Sunday, February 7, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Meyn

Name: Colleen Meyn
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Magical Assignment Ceremony

“Finally, I get to go through the ceremony!” Dave the leprechaun exclaims as he jumps out of bed. He quickly rips off his dark green pajamas and tugs on some blue jeans. Clumps of dried mud from yesterday’s adventure flake off the cuffs as he shoves his feet through the pant legs. He exclaims, “Tonight, I’ll find out what my work will be!”

He looks out the window at the rain clouds and smiles. “Brilliant!  It’s gonna rain soon,” he says. Like all leprechauns, Dave grew up in Ireland and he loves the rainy weather like humans love the sunshine. Dave exclaims, “Rain is the perfect weather for my ceremony.”

The magical assignment ceremony fascinated Dave! Ever since his brother Sean went through the ceremony and became a Gold Hunter, Dave had dreamed of going through it too. First, you meet Fairy Brighid at the mysterious Fairy Mound.  Then, she magically transports you into the hidden Fairy Glen. Once inside, she uses powerful magic to determine your job assignment, which is the only job you will ever have.

But, what actually happens there? The Fairy Glen is the best-kept secret in Ireland!  No leprechauns are allowed in, unless it’s his or her assignment ceremony day.  Dave had pleaded with his brothers and sisters to share the secret with him. But none of them had told him anything.

Dave loved to imagine what the ceremony would be like. He imagined Fairy Brighid smiling as she flew up to him her sparkling wings fluttering softly. The Fairy Glen would be humming with magic, wonderful creatures, and delicious treats like unicorns and an abundance of chocolate.

Dave imagined a gleaming white unicorn would gallop up to him and offer him a ride. Then, it would lower its horn to pick him up and toss him into the air. He’d land on its broad back on top of a green silk blanket.  The unicorn would be loaded with bags of chocolate and fresh gooey caramel for Dave. He would devour the treats while riding the unicorn to the floating gold throne.

Once Dave was on the throne, he imagined Fairy Brighid waving her magic wand and sizzling fireworks would explode in the sky while she announced his job assignment.  This next part changes from time to time… sometimes Dave imagined her announcing that he would be a Rainbow Hunter, or an Adventure Leader for young leprechauns around Ireland.  Once, he even imagined the impossible, that he would be a Gold Hunter like Sean!

Dave shakes his head to clear his daydreams from his mind, and inhales deeply preparing for the day. The familiar scent of oatmeal, brown sugar, and butter cause his stomach to growl loudly. He leaps and bounds down the hall towards the breakfast. The kitchen is small, but toasty from the peat fire burning in stove.

Dave’s green eyes twinkle with mischief as he grabs a bowl and a large scoop of oatmeal out of the nearly empty pot.  He sprinkles on some sugar.  He looks around at his big brothers as he pours a big splash of cream and plops butter on top. Then Dave sprinkles on extra sugar when no one is looking.

Brilliant! Liam looks sleepy this morning Dave thinks and plans a harmless prank. He grins then bumps into his brother Liam’s arm as he walks to his seat.  Liam clumsily spills his milk all over the table.

“Sorry Liam,” Dave says impishly.

Liam scrambles to avoid the milk, but he’s too slow. Milk drips off the table onto Liam’s pajama pants.

Surprised he shouts, “Creeping Clovers!”

Dave’s eyes dance merrily while he enjoys the show. Watching Liam’s quick temper flare up is like watching a shooting star streaking across the sky and then it disappears.

Liam leaps up and glares at the spilt milk on the table. Then he chuckles at the absurdity of it. He saunters to the sink, his wet pajamas sticking oddly to his leg.  He grabs a towel to clean up the milk and looks at Dave, “Didn’t see that one coming. Good one Dave!”

Dave eyes light with pride and he grins thinking, I got the first one in today. Like all leprechauns, his family loved to play pranks on each other.

The smell of butter wafts up to him and his stomach growls again. He looks down at his oatmeal, it’s ready, the butter is melted into a delicious puddle. He stirs it in and snatches a quick bite.

Liam tosses the wet towel on the floor and parks himself on the bench to finish breakfast. His eyes gleam mischievously with a payback plan.

Dave takes a huge bite of oatmeal and chomps noisily on it.  His leg is jiggling quickly, rocking the table and rattling the cups and bowls.

Sean reaches over and lightly punches Dave’s leg, “Stop it!”

Dave grins and stops jiggling his leg, “I keep thinking about the ceremony tonight.”

His big brothers laugh. They remember the nervous excitement of Assignment Ceremony Day, but for them it was years ago. Everyone that’s been through the ceremony knows that Fairy Brighid’s magic matches the leprechaun with the best job for him; but the unknown is scary on ceremony day.

Dave frowns and looks down at his half-empty bowl, unsure if they’re laughing with him or at him.

