Critique Corner #3: ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS

By:       E.G Moore                                                          

Genre: Upper Middle Grade Literary Contemporary

*1st 500 Words                                  

I snuck in the front door of our new house with a gopher snake dangling in my hand. Pops had to be in there somewhere. Searching between shafts of July sun from the holes in the ceiling, I found him hunched over a map on the kitchen table.

“What are you doing?” I asked, thinking eagerly of treasure hunts and hunting trips. I slipped the snake into the pocket of my sweatshirt. He’d come in handy later.

“Well, Ol’ Red is nearly out of gas, Son. And Mom don’t get paid ‘til Monday. But I’ve got an idea.” He pointed to the map. “When we go through town and ‘round to the mill, it’s fifteen miles. But look.”

He dragged his bony finger down the blue-inked lines of the creek, around the mill and South. Then he stopped, pointing to our property.

“If we drive through the creek…” I started.

“It’s only ‘bout two miles,” he finished.

“Will we make it?” Visions of white water rapids rushed around my mind.

“Should. Gotta avoid any deep spots. Mom’s off here soon. Load Rosie up and we’ll go get her.”

It’s not every day I got to ride up a creek in a truck, but even my excitement dimmed. Pop’s wild ideas never panned out. The thumb stump on his left hand proved it.

My terrier Rosie’s blonde tail wagged as I lifted her up, and then she sniffed my pocket. The snake shifted as I pushed her aside and climbed into the cab.

Pop crept Ol’ Red around the hunched house and slumping shed. We’d only spent a night there, and already it felt like home. My brother Reed pumped his fist the night before when he turned the shower lever and nothing came out. Pop warned us that we had a busy summer ahead fixing things up, but I didn’t mind.

Even as Ol’ Red crawled slowly down the slope between the fields, I noticed something else that needed mending. The single-wire fence hung lifeless to the ground. We’d have to fix that when I got my horse. The truck tires bounced over gopher holes and upturned rocks, and the seat squeaked as it tossed us around. I kept my hand in my pocket, keeping track of my stowaway. Maybe I could sneak it onto the seat before Mom hopped in. I smirked. She’d be so freaked out. Gopher snakes look enough like rattlers to scare anyone without much time to react.

We stopped at the creek bank and got out to examine the depth of the water.

“I think we’re good. It stays shallow for a ways,” Pop assured no one in particular.

“Yeah,” I reluctantly agreed.

We climbed back onto the red bench seat. I made a show of snapping my seat belt together and pulling Rosie into a protective hug. Pop grinned at me, double-checked our location on the map, and then waved it in the air like Charlie with Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I just laughed at him.

6 thoughts on “Critique Corner #3: ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS

  1. myinnermg says:

    Hi Emily!

    Thanks so much for submitting this! And nice to see you outside of Twitter! (-: *waves*

    Such a cute idea naming the truck Ol’ Red! And I totally want to know if they make it across the creek and why they’re even risking driving into it to begin with, so good job getting me all nervous for them. (-:

    Overall, I think just a bit more strategic info here and there would connect us to your MC and where the story’s headed a little quicker (I made some specific notes below for ya). I’d also love to see your MC’s name in the first 500 words if at all possible.

    Great job! Hope the suggestions below are helpful as you revise!

    Thanks again for letting us read, Emily. Best of luck with this!!
    Melyssa
    @MyInnerMG

    I snuck in the front door of our new house with a gopher snake dangling in my hand. Pops had to be in there somewhere. Searching between shafts of July sun from the holes in the ceiling, I found him hunched over a map on the kitchen table.

    (Sneaking in with a gopher snake in hand is super cute. And I know most boys are huge fans of snakes, (my 12yo included). And I feel that it also shows his mischievous nature right off the bat. (-:

    “What are you doing?” I asked, thinking eagerly of treasure hunts and hunting trips. I slipped the snake into the pocket of my sweatshirt. He’d come in handy later.

