Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Middle Grade Are You Hooked? #7

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Tomas Murphy awoke early on the morning of April the fourth to find, much to his surprise, that the world had not in fact ended in a fiery ball of disaster. Just for good measure, he double checked the date on his alarm clock.


Tomas sighed. Four was the worst possible sort of number. Whenever the number four was involved, Tomas expected the worst. But double fours meant double the trouble. So it made sense that every single year, without fail, something terrible happened to him on April the fourth.

This trend went all the way back as far as Tomas could remember--right to the year Tomas turned four. That was the year his mother vanished without a trace, leaving only a note saying she couldn't handle the stress of parenthood, and how she hoped Tomas would have a good life without her.

At age eight, Tomas was expelled from school for supposedly breaking the arm of a fellow classmate. But in reality, Tomas had only tried to stop a bully from picking on an innocent brown-haired girl. It was only bad luck that the bully happened to slip on a candy bar wrapper and fall awkwardly on his right arm. But the curse of April-the-fourth made certain Tomas took the blame and, ultimately, the punishment.

So as Tomas sat up in bed on now the twelfth April-the-fourth of his life, he could not help but feel like something equally life-altering was in store for him.


  1. I like this. It's a simple and straightforward premise for Tomas and I'd read on to see how it pans out for him. 250 words might not be enough to establish what his gift/curse is, but hopefully you address it fairly soon. Nice job!

  2. I like this, too. It definitely makes you wonder what's going to happen to poor Tomas (and like he is, we're sure it's going to be life-altering!).

    A couple quibbles: You use the name "Tomas" A LOT! I would cut down on just about all of them, leaving literally one or two (one of them being in the opening sentence, of course, so we know who he is). We'll know it's Tomas with just the pronoun "he," since there are no other characters in the scene.

    Also, it's mentioned that his mom leaves him at age four, and then you go to age eight and talk about the bully who's arm he supposedly broke. However, this part's a tad confusing. At first I thought that not only was a four a bad number, but so are numbers that it's a factor of (like eight; hence, when Tomas turns eight he has more bad luck). This could be made clearer if you clarified how April 4th was the exact day that his mother left him, rather than saying that it was the "year" he turned four. Make sense? I hope I'm not being confusing, but the numbers tripped me up a bit.

  3. I liked this, too. You have a bit of backstory in there, but you don't dwell on it, and you move on quickly.

    The question I have is that if it is april 4th that brings bad luck, what's going to happen for the rest of the story? Does this all take place in one day? Does the disaster that happens 4/4 carry through the whole story? And if it does, why, if he only has bad luck on the fourth of April?

    You may want to make the number 4 the bad luck symbol, rather than his birthday, because you can work a four into every day, and his birthday can still be horrendous because of the double fours, You might also want to say what it is about the number 4 that makes it unlucky.

  4. I'm hooked. :) I like the voice of the narrator here. Your writing is very rhythmic,easy to read.

    I did think there was a fair amount of telling, though. If you can find a better way convey this information, your opening would be stronger. Best of luck with this. I'd love to find out what's going to happen to poor Tomas!

  5. I've heard agents say don't start with waking up- but this is one of those examples where breaking the rule works. I can't wait to find out what trouble is in store for poor Tomas-or to find out that for once his luck has changed!

  6. I agree with a lot of what's already been said. Using his name so much rather than 'he' or 'his' really pulled me out.

    One further suggestion on the backstory stuff, if a lot of small bad things are going to happen, can you sprinkle his bad-luck-history in between those going on in the present rather than dumping them all at the beginning? While his history of bad luck intrigues me, I'd rather be moving on through his day and connecting to the character than reading backstory.