Monday, May 5, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Brown

Name: Angela Brown
Genre: Middle Grade Fairy Tale Smash Up

Chapter One

Dreading Dots

Whoever said words had power, well, I’d like to sock them right in the arm. Big time! All I did was make one wish, and not even a good one. Things went crazy! I guess that’s what I get for wishing at all.

It started as I paced my bedroom, still wearing one of Mom’s girly designs, some strappy dress – thing. I folded my arms. “I can’t believe they did this to me!”

I glanced toward my Justin Timberlake poster. He sat forward on a couch, elbows on his knees, gazing down at me. Any other day, I’d stare at his cute-but-kinda-bad-boy look, catch myself before drool dripped to the floor, then move on. Not this time. I was too busy wondering if there was a law against twelve-year-olds being bridesmaids.

Come on, Case! Think!

I walked and thought, back and forth, until a fit of dizziness tipped the room sideways. “Whoa…” I stumbled over to my bed. “That was weird.” My stomach twisted and my breath got stuck in my throat. I put my hand over my tummy, waiting for that queasy-belly-cartwheel to happen. A really long minute passed before my stomach settled. Then I remembered to breathe.

With the nausea gone, I pulled dad’s volume of fairy tales out from between my mattress and box springs. Lorealia, my favorite book in all the world. Not that he knew I had it. I wonder why he hid it in the first place? None of that mattered. I just needed to read someone’s happily ever after since my sister’s wedding stole mine from me.

“Saturday was supposed to be my day. Basketball at the Sports Jam, not playing replacement bridesmaid. Not fair and not cool! I wish I was far away,” I grumbled. “I don’t care, anywhere but here.” I half-laughed after saying it. As if it would actually come true.

Wiping a tear from my cheek, I curled up on the bed, snuggled close to the book. When I flipped the cover open, my bed rattled. The headboard knock, knock, knocked against the wall. I hopped off with a squeak just as it stopped. The book did a shimmer-glow-bounce and thunked to the floor.

I jumped back. My bedroom door clicked loudly when the lock slammed into place. I gasped…but that’s it. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t anything.

The book flipped open. Glitter, like tossed confetti, shot into the air and showered down. The pages fluttered back and forth.

My legs trembled, no longer stuck in place. Wobbling backwards, I turned around and wrapped my fingers around the knob, twisting and pulling. I chewed my bottom lip then remembered the jolt of the lock jamming home. I balled my hands into fists and bang, bang, banged against the door.

“Mom! Mom!” She had to hear me. She had to. Please!

I stopped when a soft female voice called out. “S.O.S. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Please, we need your help.” Her words faded on an echo.

I spun around, finding the book open to the first page. The spoken words filled the usually blank page with chicken scratch, all straight lines and hard angles. I barely made out, “Touch here to confirm.” A red dot hovered over the page, winking in and out.

I crept forward. Not because I wanted to. Some invisible hook, rope, or both pulled me closer to the book. Honestly, I wanted to run the other way or pretend it was all a dream.

Or a nightmare.

I shivered in my skin, so afraid of what was happening, and worse yet, my own body’s reactions. My brain screamed to hide in the closet. I told my legs and feet to turn the other way. Blast it! Turn any way but toward the book and hope things went back to normal all on its own. But I knelt down, reaching a quivering hand closer and closer and closer still.

“What am I doing?” I gritted through my teeth. “Stop it! Stop it! No!” I couldn’t pull back. My hand had a mind of its own.

What would happen when I touched the red dot?

Chapter Two

A Rose I Suppose

Before my finger met that red dot, I couldn’t help wondering if everything was some crazy punishment from the parent gods.

Okay, look, parent gods, I’m sorry I ran upstairs instead of listening to whatever else mom had to say. I totally get I was wrong. Yeah, and about stealing – I mean – borrowing dad’s book and all…sorry about that, too. I’m really, really sorry.

I tilted my head toward the ceiling, begging to go back in time. I’d go straight into the studio, no fuss, no nothing – anything to make the nightmare end. And be the perfect bridesmaid. Yeah. I swear on my Justin Timberlake posters.

The parent gods weren’t listening. Or they had nothing to do with what was happening. I would’ve taken the parent gods over creepy-voice-from-the-book, though. At least I could talk to them, or bore them to death with one of mom’s lectures on the history of cotton.

