Sunday, February 16, 2020

1st 5 Pages Feb Workshop - Fettig Rev 2

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


Halo isn’t your typical twelve-year-old. She throws a wicked boomerang, can change clothes with a wave of her hand, and get this—she lives inside a Christmas tree with the rest of the quarter-inch-tall Treeples.

Tiny Halo always looks for ways to emulate her gigantic human creator, Mrs. Johnson, who at nine-years-old, protected her family by keeping her parents together (stopped the D word). And great crackling chestnuts! On the first day of this season, the Treeples’ king and queen proclaims a royal tournament will commence. Winning prizes: prince and princess titles. Finally, Halo sees her chance to be a really BIG protector. But holy icicles…a bullying new girl, Scarletta, covets the crown and Halo’s crush.

Then the Treeples learn Mr. Johnson lied to his wife, and chaos strikes when she dies a week later. Devastated, Mr. Johnson declares he’ll never celebrate another Christmas (no more tree = no more Treeples). Halo discovers she can invoke a miracle that will transfer her friends to another tree. BUT. This requires Halo tricking her crush into ruling alongside frosty Scarletta (cue evil cackle) AND Halo staying behind, waving goodbye…as she fades away. Forever. 


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. And right smack in the middle of the mantelpiece stood a photo of Charles and Eloise, the humans who unknowingly create tiny people. For the twelfth time Halo was home, zapped back inside the Christmas tree at 1414 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.”


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, and 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.

Halo stuffed the berry inside a pouch. The mysterious Treeple might be planning another attack, but she’d make sure no one inside Loblolly Pines got hurt. 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 red 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 toward a candy cane nestled between two pinecones.


Snap. Up and to the right, a tinsel string quivered. Halo froze 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 snapped the rag. “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.

“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.”

“As the self-titled Protectress of Loblolly Pines.” Leon bowed. “Do you want to search for another dangerous berry?”

Clothing jokes were one thing but making fun of her chosen job cut deep. She grasped her locket, fighting back the urge to show the note tucked inside—the real reason she had pledged to protect for twelve seasons. But a secret needed to remain a secret.

“Sorry,” Leon said. “I over joked, didn’t I? You’re the best protector in this tree, the greatest Treeple in the whole universe.”

She smiled. Other than the job comments, their friendship resembled a frozen pond on a sub-zero day—solid. “You’re forgiven.”

Leon spun the ornament. “Perfect. Ready to fly?”

Halo grabbed a garland and dove off the branch. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oops - I guess I didn't copy your comment and by accident pasted Sophie' - hence the deleted message above. Got it right on the second try! :)

    Hey Becky,

    First, please let me apologize for getting your name wrong last time. I didn’t notice it until later and couldn’t figure out how to edit the post. I was so busy this past week, I spoke most of your revisions into my iPad and then transposed them to a word document. I didn’t realize my iPad auto-corrected your name, or maybe I didn’t speak clearly enough. Either way, my error!! Sorry about that!

    Thank you for sharing your words with us and for all your helpful feedback! This has been such an awesome experience.

    I love learning more about your story and the way Halo came into being. I am hooked on the whole idea of the treeples coming to life inside the Christmas tree and I am curious to find out more about how they come alive. There is definitely a Toy Story vibe to the whole thing! A unique story idea! 😊

    I am curious about a few things in your Pitch that can easily be cleared up: could the part about Mr. Johnson lying and Mrs. Johnson dying (how unfortunate) follow the line about how she saved her parents from divorce when she was nine? And though I get the ‘d’ word is said that way for style and voice, it may still be necessary to be direct in the pitch. Not sure on that one, so only take the suggestion if it fits. Then when you talk about the high-stakes contest, that part can go down in the next paragraph with the way she plans to save the treeples. But, will she survive? I hope so! It sounds like it will continue to be an exciting adventure.

    You are masterful at creating character voice – Meredith’s voice is clear, fun and strong throughout your novel and readers will connect with her immediately! 1414 works!! Kind of like double the good fortune that the number ‘7’ evokes! 😊

    I like how you cleaned up the part where Leon makes fun of her size as it is reflected in the shiny ornament. It reads more clearly now. You have fun ways of describing things from Meredith’s point of view and the whole vibe is fun and light. This revision reads smoothly, and your small changes make things clear and easy to visualize. Given your mention in the pitch of darker things to come, I wonder if there is a way to foreshadow that – even just with one sentence? But it may be that part is coming after the first few pages.

