Monday, August 19, 2013

1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Moss Rev 2


Michele McCole Moss
Middle Grade Fantasy
The End


Brynn carefully excavated a small space, just big enough for her long lean body amid all her favorite books. She fit perfectly between them. It was her nest. Every night they crowded around her, comforting words, old friends. But, her nest was sagging.

“You don’t need every book in bed with you,” her father said.

“Every book,” Brynn cried. “This is hardly every book.”

Brynn bounded from her bed, the titles falling inward in an avalanche of words, tumbling into the crevice she made for herself. Colorful dust jackets leapt from their hardcovers as feather-soft pages splayed open as if taking flight.

Her father, Thomas, watched them fall and breathed a deep, heavy sigh.

Brynn stomped out of her room, past her father, then ran down the steps to the living room. She stood peering at the piles of books and papers that covered every surface. An ancient TV, almost waist high, stood in the room’s center, its screen absent, its guts replaced with books. More titles stood three deep on the bookshelves lining the walls. This was the danger of living with a professor of folklore—clutter.

She threw her hands up in the air and looked over her shoulder to catch her father’s eye, but he was still upstairs. Her hands curled into frustrated fists and she let out a little growl. She made her way back to her room, each pounding footstep screaming out her disbelief.

“There’s nowhere else to put them,” she said. Her foot tapping the floor.

“I’ll find a place,” he promised.

Her mouth hung open and her brow crinkled. Her father looked back at her, his expression a picture of calm unending patience. Brynn shook her head and rearranged her face, her eyes widening in hope.

“Please? Can’t I just keep some of them with me?” she asked.

Thomas shook his head and Brynn’s face fell.

“I don’t care if you pile them outside your door, but they can’t be inside your room anymore. The temptation is too much,” he said.

“But all of yours are lining the hall,” she said.

He was actually going to make good on his threat. How could she make him understand?

“Every other father in the world would be happy if his daughter read I do,” she said.

“Every other father in the world doesn’t travel by motorcycle with his daughter holding on behind him. Every other father doesn’t have to worry about his exhausted child falling asleep while on said motorcycle.”

His eyes challenged her to disagree.

“I know, but,” Brynn began.

Thomas cut her off.

“I doubt most parents have to worry their children are lost in Svalbard, Rohan or Hogwarts when they should be sleeping. You are too tired too often.”

“I,” she began.

“My beautiful bookworm, this is not a punishment. You’re a growing girl. While I’m very happy you read just as much as your dear old dad, you cannot keep doing this. We’ll find a perfectly reasonable spot. I just need to know you won’t stay up all night with them anymore.”

He stepped into her room and plucked out a little toy dog from the pile of books.

“You can still have him,” Thomas said, holding the stuffed animal out to her and giving him a little jiggle. One of the dog’s button eyes dangled precariously from an inch-long blue thread, completely different from the white stitching of the original seams. Brynn reached and took the dog, her face screwed up, scrutinizing the old wound. Her fingers grasped the loose thread and pulled. The button fell to the floor. She gasped. She dropped down, her hand reaching under her bed for the lost eye.

“His name is Tock,” she said.

“I guess I didn’t do the best job on his eye, but his ears are still on,” her father said. The same blue thread mapped out other repairs.

Her fingers closed around her dog’s button eye. As she pulled herself up from beneath the bed her shoulder hit the frame and His Dark Materials Omnibus dropped down smacking her smartly on the head. Her shoulders sagged and she looked to see if her father had noticed.

He pointed to her bed in a gesture that said “get started.”

Her father left her room. She could hear him doing something in the hall, but she didn’t want to see.

“It won’t even feel like my bed anymore. I won’t be able to sleep,” she called.

If she had nightmares, or couldn’t sleep, they were all right there, ready to rescue her, but he was taking them from her.

Thomas poked his head into Brynn’s room.

“C’mon, it’s not such a big deal. You can put them on the attic staircase. I pulled it down for you. I never realized it, but it’s like a bookcase waiting to be used. We’ll just leave it down from now on. I never really use it until I have to get Christmas decorations anyway,” he said.

Silence.

“When you want to read in your room, you can take a book from it and then replace it before it’s time for lights out,” he said.

Brynn answered with an audible sniff. Thomas waited.

“I’m 11-years-old. Don’t you think I’m too old for rules like this? You’re always telling me how mature I am,” she reminded him.

He leaned down and kissed her head.

“Yes, you’re getting very grown up, but evidently not grown up enough to gage when it is time to sleep,” he said.
Her hands smoothed pages, stroked spines and danced along gold letters.

“I’m going to run out to get us some food. Our supplies are dire,” her father said dramatically, trying to make her giggle. When no giggle was forthcoming, he continued, “The only place open is the Stop-N-Shop, so I’ll be awhile. It’ll give you time to clear out your room.”

“Can’t I go with you?” she asked, a note of panic in her voice.

“No, sweetheart, stay here and finish up with your room. You’ll be fine,” he told her.

“What if something happens to you and I’m not there?” she asked.

“What is going to happen to me sweetheart? You’re stalling. Now get to it,” he said.