Sean smiles, his deep voice cutting through the laughter, “It’ll be fine Dave.  Ma always said you were a special one!  Didn’t she name you after the famous American Leprechaun?”

As usual, the mention of his special name perks up Dave. “Yes she did!  That legendary Leprechaun traveled to America to cheer up the Irish immigrants, right?”

Sean nods, his dark green eyes dancing with warm memories of his Ma. She was gifted with the Second Sight, the uncanny ability to predict things.

Dave says, “He made people happy! Maybe I’ll do that too!”

At this outrageous statement, the table bursts into friendly laughter once more, and this time Dave joins them.  It is a far-fetched dream since there has only been one leprechaun to leave Ireland. But it’s fun to imagine one of them famous!

Dave quickly gulps down his breakfast his arms moving fast as he repeatedly shovels in the oatmeal. Soon finished, he wipes his mouth on his sleeve and pushes back from the table. He rushes to the sink cluttered with bowls and tosses it on top.

He darts by his brothers crowding around the door, but Liam trips him as he goes by.  Dave falls and bangs his knees on the floor. He chuckles at Liam, “You got me.”

Liam smirks, “We’re even.”

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

Dave smiles, “You know it!”

Dave runs outside. A light mist cloaks the trail with mystery. The smell of sweet rain, wet soil, and fresh grass welcome him outdoors.

Dave’s favorite sister Brianna was waiting for him on a wooden bench by the back door. As Dave ran by her she hollered, “Wait for me, Dave!”

Dave slows to a walk to let her catch up. Their brothers and sisters are much older than he and Brianna and had been working for years. Dave loves hearing everyone’s work stories over dinner. Except for Dad’s brain-numbing cobbler stories. Who cares about making a perfect shoe?

Dave blurts out, “I hope my job will be full of adventure!”


  1. Hi, Colleen,

    Thanks for submitting your work. That's the bravest step: showing your writing to others and getting feedback.

    I think that a story about leprechauns for middle graders could be a lot of fun, and kids would love this kind of tale.

    I would suggest going back and reading some of your favorite stories. Look at the way the sentences are constructed. Look at the way the characters speak and interact with others and their environment.

    I think your tenses are drifting between first-person present and past.

    First person present or third person past are the most popular for writing novels. Here are some examples:

    First Person Present Tense:
    I wake up and look at the alarm clock.

    Third Person Past Tense:
    I woke up and looked at the alarm clock.

    Third person past tense might be best to start with.
    For example:

    “Finally, I get to go through the ceremony!” Dave the leprechaun EXCLAIMED as he JUMPED out of bed. He quickly RIPPED off his dark green pajamas and TUGGED on some blue jeans.

    There is a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. You'll find it on Amazon. I think it would be a great help to you. But also take a look at your favorite books again. Study the tense and voice.

    Also, Colleen, watch out for exclamation points. Use them sparingly.

    Try to use "said," as often as possible. For instance, the word "exclaims" is used several times in the first two paragraphs.

    So my advice is to slow down a bit. Really work on the point of view of your characters. I know you'll learn a lot. Thanks for sharing your story with us and keep going!

    1. Thank you. I will get that editing book for sure. You're example of the past tense was very helpful.

  2. Who is Dave talking to in the bedroom? Since he’s alone, he’s talking to the reader, setting up the plot. And since he’s the only one talking, you can eliminate most of the dialog tags. No one else is there, so we don’t need to know it’s Dave speaking, especially more than once in the same paragraph. And why is he screaming? Never use an exclamation point in dialog unless your speaker is actually yelling. Never use it in description unless it’s something astounding.

    I get to meet the fairy? If not, use a different word than ‘you.’

    Don’t start a sentence with ‘but.’

    The unicorn and chocolate fantasy is sweet, but not for middle grade. This sounds like something a five-year-old would imagine.

    Tripping or pushing someone as a prank…it seems unoriginal and kind of mean. Aren’t these guys magical? Maybe a prank involving magic might be interesting.

    Okay, Dave wears blue jeans and his house has a sink. I’m not getting a fantasy vibe here.

    You have two characters’ eyes gleaming/twinkling mischievously in this entry.

    You described what the ceremony is in the bedroom, then you describing it again in the kitchen. In fact, I’d start this book in the kitchen with his brothers. More action.

    I like the plot idea here, but what age group are you aiming at? This seems almost too young for middle grade, though there’s no concrete range as to what ages that entails. I’d rather hear about the ceremony via a conversation with his brothers, instead of through Dave’s monologue.

    What’s the main conflict here? I know it’s early, but this is quite sunshiny and happy. I don’t need hints of a tragedy, but I do need some idea that things aren’t going to be perfect.

    And hey, what does a leprechaun look like? Really? And what do his brothers look like?

    Also, be careful people don’t draw parallels between your story and THE GIVER or Harry Potter.