    Great working alongside you and good luck with the final revision!


  3. Cristy,

    Thank you for your kind words. And don't worry about having my name wrong...this happens all the time. I think others look at Fettig and just automatically put the two TTs into Becky. And I spelled your name wrong in this revision, so we are even.

    Good luck with this story and any others you may have.


  4. Becky,

    I think this was the best ending yet to your five pages. It felt like the plot was still moving towards finding out who the mysterious berry flinger is. I also like the addition of the secret that Halo is trying to keep under wraps, but it almost feels like I’m being cheated as a reader since it’s only mentioned at the tail end. I do realize that this is only the first five pages, so I understand if my sentiment is a bit overdramatic. However, if this secret is a big part of the overall plot, it may be beneficial to the reader to introduce it earlier on (maybe during the first time she pledges to protect her Treeples).

    I had some trouble following the pitch. Sounds like there are a lot of moving parts to the story and it felt like more of a summary rather than a back of the cover teaser. As someone who has not read the full story, I may be missing the mark here, but after reading the pitch, I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen in the book. It might help for the pitch to hint at which plot is the primary plot and which is the secondary. It may also help to withhold a bit of detail in my opinion. Maybe the reader doesn’t need to know that Halo discovers a miracle to transfer the Treeple to another tree. Or maybe the reader doesn’t need to know from the pitch that she has to trick her crush. Without reading the full story, I can’t say which details you might want to leave out, but I would have liked to discover some of the plot through reading and exploring the story.

    1. Thank you again Jide for your nice comments. I'll think on the secret dilemma. It does get told in detail in the fourth chapter but I may need a bit more in the first pages. And yes, my query needs tweaking.

      It's been a pleasure to work with you.

  5. Hi Becky!

    First of all I want to say that it's been great exchanging thoughts and comments on each others' first 5 pages. I enjoyed following the first part of Halo's story through your revisions. You've done a great job!

    Regarding your first 5 pages, I loved the descriptions and imagery in the beginning (spiky pine needles, toy soldier and plump snowmen, reindeers and gingerbread men) which gave me all the Christmas vibes, even though it's been months after Christmas. I also liked that you've introduced Halo's locket, which made me curious about what her deeper reason was for protecting her community. Your last line definitely made me wonder what would happen next- would they actually fly?

    I liked the whimsical tone of your pitch, which matched the tone of your novel. It was interesting for me to learn about the big picture of the story and some of the conflicts that are coming up for the character. However, there was quite a lot going on there (the royal tournament, Mr and Mrs Johnson, transferring trees) so it was a bit overwhelming for me. I was also wondering if this was more like a synopsis rather than a pitch. For the purpose of the pitch, it might be more effective to focus on one main conflict rather than try to describe everything that happens.

    1. Hi Sophie!

      Thank you for praising my little story. Your words made me smile. And to answer your question, they don't fly but they can swing like Tarzan and one Treeple can vanish and reappear.

      And yes, my query will take some deep thinking (like for the 101st time).

      I've enjoyed working with you. Good luck with your writings.

  6. Pitch:

    There are so many interesting elements to this story and what a unique premise! I could see middle-grade readers really loving the fact that Tiny Halo lives in a Christmas tree and that she’s only a quarter-inch tall. A few suggestions for the pitch:

    I love how you introduce Halo but I don’t think you need to include “and get this”—or, for that matter, I don’t think you need to include any of the “asides” such as, “And great crackling chestnuts”, “But holy icicles” and “cue evil cackle.” They’re all cute and I understand that you’re trying to convey the voice of the manuscript within the pitch, but, oftentimes, for this type of thing, agents and editors are really just trying to get a quick sense of what the book is about. Any additional text that doesn’t need to be there can be distracting. The good news is, I think that your narrative voice is shining through even without these extra words.

    There were a few sentences I found to be confusing. "Tiny Halo always looks for ways to emulate her gigantic human creator, Mrs. Johnson, who at nine-years-old, protected her family by keeping her parents together (stopped the D word).” Mrs. Johnson, at nine years old, kept her own parents together? Or Tiny Halo’s parents? If it’s Mrs. Johnson’s parents, I’m not sure I understand what this would have to do with the storyline--you might need to include an additional sentence to clarify. If it’s Tiny Halo’s parents, though, I think you might need to revise the sentence to make that clearer.

