Friday, December 2, 2011

#51 MG coming-of-age: Riding the Dam

TITLE: Riding the Dam
GENRE: MG Coming-of-age

In 1952, San Angelo is a boy’s paradise providing ten-year-old, Allan, with endless adventure. But when his mother becomes ill, Allan discovers it’s not adventure he longs for, but the gift of friendship.

It was a day like any other summer day in San Angelo—hot, dry, and full of possibilities. Today was the day Raymond and I were going to ride the dam. This was not just any dam, but the biggest dam in the world. If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest.

Raymond and I both had bicycles, but I had decided early on that it was a lot of work to pedal around looking for ways to spice up our days, so I convinced Raymond to let me ride on his handlebars while he did the pedaling. I told him that this arrangement allowed for easier conversation. This method was not without its risks. Some kids were known to get their toes cut off in the spokes of a bike riding like this, so I developed toes like an eagle's talons to wrap around the front axle.

It took us thirty minutes to get to the extreme end of the dam and there, we began our slow ascent to the highest point. It was straight uphill and Raymond was pedaling, almost standing straight up. This was going to be harder than we thought.

Raymond was trying to catch his breath and in rhythm with each down pedal, asked, “Why. Am I. The one. Always. Doing. The pedaling?”

We had had this discussion a million times so I said, “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes.” Raymond was deathly afraid of rattlesnakes.


  1. I love coming-of-age stories! Good job at showing us who Allan is by the things he says:

    "If it was in Texas, it had to be the biggest."

    "I told him that this arrangement allowed for easier conversation."

    “You know good and well, this way I can watch for rattlesnakes.”

    Love it. Good luck in the auction.

  2. Really cute! I worry, however, that even though your protag's voice is age-appropriate, his thoughts aren't. Also, the line about Texas could use some tweaking. Great way to end on the little rattlesnake comment. :)

  3. The logline doesn't really tell me anything about what happens in the book. It could be any number of other stories.

    I like the 250 though, even if Allan does sound older than I think you intend him to. I like the way he thinks.

  4. Sounds like a cute story. I'm with the other comments, his internal voice sounds much older than ten. "This arrangement, this method." The word "days" is also repeated quite a bit. That aside, I love the writing, the toes like an eagle's talons, and Raymond puffing to catch his breath. Fun stuff.

  5. Yes, he sounds a little old, although I think that's not uncommon in coming-of-age stories. Anyway, I really loved the image of him perched on the front of the bike, and poor Raymond pedaling as hard as he can!

  6. The first line sounds a little nostalgic and grown-up to me. Perhaps it's the use of "full of possibilities?" I think that's why we commenters are thinking the narrator is older than ten.

    What about just launching in with "Today was the day Raymond and I were going to ride the dam?"
    (And I'm intrigued about what riding the dam is going to entail!)

    Favorite line: "Raymond was trying to catch his breath and in rhythm with each down pedal, asked, “Why. Am I. The one. Always. Doing. The pedaling?"

    Gives us a great insight into the relationship between the boys, and their characters.

  7. Love the dynamic between Allan and Raymond.

    My only thought is that I hear over and over again that the first few sentences should be a microcosm of the entire work (including what's at stake for the kid, where the book is headed, etc).

    Without reading the log-line, we also don't know how old this kid is. And, like others have said, some of the narrative seems a little old for ten.

    I'll be interested to see what the auction brings!

  8. I critiqued you early on and am thrilled to see you made it in! Terrific sense of place, and the last two paragraphs bring it to life -- sounds like a great read!

  9. Logline: I agree that it's difficult to tell from this what the story is about or what is at stake. Where's the conflict, what does Allan have to do about it, what's going to get in his way, and what happens if he fails?

    Excerpt: I think the story starts with the fourth paragraph, at "Raymond was trying to catch his breath." Everything else is backstory that will either become unnecessary as the action moves along or could be explained later.

    There's some great humor in here, and the voice is quite distinctive.

    Best of luck!

