October 2013 Critique Corner

October Stories!

You’re in for a treat today. 🙂 It’s story day… Let the critiquing begin! We have five story starts written by five awesome writers! Each story start is posted separately with its own comment box. Just go to the post below this one to see Story # 1. Keep scrolling down to see each of the other stories after that. Over the next few days, if your story is posted on the site, please be sure to make a comment about each of the other stories. And be on the lookout for a comment from Swirl and Spark too. If you don’t have a story posted today, you can still make comments. I’m sure each of these writers would love to hear what you think!

Remember to keep the critique comments positive. Begin with something you like about the story, add a suggestion if you have one, and end with something else you like about it too. So scroll down, sit back, and enjoy the beginnings of these stories. You’re definitely in for a treat!

But before we do that, let’s hear it for our October Swirl and Spark Authors: Adam, Jordan, Ben, Riley and Sarah!!  **claps like a crazy!**   Thanks for submitting. You five are awesome and well on your way to writing amazing stories!                         

October 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 1

Title:          The Chain

Author:      Adam Y.

Detroit 2036-

“McNabb skating down the ice, up on a breakaway, approaching the Blazers net… McNabb takes the shot.  He SCORESSS!!!” screams the Rebels commentator.

I always knew my special chain on my neck supposedly gave me good luck.  But, I didn’t think it was enough to have me leading the Western Hockey League in Points, Goals and Assists this season.

The chain was shaped in a weird way, a semi-circle with a divot on the straight side. I never knew where I got it. My parents say I was born with it, like we all were.  My parents told me that before their time, people didn’t have chains. Sure they had good luck charms but nothing as real as this.

I think my grandpa tells the story in the best way. “It was a dark, cloudless November evening in the year 1997. A man by the name of Elijah Harris discovered something, a locket with a semi-circle and a divot on the straight side. Just like mine. Supposedly he picked it up and put it on. He later found a great fortune. He gives the credit to his locket. Elijah said to his son on his deathbed, “The next person to have this locket shape you must find him.”

To this day no one has had that shape. I do, and good luck has come to me ever since. People have always questioned me about and I just shrug and say, “I was born with it. Like no one else ever was.”

October 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 2

Title:          Secrets

Author:     Jade Devereaux

“Sit with me. Just for a second. It won’t take that long. I just want to talk,” her voice rings out in the dark room.
The windows are cracked and there’s a draft, the cold November air seeping through.
He stops in his tracks, heart hammering in his chest. “You figured it out?” he asks and she chuckles from her seat by the open window. “What made you think I wouldn’t? You really didn’t make any attempt to hide it.”
He licks his lips, turns around slowly. “How did you do it?”
Megan shrugs. “It wasn’t hard.”
“What will it take then? To keep you quiet? What will it take?”
Her lips curl into a devious smile. “There’s something hidden at the hotel over on North Street. Second floor. Room 206. There’s a slip of paper under the mattress. There’s a set if directions on it. Follow the directions… and your secret will be safe.”
“That’s it? That’s all I have to do?”
She shrugs again. “That’s it.”
He nods. “By when?”
“No deadline, Anthony.”
He looks up. “Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me. Not yet.”
He looks down and walks out of the room.

October 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 3

Title:         Scary Story

Author:     Ben B.

October, 26 2013

Ben woke up knowing that he had a very big day ahead of him, On Saturday morning he had a Halloweenie tournament in Batavia, NY. He would play three games in one day with an hour in between. A ghost told him that if he did not score at least one goal he would DIE!!!  This ghost appeared to him while he was in his bedroom putting on his soccer uniform. Ben was very frightened but deep down knew he could score and save his own life…but more about that in a minute. Off to the fields without telling his dad anything about what the ghost had said. Although he was worried this might be the last time he saw his dad, he never let his fear get in the way of his mission…score a goal and live forever.

He played the Minions, Skelton’s and Batman. They tied the Minions 5-5…NO GOAL, lost to the Skelton’s 6-1, NO GOAL, and then…with death knocking on the door, Ben’s team lost to the Batman 2-1 …BUT BEN SCORED!!! …and he was freed from the Halloweenie Curse….phew!!.  Just in case you didn’t know my team was Superman! The weather we played in was terrible because the fields were technically under water and it was cold, windy and muddy! I actually fell on my face and into a pool of water….but at least I am alive to tell this scary tale.

