Monday, June 15, 2009

First Pages: MG / Last Will and Test-Taking

I, Steven Morgan Carter, being able to read and write, would like to give my stuff away if I die.
I'm interested.
After what happened earlier, I had to be sure the right things would be done. Just in case.
My little brother, Justin, can have any of my toys he wants. Mom can have my clothes, school pictures, and story notebook.
(Snort! Your laundry? She'll be so pleased.)
Dad can have my dictionaries. Andy, my best friend and the only one who understands Doorstep, can have him. And the red wagon we pull him around in. Pieter can have his checkerboard back, even though he’s been dead for five hundred years. I’ll tell you how to find him in a minute.
I'm intrigued. (Congratulations.)
Everything started this morning. We finished eating breakfast, and Dad did the usual kitchen scrub-down. Mom helped Justin with a school project. He had to decorate a potato in autumn colors. It sounds stupid, but Mom goes all out for school stuff. I wanted to go to Andy’s house, so I had to get busy finishing my own work. First thing I did was take off my socks. The only good thing about doing homework is I get to have my feet licked. It’s ticklish and slobbery, and I can sit at my desk for hours.
“Here you go, Doorstep.” I put another dog biscuit between my toes and read Miss Donnelly’s assignment. ‘Write an essay telling what you admire about yourself. Remember to give three good examples.’ Most of her other assignments are pretty dumb, so I’ve been getting bad grades. But this one looked easy. I ripped a blank page out of my notebook and began writing.
Well, I'm turning the page. I would have liked to have a better sense of why he thinks he's going to die by now, but this seems accessibly written and humorous. I just hope he doesn't go on and on in a journal. Writers seem especially prone to that trope (why do you suppose?), and it's quicksand for a lot of stories. Most kids do not spend a lot of time writing.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

It has an easy quality to it, very readable.

Dog licking his feet was funny! Didn't see that coming.

I thought the "list" of what everyone was doing, starting with "Everything started this morning..." through ".... I wanted to go to Andy's house" could be cut to get to the MC's dilema a little quicker. Explaining that Dad is scrubbing the kitchen or Mom goes all out for leaves slowed it down quite a bit for me.

Good luck!

Yat-Yee said...

I enjoyed how you insert the fact that Pieter has been dead for 500 years in the midst of the usual mom-dad-best-friend-dog. And the dog biscuit between toes is fresh and new without coming across as someone trying to come up with something fresh and new.

:)Ash said...

I'm hooked. Good first page.

Buffra said...

I like it -- humorous and accessible and raising questions that make you want to turn the page.

I liked the family stuff since it gives an idea of where the MC comes from, but do wonder (along with the first commenter) if the dilemma shouldn't be brought in sooner.

Sheila said...

While I think you have a great voice and characterization here, and wonderful humor, I am always a little frustrated as a reader when I am tantalized by a juicy opening and then immediately thrown into backstory. I feel like I'm the victim of bait-and-switch. It's almost cliche to start this way - a hero in trouble, then he ponders how he got into that mess.

That said, I would keep reading here. I already love this kid. I laughed out loud at him willing someone else's property back to him. And I love his relationship with his dog. Well done.

MelissaPEA said...

Great opening sentence, great voice throughout, nice humor. In the paragraph that starts, "Everything started this morning," you can cut a lot. We already met Mom, Dad, and Justin briefly and this second mention of them slows it down a bit. Also, I can't imagine that he'd be able to sit for hours with a dog licking his feet. It seems like it would be too distracting (it's ticklish and slobbery, after all) and maybe a little yucky, but if no one else thinks that, then disregard me. Good luck!

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks for the feedback! I feel like an attention hog, having back-to-back first pages on here. But as soon as I saw the creation of the Anonymati, I wanted in!!
:-)
This ms is going through a beta-read, and I hope to have it out on submission soon.
First, I gotta get a query somewhere...somehow...

Chris Eldin said...

To everyone, thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate all of your thoughts!

Anon, It's been through a query/revision process for three years. After each round of queries, I get useful and consistent feedback. The first round of agents told me to *not* jump into the action right away, and to back it up a bit. They were right and it reads much better. You get to know the characters before they go on their adventure. It's all subjective, I know, but I haven't received any criticism on this front since I incorporated their advice, I'm assuming I got it right. But I did have it originally the way you suggest...
:-)


Yat-Yee,
Thank you!! :-)

Ash,
Thank you!!
:-)


Buffra, Thanks! I replied to this point. It's hard to know where to start, but in all conferences I've attended, and in all the early feedback, people want to get to know the characters first. (Though I tend to be an impatient sort myself! heheheh)
:-)


Sheila,
Thanks! I agree with you! But it's not too much backstory because it all happens on the same day. I needed to develop the reason *why* the characters want to travel back in time 500 years (btw, they go to Belgium, and the setting of the story is based on Pieter Bruegel's painting "Children's Games")
Wish EA could let us do first chapters...
;-)


Melissa,
You obviously need to have your feet licked more often.
:-)


Thanks EA for doing this for us--helping us with our writing craft!!
:-)

The Storylady said...

I think the first paragraph is a great hook, though like EA, I doubt a kid would will his clothes to his mom. Does Steven have a couple of unusual objects to leave his mom that would give us insight into his character? I expect you'll come back to the dictionaries. A kid willing dictionaries to his dad is strange and I figure there's some meaning behind it.


I agree with cutting the list of activities at breakfast and going straight to the writing assignment. I LOVED the dog biscuit between the toes!

MelissaPEA said...

LOL, Chris. I know a Lhasa Apso and a Pug who might be willing to enlighten me.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hi Chris! I recognised this immediately :D.

Looks good.

Emily Kokie said...

The first part, about the will, had me. But then it seemed to shift direction fast and I was disappointed and a little annoyed - which I guess is good, since it means the first part hooked my attention.

I'd read on a bit to see where it went, but if it was mostly about the school project or the dog (and gross on the toe licking by the way), I'd lose interest fast.

But, I bet middle grade boys wouldn't lose interest UNLESS it really was too much about school work...

good luck.

emily

Z said...

I liked this. It flows well, and you have a good voice - actually believable for a middle-grade kid. (assuming your protagonist and target audience are the same age)

It sounds familiar, though... was this on Miss Snark's blog a while back? Or is that my imagination?