shatteredsmooth

Dec 27 2021_ShatteredSmooth(Sara)_Ben Wulf Ch.1_1575 words

12 posts in this topic

TW mention of animal (duck) death
 
This chapter has been revised a few times already, but could still use more feedback from people who haven't seen the old version of it and  I'm concerned some of my latest changes resulted in some clunky-ness. I'm open to whatever feedback you have, but I do have some questions. 
 
1. Does this hook you into the story? 
2. Does the character sound like a kid? Is the voice strong enough?
3. What about world-building? Too much? Too little? Just right?
4. Based on this opening, what do you expect the book to be about? What promises is the narrative making? 
 
Thank you!!
P. S. If you want some background about the story, it is science fantasy. Part sports story, part Beowulf re-imagining.
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting start, but I feel like the arc in this chapter isn't quite complete and I don't know why.

1. Does this hook you into the story?

I was hooked by the promise of a Beowulf retelling, but I don't see any of that yet, so...no. I kept reading to figure out how it was a retelling, but couldn't really see anything.


 
2. Does the character sound like a kid? Is the voice strong enough?

I guess? I don't think B has a particularly distinctive voice yet. We know some about his character from the choices he's made, but not a voice.

 

3. What about world-building? Too much? Too little? Just right?

I thought this was on a generational spaceship at first, from the mention of "space steel," but it took a few pages before I realized it was on another planet. I'm not sure why ducks in particular are displaced from Earth, and not cats or dogs or pigs or something. Still not completely sure of the setting yet.

 

4. Based on this opening, what do you expect the book to be about? What promises is the narrative making? 

Not entirely sure. I was mainly looking for Beowulf connections, but didn't really find any. So now i'm confused as to what the story is about. B recovering from losing his duck? Going to a swim competition? I guess maybe he could fight one of the native species who lives in a cave underwater, but I don't know why he would do that.

I think this may be where I'm confused by the premise of the story. Beowulf starts with the main character arriving at the hall to save them from a monster. We get the premise very quickly. Unless the monster is N here, we haven't been introduced to an antagonist who's been harassing an entire tribe of people.

Obviously, this doesn't need to be the same story as the original, but I'm not seeing the connections yet. If it's more of a sports story than a retelling, then aside from B liking swimming, there wasn't a lot of conflict with him getting/not getting to go to the competition. I would have been more interested if we knew up front that he wanted to go, and N was keeping him from it. The way it's presented, it's not even a point of conflict, because it's resolved almost on the last page, before we know about it. More information about why N would kill a duck and why B wanted to go to the competition would help.

 

Notes while reading:
pg 1: "space steel"
--is this different from regular steel?

pg 3: "They opened their draw"
--drawer

pg 4: "brining prestige"
--bringing

pg 6: "though I think you have already made yours.” 
--So I guess he's going to the competition?


 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Not entirely sure. I was mainly looking for Beowulf connections, but didn't really find any. So now i'm confused as to what the story is about. B recovering from losing his duck? Going to a swim competition? I guess maybe he could fight one of the native species who lives in a cave underwater, but I don't know why he would do that.

 

I guess I have to be more careful of how I describe this story. Winning the swim competition is B's goal--the magic / beowulf inspired stuff (like kids disappearing at the competition B saving them ) gets in the way of that. He essentially has to fight the "monsters" / save the missing kids to stop the thing from getting cancelled. I haven't re-read the whole thing since  wrote it last year, so my memory / what I actually wrote might vary. 

 

4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Beowulf starts with the main character arriving at the hall to save them from a monster.

The Beowulf text actually does not start with that, though it is where the story itself actually gets going.

My memory of it is that it starts with a bard in the hall giving a giant info dump, then there is description of what is happening to the people Beowulf has to save, but he isn't there yet. After we learn of his background, Beowulf has to swim across a sea, fight a bunch of sea monsters on the way there, then after a lengthy conversation with the coast guard, he is lead to the hall where there is boasting and drinking and once everyone falls asleep, then Grendel shows up to snack on some people and Beowulf fights him. It takes a while to get to that fight. 

Tangent aside, it is possible I'm not starting my story in the right place. 

I thought the inciting incident was B accepting the invitation to go swim in the competition. There are a few more scenes on planet, then by 10% through he is leaving for his adventure. Instead of fighting monsters in the sea he has to deal with bullies on a spaceship. And once he is on Earth, that is when kids start disappearing and there are clearer Beowulf connections. Throughout the story, there are specific plot  points they hit, but also lots of deviation/twists on them. 

