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shatteredsmooth

ShatteredSmooth_July 22, 2019_Junk Junction Ch. 1-2 (4684 words)(G?)

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Hi All,
 
Attached are the first two chapters of my middle grade novel.  I'm calling it Junk Junction until I come up with a better title. As far as genre goes, I'm not sure whether to call his horror or paranormal. I put "G" as a content warning because there is a slightly gory description of a ghost in chapter 2. 
 
I have a complete first draft of the whole novel, but it is a little too short, probably because I rushed the end. I've revised these first two chapters a few times already after getting feedback from a couple CPs. Now I'm ready to see what you think of them.
 
I don't have any specific questions. I'm open to whatever kind of feedback you have to offer.
 
Thanks!
 
 
P.S. I read this whole thing out loud this afternoon, and I did catch quite a few errors. However, I kept adding and changing things. I did go back and reread those sections, but I don't always see errors until I haven't looked at the writing for a few days. I'm sorry if I made new errors and didn't catch them. If this section is grammatically horrible, then next week, I'll proof read with a pen and paper in addition to proof reading on the computer. Reading a hard copy, especially if I read from the end to the begining, usually helps me see more mistakes, but I hate wasting paper...
 
 
 
 
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Psssst.... 'wasting' paper keeps me employed!

Overall

Good tension with the adults turning into mannequins, and good sense of wonder overall. My only real issue is that it felt like the wonder/tension was all over the place. I'd rather see more generalized fear of the paranormal than the specific call outs, because it felt like I was being led all over the place and then wham the mannequin transformation. And not wham in a good way, but more a 'wtf is happening' way. 

It'd be a relatively minor fix to streamline the tension/horror scenes, I think. Generally though this was a strong entry and I am very interested in our MC and her goals!

As I go

- pg 1: how does the outhouse line fit with the rest of the first paragraph?

- pg 2: My t-shirt and cargo were Cargo pants maybe?

- pg 5: I love the realization that the mannequin thing is probably bunk, but the kid is going to keep playing anyway. So cute. Much buy-in. 12 is such a great age for stuff like this

Antiquing was like a treasure hunt. Most of the stuff in the shop was actually junk, but there might be something on a shelf for twenty dollars that mom could sell for two hundred, or if we were really lucky, two thousand. We already know all this so this whole paragraph could easily be cut

- pg 8:I think the chapter would end stronger if it ended on mom maybe trailing off with something like, "Do you think those things are real?"
Mom just smirked and walked away.

Right now, the end seems like.... no tension. No arc. If you backed it up just a bit and left Mom's reaction ambiguous, that would lead some tension into the story and the mannequin thing

- pg 12: I feel like at this stage we're being teased with too many potential supernatural elements, and that promises to the reader are already being discarded. If the idea is to have the kid believe in generalized magic, then I think some of the specifics of vampires and mannequin stuff should be left out. If the doll is going to be possessed, then maybe a generalized fear of being watched or something? Right now I feel pulled in three different paranormal directions and it's distracting me from our MC

- pg 14: wait, the mannequin game is mom's and not the MC's? Did I know this already?

 

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Well, I think the concept is good here, but as @kais says,

1 hour ago, kais said:

My only real issue is that it felt like the wonder/tension was all over the place.

There's no setup to the whole premise that mannequins turn people into more mannequins. If it was a simple concept like "bears eat people" then you can assume the reader will pick up on the idea easily. But this is a very specific fear that evidently turns out to be true. So a MG reader (I assume) will need some setup of why this is a thing and what this game is the mother plays, and how it works. Right now we know nothing, and then E. starts assuming things about mannequins and dolls, and I'm very quickly lost. 

Having that setup will help my other issue, which was that nothing really happens until halfway through chapter 2. We're just dawdling around a junk shop. There's not even a specific reason they're there, except that mom is looking for junk. And there's definitely no word about "we're worried about mannequins so be careful in this junk shop" from mom.

 

Notes while reading
pg 2: "assuming we made it that far without getting turned into mannequins."
--This makes me think they've been turned into mannequins in the past.

pg 3: "Junction Junk always smelled like sawdust and mothballs."
--Is the name reversed in this sentence?

pg 5: "but Mx. R always put dresses on him to defy cultural gender norms.
--I know this is mid-grade, but there are several of these very obvious callouts. can it be more subtle, or is this the usual for MG?

pg 5: "I’d never seen anyone turn into a mannequin, but I wasn’t going to take any chances"
--ok, so they haven't been turned into mannequins before. I'm sort of confused about the premise, since we're getting through the first chapter. it's so far about things that don't happen rather than things that do happen.

pg 5: "Whether this was real or just a game"
But E has a very specific solution for it. So is it something E's mom told them? If so, I'd think they would say something like "Mom told me this is how to avoid..."

pg 8: "She didn’t need to hear my answer to know it. I wouldn’t believe her. That was the type of question I could only answer for myself."
--Hmm...Again, this seems to be about things that don't happen. I'm left a little turned off by the first chapter because I can't really pin it down. I'd think it would be even worse for a kid, since they are looking for a quicker resolution.

