Monday, October 31, 2011

Story Pillars by Amy Deardon

Happy Halloween everyone! I'm about to drop my daughter off at preschool. She's dressed as a "beautiful pink butterfly" and yes, I will torture you with pictures of her and Connor - a darling monkey - later this week.

Today, Amy Deardon is here!

In her own words, Amy is a scientist and skeptic who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. Having written research articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction, when she decided to write a novel she was surprised by how difficult it was to get the words down. She undertook a detailed study to understand how story works, and developed an algorithm that is published in THE STORY TEMPLATE: CONQUER WRITER’S BLOCK USING THE UNIVERSAL STRUCTURE OF STORY.

Lovely woman that she is, Amy has offered to give away either a paperback version or an ebook version of The Story Template to one lucky commenter. To get yourself entered, leave either a question for Amy or tell us which of the four story pillars comes most naturally to you as a writer. Contest ends Monday, November 7th, one entry per person por favor, and this is open to all peeps, not just US residents.

I don't know why I just wrote "peeps." I don't even like that word much. Nor do I like "pics."

Moving on:

The Four Story Pillars:
Some Structural Elements That You Need to Determine Before Starting Your Novel or Screenplay

Even if you’re an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer, a little planning can make writing your story easier. This article reviews a few foundational elements you should know about your story before you start.

The Four Story Pillars

A story (novel or screenplay) is often thought of as having two arms: outer and inner. The outer story covers the external plot: what your friend will summarize when you ask what a story is about. In contrast, the inner story describes the emotional journey of one or more characters. Different types or genres of stories tend to emphasize different arms – for example, a romance or literary work often focuses on inner story, while a mystery or action-adventure usually emphasizes outer story. 

But how else might story be described? If you think about it, a story can also be considered as having two tiers of construction: concrete and abstract. The concrete tier describes the actual events and characters in the story, whereas the abstract tier comments on the broader applications of your story: why it may give insight into society, relationships, or life.

Using these two types of categories, I like to think of the story as having four story pillars. The PLOT is the actual story line with the story goal and external obstacles. The CHARACTER describes the inner emotional journeys of one or more characters. The STORY WORLD describes the specific environment and milieu in which the story takes place. The MORAL describes the theme or the ultimate take-home message that the story conveys.

You can put these four pillars into context, like this:

Story World

The STORY PREMISE, which is the fundamental concept that drives the story, comes from just one of these four pillars. For example:
Plot Pillar – Iron Man, Jaws
Character Pillar – Forest Gump, Rocky
Moral Pillar – Facing the Giants, Ender’s Game
Story World Pillar – Fellowship of the Ring, Harry Potter

Although the story centers around one pillar, the other pillars are developed to a greater or lesser extent, even for very unidimensional stories. For example, in the summer 2009 film G.I. Joe, the emphasis is on the OUTER STORY, both the action plot and the cool techno-weapons story world. However, even in such an over-the-top action movie, there is also a rudimentary inner love story of loss and redemption hiding between the bombs and outrageous conspiracy theories.

The more you can develop all four of these pillars, the more resonant and gripping your story will become. Some questions you might ask for each pillar:

PLOT: What is your story question? What is your story goal? What are the stakes of your story (the bad things that will happen if your protagonist doesn’t achieve his goal)? What is the main obstacle (usually the antagonist) blocking your protagonist from reaching his goal? What are some other obstacles?

CHARACTER: Who is your protagonist? What does he want in the story? Does he have a secondary protagonist? (The secondary protagonist works with the protagonist as a team to achieve the story goal, and is often a love interest). What is your protagonist’s “hidden” (emotional) need that will be fixed in the story? Who (or what) is the antagonist? What goals are your protagonist and antagonist competing for?

STORY WORLD: What is the time and place of your story? What are common social customs? What do buildings and structures look like? What do your characters eat, wear, and use? What is the weather like?

