TITLE: Aubrey's Adventures - The Gift
GENRE: MG Fantasy Adventure
Young Aubrey is upset leaving his friends and moving to a new town, however he makes new ones as he discovers his ability to communicate with the forest creatures. He must muster enough courage to warn his new town of an impending flood, without revealing his new friends informed him.
In a distant forest, the morning sun breaks over the mountain peaks, its rays sweeping softly along the tops of the trees. Suddenly a stiff spring breeze blows causing a wind gust to catch the woodland leaves and debris, swirling them in a circle around the trees. In one particular tree among the oaks and pines, very far up, in an enormous sycamore, is a branch with a huge gnarly hole bored into the trunk. As the wind settles, a large old plump owl waddles out onto the branch. She is a magnificent Great Horned Owl, known as Miss Pearl, to all woodland creatures. Standing there, ruffling her feathers, she taps her talons on the branch, then digs them in as the next warm breeze turns into a strong gust.
Meanwhile in a city far away, a young Aubrey sits on the edge of his bed, wearing his red plaid PJ bottoms. He clutches his father’s dog tags and gold cross dangling around his neck that were given to him only a year ago. Shaking his head, he mutters, “Why, why, what is Mom thinking? I don’t want to do this, it really stinks. This is my home and all of my friends are here.”
At the same time, Miss Pearl says, “Hmmm, there is something in the wind I haven’t felt for a very long time, long time. I’m not sure, but I believe something wonderful is about to happen very soon. I guess I will have to wait and see, wait and see.”
Sounds like a great premise! I wish we were introduced to Aubrey earlier - a first paragraph consisting solely of description doesn't quite pull us in. It picked up for me once you began telling us about Aubrey. Intriguing story!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Heather, I’m glad you like my story. I intend to use all the advice I received and from you and everyone to make my MS even better.Delete
So, I am not a fan of opening with description. Especially description of setting. I almost always find it boring. And I think it kind of is in this case, too, unfortunately. I wanted to start skimming almost immediately.ReplyDelete
If Aubrey is the main character, I wish the story started with him and his conflict, instead of describing woods. Which, I mean, we've all seen woods. We don't really need them described. Especially since you only have one chance to wow your reader with an opening and this isn't really that wowing.
I'm also not a fan of the omniscient narrator. I think it CAN work, but it takes a lot of work to pull it off, and for me, it's not quite working. I don't know why we need both Miss Pearl and Aubrey's povs in these first few paragraphs and switching back and forth so quickly just kind of deflates any sort of tension that could be building.
But, I love the idea of an impending flood and a boy trying to save his town. That sounds awesome.
Sarah I understand what you were saying about bring Aubrey out more in the opening paragraphs. Because I was only allowed to submit 250 words you were unable to read just past that point I discuss what you wanted to see about Aubrey. I will use your critique to rework my MS to make it a stronger start. Thank you for taking the time and viewing my submission.Delete
I, too, love the concept. But I agree with Sarah that openings with settings almost always bore the reader. We want to get to know Aubrey in that first page -- some kind of detail that will make us care about him and want to read on.ReplyDelete
I also agree about the omniscient narrator being one of the most difficult types to pull off. Plus, head-hopping between Audrey and Pearl can be EXTREMELY difficult to maintain. I know it's not a skill I possess -- so I lean to first person or third person limited (which follows only one character's interior space).
I do enjoy books where chapters switch character POV. Maybe that's an option for you?
This has great bones -- just needs some fleshing out and a decision about POV. Good luck with your writing!
DurangoWriter (author Mandy Mikulencak)
Mandy, thank you for liking my concept. I intend to take your critique which was similar to Sarah Ahiers and make the necessary changes to MS.Delete
Awesome, fun concept! I agree with the other commenters that the first paragraph didn't work for me. If we start with Aubrey sitting on his bed, fiddling with his father's dog tags and lamenting about having to move, that sucks me in a lot more than the description of the forest. Also, is there a particular reason you're using present tense? I don't have anything against it, per se, but for this kind of atmospheric story, past tense might work better.ReplyDelete
Thank you for viewing my MS. I intend to use everyone’s input in making it better story. I am also glad you like the concept of my book, I have had it for almost 50 years and finally have been able to put it to paper.Delete
Aw! Communicating with animals—I'm in!ReplyDelete
"Suddenly a stiff spring breeze blows," is a tongue twister that's hard to parse. Cut suddenly, it's not needed. I think the first paragraph would work better if Miss Pearl were introduced up front. You might also condense it so it's more inline with Aubrey intro, they seem unbalanced.
