Friday, July 24, 2015

#YayYA Entry #1

Name: Kosoko Jackson

Genre: Contemporary Thriller


Pitch: When seventeen-year-old Chase is assaulted at his boarding school, he tells no one.  But when his ex finds out and convinces Chase he deserves retribution, Chase becomes judge-and-jury and must decide between justice or mercy. 

500 Words: 

If I had my way, I'd burn this school to the ground. I'd draw my name in gasoline on the brick walls, claiming my crime with a fiery insignia of pride and vindication. But we rarely have control over our own lives. I learned that the hard way. 

Truthfully, I'd rather be holed up in my house, reading as much Shakespeare as I stomach, than standing in front of building that looked like a misplaced set piece in Les Miserables. And trust me, I could stomach a lot of him. Even those darn sonnets

But I had already missed the sign up days for extra curricula activities. Mom wouldn't buy the 'stomach flu' line any longer, even if Alicia did co-sign my story with her own fake flu like symptoms. What else were twin sister's for?

"Here," She said, suddenly appearing out of no where and handing me a crumpled up piece of paper. "You're welcome."

Apparently sweet talking your way into activities on your behalf. 

"Unless something changed last year," I muttered. "Newspaper is the complete opposite of the type of activity I told you to get me."

"Next time you can get them yourself. What happened to a thank you?" She asked.

'Cue the 'i'm 2 minutes older than you comment in'

"You should respect your elders, Chase. 2 minutes. 120 seconds. Don't forget it."

"How could I forget it?"

In the list of things I wanted to forget, Alicia's superiority was very low on the list. 

She let out a loud sigh of hair through her nose, followed by a string of incoherent words under her breath. Poor, Alicia. Life was just so hard for her. How could she carry the burden of the world on her shoulders?

"C'mon. We're gonna be late for Assembly. And more importantly,"

"Late for the waffles." I finish for her. Harrington Academy Waffles. Crack Waffles. Friendships were broken over the syrupy, fluffy clouds of yeast filled air that were brought out during special occasions. They were the complete opposite of the Harrington Academy health initiative, but who cares when their diabetes inducing sweetness flooded your mouth? 

It was a shame I wouldn't be able to enjoy them.

I overheard in the news lately, and especially in our Honors summer readings, about privilege and how to define it. Most people would trip over their own tongues, especially these students, fellow classmates who's parents biggest concerns was which gala they would attend when double booked. Alicia and I were no different and it would be stupid to say otherwise---especially when the gymnasium had "Warner" immortalized on its archway. I had found it amusing, even if Alicia didn't, that the honors class would be discussing privilege and justice, when no one here knew how to define it. Not really, until now.

Privilege was the ability to spend your mornings worried about pancakes, instead of the fighting the suffocating coiling of panic inside your throat that threatened to break you.


  1. OK, Mr. Example. I'm contractually obligated to publicly critique you, so here you go!

    For those reading along, I know more about Kosoko's story, so I'm going deeper than I normally would. I've also given him piles of feedback so he's familiar with my style and is already how much I love this story... in that I may have been subtly manipulating him for the last several months so he'd write the thing already.

    I'm starting from the top:

    Genre: Contemp Thriller should work based on where you're going, but remember, short, tight and constantly ratcheting up the tension. If it doesn't do that just leave it Contemp.

    Title: ... I'll trust you for now.

    Pitch: This isn't your strongest, but it's definitely way stronger than your previous early drafts. Don't forget the magic power of a place description for the MC. Is he from the North East? Down South? Midwest? I'm not sure you need the ex in this pitch. If you keep it closer to Chase it'll make it more powerful, especially if you can give a stronger hint at what a dark place you're taking the story to.

    First 500:

    There's a lot of power where you've started this. I know it's an early draft so I'm not going to go too deeply into the prose. The relationship between Chase and Alicia is good, it could be stronger, but coming back through after you know their relationship will help that the most.

    I'm missing a bit of the visceral connection to the place. He goes from angry to bored very fast. There's a distance between him and the things he's describing that you could shortcut with loaded terms.

    Also watch for "had" that's almost always a sign that you can tighten the sentence up.

