shatteredsmooth

April 4 2022_Junk Junction resub1_4997 words (V)

5 posts in this topic

TW violence for someone getting turned into a mannequin
 
Hi All,
I'm working on a revise and resubmit with a literary agent for my middle grade novel, Junk Junction, which I sent through this group in Summer 2020.  So some of you have read an older version of this, but it's been a while. Because I have limited words and limited time, I'm not sending the first few chapters. I'm happy with those (I think). Instead, I'm starting with Ch. 4, which is 15 pages in, and right at my inciting incident. This is a section where I made some more significant changes, and I want to see how they work. 
 
The revision has been mostly focused on pacing and character reactions, so I'd love feedback on those elements. 
 
There are supposed to be excerpts from journal entries at the start of each chapter, but they made my word count go up over 5,000, so I didn't include them in the submission.
 
Here is  a very brief summary of what happened leading up to this chapter: E, a nonbinary 12-year-old, is antiquing with their mom, who they are very close with. After finding a valuable antique ghost hunting kit, E wanders away from mom and has a vision of the past when they touch a haunted doll. Panicked, they call for their mom but can't find her. 
 
Thank you!!
 
Sara
 
 
 
 
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Overall

It's a lot smoother than I remember, so that's good progress. Parts are still choppy and there's some blocking issues. Biggest issues are E's feelings, which are almost uniformly upper torso related and come off more as telling than showing. Good edit though!

 

As I go

- lot of 'mom' redundancy in that first paragraph

- MC is experiencing emotions primarily in the stomach/gut region. Might be nice to show them another way

- issue continues into page two. Body emotions that it feels like we are being told about instead of experiencing the MC's feelings more organically

- I'm surprised this is the first we get of the mannequin lore. For the turning into mannequins to be surprising yet inevitable, it needs to have been seeded earlier. Especially if this is the inciting incident. Here it lacks punch and seems narratively convenient

- pg 4: the end of the chapter confused me. That last line didn't seem set up, so I had to go back and reread and realized I'd missed the very short blocking. We get a lot of body emotions but not a lot of MC action/reaction or talking. I think the balance is off to build the sort of tension that would lead to that strong last line

- body emotion issue continues into chapter 5

You need to move. Get out of there!” <-- why? Unclear what the other character is reacting to

and I…I felt like I was becoming one too. <-- how does the other character know this enough to react to it as above?

- D is taking this ghost thing way too calmly and E doesn't seem to react at all

- chapter five seems to not have a purpose. Can D reacting and E reacting move to the next chapter?

- pg 9: But we know the two ghosts involved <-- I'm assuming we've already been introduced to these characters?

- chapter 6 is the strongest chapter so far. Well written. It just doesn't end on a particularly strong beat. That end sentence doesn't make me want to read to the next page. It makes me want to put the book down and do something else

- first line of Ch 7: it's booth, not both

- pg 15: whatever was in the room with Mom was strong <-- we would not know this from her reaction

- pg 17: I don't know if my mind wandered or what. Didn't they order a pizza to eat in the library or whatever? Are they at a diner now? I'm confused where they are and who the other people are

- D has very random emotional bursts 

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Definitely a lot smoother than last time! I generally agree with @kais on the emotion. I didn't mark it while I read, but there is a lot of "stomach" going on with E's emotions. I thought the pacing kept up well through all of this, and I also agree chapter 5 was weaker and chapter 6 was very strong. It started to lag a bit toward the end, and I also got confused when the were stated as sitting at a booth after most of a chapter. Adding E as a friend to D adds some character backstory, but I think it could be shown a bit clearer.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "Ignoring me was less likely than non-mechanical antique dolls moving around. "
--had to read this sentence a couple times. I think it's right, just complex.

pg 1: "They loved to dress him in feminine clothes to rebel against gender norms."
--Can you just let the pronouns do the work in this sentence and cut out "to rebel against gender norms?"

pg 1: "and blood-red eyes"
--that's not creepy at all...