    Keep up the good work, but as Ronald said above, show, don't tell.

    1. Brian, Thanks. I appreciate your time here. I will work on adding tension.

      Yes, I am writing for a very young audience, my target audience is 2-3rd graders girls, or 7-9 year olds.

      The type of book I want to do is the Disney Fairies, Geronimo Stilton, Junie B First grader. So, it is young.

  3. Hi Coleen!

    Thanks for sharing your story. I don't write MG, and most of my CPs have been YA, so please feel free to take any comments as feedback from someone who is not very familiar with Middle Grade.

    Having said that, your story is fun and cute. Lots of cuteness - it's almost overwhelming with the unicorns and prankster leprechauns and yummy food descriptions. Is this for younger MG? If so, maybe this is all appropriate, but I don't see much if any conflict in these opening pages. Everything is just And that's good, but I'd like to see some tension, some "bad" things.

    I agree with Brian in his comments about the story almost being too sunshiny and happy. My son is 14, but from what I remember of MG reading, kids love gross, disgusting, scary, profane. (Maybe that's boys?) Your MC, Dave, is almost too precious, too cute. He can be that, but perhaps you could add in something to balance him out?

    For example, perhaps you could make the brothers more rough-and-tumble? When Dave is mischieveous and causes his brother to spill his milk, his brother gets angry but then almost immediately he laughs it off. I could see wrestling, fighting, spitting, wedgies, etc. The point is, take what you have and ramp it up a lot.

    Yes, too much explaining or telling instead of showing.

    Again, some very cute ideas here. Good luck!

  4. Hello Colleen,

    Thanks for sharing your work with us!

    As I read your passage, I could easily imagine these goofy characters messing with each other. They definitely have some personality, but right now they're reading a bit more like cartoon characters because we are missing some key insight.

    Dave is excited about the upcoming ceremony, yes, but he must be feeling layers of emotion. Anxiety? Doubt? Fear? He paints a very rosy picture, and without depth of emotion, that comes across as a little thin to the reader. More like a cartoon character than a real character, who has varied emotions, goals and conflicts.

    Conflict is another area of this passage that needs developing. Generally, we are interested in stories because the characters within them are facing some kind of challenge or problem. It doesn't have to be a sad situation, but it does have to be a challenge that holds our interest and makes us truly curious to see how the character solves the problem. While we've met several characters here, and we know Dave's goal, there's no real sense of conflict. What is the challenge he's facing? Will he have to steal this opportunity from his brother? Will he lose something important by going through the ceremony? Something must be at stake, and somehow our hero must be in conflict.

    I'd focus your revisions in these two areas: developing the character depth and presenting his conflict to your readers.

    Best of luck!

    Melanie Conklin
    First Five Mentor

  5. Hi Coleen!

    I can definitely see this as a children's picture book all with fun, vibrant colors because the first thing I think of when I hear the word leprechaun is bright colors. I would like to know more of what your leprechauns look like though.

    Ronald already touched on picking past or present tense and sticking to it so I won't go into that, other than to say that is very distracting and really prevented me from getting into the story.

    The sentence, "The Fairy Glen would be humming with magic, wonderful creatures, and delicious treats like unicorns and an abundance of chocolate." really stopped me because I thought you were saying the unicorns were tasty treats. It might be a good idea to list the unicorns after you say wonderful creatures, and then list the tasty treats.

    Good luck on your revisions!


    1. Thank you Amanda. I had started it as a PB. So, I think that's partly why it's so "shiny".

      I will fix the unicorn thing.

  6. Hi Colleen!

    I think your story is fun! I was having a lot of fun envisioning the scene in the kitchen, and Dave's excitement comes across on the page- I am excited for him and want to know the outcome of the ceremony!

    I agree with the above comment that these characters are reading a bit more like cartoon characters at the moment. I didn't realize it until I read that comment, but when I pictured these scenes in my head I pictured them as a bright, magical animated TV show. I don't know much (okay, anything) about fantasy or much about middle grade, but this is feeling like a younger crowd to me. I think my advice would be to get a really firm idea in mind of the audience you're writing to, and familiarize yourself with books written for that age group, then tweak your descriptions and dialogue accordingly. I think you've got a great start- this was fun to read!!

    I hope this was helpful and good luck!


  7. So now I want to know more about all the different assignments available to leprechauns. I never considered what the culture and social organization might be for a community of leprechauns. The foreshadowing makes me think that Dave will get to be a traveling leprechaun. It would be fun to see what it feels like to be a stranger in a new environment without others around to help him feel normal. I was confused by the sentence, "...delicious treats like unicorns and an abundance of chocolate." It makes me think that they eat unicorns, yucky. Otherwise the interactions seemed credible. Kids this age love to talk about and pull pranks, very appropriate. Thanks

    1. Excellent, I think it'd be fun to explore their culture too.