“I’m not, I promise. I don’t like to be alone. What if the same thing that happened to them happens to you?” she asked.

Thomas squeezed his eyes shut. “That’s different.”

Like every other time she tried to ask about her mother and sister, without really asking, her father shut down. She had pushed the button. His whole body tensed. His eyes remained closed as hers burrowed into him. Thomas turned his head up to the ceiling, but Brynn watched a single tear escape and trail down his face. Without looking at her, he turned and left.

Brynn listened as his footsteps grew more distant. A moment later his motorcycle started up. Her heart raced. Panicked, she scrambled up from her spot and threw her window open.

“I love you. Be careful. Please,” she yelled after him, but he was already riding down the dirt road unable to hear her over the din of the motorcycle.

When you have one person in the world, you want to keep them. He didn’t know that she constantly worried about him leaving and never coming back. She stood in the window, the darkening twilight swallowing the motorcycle’s lights as it progressed down the dirt road, away from her.




8 comments:

  1. Well, I think this is perfect; very well done.

    One simple typo/word missing: "happy if his daughter read I do"

    It's been a pleasure watching your progression here; best of luck with it!

    Marty

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  2. A much more dynamic opening. Great job on the rewrite.

    Professor of folklore- great detail. I love the way you wove in the falling-off-the-motorcycle incident. These characters are really feeling more solid.

    This version makes much more sense. Now I know why her father wants her to move the books out: because she spends all night reading and falls asleep during the day, with potentially dangerous consequences.

    I thought there would be some darker, "against the law" reason why the books had to be out of the room and felt a bit let down to learn that all the drama is simply because she stays up too late reading. Maybe I'm missing something? If so, it should be more clear.

    Her anger and desperation are very well drawn. You've done an excellent job conveying her frustration. I wonder though if it feels a bit over-the-top, a bit irrational? The behavior of the characters suggests life-or-death consequences; the facts do not. Unless, again, we're missing something. Perhaps more detail on the falling off the motorcycle incident? To show the direct consequences linked with her actions?

    One suggestion overall: how would it read if you began with this:

    “I’m going to run out to get us some food. Our supplies are dire,” her father said dramatically, trying to make her giggle. When no giggle was forthcoming, he continued, “The only place open is the Stop-N-Shop, so I’ll be awhile. It’ll give you time to clear out your room.”

    “Can’t I go with you?” she asked, a note of panic in her voice.

    “No, sweetheart, stay here and finish up with your room. You’ll be fine,” he told her.

    It puts us directly into the anxiety she feels at the thought of her father leaving. Then we read on with a sense of that anxiety, using your descriptive language to better effect.

    I think you have a very compelling story idea here with a lot of mystery– I really want to keep reading to find out more about the motivations of these characters.Great job!

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  3. Hi Marly,

    This is much stronger, and I think you've done a great job. I love the relationship between your mc and her dad, and I adore her relationship with books.

    That said, I COMPLETELY agree with Jen about where to start. Beginning with a hint of why she is so attached to her books gives us a reason to connect with her unusual behavior. I also think that the descriptions at the beginning are a bit overdone, and that you could benefit from more clarity.

    Consider for example:

    But, her nest was sagging. -- What does that mean?

    “You don’t need every book in bed with you,” her father said.

    “Every book,” Brynn cried. “This is hardly every book.” (See did say "all" her books in the 1st graph)

    Brynn bounded from her bed, the titles falling inward in an avalanche of words, tumbling into the crevice she made for herself. Colorful dust jackets leapt from their hardcovers as feather-soft pages splayed open as if taking flight. - Books and titles are not synonymous, and unless the books are touching her, the reference to feather-soft pages is distracting rather than illuminating. It's a lovely extended metaphor, the feathers/taking flight, but you've already called it an avalanche of words and two metaphors in one paragraph, for one event, is too much. Really go through and see what you can pare down. Kill your darlings.

    And above all (and again, Jill's suggestion will take care of some of this) be clear. Make sure your action/reaction pairings all make sense, and that all your actions are motivated in ways that make sense to the reader.

    You've done great work though, so good job and best of luck with this! :)



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  4. You're so close! Martina's advice is great. Remember to strive for clarity. It's hard when you're so close to it and already know what's going on. But you're obviously a great writer and can manage it. :D Love the books and the character! Best of luck!

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  5. Great job on the rewrite. I can see the story as I'm reading it and to me that's the what we all hope for. Giving us a little more to like about her and the way she feels about things is wonderful.

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  6. Great job on the rewrite. I can see the story as I'm reading it and to me that's the what we all hope for. Giving us a little more to like about her and the way she feels about things is wonderful.

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  7. Thanks so much everyone. You've all helped me quite a bit. I feel like I'm getting closer to making this the story I want to tell. Now I just have to apply all this to the rest of my manuscript. :) Good luck to everyone! This workshop is wonderful!

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  8. Just a side grammar issue. "11-year-old"--11 should be written out.

    I like the bookey concept, but am not sure where it's going. But, I like the relationship she has with her dad, and the set up that something happened to her mother and sister.

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