TITLE: Cassandra of the Crescent Moon
GENRE: MG fantasy
The clouds were acting weird. Really weird.
When Cassie and her parents left the city the clouds had been normal: blobby shapes that, if you squinted just right, or turned your head a little, lazily morphed into a one-eared bunny or a lop-sided turtle. But now they were definitely misbehaving. Cassie didn't need to squint or tilt her head at all now. And there was nothing lazy about the way the clouds were moving. They were forming shapes, quickly and precisely, like a cartoon character blowing smoke rings. A candle. A bat. A crow. A coffin.
“Mom, did you see that? There's a skull in the sky!”
In the front seat, Cassie's mom didn't even glance up from her laptop. “Uh-huh,” she replied.
“No, seriously, Mom, you have to look. It's creepy. I think maybe it's a sign. Y'know, like something bad is going to happen at camp...”
“Nice try, Cassie,” her dad said. “But you're going to camp.”
“But...but...would you at least look? There were other shapes too. I'm telling you, it's weird. I've never seen clouds do that before. It's gotta mean something.”
“The only thing it means is that a storm is coming,” Cassie's mom answered, still staring at the screen. “You know clouds are just collections of water vapor and ice crystals. There's no deeper meaning involved. No more nonsense. I really need to study these notes...”
I like this. The voice feels slightly older than MG, but I don't think it really matters. I only mention it because I'm searching for something to critique about. You've done a very nice job.ReplyDelete
Hmm, I didn't think it sounded older than MG. I like the way you give a sense early on that there will be something other-worldly in the story. Plus, I already get a feel for the family dynamics. Well done. Good luck!ReplyDelete
I liked it. I think the dialogue needs a touch of work, but the voice sounds right and I like where it's headed.ReplyDelete
I liked this, and think something eerie happening at a camp is always a fun idea. One critique I have is that at first the mom isn't paying attention to her daughter because she's too busy, but then she gives her a detailed lesson about clouds. I'm just not sure if it rings true. I feel like I knew how the mom acted, but then it changed.ReplyDelete
I *loved* your intro paragraphs about the clouds. The dialogue lost a little punch for me, but overall this was great. I'd definitely read on!ReplyDelete
Great beginning. Touching up the dialogue should be a quick fix. You've done a great job of giving us a feel for the book in 250 words. Nice work.ReplyDelete
You just got a definite seal of approval from your eventual target audience. I read this aloud to my 11-year-old daughter and she says "Totally hooked! I'd definitely read more!" Ultimately, that's what it's all about, isn't it? As for this fellow writer's opinion, I like your premise and am drawn into the story as well. I'd delete "even" from paragraph four. Maybe omit "turned your head a little" from paragraph one. Possibly switch "answered" to "mumbled" in the last paragraph. Great job and I'd definitely read more!ReplyDelete
I think this is a great opener. The foreshadowing in the clouds and the mc's problem of not wanting to attend camp. The dialog seems authentic to me... and you know, parents glued to a screen is pretty common as well!ReplyDelete
Call me guilty for being glued to my screen too, but as a homeschooling mom, I'd still be likely to give a little lesson. Great voice.ReplyDelete
This hooked me right away! I love the voice and the mystery with the clouds is great. Super cute!ReplyDelete
I love the opening lines. Really hooked me and the voice sounded like MG.ReplyDelete
I thought the second paragraph sounded a bit old and was a bit repetative. Also, is it PC to mention smoking (smoke rings) in MG fiction? I'm not sure since I don't read much in this genre.
The dialogue seemed a little too old. For example, it doesn't seem young enough when the mc says "I think maybe it's a sign. I imagine the MC saying somehting like " maybe it's a warning."
I immediately like Cassie--a child with a vivid imagination who can see so many different forms in the clouds. And knowing this is a fantasy, one guesses that clouds will factor in to the story as it unfolds? I'm hooked.ReplyDelete
Really good. I love it. I love that the Cassie is seizing on a reason not to go to camp (such a common thing), but the thing she's seizing on has real merit.ReplyDelete
My only problem is that when it starts forming shapes purposefully, the purposeful shapes aren't all foreboding, which detracts a little from the tension. If it goes from bunnies and turtles to swords, faces and skulls, that's more foreboding. As is, the skull is coincidental.
But really, really good. My little sis would adore this.
I laughed when she says, "Like something bad is going to happen at camp."ReplyDelete
Very good job--nice voice.
I like the concept here! Never seen an idea of clouds acting weirdly. Good work :)ReplyDelete
I love the voice and the descriptions of the clouds. It's a cool way to introduce the relationship between Cassie and her mom. Nicely done.ReplyDelete
I thought it sounded very authentic for MG in terms of the voice. The clouds are "forming shapes, quickly and precisely" and this alone hints at an otherworldly danger that Cassie is going to be come invloved in. You might want to think about the shapes and the order they come in. For example, a coffin is a pretty ominous shape to see yet it is the skull that Cassie focuses on. I think every member of your target audience will identify with disinterested parents who won't even look at something the child sees and the frustration this engenders. The dad's reaction about saying she's still going to camp is rather funny since it is the only thing he says. The mom's lesson on cloud formations - given her distraction - seemed a bit clunky. Perhaps that dialogue slot could be improved by having her say something in reaction that hints at Cassie's nature - i.e. does she have a tendency to always see things and interpret them as threats? Is she REALLY trying to get out of camp? etc....Anyway, I thought a very good opening and effective scene-setting. I would certainly read on.ReplyDelete
My only question is wondering why the MC thinks that the cloud formations are a sign of something bad about to happen at camp, rather than a larger threat. Otherwise, I was immediately sucked in, and I'd read more.ReplyDelete
Thanks everyone for all the helpful comments. In answer to David (Secret Agent)'s comment: they're driving to camp, which is why Cassie says bad things will happen at camp - but *spoiler alert* actually she never makes it there. I realize though, that you can't tell that from the first 250 words, which I can probably fix with a line or two.ReplyDelete
Also, thanks for pointing out the stilted-ness of Cassie's mom's dialogue. She has a reason for pointing out the scientific facts, but maybe I can make it more smooth.
Thanks to everyone who commented, I really learned a lot in this contest.