Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #12

TITLE: Wishes to Nowhere
GENRE: Magical Realism

Birthday parties made her nervous. Itchy. She didn’t mind the screaming kids, puddles of melted ice cream or even the clowns who twisted dogs out of skinny, colored balloons. It was the birthday candles and subsequent wishes that did it.

Wishes tended to complicate life for Olive McCallie.

Too bad that excuse didn’t fly with four year olds. So there she sat, sideways in a plastic booth, next to a pile of discarded plates and crumpled, pizza-sauced napkins. Lip prints and finger smears coated a barrage of disposable cups. One lay on its side leaking orange soda from the straw hole. It crept across the table toward her, millimeter by millimeter. She couldn’t find a clean napkin to mop it up with so she let it continue its slow attack.

The party room smelled of pepperoni and dirty diapers. She could just make out the melody of some teeny-bopper song over the clanging, whooping, and beeping of the games from the arcade on the other side of the door.

“Ol-lee!” her best friend’s daughter yelled from across the room. “Cake! Cake! Cake!” Violet waved her twiggy arm, beckoning Olive over.

Olive scooted out of the booth but stayed a safe distance from the birthday girl and her unicorn-shaped cake with four candles protruding from its back. The ice cream cone horn was slathered in white icing and silver sprinkles. “I’m not hungry,” she called. She avoided looking at her best friend, Maybe Foster, who was no doubt rolling her eyes at Olive’s wariness.


  1. I really like the premise of this, and you have painted a vivid scene. My one note would be that the third paragraph has a lot of "it" and "its"--maybe there's a way to avoid that? Otherwise, really good. I would read on.

  2. Definitely good. I feel like I'm at that birthday party. There are a few too many sentences in which inanimate objects are the subject of the verb ("Lipstick coated") but this is really great. I'd read on too.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this piece it was very descriptive and gave a great visual of being at the party. I would definitely read on.

  4. Strong opening; I'm ready to read more!

    I enjoyed the imagery you used (e.g., birthday parties making her itchy), and you've really immersed the reader in the scene.

    You've also set up an intriguing question of exactly how wishes complicate Olive's life. With a four-year-old as an irresistible catalyst, I'm just waiting for the s*** to hit the fan. I want to know more!

  5. Nice descriptions here, and I am really liking magical realism lately.

    Personally, I think this is your opening line:
    "Wishes tended to complicate life for Olive McCallie."

    It's punchy, you name the character, and then explaining the birthday party gives context to the nameless "she," and the follow up with the candles seems like a good reflection of the wishes line.

    I like the slow attack of the cup, but maybe the millimeter line can be cut since it's redundant, and you want to keep the pace moving. The rest of the birthday imagery is great. I think adding in another line about wishes and showing her being nervous about the impending wishes will solidify genre (assuming the magic realism angle has to do with the wishes). It doesn't have to be overkill, but connecting these visuals to your character and what she's feeling right now will make this more engaging.

  6. I can understand nervous, but itchy?

    “Wishes tended to complicate life for Olive McCallie.”

    That was the most hooky line. I’d almost start there.

    I’m not sure why she left the leaking soda alone. Surely the used napkins aren’t that full that they couldn’t be put into use. But I also wonder if it’s important enough to go into that level of detail on it.

    “It crept across the table toward her, millimeter by millimeter. She couldn’t find a clean napkin to mop it up with so she let it continue its slow attack.”

    You could snip both sentences and not lose anything in the story but save over 10% of your word count.

    In the first 250 words, the reader has three characters introduced: Olive, Violet and Foster. Do we want to introduce them that quickly?

  7. We are all getting nitpicky about your opening because it's really good. For magic realism genre, I like how you set up the realistic scene before hinting at the magic. So I disagree. I think the "wishes complicate" sentence works because it is not the opening line.

    the "millimeter by millimeter" scene works, in my opinion, because it gives insight into Olive's character. She pays attention to little things like dripping soda, and tries to find a way to clean it up, but gives up quickly when she can't. Almost like half-heartedly trying to stop the inevitable birthday wish. If this was not your intent, then I agree - take that out.

    The part I had a nitpick about was the smell. I love that you include it, but I wanted a stronger verb then smell. "Stank", "permeated", something like that.

    Is the best friend's name Maybe? That's awesome.

  8. The descriptive details are very vivid, and you have me intrigued with her being nervous about birthday wishes. I would read on.

  9. I would definitely read on. The imagery was great. Loved the orange soda line, " so she let it continue its slow attack." I thought the premise was intriguing. I could see, smell, and hear the room, but at the same time it was so good that I forgot about Olive for a moment.

  10. I'd read more. Love the premise - and want to know why wishes make your MC "itchy." Some of the language feels stilted - like "subsequent" -"following" would do. I'm not sure how someone sits "sideways" in a plastic booth. I think the smell of dirty diapers is a over the top. That kind of detail would be a give-away for a poorly run daycare. ven if there were a bunch of babies/toddlers at the party it would be odd to smell dirty diapers, plural. These kids are eating pizza and a "teeny-bopper song" is playing - not Sesame Street. And the kids seem familiar with birthday party traditions - all these say the kids are older - not in diapers.

    Love the "twiggy" arms - the story has great promise!

  11. There are a lot of vivid details here that bring the scene to life. I can so see and hear this place. But I wonder if it's maybe the wrong type of description because it just describes the place and doesn't do anything to enhance the problem.

    For instance, she's wary of wishes. That's the hook here. So perhaps, rather than give us all this great description of a booth where she's not even staying, start a bit later with the child calling her over, or maybe she might already be there as they're lighting the candles, and then give us a great description of that scene, which could also include descriptions of her nervous or fearful feelings about the candles and coming birthday wish.

    As is, I'm in Chucky Cheese with a woman who doesn't want to be there. Starting a bit later, and describing her fears, nervousness, whatever it is, will set an entirely different tone more suitable to magical realism, and bring your hook more to the forefront.