Maybe the story needs to start on Earth with the first disappearances. Or maybe it's fine if I start where I do as long as I reframe the scene so some things are clearer and it doesn't feel so resolved by the end. It's definitely something I will think on more as I re-read more of what I wrote. 

I think how I actually want describe and pitch the book will influence where I start it. 

Thank you for reading and critiquing!! 

 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I missed the science-fantasy/Beowulf note until after reading. Definitely would not have seen any Beowulf connections, though it has been…quite a while since I have read Beowulf, and details of assigned reading in 9th grade haven’t exactly stuck with me all that well.

Pg 1:

Do kids often call their athletic directors by their first names? I’d expected a similarly aged bully initially.

Space steel?  *checking back to later to mention that I had not gotten any notes of futuristic setting through any of this first section.

Pg 2:

Probably irrelevant to the story, but living in the world of coaching and ADs, the thought of a primary school AD just going out and buying a new boat the day after his is destroyed sticks out to me. What sort of school district is this? The name doesn’t imply fancy, expensive private school.

Pg 3:

B’s intensity regarding swimming here sounds like an older high school student.  It’s not how I’d expect any of the middle school athletes I work with (even the ones who really love and excel at their sport) to think about training.  I feel like at that age there’s more focus on the fun of it being a distraction from stress or a way to de-stress than on training to the point of exhaustion to de-stress.

“Intergalactic Youth…” Wait. What? I know a book cover and summary would probably get the setting across before now, but this feels like a long way into the first chapter for me to realize that we’re not on present-day earth.

Pg 4:

Also, my first thought upon it being held on Earth was “home team advantage”, with “home planet of humans” implying to me that B isn’t human.  Is this an inter-species competition?

“He’d never let B go.” I mean. Sort of for good reason. If I found out one of the kids I coach vandalized the ADs boat, they’re definitely not competing for the rest of the season. Even if the AD was a jerk (and does deserve some sort of consequence).

“Being AD and making kids miserable…”  This seems off to me. (so does the line about him “owning” the sports teams, but I can see that being how it would look to a kid) But I also get really antsy about the “teacher/principal/school authority figure as antagonist” setup in a lot of books, because I see far too many of those people getting the short end of the stick and putting everything they have into their work only to have to deal with kids who hate them for no reason.  So intentionally painting them as the enemy in fiction bothers me.

Pg 5:

He’d better meet a new duck-friend on Earth.

Pg 6:

“a real career as a swimmer” I’m not sure if this is being presented as a viable option or if it’s a kid not realizing what makes a reasonable “career”.  I think wanting to get into a good school or to coach swimming might be better swimming-related motivations (none of the sports I coach make viable career paths… but they do bring in good scholarship money. And they’re definitely worth putting time and effort into).  Unless this is a world where professional swimming is a Big Deal.

Overall:

1. Does this hook you into the story?  Not fully, but I’d give it a couple more chapters to win me over. Sports stories aren’t always immediately exciting to me, but this definitely gets points for not being baseball/basketball/football. Also gets points for animal-friends. I don’t generally like school stories, so moving MG to a competition trip makes it far more engaging to me than if there was more going on at school.

2. Does the character sound like a kid? Is the voice strong enough? I don’t get a big sense of kid-voice from it, but it also doesn’t hit as seeming way too old. I guess mostly, I wouldn’t be able to pin down what age he is based on the chapter here.

3. What about world-building? Too much? Too little? Just right? Probably too little.  I don’t have any sense of what makes the setting here different from modern earth. If most of the story takes place on future-earth, how does B’s home planet compare to earth? What makes it unique? What sorts of animals do they have?

4. Based on this opening, what do you expect the book to be about? What promises is the narrative making? I would probably expect it to have a standard sports-story arc, with some sci-fi mixed in somehow? But I haven’t gotten a big enough idea of the world to know what it brings to the standard sports story.

Thanks for sharing! Curious to see where this goes if you decide to sub through! 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

But I also get really antsy about the “teacher/principal/school authority figure as antagonist” setup in a lot of books, because I see far too many of those people getting the short end of the stick and putting everything they have into their work only to have to deal with kids who hate them for no reason.  So intentionally painting them as the enemy in fiction bothers me.

This isn't really a perspective I've thought about before. I think this is the first time I've made a school authority figure a villain. 

