1 (edited by rhiannon 2016-11-22 19:03:42)

Topic: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

I'm not sure how to advise you as to how to make the first chapter more dramatic.  There's always the bloody or naked event that captures the reader's eye, then "Fifteen days earlier..." approach, if worse comes to worst.  I'd look at best-selling teenage novels, their introductions, and then modify yours to fit.  Don't change the essence, just give it a new pair of jeans.  Sometimes, just a line or two could do.  "After destroying the gym, Buffy's mother decided that they should move from Los Angeles to Sunnydale."  That would do it. lol  But that series had a hook in the title as well.  Made you want to endure the first episodes, or the movie, just to find out how the hook played out.  "Buffy" is a name given by effete, upper-middle-class couples and connotes a superficial, condescending bitch, not a vampire slayer, who would be named Brunhilde,Brandamante, Vanna Helsing or something.  A title hook is perhaps more important than a first chapter hook.  I'm struggling with mine.  Temporarily settled on "The Fairy Princess and the Offworlder," or "The Fairy Princess:  Cursed to Nakedness."  'fairy,' 'fairy princess,' 'offworlder,' all get good results on Amazon for the type of readers I want Of course 'nakedness' will too. 

I should talk, but maybe considering changing your title?  "Being Fifteen" isn't as magnetic as "Naked at Fifteen," "Guilty at Fifteen," "Meeting Godzilla at Fifteen."  Heck, even "Condescending at Fifteen," which might fit the best. 

Always take what you want from my comments. 

The one I'm having my students read now, Roald Dahl's, "James and the Giant Peach" starts with his parents being eaten by a rhinoceros that's escaped from the London Zoo.  Then the author proceeds to tell the story from beginning to end.  You might have some ominous event mentioned in her diary.  "After the Giant Rat of Sumatra escaped Styles, I know we just had to leave..."  "My father wasn't the alphabet killer, but his writing made people think he was..."  "Other men have addictions to cocaine, alcohol, women--my father's was tractor pulls and demolition derbies..."

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin:

I saw you're publishing a second part of Being Fifteen. Wouldn't it be better to consider it a second book and publish it under a different title even if it's a continuation of the same story? You know, like these trilogies so common in YA. It's three books, each one finishing a story arc, even if the story continues.

Just a thought.

Kiss

Gacela

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Gacela, yes you're right, I should have put it into a separate book here, but I'm only planning on putting up a few chapters of it at the moment so didn't want to create something separate.

Rhiannon, your comments and suggestions are always so creative. I'd love to understand how your imagination works!!

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Well I agree with Rhiannon, being 15 could use a more spicey name, especially when one considers the content.
I would go with "My Family's Dark Secret."  I'm wondering why you are trying to extend it. Unless the book leads to another radical world, I would leave out the extension.  Sarah's book is the extension, And it would be wonderful if you continued the "Canal Story," which first chapters were sizzlingly beautiful. Of course you have never brought out Declan in being 15, and if this is the one who is gonna stabilize Alicia I can see continuing part 2 of being 15. That would be radical.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

As far as Rhiannon's imagination, it is to be friends with everybody in the most exotic worlds possible. And she comes up with some doozies.  I'll admit I'm a hermit, so her worlds are shocking to me. But isn't she a fantastic participator in the group....cause of the title of the group is....close friends. I bet Marianna got the name close firends from Rhiannon.  If she didn't, the name brought Rhiannon to the group. She is precious.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

part 2 is really a second book, maybe called "Pretending to be"

I just got stuck on Sarah's story for a while so I switched my attention to cleaning this up as I'd already written it. That's why I just posted on the end of Being Fifteen.

The point of it is that Alicia wanted to go back to her friends, but had to stay in Dublin. It shows how she struggles resuming an old life in Dublin, but eventually she does end up back where she wanted to be.

In fact, I forgot about the canal story! I wrote about sixteen chapters and then got distracted by Sarah's story.

