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In the Heart of the Desert (MG Magical Realism)


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#1 Arcanjoe

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Posted 04 January 2018 - 01:59 PM

First 250 from my Middle Grade Magical Realism story. A huge thank you to anybody who crits, and I'm of course happy to return the favour.

 

Chapter 1

 

Welcome To Africa

 

“There’s no way I’ll be able to see the whole desert from up there,” I said, frowning up at the man who had invited me all the way from England to his family farm on the South African Veld. “The Karoo is far too big for me to see all of it.”

 

Mattheu shrugged, hazel eyes gleaming mischievously. “You would think so, wouldn’t you. But . . .” He held out the gnarled rope invitingly. Attached to the rope a newly painted wood swing glistened a dazzling white in the late afternoon sun. “Hold tight and you’ll be fine. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

 

But I did not reach out. “Um, you go first. I’ll watch.”

 

Mattheu frowned, then started looking around––behind the huge tree from which the twenty-five-foot rope hung, past the immaculate lines of vegetables planted behind the outhouse, even peeking through the polished windows of the farmhouse––as if searching for something.

 

“What are you doing?” I asked, following him, barely a step behind.

 

“Where’s Alex?” he asked, puzzled. “Small for his age, scruffy-looking with dark hair and a defiant sort of look in his eye. Seen him anywhere?”

 

I crossed my arms and glared. “I’m right he–”

 

“The boy I made Under 11s rugby captain; the one who jumped at the chance to spend three months on a sporting scholarship in South Africa; the one who swam with baby sharks in Cape Town just two days ago. I could’ve sworn I’d invited him out here, but I can’t find him anywhere.” He sighed theatrically, half-turning away. “Maybe I should’ve invited Ryan after all. Maybe he would’ve at least tried–”

 

“Fine. I’ll do it!” I cut in, stomping over to the swing and sitting down. “Oh, and Ryan would never do this.”

 

Mattheu turned around, smirking. “Oh, there you are, Alex. Lost you for a moment there.”


I'd love for you to critique my latest query...

In the Heart of the Desert:

http://agentquerycon...agical-realism/

 

Or the first 250 words of my story...

In the Heart of the Desert:

http://agentquerycon...agical-realism/


#2 Springfield

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Posted 04 January 2018 - 09:55 PM

First 250 from my Middle Grade Magical Realism story. A huge thank you to anybody who crits, and I'm of course happy to return the favour.

 

Chapter 1

 

Welcome To Africa

 

“There’s no way I’ll be able to see the whole desert from up there,” I said, frowning up at the man who had invited me all the way from England to his family farm on the South African Veld. “The Karoo is far too big for me to see all of it.”

 

Mattheu shrugged, hazel eyes gleaming mischievously. “You would think so, wouldn’t you. But . . .” He held out the gnarled rope invitingly. Attached to the rope a newly painted wood swing glistened a dazzling white in the late afternoon sun. “Hold tight and you’ll be fine. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

 

But I did not reach out. “Um, you go first. I’ll watch.”

 

Mattheu frowned, then started looking around––behind the huge tree from which the twenty-five-foot rope hung, past the immaculate lines of vegetables planted behind the outhouse, even peeking through the polished windows of the farmhouse––as if searching for something.

 

“What are you doing?” I asked, following him, barely a step behind.

 

“Where’s Alex?” he asked, puzzled. “Small for his age, scruffy-looking with dark hair and a defiant sort of look in his eye. Seen him anywhere?”

 

I crossed my arms and glared. “I’m right he–”

 

“The boy I made Under 11s rugby captain; the one who jumped at the chance to spend three months on a sporting scholarship in South Africa; the one who swam with baby sharks in Cape Town just two days ago. I could’ve sworn I’d invited him out here, but I can’t find him anywhere.” He sighed theatrically, half-turning away. “Maybe I should’ve invited Ryan after all. Maybe he would’ve at least tried–”

 

“Fine. I’ll do it!” I cut in, stomping over to the swing and sitting down. “Oh, and Ryan would never do this.”

 

Mattheu turned around, smirking. “Oh, there you are, Alex. Lost you for a moment there.”

 

It's cute, though I think you've got a serious adjective problem, a bunch too much stage direction in here and you're bordering on said bookisms, though some are ok in MG, but you still want to be careful. The language is more questionable to me; I'm not getting an MG voice from stuff like immaculate rows of veg peeking through polished windows or glistening white paint.