pg 10: “Do you know where the treasures are?”
--For an MG book, nothing of note has happened yet, and we're 2500 words in. I'm losing interest, and I'm not a kid.

pg 11: "If people could turn into mannequins, then could dolls move? Or be haunted? What if a ghost possessed it?"
--I'm still very confused why E is obsessed with people turning into mannequins, with no experience or proof.

pg 11: "Are we proof that ghosts and monsters and magic are real?"
--Buuuuut....I'm not seeing any proof unless that one doll did move. "We" as in the whole collection of dolls, is not giving any proof. They're just sitting there.

pg 12: "The supernatural was scary, but I wanted it to be real."
--Why and Why? I feel like I'm missing something.

pg 14: "was real. Mom’s game was real, and she’d lost. She had looked a mannequin in the eyes and became one."
--This section is definitely creepier, but we haven't heard anything about Mom's game.  Does she actively try looking mannequins in the eyes? Does she challenge E to do it as well? Though I'd think if she thought it was real, the putting her child in danger like that is rather irresponsible. 

pg 16: “Are you a ghost?”
--wait, what now? What possibly led E to that conclusion?


 

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, kais said:

It'd be a relatively minor fix to streamline the tension/horror scenes, I think. Generally though this was a strong entry and I am very interested in our MC and her goals!

I am very happy to hear this!! 

1 hour ago, kais said:

- pg 5: I love the realization that the mannequin thing is probably bunk, but the kid is going to keep playing anyway. So cute. Much buy-in. 12 is such a great age for stuff like this

 

I'm doing a happy dance. I very rarely get buy in from you with my characters, so this means a lot. :-)

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "Whether this was real or just a game"
But E has a very specific solution for it. So is it something E's mom told them? If so, I'd think they would say something like "Mom told me this is how to avoid..."

1 hour ago, kais said:

- pg 14: wait, the mannequin game is mom's and not the MC's? Did I know this already?

 

I just skimmed back through the submission. I guess you didn't know this. I cut a few lines about the game from the opening paragraph, intending to put it elsewhere, but I never put it back. 

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 14: "was real. Mom’s game was real, and she’d lost. She had looked a mannequin in the eyes and became one."
--This section is definitely creepier, but we haven't heard anything about Mom's game.  Does she actively try looking mannequins in the eyes? Does she challenge E to do it as well? Though I'd think if she thought it was real, the putting her child in danger like that is rather irresponsible. 

The mom doesn't think it's real.

 

It's actually based on a game I used to play with Mom, and  sometimes my cousin, when I was a kid.

My mom always made up these scary games when I was little and didn't realize how I sort of struggled separating them from reality. Her intentions were good. She was trying to keep me entertained. She underestimated my imagination. By 12 I knew most of the games or stories weren't real, but I did believe in ghosts and still wouldn't look mannequins in the eyes.   This is what I was trying to capture. 

1 hour ago, kais said:

My only real issue is that it felt like the wonder/tension was all over the place.

 

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

ok, so they haven't been turned into mannequins before. I'm sort of confused about the premise, since we're getting through the first chapter. it's so far about things that don't happen rather than things that do happen.

 

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

We're just dawdling around a junk shop. There's not even a specific reason they're there, except that mom is looking for junk. And there's definitely no word about "we're worried about mannequins so be careful in this junk shop" from mom.

Good points. I'll think about what I can do to fix this. I always have a hard time getting the first couple chapters right. 

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

--Is the name reversed in this sentence?

 

Yup. Good catch. 

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "but Mx. R always put dresses on him to defy cultural gender norms.
--I know this is mid-grade, but there are several of these very obvious callouts. can it be more subtle, or is this the usual for MG?

Good question. I'm grappling with how much gender discussion to include and how subtle or obvious to make it. This is something I'm going to keep eye out for as I resume my middle grade reading spree. Not just with gender, but with how other issues are handled for that age. So far I've noticed middle grade tends to less subtle than adult or YA, but it's possible I'm being too heavy handed still. I need to read more. 

 

@Mandamon and @kais Thank you very much for reading and critiquing! :-)

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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This is good. I like the set up. But, like the others, I agree that the inciting incident -- the adults turning into mannequins -- isn't being telegraphed quite enough. It's just one of the many supernatural things the main character is thinking and musing about, and they're all given about equal weight. With the amount of time spent on the doll, I sort of thought this was going to be a story centered on the dolls, not the mannequins.

I don't know if the gender references need to be more subtle, but I think maybe they could be more in-tone with the rest of POV. I think I'd be hard-pressed to find an average 12-year-old who can toss around "cultural gender norms" in casual conversation, but I absolutely believe they would understand the concept the words convey. Maybe the phrases just need rewording to sound more 12-year-old-ish? So maybe "defy gender norms" to "mess with what everybody thought he should wear?" It's less precise, yes, but sometimes the precise words don't fit with the tone of the story, or come with extra associations that don't mesh with the world (I am thinking of @kais, and Foxfire, and "bone oil").

