Saturday, December 4, 2010

#41 Contemporary: One Up (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

GENRE: Contemporary

For seventh grader Jace Evers, basketball and a friendly rivalry of "one-ups" with a teammate are welcome diversions from his deteriorating home life... at first. But when the rivalry escalates into malicious pranks, Jace must choose between going along with the one-ups to keep his only friend, or stopping a prank that would endanger an elderly gentleman's life.

If Jace pulled the hood far enough over his eyes and hunched his shoulders just right, he could walk down the crowded hallway without seeing anyone.

Just inside the locker room door he stopped. Brushed the hood off his head. Then took a deep breath. Sneakers, new basketballs, sweat. Jace felt better already. At his locker he traded his tattered sweatshirt for shorts and a t-shirt, and headed to the gym.

Coach blew his whistle with the force of a cargo ship horn. Everyone gathered around him. "Gentlemen," he boomed, "to make the traveling squad you will have to work hard, work together, and do it until it hurts. Now run! Twenty warm-up laps!"

Other players groaned. But Jace smiled. He'd played for Coach the year before, and had predicted that exact speech. Jace was grateful for it. And to be at try-outs instead of on his way home.

He jogged alone in the middle of the pack until he heard a steady flap, flap, flap behind him. Then a new teammate fell into step beside him.

"Name's Owen," the kid said, pushing his shaggy, sandy brown hair out of his eyes. "You gonna make the traveling squad?"

He reminded Jace of an English sheep dog. A big one.

"Hope so," Jace answered between breaths, knowing that as a seventh grader he'd have to beat out a few eighth graders to do it.

"Me too, Owen answered. "Wanna make a bet on it?"


  1. Overall Ithought it was good. Jace seems happy go lucky, maybe. I almost want a glimpse of the conflict.

    Well done.

  2. In the log line, I was looking for a connection between his home life and the prank on the old man. I don't know if you really need it, but I was wondering about the connection.

    I didn't get any sense of tension or conflict here, but I'd be willing to wait a bit more because it is done well.

    The rest is nitpicky stuff.

    Parg. 1. maybe add a line about why he doesn't want to see anyone.

    Parg 2. Maybe make the first three sentences one sentence. It read choppy with all the starting and stopping.

    Parg 3. He'd played for coach - last year. That will make it his pov instead of the narrator's. and maybe 'expected' rather than 'predicted' because he didn't predict anything. First two sentences could be one.

    Parg 4. alone in the middle of the pack seems contradictory. Maybe cut 'alone.'

  3. The logline is a little long and rambling. I would consider cutting it down the central conflict without extraneous wording or detail.

    Like the commenters above, I'd like to get a better indication of the conflict right from the start. Right now, there's nothing to make this first page stand out.

    The staccato rhythm you have going in the second paragraph is good. But it really calls attention to the narrative and nothing particularly interesting is going on there. The kid's just changing his clothes.

    Consider beginning in a more climactic place.

  4. I like the voice, but didn't feel a conflict. I realize it's only the first 250 words, but I'd like to feel a little more tension. Good luck.

  5. I like this a lot, but I agree with much of what others have said. Maybe the tension is more about why your mc doesn't want to see anyone (which struck me as odd, because usually you don't want anyone to see YOU) rather than how much he likes basketball and running. I like the hint you've thrown in about him being glad not to be on his way home, but maybe it's a bit too subtle. Maybe he needs to actually think something like, "Jogging laps sure beats___(the thing that would be happening to him at home, otherwise.) I love how you end end the page with the start of their one-upsmanship. Sounds like a good read. Best of luck!

  6. You did a great job of discribing the action at the gym, but I felt like the first paragraph wasn't quite long enough to show me why he felt more comfortable at the gym.

    I too wondered why he didn't want to see anyone. And I suspect the reason is what would make Jace feel unique to me and make me want to read on.

  7. The logline is fine although I agree that the old man comes out of nowhere.

    Great first line although it sounds like something he's only thinking about doing until he removes the hood in the next paragraph.

    Otherwise, this is very good.I don't think you need to increase the conflict this early. The point of the beginning is to show us the main character BEFORE, flaws and all, and you've definitely started that.

  8. I really like how he doesn't want to see anyone. What is he hiding? This is a nice twist on the usual.

    I felt the conflict just fine. You allude that it will be mostly internal - outside of the basketball games - and that the main character arc is based on personal choices. Again, I like this.

    Good introduction to our two main characters and how they will interact. Love the sheep dog.

  9. I thought the log-line was great. I got hung up on the meaning of "one-ups" but the rest of the description got me to understand well enough. The "deteriorating home life" phrase was key to proving this novel will be about more than just a kid and pranks.

    I think your 250 words were great as well, I disagree with the opinions looking for more conflict. The beginning is about exposition, IMO, and his drive to be on the team is compelling enough. You do a great job in so few words of already characterizing Jace for us.

