Sunday, February 9, 2020

1st 5 Pages Feb Workshop - Fettig Rev 1

Name: Becky Fettig
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Halo and the Boomerang Effect

When landing inside a Christmas tree, stay away from spiky pine needles. Halo rubbed the backside of her gown. Despite being smaller than a snowflake, she was painfully aware of that lesson.

Halo crossed her fingers and glanced through the white pine. Ornaments as familiar as the fingers on her hands hung on every branch. Nearby, a tin soldier saluted a plump snowman. Above, a reindeer reared on his back legs beside the gingerbread boy with blue icing buttons.

And great, golly, good cheer, the old twelve-point star topped the tree.

“Yes!” Halo punched the air. The pine needle under her boots shifted, tipping her backward. But a quick arm flapping recovered her balance.

Outside the tree, a brick fireplace covered one wall of the ginormous room. Santa figurines filled the mantelpiece. And in the middle stood a photo of the Johnsons, the humans who unknowingly create tiny folks from their good deeds. Halo blew a kiss. She was home, zapped back inside the Christmas tree at 1313 Winslow Drive.

She held a hand over her heart. “I pledge to protect my fellow Treeples.”

As soon as she lowered her arm, a red blur whooshed past, narrowly missing her ear. Halo yanked a boomerang from her pocket and spun around. She enjoyed a game of catch as much as anyone. But since her back faced the pitcher, this toss was very unsportsmanlike.

“Lob another one.” Halo swung the boomerang like a baseball bat. “This time I’ll smack it back.”

She tapped the stick against her palm and waited for someone to jump out from their hiding spot. Near the middle of the branch a ballerina ornament swayed, as though someone leaned against it.

“Mystery person, show yourself.”

Nothing.

Holy burnt brownies. Unfriendliness wouldn’t do. Time to meet this puzzling Treeple.

Halo bounced off the pine needle, onto the branch, and sped along the tree limb. Once she neared the ballerina, she pivoted into a perfect cartwheel. But her foot slipped on a mushy glob. She fell on her back.

Heat beat a path across her face as she pushed her gown down over her legs. She threw her arms up, acting as if she meant to land like an upside-down turtle. “Ta da!”

No response. The space around the ballerina was empty.

A fruity smell floated in the air. Halo tugged her shoe across her leg. Sticky juice oozed from a Treeple-sized strawberry crushed on the sole.

The fruit flinger must’ve been ready to throw again until Halo scared him off, dropping the strawberry as he ran away. But who’d be so careless to throw food and leave slippery pieces along the branch? Halo could’ve fallen off the tree. Or been speared by a pine needle.

Being the village Protectress, she’d make sure no one inside Loblolly Pines got hurt.

She tucked the berry inside a pouch. The mysterious thrower might be ready to toss more berries. But Halo knew the best places to hide.

She waved a hand across the front of her body. Glittery stars swirled about. Her gown morphed into green leggings, an emerald-colored vest, and a shirt-dress the color of a pickle. A sturdy belt wrapped her waist, equipped with a red pair of eyeglasses connected to a long stick and a sheath for the boomerang. Her white hair spun and twirled, forming two long braids.

Red and white striped boots replaced buckled shoes as Halo vaulted to her feet. She tucked a heart-shaped locket inside her shirt and barreled to the end of the branch.

A candy cane nestled between two pinecones created a perfect hiding space. She leaped behind the striped stick.

Vacant.

Snap. Up and to the right, a tinsel string quivered. Halo stood still like a snowman. Was she close to the berry pitcher?

A nearby rustle kicked up pine scents. A crunch echoed to the left. She darted in that direction and ran smack into her best buddy hanging upside-down from an upper branch.

“Boo!” Leon pointed his fingers. “Gotcha.”

Halo pushed his hands away from her face. “How’d you find me so quick?”

“Those bells on your goofy boots.”

“Awww…sprinkledink. I forgot to silence them.”

“Plus your drab Robin Hood outfit is easy to spot.”

“Beats your puke-green leprechaun suit.” She brushed glitter off her vest and hid her smile. Their first-day clothing jokes always tickled her bones. But she had no time for fun. “Did you see someone—”

Leon swung and somersaulted in the air, landing beside her. With a sweeping wave, his clothes changed into his favorite white peasant shirt and tan suede pants. He glanced behind her.