I like the inversion of the "evil dolls" trope, though. 

"In horror movies" -- there're some complicated things going on with the negative words in this sentence and it took me a couple passes to detangle it. 

Definitely rooting for the main character and looking forward to the next part!

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2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

But, like the others, I agree that the inciting incident -- the adults turning into mannequins -- isn't being telegraphed quite enough. It's just one of the many supernatural things the main character is thinking and musing about, and they're all given about equal weight. With the amount of time spent on the doll, I sort of thought this was going to be a story centered on the dolls, not the mannequins.

I'll definitely work on tightening up the focus around the supernatural stuff. The one haunted doll is almost as important as the mannequin, but mannequins as a whole are more significant than dolls, but I can see how with the way I have it set up, they come across as equal. I'll work on it. 

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

aybe the phrases just need rewording to sound more 12-year-old-ish? So maybe "defy gender norms" to "mess with what everybody thought he should wear?" It's less precise, yes, but sometimes the precise words don't fit with the tone of the story,

That makes sense. 

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

Definitely rooting for the main character and looking forward to the next part!

I'm happy to hear this! Thanks for reading and for the feedback. :-) 

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I'm excited to read new writing from you, SSmooth. I'm going to treat myself (as in pamper, not self-medicate... although that would be another way to go) and not mention any line-level grammar and typo stuff at this early(?) stage.

(page 1)

- Good first line. Do you drown in poop though, or suffocate? Depends on the poop, I suppose.

- There's not much character in that first paragraph, but I guess there is setting (a bit) and character voice. There is oodles in the second para though, and I like having a firm picture of the domestic situation.

- "I hated two out of three. That meant Mom wasn’t happy with the result" - I know what it means. I'd rather you didn't come right out and tell me. It would be much softer if it went, 'If Mom wasn't happy with the result then...' That also leads us into the next thought.

- "which could have potentially meant" - Be definite: it's much, much for compelling than expressing vagueness. And here you've got two vague wishy-washy words in the same clause. What's wrong with 'would have meant'?

(page 2)

- Confused. The narrator seems to know they're going antiquing from the start, but actually, it's open to variation until we get to the top of page 2. This seems inconsistent.

- You don't need the scene break, imo. The narrative is continuous. I think good practice, surely, must be to try and avoid using scene breaks unless absolutely necessary. I feel that they are overused these days.

- From the phrasing, I thought that Mom owned JJ, but I guess that's not the case, from reading on.

- I love the description of Mom's clothes, it gives a nice strong image and great character notes. BUT, again, your telling us rather too strongly and blatantly, imo, with "but that was because". Obviously it's necessary to explain things to the reader, and I don't mind being told sometimes, but just not so blatantly, like 'Listen up numb-nuts, this is important.' Just drop "but that was because" - it reads within without it.

- "starting to get too small" - to me, this sounds like the big is changing size, compared to 'starting to be too small', which doesn't, imo.

(page 3)

- I'm sure it's not wrong, but an antique shop smelling of mothballs seems a bit clichéd to me.

- "a pink depression glass lamp" - I thought this was a mental health thing. I think the (Great) Depression is a recognised historical event and therefore should be capitalised which will help with clarity here, imo. Also, I would suggest 'pink Depression-era glass lamp', which is unmistakable.

- "Purple half moons dangled from their earrings" - surely there are the earrings, are they not? I guess technically the bit that goes through the ears is the earring, but that might not even be a ring. This tripped me up a bit anyway.

- "was died purple" - dyed. 

(page 5)

- There seems to be an inconsistency where the mannequin is called 'it' and also 'she'.

(page 6)

- Again, the text break here, I'm not sure I see the point. I think you could deal with it in very few words. Like 'I nodded to XXX and turned to wander through the shop. Antiquing from like...' or maybe, I followed Mom out into the mall and started browsing the stalls...' The text break doesn't mark a change in POV or location, and if it's a time hop, it can't be more than a couple of minutes, surely.

- I'm getting confused by the blocking. So, JJ is a big space the contains individual booths operated by different traders? I don't think that's clear at the beginning, I think it comes over as one antique shop and that it is part of a bigger group of shops. That was my impression.

- Ah, if you show a vampire hunting kit in the first act, you need to 'shoot' it in the second act. I very much like the description of it.

- What's an 'acorn curl'?

(page 7)

- "She stuck her tongue out at me" - This is a very clearly and sweetly released mother-daughter... (Wait, I don't know the MCs gender/orientation!) relationship. These little highlights are very personal and show great depth in so few words. Very nicely done.

- "back where it was" - 'had been', or back in it's niche/slot/whatever. Where it was is in her hand, it needs to go back somewhere different.

(Page 8)

- I wonder if you need the last paragraph. Could you end on the question? That would be a very powerful end to a chapter, imo.