    But, you will not get demoralized by any of this, because I want to read this book and it's all quite fixable in post!!!

  2. Hi Kosoko,

    This is Kiernan at #4. I haven’t read previous comments so as not to be influenced, so apologies if I repeat things you’ve already heard.

    You’ve got a great concept here! I’m intrigued by your logline and am curious how Chase becomes judge and jury – can you fit that in somewhere? Perhaps summarize how that happens and then close with “decide between justice and mercy” which is a great ending line. Not sure if his ex finding out is hugely important to the overall plot so maybe you could cut that as well if you need more room.

    I think you have a really strong opening and closing sentence here—both definitely made me want to read on and learn more! Also nice introduction of the sibling dynamic between your MC and his twin, and of the atmosphere of privilege that surrounds them.

    I had a couple areas of confusion. “A misplaced set piece in Les Miserables” is great imagery, but it made me think of a rundown, dilapidated building, and I thought we were at an exclusive boarding school? Your second to last paragraph is a little wordy, mentioning the difficulty of defining privilege twice, so I think you could streamline that a bit more. Chase's tone moves around a lot - furious, then amused, then jaded, then frightened. It's a lot of capture in your first couple pages, so perhaps focus on just a couple of primary emotions (they could still be warring, to show his conflict).

    I used to be a proofreader and hope you don’t mind that I jotted down lots of little changes you could make in that regard:
    -2nd paragraph: you need a period at the end of “darn sonnets”
    -3rd paragraph: should be “twin sisters” with no apostrophe, curricular instead of curricula, add a hyphen between “flu like”
    -4th paragraph: I’d change no where to nowhere, and you don't need to capitalize she
    -After “what happened to a thank you”, you don’t need to capitalize she
    -In the sentence after that, I don’t think you need single quotes around it (although I’d put double quotes “I’m two minutes older than you” comment)
    -In both that sentence and the one below it, write 2 as two. Also spell out 120
    -“She let out a loud sigh of hair” – think you mean air
    -“Poor, Alicia” – don’t need the comma in between
    -“And more importantly,” – perhaps end with an ellipse rather than a comma, to indicate she’s trailing off
    -“Late for the waffles” paragraph: I’d add a hyphen between “yeast-filled” and “diabetes-inducing”
    -2nd to last paragraph: who’s should be whose. Parents needs an apostrophe at the end (whose parents’ biggest concerns) Honors is capitalized in your first reference, but not the 2nd
    -Last paragraph: change pancakes to waffles?

    Thanks for letting me read, I really enjoyed it and would love to read more.

  3. Hey there, Kosoko! (Jamie #19)

    General Notes: I think you have a strong, almost literary voice, so I would be very interested to see how you execute this thriller! Your word count isn't stated, but I wonder if you might be starting your MS in the wrong place. If your MS is longer, then you can probably get away with waiting a bit to introduce the inciting incident. But if it's shorter, then I'd consider trying to start closer to it and start building the tension right away. Also, your pitch mentions your MC gender, but your pages do not. His sister says "Chase" but as traditional boy names are being used for girls and vice versa, I would try to work it in there.

    Line Edits (Please forgive my OCD):

    Kiernan caught most of the grammar/typo errors, so I will just second those comments and add one to them: don't forget to capitalize the 'I' in "I'm two minutes older..."

    Your first line is very powerful! I wouldn't change this, but as others have mentioned the narrative kind of backs off right after that and goes to bored then irritated, and so on. Like I mentioned earlier, this might be that you've started just a few pages too soon, so I'd really consider re-reading your first pages up until the inciting incident and see if there's a stronger starting point.

    As a somewhat general note, (and I recommend this to everyone) be careful not to overuse adverbs! Search your MS for words that end in 'ly' and I bet you'll be shocked. (I was surprised when I first did that, lol!) Not to say that they all have to be cut, but it's a fun exercise (and will strengthen you as a writer) to see how many you can eliminate or replace. It'll push you to get more creative and do more showing rather than telling. Just a thought!

    I feel like I'm missing the jump between sonnets and the extracurricular activities. I get that he's been faking sick to skip school, but then he says he's missed the days to sign up for them. Was he looking forward to one in particular? If so, why didn't he go so he could sign up? If you can, I'd elaborate on this a bit.

