@Amy Lou I like your rewrite. It makes a difference. But can you look at my new paragraph? Here it is.
A thin girl of twelve years old named Alyssa Norris gazed at a picture of her aunt leaning against a fountain. Tears filled her blue eyes as she stared deeply into it. Her aunt’s diamond white smile glistened, and her wispy bangs and shoulder-length, auburn curls framed her face beautifully. Alyssa thought about her aunt and the good times they had. Sadly, those days had passed. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands until she could no longer feel tears.
“Oh, Aunt Laura,” she groaned. “Why did you have to go?”
What do you think?
Never mind my last post. I rewrote the first paragraph in a similar way to Amy Lou's example. Here's the new one:
In the picture Alyssa gazed into, she studied her aunt again. It may have been so long ago when her aunt passed away, but somehow, that breezy, spring day, captured inside a small frame, reminded her of the wonderful memories they shared. Her aunt leaned against a fountain as water spurted out of the nozzle, looking almost like a sprinkler aiming at her. Her aunt’s diamond smile always drew Alyssa in, one that almost always lightened her up whenever she was down. Her wispy bangs fluttered to the bottom of her forehead and her auburn curls fell to her shoulders. Alyssa imagined the breeze that her aunt must have felt until tears stung her blue eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She smeared them away with her hand.
Hi Sunayna, sorry for not getting back to you sooner. This rewrite is better than the last, I feel. And my paragraph was no where close to perfect. I couldn't take out those two in's in the first sentence. UGH So this is better, but for me, it's still not there. It still feels a bit heavy and doesn't yet flow. You need to make certain that every word in this paragraph has a right to be there, that it's important and adds to the story. I'll make some comments. But hopefully others with more experience can chime in.
In the picture Alyssa gazed into, she studied her aunt again. Alyssa was lost in the picture of her aunt. It may have been so long ago (cliche, come up with a more original way to say this like, It may have been five summers ago) when her aunt passed away (I'm not certain you need to tell us this fact just yet. It's kind of interesting to wonder why Alyssa is lost in this memory), but somehow, that breezy, spring day, captured inside a small frame, reminded her of the wonderful memories they shared (do you see how heavy this sentence is. Girl it's fat with adjectives~put your sentence on a diet!) . Her aunt leaned (was leaning) against a fountain as water spurted out of the nozzle, looking almost like a sprinkler aiming at her(no, I don't care for this description at all, it takes me away from the sweet memory, all I can think of is spurting water and her getting wet). Her aunt’s diamond smile always drew Alyssa in, one that almost always(commit to it, not almost always) lightened (lit?) her up whenever(when) she was down. Her wispy bangs fluttered to the bottom of her forehead(a forehead doesn't have a bottom really), and her auburn curls fell to her shoulders. Alyssa imagined the breeze that her aunt must have felt until tears stung her blue eyes and trickled down her cheeks. She smeared them away with her hand. I still don't think you need blue for the eyes, unless it's an important fact.
Okay, I can tell you're working on this, keep at it. You'll learn to see the things I pointed out. It's still very heavy with the adjectives, you're painting for the reader again! Let me paint! I hope this helps! Don't give up. Try again and tone it down some more but add in some flavor!
There are a million different ways to write, but one that I personally like to read, which a lot of people like to read - is a simple one, where the writing aims to be as unobtrusive as possible. That means that the reader is supposed to forget they're reading at all, and get lost in the characters and their story. To achieve this sort of writing, you need to think about how realistic you can make each and every scene, character, even sentence. You want to try and write in an easy, relaxed way, where you don't try too hard to make it sound flowery or descriptive. This is just one way of writing, but if you open up the novels you love, you'll probably find it in a lot of them,
If you look at this scene, you have a young girl crying while holding a photograph of her aunt. Now, this is just my opinion, but it doesn't feel 100% real - I find it hard to imagine a teenage girl spontaneously crying over her long-dead aunt's photograph. Maybe if you had written more previously about how this aunt raised her, cared for her, then I would probably believe it. As it is, it feels forced, to me, like you're using the photograph to convey the message that these girls don't have a mother/aunt around. You can just say that, plainly - for example:
Alyssa sat hunched on her bed, staring out the window of her small, poky room. The front door of the house slammed and she tensed, listening for the heavy, staggering footsteps that would mean her uncle was home. In the five years since her Aunt had died, Alyssa had lived in fear of the hulking, slovenly brute of a man she was forced to live with.
