Sunday, October 6, 2019

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Helt

Name: Julianna Helt
Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Slime Wars 

Lexi waved her sign at a passing car, “Get your slime,” she shouted. We stood in Shelby’s yard, behind an old fold-out table we lugged from her garage. Ten plastic containers lined up on the top each filled with a different color of homemade slime.

My sweaty hands slipped on the poster board with, “SLIME FOR SALE,” emblazoned in large red letters. Old Mrs. Mabel passerby by walking Charlie, her equally old dog. She peered at our signs and containers, shaking her head as she walked by muttering, “slime?” 

Lexi wrote “SLIME $1” on her poster board. She messed up the dollar sign and scratched it out with black marker.  

Shelby laid down on her sign, “It’s so hot,” she whined. She decorated her poster board with hearts and stars. I couldn’t even read what it said especially since she now sprawled across it.     

“No one is going to want our slime!” I collapsed into the grass next to Shelby, throwing my arm over my closed eyes. No one had driven or walked past our table except for Mrs. Mabel who definitely didn’t look interested. But then a car door slammed. 

“Hi,” Lexi said. I peered out from under my arm to see who she was talking to.  A boy stood on the sidewalk with a crisp five-dollar bill.

“Maycie,” she whispered, kicking me, “get up!”

I stood up off the grass. I guess we had our first customer.

“Um, did you want slime?” I mumbled pulling the end of my ponytail into my mouth. This seemed like a good idea until someone actually wanted to buy slime. Talking to customers made my already hot body become drenched in sweat.  

 “I don’t know,” the kid studied the merchandise, “Do you have blue?” He peered at the containers of slime on our table. 

“Of course,” Lexi picked up a container of slime and opened the lid.

 “Ew,” she dropped the container, squishing her face up in disgust.      
“Um, never mind,” the kid backed away. 

“Wait!” Desperate to make our first sale, I called out to the kid, but he was already in the car. 

I looked in the container in Lexi’s hand. 

“Gross,” What was once blue slime was now a pool of glue and laundry detergent. It didn’t look anything like slime. 

“They’re not all like that are they?” Shelby opened the other containers. They were. All the slime melted in the sun. 

Lexi let out a deep breath and threw herself down in the grass. 

“This is terrible!” She buried her face in her hands in a dramatic pose of defeat. But I had an idea! We needed something to thicken the slime in this heat. Maybe flour?

“I’ll be right back!” I ran across the street to my house. 

“Mom!” I screamed as the front door banged open.

 A blast of cold air hit my face but I didn’t pause to enjoy it. Mom wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. She must be in the backyard with the twins. Since she’s usually ok with me borrowing stuff and I was in a hurry, I grabbed the bag of flour without asking from the kitchen and carried it back to slime headquarters. 

“What are you doing?” Lexi asked as I sprinkled some flour into the first container of blue slime stirring it with a plastic spoon. More and more flour went into the mixture, but the goo didn’t thicken like I thought it would. Flour covered the front of my #laxgirl shirt. 

“Borax!” I yelled to no one in particular, picking up the bag of flour to run back home with it. 

As I made my way across the front yard, my sweaty hands lost their grip on the bag of flour. It slipped through my fingers exploding on to my front yard like a flour atomic bomb. 

“Oh no!” I yelled. Lexi and Shelby came running. 

“Look at you,” Lexi tried to brush the flour out of my hair and clothes. It only smeared it in more. Her sweaty hands now white with flour. She looked at them in disgust.   

Shelby only smiled. I knew she was trying not to laugh. She sniffed. Any second she was going to explode in fits of giggles. 

“Don’t do it,” I warned her putting my hand up to stop her. That just sent a whiff of flour dust in the air. I couldn’t help but crack a smile. 

Shelby covered her mouth with both hands, but the sound burst from her lips under her fingers. Peels of laughter exploded across the lawn. I grabbed a handful from the bag and threw it in the air. It rained down on the three of us. 

“No, don’t!” Lexi cried in horror while Shelby spun around in the flour rain.

I threw another handful of flour in the air and danced in it with Shelby. Lexi laughed, streaking through the yard to escape the mess.  She’d be in so much trouble if she got flour all over her clothes. I knew this but I continued chasing her anyway.

She stopped running, out of breath, facing me, “Please stop, Maycie!” She put her hands out in front of her. 

A fistful of flour in my hand, I held it up threatening to throw it. She cowered.

“Don’t, Maycie,” I heard a stern voice behind me. Lexi relaxed, triumphant, looking passed me to the owner of the voice.

“Hi, Dad,” I turned, smiling my sweetest smile. 

“What in the world are you doing?” he demanded. My sweetness having no effect on him whatsoever. 

“I could ask you the same thing, you know? Did you skip out of work early?” I gave him a playful but stern look, shaking my finger at him. 

I expected him to have some witty comeback and we would exchange banter like we usually do. Instead his face darkened, a cloud passing over his eyes.   
“Just put the flour away, Maycie, and clean up. You’re a mess!” He opened up the backseat door, lifting out a box. “Can you close that door for me?” he said as he walked past.

