Thursday, February 26, 2009

76 Drop the Needle: Chapter Endings

TITLE: Star Wishes
GENRE: Middle Grade Light Fantasy

Holly has found a golden box and been granted three wishes. She has used her first wish to find Brian, the town doctor's nine-year-old son. Her wish has been granted, and she has been shown where Brian is. She has walked through the blizzard to Murphy's Hollow and found him in a cave, at the bottom of a hole, with his boot stuck between two rocks. She has climbed down into the hole to try to free him. The water in the hole is rising rapidly...

"Wow!" She shivered as she reached him. "It really is cold. But we'll have you out of here in no time. Now, which one of your feet is stuck?"

"This one," Brian answered, indicating his right leg.

"Let's see if we can get it loose," Holly said. "I'm going to lift your leg, and I want you to try to lift it at the same time. Okay?"

Brian nodded, and his chin splashed in the water as he did. It was rising more quickly now.

Holly reached below the water and gripped Brian's leg. "Okay, pull," she said.

Even after several seconds of straining, nothing happened.

"This isn't working," Holly said. "I'm going to have to go down there and see if I can feel what's holding your foot."

The water had risen to Brian's lower lip when Holly took a deep breath and disappeared below the surface. It was too dark to see, so she had to feel her way along Brian's leg and downward toward his ankle. Before her hand reached his boot she felt the hard surface of the rock. She grabbed the edge of it and pulled. Nothing moved. Taking another grip, she pulled even harder. Again, the rock failed to yield to her efforts and remained stubbornly in place. She needed air.

When she surfaced, Brian's eyes were wide. The water level was just below his nose. Time was running out. She knew this would be her last chance — and Brian's.


  1. I really like this! I would be so impatient to get to the next chapter! I can't really pick out that many faults, because it's a MG novel so you'd need to use words they would understand. I would maybe describe his fear a little more, and also have her thought process come into play. What is she thinking when she finds him? What about when she can't tug the rock off him?
    Great premise, though. Love it!

  2. Well, I love this one, it's one of my favorites and I would be eager to get to the next page.

    The only thing I can suggest is to add some fear from Brian. Wouldn't he be panicking by now and shouting something? Maybe: "Hurry up, get me out of hear." Other then that, I loved it. Oh, I just thought, maybe he can't speak. If that's the case, disregard my comment.

  3. This is good! Definitely a cliff hanger!


    You've got one male and one female. The nice thing about this is that you can replace some of those "Hollys" and "Brians" with "she" and "he." It sounds more in POV because we don't think of everyone's full name every few seconds.

    You can also take out some of the he said/she said. You've got great action tags in the right places, so they're not needed. We know who's talking because you've got your paragraphing right.

    Another thing to watch for is "has," "have," and "was." They are definitely needed sometimes...but learn to check and see if there's a way to write the sentence without using them first. If you can do it, it'll often result in stronger, more vivid writing. For example:

    The water had risen to Brian's lower lip could be changed to Brian clamped his lips shut to keep out the water that tried to steal his breath.

    This sentence:
    It was rising more quickly now. There isn't a better way to write that if she's thinking that. That's how we thinking. However... if you can SHOW this through the scene... if the reader knows the water was lower moments before (this snippet isn't enough for us to tell right here), then all you have to do is let her notice that it's higher and have her thing, "Already! I've got to hurry!" and we'll know that it's rising even faster without you actually telling us... and it increases the feeling of urgency.

    I hope this helps! I definitely want to know if she gets him out!

  4. The end of this was really great, starting about the "The water had risen" part.

    Before that, there was a real lack of urgency in their dialogue. I mean, if the water's rising and he's stuck, I think there would be more panic in their voices. Maybe they'd be shouting above the sound of rushing water as it falls down the sides of the hole they're in... something to make it super urgent.

  5. I think you've got some good comments here from others, so I'll simply add that I really like this - alot!

    I don't see how she's going to be able to get him out of this mess in time. My palms were nearly sweating as I read that the water's nearly making it impossible for him to breathe.

    Hurry up and get them out of there!

    Good job!

  6. You've got a nice story, lots of tension, and some good comments, too!

    Since Holly's the POV character, I would have liked to read more about what she was feeling and thinking, her panic and determination, etc.

  7. I'd also like to see more thoughts and feelings here, though the tension is certainly good.

    I might be wrong about this, not being very familiar with middle grade fiction or the age group that reads it, but I think words like "wow" and "out of here in no time" are a little outdated—unless this isn't a present-era story. Also, "out of here in no time" is a little clichĂ©.

    There's also a bit of time discontinuity with "the water had risen … when Holly took a deep breath". There's something with the tenses and the "when" that's throwing off my sense of time. Breaking it into two sentences might work: "By then, the water had risen to Brian's lower lip. Holly took a deep breath…".

    Good hook at the end. I'd keep reading.

