FRIDAY FEEDBACK – BOOT CAMP

My goat Molly loves camping

My goat Molly loves camping

Thanks to Vicki Griffin for providing today’s Friday Feedback. It’s an excerpt from her 1700 word story for readers aged  7+.

BOOT CAMP

When they had finally arrived they saw an old boot hanging off a verandah blowing in the wind. It was brown and dusty and oh so big! Then they spotted their friends. Emily took off running like a lizard flat out drinking. ‘Jasmine, ’she called waving madly. Belle, Amy and Jasmine were sitting on forty four gallon drums playing what looked like marbles.

‘How long have you been here?’ Emily asked.

Jasmine jumped down and brushed the dust and rust of her jeans. ‘We just got it here. I’m a bit nervous. ‘The other girls nodded also as they all stood waiting. Behind them dark thunderous clouds were gathering in the sky a storm was brewing and as the wind picked up. Matilda shivered. ‘I don’t know that this is going to be a good adventure, ‘she offered to her friend’s scared faces.

‘Come in come in,’ Sally called. She was the one in charge of running the boot camp. She wore a floral apron over blue jeans and a checked shirt. Emily noticed she had wading boots on. They could smell damper wafting out the door.

Vicki,

I like the way you introduce us to your main characters straight away…and the boot, which from the title looks as if it’s going to play a significant part in your story. I have a feeling the reader is in for an intriguing adventure. I also enjoyed the setting detail like the girls sitting on 44 gallon drums. Below are some suggestions. I hope you find them helpful.

When they had finally arrived they saw an old boot hanging off a verandah blowing in the wind. It was brown and dusty and oh so big!

Vicki, I wasn’t sure if this was the start of your story or not, but I did want to know where they had ‘arrived’.  I’m not sure you actually need this sentence, but it depends on what if anything precedes it. You don’t need to say ‘they saw’, because you have established that this is ‘their’ point of view, so the reader will know that they must have seen it.

It was brown and dusty and oh so big

I think you could give the reader more here. There’s even the opportunity for some humour if you want, or suspense if that’s what you’re going for. Perhaps you could use a simile…it was a big as… This will help the reader visualise the boot better.

a lizard flat out drinking, dark thunderous clouds, storm was brewing: Vicki, these phrases are bordering on cliches. Is there a stronger way to get this across? Perhaps think about using more of the senses. What does the storm smell or sound like?

Also, a lizard flat out drinking can mean ‘lying prone, prostrate, taking it easy’ (From The Dinkum Dictionary).

Just by reordering some of the sentences in the first paragraph you can make the writing stronger and tighter. Here’s what I mean.

An old boot hung off a verandah blowing in the wind. It was brown and dusty and big enough to fit a Triceratops. (It appears as though the book is going to be quite important. I think you need to explore this more and somehow link it to Belle, Amy and Jasmine if you are going to include the next sentence in this paragraph).

Belle, Amy and Jasmine sat on forty-four gallon drums playing what looked like marbles. “Jasmine!” Emily waved madly and ran towards them.

Jasmine jumped down and brushed the dust and rust of her jeans. ‘We just got it here. I’m a bit nervous. ‘The other girls nodded also as they all stood waiting. Behind them dark thunderous clouds were gathering in the sky a storm was brewing and as the wind picked up. Matilda shivered. ‘I don’t know that this is going to be a good adventure, ‘she offered to her friend’s scared faces.

Why is Jasmine a bit nervous? Is it because of the storm, being away from home or is it something else? You could make this clearer for the reader. Also, instead of telling the reader that Jasmine feels a bit nervous, you could show it in her actions…the sorts of things people do when they are nervous eg, twitch, bite their nails, flick their hair, twirl their hair around their finger, sit on the edge, fidget.

The same thing goes with Matilda’s line about whether it’s going to be a good adventure. I don’t feel you have given me enough at the moment to convince me that these girls have reason to be afraid. Especially as I don’t yet know what sort of camp this is, the thunder clouds don’t seem enough.

She was the one in charge of running the boot camp. She wore a floral apron over blue jeans and a checked shirt. Emily noticed she had wading boots on. They could smell damper wafting out the door.

