Today’s writing snippet is kindly provided by my good writing friend, Sheryl Gwyther. Sheryl is the author of Secrets of Eromanga, Princess Clown and Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper.
Here’s an excerpt from Sheryl’s work in progress, The Octopus ODDyssey.
I have an excellent reason to hide from Bufo Bentley. It began with a dirt-spraying wheelie on my bike and a bagful of textbooks on my back. Over I flipped, but the bike kept going, right into Bufo’s new Avanti Mountain Bike.
He wouldn’t have noticed the scratch on its frame except I wasn’t alone in the school bike shed. The word went out … Bentley’s gonna get Danny O’Leary.
It meant I can’t hang out in the Dirty Duck Café on Friday nights – it’s enemy territory since Bufo and his mates (a.k.a. the Toad Gang) took it over. Instead, I tramp with Finn, Ant, and Leah, deeper into the shadows of Brownie’s Swamp.
‘We’ll miss out on the Dirty Duck’s half-price milkshakes.’ Ant slaps the air around his ears. ‘Plus I’m getting eaten alive.’
‘Serves you right for not using mozzie repellent.’ Leah’s torch flickers into the dense paperbark forest at the side of the track. ‘Let me concentrate or we’ll end up lost.’
Sheryl, I love your opening line. It sets up your story problem and you just know that your main character is going clash with Bufo. It also creates tension right from the start and makes the reader want to keep reading.
But then the tension dissipates because you give the reason for the conflict straight away and it’s told not shown. I’m wondering if the reason for the animosity can be fed into the story as it progresses. Perhaps Bufo sends him a bill for the bike and he can’t afford to pay it.
Explaining what his excellent reason is also drags you back into past tense, which slows the pacing down. It also means that in the third paragraph you have conflicting tenses “it meant” and “I tramp”.
The swamp is a great scene and the tension picks up again here. if this were my story I would probably go straight to the swamp. Here’s what I mean.
I have an excellent reason to hide from Bufo Bentley, which is why I’m tramping deeper into the shadows of Brownie’s Swamp instead of enjoying the half price milks shakes at Dirty Ducks.
Another thing you might want to look at is word repetition. In the second paragraph, you mention the word, ‘bike’ three times. If you did want keep this paragraph here, you might want to think about expanding your descriptions more and this will allow your reader to picture what’s going on, enable you to choose alternative words, and reveal things about your character.
Here’s an example:
I was doing wheelies when my backpack full of last week’s homework slipped to one side and unbalanced me. I lost control and hit the dirt but my wheels kept going. My bike skidded into Bufo’s brand new Avanti and it toppled to the ground, its spokes creased and a scrape the size of a fifty cent piece on its shiny black frame.
Thanks for sharing this piece with us, Sheryl. I can’t wait to hear what happens to Danny in the swamp, and more about his conflict with Bufo and whether he stops hiding.
I hope you found this feedback helpful. If you have any constructive suggestions about Sheryl’s piece, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.
If you’d like feedback on your 150 words, send it to FridayFeedback*at*Deescribe*dot*com*dot*au