Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Most Extraordinary Boy On Earth

The closest representation of Valeous Rex
Hi guys. Hope you're having a wonderful day!

Yesterday there were two very exciting events in blogging, one of which was the Agent Pitch Contest on YA Topia. At the moment, there are still a few slots left, so enter for your chance to win a critique from agent Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Another super-duper contest was Show Me The Voice hosted by Brenda Drake. The blogfest, where you post the first 250 words of your MS on your blog, is over, but all through today and tomorrow, until 12pm EST, you can send your entry to brendaleedrake@gmail.com with 'Contest' in the subject line to enter.

Usually, I am not too keen on showing my work to anyone, for the very reasons you think, but all these other great writers were brave enough to put their stuff out there, and this inspired me to the same. This piece has been polished many times - it's decent but there's always room to improve. I love what it shows...I love that I opened with a bit of exposition (not too much, just a little) to set the mood for what proceeds it. You can't fault that a ten year old boy will read that first paragraph and be hooked, now can you? Yes, that was the plan. I also like that you learn so much about Valeous in so few words - you even get a taste of his comedic tone. But as much as I love it, I hate it all the same. I despise the second sentence in paragraph two (To be honest, flying was exhausting...); it's major telling, but for the life of me I can't come up with something that flows well. I'm still tweaking it to find a good fit. I also have a teensy problem with the fourth sentence in paragraph two. It seems overwritten to me and I'm also trying to fix that without breaking the flow. There is nothing worse than having a story with mismatched sentences that does not connect as you read.

I've prattled on like a hapless old woman, so I'll leave you to be the judge.

Thank you for taking the time to comment. It means so much.


Genre: MG Fantasy/Mystery/Adventure

Valeous Rex was the most extraordinary boy in the whole wide world, and quite proud of it, yes siree! One time, there was this sixty story lizard demolishing Tokyo. Every man, woman and child fled in terror, but not Valeous - oh no! He grabbed Godzilla by the toe, spun it around and flung that sucker into outer space. Not only that, he flew right after it and blew the beast to bits with a blast from his palm. Naturally, it was pretty safe to say there was nothing in the universe that could frighten him. In fact, he didn’t even know what fear was.

Until now…

Valeous had just chased the Boogeyman across the inky skies of Europe, but lost it somewhere in the sewers of Westminster. To be honest, flying was exhausting, so he decided to have a spot of tea at a local cafe. He delighted his senses in a hot cup of Lipton, some caramel biscuits and the plight of the English in the Daily Express. He failed to notice that people were jumping from their seats and running to the door, and it wasn’t until a man bumped his table that he realized he was the only one in the room. He immediately assumed it was the deed of that dreadful muffin (“Five hundred pounds and as tasteful as a sponge, I’d run too!”), but it wasn’t. Because when Valeous Rex brought tea to his lips he spat it out at once; instead of a cup of steaming, brown liquid…it was blood.
  



16 comments:

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hey, T.D.,

I'm glad I hopped over today to catch your excerpt. I congratulate you on your nerve to post some of your work.

M/G is a fun genre and I can feel your excitement in writing it.

You have a strong voice which is SO important in any genre.

IF I may, I do have one suggestion for you. AND it is only a suggestion, do with it what you wish. The first half is very exciting, but it is riddled with was'. In general they are passive and your writing should be active. It's not too difficult to reword your sentences. You have the talent.

I had the same issues with my first novel and my crit partner at the time was brutal with me... So I hope you take this as a kind comment. It's meant that way.

Your second paragraph is also passive in your use of had in the first sentence. "people were jumping" passive. "people jumped" active. You see it's an easy correction and brings the reader into the story;

I hope that helps. Again, it does take great courage to put our work for others to read. But always remember, we all continue to learn.

Have a great day.

T.D. McFrost said...

It is for comments like yours I posted it. I am so glad you stopped by to comment - thanks so much.

It is a simple fix, and I'm contemplating it as we speak. :D

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Love the last sentence hook.

Michael zeroed in on what an agent would see right off : passive tense.

