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November 2013
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I Think This is a YA Novel Idea . . .

on November 4th, 2013 by Shannon

I’ve never considered writing YA–until I woke up one morning with a new character’s voice in my head. She’s 16, she’s lived her whole life inside a restrictive religious cult, and she’s just been forced into marriage with a teenage boy who is NOT the one she is in love with. I started out writing just to get the idea down on paper, with the thought that I’d file it away with all the rest of my ideas and come back to it later.

That was 3 months and 25,000 words ago. Granted, I’ve hit that mucky middle where the story is starting to slow down. But I am determined to follow Miriam to the end of her story, or at least as far as she’ll lead me.  Here’s an excerpt. Let me know if it grabs you like it’s grabbed me.


My fear is not like the other girls. My fear is simply the unknown, the anticipation that beats like a drum in my chest. I am confident that Boaz will say my name. And still I wonder, what if I didn’t know? There are more girls than boys in this year’s Selection, which means that some will go Unchosen. A terrible word for a fate that privately, I don’t think sounds so terrible. They will leave Serenity to go Outside, on a quest for knowledge. Later, they will return to positions of leadership, living and working with David in the Council House.

Still, there is a humiliation attached to being Unchosen that is hard to overcome.

But tonight, I don’t need to worry about that.

As I wait for Boaz’s name, I try to figure out in what order the boys are Selecting. It isn’t alphabetically, nor does it seem to be based on familial rankings. Perhaps they are picked randomly, though that seems unlikely. Nothing in our lives is ever left to chance.

I have tuned out–have not even heard the name of the boy making his selection–when I hear my name ripple out over the crowd.

“I choose Miriam.”

My heart thuds in my chest. I look to my mother in confusion. This isn’t Boaz’s voice; it isn’t his Selection. Who else would pick me? And why?

“Who is it?”

And as I make my way to the pit, the crowd pushing me relentlessly forward, I hear the whispers. “Aaron.”

I peer down into the dark hole in the desert floor. A ladder extends above the sand, resting at the lip. I try to climb on, but I am numb and my hands don’t grasp the rails properly. I slide down the soft wood, my feet tripping down the rungs.

I am falling into the abyss.

Strong arms catch me before I hit the ground.

It is Boaz. He holds me, his hands warm on my back, the confusion I am feeling mirrored in his eyes.

“I wanted . . .” I say. These are the first words I have ever spoken to him, and my throat is too tight to finish them.

“Me too,” he whispers. He pulls me close, and this is a moment that will be seared into my memory—his breath on my neck, his arms safe around me.

And then I am thrust from the protective alcove where we stand, into a wide, dim room. It is round, the walls sloping gently upward, painted a dull white and scorched by the tongues of  a thousand fires. The latest still burns low in a pit in the center of the room, surrounded by the men. My father is there, and for a moment I see doubt flicker across his face. In the next second it is gone, replaced by his mask. Maybe I didn’t see it at all. Maybe it was just a trick of the firelight.

Aaron is standing, alone and trembling, on the far side of the room until David moves beside him, dressed in a white flowing robe that is absorbing all of the light. He holds out his arms and I am drawn to him despite myself. Then I am next to Aaron, and David is speaking to us, his voice low and steady. He joins our hands, pressing them tightly together within his own.

And just like this, I am Aaron’s wife.

Another man steps forward and holds out a basket. I take it automatically, staring down in confusion at the colorful balls of yarn and the glittering needles stuck between them.

There are so many things I don’t know about the Selection, and perhaps this comes as the biggest surprise. Not only have I been given to a husband without my choosing, but I have been given a livelihood as well.

It is then that I realize I am crying, fat tears soaking the yarn.

I am a terrible knitter.




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