I nodded, watching him walk toward the house, balancing the box on his hip as he opened the front door. I let go of the clump of flour in my hand, letting it fall to the ground, painting the grass with white specks. Using my hip to avoid touching Dad’s car and getting flour on it, I slammed it shut.             
“I have to go guys,” I said to my still laughing friends. 

Shelby’s face fell as I picked up the bag of flour. “Why?” she asked. 

“My dad,” I waved my hand at the car, “I just have to go.” Dad’s tension snaked its way into my laughter, twisting it. I could always make my dad laugh or at least crack a smile. 

“Bye, Maycie,” Lexi said to my back as I left my friends standing in the mess of flour. 


  1. Hi Julianna, I'm already in because slime. I like that as an entrance, for sure. It's going to hook a whole crew of kids right from the very start. What I'd like to see though is the same kind of emotional hook right from the start (we have the turn with Dad showing up at the end, and that's a good one and that's going to make a reader want to know more, but I'm talking emotional grounding right up front). How might that happen? These are the questions that came to mind right up front: Why were they trying to sell slime? What did they want to do with that money.

    Something like... We'd spent the morning mixing up large batches of slime, because, we figured that's what the booger loving kids of the neighborhood wanted most in the world. I have no problem with booger lovers, but I'm not into slime. I'm into ________. In fact all of us were seriously into _______ and so, we needed money, and so we made slime to sell. Then I'd like to know how they learned to make slime and I'd like to know where they made this slime and I'd like to know how hopeful they were about the sales before they got out to the curb. I think you could make this into a mini-story that gives away more of the personality of the kids. Lexy getting grossed out. Shelby considering the possibility they should mix in real boogers (gross!). Maycie fixated on the millions they were about to make. Then a lack of sales and then boy, the fact the slime had gone to crap, and their recovery, because who cares? they're friends and that is riches in itself and then the wonderful turn you've got when Dad shows up. I love how screenwriters often blaze an opening image into the mind of the moviegoer that can be returned to a few times during the story and seen differently as the main character changes. Feels like you've got a great image to work with and would love to see it fleshed out a little more (maybe you'll get different advice, but that's what I'd go with!). Thanks for sharing this. It's got great potential, I think!

    Oh, yeah. Fix this sentence! Old Mrs. Mabel passerby by walking Charlie, her equally old dog.

  2. Hey! I'm Kelsey, and excited to be critiquing with everyone!

    Slime, very cool! I like that it shows some STEAM up front with a group of girls, I'm in. I knew some girls that sold slime to classmates after class, so this is a very real thing kids do and I love that.

    Be care of your dialogue punctuation. You use commas where you should often use periods, so you might look into that.

    Overall, I do want to know the motivation behind why they're selling slime, are they trying to make money to go to some event, or buy some item? Where did they learn about making the slime and how invested are they in making it. I think just a little more background info tricked in here and there could be good for giving things more depth. I also think you could have more of an interaction between the boy who comes to buy, and maybe even start there and cut out some of the its so hot, and them giving up moment.

    The tension with the father is very real. As the reader, I'm going to guess that he's been fired or laid off, and I think while Maycie can't know that, she would totally feel that tension she admits feeling at the end, you might even be able to push that feeling of tension further. Maybe her friends sense it too.

    Based on the title and the introduction, I am totally curious to see what your pitch is going to be.

    Good luck and happy writing!

  3. Good morning! It's great to meet you, fellow mentee! First, I want to say that this concept is giving me some major nostalgia vibes. I'm reminded of the Nickelodeon show ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK, as well as GOOSEBUMPS and GHOSTS OF FEAR STREET. I loved those types of entertainment growing up, they were fun, just creepy enough, and invoke a certain emotion when rewatching or rereading now, and I think this idea has that potential, too.

    I think the biggest thing this section needs is, like Geoff said, a little info on why this is so important to them. I think it's essential to getting attached to them and wanting to root for them.

    In the spirit of brevity and being able to show us more of your great story and conflict in your sample, what if Maycie goes for the borax right away, since they made the slime in the first place she'd probably know what would fix it. The borax could slip out of her hands and be what they start fighting with instead of the flour? Just a thought. Feel free to ignore if you don't feel it's right for your story.

    This next thing is not a big deal at all. But in the first line you say Lexi waved at a passing car, but in a couple paragraphs down you say "no one had driven or walked by"... discrepancies like this have been brought to my attention in the past in my own work, so I just thought I'd mention it. It might save you a few words, too, so you can give us even more of the rest of this fun story, too, which would be great!

    It's a great start and I'm interested in seeing what kind of craziness Maycie and her friends get in to!

  4. Hello! Thank you for sharing your writing with us. With a title like Slime Wars, I sense lots of kid shenanigans ahead. The characters have a fun rapport with each other that seems fitting of the title and the initial premise.