October 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 4

Title:          2076

Author:     Riley

The minute Max slammed the newspaper on the lunch table in front of me, I knew something was up. “Boston Tea Party,” the caption read. It was my mother’s newspaper.
“What’s this?”
Max’s face is grim, his eyes like stone. “Last night some… rebels from the government– they were Minors–threw tea in Boston Harbor. I don’t know what’s going on, but… Olive, I think your mom is in trouble. They stopped printing the paper and the Greaters took every copy from our street. I snagged this one from Leland before they came there.” He says this without looking away from me. I’ve been slowly eating cold macaroni noodle by noodle, taking in his every word.
“What about the Greater Times?” I ask, referring to the other paper in the area.
“It’s the same story, but they called it the Boston Harbor Incident. Don’t know what the name has anything to do with it, but none of those were confiscated…” Ashley trails off and slides onto the bench next to me, pulling a copy out of her bag.
I don’t look at it. My mother has been running the North Andover Chronicle since before I was born. She knew what she was doing. I shouldn’t be worried, but the pit in the bottom of my stomach tightens, and I feel like I’ve been swallowing snakes. Something is going on.

October 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 5

Title:         The Relationship

Author:     Sarah W.

Once there was this girl named Sarah and she had 2 WEIRD friends named Olivia and Shanna. And they were friends since kindergarten. They loved sleeping at Sarah’s house. And Sarah’s maid was named Brian and her pink limo driver was named Ryan (they weren’t very good). They got paid 1 cent per hour which was okay to them because they’re happy if they get into any kind of job because many people thought they were bad at the jobs they wanted to get. Anyway, so Sarah invited Livie and Shanna over to spend the weekend at her Mansion they said okay. Sarah lets them have whatever they want whenever they want and because of that they were called the rich and popular crew. Livie wanted to go bowling, and Shanna wanted to go to the YMCA to go swimming so I said okay we’ll go to both. So when we were bowling the score was really close. Sarah had 367, Shanna had 370, and Olivia had 368. I know that in bowling we can’t get more than 300 but we’re better than that 300 rule. We wanted to win but who ever won, the other people didn’t get mad so at the end Shanna won the game. Then we went to the YMCA and the people there called us queens of the dolphins which meant we were very good at swimming.

Book Nook, Critique Corner

Are You a Bouque?

You just might be.  If you can’t get enough of your favorite books… you know, if your nose is stuck in a book kind of a lot, then yup—you’re  a Bouque.

So what’s a Bouque?

The French word, Bouquiner means to read—or loosely translated, to have one’s nose stuck in a book.  So that’s what I call myself.  A Bouque. I may like to write, but I like to read too. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. The single best thing you can do to become an amazing writer is this…

Read a lot of books!

That’s right. Reading will help you to write better stories. Read as much as you can. Read whatever you can. It really doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you read something.  I read many different types of books. I read books for grown- ups. I read books for kids. I read books for teenagers. I read magazines. I read realistic fiction. I read historical fiction. I read mystery stories and fantasy stories. I read ghost stories. I read biographies. And of course I read fairy tales. I mean who doesn’t like a good fairy tale?

I don’t have a favorite type of book. As long as the characters are amazing and their adventures take me someplace I’d love to go, I’ll give it a try. I’ve been surprised lots of times by the books I’ve chosen.  Right now I’m reading Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.  It’s the story of Hazel and Jack. I’ve only read three chapters so far, but I can’t put it down. I have to find out what happens to them! That’s the thing about a good book. You can get carried away into their story and travel to places only your imagination can take you.  But be careful. If you’re a Bouque like I am, your nose might just get stuck in that book!

So all you Bouques out there—what books are you reading? I’m always looking for suggestions. If you’ve read a something great lately, post it in the comment box below.  If you liked it, I bet other kids would like it too. Are you looking for a book to read in your free time or for school? Just click on the BOOK NOOK tab.  One of my favorites might become your favorite too!

So go on. Read a good book. After all, that’s the very best way to become an amazing writer.  🙂

And speaking of writing…

It’s time for the October Critique Round!    

For details head over to Critique Corner. I will accept story submissions for the next 6 days and then the samples will appear on the blog next Wednesday, October 30th!  If your story appeared in the September Critique Round, you are still eligible to participate. So be daring. Submit your work. We can’t wait to read all about it!

Writing Craft

Making Characters Memorable

Last week’s post called, Fifty Facts was all about listing as much stuff as you can about each character. That way you’ll know enough about them to write them into your story. For example, let’s say your character, Ben loves cars. Since Ben loves cars, you can write a scene where he builds a go- cart and races it in the Soap Box Derby.