Your hero must be -- in the moment, so that he can propel the reader into the next sentence, the next mental image.

Passive :

Valeous Rex was the most extraordinary boy in the whole wide world, and quite proud of it, yes siree!

Active :

Newspaper headlines the world over proclaim it : Valeous Rex is the most extraordinary boy ever! And no one is prouder of that fact than Rex himself!

Hope this helps in some small way, Roland

Tabitha said...

Oooo, great last sentence. It provokes all kinds of good questions. :)

If you haven't read The Magnificent 12: The Call by Michael Grant, you should. It's very entertaining and has some general similarities to your setup here.

Valeous is clearly a spunky character and we get a good feel for his personality. I agree with Michael that you could break up your sentence structure with some stronger verbs than 'was.'

I am also wondering about his superhero powers. He's so nonchalant about it that it makes me wonder if everyone in his world has superpowers. Or, at least, he's not the only one (like The Incredibles, or something). If not, then it might be a bit difficult for him to have a spot of tea without being mobbed by fans or the press or some such. :) Especially since he doesn't wear a disguise, and doesn't hide the fact that he just flew into the city using his superpowers.

I'm really curious how the rest of the story is going to pan out. :)

Christine L. Arnold said...

Great voice and I love the last sentence! Nice job!

Deana said...

I've got to say I am instantly taken in with your writing. Valeous truly doesn sound extraordinary.
If I could just make a couple of comments on the final paragraph though...it sounds like Valeous is already enjoying his tea, so does something suddenly spike it whiile he isn't looking with blood? If so, maybe some talk of him turing away and then going back to his tea? Also, I didn't quite understand the comment in parenthesis about the muffin. Was he eating a 500 pound muffin because he is extraordinary? I was just kind of confused there too. With that being said, it could be all me, no one else seemed to have those comments so if it flows for you and your audience then go for what feels right to you. One thing is certain, you are a terrific writer!!!

T.D. McFrost said...

Sorry I took so long to reply. I had so many reports and columns to write at work and my editor was with me the whole time. :(

Roland - I value your opinion immensely! After all, you are a Holy Orpheon. ;)

I love your example. Previous drafts of this were different -active - until one afternoon I was tinkering with it and came upon this opening. It worked, despite being passive voice, but sometimes it can be useful for stylistic reasons, and this is certainly one of those times.

I dunno...I can't deny the fact that many of you have a problem with it, so it will definitely have to change.

Tabitha - Thanks so much, I love him too. He's one of those characters that take over, ya know? He's a rebel and a truly remarkable individual. You see, he isn't an ordinary Alterhero...he's something more...something...extraordinary, like the MC. The world doesn't know of their existence, per se, and Valeous has caused quite a bit of grief to the "League" who would rather keep the existence of Alterheroes a secret.

The League has a special clean up division to fix Valeous's messes. It's hilarious.

Christine - Thank you! I love it too. :D

Deana - So very nice to meet you, Deana, and thank you so very much.

People were running to the door because their tea had turned to blood. Valeous didn't know exactly why, until he drank his tea. It is a phenomenon that takes a turn for the worst right after that last hook.

And, no, he wasn't eating a five hundred pound muffin - he's in London and they use the currency of the British pound. I was referring to the price. It was originally five hundred dollars, until I realized Britain doesn't use American dollars. You made me laugh - now I love you even more. :D

Thank you so, so much for stopping by.

duwarr said...

Your word choice and sentence structure is excellent for MG. Very appropriate and I think it will appeal to your target audience. I really like the alliteration and cadence of “blew the beast to bits.” Your pacing is also really good throughout.

The two main problems I have with this are the passive voice (as mentioned by other commenters) and the amount of back story. Removing the passive voice will add to the immediacy of the action and make your pacing even better. The bigger problem is the amount of back story and I think that will deter agents from being hooked by this.

