Friday, November 29, 2013

(54) MG Contemporary : SAY MY NAME

TITLE: Say My Name
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Not being able to say his own name was 12-year-old Rory’s biggest problem, until his former friend Brent’s brain injury forces them together in the close quarters of the speech therapy room. Now Rory must deal with Brent’s unpredictable behaviors and struggle to forgive hurtful memories, or be forced to find out which is worse: being the target of bullying, or becoming one himself.

I can’t tell you my first name. It’s not that I don’t want you to know who I am. It’s just that, literally, I can’t tell you. All my life I’ve been wishing I had a nice short name with a sharp, hard sound to start it off, like Cam, or Tim. But that’s not what I got. My name is full of R’s. That’s the problem right there. R is not one of my sounds. I have more sounds now than I used to, but R is still not one of them. Figures.

My least favorite thing is meeting new people. Everybody asks, What’s your name? Then it’s all, What? What did you say? Can you repeat that? But it doesn’t matter if I repeat it, because it always comes out the same way. Wrong. Introducing myself is supreme torture and guaranteed embarrassment. Which is why I’m lying here awake, dreading the first day of sixth grade tomorrow.

Sure, there’ll be people from my old school, but we’ll be all mixed in with the four other elementary schools in town. And I know some of those kids will ask me my name. Because that’s what normal kids do.

I wish I could be normal, too. Then I could be more like my friends, who are all excited about going to a new school with fresh teachers to annoy and a whole different level of freedom. Not me. Thinking about what’s coming my way mostly makes me feel sick.

29 comments:

  1. I like this idea and the start is good, but I wonder if there is a way you can make it more immediate. Actually have him meet someone new and live through the struggle. You could then go on to explain in the characters voice as you do so well.

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  2. Your writing is good and the scene flows well. However, I couldn't quite get a handle on Rory because of the interiority of the scene. Does he consider himself abnormal because he can't make the 'r' sound (which admittedly would be torture if your name is almost all 'r's) or is there something more going on here (c.f. Melody in Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind)? Starting the story with an incident, or with Rory replaying an incident in his head, might create a stronger connection for me.

    Best of luck!

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  3. I like the voice here and we certainly get a sense of who the MC is right away. But I keep hearing to drop the MC right into the action and that would be the first day of middle school. (Unless something important happens before that we don't know about yet.) If you start in the action then you can show a lot of this instead of telling.

    Also, the only thing we know about Rory from the first 250 is that he is worried about not being able to pronounce his name, but I'm sure he is much more than that. Maybe slip (or show) something more about him in combination with this main trait.

    I do like the writing/voice. Good luck!

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  4. I like this! The only suggestion I would make is having the MC attempting to say his name in the first few paragraphs, so that we get a better feel for his struggle. Good luck!

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  5. I really like your pitch, but all through the opening I couldn't connect with your MC because of one simple thing: he can't say his name, so why doesn't he go by a nickname? That would fix everything he's worried about here, and when there's such an easy fix for something a character's so worried over, I feel like they're going to spend a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves (which is not my favorite thing to read). It sounds like a great story, and I'm intrigued by your MC, I just think I'd start it in a different place as others have mentioned.

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  6. I agree with some of the above comments on making the conflict more immediate - putting him in the situation of having to introduce himself. I would imagine there is a reason he doesn't go by a nickname, and it's probably addressed soon - that will help us understand the situation better. I'd also love to know a few additional tidbits about the MC besides his speech problem, just to round him out a bit from the start. Overall I enjoy the voice and the premise, so good luck to you!

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  7. If I ask myself what happened here, the answer is nothing. Your MC is explaining the situation, so the story has yet to begin.

    Perhaps start with a scene in which he has to meet new people, since that is what he hates. You have an instant problem. He tries to say his name and can't and the reader immediately empathizes with him. In other words, show us everything that you're telling us in parg 2.

    Good luck!

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  8. I like the content of this opening, especially the opening line, but I think you coud push the conflict up closer to the beginning (i.e., that his inability to say his own name is going to cuase problems when he goes to his new school tomorrow).

    Also, I think his actual name should be mentioned. He can't say it, but this is narration and there are plenty of other 'r's in here. It feels like holding off for no particular reason.

    Best of luck with it!

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  9. I'm hooked! Now I need to know what this poor kid's name is and it pulled me the whole way through. I'm wondering when the reveal comes though. I hope it's not for a few chapters at least. What a great card to have in your back pocket to keep your reader hooked!

    One pick on the log line: mention the speech therapy room before you introduce Brent (it grounds the reader better to show how the two end up together).

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  10. I love this! I happen to not agree with the thought of dropping the reader into the action in certain circumstances. In the kind of story you're writing about the kind of character you're introducing, I really enjoy getting to know him inside his head. My preference is getting to know about his problem this way rather than being dropped into a scene where he's trying to say his name. This way I'll be worrying for and about him on the first day of school as he runs into new people.
    I'm very intrigued based on your logline - would definitely read on.

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  11. I'm engaged by the character's voice and intrigued by the story concept. The writing is top quality--but I couldn't help wondering why his family sets him up for ridicule. As soon as he wishes for a different name, I think, why not? Maybe that's fleshed out in the next few words. 250 is a difficult limitation. Good luck with the story!

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  12. Great start--I can appreciate some of the other comments about showing us and putting us in the action vs. telling us, but this also seems like a book where we'll be in Rory's head quite a bit, and I'm fine with that. There was one sentence where the word choice didn't feel like something a 12-year-old boy would say: "Introducing myself is supreme torture and guaranteed embarrassment." Good luck!