MORAL: What is the ONE universal principal that you want to explore in your story? Some examples of moral might be:
Romeo and Juliet: Great Love Defies Death.
Forest Gump: Unconditional Love Redeems the Rebel.
Fellowship of the Ring: Willingness to Relinquish Absolute Power Leads to Preservation.
The Godfather: Family Ties Overcome Individual Virtue.
Rocky: Courage and Persistence Lead to Significance.
The Incredibles: Working Together Allows Each Individual to Shine.
By developing all four of these story pillars, you will establish a strong base for your story to resonate with the reader or viewer.

Which of the four story pillars comes most naturally to you as a writer?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Going Deep

As we talk about POV (point of view), you may whine. You may grumble. You may pull out your beloved copy of Sense and Sensibility and say, "But Jane head-hopped!" Or you may reference some book that sold gazillions of copies last year and say, "Look here! This author did it too! What do you have to say to that, Stephanie?"

And I will tell you, "Yeah, that's true. But ... you still shouldn't."

No disrespect to Miss Austen intended.

I'm not going to talk about omniscient narrators - *wincing in embarrassment and fear* -because I don't understand them.

There, I said it. I feel better having confessed.

The Gossip Girl books and the Luxe series are both done with omniscient narrators. I don't understand why it works or how it works or what makes that different that head hopping in 3rd person. And I'm not even sure if omniscient POV improves the books, because part of me thinks I would be much more emotionally invested in the stories if I felt like I was sitting inside Serena's or Elizabeth's head, rather than sitting behind a camera on their shoulder.

These are the cameras I'm reminded of when I'm reading omniscient books. Those giant ones from the 80s that the men had to carry on their shoulders.

If any of you understand omniscient and want to whip up a guest post, I will happily host you. Please. Educate me on why this would ever be a good choice. Okay, except for that one scene in The Help, in which the POV switch was very well done.

Wait, I said I wasn't going to talk about omniscient, didn't I?

Moving on.

Let's instead start our conversation by talking about deep POV (point of view). What is it? What makes it so special? How do I achieve it?

Here's the opening paragraph of the dandelion story. This is how to not write:

New school clothes and make-up could not hide the girl's nervousness.  She stood in the doorway in a short black skirt and clutched her backpack straps with both hands.  The girls chin length, coffee colored hair fell softly into her eyes.  With a casual and swift movement of the right hand, she pushed the hair behind her ears and reached for her backpack straps again.

There you have it. That's Stephanie Hines writing circa 2000. Or '99. One of those. I'm itching to edit it, but I opted to copy and paste from the original document.

Let's choose to ignore the abundance of description and focus on the POV. And don't look at where I missed an apostrophe. Or that adverb....

The big rule for POV is thou shalt tell each scene from the POV of only one character. That means if you want to share something from the POV of another character, you must end your scene and start a new one.

The above paragraph is at least focused on Paige, my main character. High-school-me earns points for that. But this reads like you, the reader, are watching Paige through a video camera. To write deep POV, we must instead be watching the world through your POV character's eyes.

If I were to rewrite the opening of this book, I would just scrap most of the above. Since my focus right now is showing you the difference of deep POV, I'll instead transform what I originally wrote.

As Paige lingered in the doorway of the classroom, thumbs hooked in her backpack straps, her racing heart seemed so loud in her ears, she was sure everyone could hear. Why had she chosen heels today? Her knees would have been wobbily enough in sneakers. But of course it had been a very long time since she'd worn comfortable shoes.
She wanted to tug at her skirt hem - it hadn't seemed so short in the store dressing room - but she forced herself to stand up straight. He might be here, and there was no way she'd give him the satisfaction of knowing how tight the knots in her stomach were. 

Okay, so I didn't get in the thing about her hair, but I think there's enough for you to see the difference.

When I was deepening the POV, you know what struck me? When you write in shallow POV, you don't have to think much about what your characters are feeling. In the original version, because we were hovering outside of Paige, all I felt I needed to express was that she had made herself up pretty, but still looked nervous. 