pg 2: "Its foot moved forward."
--this is a good place to show HOW it's moving. Jerky? Too smooth? Stop and start?

pg 2: Mom talking is a nice touch.

pg 4: "head butted calf"
--MY calf

pg 5: "We’ll come back for them when we’re prepared.”
--D is surprisingly on board with this development.

pg 6: "A wavered"
--Did A introduce himself to E in the last chapter?

pg 7: "How often did she see stuff like this?"
--okay, some explanation for D's calm.

pg 9: The pacing is much tighter than I remember!

pg 9: "but if D had never even heard of people turning into mannequins, what were the odds of there being anything useful?"
--I thought E was going to wonder about how calm D was. I don't think that's been completely answered.

pg 11: The pace slows a little through here, but it's still good! They get some needed information and keep moving.

pg 13: "I don’t want to say it just in case it’s a dead name."
--I get why E might be more sensitive to this, but also 90%+ of the time it's just going to be someone's nickname.

pg 13: "but I had a reason"
--but then there's no reason given. It says A is a boy. Why would E then need to ask about pronouns? Is E saying the longer name sounds feminine? I think the thoughts behind these paragraphs are good, but they could be cleaned up a bit to flow better.

pg 14: "They told my mom that they had to go away for a few days..."
--This is very plotful when it comes up. D didn't remember any of this while ghosts and mannequins were chasing them around? Or when E expressly asked about hauntings and the mill?

pg 15: "A couple people sat down at the table across from our booth"
--oh wow. I did not realize they were actually AT the pizza parlor. Pandemic has trained me so much that when they said they were getting the pizza last chapter I assumed they were coming back to the house to eat it...

pg 16: A little confusion with names through here. Is Mx. R the one who's away? Also, I thought Mrs. B's wife was the one they were going to call, but then later she's referred to as M.

pg 17: We learn the name of the person "something" happened to here. I was going to call that out on pg 15 as vague, but figured D was avoiding it. But then she talks about E here. So can she just say that something happened to a friend, E back on page 15? That would make it a lot easier for the reader to identify what's going on with Mrs. B.


 

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Overall: This is definitely a stronger version than the last one! I think the pacing is mostly solid, but it does feel like there is a lot of transitional/moving-from-one-place-to-another in the later chapters – there are two chapters with E and D escaping different parts of the store, then they go to an office, then they go to the pizza parlor. I wonder if there is potential to maybe combine some of these moving around chapters, and then the pizza parlor becomes the “down” chapter after the escape?

There is a tension between E and D here that I don’t think we had in the last draft that I quite like. D’s emotions were handled well until the very end, I thought, when her reveal and outburst seemed a little more sudden.

I think the others are spot on with the comments that there are a lot of stomach/torso type emotions from E, but overall I thought the tension in the escape chapters especially was pretty good.

As I read:

Is Ju the same person as Mx. Rivers? If so, it just seems a bit odd that E would shift between two names for them.

Edit: I have the same comment in the last chapter, where D seems to shift between addressing the adults as first name/prefix and last name without any logic to the difference, as far as I can tell.

“I followed G to the end of the aisle.” Is he tracking Mom? Not sure I got this from the first mention of him. Maybe a bit more of a lantern on the dog behaving weird if that’s the plan.

P2 “wood scraping across wood” is this the mannequin moving? I thought they were made of wax?

Also, I’m guessing this is the red-eyed mannequin who I’m assuming is M (I don’t remember what she looked like from the last round, sorry!) but it’s not clear here which one is moving.

“The mannequin stood on the other side of me” if its movement is so noisy/difficult, how did it get there that quickly?

Oooh, I like that we actually get to see Mom in the process of changing. I wonder if we could get a tiny hint of this sooner? E thinking they hear Mom’s voice or something?

P4 “G head butted calf, whimpering, pushing…” missing a “my.” But also, the image of a dog pushing someone seems pretty weird for me. It might make more sense to have him trying to drag E to the door, which could still be him trying to help E instead of just running away, I think. Or something else that suggests he’s trying to snap E out of their funk.

