Sunday, February 14, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Meyn Rev 1

Name: Colleen Meyn
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Magical Assignment Ceremony
Dave’s stomach growled. The familiar smell of hot black tea and oatmeal tormented his empty belly. He ran down the hall to the small oval kitchen.

Dave the leprechaun lived with his family in the hollowed out base of an old oak tree.  He loved to listen to birds chirp in the nest high above him.  The tiny kitchen window allowed the sound to carry easily into the kitchen, creating a musical background every morning.

“Finally, I get to go through the ceremony! Today it’s my turn.” Dave said to his heroic big brother, Sean. The magic assignment ceremony fascinated Dave.

Sean looked up from the table and grinned, “Tired of waiting?”

His sister Morgan tossed her fiery red hair and smiled, “It only took 325 years.”

Dave nodded, too nervous to laugh.

He stretched his skinny arm over the counter to grab a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal. He sprinkled some brown sugar and butter on top. His stomach rumbled again. Dave shot a look at the table, and then sprinkled on extra sugar when no one was looking.  

His emotions were a fizzy mixture of excitement, hope, and dread.  He looked at his brother and sister sitting at the table and said, “You don’t think I’ll be a cobbler do you?” 

They laughed at his comment. Morgan’s laugh come out harsh, like a braying donkey, as her throat constricted with remembered dread. The traditional job as cobbler haunted active young leprechauns like a visit to the principal’s office.

Morgan said, “Why not? You’d be good at making shoes.”

Dave frowned. A
 small seed of doubt crept into his mind. The doubt blossomed into panic on the fertile soil of his fear.

He started sweating. “Me… assigned as a cobbler? Stuck inside all day making shoes for the Fear Mor?”

Dave looked at Sean for support. The possibility of being pronounced a cobbler at the ceremony tonight was eating him alive.  

His adolescent voice betrayed him; it cracked into a childish, high-pitched whine as he said, “It’s boring work! Never seeing anyone or doing anything fun.” 

Sean furrowed his brow in concern as he watched Dave struggle. Dave’s face showed every emotion he felt, and now the blood drained from his tan face.

Dave imagined the cobblers he knew: they were pale, with scraggly beards and their bellies were round as a pot from sitting all day. Dave shuddered as he imagined himself forced to work indoors forever.

Sean felt sorry for his little brother, “It’ll be fine. Ma always said you were a special one.  Didn’t she name you after the famous American Leprechaun?”

Dave relaxed and smiled, “Yes she did.  That legendary leprechaun traveled to America. He cheered up the Irish immigrants, right?”

Sean nodded; his thick brown hair fell over his eyes.

Dave tried to look dignified. He sat up straight, his lean body ridged as a soldier. He said, “Maybe I’ll do that too.”

At this outrageous statement, they all burst into laughter. Dave the American leprechaun had been the only leprechaun to leave Ireland, but it was fun to imagine one of them famous like him.

Dave took a big bite of oatmeal and chomped noisily on it.  His right leg jiggled restlessly and rocked the table; and caused the bowls to rattle.

Sean punched Dave’s leg, “Stop it.”

Dave smiled and instantly obeyed. He asked, “What happens during the ceremony? What am I supposed to do? Does it hurt when she uses magic to determine the job?”

As usual, no one answered. The only sound was Morgan swallowing.

Dave said, “Ever since Sean went through the ceremony I’ve been dying to know what happens.” His eyes glowed as he begged them, “Today is my ceremony day! I need to know. Tell me something. Anything.”

Morgan said, “For the hundredth time Dave, it’s a secret.  The only thing you are allowed to know is that Fairy Brighid, the queen Sidhe of Ireland, will use her powerful magic to determine your job assignment.  She will meet you at the sacred Fairy Mound, then magically transport you into the hidden Fairy Glen.”

“Come on Morgan! Everyone knows that!”
Dave leaned forward and stared intently at Morgan. He tried to pull more information from her by force of will.  She broke eye contact and stared at the table.

Sean smacked Dave, “Drop it.”

“OW!” Dave rubbed his neck and glared at Sean, but gave up on getting any real information.

He gulped down his breakfast and imagined what the ceremony would be like. The Fairy Glen would be vibrating with magic, a deep gut-throbbing sensation that would make him feel instantly more powerful and more alive than ever. It would have wonderful things like magnificent black horses or gleaming white unicorns. It would have a gold throne, and a center of magic like a fairy ring or standing stones too.

Dave’s chomped on his oatmeal while a goofy grin covered his face.

Sean interrupted his thoughts, “You have that look again.  Are you dreaming of chocolate?”

Dave laughed, “Yeah. I was imagining delicious things like a river of chocolate milk, or mountains of chocolate to climb at the magic ceremony.”

Sean and Morgan exchanged looks and burst into laughter. They laughed until their sides ached.

Soon the clock chimed 8 am. They stood up to go to work, and walked to the door.

Dave hurried to finish breakfast. He pushed back from the table, and his chair scraped across the wood floor with a screech. He ran towards the door.

His brother and sister crowded around the old wood door, which was covered in good luck runes in the shape of Celtic knots. The runes protected the house from discovery by the Fear Mor.

Sean ruffled Dave’s messy hair, “Up to no good Rascal?”

Dave smiled, “You know it!”

He ran outside, and then skid to a halt, confronted with a leprechaun’s worst nightmare. A deep footprint from a Fear Mor, or human, was in the mud right outside of the door. The tread was slowly filling with rain. The footprint was as long as Dave was tall, a little over twelve inches.

Dave looked around, trying to see through the heavy fog. It was no use. The fog cloaked the terrain, hiding everything from sight. Thoughts raced through Dave’s mind. Was the Fear Mor still near? Did he hear us talking?

