Sunday, June 17, 2018

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Lukas Rev 2

Name: Ariadne Lukas
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Great Mouse Prophecy

A leaderless colony of mice roams the dump, their numbers dwindling from e-fever caused by electronic waste. Kenny and his family are the last of the mice who haven’t fled to the dump. That’s because his father is working on a plan to save and lead the colony. But he’s missing one thing: the lost leader staff.
Intent on impressing his father and saving his micestors, Kenny joins forces with a clever orphaned mouse. She’s hiding the staff and claims only the leader prophecy can reveal its owner. Risking life and limb (and tails), they burrow through a perilous maze of tunnels in search of the legendary leader prophecy. Just as they discover the cryptic image of their future leader scratched on cave walls, torrential rains flood them out. Before Kenny can figure out what the image means, he gets lost. If he can’t find his way home, he’ll never be able to reunite the colony according to The Great Mouse Prophecy.

THE GREAT MOUSE PROPHECY is a 53,000-word middle grade fantasy with a fast-paced, accessible style that will appeal to reluctant male readers.

Kenny crawled up the carpeted wall in the trunk of the Mustang. He pulled himself partway through the rusty hole in the trunk’s lid, his long tail dangling below. Stretching his neck into the cold air, he wiggled his nose.
Engine fumes prickled his throat. The human machine roared in the distance. Its tires crunched over the snow, creeping closer.
Just a whisker more, Kenny thought, stepping a paw out of the hole to see it better. After every snowfall, it snaked up and down the rows of broken cars, teeth scraping across the gravel, piling towers of snow along the roadsides.
Kenny flattened his ears as the rumble filled the air and a silver bumper slid into view, followed by a wide red front end.  
It’s not the snow scraper. Kenny gulped a breath of fumes. It filled his pounding chest as the red monster crawled to a stop in front of the neighboring car.
Oh no! Not the blue Beetle. The pads of his paws grew hot and sticky on the hole’s metal edge as the tow truck’s door flung open and a man clothed in black jumped out. His heavy boots tramped over snow to the back of the tow truck. He heaved a thick silver chain out and hooked it under the blue Beetle’s bumper.
I need to warn them, Kenny thought. The Squeaker family’s seven pups were only six moons old. What if they were still curled up asleep?  
Looking for a safe place to land, he crept out of the hole and—
YANK on his tail tumbled Kenny into the straw nest below.
“My turn to look,” Big Benny blurted, trampling over him to the hole.
“But it’s…” Kenny pushed to all fours and sprinted back up to where his brother’s big bottom clogged the hole. “It’s the tow!”
Big Benny kicked his hind leg into Kenny’s chest. “Even better.”
Ma had taught them to use their words not their teeth. But this was an emergency. Kenny opened wide, bit his brother’s bottom, and pulled. Big Benny tumbled into the trunk, his thick squeal rolling after him.
Already soaring out the hole, Kenny crash-landed in the snow and tore around to the back of the Beetle. Startled, he jumped, as Ma Squeaker dove off the Beetle’s back bumper.
“This way!” Kenny called. “Get in our trunk.”
Her wide eyes caught on his. She shook her head, swished her tail, and called, “Quick now!” to her pups who tumbled off the bumper. The littlest toppled out last. Her head darted in fear. She jerked left and ran toward the front of the Beetle!
Kenny hightailed after her and pounced on her short pink tail, flipping her onto her back. She squeaked and scrambled to all fours.
“Your mother went that way.” Kenny pointed as Pa Squeaker skidded to her rescue and nudged her with his nose.
“Where are you going?” Kenny called to Pa Squeaker, who ran with his littlest to catch up to his family.
“To join the rest,” he called, disappearing over a mound of snow.
The tow truck’s engine revved, scaring Kenny to sprint the long way around the Mustang. He scrambled up to the hole, where Big Benny’s head poked out, his eyes bright with amusement.