    I would make sure to add/mention that he reads the paper before saying "Apparently..." because otherwise, I'm not sure what he means at first, and then when I read on I wonder how he knows what it says without reading it.

    The "You should respect your elders," would be a great line to add a gender reference. I would add "...elders, Chase. You're my little brother, by two minutes..." (Or something.)

    I'm very curious about the burdens Alicia carries. If they have anything major to do with the plot, I would elaborate on them here. Chase knows about them, so is that part of his resentment towards the school? Maybe it affects their family dynamic? This seems important, so I would try and build on it, especially if it affects the plot/character motivations.

    I laughed out loud at the "Crack Waffles." And then I just wanted them. Great description here!

    The "It's a shame..." line has me very interested. Why won't he be able to enjoy them? Is he planning on doing something when he gets to school???? Is THIS the inciting incident being foreshadowed?

    I think I'm missing the importance of "Warner" on the building. Is that their last name? Are their parents wealthy and did they contribute funds to the school? If so I imagine this would be important to know, and crucial to the plot (especially since I'm wondering if Chase is about to do something horrific on campus).

    Overall, I'm interested in the story and want to know where it's going. If you're sure you've started in the right place, then I echo the sentiments that certain parts (the last paragraph mostly), could be condensed to read stronger and clearer. Above all, trust your gut! Hope some of these comments help, and good luck!

  4. Hi Kosoko,
    Okay, so according to the previous comments this is an early and rough draft. That first paragraph is unbelievable for an early draft. I'm trying hard not to swear I love that first paragraph so much. If you decide to start this closer to the inciting incident, and I really think you should, keep the first paragraph.
    So trying not to repeat previous comments, and knowing line by line may not be best for an early draft, I'll start general and work into more specific.
    Watch your tense. There are a few times that the tense moves from past to present in a sentence that isn't demarcated as a thought. I like the choice of past tense as all the juicy tidbits of warning can be peppered in.
    I've read through it a few times now and if the meat starts to happen at breakfast then some major pairing down could make this starting place work. If not, then yes pick a different start.
    You have a great jumping off point and the voice is solid. Good luck with the next drafts. I can't wait to know what happens.
    Jacqueline Eberli #6

  5. Hello Kosoko!

    The first line of the pitch grabs you by the throat. Instantly, you begin to form a picture of this damaged, hurt kid who is keeping this horrible secret. This book is heading into a dark place of revenge. I think the discussion of the ex takes Chase out of defining his path back to himself after the assault and makes him sound weaker than he is going to have to be to survive and hopefully triumph. Let him take the reins.

    Fantastic first paragraph. Chase’s rage and pain leap off the page and immediately we see his thoughts of revenge. This is not a kid who needs his ex to convince him to seek justice in its many forms. He's got this.

    I see several people have talked about the grammar stuff, so no comment on that here but to say I agree with those changes.

    The first paragraph is so powerful, I feel like we lose him in the next sections as he goes into back story about his love for Shakespeare and Les Miserables. How about drawing some parallels between Hamlet and Chase’s situation or the futility of fighting the system from Les Mis? Draw connections between Chase and some of those characters who were defined by lack of choice, outside circumstances, privilege (which seems to be a defining theme in your ms), guilt, shame, etc.

    I like his sister’s spunk. She doesn’t give him an inch.

    Fantastic: Privilege was the ability to spend your mornings worried about pancakes instead of the fighting the suffocating coil of panic inside your throat that threatened to break you. There’s Chase’s voice again! Don’t lose him in your need to give the reader information.

    It is a book I would read and I hope to see more of it when you get further.