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  13. I love this. It totally works for me. It encompasses the anxiety over entering middle school and the added stress of actually being different and not just "different," if you know what I mean. Love the last line of the pitch about being a target or being a bully. I think you hit middle grade contemporary on the nose.

    If I must offer critique, I'd like a little more specifics in the pitch about the "struggle to forgive hurtful memories" bit, but I think you did well with the space you had.

    I just love this and want to read it now!

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  14. I love this premise, and I'm especially hooked by the promise that we might view bullying from both sides.

    I see other people are suggesting to start with more action. I went back and read the first chapter of Wonder (some thematic parallels) and Augie begins with the story of his birth, allowing for some telling and some showing at the same time. It allows for seeing some action but being a little removed from it at the same time.

    I feel for Rory already. Even if you don't choose to put him in-scene immediately, I think more details of a specific moment he had to say his name could make his speech impediment feel more immediate.

    I would definitely keep reading! Good luck!

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  15. I can totally see a middle grade reader getting into this story. Here's a character bearing his soul about a difficult issue and I found it authentic and quite believable in the way it's presented. You create tension by foreshadowing an event that's sure to be torture: the first day of school and the first time he asked his name. Wow. We know it's coming and our eyes eagerly devour the page as we wait. I like how you build up to it. It really works for me. I wouldn't change a thing.

    This is a real issue for kids. I remember what it was like to be in speech therapy when I was in the 2nd and 3rd grades, so I can totally relate. It's much more than trying to learn how to talk right. It's about communicating and socializing and a dozen other aspects that shape a young child's life.

    Good luck!

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  16. This sounds like a very interesting premise for a story - I like that it isn't just about Rory's troubles, but also Brent's and how they relate.

    The first page is well written, and I especially like the first para. But imo, that first para is enough explanation - I want him to move onto action now. I was disappointed when he said he was just lying there awake, I wanted the story to move on. I also think you should tell us his name, I don't really see a reason not to.

    I'd read on, but I'd hope the story picked up pace asap. Good luck!

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  17. I like Rory, though it seems to go on a little too long in his head. It is all a straight up explanation of the premise instead of just starting the story.

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  18. Be still my heart. The first paragraphs really grabbed my sympathy strings and pulled hard. I think this is a really good beginning and a good hook.

    But - and I'm not an expert on this by any means - the voice doesn't feel MG to me at all. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I started to think so in the last sentence of your second para, and the entire third para. It seemed to get back on track in the last. Possibly because he's spending so much time in his head, and it's sounding a little more introspective than your typical twelve-year-old boy. Maybe if you focused less on his thoughts and more of his actions? Like, have him roll over, punch his pillow, kick the blankets off of himself - SHOW his anxiety and nervousesness and dread rather than have him dwell on it.

    Best of luck! This is really strong and I hope you do well with it.

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  19. I almost wanted this story to start off on the first day of school with Rory saying 'My name is Jeff' out loud to a stranger and then immediately going into the interior monologue showing the reader 'well, it's not...but that's what I call myself because...' or something to that effect.

    I was in speech therapy throughout elementary school because of 'r' sounds and now, at 46 every single time someone asks me what I do I have two choices: 'author' or 'writer' (neither one of which I feel 100% confident of saying clearly 100% of the time. I'm reminded, therefore, constantly of those years of speech, of the trouble I have with 'r' sounds. Thankfully, unlike Rory, my own name can lose the 'r' without changing it (Peter to Pete, plus it's an end 'r' which is easier). So I immediately related to this character on an intense, personal level.

    Show us his struggles, make us weep and weak with his humiliation and embarrassment as teachers and students fail to understand him, as he's forced to speak in front of the class. And then the tension between his being bullied and bullying will shine so much more.

    Great concept here, some beautiful writing, just too much telling and too little immediate action in this excerpt. Best of luck, I'm very much looking forward to seeing more of this.

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  20. 25 pages please!

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  21. Pam and I are having it out! 75 pages!

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  22. NOOOOOO!!!!!

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  23. Caryn just pulled this on me too.

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  24. BIDDING IS CLOSED.

    THE FULL GOES TO PAM VAN HYCKLAMA VLIEG!

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  25. Hi there!

    I think this is a great premise for a MG novel—I really am intrigued on your logline/pitch alone.

    My primary concern mirrors what several folks have already mentioned: I would love to see the reader dropped into Rory’s first day of sixth grade at his new school. I think your opening paragraph is strong (I love the first line “I can’t tell you my first name.”)—but I would love to see Rory immersed in the action/fear of his first day of school from that point onward. Rudy’s internal exposition is informative and interesting, but I really would prefer to be shown his hesitation, fear and dread through his actions and responses, rather than being told.

    I like that your MG features two strong male protagonists and addresses bullying from both the bullied and bully’s vantage points—and that Rory and Brent’s roles switch at some point to give us a 360 view of just how easy it is to slip into the bully role. It sounds like a lot of emotional things go down in the speech therapy room. I can’t help but wonder who helps Brett and Rory find a better understanding of each other. Is it a teacher or counselor? Or do they learn more about each other through observing secondary characters in the room? Or, perhaps they are the only ones in speech therapy at the moment (which would be a stretch)? Regardless, make sure that you really examine your characters thoroughly and know why they act the way they do. When you understand them on an intimate level, that depth of knowledge will immediately come across in your writing to the reader. Right now, it feels like you have a surface level understanding of Rory—which is why you are explaining his thoughts to us so thoroughly—but focus on using action and softer nuances to help the reader to get to know Rory personally.

    Keep working on this—you have something here! I would love to see the full manuscript at some point.

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