Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Two (MG Fiction) #2

TITLE: Stars, Cats and Candycorn
GENRE: MG Realistic Contemporary Fiction

I know change is supposed to be good for me. At least that’s what everyone says. But moving to a new house and a new school and a whole new time zone in one weekend seems like a lot of change for a kid—especially after everything we went through nine months ago.

“Hurry up, Claud, or I’m gonna take this stupid costume off!” my younger sister Lucy hollered from downstairs. Her voice echoed through the hallway.

“Be right there!”

I stuffed my blonde hair into one of Dad’s old hats, tucked a silk scarf into my collar, and picked up a magnifying glass in my gloved hand. So it wasn’t my best costume ever, but Dad wasn’t much help with stuff like this, or anything these days. Sherlock Holmes was going to have to do.

Lucy waited for me in the dining room with her arms crossed. She wore Dad’s old coat and derby hat and she had drawn a fake mustache above her lip with a black marker. “I can’t believe you’re making me wear this thing. I look like a complete dork,” she said.

“No you don’t,” I lied. But she didn’t look at all like Dr. Watson. She hadn’t tried to cover up her red curly hair or her freckles. Still, it didn’t matter. At least we were trying to pretend that this was just like any other Halloween.

“What took you so long? All the good candy’s going to be gone,” Lucy complained.

“I couldn’t get my stupid hair to stay in my hat,” I said.

Dad was in his robe and his face looked thin and pale behind his glasses as he scanned the newspaper. I wasn’t even sure if he had bought any candy to give out to the neighborhood kids. He looked up. “Creative costumes, girls. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would approve.”

“We did what we could,” I said, knowing that Dad was talking about the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I had read them all and some of them more than once.

“You want me to come with you?” he asked. “I don’t think you should be walking around by yourselves in the dark.”

“It’s Halloween, Dad,” Lucy pointed out. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

“Besides, we’d get laughed at if you came with us. We’re not little kids anymore,” I said.

He looked through me, as if his gaze reached far beyond where I stood. “Alright, but stick together, and take Bruce. He needs a walk.”

Within seconds Bruce, our golden retriever, had grabbed his leash and was perched in front of me, panting enthusiastically. He had brown eyes and soft, floppy ears, and he was named after Bruce Springsteen, Dad’s favorite singer. Now that Bruce was 11, like me, he had slowed down, since that’s 77 in dog years, but he still had the spirit of a puppy. Sometimes, though, he’d sit quietly and stare out the window. I wondered if he missed Mom as much as I did.


  1. For me the opening paragraph doesn't fit with the following material. Nothing following supports. It might fit better later on, when the girls walk out into the unfamiliar neighborhood.

    Otherwise, it is well structured. I know who, and when, though I don't yet know where(a new neighborhood somewhere). I have an idea of the story problem and it has been nicely set up.

    I'd read more just to see where Sherlock Holmes fits in.

  2. I am assuming this is a mystery due to the references to Sherlock Holmes. I love a good mystery. My one concern is the dad allowing the kids to roam the neighborhood by themselves especially since they are in a new community and so soon after losing his wife. If it was me I would cling to my kids, afraid I would lose them also. But that is an adults opinion and this is aimed at the MG reader who won't get clinging father. I am assuming that they need to be alone in the neighborhood to get to the mystery.

  3. I think the voice is spot on, as well as the sister's comments to each other, and the way you are showing the dad having a hard time with his wife's death. I do think since they just moved into the neighborhood that weekend that maybe they could be tagging along with the neighbors or something like that, just to make the dad sympathetic not careless. Love the Sherlock Holmes element.

  4. Claud is usually a boy's name, so it was confusing for a second when he/she talked about having blonde hair long enough to stuff and with the feminine E on the end of "blonde". (Blond hair and red hair is pretty trite anyway.)

    Not sure dad would let kids "roam" in a new neighborhood. Also, Dad's in a robe. I'd think one of the kids would say something about not wanting to be seen with a dad in his bathrobe.

    "...knowing that Dad was talking about the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories" is an info dump. Maybe: I'd read all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books, and some more than once.

    I like the title!!

  5. Well done! Your voice in the first paragraph pulled me right in: "I know change is supposed to be good for me."

    Yet, as the first commenter said, I wanted your opening to transition us. When you jump into the next paragraph -- with Lucy yelling at her brother -- I wanted you to stay with the theme of change, even if it's subtle.
    Show us something about the new home or new neighborhood, maybe it's something their Mom would've clucked her tongue at? Or, maybe show Claud waiting for Mom to answer the doorbell, until he remembers... she's not there?

    GREAT last line.

  6. I like the stakes that are established, specifically being new to a neighborhood, but I'm not sure I'm quite hooked. I like the sisters' dialogue, though at first, I thought Claud was a boy. I'm not too sure I buy the Dad not going with them since they just moved, so maybe there should be a bit more protesting or he should be a bit more reluctant. The first paragraph, though interesting, didn't seem to fit with the rest.

  7. This was cute. And now I'm thinking about candycorn!

    "knowing that Dad was talking about the author" definitely felt info-dumpish. It could be weaved in more organically, something like "the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories would probably bust a gut laughing rather than approve..." or something like that.
    I'd definitely want to read more of this.

  8. I like how you introduce the loss of the MC's Mom through the way the dog stares out the window. And I think you've done a great job establishing the world and circumstances the MC is in. You also do a great a job with descriptions--not too much, not too little. And within this excerpt, you've made me care for the MC. Great job.

    However, within the first sentence or two I paused reading because the voice sounded too adult. It's too intuitive and mature. I don't know many children that go around saying, "Change is good for me." I think a middle grade child wouldn't filter their emotions, but just put it all out there, whether it be through internal dialogue or their actions.

  9. I actually like the first line and first person POV, but I see that others disagree. What if you softened the line with something like: "Grown-ups tell me that change is a good thing." or some such. However, most kids really hate change, especially when they perceive too many changes at one time. So, I think an MG reader will identify and have sympathy for the main char.
    I too thought Claud was a male char at first. Now, I assume it's a nickname for maybe Claudia? Why not use Claudia or real name first and then later in MS go to nickname?

    Good setup...Dad not being helpful for a long time, 9 months, pretending to be like other Halloweens, the ld move...I know something bad has happened and suspect Mom is gone. Now the question is...did Mom die? or has there been a divorce?

    Comment about kids alone in the dark: the MC is 11, an age at which a lot of kids start babysitting, and she sounds very responsible. Also, depends on time the 50s-70s, kids were always out without a parent. But in the 80s and onward, parents have had to be more vigilant in our world. Maybe the dad should restrict them to their street? Dad could stand at the window to watch them from the house? or is Dad too depressed to even function at that level?
    At any rate, I would read on to find out the backstory of the last 9 months and how the MC moves forward. Good luck with the Ms. Patricia Nesbitt