Today’s excerpt is from Taryn Bashford’s 32,000 word adventure novel for readers aged 9 to 12.
Thanks Taryn for sharing your work here. If you have suggestions for Taryn, please leave them in the ‘comments’ section of this post.
‘Don’t bite your nails,’ says Mum. She peels the potatoes and throws me a prickly stare. I yank the pinkie nail from between my teeth and unload the dishwasher.
Am I an omnivore or an herbivore?
‘Did you hear me Leigh? Or did you get struck with complete deafness?’
Puzzled, I check my hands. My thumb is now in my mouth, under attack from my teeth, whilst the other hand stacks cups.
At least I’m not picking my nose.
‘Yes, Mum.’ Wish she wouldn’t freak out so much.
‘Do I detect sarcasm in your voice young lady?’ Her raised eyebrows set off an alarm in my head. Bad day at the office?
Then I drop the cup.
Taryn, I love the voice in this piece. I get a real sense of your character and her relationship with her mother. I love the way you show her actions and internal responses.
I50 words is only a small space to try and give a lot of information to the reader, but I thought you could have set the scene and perhaps the tone of the book a bit more.
I didn’t get a sense of what kind of story this is going to be or what it might be about. Sometimes just a line can provide these clues. You need to get across to the reader that something is about to change for this character.
For example, if this were a story where the daughter runs away, you could foreshadow this for the reader with something simple like. “I open the dishwasher door, clatter plates onto the bench, wish I was anywhere else but here.”
The line “Then I drop the cup” indicates that something important might be about to happen, but you could have a more dramatic build up and rising tension.
Here’s what I mean: This might not work for your characters and it’s just an example of how to up the tension. What if the mother slapped the daughter’s hand away from her face to stop her biting her nails? That would give us more of a sense of the mother’s annoyance through her actions and would make the reader more sympathetic to the daughter. It would lead to a whole new series of events.
Be careful of using lines like ‘throws me a prickly stare’. This can create strange impressions in a reader’s mind and take them out of a story because a stare isn’t something you can actually throw.
You could strengthen your opening line by making Mum show her anger through the action of peeling the potato. For example: “Don’t bite your nails.” Mum scraped viciously with peeler until there was hardly anything left of the potato.
I liked the action of Leigh yanking the pinkie nail from between her teeth, but then I wanted to know what she did with the nail while she was unloading the dishwasher or did she drop the nail onto the ground or toss it in the bin first? When you put two separate pieces of action like this together in the one sentence, it can create conflicting images for the reader.
I wasn’t sure about the line, am I an omnivore or an herbivore? Is this how a kid this age would think and is this important to the story? And I wasn’t quite sure why Leigh was puzzled.
You’ve really done a good job with the character’s voice. I just think you could increase the tension and give the reader a few more clues to hook them into the story and want to follow Leigh’s journey.
I hope you find this helpful.
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