Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Name That Genre: Critique Round #2

TITLE: The Mountain and the Fountain
GENRE: MG Fantasy

The Shanofen’s wings rose and fell in rhythm with a song playing in his head. Higher and higher he flew. Turning, he plunged back toward the Great Pond, far below. The warm summer air rushed by the bird’s body, pressing his colorful feathers toward the sky while he clutched his wings to his sides. Just as his beak was about to plunge into the waters of the Great Pond, the Shanofen spread his wings to soar up and out over the land. Below him, in the hamlet of Halliwell, villagers and visitors opened shop doors, arranged garlands of flowers and ribbons, and raised tents which would be filled with delightful things. The festive celebration was about to begin. Halliwell’s Fountain gushed with great enthusiasm at one end of the town Square. The Shanofen’s heart smiled, for he loved the village. He turned his gaze to the mountains, the fertile valleys and the thick, lush forests of Wiland as they caught the golden morning sun. The bird joined other Shanofens and birds of many sorts who flew in circles around the Mountain, being careful not to fly through the Light rising from the Mountain’s peak. Riding the breeze back toward the village, he drifted down to the cottages there, landing in one of his favorite windows.

“Wake up! Wake up! It’s Float Day!” sang the Shanofen, bobbing his bright green head. Josephine opened her sleepy eyes, pick up a small book and from her nightstand and threw it at the bird, barely missing it. The Shanofen laughed and flew away.

“Dumb bird,” Josephine grumbled as she rolled to press her face into the soft center of her pillow. Her eyes fluttered open. It was Float Day. There were only two Float Days each year, one at the first of summer and another at the end.

23 comments:

  1. I liked the poetic aspect of this piece. The bird intrigued me as it seems to be taken from mythology. It makes me want to learn more about this culture, where this land is located and what the bird will do.
    But the fact that your POV shifted abruptly and the beautiful bird is relegated to be a "dumb bird" sort of dissipated the magic that was in the air.

    Still, I would read more. Good luck.


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    1. Thank you so much, Sussu, for taking the time to offer your comments!

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  2. The first paragraph is a doozie. A lot of information in one paragraph and not a lot of white space on the page. I really didn't get into the story until the second paragraph and I think it might be where you should start. The first paragraph didn't read as middle grade to me but the second paragraph had a middle grade vibe.

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  3. I liked the bird's description but wanted to know the color sooner. Is Light supposed to be capitalized for some reason? Usually it isn't. Also, pick should be picked. Instead of starting with the bird, maybe start with the girl because it didn't have a MG voice until she came in. The poetic aspect is nice. Good luck!

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    1. Kathleen - Yes, the Light is capitalized for a reason which comes into play later in the story. I will changed pick to picked - good catch. Thank you so much for the advice!

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  4. The opening narrative was lyrical and nicely written, but it was a long time to spend with a character who isn't the protagonist or being observed by the protagonist. I understand the temptation to do (literally) a bird's-eye-view of the bigger world and then funnel down to a single event or character, but I think you can do it a bit more briefly without losing anything. I'd rather get to Josephine and her conflict. While I have a vague impression of the world, now, I don't have any impression of a story.

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  5. "filled with delightful things" - it seems so generic, when your description has been more detailed up to that point. I think the reader might like to know what the delightful things were - it would help us picture the festival scene.

    "the fountain gushed" makes me picture Moses striking a stone with water pouring out. A fountain usually shoots up high. Gushed evokes a faucet.

    Although this genre is not what I would normally read, I think you have a good start. It reminds me a bit of Ted Dekker and his creatures.

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  6. S.D.King - You caught the one bit I wish I had changed before submitting the piece! Yes, 'filled with delightful things' will be changed. The comparison with Ted Dekker is nice, as this book has a Christian element to it, too. Thank you for the comments!

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  7. I agree with those above that the opening has a lyrical quality, but (sorry!) it didn't feel Middle Grade to me. But (again) maybe that's a good thing -- pushing category boundaries and all. That said, if the Shanofen featured in the opening paragraph isn't a main character, I think putting the focus on Josephine sooner is important.

    There were a couple sentences which seemed a tad long for MG. You might want to trim back 'Below him ....delightful things.' and also 'The bird joined other Shanofens...peaks.'

    Best wishes!

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  8. Thanks so much for your thoughts and suggestions, Peggy. This venue has been very helpful!

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  9. I agree with Rick, that the second paragraph is a better place to start. That being said, I liked what you had in the first one; it's a lovely scene. Maybe you could break it up some and slide the pieces in after your new beginning.
    "The Shanofen laughed and flew away. Higher and higher he flew. The warm air brushed.." etc. Not all at once, but a little bit at a time, let us see those things.
    Best,
    Chelle

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    1. Some great thoughts, Chelle, thank you!

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  10. Just a note...I am reworking the beginning of this story. I greatly appreciate all of your input and know it will help! God bless you all!!!

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  11. In the last round I got the impression that the Shanofen was some sort of god, but now I see it is just a colorful bird, one among many. In fact, it appears to be the pet or friend of the protagonist. Which makes me think that this is all just a way to pan the camera around before getting down to the business of telling the girl's story. I would suggest jumping directly to her story, unless the bird is of equal importance to the tale.

    How exactly does light rise from a mountain's peak?

    Thank you for sharing!

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    1. The Light rising from the Mountain is a big part of the story. It is a religious element. The Shanofen appears a few times in the story and eventually dies trying to help others in the village. I am writing it both ways - the way I have it and the way it has been suggested here - to take to my critique group who know the whole story. Thank you so much for taking the time to help with your ideas!!!

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  12. I agree with those recommending you start with the 2nd paragraph. This seems like a fun MG premise and I'd be interested in more. - Sandy

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  13. This is done in an omniscient POV (the bird's and Josephine's}. Nothing wrong with that except that MG is usually one POV, (or at least one at a time) which would mean using first person or close third. So that may be something you want to consider.

    My thought would be to start with Josephine, rather than the bird if she's your MC. You could still describe the village, but do it through her eyes when she goes out, rather than the bird's. I do think using the bird as you have to give us a look at the village would work great on film, or even in a YA or adult novel, but not MG because of the POV issue. And without that really big first parg., you'd be able to work in more about Josephine and her problem/goal on your first page. If she's the person the reader will be following, you want the reader to like and accept her as soon as possible.

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  14. The advice given here is all so good. I've let it marinate - as suggested by Miss Snark - and then I've used it. The story now starts with Josephine's first vision (where her village is attacked) and then goes into her day. I'll introduce the Shanofen later in the story when it, as a lesser character, impacts the story. Thank you so very much! My critique group really likes the change!!!

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  15. The advice given here is all so good. I've let it marinate - as suggested by Miss Snark - and then I've used it. The story now starts with Josephine's first vision (where her village is attacked) and then goes into her day. I'll introduce the Shanofen later in the story when it, as a lesser character, impacts the story. Thank you so very much! My critique group really likes the change!!!

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