    I also think that it might make sense to clarify the significance of “prince and princess titles.” What does this mean to a Treeple? Why is this important? Same thing with the line, "Finally, Halo sees her chance to be a really BIG protector.” What does this mean and why is it important to her?

    I also think that it would be good for you to clarify how this world works — i.e., do the Treeples only live during the Christmas season? What do they do when there are no Christmas trees? I know that this is something that is touched upon in the opening pages and I’m sure it will be explained as the book progresses, but I think that, because the Christmas tree element is such an essential part of the plot, it would be good to address it in the pitch.

    Opening Pages:
    The pages have such a festive air! I loved the Christmas details and I found so many lines to be really cute and clever (my favorite was “Halo froze like a snowman.). I thought you did an excellent job of immersing us in the setting and I thought the narrative voice was very fun. I also really liked the dialogue between Halo and Leon. Really great job!

    Only one minor thing: I found myself stumbling over the sentence, "A sturdy belt wrapped her waist, equipped with red eyeglasses connected to a long stick and a sheath for the boomerang.” After reading it several times I can see that it makes sense, but it threw me out of the narrative. You might want to revise to make it read more smoothly.

    1. Andrea,

      Thank you for letting me know about my pitch. This is at LEAST my 100th time to rework this. Adding in the rules of this world, along with Halo's goal, conflict, and protagonist standing in her way, is HARD. But other writers deal with this and sooner or later they get it right, so I have faith I will too, LOL. You gave some really great advice.

      And thank you for your time and kind words on the story. Means a lot.


  7. Hi Becky!

    I adore your pages still, so I have no comments on anything to change for them. As for the pitch, I think it could use a little clarifying. The last line is amazing though, and it gave me chills. I would remove the “and get this—” part of the first sentence. I’m confused by the Mrs. Johnson line in the second paragraph – who protected her family by keeping parents together? Halo’s parents? Mrs. Johnson’s parents? I’m not sure any of that is needed… you could mention she’s created by the Johnsons and she loves them, and then “when chaos strikes the Johnson family, Mr. Johnson declares he’ll never celebrate another Christmas” or something like that, simply giving us the info that their existence is in danger, and not why or using any extra details we don’t need for a pitch.

    I’m also confused about the prince and princess titles given out by the king and queen… Being princess means being a protector? Does the royal terms prince, princess, king, queen, etc not imply that they are parents and children like in traditional royalty? Maybe clarify this. Or simply say the royal tournament will commence, giving Halo a chance at claiming the title of being a big protector.

    But overall, you do a good job of showing us who Halo is, what’s a stake, and setting up a bad guy in Scarletta, as well as drama in the human world that puts her at risk. I love it!

    1. Cheyanne,

      I ALWAYS look forward to your comments :)

      Ugh, my query.....I have tried and tried to add in, take away, add more then cut, cut, cut. Fantasies are hard to summarize but I received some really great advice here. I will print off and sit down to look at ways to improve.

      Thank you for you time and sweet comments on all of our stories. This workshop has been the best ever.


  8. Hey, Becky!

    It was great to read your pitch and see where the story is headed! Although I love your voicey-ness, I do agree with others who've said you might have turned the dial up a little high. I wonder if you've taken us a little too far through your story in the pitch? Is Halo sacrificing herself, waving good-bye forever the end of the story? Or just the worst-case scenario?

    You did a fantastic job of addressing the suggestions of last round, especially with the "real" reason Halo is determined to protect the village. Having a mysterious letter, teasing a bigger plot, and saying "a secret has to stay a secret" makes us want to know what's going on and also explains her motivation all in one go. Well done!

    Some of my questions remain unanswered (why do Treeples disappear into a void? Why are they okay with this? What are they doing during these 11 months? Etc) but I accept and have faith that you'll get around to them later. You can't possibly tell us everything in 5 pages, right?

    It's been wonderful reading your work -- thank you as well for all your thoughtful comments on my piece! Do stay in touch if you'd like!


    1. SA,

      I was worried when I didn't see your comments until Thursday. I've enjoyed your perfect comments that make me think and revise. I'm going to miss you the most Scarecrow, LOL.

      In the third chapter the rules of the world are told in a fun way BUT I will think on if I need to add a touch more hints in the beginning. OR perhaps there is enough to get your to want to read on to find out???

      And my query......tons to work on and I'm excited to take everyone's advice and revise.

      Thanks again! I'd love to stay in touch.


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