  10. The sheep dog line was great- made me smile. I liked the whole piece and would read on, but agree with the other comments that I'd like to see a little more tension up front. I think that could easily be done with a mention of precisely why he doesn't want to be home or have people see him.

  11. I think you nailed MG, but it's listed as contemp. I'll write to what I see (MG).

    You set the stage, developed the character with very believable dialogue and interior monologue. I really like the sly way you mentioned Jace's height (twice)--trying to be inconspicuos with the hoodie, (no tall guy is inconspicious in a hood)and the really big sheepdog part.

    Knowing your logline, which is fine BTW, helped me realize the hook at the end "Wanna make a bet on it?" Here's a bad boy leading Jace down the wrong path. Bravo. I can see in your writing a mastery of nuance, and a respect for the MG literature (like Pinochio) and a creative spirit.

    I have no problem with you being specific about their worst proposed prank (the elderly gentleman), it helps me visualize, it steps away from abstraction, which is good.

  12. Very readable - the voice seemed completely appropriate for MG. As for the logline - because the old man kind of comes out of nowhere, I didn't get any deep "or what?" sense from his Jace's decision.

    Nice job painting "Coach" and "Owen", and doing so very quickly. I'd read on.

  13. Logline:

    Line comments:
    -How are you alone when you're in the middle of the pack?
    -How is he a teammate when they're at tryout?
    -You imply Jace is a loner...but why?

    I'm not sure if I'm sold on this one. It's well written, but the story implies that Jace will continually be mean to others until an old man's life is at risk--and then contemplates whether or not to save him. This isn't the kind of person I want to spend time with, so I'm not tempted to read about him.

  14. I really enjoyed your piece. There were enough hints about the family situation, his "aloneness", the one-upmanship to provide mystery and intrigue and the certainty of conflict coming. I was in no way put off. Your writing is excellent. I too loved the sheep dog description.

    The only thing that surprised me was that the boys were 7th graders. The voice sounded a bit older to me. I had pictured them as high school freshmen age, probably because they seemed pretty intense about it all.

    I thought the log line was just fine. I really like the idea of the book. Good job

  15. Psst. I'll take 5 pages.

  16. I thought the logline was good, had an intriguing hook, but could be tightened some.

    As for the excerpt, I thought you established some interest about the character right away with his act of pulling his hood up to avoid seeing people. I wanted to know why... and that would prompt me to read further. Good use of showing rather than telling.

    However, you said in the first sentence that he walked down the hallway, and then in the next he's suddenly inside the locker room. My mind was still picturing the hallway, and you didn't take us through the doorway leading to the locker room (which is usually through the gymnasium). Thus it was jarring for me.

    You had him trading a shirt for shorts and a shirt. (One thing for two things.) What about the pants he'd been wearing? This isn't a huge thing. Of course, I knew what you were saying. But jerky writing like this and the sudden appearance in the locker room affect the reader's immediate impression.

    I didn't care for the comparison of the coach's whistle to a cargo ship horn. They're different sounds and one is much louder than the other. Go for a comparison that is shrill and piercing.

    Watch out that you don't overuse exclamation points. I don't think you need the second one in Coach's dialogue.

    If the boys are there for tryouts (one word, BTW), why would they groan about taking laps? I can see them doing this in gym class, but they're at tryouts by choice because they want to be athletes. I think they'd be more eager to please the coach. However, I did like that you mentioned Jace would rather be there then on his way home. More hints into the character.

    How can he job alone when he's in a pack? Also, there would be lots of flap-flap-flapping if there were a bunch of boys trying out that day. The boy who catches up with him wouldn't be a new teammate yet, since this is just tryouts.

    Shaggy, sandy brown hair... try not to stack adjectives. I think you could do without the word "shaggy," because it's implied if he has to push his hair out of his eyes. Also, your comparison to a sheepdog (one word) says shaggy as well.

    You can replace some "said attributes" with action beats to get rid of some wordiness around your dialogue. For example:

    "Name's Owen." The kid pushed his sandy hair out of his eyes.

    Overall, I'm slightly intrigued by the hints that Jace has some emotional problems, but the tryout scene doesn't come off as conflict. I'd be willing to read a little further, but I'd want to see something really compelling about your character to make me care about him.

    Hope this helps!

  17. I like everything from the paragraph that starts with the Coach, but prior to that, I think your rhythm's hit or miss.

    Specifically, in the first line, I'd drop "crowded". It causes a slight stutter in the flow. Likewise, there's an unnatural twitch with the sentence fragments in the second paragraph, that for me, were more distracting than engaging.

    After that, though, you nailed the MG voice pretty well, even if it does skew towards the sound of an "adult writing MG" rather than "MG kid" telling a story.


  19. By "contemporary" I'm assuming you mean either MG or YA, not adult, right? Seventh grade is a murky area for placing in either MG or YA, but from the voice, I'd call it young YA. But you'll want to pin it down.

    Voice is pretty good--just a few rocky points. I like the immediate establishment of character that opens up questions like why basketball makes him feel so good. I'm hooked.