(page 9)

- "kids like me" - I feel like this is the first indication of non-binary in our MC.

(page 12)

- "I thought of her book" - What book?

- "Are you up here?" - When did they go upstairs?

(page 13)

- Why is there a break here? The narrative is continuous.

- "blazer/skirt combos" - Really? I bow to what I imagine is your superior knowledge, but when I think of the all the wartime period dramas I've watched on the BBC (other channels and platforms are available), I think of dresses, dresses and more dresses. Or, if skirts, not with blazers. Probably it's just me, unless it's a US thing.

(page 15)

- "The door to the back room slammed shut" - Why?

- "as it kept trying to close" - how? Is it on a closer (spring)?

(page 16)

- "In horror movies, haunted objects tended to not stay destroyed, so I didn’t feel bad about not trying to destroy that mannequin" - Kind of confusing to decode what is meant here.

- "Better to keep them all trapped in there until I had more information" - I'd like to see E a bit more flustered at this point, a bit more terrified. They seem very quickly to have got a grip and be rationalising sensibly, but it's only been a few moments since they made the terrifying discovery.

- "until it was relatively person-shaped" - Hyphen, for one thing. Also, this transformation is rather under-described, imo. There's smoke > it's a person. 

(page 17)

- I really think you have to end on "people who might." That's the power line here, IMO. The line about the doll falling over is a nothing line. Because it has no significances of itself, is sounds like the thought till continue. I'd say cut it.

Overall 

I mean, typos, grammar issues, missing words, etc. abound, but putting that aside, this is very promising. I thought you nailed the tone, and the characters are well established. Okay, there are only three of them present (four including the dog), and MxR is pretty broad without being deep (yet). Mom, for me, was established very efficiently, but she does have pretty standard Mom traits, but that is fine. That's what we mostly need Moms to be in stories, I think.

I like the subject matter and the setting. I'm not immune the pleasures of antiquing myself. I love to collect things (stamps; coins; notes; football (soccer) cards; beer caps; concert tickets; movies tickets; music (vinyl, CDs, cassettes, CDs); DVDs; comics) - sorry, digression. Anyway, I'm very much onboard with a lot of the emotion and the little instances that play out in these first couple of chapters. I thought the pacing was good, dropping us into the mystery at the end of Chapter 2, but building to it inevitably from the first page, really.

I thought this was very well done, and I'm keen to read more.

I'm interesting to know if you've finished it. Whatever the case, I'd be pleased to do a line edit of the whole thing some time, if that would be of assistance.

:) 

<R>

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On 23/07/2019 at 1:26 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'll proof read with a pen and paper

Honestly, I wouldn't. I think you need other eyes on it. As above, I'd be happy to proof read the whole thing when it's finished. This story deserves to be tidy ;)

On 23/07/2019 at 7:28 PM, kais said:

it felt like the wonder/tension was all over the place

Yep. I felt that variable sense of wonder/tension/fear too.

On 23/07/2019 at 8:55 PM, Mandamon said:

which was that nothing really happens until halfway through chapter 2. We're just dawdling around a junk shop. There's not even a specific reason they're there, except that mom is looking for junk. And there's definitely no word about "we're worried about mannequins so be careful in this junk shop" from mom.

For one thing, I've got no problem with dawdling round the shop, because I felt you were always calling out things that would be important: the vampire hunting kit; the dog; the doll; MxR - these things already have or probably will (I think) prove significant to the story.

More importantly for me, I'd be disappointed if you set this up as a magical world from the off. I'd be especially disappointed if Mom was anything other than a regular Mom. I think in horror (which I don't do a lot of, I'll admit), the world almost always starts out 'normal' (at least from the MCs perspective) then bad stuff happens unexpectedly. I think if the world if known to be 'unnatural' you lose all the fear and jumps and wonder. If Mom takes the supernatural seriously, you lose her rock-like strength, I think, and therefore undermine the gut punch when she is 'taken away' from E.

I do agree that the transformation is a rather sudden. I saw where you were aiming to set things up by discussing E's fear and the new mannequin, but I think maybe you need to more clearly establish E's fear. You mention that she(?) and Mom played a 'game' about people being turned into mannequins, but I wonder if it couldn't come from somewhere more specific, like a mannequin fell on E in shop when she was little and traumatised here, for example.

You do hint at there being supernatural things in the world by showing the vampire kit, and you do have a conversation with Mom about it, but I wonder if that's just a bit low key at the moment. I wonder if MxR or maybe another customer (who you can then make as suspicious-seeming as you like) might call it out more deliberately. "Arr, folks didn't make 'ese here kits for the good of their 'ealth, young 'un. There's weirder things in the world than folks are willing to believe. You mark my words!!"