It is my intention to use all the suggestions you and everyone’s made. Thank you for liking my idea of having a main character that can communicate with animals. It has been something I have wanted to write about for too many years.Delete
"In a distant forest" and "in a city far away" are such tropes that I suspect you're using them deliberately, but it's risky, and I'm not sure it works. All the description in the first paragraph makes it seem sluggish, but all we need here is a view of Miss Pearl and an idea of who/what she is. I'd keep this very short, and get to Aubrey faster (or start with him), because he's the one who will pull in readers. And then you'll have room for fitting in more on this page, because we do need more to get a feel for this book.ReplyDelete
I appreciate you critique of my work Sara and will be using your advice and in reworking my MS.Delete
I love the premise of your story, but I wasn't 'hooked' by the log-line or the first few paragraphs. I'm going to 'think out loud' here: Aubrey wakes. Does he have a ritual with the dog tags, something like a little prayer to his father or a gesture (like kissing the tags for luck before he crawls from bed)? A ritual will make Aubrey different. Rather than complaining about having to move (which felt trite), he could wake, perform his ritual ... and in a distant forest, an owl hoots (as if in reply).ReplyDelete
Thank you for liking the premise of the story. Since originally posting the logline in September I have reworked it to be more precise. I like your thoughts about have Aubrey to a ritual after waking up. The funny thing is I do that every morning to my father’s dog tags and cross, whose name was Aubrey, sometimes we need to have things pointed out to us, thank you.Delete
Premise of a boy who can communicate with forest animals is fun! Logline could hook me more ... what will happen to Aubrey if people find out he talks with animals? They'll think he's crazy? And then what will happen to him? I too would start with Aubrey rather than the forest description. I want to know more about Aubrey, what matters to him.ReplyDelete
Deborah, I have reworked my logline and have been told it is much better than the one I had to submit for this Critique Contest. Thank you taking the time and helping me improve my MS.Delete
I got a strong Star Wars vibe here. Echoes of "distant galaxy, far far away" and Wise Old Owl (Kenobi) and young kid with dead dad (Luke). I know we all pull from the same archetypal elements, but something to monitor.ReplyDelete
I like the premise and envision the young boy getting increasingly frantic as he tries to make people aware of the dangers without compromising his secrets.
I get some Noah/Ark parallels too. Maybe you play with that in the story.
I would not have the Owl be so "nice" in the scene. She can be nice but the intro scene should promise more tension. She should sense something horrible, not wonderful so we worry.
The description itself is good just not as necessary as connecting us to Aubrey, and setting the tone.
Is there a way to show he is sad and frustrated instead of him telling us?
I loves me some talking animals and hero kids, so keep at it. Cheers!
Thank you Ninja for your critique. I can see the Star Wars vibe but honestly can say it never entered my mind as I wrote my MS. I have had this idea, as I previously stated in my reply to jkolin, for almost 50 years (yes, I am that old). The idea for communicating came from reading the comic book Aquaman in the 50’s and 60’s. I suffer from severe dyslexia and that was the way I learned to read (I also use that in my MS as Aubrey suffers from it).Delete
I will take the notes you made and make the changes. I see where it will create a much more interest character of Miss Pearl.
The problem introduced in the log line isn't much of a problem. All he has to do is tell the town a flood is coming. Perhaps the problem should be how to stop the flood, or how to escape before it arrives?ReplyDelete
As for the page, I think this style and voice could work, simply because everyone is writing in first person, and this could be a breath of fresh air if done well.
Regardless of what style you use, I agree starting with Aubrey is probably your best bet because he's your MC. He's the person your reader will identify with. I can even see this page working as a prologue, and then jumping to first person and Aubrey's pov in chapter one.
It could all be tightened a lot. Look for ways to say the same thing in a clearer, more succinct way, while keeping the tone and mood in place.