Sunday, June 3, 2018

1st 5 Pages June Workshop- Lukas

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

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.

Human smoke.

Only a few tail lengths away, a giant man was bent over, his back to Kenny, his black-gloved hands hooking a silver chain under the front of the next car over. The tow truck idled close by, waiting to take it away.

Poor blue Beetle, Kenny thought, shivering. Luckily, the family of mice who lived there had left moons ago.

The man stood, tall as a tree, his lanky trunk towering over the car.

This is it. Kenny gripped the edge of the hole to brace himself.

The man turned his head.

Yes, here it comes. Kenny held his breath.

No, not yet. All he could see was the smoking tip of his cigarette.

Just a whisker more, Kenny begged, the pads of his paws hot and sticky on the rusty edge.

YANK on his tail tumbled Kenny into the straw nest below.

“My turn,” his brother said, trampling over him so he could climb to the hole.

“But I didn’t get to see it.” Kenny pushed to all fours and looked up at his brother’s big bottom, now clogging the hole.

At the other end of the trunk, a rustle sounded in the glove, men’s size XXL, where Ma and Pa slept. The glove’s thumb moved. Not wanting to get caught disobeying again, Kenny bounded to his straw bed and curled his long tail around his body.

Pa’s snout poked out. “Can’t a fella get a wink of sleep around here?” Pa dragged himself out, stretching his hind paws. “What’s going on?”

Kenny lifted his head and blurted, “They’re taking the blue Volkswagen, Pa.”

Pa looked up to where his brother’s bottom hung out of the hole. “Get down from there!”

“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 crawled around the straw mess and climbed to the rusty hole. Just as he stuck his nose out, the tow truck’s engine roared to life, vibrating the walls of the white Mustang.

“This is getting way too close!” Pa said, tumbling back down into the straw and marching straight back into the glove with a knot of worry pulsing in his jaw. He was probably going to have a long talk about it with Ma.

Eyeing his brother who sulked in the corner, Kenny decided to try again. He snuck back up to the rusty hole, peeking out as both doors of the tow truck slammed shut. Two men sat in the truck, and all he could see was the backs of their melon-sized heads. The blue Beetle already crouched, doomed, on the flatbed, as it screeched upward and locked into place. Engine roaring, the truck pulled away, its tires crunching across the snow-covered gravel toward the front of the car lot.

“Goodbye, blue Beetle,” Kenny whispered, sniffing the icy March wind. All that was left was an empty gravel square surrounded by snow. At least he had the silver VW hood ornament in his collection to remember it by.

Far away, the tow truck screeched to a stop. After a clang and a bang, the ear-piercing crunch of metal started. Kenny knew his twin sisters and two brothers were covering their ears below in the trunk. But this time, he dared himself to listen, perking his ears as the car crusher chewed and chomped on the poor blue Beetle, its final squeal signaling the end of their neighbor.

He shook his body. Someday, he’d get to see the car crusher with his own eyes. But for now, he’d have to settle for a trunk full of hay, two younger brothers who were way bigger than him, two twin sisters who were scared of their own tails, and a Pa who didn’t let him do anything.

He jumped down into the trunk, ready to face his fate. In one corner, Ma cradled his whimpering twin sisters. In the other, Pa stopped grinding his teeth and eyed Kenny.

“Back to bed,” he ordered. “Now.”

“But Pa, we must be the only family left in the lot,” Kenny said, deciding he was already in trouble, so he’d speak his mind.

“No buts, I said. Bed!” Pa pointed to their row of straw beds, where Ma had spread fresh maple leaves earlier that day.

Heaving a sigh, Kenny crawled to his teacup-sized bed and wound his tail around his little white body. It was so long, it circled his bed twice and flopped over his ears. He kicked it out of the way and peeked across the trunk at his two younger brothers and twin sisters, their white mounds settling into straw craters. Will I ever grow as big as them?

Swallowing a hard lump, Kenny peered up at the rusty hole. He wouldn’t get to see the man’s face or the car crusher today, or tomorrow, or…or maybe ever! Not until Pa was good and ready to take them that far. Patience, Pa always said. Kenny hated that word.

As his brothers and sisters settled back into their beds, and Ma and Pa slid back into their glove, Kenny forced a yawn and flipped onto his back. But this position made his tail bone cramp. He flopped onto his stomach, curled up his tail, and closed his eyes. Now his neck itched.