On 25/07/2019 at 9:56 PM, industrialistDragon said:

the adults turning into mannequins -- isn't being telegraphed quite enough

The thing I've been thinking of is Doctor Who. To me, you get hints of the monster's presence and nature as some complete innocent discovers/is eaten/melted/vaporised by it, but the 'people' are usually oblivious to it's existence until it starts 'interacting' with them, and then the Doctor arrives and explains what it is. I guess we are missing those hints in this story, but what I'm trying to get at is I think it would ruin the tone (for me) to explain that this is a real thing that happens in the world. Nobody was saying 'Don't you stay out too late, Johnny, one of those alien pods might kill you and replace you with a facsimile identical to you in every physical way, but emotionally dead inside.'

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15 hours ago, Robinski said:

- I'm getting confused by the blocking. So, JJ is a big space the contains individual booths operated by different traders? I don't think that's clear at the beginning, I think it comes over as one antique shop and that it is part of a bigger group of shops. That was my impression.

The booths are not operated by different people. They are rented spaces within one antique shop.

In real life, my mom and cousin both sell in shops like this. They pay a monthly fee and are able to put items in a "booth." The price tags on their items have their dealer numbers on them, so when people pay, the sales get attributed to the right person. At the end of the month, the rent is deducted from the sales and they get whatever money is left. If they don't sell enough to cover their rent, then they have to pay what they still owe. 

 

 

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

"blazer/skirt combos" - Really? I bow to what I imagine is your superior knowledge, but when I think of the all the wartime period dramas I've watched on the BBC (other channels and platforms are available), I think of dresses, dresses and more dresses. Or, if skirts, not with blazers. Probably it's just me, unless it's a US thing.

Blazer might not actually be the right word. I probably should have just said jacket? Specifically, I was picturing either Victory Suits or a WWII women's military uniform. It might be a US thing, but I don't know how widely the outfits I'm picturing were worn and I watch very little television, so I have no clue how often these show up in period dramas.  

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

I'm interesting to know if you've finished it. Whatever the case, I'd be pleased to do a line edit of the whole thing some time, if that would be of assistance.

 

I have a complete draft. It's a little bit shorter than it should be, but I have notes about possibly adding one chapter in the middle, and the end is very very rushed. Eventually, line edits would be amazing! Thank you! 

 

16 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Ah, if you show a vampire hunting kit in the first act, you need to 'shoot' it in the second act. I very much like the description of it.

 

My mom and I actually found one of these in an antique shop once. In this story, it does get fired, but not at vampires. 

16 hours ago, Robinski said:

I guess we are missing those hints in this story, but what I'm trying to get at is I think it would ruin the tone (for me) to explain that this is a real thing that happens in the world.

Explaining outright that people can turn into mannequins in this world would ruin the tone for too. In the opening, neither the mom nor E are certain whether or not the supernatural exists. However, I can try to sharpen the focus regarding supernatural elements and try to set up better for the grown ups becoming mannequins. 

Thank you so much for the feedback! 

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 8.27.10 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 8.44.24 PM.png

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Posted (edited)

Hey @shatteredsmooth! I'm excited to read something novel length from you!

First and foremost, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the title reminds me of Conjunction Junction (what's your function). I assume this is on purpose?

I agree with the others about the tension wavering in and out. Part of this stems, I think, from the chapter break. After the first chapter, I had no idea what type of story I was reading. Was this going to be a purely political commentary piece about gender norms? Was this a supernatural story? I've read and loved your writing before so I personally trusted you as an author to deliver, but if I was giving this the ole "One Chapter Test" I don't think I would've continued since the only real through stream was antiquing, something I'm not overly interested in. A really simple fix would be to simply combine the two chapters into one and let the second half of the chapter carry the first half. 

I didn't make very many line notes because I was mostly engaged throughout:

1
- I really like the opening line. I'm assuming the rest of the paragraph is telling me that people in this world can/are turned into mannequins if they look into the eyes of one? Cool concept, but the execution is a bit clunky.
- Who flips a coin like that?

3
- What do bugs have to do with dust?

7
- She stuck her tongue out at me. “Because I’m a grown up.” I love this. 

9
- I'm not on board with your use of Kodak moment. I get that in real life we take sayings that already have a meaning and then change them to match something personal to us, but as the reader I'm not "in" on this meaning so even though you gave us the amended definition I will always see Kodak moment--especially considering the brand name--as depicted in the commercials and the like before I see it through the eyes of your characters. So every time you mention it, I'm jolted out of the story, even if only momentarily.

10
- "I wasn’t a boy or a girl." If you're going to tackle gender issues, I think this it needs to be more specific. I see nothing that says what gender this person was born as, which they identify with. Are they transgender, transvestite, transexual? None of the above? As a heterosexual cis male, I read this character as being a young female who likes both boy and girl things. If you take too long to tell me otherwise, when you finally do tell me I'm going to have to wipe what I, as the reader, thought I knew about the character and start from scratch, and that is NOT something you want your readers doing 10k+ words into a story, especially a story written in first person.

No notes for the rest. Good tension. Needs to be cleaned up, of course, but I was engaged.

Looking forward to the next submission!