And everyone in this group is precious! smile

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin,
I’ve been thinking about your main character Alicia. I’m past the point now where we get a glimpse of what is behind her personality. The death of her brother. There was a movie -years ago (1980)- called “Ordinary People” with Timothy Hutton, Mary Tylor Moore and Donald Sutherland. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. The movie is about a family trying to put the pieces together after a family member dies. Timothy Hutton’s older brother is the “golden child” beloved by his parents, straight A student, football star (American football, but that doesn’t matter.) Timothy is more of the average student, but screw up and lives in his brother’s shadow. (all of this comes out through flashbacks and the character’s action.) Timothy and his brother take a boat out onto the lake (I think lake Michigan) and a storm blows in and the boat capsizes, the brother dies, but Timothy is able to hold on. The movie is about his struggle dealing with his guilt; His mother’s struggle with dealing with the boy’s death; and the father’s struggle to keep it all together. There are poignant moments where Mary won’t even pose for in the same photos with her son.
Your story reminds me of this movie, directed by Robert Redford FYI. But I think you are missing some opportunities with the character of Alicia. She only appears to act out agains the maid and in what she writes in her journal. Using her relationship with Robbie to sabotage her relationship with Matthew, is a good start. That rings true. But it isn’t enough. I don’t feel her sense of guilt so much as anger at her father. You do include the description of her life in Dublin, where she went wild- that rings true- but her actions in her present house feel too subdued- as though the move solved the problem for her dad, and I don’t think he should get off that easy.
When I said she didn’t have a clearly identifiable voice, that’s what I meant. She doesn’t seem much different than the other teens. You’re very close, but she has her self-destructive influences under control. I’d like to see her more out of control. Things have to rise to a moment, before they can be solved. And that could be coming, since I’m only up to Chapter 8. There is so much potential to make her a truly interesting person. Currently she’s holding it together for her mother- and tolerating her father. But the house feels too quiet. Though, that could be representative of the calm before the storm. I’m looking forward to a major shake up- maybe a breakdown- and then an ultimate rebuilding of the relationships.
I would suggest, if you haven’t yet done so, writing out a complete character study of Alicia. See where she is vulnerable and pull those vulnerabilities out through the action of the story. Maybe have her afraid of water- an incident at someone’s pool maybe? Little things to hint at the underlying cause of her pain. The big reveal to Matthew felt like it came out of the blue a bit. I didn’t feel there was adequate prompt.
‘nuff said. I am enjoying the read and looking forward to the next chapters and how you tell her story.
Take care,
CJ

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

I found a really useful tool for character study on 'Now Novel'. It asks loads of questions about the characters, including things I wouldn't normally think of. Thanks for the idea, CJ.
I think Alicia's relationship with her father develops more after Christmas. Right now, they're like strangers sharing a house, both are shy/scared/intimated by the other. Alicia, obviously, thinks her father blames her for everything and so doesn't deserve parental kindness, while her father is a little socially awkward and has no idea how to engage with a 15 year old girl.
I think (hope) it is the calm before the storm, but I hope you continue to give me your opinion on this subject because each of these questions is making me think about Being Fifteen at a new level!

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin:  I checked Now Novel, but it's quite expensive!

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin, it is great you are working on multiple novels at once. To me, it is the sign of trying to put everything together. What you started needs progression as life moves forward, with new worlds screaming to get a response from your characters.
Alicia. Sarah. Jack. Matthew. Claire. I can see them all falling into a continuing story like their lives though going different ways, still find a way to cross each other, sometimes for support, sometimes to knock the other person in the ass, sometimes to, no matter what, unable to break the bond between each other. Togetherness, that is the spirit of your writing. it is beautiful. Keep writing. Show your husband. Show everybody, but don't let them tamper with your spirit. That's how you will find sucess in the market.  your togetherness of your friends.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin wrote: "really? that's interesting. i feel the girls are two opposites. while Sarah tries too hard to please everyone, Alicia has no qualms about hurting others and takes her own pride more seriously than other's feelings."