    “Well, Ol’ Red is nearly out of gas, Son. And Mom don’t get paid ‘til Monday. But I’ve got an idea.” He pointed to the map. “When we go through town and ‘round to the mill, it’s fifteen miles. But look.”

    (Right here, if love a hint of why they’re leaving. Are they in trouble? Being forced out? Is this their tenth move in a month? Or just a day job maybe? I’m not suggesting divulge everything up front, but perhaps guide the guessing a little. (-:

    He dragged his bony finger down the blue-inked lines of the creek, around the mill and South. Then he stopped, pointing to our property.

    “If we drive through the creek…” I started.

    “It’s only ‘bout two miles,” he finished.

    (For me, the “I started-he finished” doesn’t give us as much as it could about your characters at this early stage. Consider adding more after your dialogue tags here. Extra words aren’t always necessary. And later on in the story, this will probably work great as we’d already know the characters better, but at the beginning maybe giving a bit more in these two lines would get us closer and learn more about them quicker.

    EX: “If we drive through the creek…” I started, ignoring the gleam of another crazy idea forming in his eyes. Or “If we drive through the creek…” I started, even though I knew he wouldn’t listen when he was like this.
    Just some random ideas. (-:

    “Will we make it?” Visions of white water rapids rushed around my mind.

    “Should. Gotta avoid any deep spots. Mom’s off here soon. Load Rosie up and we’ll go get her.”

    It’s not every day I got to ride up a creek in a truck, but even (deleting –“even” here would make this stronger. Also, consider combining these sentences to strengthen the great last line you have about his thumb.

    EX: It’s not every day I got to ride up a creek in a truck, but my excitement dimmed when I remembered Pop’s ideas never panned out. The thumb stump on his left hand proved it).

    my excitement dimmed. Pop’s wild ideas never panned out. The thumb stump on his left hand proved it.

    My terrier Rosie’s blonde tail wagged as I lifted her up, and then she sniffed my pocket. The snake shifted as I pushed her aside and climbed into the cab.

    Pop crept Ol’ Red around the hunched house and slumping shed. (LOVE slumping shed! (-:) We’d only spent a night there, and already it felt like home. My brother Reed pumped his fist the night before when he turned the shower lever and nothing came out.

    (Pumped his fist as if he were happy no water came out? Did he hate showers? I would cry if this happened to me. (-:)

    Pop warned us that we had a busy summer ahead fixing things up, but I didn’t mind.

    Even as Ol’ Red crawled slowly down the slope between the fields, I noticed something else that needed mending. The single-wire fence hung lifeless to the ground. We’d have to fix that when I got my horse. The truck tires bounced over gopher holes and upturned rocks, and the seat squeaked as it tossed us around. I kept my hand in my pocket, keeping track of my stowaway. Maybe I could sneak it onto the seat before Mom hopped in. I smirked. She’d be so freaked out. Gopher snakes look enough like rattlers to scare anyone without much time to react.

    We stopped at the creek bank and got out to examine the depth of the water.

    “I think we’re good. It stays shallow for a ways,” Pop assured no one in particular.

    “Yeah,” I reluctantly agreed. (Consider something more showy here. EX: I just nodded, squeezing my eyes shut praying Ol’ Red didn’t sink in under sixty seconds).

    We climbed back onto the red bench seat. I made a show of snapping my seat belt together and pulling Rosie into a protective hug. Pop grinned at me, double-checked our location on the map, and then waved it in the air like Charlie with Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I just laughed at him.

  2. swirlandspark says:

    Okay, I really love this! The voice is spot on. Great opening sentence and paragraph too. I get a quick sense of the MC as he carries a snake in his hand! I like the description about the sun too. I imagine their new house is an old one due to the holes I the ceiling. The language conveys a specific visual too. Words and phrases like “Pops” and “hunched over a map” are simple but show so much. It gives an immediate sense of place. Well done. Love the line: He’d come in handy later (when referencing the snake). I get a fun sense of who your MC is!

