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Young Adult Speculative Fiction 1-1

by DonCram 

Posted: 10 August 2013
Word Count: 778
Summary: Opening scene, 780 words.

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On the first day of classes Caitlin Skye sat in the high school gym bleachers in the section with the other seniors, although a little apart from the others. The principal had read all the school rules, reviewed appropriate school wear, and told everyone to put away their phones and ear buds to listen to their special guest.

The Oregon State Lands Commissioner had come to Florence, on the central coast, to sign an agreement with InterAg, an agricultural conglomerate based in India. “Part of their mission,” he was saying, “is to preserve one acre of wilderness for every acre of developed land they put under cultivation. I was happy to accept your principal’s kind invitation to address any questions you may have, since the Siuslaw wilderness lies on the municipal boundary of Florence. All of us should be grateful to InterAg for taking on the protection of this valuable resource.”

He paused and gave a politician’s smile to the students. “But first, let me say a few words about the importance to Oregon of our natural environment.” It was not a few words. Thirty minutes later he asked for questions. A score of hands went up. He pointed to a freshman and said, “Yes, this fine young man. Your question?”

“Will we still be able to hike by the river?” the student said.

“Certainly, although that will be at the discretion of InterAg as they monitor and protect the area. Nothing like a healthy walk on a beautiful summer day like this one. Enjoy.”

The other hands all went down. “No other questions?” the Commissioner said.
Caitlin stood up and raised her hand.

“Yes, this lovely young thing over here. What is your question?” he said.

“How much did they pay you to arrange this?” Caitlin said in a clear voice.

He blinked, then said, “This is a win-win situation for Oregon and InterAg. The fee they paid to manage — not to own, but to manage — the wilderness has made a significant impact on reversing our budget deficit.”

Caitlin interrupted, “How much did they pay you to arrange this?”

“Well, the fee is no secret. InterAg placed the higher bid at $27 million. Very generous, if I might add.” He nodded slightly toward Caitlin and raised his eyebrows.

Caitlin took that as an invitation. “You transferred control of a pristine nature reserve, an area we have protected from logging and development for over a century, to a company with professed eleemosynary motives and for a price far higher than any land in this county is worth. You are up for re-election. How much did they pay you to arrange this?” Caitlin noticed her best fried, Amanda, moving toward her from the small group of seniors.

The Commissioner began his answer, “Any development, including logging, is forever excluded by the agreement with InterAg, although logging in and of itself is not a bad thing. In Oregon, we have a long history of…”

The principal cleared her throat, “I want to thank the Commissioner for his generosity in joining us today. The bell is about to ring. Time to go to class.” She shook her head at Caitlin but she looked as if she were trying to stifle a grin.

Amanda arrived next to her just as Caitlin stood. “Honey, when are you gonna learn?” Amanda said. In contrast to Caitlin’s slightly below average height, light brown eyes, and bronze skin, Amanda towered over her. She had been invited to join the girl basket ball team, but she did not want to be their token black girl. She wanted to play lead guitar in a black boy band.

“The Commissioner is hiding something,” Caitlin. “It was obvious.”

“Obvious to you, but not to the rest of us,” her friend said. “Anyhow, why did you have to nail him like that?”

Caitlin turned and began walking down the bleacher stairs to get to class.
Amanda followed. “It’s your over-developed since of truth, Caitlin. You have a lot going for you, Honey. The boys love you, especially that wrestler Matt. You’re smarter than any of our teachers. And you play the flute like a pro. Use your rapid-fire tongue on playing or kissing; leave the poor politician alone.”
“Mandy, I can’t stand it when people are not who they seem,” Caitlin said. She looked up at Amanda who was now walking at her side on the way out of the gym. “The Commissioner was hiding something.”

“Caitlin, every lovin’ soul is hiding something. Just get used to it. There are no exceptions.

Caitlin stopped and turned to Amanda. “My life is...”

“...an open book,” Amanda finished for her. “Yeah.”

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Comments by other Members

Annecdotist at 15:45 on 12 August 2013  Report this post
Hi, Don, thanks for the chance to read your opening. I’m no expert on young adult fiction, so do feel free to disregard any/all of what I say.
Openings are difficult, but the first paragraph sparked my interest. I’m assuming this novel is going to be about Caitlin and the environmental corruption, which makes for an interesting premise. We can already see her as a feisty young woman, not afraid to fight for what’s important, and can imagine this landing her in big trouble.
Nevertheless, you are getting across a fair bit of background information about the company in the first page, which could be a bit of a turn off for your readers. It’s good to get straight into the meat of the issue, but I wondered if you could build character and emotion along with it, perhaps letting us see a bit more inside Caitlin’s head, especially if she is the one we need to be identifying with throughout the novel. (Another student mentions hiking by the river – perhaps this is something Caitlin does so there would be a visceral shock when she hears about it. Or perhaps she already knows, and has prepared her question – don’t need to overdo it but could we see her anger building through the talk?)
A couple of small points :
Would young people know what eleemosynary motives means? (I looked it up.)
One typing error – Caitlin noticed her best fried
Good luck with this, I’ll be interested in what other people think.

DonCram at 23:09 on 13 August 2013  Report this post
Thank you, Annecdotist. Most appreciated.

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