He popped out of bed, unrolled his tail, and scratched behind his ear. Much better.

He nosed around his collection of hood ornaments stacked next to his bed. Finding his favorite, he licked the silver horse emblem he’d pried off their Mustang’s grid last moon. His brother had been eyeing that one. Maybe he should hide it. He looked to the dark shadow at the edge of the trunk.

A muffled murmur came from the glove. Ma and Pa were whispering again. Kenny took one step forward but couldn’t make out their words. He was old enough to know what was going on. To be part of family decisions. But, no, Pa was stubborn as a hangnail.

Just a little listen, he thought, snaking low across the straw. Maybe Pa was finally planning to move them out of the trunk to live with their grandparents and cousins. Wherever that was. Because Pa wouldn’t tell them that either.

Pa whispered, “Even if we can gather all our micestors back together, how can I rule without the leader staff?”

Kenny leaned closer and rotated his ears. They’d talked about this leader thing before, but he’d never heard Pa mention any leader stuff. Or did he say staff?

“It’s got to be somewhere!” Ma answered. “Keep digging. You’ll find it.”

“It’s been so long since the bulldozers came,” Pa said, “it’s probably rotting away somewhere. I can’t leave here to join the others…to lead the others…until I have it. They’ll never believe in me unless I have the staff.”

Staff. Kenny was sure of it. He’d said staff. But what in the full moon was a staff? And this was the first he’d heard of any bulldozers. When had that happened?

“What if we’re next to go?” Ma’s voice cracked.

“Did you forget about our escape plan?” Pa asked.


  1. This is a fun concept that I think could appeal to younger kids. It’s nicely written as well until near the end with the clich├ęd overheard conversation about the leader staff and how dad wants to gather the micesters (like the word). Maybe some of this could be revealed during the course of the action since it’s not all a secret to Kenny.

    It took me a while to realize that Kenny wanted to see the car crusher. I’m not sure I understand how come he hasn’t or can’t?

    Is there a reason Kenny is smaller than his younger siblings? Yet he’s big enough to haul around car hood ornaments. This doesn’t have to be explained at the beginning but should be at some point.

    I think you might amp up their fear that they’re in real danger of ending up in the crusher. Maybe if Kenny actually thought it might be them instead of the Beetle?

    I think you've made a good start. Best of luck.

    Ben L.

    1. Thanks for your comments! I didn't realize an overheard conversation is cliche, and revealing that in conversation instead is a great idea. Your other questions/ideas are very helpful.

  2. First of all, thanks for putting your work out there for evaluation – this is, of course, a seemingly obvious part of publishing, but it is also quite nerve-wracking, so congrats for taking that leap!

    Before I dive in, I like to give a short explanation about my workshop philosophy so that you know where I’m coming from. One of my writing teachers, Sands Hall, likes to say when we approach another writer’s piece, we must assume that this writer has put everything where it is on purpose. Thus, it is not our job as the responders to try to make this piece of writing what we would want it to be, but rather to ask questions that allow it to become the best version of the author’s intention. I do this with a couple of first steps. I am going to tell you two things I think you’re doing well – sometimes, just knowing where the work shines allows other parts of the work to rise to that level of sparkle. Then, I’ll give you two things to consider for revision, usually through two questions to ask yourself while you’re revising. Okay, let’s get started:

    You do an excellent job of putting us immediately in Kenny’s mouse body and letting us see that the POV will be through this rodent family. You expand on this with terrific phrases like “just a whisker” and “moons ago” and “tail lengths” – very clever and helpful in creating a mouse POV.

    Younger readers will appreciate Kenny trying to figure out where he belongs in this family – this is solidly MG. (Whereas YA is more a character figuring out who they are in a larger world beyond home and family). Nicely done.

    Two things to consider for the next round:

    “This is getting way too close” is our first sense of true peril to Kenny and his family – clearly, they are at risk of losing their home and something must be done. This comes from his father and I’m wondering if we can’t get this sooner from Kenny? That way, it’s not just fascination but also fear driving his disobedience. And the awareness of what is looming comes from our main character and not from the periphery, which makes him more active.

