Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Two (MG Fiction) #15

TITLE: To Fill My Pot With Gold
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Mortimer sat down in his easy chair for the last time. His life was like the smoke from the flames that disappeared up the chimney. His eyes ran across the fireplace mantle. He followed the curves of grain in the oak and the details in the intricate carvings. The fireplace and easy chair were two of the things about the cottage that he first fell in love with. Never again would he be able to curl up in this chair in front of the fire with his poetry while the rain fell outside.

Despite the flames, he felt cold when he looked down into small bag to see the few possessions that Sebastian would allow him to take. The bag was small, but there wasn’t much in there. His notebook was there, as well as a few quills and a small pot of ink. He wanted to make sure he could write his poetry when the mood struck, even though he didn't expect it would strike any time soon.

His empty pot was in the bag as well. No one would object to him taking that, Sebastian had taken the gold from it decades ago. He shook his head as he looked at it. A leprechaun with an empty pot was an embarrassment. There was still plenty of empty space.

He stood and walked out of the parlor and put his hand on the maple molding that went around the entry frame to the parlor and felt its warmth. In the kitchen he caressed his pots and pans. He saw the breakfast dishes sitting and the sink and shrugged.

“Sebastian can take care of those. He’s taking everything, he may as well get those too, I swept the porch for him last night.”

Mortimer walked out of the kitchen. A wavy ghost looked back at him as he looked at the highly polished cherry floor in the hallway.

“Mortimer Purcell Brennan, you are a total and complete failure. You had all this, and couldn’t even keep it. Maybe Sebastian is—”

Pounding at the door interrupted his monologue. “Come on, Brennan.” A voice shouted from outside. “It's time to be out. I've a sale to be on with.”

Sebastian. He was like a parasite feeding on others’ misery. Mortimer had planned on being out before he arrived, but he overslept, and then the fiasco with his shoes. He spent an hour the last night polishing his black shoes. This morning, the right shoe was missing. Mortimer had torn the bedroom apart looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found. To make it worse, the left shoe of his brown pair was missing. What a sight he must look. Surely Sebastian was trying to make him look that much worse.

Mortimer attempted to straighten his old red jacket and rumpled dusty blue trousers, but they wouldn't straighten.

With his faded yellow shirt and decades out of style green cap he did his best to look dignified, but suspected that it came off as more silly.


  1. This is an interesting setup. Sad, and makes the reader root for Mortimer. The one line in quotes kind of threw me a little, because there's no one there for him to be speaking to, and the line could just as well be more internal monologue. But I like it.

  2. I love the line about a leprechaun without gold, but maybe you should introduce that he's a leprechaun earlier? A reader might not care about the chair or the cottage but will probably care about a displaced leprechaun. Also, for MG, take a look at some of your words and phrases. The second line about his life being like smoke wasn't very clear. If in the first few pages you could get more to the action of him leaving and describe later on, you might get the reader more interested in continuing the story.

  3. I enjoyed your writing, but did find it a bit hard to get grounded (probably something back cover copy would solve). Because it's MG I was trying hard to push the mc into a child role, which of course didn't work. Then I was waiting for how an old man would transition to a young mc. Knowing he was a leprechaun sooner would have made all the difference.
    There are a few opportunities to tighten (unneeded "that", "down", make some verbs stronger) but once I got the leprechaun, my visual of the scene was very clear and I definitely felt sorry for Mortimer. Love his mismatched shoes!

  4. I think it's a very interesting concept. But I wonder if you started too early. For middle grade, I don't think they would be as interested in the furniture descriptions as much as they would in what's happening at that moment. I would suggest perhaps beginning with Sebastian banging on the door and then introduce Mortimer and let us know more about him at that point. Does that make sense? I agree with the above comments regarding the monologue...I had to reread in order to understand that it was meant to be internal. I hope this helps! Good luck!

  5. Like others have mentioned, I'm not sure MG readers will care about the description of the fireplace, nor do I feel the opening sounds MG. However, I sympathized with Mortimer.

    The smoke and chimney line felt clunky and a little confusing. But I think you meant to inform us he saw the life he knew slipping away from him. Maybe rephrase.

    I felt there should be another word between "into" and "small" in the second paragraph. Then you mentioned "small" again in the second sentence of same paragraph. Maybe use a synonym in one of the sentences.

    I think you could lose the sentence about him sweeping the porch the night before. I think it makes the previous sentence lose some impact.

    You give good descriptions though! And I especially love the line "A wavy ghost looked back at him..."

  6. The first paragraph hooks me in terms of mood, and who doesn't like a cozy fireplace? But how the narrator feels like the smoke threw me off. I wasn't sure what he/she meant. Make that connection a little more clear and it would lend to the mood.