When I went deeper, I was asking questions like "What is making her nervous?" With about 20 seconds of thought, I decided she was unsure about the clothes she'd picked (I'm sure I'm not the only girl who thought an outfit totally worked in the dressing room, only to feel weird wearing it in real life situations.) She's also apprehensive about seeing her old boyfriend.

The deeper version shows us two additional things that I like - we get a hint about who Paige has become (she's not a girl who wears comfortable shoes), and we know she's got some pride issues with the guy (she doesn't want to give him the "satisfaction" of knowing she's scared).

We have a tendency to write shallow because it's easier. Not only do we not have to think through how our character is feeling, we don't have to experience it ourselves. 

We're going to talk more about POV next Wednesday. On Monday, Amy Deardon, author of The Story Template is our guest. She'll be talking about "story pillars" and is giving away a copy of The Story Template, which is a wonderful craft book. You won't want to miss it!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The judges are on top of it this morning...

Just so y'all know, it's looking like there'll be three more prompts this year. The next one will go live Monday, November 7th.

Also, I'm looking at a couple different contest ideas for 2012. One option is to keep doing what we've been doing. If you have another suggestion, I'd be happy to entertain it. Please email me by clicking here.

In no particular order, here's the list of writers who made the top 20:

Lindsey Bradford
Faye Rhys
Micah Eaton
Chloe Krivan
Caroline Niesen
Becki Badger
Jessica Staricka
Emii Krivan
Tonya LaCourse
JT no-last-name
Whitney Stephens
Kaitlyn Evensen
Rachelle Rea
Rebecca Pennefather
Rachel Crew
Morgan Sutton
Alyssa Liljequist
Katie Scheidhauer
Rayna Huffman
Julie-Anne Hepfner

Congratulations everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why story ideas can feel too small

Today I'm continuing my post on why the dandelion story was too small of an idea. On Monday, I said it was partially because everything I'd come up with was backstory. The part of the story I'd worked out was all stuff that happened before chapter one, so when it came time to write the book, I fumbled around for a few chapters before retiring the manuscript altogether.

If you missed my Monday post, I'm going to copy and paste the story description below. If you've already read the story description, you can skip down to more reasons why the story idea was small.

The dandelion story is about a girl named Paige who had spent all her life living as a tomboy. When Paige is a junior (I think) she moves halfway across the country, leaving behind a close group of friends, and a very, very serious boyfriend. Who’s so ticked with her for moving, he refuses to talk to her after she tells him she’s leaving. (I’ve already told you I had some issues with character believability…) So Paige moves to her new home in suburban St. Louis, where she completely transforms herself. She doesn’t keep in touch with any of her old friends, she becomes a complete girly-girl, and even dates a new guy. Then for some reason I can’t remember, Paige’s family gets sent back to her original home a year later.

Here are some reasons why the story idea wound up being too small:

I was writing about myself.

I mean, not really, because it wasn't something I'd done, but in my head, Paige was me and she was fulfilling one of my life fantasies, which was to move away, become fabulous and beautiful, then return home and have everyone be shocked by who I really was. (One of the most crushing moments of my life was when my husband and I moved back to KC after living in Florida for 2 1/2 years, and a woman at church said, "Well, Stephanie, you look exactly like you did!")

I hadn't given Paige thoughts or preferences of her own because I didn't realize she needed them. I grew as a writer when I stopped basing characters on myself.

I was short on life experience.

A brilliant member of our community mentioned this last Friday, that they feel like they need more life experience before they can make much progress novel-wise. The same was true for me, but I wasn't smart enough to realize it. I needed to mature, to broaden my view of the world. And that's okay.

I hadn't read very much.

I had read a lot of stuff for school, which was great and necessary, but I wasn't reading many current releases. Which meant I didn't know what else was out there. Which meant I didn't know if my idea was fresh or not.

I didn't know how to ask "Why?" or "What if...?"