“Wow. You gained weight.” He pointed at a silver ball ornament.

“What?” She grasped the stick on the eyeglasses, held them against her eyes, and leaned close to the mirrored surface. The ball’s curvature distorted her reflection, making her appear short and wide. “Very funny.”

“Fooled you.” Leon grinned, showing off his adorable dimple.

He studied her face, nodding as if he had found the answer to a riddle. “Something is different, though.”

“Not falling for that one again.” Halo removed the pouch containing the smashed strawberry from her belt.

Leon was still staring.

“Did I grow an extra eye?” she asked.

“Our eleven-month sleep in the void did you good. You look great, Angel Girl.”

She loved it when he called her that, but his other words were wacky weird.

Leon also looked different this year. Gold highlights now streaked his chocolate-brown curls. His face was thinner, more muscular, which emphasized his perfect nose. And holy ancient pine trees, he stood three heads taller!

“Stop joking.” Halo shook the sack. “We need to talk before the introductions start.”

“Cool your icicles. Everyone’s still moving to the base.” Leon created a rag and polished the mirrored ornament with circular strokes.

As if on cue, six Treeples shimmied down the trunk. Two men, three women, and one child waved and continued their downward hike.

Leon spun the ball. “Told you.”

“We have a serious safety issue in the tree.” Halo tossed the pouch. “Look inside.”

He tugged the draw-strings open and lifted the strawberry by its stem. “A fruit is a serious safety issue?” Leon shook the sticky mess. “Take this monster berry away from me. I’m scared.”

“But listen. Seconds after I landed someone threw a strawberry at my head. Then I slipped on that one, which was scary because I could’ve fallen off the tree.” She didn’t mention her unladylike tumble. “And get this. No one claimed the dirty deed. The branch was empty.”

“I saw a child carrying a basket of fruit. He probably dropped one.” Leon waved. The strawberry and bag vanished.

Halo placed her fists on her hips. “But it flew horizontally, not vertically. You do know the difference, right?”

Leon raised one arm alongside his head while holding his other arm out from his side. He winked.

“But a berry can’t fall and fly at my head at the same time.”

“Protectress of Loblolly Pines.” Leon bowed. “Do you want to search for another dangerous berry?”

Halo clamped her mouth shut. Clothing jokes were one thing but making fun of her chosen job cut deep. Each season, Leon reminded that in a sixty-five-year span no crime had ever occurred inside Loblolly Pines. Even the Treeples politely encouraged her to focus on real threats—like hungry mice climbing inside the tree—instead of imagined dangers.

Every remark had torn a piece of her heart away.

11 comments:

  1. Hello Betty!

    I am happy to see the new information about the 11-month void and it now makes more sense –tree decorations are put up once a year and Halo refers to them as she takes in her surroundings. Are she and Leon like tree decorations that come to life and only magically appear for about a month every year? The idea is very cool and if that wasn’t your intention, it is still a great premise to think of the treeples et al, living and fending off dangers during the Christmas Season. If they are connected to the tree and only arrive in December when it is put up, I get a Brigadoon kind of feel for your story! :-)

    Making the berry treeple-sized helps, as well. I also see that her gown (because Leon refers to her in this version as ‘Angel Girl’) is likely the way she looks when first brought back to the tree, and then her own magic is what allows her to change her garb.

    I feel that your revisions give the reader more with which to work in terms of understanding the world in the Christmas tree. Thank you also for adding the detail around how they come into existence. I was born on a Friday the 13th and my mom says it is good luck, but I typically beg to differ. I would caution you in using 1313 as the house number, unless there is a specific reason for it. Folklore and mythology give it a more negative connotation that might be mispresented in your story.

    Making things less dramatic works at the end during the interaction between she and Leon. Add ‘her’ to the sentence that begins with: Leon reminded…

    I like the idea that both Leon and the Treeples tell her there isn’t any real threat (which means this time there is!) but I am not sure the last sentence works the way it is written. To me, it feels like it needs the immediacy of their actual remarks to work. We see her determination through the first section and how spunky she is – so I get that others making fun of her for her chosen job would hurt, but we haven’t seen that happen and so the final sentence felt a bit out of place. I think it will be an important one for us to understand how she feels versus their beliefs (creating tension) but we need a bit more time in the story with the characters for that sentence to hold power. I hope that makes sense? It could still be there, if tweaked, a little.