Once you’ve made your list of fifty facts though, there’s more you can do to ensure that the character you create jumps off the page.  Pick one item from your list. Pick the one that’s the most unusual. Pick the one that will make your reader remember your character.

Think of Ben.  Even though it’s interesting that he loves cars, its even more interesting that he speaks in rhyme—all the time. He answers every question by rhyming.  He tells his friends about his soccer games by rhyming. He invites his friends to his birthday party—all by rhyming!

See what I mean? By giving Ben a memorable characteristic, like rhyming all the time, you’ve created a character that your readers will never forget. I mean who can forget a character who can rhyme all the time??  

So give it a try. Take a look at your list of Fifty Facts. Then pick the one that will make your character unforgettable. Maybe Zoey likes to make her own crayons. Maybe Simon can name the capitols of every state and every past president of the United States. Maybe Sierra collects spoons and uses them to make her own jewelry.  Those are just a few examples swirling on my head. I bet you have even better ideas swirling in yours! 🙂

Writing Craft

Fifty Facts

Do you know your character?

I mean, how well do you know the character you’re writing about? Do you picture her in your mind? Do you imagine what color hair she has or whether she’s short or tall? I bet you do. But what about the other stuff?

Like what?

Like the stuff that makes her unique. Interesting details will make your character stand out from other characters in your own story and also from other stories your readers have read. Make your character as memorable as you can. Give her some personality traits that make her special.    

I’ll give you an example. In the Disney story, The Little Mermaid, Ariel is a memorable main character. But why is that? Is it because she has beautiful red hair? Sure. Or is it because she’s a mermaid? Of course! But it’s also because she’s adventurous and brave.  She has characteristics readers like. She’s not afraid to explore.  She’s not afraid to pursue her dream. She feels like a real person.

So how can you make your characters seem like real people?

I’ll tell you what I do.

I write fifty facts about each one. First, I start with basic facts like her name, hair color, birthday and the name of her school. Eventually though I list things that make her unique.  For example, my character might walk on her toes all the time, or she might bite her nails when she’s nervous. She might love koala bears and hate chocolate ice cream. She might love performing in front of an audience but she might also be afraid of puppies. I list details until I’ve thought of fifty facts that describe my character. That might take me an hour. It might take me two months. When I’ve finished though, I have a pretty good description of a character that feels like a real person.   

 So why is it important to know so much about your character? Readers care about characters that seem like they could be real people. Their favorite ones might even feel like their friend or someone they’d like to hang out with. And that’s a good thing. We want our readers to keep reading about our characters—and keep turning the page!

So why don’t you give it a try? Make a list from one to fifty. After each number, write down a fact about your main character. It might take a long time. It might sound like hard word. It’s not. It’s fun! You get to decide every detail about the character you create. You can make her however you want, and if you’re lucky, soon she’ll become your reader’s very favorite character! 




Why Do You Write?

Some people like to sing. Some people like to dance. Some people like to draw, or play sports or bake cookies.  And then there are those of us who like to write stories.  But why is that? What makes us like to write?

Is it because we like to pretend?

I think so.

Writing is a way to create any world we want. With any characters we want. We can create realistic problems, or problems that could never, ever happen.  Situations that are impossible in the world we live in now, can be very possible in the world we build. Our characters can behave in any way we choose, and be named with all our favorite names!

We can write stories about creatures who live inside oak trees. Or a new classmate named Petrina from  Downtown, Mars.  We can write about our favorite dog named Rosie and her adventures underneath New York City.

See what I mean? Pretending is fun!

That’s why I write. How about you? What do you like about writing stories? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so if you like, leave a comment in the space below.

Speaking of writing stories…

I’d like to thank the writers who participated in last week’s September Critique Round. I was happy to see your words in print! I hope you were too. Thank you to those of you who left such thoughtful and encouraging comments. I bet the authors were happy to read them. I know at least one of you had trouble getting your comments to post on the blog. No worries. They’ll be plenty of chances to critique and give feedback in the coming months.

So what did you think of our first critique round? Should we do another round in October? Should we increase the word count, making the number of words higher, like maybe 200 instead of 50-100? Let me know what you think?  Again, leave me a comment below. This site is for all of us who like to write, so your opinion is important to all of us!

So until next week…

Have fun with your writing! Find some time to create your own pretend world with your own made up characters. What could be more fun than that?  🙂