  7. What a great idea to create a story from a Leprechaun's point of view. I think kids will enjoy your premise.

    I do agree with KarenHarter that you should start your story with the banging on the door. It's the point when Mortimer's life is going to change forever. Everything before is setting description for a setting where the rest of the story won't take place. Perhaps he can reminisce about the house later, especially if he winds up somewhere not as comfortable.

    Although lovely descriptions, I also agree with alcaraway that your MG reader is not going to be interested in things like pots and pans (unless someone is using them as drums) or an easy chair (unless someone is using the footrest as a catapult) or molding (unless it's been carved with notches to show how tall someone's grown).

    Just a couple little notes: only dialogue that is spoken gets put in quotes. Is Mortimer speaking his words aloud to the empty room? If not, you'll need to get rid of the quotation marks. Also, careful with description that is physically impossible. Eyes cannot run. Describe his gaze instead? A person's gaze can go places and do things; eyeballs are sorta stuck in place. Unless this is a magical phenomenon unique to your Mortimer?

    Overall, I think you've got the beginnings of something interesting here. I am sympathetic for your character and want to know more about him. Hope this was helpful, good luck to you.

  8. What if you started with Mortimer looking for his missing shoes? Then Sebastian knocks and Mortimer has to settle for one black and one brown. This would give the first page more energy to draw in younger readers. As it is now, it's a bit slow and sad. That might work for a different audience, but I think middle graders would rather get on with the story and learn about the back story in little bits as they go forward. A backward glance and a quick thought as he opens the door would be enough to let the reader know that he's leaving his home for good.

  9. Loved the idea of a leprechaun about to be homeless - like those famous images of people out on the street as the bailiffs take everything.
    Bringing in the reference to Mortimer being a leprechaun earlier would give a clearer mind image of him - esp when he's under pressure by the banging on the door and having trouble with his shoes.
    Also agree, you don't need the sweeping the porch the night before - the previous sentence is already strong. (Unless you deliberately want the sense that, even under pressure, Mortimer is still 'houseproud'.)
    Good promise of story - I'd read on.

  10. I must say, you have interesting way with words. After a few paragraphs I started to get a little bored with the descriptions and wanted to begin to learn what your characters are like. Are they leprechauns? The whole thing seems kind of sad to me with the rain and the fact that he is losing what he loves most. Are they in Ireland? It is raining a lot.

    Your title is awesome.

  11. A poignant story about a man being kicked out of his beloved house, but it reads more like adult fiction. Kids aren't going to care about intricate carvings, maple molding, or pots and pans. But the fact that he's a leprechaun? That'll hook 'em.

    I like Abbe Hoggan's idea of starting with the missing shoes. Have him a little more annoyed and upset with and suspicious of Sebastian.

    In the first paragraph: His life wasn't like smoke yet, but it was ABOUT TO BECOME like smoke from the flames...

    You already said small bag. Could delete: The bag was small, but there wasn’t much in there.

    Also could delete: No one would object to him taking that...

    You could continue the pot explanation: He put his empty pot in the bag. Sebastian had taken the gold from it decades ago. A leprechaun with an empty pot was an embarrassment, but a leprechaun with no pot was downright scandalous.

    I'm wondering how there could still be plenty of empty space in a small bag if it already has a notebook, quills, ink, and a pot in it?

    I get a sort of Hobbit vibe from this. Bilbo didn't want to leave his comfortable home, either.

  12. Revision suggestions:
    Par one: use more specific verbs and edit down the simile for clarity.
    At end of par one, I was intrigued and wanted to keep reading:)
    Bring in the fact that the MC is a leprechaun sooner.
    Highlight pronouns to show you how much you are using "he". When you bring in second char, need to use nouns for clarity.

    Fix echoes: looked and looked in par 6 and straighten, straighten in next to last par.

    I like the world you are creating and would keep reading. Good luck with this ms. Patricia Nesbitt

  13. I like poetry-a lot of boys do-and this may seem Artsy-Fartsy-phobic, but I think Mortimer's focus on furniture and poetry in the first paragraph would turn off a large number of male readers who would expect Mortimer to be their age.

    I assume you flash back to the past after this intro. I suggest starting there and skipping this prolog.

  14. I'm with everyone else here - LOVE the leprechaun premise.
    And I definitely think you need to start with the mismatched shoes and the knock on the door. Your atmospheric writing of the room is lovely but I think it speaks more to an older mind. Readers this age appreciate nice writing but they don't talk or think that way, so I think there's a fine line between being able to appeal to their ability to grow as readers and writers and also capturing their imagination.
    Maybe put his internal rant in italics? And introduce it as such?
    Good luck!