Thursday, March 10, 2011

Drop the Needle: REVELATION #34

TITLE: Muddy Boots
GENRE: Middle grade

When Abby finds out Dad is deploying, a mysterious Snake appears in her backyard, haunting her every move. During the last family campout before Dad leaves, Abby asks her parents if war will ever end. Abby, her brother Jay, and Mom argue prior to this moment.

Abby rolled over so her back was to Mom and Jay. Mom just didn't understand. She didn't remember what it was like when someone tried to hurt you. It made you want to hit back. Hurt them so they'd leave you alone. Sort of animal protecting its home.

Abby's head burst with visions of the Snake, his glittery eyes a camera traveling through time. Wars in mountains. In the air. On water. In sand. Conflicts farther back than she could count and battles happening now. All of them filled with soldiers who lived, coming home to families who took their hands and held tight so they didn't leave again.

And soldiers who died. Their last breath leaving bloodied, broken bodies in a quiet whisper floating through the air.

The movie in Abby's head stopped. That's what made war real. It was the dying that made the difference. Without it, everything else was just rocks. And tents. And trucks. And sand.

Inside her chest, Abby felt her heart crack.

“It doesn't ever end. Does it.”

She lay motionless, wishing Mom and Dad would argue with her. Give her another ‘See? I'm right' look so she'd have to figure out a different, better, answer.

Outside the top of the tent, the sky was still a painting. Only the stars…the leaves on her tree…none of them had as much color as before.


  1. First of all, I thought this was a pretty strong excerpt, considering that I don't much about the rest of the story.

    In the first paragraph, I thought the comparison of an animal protecting its home didn't quite fit. I'm not really sure how Abby was hurt since I haven't read the rest of the story, but I don't know if I'd compare that to being protective.

    Also, the first paragraph seems a little disconnected from the rest. Maybe this is clarified in the scene before the excerpt, but I don't know. Abby is thinking about being hurt, and how she wants to hit back, and then the rest of the excerpt is about her thoughts on war and why it had to happen. I don't know how these two ideas are connected, so maybe the first paragraph could be tweaked a bit.

    Overall, I like this! I think your voice is strong and clear. It might need a little tweaking unless the rest of the story clears these things up.

  2. I like this. The only suggestion I have that might be personal preference is to cut the "head burst" and the "heart crack" lines. They're kind of like "theatrics" we don't really need to feel the intensity of what's going on and are such vibrant descriptions that they create an inbalance with the deep moment she's having. If you tone those down, (ex: we only need to know that she started to see the visions, they don't need to burst at us) then you'll bring forward the intensity of her revelations about war. I think you convey her broken heart beautifully and sufficiently with the wish her parents would argue so she could figure out why she was wrong herself and with the colors fading outside. It's poignant and you don't need the cracking or the bursting. Just food for thought! Great moment and thanks for sharing.

  3. I don't read a lot of middle grade but my sense is that this voice is much older.
    With that said, the writing is very strong and lyrical.
    I agree with Tanya's comments about the *theatrical* language. Doesn't add to the good writing that's already there.

    I'm just not getting the snake connection but I'm thinking that's explained prior to this excerpt.

    I'm intrigued by the snake element and would read more.

  4. I'm have trouble with the snake paragraph, although I might understand if I read more. I don't know if these are true visions she is experiencing right then, and if so, how close is she to them? Can she smell the blood and guts, feel the parched wind, etc.? Or just see? Is this a memory of the visions that are explained in more detail elsewhere?

    The sky presumably is not a painting, but like a painting.

    Otherwise, I agree with the other commenters. I'm really curious about the power and/or curse the MC has, and also what that snake is all about.

  5. I agree wth Brittany that the first parg doesn't seem to have any connection to the second. Perhaps finda way to transition between the two. And the metaphor of an animal protecting its home doesn't work because you're comparing it to being hurt and wanting to hit back - two different things.

    I didn't see a reveal here. It seemed all those things she saw via the snake were things she had thought about before, that they were ongoing issues with her.

    On the other hand, it was well-written and emotionally strong. You made me care about and feel for Abby, and in the end, I think that is what matters most.

  6. This has a great voice. I love it.
    I think the snake imagery could have fit better if it was tied in more to Abby's world rather than her imagination.