    Kelly Hopkins (#17)

  6. Hi, ,Kosoko. Your premise is interesting. Chase sounds like he’s going to be a one man vigilante. A crime is committed against him, and then he plans to perhaps do the same.
    I’d like to know it was Chase speaking earlier in the story, not to wait until his sister says his name when discussing the minutes between their births.
    I enjoyed reading your description of waffles. The brother/sister relationship seems congenial in a give and take sort of way. I have brothers who are twins, and one calls himself the two-minute man because he’s older by that, like your twins. I want to like Chase, but nothing written so far has endeared him to me. I’m sensing his anger, but would also like to feel empathy for him.
    This sounds like an intriguing story and I would like to see more of it. Good luck!
    Here’s a few editing suggestions that you can use or not, as you wish.
    [1st paragraph - claiming my crime doesn’t right. Perhaps proclaiming?]
    [2nd paragraph – as I could stomach] [in front of a building]
    [3rd paragraph – sign-up-days] [sisters]
    [4th paragraph - nowhere]
    [“Cue the ‘I’m two minutes older than you’ comment in three…two…one…”]
    [Two minutes. 120 seconds.]
    [I’m confused – loud sigh of hair? Did you mean loud sigh of air?]
    [whose parents’ biggest] [double-booked] [I found it amusing]
    [instead of fighting the]

  7. Hi there! This is Maddie from entry three :D

    Before I delve in, I want to say that I like the premise and it made me think of Let the Right One In movie minus the vampire/paranormal aspect.


    So the pitch contains a clear conflict, it is pretty close to what I think a pitch should be. I believe the "must decide between justice or mercy" line could be tweaked a little. Maybe something along the lines of "taking it too far" instead of "mercy?" Maybe a better word choice could be used. Since I'm not sure how far the retribution goes (if it goes as far as the people who assaulted Chase getting hurt or dying), possibly you could end the pitch with mentioning how extreme the conflict is.

    First 500 Words:

    I really loved the first and second sentence! Great opening that pulled me in right away. I feel like the third and fourth sentences are unnecessary.

    -"But we rarely have control over our own lives. I learned that the hard way" (This is a generality)

    In the first sentence of the second paragraph, I think you're missing "could" in front of stomach and "the" in front of building. Sorry if this was pointed out already. I didn't read the other comments. The last sentence really grabbed at me :)


    -Possibly you could start in another place? I sense that there's a lot going on by the pitch and so much conflict to come, but I want to see some of this conflict immediately. Maybe this is subjective on my behalf. Anyway, a suggestion would be beginning with something leading up to this assault. Someone is testing Chase and taking things too far.
    -You've got a lot of voice and I feel like right away, I have an idea of who Chase is. And this is only 500 words, so awesome job so far on character development. To me, Chase seems like a lot of dark humor goes on in his head and he's heavily sarcastic? Hopefully I'm right :) I think he's a grudge-holder, too. I like him so far.

  8. Trying to think of something different from everyone else. I don't mind where you started as of right now. The first paragraph is good. The second I didn't care for. I gathered you wanted us to know you MC likes Shakespeare, but I second guessed it for a second with words liked 'stomach' and 'darn' sonnets. That made me think he'd rather be forced to do something he didn't care for in order to not go to school. I think all in all you were trying to hint machismo, like "I'm a tough man and 'yes' I like Shakespeare." But then, would such an enraged teen say 'darn'?

    You speak of the sister appearing out of no where, but to where is she appearing? I'm assuming they're at home, but I'm not seeing the setting clearly. The dialogue that follows is good. From there I'm not a fan of the jolting shift of mood via class complaint. Surely, this is important, but you seem to be telling your themes and not showing.

  9. Hey Kosoko! Glad you finally got to join us this time :D

    Remember all my comments are subjective so if anything I say doesn't work for YOUR story, feel free to throw them out the window. Thanks again for entering!

    Okay, so issue-driven contemp, is not my beer but I'll do my best to give you my ignorant opinion :D Your pitch is good but I feel it could be better. What drives him to say nothing? I know it'll be super hard to cram more into those dadblasted 35 words, but if there's any way you can, it'll give us a better picture of your MCs motives which heightens your stakes.

    Your MCs voice is strong, which is crucial. You mention this is a boarding school, which makes me confused over the Les Mis comment, unless this isn't Aglionby and is a wrecked place. You're missing some hyphens (extra-curricular, diabetes-inducing, double-booked). There should be no comma in "Poor, Alicia." "Late for waffles" should end with a comma as "I finished for her" is a speech tag.

    Otherwise I got some laughs out of your entry. Your MC is likable. It's obvious he handles things with cheerful sarcasm despite his screwed life. Happy Writing!!