  10. I actually think the voice doesn't seem too old, but reminiscent of the time period when the MS takes place, which is 1952. However, I agree to skip the 1st sentence and begin the MS with the 2nd sentence, 'Today was the day Raymond....' because it will grab your modern reader quicker and seems more immediate. Maybe you can work in the words 'summer' & 'San Angelo' later.

    This is tight. You have a lot packed in here. Good character development, and their relationship is hilarious, good voice and setting! Love 'eagle's talons' and last paragraph about rattlesnakes! I want to read more! I'm wondering when the problem of the MC comes in.

  11. This made me chuckle. Poor Raymond! I like the naughty narrator, so I'd probably read more.

  12. I really love that we get such a deep sense of Allan's character and his friendship just from your description of the pedaling arrangement.

    Allan's voice *does* sound very mature for an MG - words like "ascent" and phrases like "not without its risks" make me wonder whether this is reflective of the period you chose (I have no idea how kids talked in the 50s) or the character. I'd be curious to read more.

    So much luck to you!

  13. I really like the setting for this MG and liked Raymond immediately. I'm having a little trouble connecting with Allan because I can't quite tell who he is from the voice. It sounds older than Raymond's somehow. I don't think he'd say that about Texas, or that they needed to "spice" up their summer.

    The opening sentence could be more exciting, I think. I don't feel grabbed right away. I thought the end of it was lovely though. "Hot, dry, and full of possibilites." Maybe you could use it later, and start with the next sentence, or maybe use something like "Summer in San Angelo--hot, dry, and full of possibilities."

    How does one go about developing toes to wrap like eagle's talons? The line left me confused. Maybe you could just say the he wrapped his toes tightly around the axle like eagle's talons.

    I like the conversation between Raymond and Allan. Maybe you could trim down the opening paragraphs or even start with "Raymond was trying to catch his breath..." to get right to their banter. I think the charm in this book is going to come from their relationship.

    This sounds like it could be a really enjoyable story. Good luck!

  14. I don't normally read MG, but what I like about this excerpt is the sense of character. After only a page, I have a good sense of Allan and Raymond and their relationship (kind of a '50s Bart and Milhouse). I'm not a fan of your logline though. You did a good job of keeping it succinct, but it's too generic to capture my interest. 'boy's paradise' could be anything from a comic book store, to an abandoned construction site, to a beach with rolling waves. Same with 'endless adventure' - what this entails depends on the MC's definition of adventure. And 'the gift of friendship' doesn't mean anything in a plot context. Allan seems to have at least one friend, so why does he feel the need for this gift when his mother gets ill?

  15. I like the idea for this story—I think the title is an attention-grabber. For the logline, you might want to add how he finds the friendship he craves, or some detail about the story. I wonder if you might be able to start your story with action rather than “telling.” I like the voice. At first I thought this does not sound like a 10-yr-old. But I can picture a young boy, more the intellectual type. Good luck with this!!

  16. #51 RIDING THE DAM

    Logline: 1952. Why? What is significant about this historical setting, that your story must take place then? You must know that historical fiction faces commercial challenges, so I hope the benefits of this choice outweigh the risks.

    Line notes: I’m not sure I understand the physicality of the ascent of the dam. It takes 30 minutes to get to the end of the dam (from where?) and then the ascent to the highest point (presumably in the middle?) is straight up? How is that possible? I don’t necessarily want to see long descriptions of the dam, but I also don’t know that readers have preexisting knowledge to draw from here.
    I’m not totally enamored of the opening sentence – it’s too like the “It was a dark and stormy night” clichĂ© for my comfort. Set this apart with a very compelling opener!

    Overall: As I said above, historical fiction is very challenging in the market, and a novel needs to have something going for it beyond a generic coming-of-age theme – some historical event that has curriculum tie-ins, maybe? Or anniversary angle? Or significant current relevance? – to be something that has legs in the current marketplace. I’m sure there is a touching story at play here, from the second sentence of the logline, but can you offer any more hooks to entice readers?

    Best of success.