Monday, July 25, 2011

GUTGAA - Elena's Pen

The last part of Deana's awesome blogfest is here! Time for us to post the first 200 words of our stories for critique. I'll be hopping around sometime today to give feedback and can't wait to read some awesome beginnings! I would love for some feedback too. Thanks!

My first 196 words for Elena's Pen (MG Fantasy):

Mr. McMichaels has hated me ever since he confiscated a story I wrote during class last week. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels.
I guess I can't blame him, but wouldn't most English teachers love a student who wanted to be an author? Not this one. I guess I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.
So I took my time walking to my sixth grade English class. Mr. McMichaels was the eighth grade teacher but he taught English to the sixth- and seventh graders too. I so am not looking forward to two years from now. I grimaced.
The crowded hallway slowly thinned out as sixth-, seventh- and eighth graders swapped classrooms. The scent of mold and putrid gym clothes wafted toward me when a kid slammed his puke-green locker shut, and I gagged.
"Elena?" someone called.
I turned and spotted Artex, the new guy. He smiled and waved a piece of paper in his hand. Wow, were his teeth white! "Hi." I smiled back, wondering why he was talking to me. I forced myself to not shuffle my feet or play with my hair. Good-looking boys always made me nervous.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I could never write in first person, but this proves several of my buddies are really good at it.

amy kennedy said...

Nicole, you made me laugh out loud (for real) with your first paragraph. That, alone, would keep me reading.

I like her (your) voice and can't wait to see what happens with her and her pen.

Little things: did the scent come from the locker? Didn't get that (probably just me) and "grimaced," felt added on. Again, could just be me.

None of which would make me stop reading.

Angie Cothran said...

"Good-looking boys made me nervous" - Love it :)

I thought it was great. I did have the same question as Amy. Why did she gag? Overall--great job :)

Michelle Fayard said...

Great voice and good hook! I agree about pulling the gagging section though. :)

P.S. I've left a reply to your comment at

Kate Larkindale said...

Great opening. Love the voice. I totally sympathize with her not wanting to have the same teacher another 2 years. That sucks!

I actually like her gagging at the smell of the locker. It makes her sensitive.

amber said...

Hello :) OK, here's my critique:

-'Mr. McMichaels has hated me ever since he confiscated a story I wrote during class last week' -- wow, ever since last week?! All kidding aside, that's really dramatic, even for a sixth grader. 'has been giving me the evil eye ever since' is a bit better.
-LOVED the second graph. LOVED.
-I've read that third graph three times and I still don't get it. She's in 6th grade, and he teaches 7 and 8, too. So why does she dread two years from now? Won't she have him in 7th grade, too?
-'The scent of mold and putrid gym clothes wafted toward me when a kid slammed his puke-green locker shut, and I gagged.' DRAMA QUEEN. Putrid and Puke too close togehter are too much of the same sound. Change one. And the 6th grader knew the smell of mold and uses the word 'putrid'? That's a stretch.
-LOVED the last graph. REALLY. Great voice.

So, just a few things :) Good luck!

Andrea Mack said...

Nicole, I really love your narrator's voice here. Her personality starts to come through with all the inner dialogue. I also like the hints of conflict -- the teacher problem, the new boy challenge. I would definitely keep reading to see where this is going.

I found it a little jarring to have the present tense thought "I am so not looking forward to two years from now" in the middle of a paragraph in past tense, but maybe that's just me.

Like how you brought in the sense of smell!

Sharon Bayliss said...

Hi Nicole,

Like the other readers, I love the voice. It sounds like a fun book to read. Watch your tense. It did switch to present a few times, "I can't" "I so am".

I think you can lose, "I grimaced."

Thanks for the heads up about the pitch contest! I am a new follower.

Good luck!

Laura Barnes said...

I love it, I think it's right on. I think you could rework the first sentence/paragraph though. I'm not really drawn into the "has hated me" line. It would be stronger if you said "Mr. McMichaels hates me." and go on from there.

Christina Mercer said...

Really fun story! Love the voice and her nerves with the cute boy ;-)

My only changes would be to lose the I grimaced and maybe change mold and putrid to sweaty.

Good luck with contest!!

alexia said...

I REALLY like this. Good stuff. The only thing that felt off to me was the white teeth sentence. Is that really what she'd notice if he's so cute?

Awesome job!! Good luck in the contest.

carrieannebrownian said...

I really like the opening, since I think most of us can relate to having had a teacher like that. Is the entire book in the past tense? I'm wondering why the first paragraph is in the present tense if everything else is in past.

jamieayres said...

Love the MC's voice. Was also confused as to why he's 'the' eighth grade teacher--makes it sound like they don't switch classes but they do. Also, don't think she'd notice the white teeth right away unless her parents are dentists or something.

Lora R. Rivera said...

Hi Nicole:

Fun opening. I love the first two paragraphs.

Is it important to the rest of the book that Mr. McMichaels is the eight grade teacher? If not, I'd just leave out that, as it made me pause, even now.

I don't think "I grimaced" is necessary here, but I DO like her gagging. What if you changed the structure, though? "A kid a few yards ahead slammed his puke green locker, sending a putrid mixture of mold and old gym clothes wafting toward me. I gagged and hurried past."

I wanted to linger with Artex's introduction. I wanted maybe just one more line. Especially if he's new, the whole school will be scrutinizing him, right?

Nice and solid YA here. Thanks for sharing!


kelworthfiles said...

That was great. My favorite part was how she named the goblin McMichaels. Thanks for sharing!

If you get a chance, check out a fellow writer's zombie story and help me make him wear an embarrassing shirt next year! Details are here:

Christine Danek said...

Great voice. I really enjoyed this and would read on. The line-- I grimaced seems just there though. Sort of stuck out to me.
Good luck!

Donea Lee said...

The first paragraph still makes me laugh (I've read a version of this before.) So good!

I agree about "I grimaced." I think you'd be fine to delete it. Maybe change "I so am not looking forward..." to , "I am so not looking forward..."

And I do wonder if the para about the locker is essential to this first part of the book...maybe she catches a whiff of it as she's shuffling over to meet Artex?

But, agreed with the others - love the voice in this piece!! Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you! :)

LisaAnn said...

Such a cute opening! I love the humor of the first and second paragraphs, but I agree with Lora that the third paragraph kinda confused me. Do we need to know right now that Mr. McMichaels will be her teacher for the next several years, or can we save that for later? It just doesn't seem important enough to mention so quickly.

I also would like to linger a bit over the introduction of Artex, since he's such a major character. And the word "guy" kinda threw me off, since it doesn't necessarily denote an age, so Artex could feasibly be the cute new teacher. I would probably replace it with "kid," or maybe expand that whole sentence a little so we really feel like we grasp the importance of his appearance.

Overall, though, this is a great start, and I LOVE Elena's voice. It feels very authentic, and I definitely want to read more!

Josh Hoyt said...

Starts off with a humorous side from the beginning. It was surprising to find out it was a girl and how did the new guy know her name. I like the voice and want to read more.

Deniz Bevan said...

So cute! Can't wait to see what Artex has to say.