Those two questions are key to how I currently expand plots and deepen characterization. Why does her boyfriend stop talking to her? What's in his past that leads him to behaving that way? What if he did talk to her between finding out she was moving and the truck pulling away; what would the story look like then? How would she react differently during her time in St. Louis? Why does she transform herself during her time away? Did she previously think there was something wrong with who she was? What triggered that behavior?

And so forth. In my early writing days, I was under the false impression that ideas should just "come to me." I didn't think I should have to work for them. BIG IDEAS TAKE WORK. Stephen King likens creating a story to unearthing a fossil. You have to dig for it, work for it.

How do you "unearth" your ideas? Is it by writing a couple scenes? Talking to friends? Taking walks? Making a plot spreadsheet?

And don't forget - writing prompt entries are due today!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My too-small book idea

Don't forget - writing prompts are due this Wednesday. Click here for details.

If you missed Friday's post, pulled out a manuscript of mine from high school and identified what my problem areas were as a teenage writer.

The manuscript is called Grass and Dandelion Bouquets, which is a horrendous title. You can tell this is going to be a sappy book, can’t you? Blech. I don’t want to have to keep typing it out, so I’ll just refer to it as the dandelion story, okay?

The dandelion story is one I wrote and rewrote and plotted and revised and scrapped and rewrote about 500 times before I finally burned out and abandoned it altogether. Even with all that expended energy, I only managed to write about 10,000 words. 

The dandelion story is about a girl named Paige who had spent all her life living as a tomboy. When Paige is a junior (I think) she moves halfway across the country, leaving behind a close group of friends, and a very, very serious boyfriend. Who’s so ticked with her for moving, he refuses to talk to her after she tells him she’s leaving. (I’ve already told you I had some issues with character believability…) So Paige moves to her new home in suburban St. Louis, where she completely transforms herself. She doesn’t keep in touch with any of her old friends, she becomes a complete girly-girl, and even dates a new guy. Then for some reason I can’t remember, Paige’s family gets sent back to her original home a year later.

Maybe I’m biased, but I still believe it's an okay idea, that this is a story idea that could work. There are some serious holes in it—I’m pretty skeptical of any story concept that involves phrases like, “and these two people who were super-duper close stop talking to each other for a year”—but it’s not a bad story idea.

Here’s the thing I want to draw your attention to—everything in that description is back story. The story opens on Paige’s first day back at her old school. She’s just walked into the classroom in her transformed state, and she’s seeing her friends after having ignored them for a year. Which means my concept for this novel was all backstory, it wasn’t the actual story. And that’s because I lacked the understanding of what made a good story. Sure, I had read lots of great books and seen lots of great movies, but I hadn’t yet figured out how to do it myself.

Even now, that’s the way my story ideas come to me, as the main character’s backstory. It took me a while to figure out that, as enriching as the backstory was, what I really needed to know was “everything else.” The stuff between Once upon a time and The End.

In his book Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell puts it so simply with his LOCK system. Your book needs a lead character who is interesting to watch, and who has an objective or goal to chase after. While they pursue their objective, there should be obstacles or confrontations that prevent them from achieving their goals. And then there should be a knockout ending. Something that satisfied the readers.

That’s story structure stated in such basic verbiage, even I can understand it. Were I to write the dandelion story again, I would start by asking what Paige was trying to achieve over the course of the story, what stood in her way, and how the ending would satisfy.

What about you? When you come up with a story idea, what (usually) comes to you first? Is it the main character’s back story? Is it the plot of the book? Is it the theme?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why No One Wanted to Publish Me When I Was in High School

From first grade on, getting published was my Ultimate Dream. That and marrying Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block.

It seemed unrealistic to hope to get published in elementary school or junior high. But high school seemed reasonable. I was constantly writing stories; shouldn’t I be good enough by the time I was an upperclassman?

In past blog posts, I’ve given you the short answer to the above question – No, I wasn’t good enough. I left it at that, thinking the details weren’t really important. This was partially because I didn’t want to think about the details. I had no interest in pulling out old manuscripts and think about all their failings when I had no plans of reviving the story.
Books I "published" in first and second grade.