For the end of the chapter: Take this with a grain of salt because I’m almost certainly biased here by the fact that I’ve read the rest of the book. But at the same time, E is obviously in a very bad situation here, with their mom even begging them to leave, that I tripped over E’s hesitation to leave this very scary situation. There’s already some good horror in here, so maybe amp it up a bit for the doll as well to justify E’s indecision here?

p5/Ch5 “...felt like led.” Flagging because spellcheck won’t catch this one, should be “lead.”

maybe a bit more description, either in the previous chapters or here, laying out the store a bit more. I can’t tell how far E is away from the door: when D jumps in it seems like they’re very close to the door already (which seemed weird because they were hesitating about the doll, and btw what happened to said doll? Shouldn’t D be pretty much tripping over it right now?) but then D starts pushing E forward and it feels like they’re quite a ways away.

“Our mom, they’re…” moms

“She is M… I want to.” You use A’s name here, but he hasn’t actually introduced himself yet.

I like D being portrayed as calm as all this is happening, but it does mean E is spending a long time hanging around just watching while they could be going for the bike to save some time.

Also, if the front door is locked, how are they getting out? Is there an exit from the basement?

End of Ch 5: The close encounter with the end of Ch 4 was great, and I’m trying to decide if I want something similar here. Maybe not exactly the same – it could get a little repetitive – but it does feel like them leaving is a little bit too easy.

Love the last line, though.

Ch6

So if they were still at the antique shop, I’d assume M had ripped the pages out of the binder so she couldn’t be tracked down, but in this case I’m not sure why they’ve been removed, other to signify that This Is Important?

Ch7

This is probably just a “haven’t read the new draft” question, but why was E already reading about the mill before M turned their mom into a mannequin?

D was so vague about what happened to her friend before, I’m surprised she just comes out and says it here without any resistance.

On 4/6/2022 at 0:39 PM, Mandamon said:

So can she just say that something happened to a friend, E back on page 15? That would make it a lot easier for the reader to identify what's going on with Mrs. B.

I think this is a good solution.

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Way late to the party on this one.  Hoping I'll be able to get to the second submission tomorrow. 
 

Overall:

I am not usually one for ghost stories, so I’m not sure where the genre would land for me, but setting things around New England antique shops and mill disasters balances that out :)

Pacing-wise, I think things start out well, but slow down a bit in the transitions from place to place later on.  I know I take forever to get into a new location in my writing, so I’m sympathetic, but trimming those scene changes down will probably help keep things moving. 
I also wonder if going up to the office is necessary? Seems like the only thing we get from that scene is the fact that the mill accident is mysteriously important, but we then find out that E already knows a lot about that.


Reaction-wise, I think we could get a lot more sense of urgency or determination from them.  Especially as they’re getting out of the shop. Even if D isn’t visibly upset (which I’d expect E to be asking about if they’re upset), there could be a sense of impatience or efficiency implying that they’re in a hurry to find answers, even if they aren’t coming across as scared.

Having E push for answers a little earlier could also have D provide the information that some of the things from the store came from the manor.  If E makes the association between the ghosts and their own research earlier, you may be able to cut out the office scene, or streamline it a little more (having them specifically looking for information about the manor or the mill fire) to provide some additional focus there, which I think would help with the pacing in those chapters.

 

Pg 1:
“mom” is used three times in the first line.  Might want to space those out. Also, the second one should be capitalized (it’s being used in place of her name), but not mom-instinct.

Do you draw a distinction between mechanical and non-mechanical dolls earlier on? If not, that feels like an odd way to refer to it here.

Also, the vintage-clothes-nerd side of me really wants to go to this antique store.

After specifying the eras and styles of the other clothing in the shop, I’d like to see a similar note on the clothing this mannequin is wearing, since none of the individual pieces have a specific era associated with them.

Pg 2:

“mannequin’s arm stretched…” I assume this is the one they’d just mentioned? Might be helpful to clarify which one, since there have been several (maybe mentioning the flowy white sleeve on the arm?)