  8. Uhm...

    I like the idea that someone wouldn't (necessarily) use wishes for personal gain, as from your description it doesn't seem that way, so I think it would be interesting to learn more about Holly's character and especially her not-so-apparent flaws.


    Unlike the other readers, I did not find this tense enough. Where I my descriptors of freezing water? It's clear by the last line "She knew this would be her last chance" that you're writing in third person omniscient, but I don't really get any indication of the cold, as one reader said, the panic, the fear, the darkness.

    So here we go... (and I understand some of the comments might not apply depending on your description earlier)

    Even in the middle of summer, caves are freezing. Unless the golden box has given her powers to ignore the needs of her body, she'd be cold. The water would be friggin' cold. Moving in freezing cold water can be difficult to impossible depending on one's constitution. And I don't buy that it's not cold--not if she's walked through a blizzard to get to him.

    But Brian would be cold, hands down. Teeth chattering--barely able to speak. Depending on how long he's been there, his voice might be gone from the cold. He definitely wouldn't be any help in moving. And Holly would be having a bad time of moving around in water-logged winter clothes.

    Second, caves are dark. Are they just inside the cave? But even then, light only reaches the first 20 or so feet, depending. Without any source of light, they wouldn't be able to see each other--just depending on sound. And even if there is a source of light, you'd get a sense of shadows and the black walls of the caves beyond.

    Third, whatever description you use with #2, make it short and sweet.

    Fourth, I do not get a sense of the urgency to act. I think if you add in several sentences of their panic and nix the passive voice where you can, this would be solved a bit more.

    Fifth, good sentence variation.

    Those are my thoughts. Hope they help.

  9. Great pacing and tension! Good sentence structure and word choice for an MG. I’d read on!

  10. I agree with most of the above. Well done! I'd turn the page

  11. I liked this. I would continue reading.

    I agree with the above about the anxiety Brian might be feeling. Maybe show him feeling scared about his situation earlier.

  12. Great tension. One thing is that there were wording issues, or spots where I felt you could have been more direct. Like:

    Which one of your feet is stuck? - Which foot's stuck?

    to Brian's lower lip -> to Brian's mouth/chin.

    so she had to feel her way along Brian's leg and downward toward his ankle. -> so she had to feel her way down his leg to his ankle.

  13. This is a very tense situation, but it's told like it's a walk in the park. I understand the girl wanting to calm the boy, and not show panic, but as a reader, I want to feel her panic. She has to hurry, her heart is racing, it's freezing cold and her fingers are stiff, Brian is turning blue, etc.

    And I imagine she uses her wish to free him, so that takes out some of the tension.

    I would read on, though, so good job!

  14. Given the emergency status of the scene, I find Holly's sentences a little complete. But maybe that is how she is: calm. In that case...there was great tension in this scene. Nece

  15. I like the tension and conflict here, but I WAS wondering about the water... and how the heck she's managing to not freeze herself and stay so focused and calm. :P Maybe it was explained earlier, but if not, I find myself a little too skeptical to buy into it completely so that sort of distanced me. However, I'd flip the page to see if she manages to get him unstuck, or uses a second wish to free him, etc.

    Good luck,


  16. First of all, thanks so much to Authoress for sponsoring these great opportunites to get wonderful feedback as we all work to improve our craft.

    Secondly, thanks to all those who offered such helpful suggestions, comments, and encouragement for this writer.

    I have taken your suggestions to heart and attempted to incorporate some of them. Here is a revised version if anyone would like to read and comment on it.

    Thanks again.

    “This isn’t working,” she said. Her body jerked involuntarily from the cold, sending out ripples in the frigid liquid surrounding them.

    The water had risen to Brian’s lower lip, and he was straining to keep his head up.

    “I have to go down there and see if I can feel what’s holding your foot.”

    “Just hurry!” Brian yelled, as the water found the corner of his mouth and rushed in. He coughed and spit, trying to hold his head higher. “I can’t swim.”

    Holly took a deep breath and disappeared below the surface. It was too dark to see, so she had to feel her way along Brian’s leg and down toward his ankle.

    Before her hand reached his boot she felt the hard surface of the rock. She grabbed the edge of it and pulled.

    Nothing moved.

    She pulled again. Still nothing happened. She heard Brian’s voice from above, but it was clouded and muffled by the water that separated them.

    She let go of the rock and took another grip. Hurry! her mind told her. Pull harder! she thought.

    Again, the rock failed to yield to her efforts and remained stubbornly in place.

    Her heart was racing. She needed air—just a quick breath—but there wasn’t time. She had to get Brian loose before the water rose too high.

    She kept straining, pulling as hard as she could, but there was no change. Suddenly her lungs were empty. She couldn’t hold her breath a second longer.

    When she surfaced, she saw the fear in Brian’s wide eyes. The water level was just below his nose now. Time was running out. The water was rising higher as each second ticked by. She knew this would be her last chance—and Brian’s.