Sometimes less is more. Sometimes just writing what happens is the best start - you can go back and edit in descriptions if you feel like you need them. But look, this is all just my opinion, and my preferred style of writing. Please, look around at different styles, get multiple comments, and make up your own mind based on what YOU like to read best.
@Amy Lou I removed the "blue" from her eye description and the sprinkler similie. The sentence you called fat with all the adjectives, I did not remove because I felt that they were important.
@Emily MacGowan So you want me to explain what life was like for Alyssa when her aunt raised her. I can try and fit that in. If not, I'll put it in my next draft. What else can I do to fix it?
Did anybody see my last post?
I saw it Sunayna ~ hopefully Emily will stop by too. I agree with her good advice up above 100% She said just what I felt. It felt slightly forced to have her cry over someone the reader has no attachment to yet. It would almost be more affective to have no tears but have her completely lost in the photo, captured by the moment. Taken in by the memory. You've done that some already. Less is more just like that sentence I pointed out, but you're the writer so keep it if you feel it belongs it's your beautiful story and voice.
Maybe I won't have her cry. Would that work?
You have to know that for your character. Would your character cry? I do find it dramatic that your mc cries after just few sentences about an aunt in a photo. The reader hasn't connected with, try to make it as natural as possible. One doesn't just gaze at a photo and cry I think, I mean, I would if it were my child I'd lost or a spouse, but an aunt and the girl is 12, it just seems a little forced. Especially when we don't really know their relationship, we're not vested in it yet. I would have her lost in the moment, gazing with fondness at first, like you've done and then if anything have her throat tighten up, you know how you feel when you're about to cry. A heavy chest, that feeling in your heart when you miss someone. Try to show us those emotions instead of just plain old tears she wipes away, that's boring. Give us more!
I think what Amy and I are trying to get across (unsuccessfully) is that the changes you need to make aren't small, they're broad. Maybe I shouldn't speak for Amy and just do so for myself. I'm trying to say that changing one or two little things won't help. There are big, large-scale changes that need to be done.
Please note - these are my opinions, and they're opinions which are aimed at one thing: producing commercially viable work. If you're not interested in selling any of your work, then don't worry! Just keep writing and keep loving it. If you're looking to take your writing very seriously, though, then these comments will hopefully help.
On the subject of "believability" - there are numerous things here I find difficult to believe. I don't believe that Hailey would say something like "Why did she get that heart attack?" This is obviously you using dialogue to "tell" the reader that the Aunt died of a heart attack. Ask yourself: does the reader really need to know that, or do I just want to tell them that? If it's important, then think about just saying it, like:
A massive heart attack, the doctor had said. One day she was here, laughing and teaching me to sing the alphabet backwards, the next day she was gone.
Oh - look - I've slipped into first person. Now, that's just my style, but for YA which focuses on one character, it's pretty popular, and you can infuse your writing with a little more emotion, sometimes. It might be what you need. I would recommend, if you haven't already, having a go at re-writing sections of this in first-person, and see how it reads. Since you have thoughts and emotions from one character showing through here, it might feel more comfortable.
Back to believability. I also don't believe that Hailey would blurt out “To buy food with Alyssa’s money… oops!” - I would only believe that if Hailey was a little, um, slow. What I would believe, however, is the uncle wrapping his hands around Hailey's neck and shaking her, yelling at her until she gasped "we're buying f-f-food". Then he would roar "Are you stealing my money, you little ***?" Anyway, you get my drift. If your characters do something out of the ordinary, you need to think about WHY they would do it. Make sure it rings true.
Now you've mentioned that the girls have been doing this for years. That, again, I wonder about. If they've been buying food twice a week for years, how has the uncle never noticed? If they're spending $100 on food a week ($50 times two), and have been doing so for three years - that's about $15,000 alone. That's a lot of money to have in your top drawer...
Do you see what I'm getting at? I don't want to be harsh, but I think you really need to ask yourself - how close is this to reality? Try picturing real people in these roles, try drawing up a quick character sheet for each of them. Tell me how the uncle got the way he is. What was he like when he was seventeen? What was he like before the Aunt died? What do the girls have in common, what do they fight about? What are each of them ashamed about, what are their flaws and strengths? Build the characters up, and they'll write the story for you.