While I recognise Alicia can be a bitch without much effort, she is anyway a strong character. Selfish, maybe. Self-centred, most of the time. Somehow disoriented,  and in constant struggle to find herself, certainly. But she owns a strong will and walks straight lines.

Sarah, on the other hand, indeed tries too hard to please everyone, and perhaps that's what makes her a weak character. In that process she forgets about herself and her priorities, and is unable to stand her ground. Pleasing everybody around you, while very nice, is not necessarily a character trait denoting a strong character, but the contrary, IMHO. Why? Because it denotes an inability to manage conflict (it's easier to say "yes" than to say "no"), dissatisfaction, and confrontation. Being a people-pleaser is not necessary a good thing. Giving people all what they want is not the best thing to do.  In the end, it fosters abuse and exploitation, and does not creates happier people. Folks who are used to be pleased no-mater-what, are not usually happy fellows. They are always asking for more and more. She who lives to please others, ends up incapable of fulfilling all what she's asked for, for others will constantly ask for more and more.

Sometimes you have to say NO, and this is not a bad thing.

That said, Sarah could still be somebody trying hard to please everybody else and be a strong character. E.g.: after Hugh abandoned her, Sarah felt into depression and forgot about herself and her babies. A strong character would have fought against depression and would have started anew despite her new, disadvantageous situation. A people-pleaser girl but with a strong character may well be able to recognise an unfavorauble, or even dangerous situation and stop it, even if it means not pleasing somebody--one thing is to be a people-pleaser and another very different to be stupid.

However, IMHO, people-pleasers are well intentioned, but weak, people who, above all things, avoid conflict because they cannot handle it, as opposed to strong character who manage it perfectly well and even come out of it successfully. E.g., had Sarah been tricked by Grainne the way Grainne tricked Alicia, she would have never explained the situation, lest several people would end up hurt (Declan discovering his current love-affair is a cheater, Grainne, etc.). Of course, Sarah would have never take revenge the way Alicia did right under Grainne's nose. She would have suffered, constantly knocking Danielle's door begging for an opportunity to explain herself, jsut as she suffered marrying Hugh only because her mother wanted it, even if Sarah herself didn't . Isn't that being weak?

This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with The Best Laid Plans. It's only a comment about Sarah's character and the reasons why she got into so much trouble.

Kiss,

Gacela.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin, the characters are well proposed and they drive the story positively. You cannot put Alicia into a sentence. You can't put Sarah into a sentence. You constantly expose their motives and their vulnerable situations. They are very complex people, granted Clara isn't, but those two are. That's what good writing is about.  I don't have your talent that way.  I put characters into stream they can't jump out of.  I got a lot to learn from you.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Sheriff, we all have different strengths. I put more time into why the characters act the way they do, usually at the expense of dragging out the story before launching into the plot, while you're always jumping straight to the action so your reader never has a chance to get bored. it's why we're here - to learn from each other

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin:

I'm thinking of your answer to my yesterday's comments...

First of all, thanks for saying I look lovely. I agree with you, but I shouldn't be praising myself, it's not being humble, is it?

Second, lemme tell you this: I DO think "Being Fifteen" is a well written, wonderful story than can sell. That said, I think it has two drawbacks: First one, the title. Rachel wrote a whole essay on that topic several posts above, so I'm not gonna further delve into that matter.  Second one: your first chapter. I agree with you that you need a first chapter that grabs the reader. Your current one is kinda mild.

Have you ever read Les Edgerton's "Hooked"? I strongly recommend it. Grab it, it's in Amazon. It explains what you have to have in your first chapter to make sure a reader grabs your book and keeps on reading. In a nutshell, your first chapters must contain:

1. An inciting incident.
2. The story worthy problem.
3. The initial surface problem.

There list goes on, for Edgeton points at 10 elements, but the above three are the main ones. The inciting incident is the main one. It represents the moment in which the MC's life changed, for good or bad, starting your story. Without it, your MC's life would have been a normal one.