“itched as if there were a coarse rope…” ?  “like” seems off to me there. Also, “coarse” in my head would be more painful than itchy.

Pg 3:

Well, this feels creepy.

I also want to go to the other giant antique store…

“stolen”? or kidnapped?

“when her racing heart…” feels a bit like a pov jump.

Pg 5:

“felt like lead” typo

“waving its arms”

Pg 6:

I’m a little confused about who is saying what at the top of this page.  Part of that is not knowing what names we might know from previous chapters, but I’m not sure if all of it is or not.

A word like incorporeal stands out when you use it multiple times near each other. Might want to swap one of those out.

There seems to be more detail in the description of D’s actions/reactions here than necessary. Especially the final line on the page “hands clenched into fists, she marched…” it just seems more intense than it needs to be. Or like it’s not quite conveying the right emotions.  I’m not sure.

Pg 7:

Is she planning to do something with this cash? Or just make sure that nothing in the store does anything with it?  Not having a good sense of how old the characters are, it feels weird to see her just grabbing money from the register.

I also want to know how often she sees stuff like this. She doesn’t seem all that alarmed, but also doesn’t seem to be making an effort to explain anything to E.

More marching. But it feels more angry than urgent, almost? If they need to get out quickly, I think we need to feel that urgency more clearly. She does a lot of stuff before leaving instead of just scrawling out a “Be Back Soon” message to stick on the door and locking it.

If D is going to go through the full closing-up process, she could at least be explaining what she does know about what’s going on to E while she’s doing it.

Pg 9:

Ah. So she doesn’t know anything? Then why isn’t she in more of a rush to figure out what’s going on?

She seems far less concerned than seems normal for someone whose mother just got turned into a mannequin

Pg 11:

What was the point of coming to the office if they don’t have anything specific to actually look up or any idea what they’re actually looking for? A whole room of records and miscellaneous paperwork is hard enough to navigate if you know exactly what you’re looking for. But looking for A or M’s names seems like a pretty impossible task.

Should we know anything about the wool mill?

I wonder if chapters five and six could be trimmed down to one chapter? I’m not sure what feels off about the pacing through there, but it drags a bit for me.  I think it’s partly D not seeming very urgent or concerned about the situation and partly not being sure what they expect to actually find at the office.

Pg 13:

“Starts with…” This seems like an odd jump to make.

If they’ve been compiling information about the people who died, wouldn’t they have the names memorized? Especially if they’ve spent a lot of time on the project?

I get it being important to E, and am fully aware that there are dynamics around deadnames that I just don’t understand (I’m trying, and learning, but have a long way to go), but as someone who often had people just assume nicknames for me and insist on using them, E’s shortening the name here bothers me a bit. I know they’re trying to be considerate and respectful of A, but this seems like a big jump to make when they don’t really even know if this is the ghost they know as A-.  Having the thought that they might be the same person is one thing, and I think having E plan to ask about pronouns next time makes sense, but based on the information we know, I don’t know if they can assume they’re the same person.

It also feels a bit plot-convenient that the first Marg- they find is tied to the first A- they find.

In 1910s New England, you could find a Marg- just about anywhere you looked (I just checked the census record of my town because I like genealogies and local histories, so I have shortcuts for these sorts of things).  There were several M’s living on my current street in 1910. And I have no doubt many of them probably worked at the local mill building down the road. It wouldn’t surprise me if our own local mill fire (1907) ended up with someone by that name on the casualty list. I’d expect someone looking up information about New England ghosts to have a lot of M-s in their references. Just based on how common the name was.  Having a location where one is tied to an A- narrows it down (A was a little less common at the time), but I’d like to see them get excited about a false alarm or two first.

“Aunty just cleaned out this house”  Dang it. Was there a haunted old New England mansion estate sale and no one invited me?

Pg 16:

Bones?  What now? I'm just going to assume that there's a satisfactory setup for whatever this is about in the earlier chapters and leave it at that. 

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