Revised Beginning of my Middle Grade Fantasy for Blogfest Contest

Okay, having read and absorbed the comments, plus the comments last night of my own critique group, I’ve rewritten my opening, which is a prologue, and am re-classifying it as YA Fantasy. I’ll leave the original below for comparison’s sake.

(New Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: YA Fantasy

Eight miles from Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs.

No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide. The adults in the group hung on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, and despite his high-pitched voice, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . “

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if the boulders were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground, and they treated it as such, much to the exasperation of Ralph and the security guard.

All save one boy who appeared to be sniffing the stones.

 

(Original Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Eight miles north of Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs. No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide, and hanging on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them, despite his high-pitched voice. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . ”

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if they were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground. But then Ralph said something that stopped them in their tracks.

“You see, Stonehenge in Saxon means the hanging stones.” The beefy guide in his mid-fifties pointed to one of the inner archways.

Originally posted 2011-09-21 11:32:33.

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12 thoughts on “Revised Beginning of my Middle Grade Fantasy for Blogfest Contest

  1. I love this. It read smoothly and I could see it happening. It leaves me wanting to know about the glowing and what the kids saw!

    Since it was MG I assumed the “ordinary group” consisted of (only) kids (like ona field trip or something) and was in awe that they hung on the tour guides every word. But later you mention the kids in the group hopping around, so that made more sense.

    Christy

  2. I enjoyed this entry. It’s mysterious and I would love to know what Ralph said that made the kids stop in their tracks.

    I did notice the last sentence of the first paragraph was a little long. I’d break it up a bit.

    I’m not sure who the protagonist is, but I hope, since this is a MG manuscript, that it’s not Ralph. He’s the only person we have a name for, so I was a little concerned about that. Is this the first page of a prologue?

    Anyway, great entry!

    ~Beth

  3. I do like this. It’s something I would’ve read when I was around 9 or 10. However, the ending sentence of the first paragraph is rather long. I don’t know if this is what you’re going for, but you’re very close to sounding like a MG Gaimon/Pratchett.

  4. I adored this intro because of the voice. It’s that slightly cheeky Roald Dahl-esque narrator that I love and miss from many of today’s books. As far as I’m concerned, I’m hooked. I’m intrigued by the title, love the foppish portrayal of Ralph, and look forward to meeting the main characters.

    Perhaps this book would skew older than MG because of the complexity of the language, but at this point, just finish and let it shake out how it will. It really is a great starting point.

  5. Thoughts as I go:

    Eight miles north of Salisbury in Southern England ((((Admittedly, you caught me off-guard with ‘NORTH of salisbury in SOUTHERN england’)))), a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary ((((love the contrast between ordinary group and extraordinary rocks!)))) circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs. No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide, and hanging on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

    ((((The voice of this passage is awesome already.))))

    Though not tall, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them, despite his high-pitched voice ((((The two qualifying phrases give me pause. Maybe you could combine them? “Though not tall, and despite his high-pitched voice, Ralph seemed…”)))). “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . ”

    There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if they ((((‘they’ = vague pronoun – “the rocks”, perhaps?)))) were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground. But then Ralph said something that stopped them in their tracks.

    “You see, Stonehenge in Saxon means the hanging stones.” The beefy guide in his mid-fifties ((((odd place to point out his age. I’d either state it right up front or leave it for later.)))) pointed to one of the inner archways.

    Awesome setting and fantastic voice! As a teen, *I* would totally read on. =]

  6. My biggest concern is that you list this as MG, there is zero connection to the main character on your first page… I don’t even know who your MC is.

    You have a wonderful writing voice, though perhaps it’s a little too wordy for a MG audience, and it feels very distant. I think a MG age reader would find it difficult to connect to this… it feels more like you’re writing for a teen or an adult.

  7. I agree with 1000th.monkey – I think this is better for a YA audience. I think MG would get a little bored by all the description (which, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I’m also older, when I was in middle school, it was all about captivating action and strong, internal voices/characters).

    One captivating phrase that stood out to me was how the archways glowed blue – and the fact that no one saw them. That’s awesome foreshadowing. But I am very unsure of who the main character is.

    As an adult and YA enthusiast, I would keep reading – as long as we got a main character very soon after this. I know how hard it is to get your plot across in the first 250 words!

    Cheers,
    Rachel

  8. This sounds like a really cool premise for MG. I love your writing and the voice. I would tighten up the sentences a bit more – simple and concise for MG. Also, you should introduce the MC right off. Ideally, after the hook. Excellent – good luck with the contest! <3

  9. Thanks so much for all the comments and suggestions. You made a lot of good points. I originally did have this pegged as YA rather than middle grade, but because my MC is 13, I figured it would have to be middle grade. It’s the first of a series and he will get older so maybe I’ll enter it as YA after all.

  10. The majority of what I would have said is already here. I think that it’s a bit wordy for MG, and there’s no mention of your MC yet. That being said, your voice and description are great, and I would definitely keep reading. :)

  11. I was intrigued, but not really vested. I didn’t have a main character–no one to root for. The voice was fun! but probably a bit too sophisticated for middle grade. YA, maybe? Still, the line about the glowing really piqued my curiosity.

  12. I could not connect with this, which I think is a problem for middle grade or YA. Nothing happens to draw me in, which I think is important early on in any story. The writing is solid. Very solid, but there is nothing to grab me. As someone else said, I’m not vested. You might want to consider playing with alternate angles and different possibilities of beginnings. This seems to be a more “adult” type opening. Sorry. I hope this could help a little.

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