GENRE: MG Contemporary
The narrator is a foster child living with a quirky farm family. The old uncle, Miracle, has decided to eliminate a troublesome catfish he’s dubbed Ol’ Bugeye from the pond. Ralph and Susan are the parents, and Vicky is a young female member of the family.
We arrived at the pond as a geyser of water shot high into the air around a lone figure. My mouth went dry as the water rained down on him and the boat rocked violently. He was going to blow himself to bits!
“Miracle!” called Ralph. His calm voice was raised to be heard across the water. “Cut that out and get back here. It’s time for supper.”
“Then eat,” yelled Miracle. He threw something out into the water. The explosion was followed by another huge geyser.
Susan called, “You’re going to get hurt, Miracle, and you’re killing all the fish.”
“They’re not dead,” he replied. “Just stunned. I’ll stop as soon as I find Ol’ Bugeye.”
Vicky nudged my arm. “Look,” she whispered.
I pulled my gaze from Miracle and followed her pointing finger. Small waves lapped at the edge of the bank from the dynamite blasts further out. They made happy little sucking sounds. Then I saw what was happening in the water, and the sound changed to something sinister and gross.
Miracle was wrong. Fish were floating up everywhere. They were all different sizes and colors. But they all had one thing in common. They all looked dead as they slowly circled around in the water, their blank eyes and ghostly white bellies reflecting the sun’s rays like gruesome jewels. It was like watching some bizarre dance ritual of the dead.
I think this entry is terrific. Great dialogue, great voice! I love the name "Miracle" for the quirky uncle, and that he has a vendetta against a particular catfish.ReplyDelete
The only nitpick I have is that I think you use the word "dead" too many times in the last paragraph. Maybe if you change "They all looked dead" to "They all looked lifeless" or something, the "bizarre dance ritual of the dead" line would have more punch. And it's a great line!
I tripped over the line, "They made happy little sucking sounds." Who? Yes, I got it but I had to read it a couple of times.ReplyDelete
I found it interesting that you called the sound happy &, once the narrator saw what was happening, changed the perception to something sinister but I felt like that entire paragraph needs tightening up.
Ooo, I like this a lot! Nice writing. Good pacing.ReplyDelete
I have a nitpicky little comment, though: dialogue tags. Everyone calls, yells, replies, or whispers. Sometimes they're necessary, but particularly in sentences like '“Miracle!” called Ralph. His calm voice was raised to be heard across the water.' they're not really needed. You could trim "called Ralph" and edit "Ralph raised his normally calm voice to be heard across the water." That way Ralph is doing the raising and we get the louder voice immediately after the dialogue. Which has an exclamation point on it, anyway, and implies shouting. :)
Another minor comment: I thought the fish were alive at the end, because of "as they slowly circled around in the water". I figured it out pretty quickly, but at first I assumed incorrectly because it appeared the fish were moving under their own power. Perhaps the water can move them around, instead?
I agree about the dialogue tags. Use said, readers tend to glaze over it and hear the dialogue instead. I personally don't like exclamation points so I'd leave those out and use your words to imply shouting.ReplyDelete
EEEWWWW--- Hahahaha--- This is awesome! I can totally picture everything in my head, so obviously your dialogue and pacing is working.ReplyDelete
I agree with Jodi on the "talking tags." There seemed to be a bit too many. Maybe you could give a person some action and attach it to a yell or called and you wouldn't have to mention the talking word. Did that make sense?
“Just stunned. I’ll stop as soon as I find Ol’ Bugeye.” - had me chuckling here.ReplyDelete
"gruesome jewels" is such an amazing juxtaposition that you will now join the ranks of Authors With Prose of which I am Most Jealous.
Love the idea of this piece. Have to agree with the over abundance of tags, it slows the pace down. I liked the contrast of the happy little sucking sounds to sinister and gross. The final paragraph has a great line with "blank eyes and ghostly white bellies reflecting the sun's rays like gruesome jewels."ReplyDelete
Overall, I think this works really well. There's a lot of strong imagery. Especially: "... their blank eyes and ghostly white bellies reflecting the sun’s rays like gruesome jewels."ReplyDelete
For me, that line is so strong, you don't need another simile tacked on: "It was like watching some bizarre dance ritual of the dead."
I agree with comments about too many dialogue tags. These can be minimized pretty easily.
Oh I love this! That last paragraph is completely awesome. The visuals!ReplyDelete
Some tightening suggestions:
"We arrived at the pond as a geyser of water shot high into the air around a lone figure. My mouth went dry as the water rained down on him and the boat rocked violently."
As, as, as. There's a better way to say that without the echo of "as" which is often a weakening sort of construction anyway. Do active when you're throwing dynamite at fish!
"Small waves lapped at the edge of the bank from the dynamite blasts further out."
Watch the stage direction. Even the kiddies don't need the explanation of where the waves are coming from.
"Then I saw what was happening in the water, and the sound changed to something sinister and gross."
The lumping all of this together behind a "then" waters it down and makes it very blah. And it's not a blah thing to note. Honestly, save the "sinister and gross" observation for after you show the fish or something. You don't need the first bit of that sentence at all.
"They all looked dead"
That's telling before you show and DON'T DO THAT! Not when the showing is so fabulous. "blank eyes and ghostly white bellies" says dead to me.
Good luck with this!!
Great scene with some nice dark humor. I just had a few small criticisms. The dialogue tags have already been mentioned, and Leah said what I was going to say about the "as's" in the first two sentences. When Miracle throws the dynamite, does anything happen other than the geyser? Maybe they hear a muffled boom, or the boat rocks? How does the MC know that Miracle is using dynamite?ReplyDelete
The last line about the bizarre dance ritual struck me as possibly too mature for an MG voice, but I don't know your MC.
Disclaimer: I don't read much contemporary, so what I'm saying may not apply.ReplyDelete
I had a little bit of trouble getting through the first paragraph. It sounded like it could be interesting, but it seemed too vague and disconnected from the main character for my liking. Also, I'm wondering the last sentence should be "he was going to get blown to bits?" At first I thought they were at Yellowstone, with the term geyser. However, looking at the lead in, I expect this wouldn't be so much of a problem for someone reading through the scene after reading the earlier section of the book.
Can you show us more of how Ralph is calm? I'm not quite following his speech compared to what the description says. To me, it feels like he's lightly laughing at the situation, rather than serene.
I'd cut "out" from "He threw something out into the water." How far out does he throw it? Tosses it? Casts it a fair distance?
I like the voice in "They’re not dead,” he replied. “Just stunned. I’ll stop as soon as I find Ol’ Bugeye.”
However, there seems to be a lot of characters in the scene, with relatively little physical description of how they're acting to ground me to what's going on. What are they doing, how are they reacting as Miracle causes the explosions?
"Then I saw what was happening in the water" -- what does she see? Can you actually describe this so the reader gets the feeling of it being sinister and gross without telling us? This paragraph is where I start paying more attention.
I do like the last paragraph, especially the description and imagery that comes from it. This one is really strong, and though I would cut "They all looked dead as" for the purpose of avoiding repetition (you've shown us this wonderfull clearly in the next two sentences), this paragraph left a lasting picture.
Good luck with it. :-)