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  1. #1
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    Dare Me! (YA Thriller)

    Chapter One

    Danny thinks I’m nuts talking to strangers like I do, but what does he know, right?

    And it’s not like strangers on the street, that you see and meet, it’s total strangers online. Yeah, that’s right, and so what too? I mean, everyone seems to be doing it these days—what with Facebook and all. And it’s not like I’m ever gonna meet them in person anyway. Maybe, maybe not, who knows?

    As I stare into the neon white screen of the computer, trying to type some **** up, I think of what Danny always says, you’re needy, Dee, you crave attention. And so his words bother me, yeah, so what? Maybe it’s because he talks out of the two sides of his mouth? Why, cause he’s a boy and thinks he can get away with it, but a girl can’t? He’s such a hypocrite, I swear! And stupid too.

    Why oh, why can’t you see Danny boy that I’m in love with you? Geez, I’ve only been drooling over you since freshman year. I peck onto the screen and then press backspace to the beginning. But Jesus though, why doesn’t he see that I am madly in love, as they say it?

    But since I signed into Woohoo.com I’ve been trying not to think about him at all. I stare at my green online button, showing that I am available to chat, but not a soul has messaged me, well except for Becca that is. And other than her short five-minute rant about why she hates her parents, I haven’t chatted with anyone else since the two hours I’ve been online.

    I guess I probably shouldn’t have my chat box open in the first place. I mean, I should be working on my essay for the Catcher in the Rye. I just can’t think though. Actually I don’t want to, really. I want to talk to some God-only-knows-who and escape what’s truly on my mind—Danny, as always.

    **

    Okay, so I’m half way through my essay and finally after I get to the third paragraph an I.M. pops up.

    Just4Laughes: Oh, hey! How are you? I saw your file and was hoping we could chat a bit, you on?

    His information says he’s seventeen (supposedly that is) showing only pictures of a lake or ocean somewhere. Normally I don’t bother with people that don’t show photos of themselves, but something in his file piques my interest.

    “Ever wonder if the true test of living, is dying every day?” He quotes in his profile. And since I’m now about two-thirds done with my essay, I reply.

    Deannagirl: Yeah, what’s up?

    Just4laughes: So whatcha doin’?

    Deannagirl: Oh, just doing some homework…trying to at least.

    Just4laughes: Cool. So, could you tell me about yourself?

    I take it he already knows what I look like—typical teenage girl with freshly iron-flat hair, slightly highlighted from the sun and big blue eyes, which everybody says is my best feature. Yet I have this really small frame that I am super self-conscious about—4’11” to be exact. But luckily you can’t necessarily tell that in the pictures I have posted. So I don’t bother going into detail about how I look. Instead, I write him a lame little paragraph, bio’ing myself to him, like I’m applying for a job or something. I write: Well, my name is Deanna, but people just call me Dee. I’m seventeen and yeah, well I love to write to pen pals around the world. So what are you looking for on this site?

    Just4laughes: I came to Woohoo for the same thing.

    He’s from San Diego, way across the way from here in Michigan. I assume the beach picture is actually off the coast of California somewhere. We get to talking about it and hit it off from there. He seems okay to me. But then again, Danny would definitely say something that would make him not okay. And I’m sure Becca would agree since her holy-roller parents forbid her to use Facebook, and just about every site imaginable. I’m surprised she can use the computer at all.

    But that’s beside the point. So Just4laughes and I chat. And chat for a good hour or so. If he’s some sixty-year-old weirdo living in the same state, I wouldn’t know. He sounds and acts like a typical teen, but then again, he could be like this psycho serial killer or something. But for some reason the less I know, the more I’m interested.

    Finally, I get a name—Kyle. And I get this familiar feeling too, like I’ve known him for a while. That’s how I can tell I like him, there’s no doubt about that. So we exchange emails and settle with a few “c-ya’s” and some smiley-face good-byes.

    After that, I sign off the computer, save my essay and head downstairs, where the real fun begins.

    Greg, my step-dad, is probably outside on the patio smoking and drinking the piss out of himself, who gives a crap anyway. And Mom’s probably out in la la land with one of her books or feverishly writing something down so she won’t forget.

    My real dad passed away in a car accident from a drunk driver when I was five. And here my mom marries a drunk. I just don’t get it.