I'll see if there is some other role Ned can play. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

B’s intensity regarding swimming here sounds like an older high school student.  It’s not how I’d expect any of the middle school athletes I work with (even the ones who really love and excel at their sport) to think about training.  I feel like at that age there’s more focus on the fun of it being a distraction from stress or a way to de-stress than on training to the point of exhaustion to de-stress.

 

This is good to know! It's more in-line with how I was as a kid. I swam in elementary and middle school and did not take it seriously at all. Granted, I could not have been a character in a sports book because I did not care enough about my sport. I was trying to make B someone who's goal is to go to his universe's equivalent of the olympics when he's old enough. And I'd read two mg sports books where the kids had a similar goal and were super intense about the sport. 

I wrote this as mg, but I am wondering if maybe there would be benefits to aging it up to YA. 

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

“He’d never let B go.” I mean. Sort of for good reason. If I found out one of the kids I coach vandalized the ADs boat, they’re definitely not competing for the rest of the season. Even if the AD was a jerk (and does deserve some sort of consequence).

 

I was going for something that should have gotten him ban from competing or even kicked off the team, so the stakes were high with him still being allowed to go. However, I'm also wondering if this is something that should change. 

I'm not sure if I'm starting in the right place, and if I move the opening up so he is on his way or already there, then this set up might not be needed. 

Thank you so much for the feedback! 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Warning: Rambling thoughts ahead. Feel free to ignore some or all as necessary.

13 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I'll see if there is some other role Ned can play. 

If his main point is having the power to tell B he can't go to the competition, maybe he's the one who pays for the athletes to go?  A lot of school sports programs have Booster Clubs that raise money to buy things the school funding can't afford (equipment/new uniforms/award dinner things).  Maybe a lot of that funding comes from him because he went through the school and was part of the program? Or has a kid who was/is/will be in the program, and wants to make sure that his kid has access to those nice things the school can't afford? It still lets him have some power over the choices being made, but keeps it from being someone with direct authority over B. 

Granted, I have no idea where things are going or what role he plays in the story, so feel free to discard any or all of those thoughts.

13 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I was trying to make B someone who's goal is to go to his universe's equivalent of the olympics when he's old enough. And I'd read two mg sports books where the kids had a similar goal and were super intense about the sport. 

This makes sense to some extent, but I feel like the shift from dream to goal doesn't happen until a slightly later age? Maybe? I think before then most push for intensity in training comes from parents. The handful of olympians/olympic hopefuls I know (and most of the college athletes I competed with) always had natural talent and love for their sport, but most don't quite get the hard work/intensity aspect required to be the best in the world until high school or collegiate level. 

Maybe it does mean aging him up a little will help. But I think framing it as a dream of getting to the "olympics" (focusing on training to some extent, but not the grueling aspects of it. More hope/enthusiasm, less long/miserable/painful hours of training), and thinking of it less as a "career option" would work as well.  Just depends where things are going.  

13 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I was going for something that should have gotten him ban from competing or even kicked off the team, so the stakes were high with him still being allowed to go. However, I'm also wondering if this is something that should change. 

I definitely get that, and I think it could work in some sports story arcs (as long as you convince everyone that the MC is really in the right in whatever they were doing, and that the people in charge are really helpless to see justice done through the proper channels. 

Looking at it from my perspective, all I can think of (if I'm being cynical) is the number of parent e-mails demanding answers to why no one's done anything about that Wulf kid, when he's clearly a criminal and is taking a spot on the team that their kid deserves. Or how many other kids have had to miss meets or sit for practices because they cut class, and they have a very clear "I'm in trouble, but B's still allowed to go to the big tourney?" example to point at.  No good coach wants to sit kids for games/practices (well. most kids. some definitely deserve it). Especially when you know the kid's dealing with a lot, or you can get the *why* of the misbehavior. But letting them get by without any consequences at all gets real murky real quick.

13 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm not sure if I'm starting in the right place, and if I move the opening up so he is on his way or already there, then this set up might not be needed. 

This might also deal with a lot of this :)

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Does this hook you into the story?

It does to an extent, certainly by the end of the chapter I’m interested. I think to really get readers’ attention right off the bat, and to hopefully help cement our interest in the swim competition when it does come, I’d like a better sense of the stakes. When it starts we know B thinks he’s done something that was “worth it,” but we don’t really have much of a sense of what he might be losing. I think even knowing that he’s potentially messed up his chances on a competitive swim team and whatever opportunities that means for him (in the first few paragraphs I can’t tell if it’s something he’s doing just for fun) would be helpful. Then, when he gets the invitation, he’s suddenly got a bigger opportunity than he ever imagined even though he’s made some bad decisions.