Then I thought about you guys.

One of the reasons I started Go Teen Writers was because as a teen writer, I had nobody in my life who could guide me to “the next step.” My journey involved a lot of fumbling and grasping and bloody knees. I thought a blog like Go Teen Writers might be helpful for someone out there. I’m not agent or an editor, so I can’t provide those kinds of next steps, but I can pass along what I’ve learned along the way.

And when I leafed through old stories of mine from high school, I realized I’ve learned a lot along the way.

One of the things I’ve learned is that there are things to learn. I thought because I was a talented writer, all I needed was to land on the right idea, and I’d be set for publication. When I got in the internet as a teen, I was searching for things like, “How Do I Get Published?” not, “How do I get better at writing?” To my 16 and 17 year old self, there was shame in admitting my writing needed work.

Here are some problems I detected in one of my manuscripts. You can also view this list as a preview of what I’ll be talking about in the coming weeks:

  • My ideas were not big enough. I had a hard time making it past the first couple chapters, but I didn’t know why.
  • Point of View characters. I was clueless about how to write scenes from one POV character.
  • I lacked confidence. I grew so needy of others opinions, I could barely write a chapter without soliciting advice.
  • I used flashbacks/backstory with distracting frequency.
  • I wanted the story to be perfect the first time. So instead of writing it to the best of my ability and trusting the editing process, I was constantly rewriting.
  • I had no respect for my reader's intelligence. I felt the need to explain everything, even if it meant halting the story.
  • Dialogue. Bad, bad dialogue. So, bad. 
  • My writing lacked freshness. There’s a hint of my voice in there, but you’ve got to dig through all the clich├ęs and tired phrasing to find it.
  • My characters lacked believability. When I read through my manuscript now, I think things like, “No one would ever say that. No one would think that. Why is she acting that way? That doesn’t make any sense.”

I didn’t marry the band member from New Kids on the Block (which worked out well because my husband is way better looking) but I did finally get that publishing contract. In the next couple weeks, I’ll walk you guys through everything I needed to discover, grasp, and apply before I could get here:

Signing my contract. What a stroke of luck that my nails were painted! That's not the norm these days.

Did any of the flaws mentioned on the above list sound familiar to you? Is there anything up there you regularly struggle with?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Successful Research Trip

I'm back home from my wine country research trip. I won't force you to look through all 91 pictures or watch the dorky videos I took ("This is the neighborhood Jack could live in...") but I'll show a couple pictures and talk about what made the trip a success.

For starters, it was the patience of these two:
Mom and Dad, enjoying the ride on what used to be a military vehicle.

If you're going on a research trip, you must, must, must, must, MUST go with people who understand what you're doing, and who don't mind doing things like cruising through the high school parking lot:

In the past, you guys have talked about feeling awkward doing research, and I've been like, "I know, but you just have to suck it up, and do it." Well, I had to tell myself that same thing a few times while we drove through the parking lot of my character's high school. It was a Saturday, but there were still some students milling about. Not only did I snap a couple pictures, but I took video, and I felt acutely aware of how creepy I might appear.

Somebody braver than me would have gotten out and walked around, but I just rolled down the window and snapped some shots.

The great thing is we live in the time of Google Street View, so I knew I didn't have to walk through the town square trying to capture every store front because that's already been done for me. The most important thing was soaking up the people around me and the energy of the town.

But I didn't drag my parents just to high schools and grocery stores and a crazy amount of kitchen shops. We also went to Bottega - a fabulous restaurant in Yountville - which has many similarities to my MC's family restaurant.

This is by far the coolest waiting area I've ever seen. I actually cheered when the hostess said we would have to wait about 10 minutes for a table.
My main character's best friend was raised on a vineyard inspired by Six Sigma out in Lake County. We were so lucky to be there during harvest, and there was a lot of crushing and sorting and fermenting going on. My friend, Rachel, braved driving the big military vehicle and took us on a tour:

Taken out the back of the vehicle, those yellow containers hold freshly picked grapes. They're headed for the winery where they'll be sorted.