“Were you just gonna watch them get taken away?” Kenny asked.
Big Benny snorted. “I knew they’d get out safe.”
“Where do you think they went?”
“The forest. Maybe another car. Does it matter?”
Of course it mattered. Most of the mice had left the lot moons ago. Shouldn’t they all stick together?
Clunk. The chain began to crank the Beetle onto the flatbed.
“This is gonna be creepy good,” Big Benny said, his mouth gaping at the poor car.
The flatbed groaned upward and locked into place. Engine roaring, the truck pulled away.
Kenny stared at the empty gravel square surrounded by snow. Why didn’t Big Benny care that all the mice were leaving?
In the distance, the ear-piercing crunch of metal forced Kenny’s ears flat against his head. His whiskers trembled as the car crusher chewed and chomped on the poor Beetle, its final squeal signaling the end of their neighbor.
“Goodbye, blue Beetle,” Kenny whispered, sniffing the icy air.
Big Benny snickered. “That sounded pawsome!”
Kenny frowned at his brother’s chubby cheeks, his whiskers blowing carelessly in the March wind. Fisting his paws at his side, he blurted, “I can’t take this anymore.” Somebody in his family had to do something about what was happening to their micestors. Kenny was going to be eleven full moons soon. He was old enough to know what was going on. To be part of family decisions.
Deciding it was time to face Pa about it, Kenny squeezed past Big Benny and jumped down into the straw. He sprinted to the glove at the other end of the trunk, men’s size XXL, where Ma and Pa slept, and jerked on the cuff.
“Pa! Wake up.”
The glove stirred.
He tugged harder. “Pa!”
Pa’s snout finally poked out. “Can’t a fella get a wink of sleep around here?” He dragged himself out, stretching his hind paws. “What’s going on?”
Ma followed, and his sleepy siblings, Denny Jr. and twins Jenny and Penny, gathered around, muttering about the commotion.
“It’s the…the tow. It took the blue Beetle.”
With a blink, Pa’s eyes grew from sleepy to startled. He looked up to where Big Benny’s bottom hung from the hole. “Get down. It’s not safe right now.”
“But, Pa—” His brother bounced down into the straw and kicked his angry hind feet through Ma’s tidy straw carpet—on purpose.
“Don’t but-pa me.” Pa sprinted up to the hole as everyone gathered around to see what Pa would say about it.
In two swishes of his tail, Pa jumped down and eyed Ma with that knot of worry pulsing in his jaw.
“Oh dear,” Ma said. “The Squeaker family…did they—?”
I made sure they got out,” Kenny said, turning to stare Pa in the face. “And now we must be the only family left in the lot. When are we—?”
“I’ve told you.” Pa’s whiskers twitched. “I’m working on a plan.”
“Why can’t we all stick together?” Kenny asked.
“For now, your Ma and I feel safer here. Don’t worry, this car’s too fit for the crusher.”
“But where has everyone gone?” Penny jumped in.
Pa looked at Ma.
“Isn’t it time you…you told them?” Ma said.
Pa’s eyes softened. “I’m just trying to protect them.”
Ma brushed her whiskers across Pa’s and whispered, “Yes, I know. But…for their safety…it’s time they knew.”
Kenny and his siblings crawled closer around Pa, their attention sharp as pine needles.
Pa inhaled a thoughtful breath, then blew it out. “Okay, but you have to make me a promise first.”
“We promise.” Kenny looked at his siblings. “Right?”
They nodded up and down, all chiming yesses.
Pa’s eyes grew dark. “That place…it’s…it’s dangerous. And you must promise never to sneak there. Ever.”
“Sneak where?” asked Denny Jr., who’d been quiet until now. “What danger?”
“Behind the lot, there’s a garbage dump. Mice are…are…dropping from a fever. And there’s no leader…no chain of command. It’s a mess.”
“No leader?” Big Benny tilted his head. “So what?”
“So what?” Pa swished his tail. “I’ll tell you what. It takes a strong leader to move mice from a place with an endless supply of food and spaces to burrow.”


  1. I'll start with your summary. Your first two sentences are a bit of a contradiction. Why would everyone be fleeing TO the dump if it's so bad. You might be better off spelling out why everyone's left the junkyard first.