The first sentence that isn’t backstory is the one in the second paragraph starting “To be honest.” I’d recommend starting the manuscript with his pursuit of the Boogeyman, but flesh out the hunt so the beginning starts with action. Give the readers a sense of his powers. Show how flying exhausts Valeous. Let him try to blast the Boogeyman with his palm. You can fit in his past with a sentence or two. Something like:
“The Boogeyman darted down a dark alley and disappeared in the shadows. Hiding. Could it be any more cowardly? Valeous preferred foes like his last one; it had the decency to fight out in the open. Although, it would have been hard for a hundred foot tall fire breathing lizard to hide while it was tromping through Tokyo.”
But put it in your voice, obviously.

From an aesthetic perspective, your text is pretty much all in two very large paragraphs and that makes it harder to read. There are several places each of the paragraphs could be broken into smaller, more manageable units and doing so would improve your opening’s flow.

There are some phrases that seem out of place. “Yes siree!” and “to be honest” in particular. They stand out as separate from the voice and don’t fit with the rest of the passage. Also, why is the sentence beginning “Five hundred pounds” in parentheses? If it’s internal dialogue, that can be designated by underlining the words. Parentheses and quotation marks are too much.

The sentence starting “He failed to notice” is really long. A natural break comes where you have the “and.” When people are panicking or in a hurry, using shorter sentences helps convey their sense of urgency. Also, “it wasn’t until a man bumped his table that he realized he was the only one in the room” threw me off. If someone bumps into his table, there are at least two people in the room – Valeous and the guy bumping into the table. Maybe something like: “it wasn’t until a man bumped his table that Valeous looked up and saw everyone else sprinting out the exits.”

Your ending does have a great hook and kudos for using the semicolon correctly in the last sentence. A lot of people in this competition have been misusing them.

The strength of your writing is the voice. It comes across loud and clear. Great job and good luck!

T.D. McFrost said...

Duwarr - Wowza! Now that is a critique, my man!

I am grateful for the time you put into your post.

I loved your examples and I will definitely revise my stuff. I can't wait to get started!:D

Thanks a million!

duwarr said...

Sorry - I didn't realize I'd written so much until I submitted the comment. I tried to put my comment together several times, but work kept getting in the way. Because I restarted a couple times, I took a ton of notes and included them all.

I hope I didn't come across as negative. When I saw how much I'd typed, I was afraid it would seem that way. You do the big picture things (voice and tone) and little picture things (word choice) very well. In my opinion, those are the hardest things to fix so you're ahead of the game there.

Tracey Neithercott said...

Great job! I loved the voice here, too. I love his personality and the fact that he's larger than life in that first paragraph. I agree with others who say the main problem is the passive voice. I think you could tighten this up with some killer verbs instead of "was," which would only strengthen the voice further.

As for the second paragraph, I felt like this was a prequel to the action. You end paragraph one with a line: Until now... (which I really like) but then we're thrown into events that happen before "now."

I think one of main problems is that up to the point where a man bumps his table, Valeous isn't doing anything now. I wish I were experiencing these things with Valeous, watching him chase down the Boogeyman, seeing him be exhausted (instead of you telling us) and watching him get the tea and sit down. If you expand that, I'd be interested to know whether the people in the cafe notice or recognize him (Do they know he's a superhero? Does he feel extra cool knowing he was just flying when the rest of these human couldn't?).

I also added some comments in your blurb, below. (And sorry if you're not looking for line edits. I figured it couldn't hurt to add it.)


Valeous Rex was the most extraordinary boy in the whole wide world, and quite proud of it, yes siree! One time, there was this sixty story lizard ///SIXTY-STORY/// demolishing Tokyo.//Stronger: one time, a sixty-story lizard demolished Tokyo/// Every man, woman and child fled in terror, but not Valeous - oh no! He grabbed Godzilla by the toe, spun it around and flung that sucker into outer space. Not only that, he flew right after it and blew the beast to bits with a blast from his palm. Naturally, it was pretty safe to say there was nothing in the universe that could frighten him. In fact, he didn’t even know what fear was.

