Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Middle Grade Are You Hooked? #3

TITLE: Joshua & The Lightning
GENRE: MG Fantasy

I was twelve the summer that lightning stole my best friend.

Lightning. Pretty amazing stuff, you say, right? Sure, if you don't know any better like everyone else. But not me.

And if you're a kid reading this who thinks lightning is awesome, think again.

When it strikes you better not be alone.

And if it's nighttime throw back the covers, leap out of your bed and run. Run fast down the hallway and jump into your parent's bed, no matter how old you are. Don't wait until the Lightning Road gets you, because if it does you may never get home again.

My name is Joshua Cooper and the story I'm about to tell you will change your world.


If it hadn't been raining that August day we wouldn't be here right now talking about weird stuff like lightning that zaps you without burning you to a crisp. Or magical wolves that growl at you with red, glowing eyes. Or ravens that swoop down to carry you away. Or monster fish that hide in creeks and spear you with their tusks. Weird stuff all right. But, we'll get to that later. And it was raining that day. An ordinary day, really. Rain, thunder and lightning. No big deal.

My new best friend, Steven, was coming over to spend the night. I say new because we had just moved here. The ‘we' being, me and my grandfather or ‘Bo Chez' as I call him. It's short for Big Cheese.


  1. A few random comments:
    1) I like the first line but if this book is about the best friend leaving or dying, it kills all the suspense. If it's not, it's fine. Same comment about wolves and ravens. If these are coming later and you have told us they are coming, we are not going to be as surprised.
    2) I'm not a big fan of talking to the reader but it seems like it's your style so maybe others can comment. I personally find it is kind of screaming YOU ARE NOT THE MC to me.
    3) The top age of MG is 12 or so and this is a flashback to 12 which means the MC is actually older. My point is that I am not sure if this is MG. The voice sounds like an adult talking to a kid. MG is usually a kid talking to a kid.

    Best of luck!

  2. Your first line is great. The later writing needs to be pared down a bit. It seems like you're trying too hard to get the weirdness of the situation across and it slows down the pace. Save descriptions of all the other stuff (pretty much all the seventh paragraph) for later and get back to the lightning that stole his best friend.

    I think I would also dump the fifth and sixth paragraphs. I'm not sure why, but I found the advice about jumping out of bed and running to your parents' room irritating. After the nicely creepy "you'd better not be alone," it robbed the momentum. And saying that this story will change my world just makes me think, "I doubt that very much."

  3. Great start! Just a few comments from me:

    - Very few stories, however great, have changed my world... but it does change your MC's world, right? I don't think you need to throw the focus on the audience at that point. Keep the focus on your MC.

    - I think maybe you should pare down a little, especially that second to last paragraph. After some of the deliciously creepy lines in the opening, I want to get to the action quickly.

    - I agree with Abbe that the paragraph about running to your parents' bed definitely waters down the previous "you better not be alone" line. That line should leave a mark on the reader, which it can't do effectively if it's buried under another paragraph.

    I would definitely read on to see what the "Lightning Road" was, so you've hooked me! Good luck!

  4. Hooked because of the mystery of the first sentence. My question is - what happened to Steven. Did he die or did the lightening gods take him away? I would read on to find out because I want to know. (posted by Maddy, age 10)

    I'm intrigued as well. I got that feeling of settling into a good story being told by a reliable narrator with a bit of spunk. Nice voice.

  5. Great opening line! It got a bit bogged down in all the warnings, but the talk of the Lightning Road has me intrigued. Rather than hear a summary of what we're going to read about later, I'd like to just get into the story and be surprised by the wolves, ravens and monster fish. Shows potential!

  6. I definitely like the way this story is going. I agree with Holly's comments, particularly with whether or not we're going to see the wolves, ravens, monster fish, etc. If not, then they're great, because they really get my imagination going and make me wonder how they're related to what's going on. But if we are going to see them directly, it's true that we won't be as surprised and that could take away some of the excitement and magic of the story.

    I also agree with the consensus of the line "the story I'm about to tell you will change your world." It definitely turns me off, and makes me think, "Yeah, sure" (sarcastically). I think Becky has a great way of fixing that issue. Also regarding that sentence, I'm personally not a big fan of the MC coming right out and saying "My name's [Place Name Here]." It's good that it strives to be direct and clear, but there has to be a more creative way of revealing the protag's name. It's just too easy and dull, in my opinion, but good luck with this! I'm enjoying the creative elements, and am intrigued by the "The Lightning Road" like many others.

  7. I agree with Holly. I don't know who your MC is, as far as age goes. Is he 13 now? 22? 50? Whatever age he is, he's not MG. Perhaps have the story occur as it happens, or have him tell it after it ends, when he's still 12. Kids want to read about kids, not an adult teaching them a lesson.

    The problem with talking to the reader is that as long as your MC is talking, the story isn't happening. In first person, you really have to work at staying inside the story. You can get away with it a bit more if he's telling the story after the fact, but he should still be telling the story, rather than explaining things to the reader, or telling the reader what to do, think, or feel.

    I'd also suggest cutting the whole intro. It gives too much away, I think. It basically says - this is what the story's about, folks,and you'd better be scared. Let the reader decide for himself.

    You have an interesting hook here. Trust your writing skills and the readers' ability to'get it,' and just start the story.

  8. An opening similar to this worked for The Lightning Thief as a sort of prologue (addressing the reader, saying you'll never be the same, etc.), so I don't object to it. I'm definitely intrigued. And I like the narrator's voice and the humor of a grandfather called Bo Chez. Maybe it's just me, but I'm wishing this is set in New Orleans. Good start.

  9. I like the premise. I DO NOT fancy that gimmicky opening. It worked for the Lightning Thief because, well, it just worked, but here it seems out of place. After the scene break is where your story starts. Don't try and capture your reader with redundant foreshadowing.

    I'd definitely read more about Joshua. He seems like an awesome dude! ^_^

  10. I agree with a lot of the other comments here... it doesn't sound like a MG voice. Also, i'd keep the first line and cut everything between that and the '***'. After that, you could pare down the weird stuff 'cause you are killing the mystery you built in that great first line.