    Both sisters are “scared of their own tails” (and pardon me for inching my own ideas into your work after I just said I wouldn’t, but I can’t help myself on this one as a mother of a daughter) – but do they both have to be scared? Can one of them be tougher, stronger, more interested? Can one be more like Kenny? It will allow you to differentiate between his family members and also perhaps one of them can interact with him here so we can see him relate to her? I think you’re missing an opportunity to draw in female readers with a dynamic girl mouse character.

    Looking forward to seeing your revisions!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! I can definitely see your point about the two sisters. They are not main characters so I'm afraid I've neglected them, especially since I have a very smart female mouse appearing in chapter 2. I'm going to toughen up at least one of those sisters though - great idea!

  3. This is adorable. A mouse as a protagonist is perfect for MG.

    One thing that stood out is "rusty hole". It's used multiple times and starts to get dull after a while. This might be different than YA (so please excuse my ignorance), but maybe you can just call it "the hole" in some places to change it up a bit.

    I agree that the line “This is getting way too close” would work better coming from Kenny since he is the protagonist. It mixes, "wow this is exciting" with "but we are still in trouble!"

    Good luck in your revisions! This sounds like a fun story.

  4. I think you do a fantastic job of getting the readers to see from the eyes of a mouse. Lines like "just a whisker more," "pads of his paws," and even the way you described Kenny running to his bed, curling his tale around his long body, not wanting to get caught, I thought it was great set up to a mouse perspective.

    It also took me a minute to understand what Kenny and his brother were trying to see and why was Pa so furious at them getting caught? What is Pa so afraid of?

    And is this the first time Kenny has heard of his parents talking about his father being a leader? You mention the parents talking about leaders, but did Kenny think his dad would lead? I feel like that would be a huge shock versus figuring out what a staff is.

    I think you have a great idea and I can't wait to see your next revision!

  5. Hi Ariadne,

    Sorry for the last minute comments--it's been an insane week.

    Thanks for submitting to the workshop. Overall, I thought your entry was nicely written and generally appealing to an MG audience.

    A few things to think about:

    1) I'm not sure what the main thrust of this story is going to be and, because of this, I'm not sure if I'm hooked yet. Perhaps there's a connection between the VW being crushed and the father's desire to find the staff so he can be a leader, but I don't think I see it. Instead, the info about the VW seems to be a bit of a throwaway. If the idea is to establish they're in peril, it seems odd that Kenny would be so eager to get anywhere near the crusher. I think you might be able to establish the dynamics and conflict at play here more quickly if you spend less time with the VW.

    2) I think you should be naming Kenny's siblings, rather than simply refer to them as Kenny's brother of sister repeatedly.

    3) I'm left scratching my head a bit by the way the mice see that world. It seems a little odd that they'd know the make and model of the car that's hauled to the crusher, for instance. That seems unmouselike to me. (Can they read English? And why is Kenny so attached to the VW, anyway?) It almost feels like you have one foot in a human POV and another in a mouse POV.

    Ultimately, I'd try to get to the main conflict earlier, or at least give us an idea in your 1st 5 where it's going to be headed.

    All best,

    1. Thank you for commenting. You raise some really great points, and I can see I've got some work to do to hook you.

  6. Hi Ariadne!

    I'm sorry for my delayed comments! Thanks so much for participating in the workshop. I enjoyed reading your work, and think your concept could work for an MG audience.

    Even if I hadn't seen the title, I would know that we are in a mouse's POV, so that's great! I also automatically liked Kenny.

    I think someone might have suggested this earlier, but I think we need to have the family in more danger right away. Can the truck actually be about to tow them, but something stops it for some reason? I think this approach might be more compelling for the reader, set up the conflict earlier, and set the characters on their journey/ give them an opportunity to discuss the journey (the staff, being a leader, reuniting with family) because if they were about to be towed, they would probably assume the truck will return so they need to leave. I also think this could also give more of a chance to see the siblings/interactions with them, because if they're about to be towed, they're all going to be reacting I'd think.

    Overall, I feel like there would be exciting things to come in this book, and your first five pages could be used as an amazing chance to set up those things. Looking forward to your revision.

    All the best,

  7. Thanks for commenting! Yes, there are many exciting things to come in my story! ;-)
    You've given me great feedback to hook the reader sooner.