 
 
 
Edited by hawkedup
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2 hours ago, hawkedup said:

First and foremost, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the title reminds me of Conjunction Junction (what's your function). I assume this is on purpose?

Surprisingly, I actually didn't think of that.  I'm not entirely sure I'm to keeping this title any way. I have about five different titles in mind. This one was the shortest, so I thought it would be easiest to use when submitting. I don't mind the Conjunction Junction association with the shop, but I don't think I want it with the title of the whole book. I'll stick with the current one for the purposes of submitting to the group, but it might not be the title I eventually query agents with.

2 hours ago, hawkedup said:

- What do bugs have to do with dust?

I was thinking about a carpenter ant and powder post beetle problem my spouse and I had when we first bought out house. But for me it was a very specific association, so it might be best to get rid of the bug reference. 

2 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I will always see Kodak moment--especially considering the brand name--as depicted in the commercials and the like before I see it through the eyes of your characters. So every time you mention it, I'm jolted out of the story, even if only momentarily.

Interesting. I just used that because that was phrase my mom used in real life when it came to finding valuable antiques, but would probably be better to come up with something more unique for the sake of the story. There is already a lot in these chapters that are drawn from my childhood...maybe too much. 

2 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I see nothing that says what gender this person was born as, which they identify with

I thought I had a line the toy section in there saying E was non-binary person, but I think it might gotten muddled or accidentally deleted because I kept shortening and elongating that paragraph. I'll work on clarifying it. 

2 hours ago, hawkedup said:

A really simple fix would be to simply combine the two chapters into one and let the second half of the chapter carry the first half. 

Hmm I feel like that would be a rather very long chapter for a middle grade book, but it would probably work if I trimmed the first half a little. That's a good idea. 

2 hours ago, hawkedup said:

No notes for the rest. Good tension. Needs to be cleaned up, of course, but I was engaged.

Looking forward to the next submission!

I'm glad to hear it! Thank you so much for your feedback. :-)

 

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Hey hey, guess who's late to the party? :) 

Anyways...

What I liked:

The first line is great! It's super striking and immediately gets me into the head of the character

If I remember one thing from the chapter, it's (weirdly enough) the little scene with the coin flipping. The "let fate decide but wait I actually want to decide" is super characterizing and perfect for the mother as someone I picture as being a bit more free-flowing and eccentric from her occupation. The mother's character overall was fantastic for me, honestly. Her job is the perfect way to introduce us to the paranormal elements of the story.

G is best boi 11/10 dog

The way chapter 2 ends is super satisfying for me. Having the doll explain stuff and then disappear stops me from feeling super lost without letting me feel too comfortable about the position that the narrator is in. 

Suggestions:

The end of chapter one confused me a bit with regards to the narrator's and mother's characters. I can't really tell what the mother is trying to get out of being so in the middle between the supernatural existing and not existing. It seems like the mother would either want to deny the existence of the supernatural (maybe with a small hint) or confirm it so that her child thinks that she's just some eccentric person. Or maybe it's just that "tell you the truth" is general enough that it doesn't give me (or the narrator!) a reason to latch on. 

I think that the narrator spends too much time freaking out in chapter 2. Yeah, it's totally realistic that they would be in shock, panicking, calling for their mom. But realistic doesn't always move the story forward, and I felt like the narrative stagnated a bit while they were repeating similar phrases about wanting their mom to stop playing tricks on them. The moment I get back into the story is when the narrator starts to think about how the dog reacted to the different supernatural creatures. Having that moment come sooner might help (though it's still important to convey the narrator's fear, of course!).

I can also add my voice to the list of people who felt that the mannequin transformation was a bit sudden/confusing. Because of that, I was floundering a bit for the first part of chapter 2. Which means that unfortunately, I don't have a lot more to say about it since it was hard for me to track what's going on. 

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On 28/07/2019 at 2:01 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

Blazer might not actually be the right word.

Yes to the pics. Now, I would definitely refer to this as a suit. A blazer, imo, is not matching with the bottom half.

Plus-Sizes-Women-s-Blazers-And-Suit-Jackets-Working-Suit-Jacket-Female-Blazer-Feminine-Cape-Womens.jpg_640x640.jpg.d57ae9aa352e615e2c3ad4f809c02c29.jpg

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5 hours ago, Robinski said:

Now, I would definitely refer to this as a suit

So that pic (the woman in the dark blue jacket and white pants) is basically the definition of a blazer! :)

Google's definition of the word is "a lightweight jacket, typically solid-colored, often worn as part of a uniform by members of a club, sports team, or school. " or "a plain jacket, typically dark blue, not forming part of a suit but considered appropriate for formal or semiformal wear."

Merriam Webster isn't that specific, only calling it " a sports jacket often with notched collar and patch pockets" (which that blue jacket also fits)

Generally, for men, a suit is an outfit where the jacket and pants are made out of the same fabric. It's the most formal.  A men's blazer is a looser fit than a suit coat, doesn't have pants in the same fabric, and is less formal. There's also a least formal sport coat, but nowadays you'd likely be hard=pressed to find someone who can tell the difference between a sport coat and a blazer. Suit coats can be worn as blazers if you don't pair them with their matching pants, but you would never wear a blazer (or sport coat!) as a suit.

