Monday, August 25, 2014


77,000 words
YA Magical Realism
We snuck into the beach at Hanna Park together, but I stood on the dunes alone. Colton took off with his girlfriend while I parked the car. The usual jumble of bodies circled the bonfire, and a bad playlist blared from mini speakers. People always invited me to these parties. My liver’s shot, so I came in handy as a designated driver. I didn’t go for the people, though. I went for the salt water.
I kicked off my loafers and walked to the shoreline. City park status kept the condos with their blaring lights off Hanna’s coast, and up close the night was all black water and white moonlight catching on the breakers. Memories of coconut sunscreen clung to the breeze.

“I thought I felt my gaydar going off! Glad you’re here, Evan.” Jake Morgan’s high pitched laugh rang in my ears. 
Jake jogged behind me, dragging a piece of driftwood toward the fire. His spiked black hair reminded me of a tuxedo urchin. I turned away from him as he passed by, and his knuckles jabbed me in the back. I gritted my teeth, with irritation knifing its way through my chest. 
“I’m gonna punch you in the ovary, Morgan.” Some girl shot me a dirty look, clearly missing my Anchorman reference. 
I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared at the crashing waves. I don’t know why I thought senior year would be different. I’d never had a girlfriend, and I was dateless on a Saturday night. Again. Before the night was over, I had to ask a girl out. 
The tide stretched higher, wetting my feet, and something tangled in my toes. I pulled a thin red ribbon from the damp sand. It slipped from my fingers and caught on the wind, swirling toward a girl sitting apart from the party. Dark hair whipped around her shoulders. I adjusted my glasses, but I couldn’t make out her face in the shadows. 
Talking to her one-on-one might’ve given me an actual shot, whoever she was. But in the opposite direction, my classmates’ faces glowed in the light of the fire. Voices muddled together in excitement. They looked the same as they did every weekend: happy. I’d never minded walking the beach while they partied, collecting intact shells for my aquarium or imagining rogue lionfish lurking beneath the surface.

But they always left in pairs. And even if my car was full, I still left alone. 
“Frank the Tank” from the movie Old School crossed my mind. He got drunk at a party and streaked through the streets. In almost every one of Will Ferrell’s movies, his characters spent their wild nights drinking. I needed to stop obsessing and just do something. Channeling my comic hero seemed like a step in the right direction. Just for one night. Just enough to loosen up. One beer. 
I cut through the crowd, fished a can from the cooler, and cracked it open before my conscience could stop me. 
“Dude.” Colton hopped up from his camp chair and grabbed my arm. “What are you doing?” 
The threat of hulk mode bubbled in Colt’s green eyes, and there was a rip in the collar of his Atlantic Coast Athletics t-shirt. His girlfriend drank from a red Solo cup, hiding her face. I glanced between them and narrowed my eyes. Colt wasn’t drinking because he had conditioning hours to make up the next day. But he’d been slurring and red-faced at another party a week earlier. 
“Something different.” I lifted the can to my lips. 
That first sip tasted like change, cool with only a hint of bitter. 
Colton reached for the can, but I jerked it out of reach. Foam sloshed over onto my fingers. I stepped back and gulped down more of the bitter swill. 
“Don’t make me take you to the hospital, man.” Colton pointed a finger at my chest, a gesture that usually meant a fight was brewing. But an obnoxious laugh broke through the tension. 
“Oh, Evan Evans has a beer!” Jake Morgan held up his phone, and his camera flashed. 
I flipped Jake off and headed back to the shore, brushing shoulders with Colt along the way. If I was anybody else, that would’ve earned me a right hook, but I guess ten years of friendship was enough to give me a pass. 
“Evan, come on,” Colt called after me. 
I chugged the rest of the beer, ignoring my best friend and my churning stomach. Colton looked out for me, but he didn’t understand what it was like to be saddled by my disease. He played football. He ate and drank whatever he wanted. Girls asked him out, not the other way around. 
The music changed and a flock of sophomores rushed across the beach. They blocked my path, and I dropped my can when two of them thrust their half-empty drinks toward me. They danced and sang and blurred together with the ocean kissing their feet. Dizziness clouded my head, and I struggled to focus the girl closest to me, Sally Ryan. Her blonde hair swung around as she moved, and her dress was so short I could see what color her panties were. (Yellow.) 
Sally was more than just long legs and a coy smile. She sang in the chorus at school, she lived in my neighborhood, and she always waved at the mailbox. Guys should’ve been lining up for a chance with her, but she’d never had a boyfriend. Kind of like how I’d never had a girlfriend.