    Oh, and I love ‘holy burnt brownies’! ��

    Cristy

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    1. Thank you for your suggestions. I hope my final revision takes care of your questions about Halo's feelings.

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  2. Hey, Becky!

    I loved getting to see a bit more of Halo's story this time around. The small tweaks you made helped to clarify the minor confusions from the first time around, e.g., relative size: snowflake vs. strawberry. ; )

    The tension you built as Halo hides looking for the berry-throwing perpetrator leading up to the introduction of Leon is a welcome change. Halo remains as cute and determined as before, and now she comes off as a little more focused and detective-like ("it flew horizontally, not vertically... a berry can’t fall and fly at my head at the same time") which is also welcome.

    I now know that prior to popping into existence, the treeples are "sleeping in a void." Your MG audience may or may not be interested in this, but as for me it sparked a bit of existential dread! They acknowledge that they're just... sort of... not existing for 11 months? What do they think the void is? Do they fear returning to it? I don't know if this is something you plan on going into at all later in the book (or need to!) - this may well just be the rambling of someone who thinks too much. But I figured I'd just give it to you as one reader's reaction.

    Has Halo had to wrestle mice or boomerang the noses of curious cats in years past to protect her Treeple? Or has her existence been superfluous and largely ceremonial for the entirety of her tenure? It might be an opportunity for you to either brag about her previous successes, or explain why she might be biased towards *wanting* something to happen (a bias that might make other treeple tend to dismiss her concerns).

    Come to think of it, did you remove all mention of how long she'd been village Protectress? In the last version, I think she'd been back 10 times? Now I'm left wondering if this is only her second or third time, or if indeed she's been in charge for the entire 65-year span you describe.

    Two lines popped out at me. First, "And in the middle stood a photo of the Johnsons, the humans who unknowingly create tiny folks from their good deeds." This pulled me out of the moment a little bit, as it felt a bit "tell-y."

    I also agree with Cristy that your last line seems starkly dramatic compared to the rest of Halo's cheery thought processes. In fact, the remarks being made by treeples would be accurate, if she's constantly warning of crimes that never occur and no danger has troubled Loblolly Pines in 65 years! It makes HER sound like the crazy one.

    I continue to enjoy Halo as a character and the charm of your setting. All of your in-universe sayings ("cool your icicles!") are fantastic and deliciously thematic. I definitely want to be there when Halo's worries are vindicated and she has to protect the treeples from a true threat with nothing but her wits and her 'rang!

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    1. As always, your comments make me dig deeper while feeling good about my writing. Thank you very much. :)

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  3. Hi Becky!

    Great work on this revision! I like that you've given the Johnsons an address (1313 Winslow Dr) which helps me orient to the story a bit more. Now I know that the Treeples live in a Christmas tree in a house that is ultimately situated in a world similar to the one that we live in, which wasn't clear before.

    Even though you've done a bit of telling in the same paragraph ("unknowingly create tiny folks from their good deeds") I like that we learn more about the humans who live at this address. It adds an element of intrigue. Now I am wondering if the Treeples are in fact created by the good deeds and if that's really the case, how it is done.

    I also liked that you clarified that Leon is her best buddy (which I don't think I remembered from the previous draft). I had an inkling that Leon and Halo had known each other for a while, however wasn't sure if they were friends or if they got on each other's nerves all the time haha.

    I also liked the detail that you've added about the 11-month void, which adds an air of mystery and intrigue as well. I'm guessing that they sleep for 11 months and then wake up every Christmas!

    Great job on adding some foreshadowing towards the end. The fact that the Treeples "politely encouraged her to focus on real threats... instead of imagined dangers" makes me think that there really IS something going on.

    Overall, I enjoyed reading this revision. Great work and looking forward to seeing your next draft!

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    1. Thank you again Sophie for your words of encouragement. This has been so much fun to read everyone's great suggestions and for us to give back.

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  4. Hi Becky,

    This is a great revision and I’m still totally in love with this story. I think the voice really shines here, phrases like “sprinkledink” and “cool your icicles” make this feel so genuine and fun to read.

    The opening feels much clearer now, and I like that we immediately recognize that she’s a fantastical creature in a human world, and that she considers the Johnson’s home her home as well.