It's a little different for women (of course it is) as "blazer" gets thrown around for just about any vaguely formal jacket of that type, and fit on women's jackets like that tend to be closer across the board, so there's no real loose/fitted distinction between a women's suit coat and a blazer.  Basically, the women's style jackets were derived from the men's, but they never got formalized in their details the way the men's did.  

Any of the women's outfits and jackets @shatteredsmooth posted there could both be called suits... or blazers.  :) 

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18 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

So that pic (the woman in the dark blue jacket and white pants) is basically the definition of a blazer! :)

Yeah, that's why I posted it ;)  My (poorly worded) comment about 'suit' was referring to SSmooth's pictures.

18 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

There's also a least formal sport coat, but nowadays you'd likely be hard=pressed to find someone who can tell the difference between a sport coat and a blazer.

Well, I'm one. I stopped wearing suits after 30 years of wearing suits, and switched to sports jackets for work purposes. I've never liked blazers: I wore them for 10 years at school, which was plenty for me.

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On 7/28/2019 at 8:25 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I thought I had a line the toy section in there saying E was non-binary person, but I think it might gotten muddled or accidentally deleted because I kept shortening and elongating that paragraph. I'll work on clarifying it. 

One other thing! I'll say that for me, I definitely interpreted the line about being neither a boy nor a girl as E being non-binary. Though I did hesitate a bit, and I think it's because I'm not used to thinking of kids as being so aware of gender issues (even though many of them totally are!). It sounds tricky to be able to discuss gender in a way that feels realistic for a child E's age, but I do think it's super important to show that kids can be thinking about those things in ways that are just as logical as adults (albeit likely still coming from a different viewpoint). So I think it will be super awesome if E's thoughts on gender are explored a bit more! :) 

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On 7/31/2019 at 5:01 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

thought I had a line the toy section in there saying E was non-binary person, but I think it might gotten muddled or accidentally deleted because I kept shortening and elongating that paragraph. I'll work on clarifying it. 

It was there, I remember it.
I didn't comment on this because I didn't think I needed to. But noting some other comments, coming from another enby, I thought the whole thing read fine on that front. Blatant where it needed to be, unassuming in others. Zero issues.

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Posted (edited)

All right, I'm behind and I read both sets of chapters today.

I'm just going to post my notes for now, and get into critiquing the story itself on the thread for chapter 3 and 4. If you see a line without any comments, it means I made a bolded edit.

Notes below:

(pg. 1)

-“E, will you flip me a coin?” called Mom from the front seat.—If this is in a car, 'called' is not appropriate. It suggests shouting.

-I held the coin on my dirt-stained palm, tossed it up, caught it, and then slammed it into the opposite palm.—'Slapped' would fit better. 'Slammed' sounds painful. 

-“I guess that means Vermont,” she sighed.—Isn't tails what she wanted? Also, neither of them called which side of the coin they were taking. 

(pg. 2)

-It was also right next to a gorge that Mom and I sometimes hiked down if we wanted stretch our legs before the long ride home—Add 'to'

-EBay being both the savoir and doom of her business.—It's 'eBay.' 'Savior' is misspelled. And you don't explain how it both saves and dooms. 

-Kodak moments were when she found the stuff I thought of as treasure—I know what you mean, but this could be construed as mom interpreting stuff E finds as treasure. 

-Back in June, she had found a ten-dollar item that sold for almost a thousands dollars.—Delete bolded part

-Her denim shorts were threadbare and probably would have a hole soon if she kept wearing it

-My t-shirt and cargo were in better shape, but that was because Mom always spent money on me before she’d buy anything for herself.—What does that mean? Is Mom buying the protag newer clothes?

-I looked at the bikes, some vintage and others new, lined up outside the shop

(pg. 3)

-JJ always smelled like sawdust and mothballs.—You wrote the name backwards.

- I imagined they were full of bugs because there was always a layer of dust on them—I see no bug connection.

-He let out a squeaky, scratchy bark

-A jingling gradually got louder—What's jingling? 

-The second most important rule of antiquing was “respect the shop dogs.”—Why? 

-Their chin length hair was dyed violet

(pg. 4)

-plum-colored eyeshadow and lipstick

-Even their goatee was dyed purple.

-My cheeks heated up—Just say 'I flushed'

-He knows you love and respect dogs more than other kids do. Plus, you always give him treats.—Expository characterization. 

-“I used to have a dog, but she had cancer, and Mom misses her too much to get another one.”—E hasn't told R this by now? If not, why doesn't R offer condolences? 

-Don’t touch things that can break was my third most important rule.

G came over and sat on my feet as Mx. R walked away.

“Um, Mx. R, are there any new mannequins I need to worry about?”—This should all be one paragraph. 