2. Does the character sound like a kid? Is the voice strong enough?

Maybe an older pre-teen or young teen, but not super young.

I don't know that the character has a really distinctive voice yet. Getting a better handle on some of his emotions might help. But I'm not feeling a lack of voice yet, either, I think because we are learning some pretty significant stuff about the character from the choices he's made.

3. What about world-building? Too much? Too little? Just right?

I think probably about the right amount. Another small reference or two along the lines of “space steel” might be helpful as I was surprised to learn that the competition was galactic and that we weren’t on Earth (the bit about the duck definitely seems grounded in an Earth setting, without foreknowledge!) but we get to that information quickly enough that I don’t think it’s essential.

4. Based on this opening, what do you expect the book to be about? What promises is the narrative making?

I think I’m expecting B to make impulsive decisions that get him in trouble at the intergalactic swim competition, and maybe to have some sort of antagonistic relationship with the athletic director.

The first couple of pages had me thinking about this being a story where B deals with the consequences of sabotaging the boat, but that doesn’t seem to be nearly as much of a thread by the end of the chapter, so I don’t think I’m expecting that incident to come up in any major way.

Line by line:

P3 “they opened their draw” drawer?

P3 “sometimes, you could read the digital version until” couldn’t?

Does B have any idea what the letter is? It’d be good to have a sense of how he is feeling before he opens it, aside from not wanting to be here.

P4 “N owned part of fancy” part of a

“If I go and I win, won’t I just be giving him what he wants?” This confused me for a minute as I tried to figure out why N would care. But I guess it’s because he’s director of the athletics program and B winning would therefore make him look good?

Last comment, which I’m making based on the assumption that the coach is going to be a reasonably important to the story. It seems like they go to bat for B here in a pretty big way, so it’d be interesting to have a better sense of what their relationship with B is aside from his coach. Like is B a star player and gets a lot of their attention? Is B afraid of disappointing them, or making them angry? Are they usually this supportive or is this a surprise to B? Etc.

Especially because this is middle grade, I'm wondering if this is focused enough. I had to think a bit about the question about promises, and I think it's because it felt like the narrative was building up to a couple of different ones. Especially because it's middle grade there might need to be more of a build-up on the competition as opposed to the boat incident.

 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Skimming through others' comments now as well...

I'm extremely curious to see how this story makes connections to the Beowulf text as well, because I don't see the connections immediately - but I don't think I have to necessarily, nor do I think it has to be structured in the same way that Beowulf was. I think that if there are going to be disappearing kids and similar dangers, that that should be set up early - next chapter if not this one - because right now I'm expecting a sports story in space.

I did initially assume that the boat, and B getting in trouble for it, were the inciting incident, but by the end of the chapter had come down to the invitation to the swim meet being the inciting incident. Which I think is a very logical place to start even though it's not exactly analogous to Beowulf. One option might be to have B dreaming of the swim competition and watching the news about bad things happening on Earth (or parents or someone telling him about it) and him assuming he's not going to get the competition for whatever reason... then you already have that potential danger seeded by the time we do get to the invite for the competition.

It does feel like the boat vandalism is a bit of a red herring, but I'd also hate to see it go because it tells us so much about B's character and the decisions he makes.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/1/2022 at 10:55 PM, Silk said:

I think that if there are going to be disappearing kids and similar dangers, that that should be set up early - next chapter if not this one - because right now I'm expecting a sports story in space.

This is making me think I definitely will need to trim the opening. 

On 1/1/2022 at 10:55 PM, Silk said:

One option might be to have B dreaming of the swim competition and watching the news about bad things happening on Earth (or parents or someone telling him about it) and him assuming he's not going to get the competition for whatever reason... then you already have that potential danger seeded by the time we do get to the invite for the competition.

There could be some debate with his parents about whether or not he can go if there are some strange things happening on Earth. That might be a good way to introduce it if I don't start on Earth. 

I had actually plotted this with a Save the Cat beat sheet, which does call for the opening to show the character at home before the big adventure. And even in Beowulf, you are told some of what Beowulf's home life as a hero is before he crosses the sea.