And this is Christian taking pizza out of the way cool pizza oven they built. The pear-and-blue-cheese pizza is totally making it into the book.

This is the first research trip I'd done, and I loved every minute of it. From fumbling around in the bakery in Healdsburg as I tried to figure out how to place an order (why do some restaurants make it so complicated to figure out their system?!?!) to exploring the Culinary Institute campus to exploring the chef's clothing section in Shackford's.

All my exploring completely refreshed me, and I'm eager to get back to my story. We all feel "creatively dry" sometimes. What refreshes you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Writing Prompt Contest: The time has come to leave

I love that you guys are so vocal about what you like and dislike on Go Teen Writers. For last round's writing prompt contest, we mixed things up and I supplied the last sentence of your 100 words rather than the first. Many of you told me how much you liked that, so we'll do it again this round. And you can pass your thanks along to Kait Culbertson, who had the idea for trying this.

Here's the sentence your entry must conclude with: The time has come to leave.

Your entries are due by Wednesday, October 26th at 11:59pm, Kansas City time.

Send your 100 words - along with your name and email address - to me by clicking here. Or you can email them to me at Stephanie(at)GoTeenWriters(dot)com. I always send confirmation emails, so if I don't verify receiving your entry within 48 hours, please check with me.

You must be 25 or under to enter. One entry per person per round. 

Remember, the first 100 words are yours to do with as you wish, but your entry must conclude with the above sentence. You're writing this like it's the opening of a novel, which means your goal is to lure the reader into the storyworld. Successful prompts, I've noticed, give us a taste of who the main character is, where we are, and the immediate problem that needs solving.

If you want even more details about Go Teen Writer's prompts, you can find them by clicking here.

Here are our wonderful judges this round:

Christa Allan

A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa is a writer of not your usual Christian Fiction. She weaves stories of unscripted grace and redemption with threads of hope, humor, and heart.

Walking on Broken Glass is her debut novel. Her next novel, Edge of Grace released from Abingdon Press in August of 2011. Her essays have been published in The Ultimate Teacher, Cup of Comfort, Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Divorced Soul.

Christa is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a teacher of high school English. She and her husband Ken live in Abita Springs, Louisiana, where they and their three cats enjoy their time playing golf, dreaming about retirement and dodging hurricanes.

Christa Banister

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog. For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.

Dina Sleiman

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, was released with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Friday, October 14, 2011

Question for you: Where's your story set?

There's no post today (well, okay, there technically is, but you know what I mean) because I'm currently traipsing around California's wine country on a research trip for my work-in-progress. Being out here makes me think I should always write books that require research trips.

This is where I'm hanging out today, at Six Sigma in Lake County, California.

I'm pretty sure I should set my next book on the Galapagos Islands...

So my question for you guys is where is your current manuscript set? And where would your dream research trip take place? The European countryside? A quaint beach village? New York City?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Winning Entries from last round

Clare Kolenda, double-finaled for 1st

I didn’t want to be here.
Nervously shifting in the worn vinyl booth, I questioned my sanity in agreeing to come back to the field.
Blackmail was a powerful tool and the CIA used it well, I mused, playing with the edges of the greasy menu that I held.
The door swung open, and I slipped into my cover. I was a buyer, waiting to meet with an arms dealer. I expected to see the Russian’s bald head, but it was my ex husband that appeared. His eyes lit in recognition when he spotted me, just as the Russian entered.
The chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.

The judges say: Fabulous!! It’s intriguing to begin with—I mean, CIA. Blackmail. Then to toss in an ex-husband? Seriously, just fabulous. I love the clash of personal life with professional life in this situation. / The description allowed me to see the location down to the greasy menu. The twist at the end changed an exciting story into a nail biting drama. 