    For a while my mom and I lived alone, until she met Greg and got pregnant with Zoe. They married right away and it was okay for a while, till Greg lost his job at the factory two years ago. Now my poor mother has to work extra hours at the hospital. It really sucks too since I’m the one that gets stuck with Bug.

    It’s just hard to see my half sister go through it. Zoe bugs me, (hence the nickname) and sometimes to the brink of insanity. But God, though, she’s only seven; she doesn’t deserve a drunk dad and a flaky mom. Neither do I.

    I walk into the family-room where Bug is watching cartoons. Water’s boiling over on the kitchen stove so I run to shut the burners off.

    “Where’s Mom?” I shout out to Greg who’s of course outside smoking and gulping down a cold one.

    “She ran to the store for me real quick,” he shouts back through the screen door.

    “What for? More beer?” I mumble under my breath.

    “What was that, Dee?”

    “Oh, nothing…nothing at all,” I repeat. “So did you know she had the stove on while she left? Coulda burned the house down, Greg. We coulda all been sizzled to death.”

    “Will you knock it off, Dee. You’re gonna put nightmares in Zoe’s head. Just stop.”

    “Whatever. I’m going back upstairs. And I’m not watching this food either.”

    “Fine. I got it,” he says through the screen again, leaning on it is more like it. But then he turns back around, just as he was, staring straight out into the sky, like always.

    “Bug, you hungry too?”

    “Yeah, Ma was gonna make hot dogs, but forgot the buns, so she ran to Foodies.”

    “I got ya, Bug. If you need me, I’ll be up in my room.”

    As I run upstairs, I can feel my phone buzz in my pocket. I squeeze it out of my jeans, noticing just who it is—Danny.

    I answer on the third buzz.

    “What’s up, Danny boy?”

    “Listen, Dee. We need to talk. There’s something I need to tell you.”

    “What is it?”

    “Not over the phone, can I meet you later tonight?”

    “Yeah…is everything okay, Dan?”

    “Just promise to meet me later, got it?”

    “Yeah, yeah…I got it.”

    I flip the phone shut as I can feel the nerves rising. What could he possibly want to tell me that’s so urgent, yet he has to tell me in person?

  2. #2
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    I mean, I should be working on my essay for the Catcher in the Rye.

    When I began to read your post, I thought, "Someone just read Catcher in the Rye." Then this line appeared.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Leslee...funny thing, I actually never read it, to tell you the truth. Ironically enough my son was for school and since this is around his age, I thought why not! Does it sound too Holden-ish? (didn't mean that) Did you like it at all? (thanks for the quick response!)

  4. #4
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    It reads like you're attempting to copy someone else's writing style.

    Did I like it at all . . . hmmmm. When I read a post, it is to see if I want to make suggestions, not so much to "like" it.

    It's too chatty for my taste. Too conversational. It rambles, and it all seems to be trying too hard to be clever. You do have an idea worth exploring here, but you didn't do it.

    My real dad passed away in a car accident from a drunk driver when I was five. And here my mom marries a drunk. I just don’t get it.

    That's an interesting idea.

    Just my opinion. Others are likely to think differently.

  5. #5
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    Umm...not attempting to copy someone else's style...why would anyone want to do that? That's a little discouraging. But I do appreciate your honesty.

    This is just a first chapter...(I only have 5, so I have a long way to go.) But again, I really appreciate the crit!

  6. #6
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    Lisa. I liked it. It needs some work. A little too chatty for my taste, but that might be just me. I'm sure others will come in and edit it, so I'll leave that to them. Good Luck!!!

  7. #7
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    Thanks Tinman! So it's a bit too chatty, got it! I will see what I can do to cut that down. Thanks for the review.

  8. #8
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    Lisa,

    There are some nice moments in this excerpt. This one jumped out at me: I squeeze it out of my jeans. Several bits like this tell me you've got a feel for images and words.

    It is really helpful when you post things to let folks know what you're shooting for. Is this part of a short story? A novel? YA? Romance? Horror? Is it the first chapter? Is the whole story in first person? All that really helps. It's also helpful to know if you're on draft three of a completed book or if you're just halfway through a first draft. It also helps to know what you're looking to improve.

    There is a been-there-done-that quality to the voice. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Right? You're trying to capture a certain quality of teenage self-absorption and neediness for others. I'd just encourage you to let that voice develop a more unique character. If you're on draft three of a completed book and you're still relying on this voice, I'd say something different than if you were on a first draft and still getting to know your POV character.