With one beer down, I wanted another. I sucked down the girls’ half-empty drinks and worked up my nerve. I struggled to imagine Sally going out with me, or even hooking up with me that night. Things got fuzzy when I danced up behind her. Well, not danced, really, but nodded my head and shuffled my feet in my awkward way. 
She leaned closer to me. The encouragement built my confidence, and I reached for her hand. But instead of being all smooth, I stumbled and almost fell face-down in the surf. The next wave crashed higher, splashing up to my knees, and the girls all scattered. The water soaked up the oppressiveness of the heat and any lingering embarrassment. I waved to Sally to come back. The motion of my arm sent my head spinning. 
Another wave slammed into my chest, landing my butt in the soggy sand. But I didn’t mind. The ocean, limitless and constant and full of life, felt like home. The music warped in sour-slow-motion, and the firelight shimmered behind Sally’s head like a halo. I tumbled backward in the sand and flapped my arms and legs in the sticky wetness. Way to get the girl, Evan. 
A sharp pain in my temples broke the revelry, like shards of glass exploded in my brain. I closed my eyes and clutched my head. My body stilled, sinking while the waves washed over my shirt. But all I knew was this semi-conscious daze. 
I wondered if I was having the world’s fastest hangover. Images flashed in my head, a dream-like, fast-forward progression of scenarios. The breathless sound of shock and tears after the announcement that Jake Morgan was dead. Periwinkle-blue carpet at the visitation. The smell of honeysuckle at a funeral. And in my car afterward, I was kissing the absolute last girl I’d ever want to go out with or be seen with or kiss. The weirdest girl at school, with ash-back hair and old lady clothes: Harmony Maxwell.


  1. I think you're certainly on the right track with the voicing here. I think the heart of your MC shines through very well, you can't help but champion him immediately. I want him to get the girl, but I also want a slightly stronger inciting incident to kick off his story. Where this piece ends slightly feels like where the spark truly begins (the mention of the death of Jake Morgan). Jake's death sounds very much like an inciting incident for your MC, so suggestion wise I'd possibly consider if this is the place where the story really begins. This feels a bit like a later chapter in the book, and while intriguing, I'd possibly suggest using this point further into the book. I'd also love to see a bit more clarification of Evan's motivations here. I love that you begin with him making a point to ask a girl out by the end of the night, but once he fails, his motivation seems to wash away with the tide. Because I'm rooting for him, I hope (and I'd continue reading to find out :), that he keeps pushing for the girl. On the whole, I think you've got a solid start here, you've created a character I'd certainly like to continue to follow!


  2. After reading this, I think the title is actually really important to understanding the character.


    Evan seems alienated and isolated, different because of his disease and clearly lonely. The tragedy is that he seems to think about women as a solution to his loneliness - not as people of their own - and maybe that's the change he needs to make?

  3. I like Evan already and you give us a sense of his solitude among people with his connection to the ocean. And I feel for him in that most people seem to keep him just to drive. I like Colton, too - very loyal. I want to keep reading.

    I did wonder, too, what the inciting incident here was: is it Jake Morgan's death or is it Evan drinking? What are the physical consequences for him drinking? You mention an illness, so I feel like the headache has to do with that, but I wasn't entirely clear on the connection here.

    How does Sally react to Evan? I wanted to see how something of how she felt about him before she left, something that gives us a hint of how their relationship will develop. Why is it so important to Evan to ask a girl out?

    Lastly, I was a little confused by the very end. It jumps suddenly from the night on the beach through a number of other events. At first I thought Evan was just confused because he was drunk, but these sound like real events that taking place over a longer period of time.

  4. From these pages I get a good sense of your MC: no girlfriend, wants to be part of the "in" crowd, but isn't, has some fairly serious disease that leaves him as the designated driver. But I'm not sure I like him. He's making some bad decisions and kind of acting like a jerk (drinking when it's dangerous for him medically and he's the designated driver, acting like a jerk with Jake.)

    One part of me really wants to know what's happening, why he's having these weird visions of Jake dead and himself kissing a girl he'd never kiss. But part of me wants to feel more connected to Evan. If not because of his sparkling personality, then because he's passionate about something, some reason to connect with him.


  5. I have to admit--I gasped because one of the main characters in my story is also named Colton. I love that name. So far I like Evan, especially his awkward attempt at dancing, although I wanted to know what his disease is (my first guess was diabetes, since he can't drink). I thought this was building tension to the hospital threat Colton mentions, but it didn't go that way at all. Did Jake actually die, or is this Evan hallucinating? I couldn't be sure. If he really did die, I want to see this moment played out more. That feels like the right place to start the story. If he didn't die, I would make that a lot clearer.

    Good luck!

  6. I love this entry! I'm totally feeling Evan as awkward and not fitting in and so much a teen boy. My only nitpick would be that I'm not completely sold on why he chooses to drink on this night of all nights. It seems as if he's been in the position of DD and constant outsider for a while now, and I feel like there should be more reason, more umph, in why he decides to let go this one time. Loved the ending with the vision of the girl he'd never kiss. And truth be told, I kind of want to chill with Harmony Maxwell. She's not even in the scene, and I'm already getting an Ally Sheedy from The Breakfast Club vibe from her. And I love the idea of Evan, a guy who's willing to risk his health to fit in, hooking up with a girl who clearly couldn't care less. Very nice set up here.

  7. I agree with so many of the comments above. My only additional comment is that I really like the title of your manuscript. It resonated with me--mysterious, rhetorical, and thought-provoking all at once. That was awesome.

    The most compelling part of these first couple pages came at the build-up in the last couple of paragraphs. The last paragraph, in particular, worked great for me. It left me wanting more. I'd follow this kid further. I like him.

  8. I love the way you left us hanging with this! I feel for Evan and his need to fit in, but like Sonia, I want to know more of why tonight is the night he decides to drink. What makes it different from every other party, aside from this being senior year? I would want to keep reading this to find out what's going on with him. Great job!


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