    I don’t think we get your main character’s name in the first five pages. You’ll want to work that into the page one ideally. At first glance, I assumed Lexi to be our main character and the story told in third person, but then the tense is actually first person (“we stood”) and Lexi is talked about by our narrator. It’s a subtle change, but you could open with the dialogue, and if it works, your main character could be the one holding the sign so we start with the narrator instead of someone else. A few lines down, Lexi is writing her sign, so I was a little confused how she is waving the sign at the start, then a minute later, writing a sign. Possible options: “Get your slime!” My best friend Lexi waved her sign at passing cars. Or… "Get your slime!" I waved my sign at passing cars, hoping to catch someone's eye. (if it's your MC you can then add their thoughts and motivations)

    To vary the word choice at the end of the first paragraph, maybe you can describe the slime instead of saying slime again – each filled with a different color of glorious sticky homemade goo. A great place to add some voice and show how your MC is proud of the slime.

    For the kid who walks away from the sale, I think you can paint more of a visual. It says he’s already in the car, but we didn’t know he arrived by car. Is this car idling at the curb with a curious parent looking out? Is your MC embarrassed their potential sale walked away? Creating more of an incident with detail can build empathy for the MC losing the sale.

    Which brings me to… Why does the MC want to sell slime? Why is she disappointed if she doesn’t sell it? Show us a hint of that in her reaction. If she didn’t sell this slime, she’d never have enough money for XYZ and it was all hopeless!

    Lexi throwing herself into the grass and covering her face is the same reaction the MC had on the previous page. Maybe have just one of them react that way depending on their character traits. If Lexi is the more dramatic one, keep that reaction for her and find something else for your MC.

    Watch for verb tense changes. This is told in first person past, (asked, screamed etc) but sometimes it’s changing to present tense.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Hi Julianna, I'm a fellow mentee and I'm looking forward to reading your work. I really, really enjoyed this! I loved the way you set the scene with the kiddos at a slime sale, in the hot sun, the slime separating / melting, losing their first sale and ending in the flour scene. It was thoughtfully juxtaposed with Maycie clueing in to her father being fired. The imagery of the flour rain…that was wonderful. I had a bit of confusion at the very beginning, when Lexi writes on her sign. I wondered, what was on it before, if not "SLIME $1" or something like it, when she was waving it at cars in the opening line, but I loved the way the heat got to them before they realized it got to the slime. Maycie is wonderfully impulsive but thoughtful and considerate as well, when she notices that she's failed to make her father smile. Mostly what I noticed are little things, like dialogue tags that could be eliminated because you've already conveyed the emotion in the voice of the characters, and few quotes from the same speaker on separate lines that could be consolidated. You made me smile!

  6. Hi Julianna!

    First of all, the sixth grade students at my school would flip out about a story about SLIME! They would love it!

    In the last sentence of paragraph one, there is a fragment. I know that doesn't always matter in a novel, and it's probably just the English teacher coming out in me, but it reads a little strange.

    In the second paragraph, there is another strange sentence: "Old Mrs. Mabel..."

    I think that if you can provide some sort of background information for the slime, that would flesh out some missing details. Ex: Why are they selling slime? Who is the slime war with? What are their motives? Competitors? Does one of you characters have a mean competitive streak in them?

    Also, I feel like I need more from the interaction with the boy. I think there is some hidden potential there for inner thoughts and dialogue.

    Overall, I think you are off to a wonderful start and I can't wait to see what is next!

    Best of wishes,

  7. Hi Julianna! Thanks so much for sharing your pages! I'll have to keep this brief, as I'm on my way out the door to head to (gratuitous plug) the Fall for the Book festival in Fairfax, VA. If you're in the DC area, come see me!

    I think plenty of kids would be interested in reading a book titled "Slime Wars." Just the title promises fun and humor. What I think you really need to focus on to quickly hook readers who've picked up the book because of its title is:

    1) Bump up the humor if you can. The flour fight is kinda fun, but there are so many places you can add in a few laughs. Beyond the flours, having the mishaps build in a comedy of errors would be a good way to go. For example (just off the top of my head), what if the boy asks for green slime and, because it has melted, a bit of it squirts out of the container and splatters on your MC's face, looking like snot from a tremendous sneeze? She could burn with embarrassment and the girls could have a slime fight instead of a flour fight. (Some of Geoff's grosser suggestions also would help bring out some humor perfect for juvenile readers.)

    2) Dial up the emotional stakes. As Geoff said, we should feel more emotionally invested in the kids' efforts to sell slime right from the outset. If it's clear why it's important to your characters, it'll be more important to your readers. This doesn't have to be anything heavy (like paying for a loved one's kidney transplant), but it should be meaningful to your characters. In other words, why should the reader CARE if they succeed selling slime?

    You've covered the more serious emotional element nicely with the dad, so I think you're good there.

    Gotta bounce. But I'm looking forward to seeing your next round!


  8. Thanks for a great first week of critiques! Your comments were helpful in deciding what needed to get chopped and reworking my 1st 5 pages so they read more MG! I'm looking forward to what's next for Slime Wars!