Tony made a bet with the entire fifth grade class. If he didn’t get Mr. Chance’s magical map by his eleventh birthday, he was going to wash the kindergarten toilets every day for the rest of the school year.Does fifth grade seem too old to believe in magical maps? Or maybe we just need more introduction to this story before we're supposed to take as a given such a thing's existence?
Some kids said that was desperate. Crazy. Just plain suicidal.If I were feeling particularly short of patience on the day this was submitted to me, I might be done reading right here. The Legend of Mr. Chance? A secret notebook?
But Tony was a rule-breaker.
Nevertheless, Tony couldn’t ignore the Legend of Mr. Chance, as scribbled in a secret notebook on the back shelf of the Watson Elementary School library. The story filled the entire notebook except for the last page. Tony planned on writing the ending himself.
This is an important, but more conceptual, kind of telling rather than showing. When you deprive us of the experience of discovering the notebook and working through our doubts with the main character, you deprive us of action--and an important piece of the story. But you also place the burden of effort on the reader instead of on yourself. That's what show-not-tell is about: you, the writer, should be doing the work of convincing us of your story, rather than handing us the Cliff's Notes and expecting us to try to invest ourselves in the plot.
He stood in the library, skipping his dreaded math class, and read:Ok, I'm giggling.
The Legend of Mr. Chance
Mr. Chance had only one purpose in life-to make miserable little kids even more miserable.
Little kids who laugh at his shiny bald head and big bulging belly.
Little kids who hide his glass eye under his wig collection.
Little kids who barge into his magic shop and mess up the fake vomit display.In spite of myself, I'm a little intrigued.
In short, little kids who fart and burp and sneeze and cough and do all sorts of gross things. Kids who want a little more freedom from their parents and a little more sugar in their lunchboxes.The last line switches to a different voice.
Kids just like you.
Mr. Chance enjoyed his purpose in life. His daily checklist included:
Spray two boys with girl’s perfume
Chop off the ponytail of a girl wearing a pretty pink dress
Switch the homework of a kindergarten kid with the homework of a fifth-grader
Throw pies at six kids
Throw mud at seven kids
You can probably guess by now, Mr. Chance did not attend the School For Treating Kids With Kindness. But Mr. Chance wasn’t always a half-bald, half-blind, big ol’ bucket of mean.
This has some interest and humor, and it may be going someplace marketable. If I were feeling generous, I might turn the page. But the show-not-tell issue is the kind that is likely to crop up again and again in a manuscript, and if that happens, I'm really sorry, but I don't have the time to fix that with you after acquisition.