Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May Secret Agent #14

TITLE: BLACK FEATHER BOY
GENRE: MG Fantasy

The old man, dressed from head to toe in purple, stood in front of the hat store window and Cornelius Mathers couldn’t help but stare. With only one road in and one road out of Knolls Hollow, it wasn’t too often that a stranger made it past the prying eyes of the locals.

Cornelius, forgetting all his manners, inspected the stranger’s long purple robe and tall pointed hat, the crest of which crumpled to the side in defeat.

Cornelius pulled his gym bag tighter and glanced uncomfortably over his shoulder at the empty street. Except for the odd car that could be heard in the distance, the sleepy town was silent.

The man, short and bent over, stared into the darkened window. His long nose almost touched his chin that seemed to curl up at the end and heavy wrinkles snaked along the old man’s cheeks. Cornelius had thought that it was impossible to have more lines on your face than Mrs Pratt who lived down the street.

Cornelius forced himself to look away, wondering how one old man could make him so nervous. A styrofoam cup rolled in front of him and he jumped in surprise, before laughing awkwardly at his own skittishness.

The boy heard his father’s loud footsteps as he approached the corner and feeling suddenly brave, dared to look back at the stranger one last time.

Right then the old man raised a trembling hand and with a quick snap of his fingers, disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.


10 comments:

  1. There is a lot of description with not much action at the beginning. Is there a way to pick up the pace?

    Like the phrasing about the crest crumpling in defeat.

    Several paragraphs start with "Cornelius." Maybe change that up.

    Not sure you need to describe the town as "sleepy" after saying there was one road.

    Maybe delete "heavy wrinkles . . ." since the next line conveys it better when he compares the man's wrinkles to Mrs. Pratt's.

    "Glanced uncomfortably," "jumped in surprise," and "laughing awkwardly" seem like too many adverbs. You already imply those words with your sentences.

    "The boy heard his father's loud footsteps . . ." Tighten this - wasn't sure who was approaching the corner.

    Could he disappear in something more inventive than black smoke? Like a swirling mini tornado?

    Is this after school, during the week? Are any other people on the street, or is the lack of people strange? Was the hat store not open? Could he see a sign on the door turned to "closed?" I want to get a sense of why the boy is on the street alone.

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  2. Very descriptive, yet I can't visualize Cornelius' position in relation to the old man. Is he also in front of the hat store? You mention a corner much later, but that only adds to the confusion. I want more action, some sort of interplay between the boy and the old man, in particular, to keep me interested. Maybe have the old man acknowledge Cornelius just before he disappears?

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  3. I love this description of the old man, and what a great leave for the end of page one. I did want more of a picture of Cornelius, though. I think you could do that with a few little details here and now. Right now we see that he's got a backpack; does he maybe compare the old man's clothes to the shorts he's wearing? Or run his hand through his curly hair? It doesn't have to be too much, but I wanted a bit more of a picture of our MC. I enjoyed this, though, and would read on.

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  4. Jacqueline YeagerMay 14, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    I like this opening. The tone is great and I like your descriptions. They pull me into the story. I have a very good sense of place too even with very few details. I can feel the MC's discomfort at the arrival of this stranger. Nicely done!

    I don't think you need the sentence with the Styrofoam cup. I think having him be startled at the sound of his dad's voice would create the effect you're going for.

    Good luck with this. I would read more!

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  5. This does a good job of setting up a mysterious scene in a place where it seems like nothing ever happens. The man is described well, but a few more details about the boy, why he's in the street by himself, why no one else is around, etc., would help us picture the situation a little better.

    I like to copy-edit, so take or leave the following suggestions.

    You might condense and reorder the first sentence: "Cornelius Mathers couldn't help but stare at the old man who stood in front of the hat store window." (You mention purple in the second paragraph so no need to mention it here.)

    I'd put the third paragraph at the end of the 5th one, so the paragraphs about Cornelius are together and the descriptions of the man are together.

    It's not clear whether "as he approached the corner" refers to the father or to Cornelius in the next to last paragraph.

    In the last paragraph, trembling hand and quick snap don't seem to go together. Could he use some other signal for disappearing? I agree with the suggestion that the old man acknowledge Cornelius in some way before he disappears. That would foreshadow a relationship to come.

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  6. I'm intrigued by the old man and Knolls Hollow as a setting.

    My eye is immediately drawn the repetition of 'Cornelius…' - this starts off three of your paragraphs.

    I was itching to see some kind of interaction between Cornelius and the old man. When he disappeared so quickly it felt a little unsatisfying.

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  7. An interesting start, but it felt overwritten. For example - "With only one road in and one road out of Knolls Hollow, it wasn't too often that a stranger made it past the prying eyes of the locals". I think it would be stronger just to state: It wasn't too often a stranger came to Knolls Hollow - or something like that. We don't really need to know that there's only one road in and one road out - it's enough for now to know that strangers are unusual.

    This sentence - "His long nose almost touched his chin that seemed to curl up at the end and heavy wrinkles snaked along the old man's cheek" is quite awkward.

    Also, at the very end, it very subtly switches viewpoints, which was jarring. Up until the fifth paragraph, we're sort of seeing things through Cornelius's eyes - but then in the sixth paragraph, it starts with "The boy heard his father's loud footsteps". This distances us from the MC rather abruptly.

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  8. I was pulled out of the story twice. The first time in parg 3 when you mention the gym bag. Up until then, I imagined I was in a wizard's world rather than the real world. The second time was when you mentioned Cornelius on the corner. I had imagined him as inside the store looking out, but that was careless reading on my part, because you do say he was on the street.

    I liked what you're trying to convey here, but I do think some rewriting could make it stronger.

    Perhaps start with Cornelius rather than the old man since he's your MC. Cornelius watched the old man etc. You could cut the one road sentence.

    You might put the old man's hat in the first parg with his description.

    Every time Cornelius looks at the man, he describes him. Perhaps add a thought or two about what he thinks of him, and why he makes C. nervous. And allow them to make eye contact before the old man disappears so there's a connection to them.

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  9. An interesting opening, filled with mystery. Not only am I curious about the old man, but I'm curious about Cornelius's strange, small, quiet town that seems so hostile to strangers.

    A few language-level thoughts:

    The line "made it past the prying eyes" threw me. Do you mean it was rare strangers managed to get past the prying eyes, or that it wasn't often a stranger came to town at all?

    If Cornelius inspects "the stranger's long purple robe" in paragraph two, we don't need "dressed from head to toe in purple" in paragraph one.

    The second line of 'graph four is a bit of a run-on. Maybe break it up into shorter phrases? Begin a new sentence with "Heavy wrinkles snaked..." ?

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  10. An interesting opening, filled with mystery. Not only am I curious about the old man, but I'm curious about Cornelius's strange, small, quiet town that seems so hostile to strangers.

    A few language-level thoughts:

    The line "made it past the prying eyes" threw me. Do you mean it was rare strangers managed to get past the prying eyes, or that it wasn't often a stranger came to town at all?

    If Cornelius inspects "the stranger's long purple robe" in paragraph two, we don't need "dressed from head to toe in purple" in paragraph one.

    The second line of 'graph four is a bit of a run-on. Maybe break it up into shorter phrases? Begin a new sentence with "Heavy wrinkles snaked..." ?

    ReplyDelete