Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Middle Grade Are You Hooked? #6


Even in the dark, it didn't take Theresa "Tiny" Mitchell long to get to the frog pond on her bike. Up ahead, she saw the spot she and Delilah planned to meet for their first magical scrying. Gnarled trees
dipped their feet into scummy water, and reeds and swamp grass grew in thick clumps. The whole area smelled of wet mud and moldy water, but she didn't care. Hidden behind a swamp where no one but mosquitoes went, it was the perfect place. Far enough away from houses and streets, it gave her and Delilah a place to make all the noise they wanted and not be heard.

When she rode up, she saw her friend, Delilah, standing by the old folding table they found abandoned behind Tiny's house and dragged to the frog pond. She watched her friend take something out her
backpack and set it on the table.

At the sound of Tiny's bike rumbling to a halt, Delilah turned. “There you are.” She ran over and gave Tiny a hug. “I was worried you might not come. It's pretty spooky around here.” She smelled like French fries and hot dogs, and had a dab of mustard on her black T-shirt, and a blob of ketchup on her black shorts. Delilah was as big and teddy bearish as Tiny was small and serious.

Huddling together, they marched to the table. Delilah's eyes sparkled in the moonlight when Tiny handed her the snowman globe.


  1. A few things:
    1) The first line implies that she is already at the pond but then you go on to show her arrive. I found this confusing.
    2) There is a little head jumping going on here. If we are in Tiny's head, you can't really tell us what Delilah hears. You also shouldn't tell us what Tiny wouldn't think. If this is her friend, why would she all of a sudden compare their size? You need to give her a reason for doing this. Either that or show it by saying that Tiny had to look up at her.
    3) I don't know why this bugs me but if it's dark, could she really see a red stain on a black shirt?

    Good luck!

  2. I like the casualness of the magic being performed here by Tiny and Delilah. However, I'll have to agree with Holly's comment that the opening scene tends to skip back and forth a bit. Also, one clerical point:

    She watched her friend take something out [of] her backpack and set it on the table.

    With some smoothing out, this could be a nice intro!

  3. I liked the basic idea of the opening. You're setting up a creepy kind of place to go with the magic. The problem lies in the writing.

    As mentioned, you have a few POV shifts, and if Tiny is your POV character, she needs to be Tiny, or she/her. She's not going to think of herself by her full name.

    You might say roots instead of feet, since trees don't have feet, or use a metaphor. Perhaps say stagnant water instead of moldy water.

    In the first parg, you make it clear she sees Delilah and that they're friends, so you don't have to say it again in the second parg. You also need some 'hads' in there when referring to the past.

    In parg three, they're in a swamp at night with no light. She wouldn't be seeing much of anything. Perhaps instead of describing food stains, you describe the dark to create more of a spooky feeling.

    And if they're huddled together, how do they march? And where did the snowglobe suddenly come from? It should be mentioned at the very beginning.

  4. ooh, hooked! I love your descriptions and your characters. Excellent sensory details. I can't wait to find out what these two are up to.

  5. This is intriguing. I think you would have more impact with more direct language. For example: When she rode up, she saw her friend, Delilah, standing by the old folding table ... "she saw" is passive and since she is she MC we know she saw it. How about: When she rode up, Delilah stood by the folding table... (Also that sentence is quite long.)

    You have some great descriptions of the swamp, but I want to feel more tension and suspense about what they are about to do. You buried their mission in the first paragraph. Is your MC nervous about what they're going to do? Have they done this before?

    I like the sensory details of what her friends smells like, so I don't think you need the ketchup and mustard bit. And like others said, it's dark so that would be hard to see.

    With some tightening up, this could work well. Make us feel what the MC feels about this venture. I would read more to see what these two are up to.

  6. My first thought was, if it's dark, she can't see ahead. Your reader shouldn't be stopping and thinking at the second line of your story.


    Seems a lot of people thought the same thing.

    I agree with Barbara & Traci Van Wagoner's assessments. It's an intriguing setup, it just needs some tightening up, especially the dark thing :)