    My suggestions are at the sentence level: I think you can improve: “What are you doing?” I asked, thinking eagerly of treasure hunts and hunting trips. Eagerly thinking of…added onto the dialogue tag is very telling. You have an opportunity show the reader exactly who your MC is. This is the first thing the reader hears him say. Perhaps have him mention what his Pops might be looking at the map for like, “What are you doing? Lining us up a treasure hunting trip?” Also, you can use an emdash at the end of this next sentence to show he’s being interrupted and delete the tag (I started): “If we drive through the creek— (unless you’re showing him trail off. Then it’s fine). Either way I would take off the tag. We can infer who’s speaking by the next line.

    I love the bit about the snake. I HATE snakes (eew!) but it’s so perfect for middle grade. Love his mischievous mind trying to scare his mom, but I suggest taking out: She’d be so freaked out. This word choice took me right out of the voice which is otherwise perfect. Besides, it’s inferred that she will freak out or he wouldn’t do it! I also suggest changing the word “noticed” to “saw” when he notices the fence needs fixing. “Noticed” sounds too old for his age. Pop crept Ol’ Red around the hunched house and slumping shed. (Awesome description). The last sentence seemed a bit weak. Could you perhaps use something that gets us in the MC’s head more as he watches his dad like that? He seems to like it when his dad is poised for an adventure! I’d love to see that as an inner thought. I also wish I knew the MC’s name, but as long as it’s given soon, I think it’s fine.
    Overall this is very well done. I love the MC and love the voice. Good luck with it. Thank you for sharing and I hope this helps!

  3. Nicole P. says:

    Hi, E.G. Moore.

    Interesting start. I love the parts with the snake. So mischievous, our MC.

    Just had a few things I wanted to point out.

    For conversations that consist of interruptions you could write them like this:

    “If we drive through the creek –”

    “It’s only ‘bout two miles,” he finished.

    That way it’ll help with explaining the boy was cut off and that his dad finished. Speaking of which, it’d be nice to know what our MC name is because the only time he’s referenced he was called “Son”. Unless that’s his name, then never mind, lol.

    That sentence about Reed pumping his fist when the shower wouldn’t work makes me think he pumped it in the air out of excitement like he was either glad the water was out or glad that nothing disgusting like dirty sewer water came out. I would just clarify here.

    Lastly, there were some words our MC said that seemed a little older than his age range.

    Though I’m not sure how old our MC is but would he say words like “panned” “noticed” or “made a show”?

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

  4. Rachel says:

    Hi again!!

    All I can say is wow. The voice is perfect. The characters, the setting, it’s all amazingly executed. I literally have only one thing to say and that is, instead of Upper MG Literary Contemporary, I would just put either MG literary or Upper MG contemporary. Hope this helps 😀

  5. Scarlett Kol says:

    E.G.,

    This is a super cute story so far. I think your characters are interesting and distinct and you can already see some conflict on the horizon.

    Most of my suggestions have already been said, but I did notice that you said “Pops had to be in there somewhere.” If the character has already entered the house, shouldn’t it be that “Pops had to be in here somewhere”? Also, I would have liked to know the character’s name.

    Otherwise I thought it was great.

  6. Daniel Beerse says:

    Emily,

    I know I’m late to the party, but I agree with everyone else about this voice, it’s good! I’m assuming (although I don’t like to) that the MC’s name is Dom, from the title? Maybe somewhere in the first 500 words you could validate that theory; it would also give the reader something more to connect with.

    I drove a red pickup truck for ten years and called her “Big Red” so I can easily picture this vehicle and it’s one more connection your story makes with this reader. I can’t say that I’m a snake person, but it definitely gives some personality to your MC.

    Now, on the suggestion side of things, as it was mentioned I too would like to know why they are in this rickety old house (one perhaps without running water???). You don’t have to go into great detail but a hint would be nice. For some strange reason I am stuck on, “thumb stump.” I get the visual, but keep vacillating back and forth with this description and “stump for a thumb.” Most of the other suggestions I have were already mentioned, so I won’t repeat them.

    I’m enjoying this story and would definitely read on! Good luck and thank you for sharing!

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