    Is e-fever an actual thing? What electronic waste would cause this sickness? I think the importance of the leader staff needs to be explained a bit, does it have a special power?

    On the rewrite, I like that you have Kenny helping the littlest Squeaker, but the line "as Pa Squeaker skidded to her rescue" doesn't make much sense since Kenny already stopped her.

    I like that there's better explanation of the problem with going to the dump, but while I understand Pa's point in saying "It takes a strong leader to move mice from a place with an endless supply of food and spaces to burrow.” if the dump is otherwise so terrible but it also doesn't sound like particularly inspiring leadership. Wouldn't it be better to have a leader who's going to take them to the promised land?

    I think you've made a lot of progress on this. Good luck.

  2. Ariadne, this has come so far in such a short time. I'm very impressed with the tightening you've done and the urgency you've instilled into it. I think your pitch is strong, but agree that it might need some tightening in the first few lines just for clarity. I do think your mention of reluctant boy readers is helpful and shows a clear understanding of your audience. I have really enjoyed watching Kenny's story evolve and wish you the best of luck with your next steps!

  3. Hi Ariadne,

    Very nice job in this workshop! I think you've really refined those first five pages. So in these comments, I'd like to focus on the pitch.

    1) Make sure you proofread your pitch super carefully! I suspect "fled to the dump" in the seconds sentence should have been "fled the dump."

    2) Don't get too in the weeds. I don't think you need to describe the scene where the mice get flooded out of the tunnels in such detail. Try to keep the pitch at a higher level, while keeping it exciting.

    3) I wonder if you can open up with more of the perils the mice face. I'm assuming that even without e-fever, life would be pretty tough for junkyard mice. Can you talk about other things they have to survive (cats? rats? humans? Freezing winters? Lack of food?)? I think that would help raise the stakes a bit and make the need for a leader more manifest.

    Making that pitch really sing will make a huge difference when you're querying!

    Overall, though--great job! Thanks so much for participating in the workshop!

    All best,

  4. I really like the pitch and the pages so far. You could tighten up the pitch a bit more maybe by combining the sentences about the flood and Kenny getting lost. The pages are great and show just how brave Kenny is and how much he wants to take charge. I am a bit confused on why the leader staff is important but maybe that's explained later. Good job on the edits!

  5. I agree with the others that your pitch could be a little more tight. The first few sentences seem a little superfluous. Maybe you could add a little detail on why the leader mouse is so important to the story?

    I was also curious about the world that they live in - it would be nice to get more details about why there are so many of the mice in the garbage dump and not where Kenny and his family are living. Was is the mysterious lost leader that led them there? Why is it that Kenny's father has insight over all the rest of the mice?

    Good luck with the rest of your story!

  6. From Danielle:

    Fun! You definitely know your audience., which is great. There's a lot of personality here. I would recommend reading your pages out loud to yourself as you edit because the rhythm is a little difficult to grab on to. You tend to write in a lot of short, staccato sentences rather than varying the length, which makes it read awkwardly.

    I also think you may need to ease your reader into this world a little bit more. For example, make it immediately clear that this is a mouse by describing how big the mustang is and describing the way it smells and the way his whiskers feel. Take some time to orient us before we're thrown into the action. Who is Kenny and who is he with? What's different about this outing? I want to understand everything happening a little more clearly as it happens rather than having to rely on the pitch.

    Good luck! Thanks!
    -Danielle Burby


  7. Hi Ariadne,

    It's wonderful to see the progress in these pages from the first week. You've definitely injected a lot more action. I was a bit confused at first about the Squeaker family, because I thought he was referring to his own family until he had actually left the car. But I do think this gives the reader a good chance to see Kenny as brave.

    I think your pitch is almost there. I would like to know just a bit more about the staff and why it is so important. I also wasn't sure why the orphaned mouse would be joining him on the journey if she herself knew where the staff was hidden.

    Thank you for participating in the workshop. Keep writing!

    All the best,