    The Treeple-sized strawberry perfectly clears up the sizing issue, and I find myself immediately visualizing it, so that’s great.

    I also adore when Leon appears and they playfully goof around.

    The comment about the 11 month sleep in the void is so interesting. On one hand, I want to know more, but on the other hand, I think it makes sense and doesn’t exactly need to be explored any further for an MG book, but if it did get brought up later in the story, that would be cool too.

    I have questions about her being a self-proclaimed protectress. I think we’re gearing up here for the tension/stakes to be a “bad guy” doing bad things in the trees and no one is expecting it, and maybe even Halo being forced to act when no one else believes her (possibly in a vigilante way?), which is a great plotline. If the real threats (according to her fellow Treeple, and proven by 65 years of facts) are mice and other natural disasters, then why does Halo feel the need to be a protector in a law enforcement/warrior kind of way? Is there a reason? Perhaps this strawberry incident is yet another “suspicious” thing that’s been happening over the last year or two, and while she’s been wary and on the lookout for a threat that’s different from the normal threats, everyone thinks she’s being silly, but now she’s bound and determined to get to the bottom of it. Otherwise, a simple strawberry attack (and I hesitate to call two berries an attack) doesn’t seem to warrant an action, and it seems like more of a prank or annoyance. Maybe something happened 66 years ago and she’s worried it’ll happen again? Or has there never ever been crime as far as any Treeples know, in which case it feels even less believable that Halo wants to protect the trees? Basically, all this rambling is me asking: WHY does she feel the need to protect for MORE than natural threats?

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    1. Thank you first for liking my story and revision :) I hope my final revision takes cares of your questions over Halo's chosen profession. Everyone's comments have helped to make me see what others are NOT seeing.

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  5. Becky,

    I really appreciate your revision around setting the scene and introducing characters. I think you’ve done a much better job easy the reader into the land of Loblolly Pines and all of its Treeple inhabitants. I especially like how you’ve captured the relationship between Leon and Halo during this revision. It’s much easier to understand and root for their flirtatious dynamic. I also think you do a much better job focusing the plot even with all of the commotion that is happening as the ornaments are waking up from their “eleven-month sleep in the void” (Leon sounds like my type of character lol). Halo serves as a great anchor to the plot as she continues to bring up the topic of the mysterious berry thrower even as other characters serve as distractions. It feels natural, believable, and well-written. Kudos for being able to weave together a thickening plot within such a lighthearted story.

    Where I struggled was the pacing (especially in the beginning) and the descriptions. The pacing felt a lot more out of sync than your first post. I kind of felt as if the writing structure in the beginning was choppy. The short one or two sentences paragraphs probably aided to this choppiness, but I also felt as if me as a reader was bouncing from one place to another, not able to fully embrace the scene all at once. Going from the Halo’s initial appearance, to different sections of the tree, to mentioning the family and their ability to create life out of inanimate objects are just a few examples of the roller coaster I felt that I was on. A roller coaster constantly breaking and moving on to the next thought. Once Leon, was introduced, the ride became a lot smoother. Long winded analogy, I know. But hopefully this gives you a sense of what it felt like reading the first bit. I also think the descriptions went a tad bit overboard, but this is my personal opinion. Describing every piece of costume detail for the characters took me out of the story. For me, I imagine your story being a piece of art, a full canvas that I am embracing. When you start to describe every minute detail, it leads me to focus on one section at a time which distracts me from seeing the bigger picture. I would recommend letting the reader’s imagination do a bit of leg work on its own and being a lot more selective on what you choose to describe about your characters.

    Really enjoyed this revision and excited to see how you continue to improve the story!

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  6. Jide, thank your for your candor about my pacing. While I feel this is in line with MG, I did go back over and look at the cadence and flow. The clothing description may be a bit long but I love this part as it first shows some of the magic Halo can do. And what human wouldn't love to change their hair and clothes with a wave of a hand? I'll think on this though. Thanks again.

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  7. Sorry for not replying to everyone for the insightful comments that are now informing my revisions. I did not expect this work week to be so demanding when I signed on to do this workshop and I realized my time is short for getting the rewrite done. When I am finished, I will address each of you individually to thank you but I hope for now, this will suffice. Off to finish the edits so I can post them in time! Good luck to all with finishing yours and preparing your pitch! Can’t wait to see them all.

    Cristy

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