Rachelle Rea, placed 1st and 2nd

I was finally beginning to feel like the Princess I wasn’t supposed to be.
Ignoring the guilt, I forced a smile for the man, the Prince, I loved. Peter presented me to his people. I leaned over the balcony.
To wave to the crowd? Or to escape from the suffocating feeling that came from being an imposter?
Speaking of suffocating.
My smile died as a knife’s blade bit into my neck. Peter’s eyes flashed fire and he reached for his sword.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
At the sound of that voice, I closed my eyes.
The chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.

The judges say: WHOA! Lotsa conflict here. You’ve got me asking questions right off the bat, and that’s the perfect response you want to invoke in a reader. Nice job!/I was immediately pulled into the story by the glimpse into the character's thoughts. I was left with so many questions that made me want to continue. 

Kaitlyn Evensen, 2nd

Cool grey gravel crunched under my feet as I jogged away from base camp. The icy wind sliced through the only jacket I owned. Shuddering, I pulled my numbing hand from my pockets to draw the hood up over my head. People who left without permission were branded as traitors, but I didn’t plan on being caught. Ever since the government fell and the bombs dropped, all sense of right and wrong had left my mind. Now I lived in a Country where a permanent state of emergency had been issued. The constitution had been burned, and the chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.

The judge says: Interesting! A world in chaos, a character on the run from it—it conveys a sense of cold resignation more than suspense. Very effective.

Carilyn Everett, 2nd

Bailey stifled a laugh and looked at me through the darkness. She was my best friend, and had been throughout elementary, and it was her brilliant idea which had landed us here, crouched behind the bank teller's desk. A bank robbery. I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't longed for adventure, but this wasn't quite what I had imagined as a youngster. As the security guard's flashlight swept across the top of the desk, sudden fear gripped my throat. The chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.

The judge says: Excellent! I would love to know how she got into this predicament and how she’s going to get out.

Melanie G. Schroeder, 3rd

Gregory glanced over his shoulder as he yanked me around the corner. My legs churned against the pavement, straining to run farther, but Gregory’s hand was still clamped around my wrist. He pulled me against the cold cement wall.
“We lost ‘em, but they have contacts all over campus.” Gregory swiped a lock of sweat soaked hair out of his face and grimaced. “Might have one in security.” He slid his hand down my wrist into my palm and squeezed it, eyes straying to the security camera above our heads. “Stay out of school politics, Kait. Please?”
 I laughed shakily. The chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.

The judge says: Interesting! I never would have thought of school politics being so dangerous. Love it.

Rebekah Hart, 3rd

Crisp sheets cooled tingling skin as I snuck into bed, but didn't effect the heated crimson trailing my forearm. Lt. Masters and his sword had come too close for comfort. This double-life was growing difficult.
A knock at the door brought summons from his lordship, my father. I refused the maid's offer to help me dress and hurriedly bandaged my arm. Feigned calm fled as I descended the staircase to Lt. Masters' smug face.
Father was bewildered, “I apologize, Isabel, but this...brigand claims-”
The Lieutenant cut him off, “This all will be settled when my fiancee shows us her arm.”
The chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.

The judge says: Excellent!!!! I would totally keep reading!

Isla Patterson, 3rd

I tore through the darkening forest, trying to escape.  Coarse barking erupted behind me and a few seconds later, my legs collapsed as two dogs cannonballed into them.  My pursuer ran up and kicked the dogs off, hauling me upright by my arm.  I tried to back away but the dogs growled, so I raised my hands, flicking the long hair off my face.
“You have the wrong person!”  I protested.  The man sneered and lunged forward at my arm, ripping off my sleeve and revealing a circular tattoo.
“I have, have I?”  He gripped my mark and I grimaced.  The chances of this ending well, I realized, were not good.
Excellent action, and I love the idea of a mark that gives her away. I’m definitely intrigued.

The judge says: The description of the chase made my heart race. I want to know the meaning of the circular tattoo and why the person is being chased. 

As always, I'm so impressed by the creativity of the entries. And I'm not just talking about the winners either. The judges for the Go Teen Writers contest are always "complaining" about how tough you guys make their job.

Check back here Monday morning for next round's contest!