Vicki, here again I think you could give the reader more by showing that Sally is in charge – perhaps she wears a hat, a badge, has a loud voice, an air of authority, perhaps she tells them. Try and show Sally’s personality from the way she calls them inside. Is she worried about the storm? Also, if you are trying to build tension, the smell of damper seems a bit out of place – and is Sally likely to cook damper inside or on the campfire? Just some things to think about – and some opportunities to build more tension.

You might also want to think about each individual paragraph and how it links to the next one. Also look at each paragraph to see if it contains the action, information and tone you are trying to convey.

Vicki, you have lots of great writing in this 150 words. I get a sense of the characters and that they are going to embark on something unexpected. I’m interested to know what eventuates on this boot camp.

I hope you found my suggestions helpful. Good luck with your rewrites.

If you’d like feedback on 150 words of your manuscript, click the Friday Feedback link for information on how to submit your work.

Happy writing:)

Dee

 

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – VICKI GRIFFIN

Today on Friday Feedback, we thank Vicki Griffin for sharing 150 words from her YA novel.

UGLY-FACED GNOMES mocked and cat-called as she slid down the murky, maggot-infested slime. She had no idea what to expect as she continued her revolting journey through the gruesome tunnel. When she had reached the end, or what she thought was the end, an enormous bug-eyed creature with hairy legs jumped out, grabbed her plaits and started pulling on them at the same time as he squeaked and squealed.

‘Stop that! Stop that right now, you ugly thing!’ She yelled at it trying to get loose.

I beg your pardon? A stern voice echoed behind her. ‘Molly Amelia Pottswaddle you need to standup right now and let the whole class in on the joke!’ Mrs. Snedden demanded, tapping her ruler on the edge of the desk.

‘Crikey, Mrs. Snedden do I have to?’ She stuttered realising she must have dozed off.

MY FEEDBACK

Vicki, this is great. I love the sound of Molly and the humour you have injected into this piece.

I’m not sure exactly where this comes in the story, but I think you could strengthen the ‘dream’ by using more specific description and using the setting as part of the action. You could even use some dialogue.

Here’s what I mean about the description.

With the ugly-faced gnomes, what is ugly about them? Do they have bloodshot eyes, sharp teeth, large noses, bulging eyes, slime coming out of their noses? By giving specific description for the reader, you will give them a more vivid picture.

Also. when the gnomes mock her, you could show it with dialogue.

 For example. “Not so smart now, you revolting child, the gnome glared at her through one bulging eye as she slid past, down the murky, maggot-infested slime.” (You could even mention here the feeling of maggots in her hair and wriggling all over her)

How is Molly feeling about what’s happening to her?

Try to include an emotional response. If you say, “She thought her revolting journey through the gruesome tunnel would never end,” this tells the reader her emotional response to what is happening – that it’s a terrible experience for her and she wants it to be over with.

You could use a simile or metaphor

Give the reader some idea of how enormous this bug-eyed creature is – and is it a spider or something else? How many legs does it have?

Here’s an example of what I mean: “A bug-eyed creature the size of a large hippo grabbed at her plaits with its six hairy legs and pulled them.”

Sounds

Use as many senses as you can to evoke strong images for the reader. Molly could even accidentally swallow some of the slime and you could describe how that feels and tastes.

I think the reader would be interested too in examples of the noises the creature made. What did the squeal sound like for example?

Action

‘Stop that! Stop that right now, you ugly thing!’ She yelled at it trying to get loose. 

You could make this a bit more vivid for the reader by showing how Molly tries to get loose. Does she poke the creature in one of its bulging eyes? Does she pull on its hairy leg? By showing her frantic struggle, this creates more tension for the reader.

Also, I’m not sure how old Molly is, but I’m wondering if she might say something like “You ugly creep”, instead of “You ugly thing”. Seeing as this is a YA novel, I’m assuming Molly is in her teens.

How often does Molly have these dreams?

If Molly often has dreams or visions and this is an important part of the story, you can foreshadow this for the reader just by adding the word ‘again’ to the last part of the second paragraph. (eg,  She must have dozed off again.)

Vicki, you have created a great sense of Molly’s character here and interest for the reader. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to know how Molly is going to explain all this to her teacher.

Good luck with this story.

I hope you’ve found these comments helpful, Vicki. If anyone else has constructive feedback for Vicki, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.


Do you have a 150 word piece you’d like feedback on?

Email it to Dee*At*Deescribe*Dot*Com*Dot*au

Happy writing:)

Dee