Think of your story. Alicia's life would have been the life of any other upper-class, Dublin teenager hadn't it been for... what?

At first glance, you may answer: hadn't it been for her father's decision to move out of Dublin. Wrong. It was Alicia's brother drowning what triggered everything. Her mother went mad, the family turned into a dysfunctional one, Jonathon focused on his work as a way of escaping his wife's madness, etc.

So, why not starting the story with that scene? I know you want to "unveil" that part of Alicia's backstory later, explaining why she feels guilty, why her mother went mad, etc. Don't. It's not backstory, it's the inciting event. Start with the drowning scene and then jump to your current chapter one. Do not say Mon went crazy but rather let the reader discover that fact later. The reader will connect the dots and realise how much the family was stricken by the accident. State Alicia assumed it'd been her fault ( "all because of her" or something of the sort as closing line to chapter 1) and keep her guilty feeling under your sleeve until it is the right time to remind the reader how much guilty Alicia still feels years later.

Such an opening would be a tremendous first chapter. Any reader would want to keep on reading, finding out what happened to the girl who cause her brother's death (because, narrated from Alicia's POV, it will seems she caused it). Also, your opening would provide the element "story worthy problem" which would be the need for Alicia to overcome her guilt, not only because her brother died, but also because she feels responsible for what happened to her mother afterwards.

About the title, I just had a thought. How about something to do with Alicia overcoming her dark past. Something like "Ghost from the past"? I don't like that one, but hope I'm making my point. The title must reflect the struggle to overcome the guilt she feels, which almost drove her insane. "All Her Fault", "Was It Really My Fault?", "Not Her Fault", "Feeling Guilty". Rachel suggested "Guilty at Fifteen". How about, "A Killer at Fifteen". Not that she's really a killer, but that she feels like one because she believes she caused her brother's death.

Besides that, your story is terrific. Of course it requires some more rewriting (not much, but the usual fine tuning), and the eye of a professional editor (I can recommend you mine if you wish) and then it'll be ready for publishing.

Kiss,

Gacela

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Well, I can't really make a comment given my internet woes, but I will say that your profile picture is hot, Gacela. I'll be more helpful when my full internet is restored.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Well Gacela, your cool and as Suin (Alicia) would say, "hot"  and you have shown a very thoughtful way to look at "Being Fifteen."  Yet I understand why Suin approached this book this way. And I totally disagree with that guy's three key points.
Stories evolve and they build. Attention grabbers in the beginning are "cheap" shots. And pacing, revealing, more and more needs to be done gradually as I mentioned to Suin on my very first critique of Being 15. You can't show all the story at once. Nor can you show  it "obviously."  Key facts in stories need to be approached in a natural and oblique way. What Suin does well in the first few chapters is getting you to know Alicia maybe not her deep motivations that even she is not aware of, but her present mind and in a way that even I at 79 can relate too.  Gradually introducing the story, to my mind, was her first problem. So I told her to slow down, and she actually listened to me, thereafter her pacing has been marvelous.

I suppose there are many other ways to write, and Amber Eyes started out fine, and so Where Heaven and Hell Meet. But in Amber Eyes you don't mention the root problem the tragedy at the "haunted" house until later. And good. LET THE MYSTERY EVOLVE.
As far as tittle for Being 15, my suggestion was "My Family's deep Dark Secret."  That title let's you know in the very beginning there is something more, than Alicia's teenage dilemma.  All good stories  need to be a mystery that gradually gets lighted up.
Not just detective novels.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Going to add my two cents.
I agree with Sheriff, let the deciding motive behind Alicia's actions build. Like in "Ordinary People" we first saw the dysfunctional family and a suicidal teen. We later find out he is suicidal because he feels guilty for surviving while his brother drowned. (I really think you should rent it Suin, is so close to your novel, but in different ways.) You can also add a few chapters form Jonathan's point of view. Maybe Alicia can catch him at a weak moment?
You can name the novel "Five Stages" and show her going though all five stages of grief throughout the novel. YOu can have her father going through them too, but maybe he's a stage or two ahead of her? I have not read the whole thing, have a ways to go- but looking back on what I have read so far, you've hit anger and depression. Maybe start the book with denial?
Just a thought. I need to finish before my advice is as pertinent as others in the group, for sure!