Until now…

Valeous had just chased the Boogeyman across the inky skies of Europe, but lost it somewhere in the sewers of Westminster. To be honest, flying was exhausting, so he decided to have a spot of tea at a local cafe. ///Not sure this sentence flows right from the first. I'm excite about the Boogeyman but it's just dropped, as if Valeous said: "Darn, lost that guy but, hey, how about tea?" which I know isn't your intent. If you go into detail here, that would solve the problem. Otherwise, it might be worth adding a couple sentences so we don't go from the sewers to tea with no debate from Valeous./// He delighted his senses in a hot cup of Lipton, some caramel biscuits and the plight of the English in the Daily Express. He failed to notice that people were jumping from their seats and running to the door, and it wasn’t until a man bumped his table that he realized he was the only one in the room. He immediately assumed it was the deed of that dreadful muffin (“Five hundred pounds and as tasteful as a sponge, I’d run too!”) ///I don't get this...///, but it wasn’t. Because when Valeous Rex brought tea to his lips he spat it out at once; instead of a cup of steaming, brown liquid…it was blood. //Awesome ending. I'm hooked.//

Hope that helps! In the end, I'd definitely read on.

T.D. McFrost said...

Duwarr - Negative? Oh no! You took notes and combined them into a good, solid critique. That shows you care enough to help me, and I am grateful. I can't find a word to express how elated I am.

Thank you Duwarr. And feel free to stop by anytime - I'm glad when you do. :D


Tracey - I'm so happy I have you as a friend. You actually clarified it for me. Thank you, thank you thank you!

Don't be sorry about anything. You are helping me when you don't have to. That speaks volumes.

I knew that second sentence in paragraph two was rotten. I've already come up with a new one (thanks to you guys).

I am beyond happy right now. :D

Kelly Hashway said...

I'm really liking this. You have a great voice. I have to agree with the comments about the first paragraph though. In a way, I felt like I was reading a query at first. It was exciting and you hooked me, but it read like a query synopsis more than the opening of a book.

Good luck with this. It sounds like a great story.

Michael Offutt said...

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and yes indeed, I played WoW pretty competitively during Wrath of the Lich King and know what suduwudoo is :).

I love your blog, it's incredibly stylish and your writing is awesome. I would love to read more of the exciting adventures you have planned for your superhero-esque characters. You've got amazing talent and I'm definitely gonna be following you :)

T.D. McFrost said...

Kelly - Thank you so much. I'm glad you were hooked. If anything, I did my job at least drawing the reader in - and that makes me proud. :D

Michael Offutt - Such a peculiar last name. You and Mr. Di Gesu have extraordinary surnames.

I played WOW WOTLK too, and pranced around Lordaeron as an Elemental Draenei Shaman. I love the Draenei! I gave it up because it took a lot out of my time. I still love it, and might play again in the future.

I started the game known as League of Legends (do you play?) and gave that up too - for the while. :D

Now I devote my time to writing, work and hanging out.

Thank you for the compliments. I love my blog as well. I intend to upgrade it in the future, to really accommodate my superhero theme. You guys are gonna love it!

So good of you to notice that Valeous and those like him aren't really superheroes. For one thing, they use magic.

I was stunned when I read that. You have a really great eye. Of course, what can you expect from someone who plays video games. :D

We have a lot to talk about; Email me or something, I have so much I wanna ask you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mary Witzl said...

You're brave to post this, and I agree with everybody else who says that cup of blood is a great hook. Who wouldn't want to read on after a cup of blood?

I agree with everybody else about the use of the passive (I've gotten called on that myself, so I'm quick to spot it now). Personally, I'd want that cup of blood to really stand out, in a paragraph all of its own. I also want just a hint of the taste and temperature -- gross, yes, but this is MG. That way it will really be disgusting and pack a greater punch:

(“Five hundred pounds and as tasty as a sponge, I’d run too!”). But the muffin wasn’t to blame.

Valeous Rex frowned. The tea was room temperature and it tasted funny -- salty, almost metallic. He looked, frowned -- and spat it out. It wasn't tea in the cup, it was blood.

I'd certainly read on.

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