FRIDAY FEEDBACK – The Octopus ODDyssey

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

Happy writing:)


13 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEEDBACK – The Octopus ODDyssey

  1. Like Vicki, I’m enjoying the regular Friday ‘fix’! Keep up the great submissions and evaluations everyone. It’s a delight to read the passages and feedback of writers we know and those we are becoming better acquainted with. My head is so full of learning! 😀

  2. Hi Sheryl and Dee.

    I thought I’d offer a boy perspective. On the subject of fighting at school, it’s not neccessarily bullying. It’s just a fight that’s either going to happen, could possibly be avoided by running long and hard enough OR by finding another way to defuse the tension / make amends, or it’s just bluff. For a lot of boys, damaging another boy’s bike and not fronting up about it deserves a thumping. I’m not saying it’s right – by adult standards it’s not – but in the childish world of rough justice, things tend to be a bit more biblical.

    The main things to worry about are: will any girls be watching? Have I ever been in a fight before and if I haven’t, will I act like a girl and just cry, or will I try the old beserker frenzy strategy where I appear so much like a mentally ill person the other guy will eventually back off and let me air-kick and punch with my eyes closed until I get tired or hit a wall by accident. The other fear, other than crying, is how much damage will I sustain? If I know how to fight, on the other hand, tactics need to be planned to suit the opponent – inside knowledge of the opponent’s previous form helps.

    On the bullying side of things, people tend to be black and white about it, but quite often school bullies aren’t corporate psychopaths waiting to happen, but ordinary kids caught up in a cycle they may not understand is wrong because they can’t empathise with the victim/s.

    I’ve been on both sides. In primary school, I joined in with others in verbally sledging a group of two or three geeky kids as we were all going in through the gate in the morning. I did it because it got a laugh, everyone else was doing it, and I felt good because I felt stronger and better somehow than the bullied kids. Then, one day, I was coming up well behind the group, and I saw the geeks get sledged. The kids moved on and I saw the reactions of the geeks. They were cowed, silent and clearly hurting. It hit me that what I’d been doing was hurtful, not fun. I stopped sledging those kids, and I suspect by doing so, others stopped as well. Second story: a big kid grabbed a geeky kid’s new toy car and dropped it in dog poo. I didn’t like his smirk nor the poor geek’s dilemma so I pushed through the other kids and, without a word, picked the car out of the poo, walked to the tap, washed it – REALLY THOROUGHLY – handed it back to the geek. The smirk disappeared. Win.



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