Wednesday, January 28, 2015

First Five Sentences #20

GENRE: Middle Grade

Ever since Osceola saved Calvin’s life before the boy could speak, their bond was beyond words. Calvin, standing still in the woods at the top of a ravine, raised his hand for Osceola to stay. Osceola’s floppy ears perked up as he twitched his nose and tilted his head. Something slow shuffled through leaves and snapped twigs at their camp by the creek below.

​ Twelve-year-old Calvin scaled scrap wood steps nailed into a Red Maple tree flush with spring seeds, their flat red wings dangling by his eyes like butterflies.


  1. My first thought is that this feels like fantasy. Maybe it's the names or the language. I also think Osceloa is a person at first. The second paragraph is more helpful for grounding me in the setting. I'd cut it after "red maple tree".

  2. Interesting that Osceola is some sort of animal. I'm not sure your opening sentence works, or is even necessary. Showing us their relationship would probably work better in this instance. The last sentence could also use some editing--it was hard to read at first.

    I'm not really sure, but it seems like this is a Jungle Book kind of thing, where Calvin lives in the woods and is being raised by Osceola. If that is the case, I wondered how they knew each other's names if they met before Calvin could speak. If that is not the case, then I don't really have a strong sense of place or what is going on. With the floppy ears description, I'm super curious about what kind of animal Osceola is. I'm thinking rabbit? Anyway, I love stories with animals, so good luck to you!

  3. I got the immediate sense Osceola is a dog, but after reading the other comments, I see I may be incorrect. The fifth sentence seems abrupt, but probably because you had to stop there. I love boy-and-his-dog stories, and I am already drawn to their special relationship.

  4. The first sentence reads a bit like the first sentence of a query, to me. I don't think you need it, because I have the feeling that reading a few paragraphs beyond this will show us their bond. Maybe try starting with the second sentence.

    The last sentence was also a sticking point for me. I think there are too many adjectives, making it a little wordy.

    Good luck!

  5. To be honest, it's hard for me to tell what genre this is. A major reason is because you describe what I believe is a dog (after re-reading) without outright revealing/saying that it's a dog. That's one of the reasons I don't feel grounded in the setting and story at the moment.

    I don't think you need the first sentence (as others have said, too). It feels a little stuck in there with the narrative right after, and it'd be stronger to show that Osceola and Calvin have that relationship rather than tell the reader outright. Tweaking that and showing a bit more should make this a strong opener, though, IMO. Good luck with it!

  6. Sorry, way too much description in this first five for my liking. I wouldn't make it through the first page. I'd also rather you showed me their bond, rather than told me.

  7. I like that I knew Osceola was a dog, without you telling me "Osceola the faithful dog." At first, I pictured an older boy/man rescuing a little boy, but the "floppy ears" and "twitching his nose" gave your intent away. Good job.

  8. I thought it was a rabbit, but then re-read it and thought dog. I thought it was awkward and hard to read, especially with the name of the animal thrown in. Maybe simplify at this point? I know it's hard, but I changed the name of my MC after several people commented on stumbling over it etc... It was just easier. I was just trying to justify being unique to myself. I know as a mom when I read books with my kids, and we're just getting into chapter books, it drives me bonkers when I have to stumble over a name and my kids start to question it and wonder if it is a name. Good luck with your project! :)