I got irritated with my body’s complete disregard to run away screaming. Now I know how mom feels when I don’t do what she says.

Despite my grunts and struggles, my skin touched the dot. I bowed my head and closed my eyes, not sure what to expect. The red circle suctioned to my fingertip, digging into every groove of my fingerprint. It didn’t hurt, but my stomach dipped.

Then a needle pricked me.

That did hurt.

My eyes sprang open. “Ow!”

The female voice returned, sending goose bumps up my arms. “Identification confirmed. Fable Ranger verified. Transport to Lorealia commencing.”

“Fable – transport – what? Just let me go!”

With those words, the red dot let go. It dropped to the page with a jingle of bells, bouncing high overhead, growing wider and rounder.

Everything happened at once.

My door knob turned. Not locked anymore? When did that happen? The hinges creaked as it was pushed inward.

I couldn’t move, still stuck beside the book. I really, really, really needed my body back.

The red dot, now a red blob, collided with the ceiling.

Mom walked in. “Case, we should’ve told you earlier that--”

Her words drowned beneath a garage-band version of ringing bells and crashing cymbals.

I finally got control of my body, locked my gaze on mom’s brown eyes and reached out for her. Her face broke into a mix of extreme-worry and disbelief at what she saw. She stretched her arms toward me. Her shout blended into the kaleidoscope of noisy chaos.

But it was too late.

A tunnel of red rose petals fell around me like a funneled waterfall. Mom disappeared. My room – gone. Nothing but me and a swirling darkness.

I had no fear of the dark. Spiders? Scary. Snakes? Ugh! Wriggly and scary. But not the darkness, not since dad and I beat up the last monster that tried to hide in my closet. Dad was pretending, but he really knocked that little troll thing out. It hadn’t come back since. That was six years ago.

In that rose petal darkened moment, that anxious little girl in me returned with every bit of fright. I screamed and screamed and screamed some more.

Nothing changed.


  1. Hi Angela,

    You're gearing up for quite an adventure with Case being sucked into another/magical realm! I liked the choice to use militaristic terminology. The first moment I felt that pinch of intrigue was when we hear the "GIT to Fable Ranger" voice. That was the moment I took notice.

    So let's get the polishing started!

    There's a LOT that happens in the first chapter. It's likely that your intention is "hook 'em fast!" but the effect is overwhelming in a sense. I'm a bit lost due to the many things happening at once #1 Made a wish #2 Wedding #3 Hidden dad's stolen book #4 Basketball... Case has a lot of things going on that are competing for MY (the reader's) attention.

    Just a couple of things I want you to think about: "Things went crazy" and "Can't believe they did this to me" are sentences meant to keep us DYING to know more, right? But while it's meant to be foreshadowing, it can come off sometimes as a bit of "telling." You want the reader hooked into having to know more because of what's happening in a fleshed out scene, not because you're telling us that "things went crazy." It's stronger to SHOW the crazy rather than TELL the crazy.

    The other thing to look out for: the repetitive phrasing like knock-knock-knocked or bang-bang-banged. Unless it's for a REALLY young audience (MG is typically 8-12 ish) that wording feels much too young for twelve. (My son is twelve and reading James Patterson books and books like Divergent.) I'd rather see you stretch for a more active adverb.

    I found myself asking questions that pulled me from the story in CH 1 such as: Even if she didn't plan on being a bridesmaid, was she really not going to go to her sister's wedding so she could play basketball instead? Or, was this a rehearsal or pictures or something else? That kind of confusion and questioning keeps the reader from fully investing in these crucial first pages. I wasn't sure where to anchor my attention.

    Ch 2: It wasn't clear to me how she got "stuck inside the book." Case was watching the red dot bounce up in the air, higher and higher, but the experience of being sucked in was not clear for me.

    There's a sense of rushing and I feel a really cool adventure coming on so I'd love to see a slowing down---not in the sense of adding a bunch of unnecessary action or narrative, but making sure your first pages are both economical AND pack a punch!

    I can't wait to see how it evolves!

  2. Hi Angela,

    The premise sounds really exciting and I really felt pulled through the action on these five pages.