And you know what? I was mixing things up when I replied to one of the other comments (I think @Mandamons). The swim with the sea monsters came up in the boast to Unferth later. He took a boat to the danes because he had his other men with him. The last time I read it was when a new translation came out right before I drafted this last year, so my chronology was a little messed up. I think there is a boast about a fight with lake monsters though, between Ben and one of the bullies. 

Which...him and Becca's adventure with the lake monsters could be a different way to start. And then they're in trouble for skipping practice to swim somewhere they weren't supposed to instead of the vandalism. It's not the same level of trouble and doesn't introduce Ned though. And he needs to be mentioned before they leave the planet because otherwise he comes out of nowhere later. 

I'm just throwing ideas out. I'll figure it out eventually, and I'm stalled on my read through of Ch. 2, so I'm not 100% sure I'm working on this right now or saving it for the summer. It seems like a good project to work on during my swimming season in the lake. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. I am fairly interested right off the bat. The story I'm expecting by the end of the first chapter and the story I was expecting at the beginning are not the same, but I would probably read either.

2. Overall the MC's dialogue seems age appropriate. The two lines that sounded more mature to me were at the beginning and the end "whatever comes next" and "of course I have." I like both fo these lines, but they sound more advanced to me than the rest of the MC's internal dialogue.

3. For me, I'd like some more world building hints early on. Until 'space steel' is mentioned, I'm picturing a boy in a small town with a lake and a duck as his best buddy. There's a bit of whiplash as a reader switching from that expectation to that small town being a colony on another world. I've read books that do that intentionally though, it's not nessicary a negative thing. 

4. The Beowolf sounding title had me expecting some heavy fantasy elements.

Aside from the title, I would anticipate a coming of age/sports story in a scifi setting where the MC has to deal with controlling his temper and possibly some culture shock/discrimination on earth when he goes to compete. 

Thanks for sharing!

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/6/2022 at 7:43 AM, Sarah B said:

Thanks for sharing!

Thank you for the feedback! 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't read/know much about middle-grade but I'll do my best! 

As I go:

pg 1. Love the first line. Usually I hate it when stories start in dialogue but it works for me here.

-I think I need to feel a stronger connection between B and this duck. It's believable that he'd react this way but I think I need to see a bit more of where that comes from. Something like a meaningful moment he has with the duck (just throwing stuff out there). I think that's especially important because he's adamant about this duck not being able to be replaced by another duck. 

pg 3. I don't see what the first half of the page adds to the story, currently

-skin shriveling is a pretty... intense way of describing that. I have to admit that image never crossed my mind. Is this a common thing for other swimmers to think about? The muscles aching does seem on point, though. There's something satisfying about it... even as someone who kinda hated swimming. 

-"Intergalactic" gave me a bit of whiplash. Potentially fine if people are expecting space stuff from cover/synopsis though. 

pg 4. I like the coach's line at the bottom. The fact that they're not saying "it's bad to damage property!" and is instead saying "you didn't do a good job of actually affecting him so the vandalism was pointless" is refreshing for a mentor figure and has some interesting implications about their politics 

pg 5. The couple paragraphs about Q was exactly what I wanted back in page 1. Any chance it could be moved up? Also would tell me that this is a space setting on page 1 which would be helpful.

On 12/27/2021 at 0:50 PM, shatteredsmooth said:
1. Does this hook you into the story? 
2. Does the character sound like a kid? Is the voice strong enough?
3. What about world-building? Too much? Too little? Just right?
4. Based on this opening, what do you expect the book to be about? What promises is the narrative making? 

1. I'd say yes, though mostly because of the dynamic between B and the coach, so I'd be a little tentative going forward because I'm not sure how much of a focus that will be in the larger story.

2. Not a middle-grade reader but yeah. He does sound mature for his age which I see as a positive. Kid protags in fiction always seemed... especially childish to me as a kid. 

3. I think the worldbuilding taking the backseat a bit is fine, but what we do get I'd like to see earlier since it 1. Doesn't force me to reimagine the story halfway through the chapter and 2. fleshes out character dynamics more

4. I'm expecting a sports story, though most sports stories I know are about team sports so I'm not sure what will be done here without all the "power of teamwork" stuff. I mean obviously he could swim relays but that doesn't seem to be what's being set up, and it's not like those require a ton of coordination anyways. Also I'm guessing there will be lots of focus around economic inequality which I'm here for. It's presented in a way that I think I would have liked as an 8-10 year old (when I did most of my middle-grade reading). 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.