TITLE: NOWHERE BIRDS
GENRE: MG Multicultural Contemporary
Tripping down the side of the steep ravine, I dodge chickens and skinny dogs as I make my way to the busiest intersection in Guatemala City. When the streetlight turns red, I leap out in front of a red sedan with my bucket and my rag and begin to wipe the front windshield. I ignore the driver as he waves an angry hand. I keep wiping. I will clean his window so well that he will pay me a few coins before driving on to his big, gated house with a hired girl who scrubs his floors.
I am still leaning across the hood of the car when the light turns green. The angry man honks and jolts the car forward just an inch, just enough to send me sprawling backwards, directly into the muddy water collecting in the gutters. He speeds away and I push myself up onto the curb, my only skirt soaked through. Across the street, Vicente waves a scrap of paper at me. A whole quetzal, someone gave him.
Why did I not choose that side of the street? I could have. I was here first. I am always here first.
When the light turns red again, I don’t get up. Nita and Deysi have already jumped into the intersection to begin their routine of juggling and dancing. There’s no competing with that.
But I could do that if I wanted. I could work up a routine so dazzling that every single car on the street would shower me in quetzals.
You're painting a picture of another culture for children, and you do a pretty good job with it. It's important, however, to remember that the picture you paint will be the picture they believe. If your character is one dimensional, kids will believe that the culture you're describing breeds one dimensional people. It's sad, but it is true, and that's the challenge in writing from another culture. I am sure there's a lot to go forth with for your character (I don't know his name), but right now it seems a little like Slumdog Millionaire set in Guatemala. Distinguish yourself, give me something about this character besides his poverty that will make me want to read more.ReplyDelete
Yes, I want to read more. Everything here works for me. The chickens and skinny dogs, Vicente getting the quetzal even though she clearly believes herself more deserving, second guessing herself...ReplyDelete
I want to know what dazzling routine she's holding back on. I'd keep reading for sure.
I have to respectfully disagree with some of the previous comment. The author is telling the story of one child here, and I don't think middle grade readers are going to assume that everybody in Guatemala is having the same experience as this character (that said, this is a very realistic situation for certain kids who live in slum areas of Guatemala, and the character is not a stereotype or exaggeration--and it's not a bad thing for readers to believe that this character could exist).ReplyDelete
And I don't think the character is one-dimensional at all. She's doing a not-ideal job with feisty persistence and a competitive spirit. She's not feeling sorry for herself here.
The line at the end shows me a sparkle to her. "I could work up a routine so dazzling that every single car on the street would shower me in quetzals." This character has a deep self-confidence in herself that makes me want to root for her.
I want to know what happens to this girl~ consider me hooked.
Sorry, I meant that I partially disagreed with the first comment (not the "previous" comment). Just wanted to clarify :)ReplyDelete
I would suggest you name the character faster in the story. Right now I still don't know who I is.ReplyDelete
I love it! I have watched the kids at the border as they dance around the cars hoping someone will be kind and give them a dollar. I always wondered, do they get to keep that dollar or do they hand it over to an adult? Excellent description!ReplyDelete
I like the character's spunky confidence. She has a little bit of attitude that I like. For all I know she's actually obnoxiously overconfident and a know-it-all (I hope not lol) but based on this little snippet, it comes off as perseverance, which endears me to her. I'd keep reading to learn more about her.ReplyDelete
Er... would that be "endears her to me" instead? I don't know haha.ReplyDelete
You do a nice job painting the scene. Is it possible to lose at least one "I" in the first paragraph to make it flow a bit more smoothly? Nice, solid writing.ReplyDelete
Nice detail and clear voice. Well done. I'm ready to read more!ReplyDelete
The last line just about broke my heart. I love the way you conveyed her spirit without letting her feel sorry for herself. I'm pulling for this little girl!ReplyDelete
Great voice. Great details. I would definitely keep reading.ReplyDelete
This is fantastic. I'm curious about the age of the protagonist. In fact, everything about this story makes me want to read more. It's got the potential to be heartbreaking. Good luck!ReplyDelete
Overall, I think that this is a great start with some terrific details that help establish the world you're writing about! There are a couple details that gave me pause, though.ReplyDelete
Like the first commenter, I thought that the MC was a boy until you mention the skirt. I wonder if the skirt can make an appearance in the first sentence, when she's rushing down the hill? Also, she says that she's always the first one at the intersection, but it seems like she has just arrived, and she and Vicente have each done one car seemingly at the same time, so that confused me.
I also agree with the commenter who said that you could lose a few "I"s from the first paragraph, especially in the section where "I" starts three sentences in a row. Maybe something like "The drive waves an angry hand, but I keep wiping. I will clean..." would work better?
Also, "his big, gated house with a hired girl who scrubs his floors" read awkwardly to me, I think because the "his" doesn't refer to the house. I'd suggest "where a hired girl scrubs his floors" or "with a hired girl who scrubs its floors."
Some nitpicks, but I'd definitely turn the page to find out more about this character and where her life is going!
There's so much I like here...but I feel like this still needs work. For exaple, I really like the imagery of the "chickens and skinny dogs," but I can't fit the ravine and the animals with the abrupt arrival at "the busiest intersection in Guatemala City. I could imagine it better if it were just "the big intersection" or if she had to push through crowded streets to reach the intersection. On the other hand, I suspect the intersection is a good place to begin your story. Maybe save the ravine with the chickens and skinny dogs for later in the story?ReplyDelete
Other things that I think still need work: a "streetlight" is something that provides light: I'd change it to "when the signal turns red." There's another transition I have trouble processing -- the statement, "There's no competing with that" followed by "But I could do that if I wanted." I love that the character either believes she could dazzle or is ready to bluff that, so I'd keep that but and delete the "there's no competing with that" sentence.
I agree with Sully--it felt rushed at first. For me as an adult with some background knowledge of Guatemala and third-world slums, it made sense, but for an MG reader to picture the setting, I think we need more details. The character and situation are compelling enough to hold our interest if you spend a little more time setting up the place.ReplyDelete
I love this passage. Really raw and really realistic. It's sad and makes me think twice about all the people who have tried to clean my car window in the past. If I can be brought into my own personal memories in just a few paragraphs, you've done well. The way it leaves off make me wonder about the rest of the novel. I'm definitely intrigued.ReplyDelete