Thursday, February 26, 2009

70 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: The Prophecy Murals
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

Nick and Ally and their two friends are lost (in another world) and are trying to find their way home. In this scene they are (were) enjoying a giant flower garden.

The air began to vibrate with a low dull hum. “See, what did I tell you?” said Ally sharply. She scoured the sky, trying to figure out where it was coming from but the flowers blocked her view.

The sound droned on, increasing in intensity. They took cover, waiting for it to go away, but instead it got closer.

“Oh my god, do you think it’s a swarm of bees?” shrieked Megan. “Because I’m allergic to bee stings!”

“Well, it’s a freaking huge swarm if it is,” said Nick.

A shadow flickered by, and then another until they were drowned in the shadow of the swarm. Nick looked up to see a flock of unusual birds flying overhead, their bodies striped with an assortment of alternating colors.

When they passed, Jake and Nick clasped their hands together and hefted Ally above the flowers.

“Tell us what you see,” said Nick.

“Ooh, they look cool!” said Ally. “Sort of like huge colorful dragonflies but with gigantic stingers.”

Jake scowled. “You always think every dang thing looks cool Ally!”

“Never mind what they look like,” said Nick, adjusting his hands under Ally’s weight. “Tell us what they’re doing!”

“Well…they’re flying. There’s probably twenty or so. Oh…they’re turning. Ooh, they have big eyes just like the white monster.”

Nick elbowed Ally’ leg. “Stay focused!”

“Oh, um…they’re going off to the left.” Ally shifted slightly, raising her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. “OH, CRUD!”

“WHAT?” screeched Nick and Jake at the same time.

“They’re coming back…HIDE!”


  1. Definitely a hook to make me turn the page. Good job. But I admit I'm confused with whatever it is in the sky. At one point you call them bees, then you call them birds, then dragonfies, with big monster eyes. I'm having trouble picture them.

    I was also confused as to why Nick and Jake couldn't see the flying creatures, but after reading it a second time, I think I see they are pushing Ally up through the flowers to see, right? Might make that a little clearer.

    Good job.

  2. Nice writing. There's a missing s on Ally' near the end.

    This is definitely a page-turning ending. You should have the kids' hearts pounding. A nice quick pace too, which is appropriate to the age.

  3. Hi Writer #70,

    Intriguing title; makes me wonder what the book is about.

    The description and action are nicely done.

    For middle-grade, I'm not sure if "Oh, my God" and "freaking" are appropriate.

    I found a couple of punctuation errors, but no biggies.

    Good tension to keep readers turning the pages.

    Nice job!

  4. Pretty good!

    A few ideas, for what they're worth...

    She scoured the sky, trying to figure out where it was coming from but the flowers blocked her view.

    "Scoured" is a GREAT verb to use here. :-) The rest of the sentence, though, is very telling instead of showing. How about replacing it with thoughts like, "Where in the world was it coming from? Wasn't there some spot around here that wasn't completely overshadowed by flowers?"

    I don't know if that fits your scenario or your voice, but see how that's what she might be thinking while she's doing what you say she's doing? If you give us the thoughts, we'll not only understand what she's doing through inference, but we'll also be pulled more inside her head and, therefore, the scene.

    The "Shadow flickered by" paragraph has shadow twice. I'd try to reword that.

    I'd also try to either delete some of the "____ said"s or reword them. There just seems to be too many.

    Hope this helps!

  5. I would absolutely turn the page on this one. I love the sentence, "You always think every dang thing looks cool, Ally!" Sounds very real to me.

    Good job - but heed the advice given by earlier posters.

  6. Great place to end the chapter! I agree with an earlier suggestion, though, that you need to better describe the bird/bee things. I couldn't picture them and I really, really want to.

  7. Good voice and characterizations for an MG novel. Though, I did have problems trying to visualize how Nick was able to hoist Ally and elbow her leg simultaneously, as I think her weight would require his arms to stay straight and locked.

  8. I loved this. I could picture the boys hoisting Ally up above the flowers for a better view.

    The sound makes them think of bees. Where Nick is standing from he sees them as unusual birds. But they are not. And now they have turned and are heading back? Run kids! Hide.

    All that was going through my mind.

    Good Job. I want to know more.

  9. The ending is great. Lots of tension. Maybe take a look at getting rid of some of the 'said' though, as well as the 'said Ally sharply'. How about an action that conveys her sharp tone instead?

  10. I also questioned all the filler language, especially since it's "bad" (oh my god, freaking). I know you want the language of kids, but middle-grade doesn't equal middle-school, since kids read up, and I don't think a 9yo would be saying "freaking".

    That said, great voice, tension - I was confused what was actually in the sky too and how you can elbow someone you're holding up in the air.

    My only suggestion for ending the chapter is, honestly, cut the last word!

  11. Thanks so much everyone for the comments - I got some really good stuff to think about here.

    Also, just want to let everyone know these guys are 13/14 years old. So maybe I should have put upper middle grade - or maybe its YA? But I didn't think it was YA.

    Thanks again everyone - your comments are much appreciated!!

  12. Hi-

    I like the ending! Would definitely read on. Nice work!

    A comment on the language- I don't really see a problem with "freaking" and "oh my god" in a middle grade novel. As an elementary school teacher, I've noticed this type of language is very common. I'm not sure how the industry feels about it, but it's authentic.

    Thanks for the fun read!

  13. A simple re-write of one sentence to show you what I perceived as a problem: Nick looked up as a shadow flickered by. Bird shaped objects soared through the air but the colors and patterns were orange and green stripes, blue, purple and red, as if they were miniature flags with beaks and wings.

    good luck.