    I like your totally-teeny voice here -- but only as a rough approximation. I like that you feel pretty free in your writing to let VOICE speak volumes. This is missing from so much writing and, I think, is key. You've got that. So hone that voice away from this generalized teen-whatever quality to something more specific to THIS first-person narrator.

    Drat, that's unlikely to make sense. Let me see if I can find and example.

    Okay, looked back. I think your opening is a prime example.

    Danny thinks I’m nuts talking to strangers like I do, but what does he know, right?

    So that presents a complex unreliable sort of narrator. We kinda know that Danny isn't nuts and that our narrator has a chip on her shoulder.

    And it’s not like strangers on the street, that you see and meet, it’s total strangers online. Yeah, that’s right, and so what too? I mean, everyone seems to be doing it these days—what with Facebook and all. And it’s not like I’m ever gonna meet them in person anyway. Maybe, maybe not, who knows?

    So you continue the unreliable narrator business; that's fine -- unless you didn't mean to, in which case, you're doing a terrible job. But assuming you meant the vibe her, you are relentless with the faux-caustic-girl speak. Let's just tally them up -- like, total, yeah, right, so what, I mean, like, anyway. That's just in that little graph.

    You see how you're piling word upon phrase here in an effort to get the reader into teen speak. A little goes a long way and quickly becomes a cardboard sarcastic teen. You show a more nuanced part of this girl's attitude in the through-the-screen conversation, but when she's just speaking as the narrator, it starts to feel relentlessly common. Try bringing more of the nuance you gave to dialog to her narration.

    Does that make sense?

    I don't want you to lose confidence in the power of voice to communicate volumes, but look at honing that voice so that it communicates more than stereotype.

  9. #9
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    You broke me out of the scene with "neon white" and I never got back in. Neon is red, Lisa, and most people know it. It's the little details like this that will make or break your book, so be careful with them.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Avonne Writer's Avatar
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    Lisa- I'm assuming this is YA. (Oops, I just saw in the thread title that it is YA--so no assuming.) It was really appealing to me, and it's all I read and what I write. I think you have captured the teenage angst beautifully. However, I would caution against using too many "God, though..." statements. I like the "chatty" feel about the piece, but feel that it needs to be broken up a little. I think I'm trying to say either clear it up, or clean it up. Whatever. (I like C K's comment on this. Use the voice more for your character and not as heavy on the narrator).

    Example: (FYI this is JMO-ignore at will) "He’s from San Diego, way across the way from here in Michigan" He's from San Diego, clear across the friggin' USA. Nowhere near Michigan." For me, "way across the way" is too vague.

    Always be specific in details, if possible. It helps the reader. The somethings, someones, things, etcs., gotta go. Example: I want to talk to some God-only-knows-who and escape what’s truly on my mind—Danny, as always. Leave off the "some" it reads better.

    So Just4laughes and I chat. And chat for a good hour or so. This second sentence is a fragment-needs to be fixed. (I understand that fragments are occassionally inserted in YA, but I wouldn't do it here. Reserve that for "head speak" because like in a conversation, you don't always talk in sentences. So, likewise you don't think in sentences.) But this isn't "head speak." There are a number of other grammatical errors throughout. But, since you said that you're only into chapter 5 or 6, I'll leave it here.

    But, I like your voice. I like the tone of your character. I think you nailed a true teenager's character- I have three, and I pretty much get attitude like this ALL the time. "My life sucks" and "Kill me now" are quite popular in my household. Oh, and "You guys are like Amish parents. You never let me do anything." --So, I really liked your line about the parents.lol

    You had me hangin' at the end. Now i gotta know what he was gonna tell her. Did it have something to do with the dude online?

    Best of luck


    Joe- with the neon white description, I'm not sure a teenager is going to get hung up on that. Plus, I was thinking like neon signs come in many colors. Neon shirts come in many colors (especially bright green) and neon fingernail polish comes in many colors. I think neon is used to describe bright flourescent colors....not so much the element Ne.

    My dictionary states: A bright or flourescent color. But, I do have to add, that I did not particularly like that desc. either. I can think of so many other more apt descriptions for a bright white computer screen.
    Last edited by Avonne Writer; 05-24-2011 at 01:22 AM.

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