#3 Arcanjoe

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 09:59 AM

Thanks for your crit, Springfield. I've cut out a couple of the adjectives now. To your point, I've used "said", twice "asked" twice and "cut in" once. Sure, "cut in" is dubious but "asked" is a very accepted said bookism. Draft #2

 

Chapter 1

 

Welcome To Africa

 

“There’s no way I’ll be able to see the whole desert from up there,” I said, frowning up at the man who had invited me all the way from England to his family farm on the South African Veld. “The Karoo is far too big for me to see all of it.”

 

Mattheu shrugged, hazel eyes gleaming. “You would think so, wouldn’t you. But . . .” He held out the gnarled rope invitingly. Attached to the rope a newly painted wood swing glistened a dazzling white in the late afternoon sun. “Hold tight and you’ll be fine. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

 

But I did not reach out. “Um, you go first. I’ll watch.”

 

Mattheu frowned, then started looking around––behind the huge tree from which the twenty-five-foot rope hung, past the immaculate lines of vegetables planted behind the outhouse, even peeking through the polished windows of the farmhouse––as if searching for something.

 

“What are you doing?” I asked, following him, barely a step behind.

 

“Where’s Alex?” he asked, puzzled. “Small for his age, scruffy-looking with dark hair and a defiant sort of look in his eye. Seen him anywhere?”

 

I crossed my arms and glared. “I’m right he–”

 

“The boy I made Under 11s rugby captain; the one who jumped at the chance to spend three months on a sporting scholarship in South Africa; the one who swam with baby sharks in Cape Town just two days ago. I could’ve sworn I’d invited him out here, but I can’t find him anywhere.” He sighed theatrically, half-turning away. “Maybe I should’ve invited Ryan after all. Maybe he would’ve at least tried–”

 

“Fine. I’ll do it!” I cut in, stomping over to the swing and sitting down. “Oh, and Ryan would never do this.”

 

Mattheu turned around, smirking. “Oh, there you are, Alex. Lost you for a moment there.”


I'd love for you to critique my latest query...

In the Heart of the Desert:

http://agentquerycon...agical-realism/

 

Or the first 250 words of my story...

In the Heart of the Desert:

http://agentquerycon...agical-realism/


#4 Springfield

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Posted 14 January 2018 - 02:19 AM

I meant through the modifiers and the action tags, hence bordering on -- asked, puzzled; turned, smirking... etc. 



#5 lnloft

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Posted 18 January 2018 - 05:12 PM

Thanks for giving my 250 a look over.

 

Thanks for your crit, Springfield. I've cut out a couple of the adjectives now. To your point, I've used "said", twice "asked" twice and "cut in" once. Sure, "cut in" is dubious but "asked" is a very accepted said bookism. Draft #2

 

Chapter 1

 

Welcome To Africa

 

“There’s no way I’ll be able to see the whole desert from up there,” I said, I'm not the hugest fan of jumping right in with a line of dialogue, although thinking back it's probably more common in MG. Still, this does a lot come down to personal style, but if you are going to stick with dialogue to start you could probably use something a little punchy. frowning up at the man who had invited me all the way from England to his family farm on the South African Veld I feel like this is too much exposition for the first sentence, especially when it really elongates the sentence. “The Karoo is far too big for me to see all of it.”

 

Mattheu shrugged, hazel eyes gleaming. “You would think so, wouldn’t you. But . . .” He held out the gnarled rope invitingly. Attached to the rope a newly painted wood swing glistened a dazzling white in the late afternoon sun. I'm still quite sure what you're describing here. At first I imagined Mattheu just holding a loose length of rope, with a board at the end to be used as a swing, but I figured that wasn't right. Then I realized that he's holding part of a rope on a swingset or the like, but I assumed the narrator was sitting on it to be pushed (there's nothing specific that would lead me to assume that, but that was the conclusion I jumped to, for what it's worth). But then reading on I realized the narrator is not on the swing. All of which to say is that this could be clearer. “Hold tight and you’ll be fine. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

 

But I did not reach out. “Um, you go first. I’ll watch.”

 

Mattheu frowned, then started looking around––behind the huge tree This would be a nice spot for a concrete detail: what kind of tree is it? Acacia? Quiver tree (not sure how that one would work with a swing, but...)? Some imported species? from which the twenty-five-foot rope hung, past the immaculate lines of vegetables planted behind the outhouse, even peeking through the polished windows of the farmhouse––as if searching for something.