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Dear Sheriff:

In "Amber Eyes", the tragedy is backstory. The mystery of the haunted house is a McGuffin. The real story worthy problem, the element fueling Alexandra's quest is self-discovery. That element, the need for self-discovery, is present in chapter 1. The story's triggering event, the thing that changed Alexandra's life forever, is not when her mother ditched her, or when her stepfather tried to rape her. Those are superficial problems. The event that pushed her into the auto-discovery path was the fact that another girl asked her to be her girlfriend. Because Alexandra liked the idea, it caused her to start questioning, in the first place, her own sexuality, and later, her own self.

I'm not saying that everything must be revealed in chapter one, nor that a good mystery has to be unveiled before time, but that if you want to hook the reader, and that is Suin's concern--she feels her first chapter might not grab our modern, fast-paced, anxious teen audience--you need to throw some of the meat on the grill and allow some flames to rise, casting the tempting aroma of rib-eye into the dining room.

Kiss

Gacela

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

About grabbing the reader- it doesn't have to be the motivating event. Suin could start with an event that comes from the motivating event- maybe ALicia tries to harm herself- or has a melt down at school. Something to hint at that underlining cause, more so than her just "trying to fit in". Show more of her internal struggle- without telling the reader why.
Or she could start with her mother's first escape- the reveal that her mother was sick behind locked doors wasn't as big of a mystery as the brother's drowning.
CJ

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Friends - I'm so sorry for being so rude and not replying to these thoughtful comments for MORE THAN A MONTH! I've been really busy lately only checking TNBW from my phone so I haven't had a chance until this week to properly check.
There is so much good advice here - I'm so grateful - and you've given me more and more ideas about how to address the opening. Actually, I think I'm going to try all of them!
It's really interesting that you're all summing up my exact issues from both sides. I started the novel slowly intentionally to immerse the reader (which is what Sheriff thinks is correct), but after writing it I started reading some YA (Hunger Games, Twilight, John Greene's stuff) and found that my writing seems old fashioned compared to the pacing used in these novels, which is exactly Gacela's point. So, like CJ says, I need to land somewhere in the middle.

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

I should talk, but maybe considering changing your title?  "Being Fifteen" isn't as magnetic as "Naked at Fifteen," "Guilty at Fifteen," "Meeting Godzilla at Fifteen."  Heck, even "Condescending at Fifteen," which might fit the best.

"Fifteen Years and Fifteen Locks"

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Oooh that's a good suggestion!!

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Suin, you wrote the diary segments when you were fifteen?  Wow.  I'm impressed, truly.  They do come across as a mature woman's reflections, not your typical teenager.  And I used 'forty,' to mean mature here.  Sorry to have aged you. lol

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

And and you're right, 'platonic' as in 'platonic love' isn't capitalized.  As Merriam-Webster said, stuffily, 'it's important to distinguish the two [meaning Platonic, as in pertaining to Plato, and platonic, as in the love].

Re: WIP Being Fifteen by Suin

Alicia's supposed to be a well-read kid, which is why her diary entries should come across as more mature. Reading authors like Austen, Wilde, and Plath at that age would do that. I mostly ignore advice on wording when it comes to her diaries in reviews so that they maintain her authentic voice.
I had to google the Platonic/platonic thing first smile