    But there are a couple of things…

    The mention of the wish and things going crazy in the first paragraph made me want things to get started a little quicker. I wanted to see the crazy and some of the descriptions (Justin Timberlake posters and her dizzy spell) slowed it down for me.

    Keep the first paragraph, but then jump to: It all started when I pulled out dad’s volume of fairy tales—Lorealia, my favorite book in all the world. Not that he knew I had it. If he did, he’d probably take it back and find a better hiding place. I kept it hidden between my mattress and box springs for moments like today. Moments where I needed a happily ever after when my sister rudely stole my own.

    Then go in about the wedding ruining her basketball game.

    Another thing I found a little distracting was the “knock, knock, knocked” and “bang, bang, banged.” I think one of those would be okay, but they come too close together and stop being an effective description. I do like the “shimmer-glow-bounce and thunked to the floor.” I could completely visualize it.

    Also, some of the dialogue feels stilted. (“What am I doing?” I gritted through my teeth. “Stop it! Stop it! No!”) I don’t know Case’s age, but it just doesn’t feel natural to talk to yourself like that—and I talk to myself a lot. ☺ And I don’t think you need to end the chapter on a question. I was wondering what would happen if she touched the red dot already and it might be more impactful to end it with “My hand had a mind of its own.”

    I enjoyed reading this and I think it can be really great with a bit of polishing.

  3. Hi Andrea,

    I love the premise of your story, it promises the reader an exciting adventure!

    One thing that could help me sink into your story would be to slow your action down because I get kind of lost when reading it and had to go over it twice.

    Also, I found that you used a lot of "!" sentences and that they actually kind of detracted from the build up you were creating.

    Otherwise, I don't think i have anything to add on top of the other comments.

    Great intro, thank you for sharing! :)

  4. Hello Angela,

    I guess I'll follow suit and start off with praise and then polish. I thought you did a really nice job of hooking the reader and drawing me into the room of Case. I could easily visualize the posters of JT and how she felt, the lurching feeling in her stomach and the lack of control over her body.

    There are a few things I think could be improved however. Not to repeat anything stated previously, but I found that the transitions in the "action" portions were a bit fuzzy and I thought Chapter 2 as a whole was a little confusing. To be honest, while I understand that chapters are typically shorter in middle grade, I didn't really see a need for a break in the action by starting a new chapter. Perhaps that's just my style shining through, but I figured it was a good comment to make.

    I think the paragraph beginning with "I finally got control of my body" in Chapter 2 and the paragraph "A tunnel of roses". My imagination draws me into believing that she's being sucked into something because she's reaching out towards her mother, but then in the next paragraph she seems to have a column of rose petals surrounding her, which would ultimately block her vision. I guess what I'm getting at here is that the actions appear a little conflicting.

    Overall I enjoyed this introduction, but I think the intense and immediate action might be detracting from it. Thanks for sharing with us!

  5. What a great adventure you’re preparing the reader for! Also, what a great voice!

    So, I’m worried about the Justin Timberlake mention. I love, love, love JT but I also worry about pop culture references in books so they don’t feel dated. Plus, every generation has their pop icon and JT is not it for MG kids today so the MG reader is probably not going to be as excited as say, me, haha, to see JT referenced. Plus, get to the action. I’d suggest getting straight to her pulling out the fairy tale book instead of staring at a poster to move the story along.

    Agree about showing and not telling, especially the “Things went crazy” line because that’s what I immediately thought as soon as I read that line.

    Also want to echo the basketball/wedding situation. Basketball is Case’s happily ever after? Nothing wrong with that but basketball can happen any time, the wedding happens once. Case was going to go play basketball instead of attend her sister’s wedding simply because she wasn’t IN the wedding in the first place? People know far in advance about family weddings and kids around Case’s age are usually super excited about the celebration aspect at least of it, despite whatever routine they have so I’m confused as to why Case thinks it’s her day to go play ball when her sister is getting married. I’d cut the entire basketball bit out. And in my mind, the wedding is something Case look forward to returning to when she’s in the fairy tale world. But if she doesn’t even want to go, why mention it?

    I was hoping chapter two would start off right where chapter one left off, perhaps starting at the “Despite my grunts and struggles” part.

    This is a great start! I’d definitely keep reading.