He crouched by the giant footprint and held his breath. He listened intently for any sound made by the Fear Mor. Nothing. Not a sound, not even the birds chirped. Frightened, Dave leapt inside, knocking Morgan over as he burst through the door. Under the protection of the protective runes on the door, Dave exhaled.

Morgan scrambled to her feet and shoved Dave. “Watch out!”

Dave’s hand shook as he pointed at the footprint and whispered, “Fear Mor.”

Instantly, the atmosphere in the house changed as they all looked out the door.  Sean quietly closed the door.

He asked Dave, “Did you see him?”

Dave shook his head, “No, I couldn’t hear anything either.”

Morgan said, “Our protective runes have spared us from a life of slavery to the Fear Mor.”

Sean agreed. He nodded to the hidden passage to their underground vault.  It was full of gold to pay off the Fear Mor if one of them was caught and had to bargain for freedom.


  1. I can’t believe how much improved this is. I really like the addition of the fear of being a cobbler, it really raises the stakes about the ceremony. I might cut his worrying just a smidge shorter and add a couple of lines about other possible jobs he might get.

    I’d leave out the line about the principal’s office, that kind of takes away from the magical feeling that kids reading this book would want to experience.

    You’ve done a fantastic job of introducing the characters, especially Dave’s siblings. And I have a much better mental picture of their home now.

    Use pronouns more often, especially in dialogue. Your characters say ‘Fear Mor’ many times, try replacing that with it/he (whatever’s appropriate).

    I really like the introduction of the Fear Mor, whatever it is. You’re introducing the conflict early, which is a good thing.

    Sometimes your dialogue seems a little forced, like you’re giving information to the reader. For instance, Morgan wouldn’t need to refer to Brighid as the fairy queen, Dave would already know that. Or that the protective runes were, um, protecting the family. That’s the difficult thing about writing fantasy: you have to describe the mundane things of a new world without overwhelming your audience or having your characters discuss what they’d already know.

    Unless you’re thinking about making this a series about Dave (which may not be a bad idea), I’d rethink your title. It’s not especially grabbing.

    All in all, this is an amazing improvement from your first draft. Your characters are much more three dimensional, we have an earlier sense of the conflict, and the setting is much better described. I hope to read more about Dave’s adventures in the future.

    1. Thank you. I am working on the dialogue, I've been reading blog posts on WD, trying to get a better grip on it. Hopefully, it'll be better next week.

  2. Hi Colleen!
    I agree with Brian, I love the changes! It's much easier to visualize and I love the comparison of the size of a human's foot to how tall the leprechauns are. Just that one paragraph about the threat of humans and my head exploded with the possibilities! It promises to be a fun story!

    The only dialogue that really bothered me was the “It’ll be fine. Ma always said you were a special one. Didn’t she name you after the famous American Leprechaun?”

    Dave relaxed and smiled, “Yes she did. That legendary leprechaun traveled to America. He cheered up the Irish immigrants, right?”

    It seems like if they'd talked about this since they were kids they wouldn't be repeating this information. I think the line talking about how he was the only leprechaun to leave Ireland is enough explanation, but that's just my opinion.

    Great job! I would love to read this story in its entirety!

    1. Thank you Amanda! I'm working on the dialogue. I'm trying to find the balance between what a kid would say and sharing information with the reader.

  3. Colleen,

    I have to say, this is much, much better! It feels completely different. You’ve introduced us to Dave and his family, you’ve made us wonder how he will do during the ceremony, and best of all, you’ve introduced some tension, or an inciting incident, which is the human footprint.

    It reads in a much more linear fashion now and the story moves forward with good pacing. I do believe, however, that this is not middle grade but a chapter book, for kids around 7 to 10 years old. Middle grade comes next, and can be light and sunny or dark and scary. Go to your bookstore and look at the different books and find out which category yours falls into.

    There are a few instances of awkward phrasing and repeated words. I encourage you to go back and read it aloud to root them out. Overall, though, great job.

    1. Thank you. I have been reading The Everything Guide to Writing Children's Books this week, and I agree that my book is more of a chapter book. I hadn't realized that there was such a difference between MG and CB.

    2. Yes, I was thinking about kids 7-10 exactly.

  4. Colleen, I have a sense of home in the tree with the runes. I like how you introduced the Fear Mor at the end along with their reliance on runes. I must say I knew very little about Leprechauns, but you are making me a believer. I like their playfulness. I appreciate that they wouldn't want to work as cobblers. I am curious about the magical assignment. Do the Dave's siblings have ultra cool jobs? Does Dave feel as if he needs to meet expectations? Enjoyed this version. Beautiful quotable lines like "A small seed of doubt crept into his mind. The doubt blossomed into panic on the fertile soil of his fear" were completely beautiful. Great work.

  5. Hi Colleen!

    I agree with our fellow workshoppers that this version is much improved! I really like how you changed all the tenses to past- I think that helps a lot with grounding the story and giving it a little bit more mature feel. I also love the descriptions you gave and the way you gave us some more info about the different outcomes of the ceremony and what Dave was hoping for. This seems much more middle grade to me. Nicely done! Good luck in the final round!

  6. Hi!

    This version almost seems like a different story -- wow! All the elements are there, but the narrative is much easier to follow.

    You've kept it light-hearted, and I like that. Dave is much more interesting. In the earlier version, he seemed a little too cliché. (And I apologize in my last comments for using the word "cute" too many times. I wrote my comments after a long day, late at night!) My point is, Dave is very likable and seems like he'd be relatable for MG readers.

    Nice introduction to the "spooky" element in the story. I'm not sure what a Fear Mor is, but it sounds bad. This is the tension that was lacking in the last version.

    Overall, great job!

    Good luck!