Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade #12

GENRE: MG - Fantasy

Princess Calypso’s gift for blending in lets her pull elaborate pranks. When her latest hoax gets the royal family kidnapped, no one notices her. To rescue them, she must learn to speak up in the spotlight.

The nameless princess climbed the North Tower of Cochem castle. The stairs wound past the Palace Agricultural Library (PAL)—closed today in honor of her christening—and came out on the sun-warmed parapet.

Rooks wheeled above her head. The stone was warm under her hands, but the Mosel valley was cloaked in its usual mist. The striped tents of the Red, Yellow, Orange, Magenta, Indigo and Violet Kingdoms poked up through the white, fluffy, layer. But there were no yurts along the riverbank, and even more telling, no clouds of blackflies. No blackflies meant no Blackfly royals.

Lifting the hem of her brocade christening gown, the princess galloped down the stairs to the castle’s great hall. All she had to do was keep her parents on task until the Blackfly family arrived. It had to be possible.

In case it was, the princess came up with a name for herself for each step:


Anything but Sibyl.

All seven of her sisters were named Sibyl.

“Sibyl—” In Cochem castle, King Oliver leaned over to whisper in Queen Sibyl’s ear, a pointless effort since the hall was already so noisy that he had to shout to be heard.

The youngest princess, back at her self-appointed station underneath the head table, had no trouble making out the words.

“Is the child here?”

“Which child? Oh, you mean—what’s her name?”

“Yes, that one.” King Oliver hesitated. “But she is a she? You’re sure of that.”


  1. Your logline does a great job of making the stakes very clear. Though the writing could be slightly punchier––look for ways to amp up your verbs and cut some clunky phrasing. The ms title is funny and has a very MG-ish feel to it! :) The first three paragraphs felt very description-heavy. It was a lot to absorb without knowing *why* we should care, though just after that we get a slight hint. I might suggest dispersing those bits, especially those that are setting the scene, throughout later paragraphs, when we have a better idea of what's at stake and why the protag is important to us. Another solution would be to make the setting description even more ominous––I think you're going that direction, but it's not quite creepy or "off" enough, yet, for the description of the setting alone to capture our attention. Hope that's helpful!

  2. I’m gripped by your first sentence. Who doesn’t love a princess with no name? That’s great.

    I began to feel pretty swamped with information though. She has no name. Colorful kingdoms. A reference to backflies (whatever those are). Seven sisters named Sibyl. And finally, is she a she? That’s just a whole lot of new stuff to take in in 250 words. I’d recommend focusing on maybe two of those things in this opening, probably the no-name and the Sibyl sisters since that seems to be your hook. Let the rest of the information come a little later after we’ve had a chance to get acquainted with Princess No Name.

    That said, I do like all of your descriptions and the overall feel you’ve created, maybe just save some of it for later. The voice feels a little on the old side, but since it’s a high fantasy fairytale type of story, I think it works. Well done!

  3. I love the concept of a prankster princess and your title is intriguing (even if I can't figure out how it relates to what I've seen of the story so far!). You've created a feeling of a fairytale land and a playful/rich voice that I think totally works for MG!!

    I really like the setting, but I think the second paragraph could be shortened/tightened. What we need most of all is to get to know this nameless princess in this first scene, with just a sprinkling of details to ground us in the setting.

    I'd like a little bit more detail about why she has to keep her parents "on task" until the blackfly family arrives--what happens if she doesn't? Why is she in charge of keeping them on task instead of her seven sisters named Sibyl (this cracked me up, by the way!).

    It's intriguing that the King & Queen refer to their daughter in such an odd/distant way, so I'm intrigued and hope that in the very next line you tell us how our MC feels about being referred to in that way and clue us in as to why the King isn't sure his daughter is a "she."

    --Julie (#40)