(pg. 5)

- It belonged to a 90-year-old woman

-and this one lonely, lovely

-She’s in the back room modeling a stunning cocktail dress.—Please elaborate why it's stunning.

-She is called M—I'd delete bolded part.

-“Oh, I don’t know if dolls creep you out too—R seems oblivious; it's obvious E is creeped, just by her dialogue. 

-Dolls look creepy, but you won’t turn into one if you look in their eyes—You later say that this is the exact cause of turning into one. 

(pg. 6)

-Antiquing was like a treasure hunt. Most of the stuff in the shop was actually junk, but there might be something on a shelf for twenty dollars that mom could sell for two hundred, or if we were really lucky, two thousand.—Started getting bored by this point. 

-There was silver blade, which glinted like it was in the sun instead of the dull shop light.

-Mom said before I even fully started to reach my hand towards it.—Replace with 'could touch it'

(pg. 7)

-“It’s not obvious?”—I don't think a kid would say that. 

-“This is a vampire hunting kit, back from when people actually believed in vampires.”—How does E know this? Has E seen a vampire hunting kit before? And who in the right mind would even make one? 

-I laughed anyways.—I'd delete, or combine it with the previous sentence. 

-How come you get to touch it?”—What has established thus far that E can't touch it?

-Mom put the knife back where it was and pointed at a series of empty depressions in the box.—Delete first bolded part.

(pg. 8)

-“Would you believe me if I told you the truth?”—Nothing thus far has convinced me this woman is a figure of mystical knowledge. 

(pg. 9)

-then with the undead corpse of kid my age.

-“things to possibly ask for if Mom finds a ‘Kodak moment’ list."

-He was in Sturgis

-There was no reason girls couldn’t play with spaceships and boys couldn’t play with kitchens.—E's emotional reaction is enough to convey this. 

(pg. 10)

-He sneezed.—Heh heh.

-The two sidewalls were boards with holes in them and dolls hung from every inch of that wall.—I don't think a child reading this book would be paying attention at this point. Very little has actually happened, plot-wise. 

(pg. 11)

-They were neither porcelain nor but some—Nor what? 

-The doll's hand

-My muscles were so rigid they were starting to hurt.—I don't think that's possible. 

-G held his head up in the air and sniffed. The dolls eyes rolled towards him.—This needs to be its own paragraph. 

-My head throbbed.—Why? You didn't say if E hit their head. 

(pg. 12)

-painted-on eyes

-Are we proof that ghosts and monsters and magic are real? Or proof that we’re just toys, magic only lives in your imagination, that there is a logical explanation for everything you think lacks one?—This is oddly specific.

-It had an aqua-blue background

-Mollusks and anemones were carved on the bottom in equally bright colors.—Why isn't anything happening by this point? 

(pg. 14)

-Come out from wherever you're hiding

-I said even though in my heart

(pg. 15)

-She had looked a mannequin in the eyes and became one—This needs to be several pages earlier. This is obviously your dramatic crux, and it's quite interesting. I just would rather not have gotten a several-page tour of an antique store to get here.

-He took a step towards me and gave M a good snarl. She lurched forward.—This needs to be one paragraph. 

(pg. 16)

-because the not plastic not porcelain doll was standing in it—I'd delete the bolded part.

(pg. 17)

-I jumped back.

“Sorry. I’m not used to seeing dolls move.”—Should be one paragraph.

-it was relatively person-shaped.

-“You can see me.” It crossed its scarred arms. 

It was missing its left index finger.—Again, make this one paragraph. 

 

Edited by JWerner
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13 hours ago, JWerner said:

-Dolls look creepy, but you won’t turn into one if you look in their eyes—You later say that this is the exact cause of turning into one. 

 

To the mc, dolls and mannequins are not the same. If I said something about turning into a doll, then I probably used the wrong word. 

13 hours ago, JWerner said:

-“This is a vampire hunting kit, back from when people actually believed in vampires.”—How does E know this? Has E seen a vampire hunting kit before? And who in the right mind would even make one? 

Believe it or not, I've actually two or three old vampire hunting kits in antique stores. There were periods of time when people actually believed in vampires, often because they didn't understand how disease spread. Sometimes, outbreaks of tuberculosis had cause vampire scares in small, rural towns. This is something I feel like a 12-year-old with an interest in the paranormal might know about. The following article doesn't mention anything about specific kits, but it does go into detail about a time when people actually believed in vampires. However, since I've seen kits that appear to come from the 1800s, I can assume that kind of panic/mentality is what lead to them being made in the first place.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-great-new-england-vampire-panic-36482878/

However, I might take the vampire hunting kit out because I think it is a little misleading when it comes to world-building. 

13 hours ago, JWerner said:

I'm just going to post my notes for now, and get into critiquing the story itself on the thread for chapter 3 and 4. If you see a line without any comments, it means I made a bolded edit.

Sounds good! The notes you made so far were helpful. Thank you. :-)

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