 

“What are you doing?” I asked, following him, barely a step behind. You just said Mattheu looked around, but now apparently they're moving.

 

“Where’s Alex?” he asked second "asked" in a row, puzzled. “Small for his age, scruffy-looking with dark hair and a defiant sort of look in his eye. Seen him anywhere?”

 

I crossed my arms and glared. “I’m right he–”

 

“The boy I made Under 11s rugby captain; the one who jumped at the chance to spend three months on a sporting scholarship in South Africa; the one who swam with baby sharks in Cape Town just two days ago. I feel like this is clunky exposition, but then I'm second-guessing if maybe it's okay to do it this way for a MG. I could’ve sworn I’d invited him out here, but I can’t find him anywhere.” He sighed theatrically, half-turning away. “Maybe I should’ve invited Ryan after all. Maybe he would’ve at least tried–”

 

“Fine. I’ll do it!” I cut in, stomping over to the swing and sitting down. “Oh, and Ryan would never do this.”

 

Mattheu turned around, smirking. “Oh, there you are, Alex. Lost you for a moment there [cut just because you had "there" in the previous sentence as well].”

 

Well, first off, not entirely relevant, but I've lived in southern Africa and been to the Karoo, so nice to see some repping of that little desert. Yay!

 

Anyway, I'm probably having a bit of difficulty switching my mind to think MG while I read this, but I have to agree with Springfield that something about the way this reads isn't feeling quite right for MG. It feels too... sophisticated? I'm having trouble putting my finger on it.

 

The other thing is that I don't exactly get what's going on. It almost feels like Alex is being difficult about the swing so that we can get an info-dump of backstory on him. I'm not sure yet why I should care about this. I wonder if maybe starting the scene in a slightly different spot, or starting with a different scene, might work better? You know what you need to tell, so that's your call, but it might be worth experimenting.



#6 Arcanjoe

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Posted 19 January 2018 - 07:12 AM

Thanks so much for taking a look, Inloft! I've brought forward Alex's goal for this scene––the Orxy––and I think (hope) it gives it a focus. I've also tried to add a little more of a MG voice to the 250 words, as I saw what both of you meant about it reading older. How's Draft #3?

 

Chapter 1

 

Welcome To Africa

 

I had dreamt of seeing an Oryx since I was five. In real life, not on TV. I’d done that loads of times. With its arrow-straight, V-shaped horns that stretched into the sky, and its masked face of black and white, the antelope was King of the Karoo Desert. At least to me. And now I was finally here, in the Karoo for three months, with a chance to see my favourite animal.

I stood in the shade of a huge Oak tree, wearing a grin so wide my face ached.

“So I’ll be able to see an Oryx from up there?”

Mattheu’s hazel eyes gleamed. “You can see the whole Karoo from up there, Alex. Now come on . . .” He held out the gnarled ropes invitingly. Attached to them a newly painted wood swing glistened a dazzling white in the late afternoon sun. “Dad planted this oak nearly fifty years ago, when he was just six. The branches are strong, so if you hold tight you’ll be fine. It’ll be worth it, I promise.”

But I did not reach out, suddenly nervous. It was so high up. “Um, you go first. I’ll watch.”

Mattheu frowned, then started looking around––behind the enormous Oak from which the twenty-five-foot rope hung, past the immaculate lines of vegetables planted behind the outhouse, even peeking through the polished windows of the farmhouse––as if searching for something.

“What are you doing?” I asked, following him, barely a step behind.

“Where’s Alex?” he said, puzzled. “Small for his age, scruffy-looking with dark hair and a defiant sort of look in his eye. Seen him anywhere?”

I crossed my arms and glared. “I’m right he–”

“The boy I made Under 11s rugby captain; the one who jumped at the chance to spend three months on a sporting scholarship in South Africa; the one who said he’d do anything to see an Oryx. I could’ve sworn I’d invited him out here, but I can’t find him anywhere.” He sighed theatrically, half-turning away. “Maybe I should’ve invited Ryan after all. Maybe he would’ve at least tried–”

“Fine. I’ll do it!” I cut in, stomping over to the swing and sitting down. “Oh, and Ryan would never do this.”

 

Mattheu turned around, smirking. “Oh, there you are, Alex. Lost you for a moment.”


I'd love for you to critique my latest query...

In the Heart of the Desert:

http://agentquerycon...agical-realism/

 

Or the first 250 words of my story...

In the Heart of the Desert:

http://agentquerycon...agical-realism/





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