GENRE: Upper middle grade fantasy
The signpost was cracked and sun-bleached and looked likely to crumble in a stiff breeze, but if you squinted you could still make out the words announcing this was Tallarook Station, for anyone who cared to know. Simon doubted anyone did. He pressed his nose to the back window, peering out as the chauffer parked the car. This place looked like the surface of Mars and signs of civilization were scant. A handful of crispy, miserable weeds had tried and failed to survive. A blistered payphone loomed over the scrap of shade where a wallaby lay, either sleeping or dead. There was no platform. He didn’t even notice the train at first glance, and no wonder. It was so filthy it looked like another part of the endless red grit sea.
It was a passenger train, but if anyone ever travelled here, where did they go? Where could they go? Simon glanced at the horizon, where a few indistinct somethings flickered through the heat haze. When the door opened he almost jumped out of his skin.
The chauffer’s eyes flicked to the nose-print on the inside of the otherwise pristine glass. For a moment he looked like he was wrestling a compulsion to break out his Windex and scrub out the evidence left by his adolescent passenger, then he said, “It seems we’ve arrived," and trotted off without waiting for a response.
Simon shuffled out. The heat sucked all the sweat from his skin, leaving him with the unnerving feeling the air was still thirsty.
I love all the detail in these opening paragraphs. I actually felt my skin drying out! I'm not much on fantasy, but it sounds like this story is grounded in the real world, at least at the beginning. I would definitely read more!ReplyDelete
I love the sense of setting you've established right from the beginning. I have a real sense of where he is and what he sees.ReplyDelete
The only word that struck me funny was "trotted" in describing the chauffeur. Otherwise, this is a great sample and I'd read more. Good luck!
I really liked this. Great descriptions that didn't go on too long. You may want to change either one of the 'flickered'/'flicked' in paras 2-3, just because of the repetition, but I thought this was very well done. An ominous feeling pervades the piece, and I love the last line.ReplyDelete
I agree that the writing is great. Feel free to ignore what I'm about to say, but the passage just didn't feel like Middle Grade. How old is the character? Could it maybe be bumped up to YA? If not, I hate to say it, but it might be better to trim some of the detail if middle grade is definitely your target audience. Great job!ReplyDelete
I have to agree with Candyce. Beautiful writing here, and I'd definitely read on, but it doesn't feel middle grade at all to me!ReplyDelete
I know the label says upper middle grade, but if your protagonist is 14 or 15 it could probably be upgraded to YA without much difficulty. I liked Simon's voice, but he definitely seemed a little too precocious to me.ReplyDelete
Other than that, the only thing I'd fix is the first sentence, which runs on a little long for a middle grade novel. Break it into two after the words stiff breeze, and it'll flow a lot better.
Just my two cents! Best of luck!
Great start though some of your word choices push this into YA for me. Thinks like indistinct, pristine, adolescent. Not that an MG can't have less common words, but since these are the MC's thoughts, he sounds older. Without knowing the story you have, this section could easily be MG with a few less unique word choices.ReplyDelete
I love an opening that makes me ask questions, and this certainly did. The limo contrasted with the dirt set up a nice little mystery. I want to know how these things will fit together.ReplyDelete
I love all these descriptions! The surface of mars, crispy weeds, blistered payphone, scrap of shade. I like this one a lot! <3ReplyDelete
I also think the opening line is a bit long, but liked the imagery.ReplyDelete
I think you can lose the "and scrub out the evidence...passenger" since this is what I imagine the chauffer doing with the mentioned Windex.
I love the line about the air being thirsty.
I liked the description at the beginning; I thought you painted a nice scene--I especially liked the criapy, miserable weeds. However, I think the first sentence is too long and choppy. Also, I think you got too descriptive. I'd like to see where this is going quicker. I know 250 words is not a lot and I'm sure you get to the action soon.ReplyDelete
I liked the imagery, too--was drawn into the sense of loneliness and desolation. Where is this kid being dropped off, and why? I got tripped up, tho, when the chauffeur (check spelling) trots off. How far was he from the car at this point?ReplyDelete
Thanks so much everyone :) I'm still 50/50 on trotted - during WriteOnCon a few people loved it but I'll consider some alternatives. I'm such a serial nitpicker :)ReplyDelete
On the YA/MG the MC is 13, but I did originally write him as 14 - I got some agent feedback that suggested knocking it back to MG. It's in that tough upper middle grade/lower young adult age group, which does seem to be expanding (yay!) in stores. Not sure if 'upper middle grade' is a genre of its own, but still.
My brain also just did a double take - this entry is in the Come And Get It contest too (Cupid for Writers) and it's also entry 44. Weirdness. On that one it's a very slightly different version - I changed the 'flicked' and 'flickered' thing to a whole new line. Good pickup!ReplyDelete
This is good. Strong descriptions here create a strong atmosphere, and I'm right with Simon in his thoughts. Good stuff. :)ReplyDelete
Great opening, I'd definitely read on. Your descriptions were vivid, I felt like I was there with him. And I found myself reading rather than critiquing! Great job! Good luck!ReplyDelete
Love "the air was still thirsty."ReplyDelete
Great job bringing us into a place.
Thanks :) I really appreciate your comments everyone!ReplyDelete
I, too, loved your description and you set the scene very well. I did feel the first sentence was a little long. Could you break it into two? Love the last line. I'm not opposed to big words in MG, but it did feel a bit old to me. Best wishes with this!ReplyDelete
I just wondered if this might work better:ReplyDelete
'The long dust road ended with a signpost. It was cracked and sun-bleached and looked likely to crumble in a stiff breeze, but if you squinted you could still make out the words announcing this was Tallarook Station, for anyone who cared to know.'
I cut the first sentence very recently - at WriteOnCon people loved it but were pretty divided on the use of 'dust'. Does anyone think it works better? I like it but thought I'd try without - want to make sure it's pulling its weight etc.
The sentence including the dust road makes me picture the car driving down a dirt road with a cloud of dust being kicked up behind it. Without it I definitely don't see that. I think you should keep it b/c it goes along with the Mars description and paints a more vivid picture. But that's me.ReplyDelete
I love this (as I already said in CAGI). As for the voice, I'm not an expert but I do have a nephew that is 13 and a niece that is 11 and they both are starting to prefer YA. My nephew was reading MG 3-5th grade and moved up to YA in 6th. So I think you are spot on. On that note, up until recently I taught 7th grade and the majority of the kids were reading YA etc.
Sorry for the ramble. You have a great story here!
I like using the road as a lead in, and I like the use of dust to establish the dryness of the scene, but "dust road" doesn't sound right to me. Roads are hard surfaces; dust is soft. Perhaps something like, "Dust rose from the sun-baked road as Simon's car approached the signpost?" (Obviously, you'd write it better than that!)ReplyDelete
Hmm, I'm thinking more of an Australian bull-dust road when I picture it (for of like an unkept gravel road - we have a lot of them in the outback). Maybe I should use 'track' instead of road? But I do like your idea - it doesn't necessarily have to be so remote - kids who aren't Australian might not understand that concept of remote roads.ReplyDelete
The second paragraph certainly begs the question: why is the MC there?ReplyDelete
Minor line-edit: in the 3rd paragraph, I'd probably add "got out of the car" after "It seems we've arrived," to make it clearer.
But overall, we've been given no sense of why the MC is there, and the setting is so bleak and unappealing that I'm afraid I have little interest in continuing.