows and pretty lips. To most people, we look identical; to one another, my features are a little different. A little off, a not-quite-right replica of Anne and Jane.

Dust City byRobert Paul Weston

          Once upon a time, fairy-dust came from where you'd expect. From fairies. I was only a cub, so I don't remember much of what the City was like back then. But I have a strong sense that things were different. Dreams could come true. You read about it in the paper. I've seen the clippings. Mrs. L. has some of them pinned up in her office: PAUPER GIRL GETS A FAIRY VISIT, ELEVATED TO A LIFE OF LUXURY! 
     Then one day, the miracles dried up. The fairies stopped drifting down to bless us with their charms. All at once, they were gone.

     What draws you in? What excites your imagination? What feeds your dreams? 

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