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Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Today we have Rachel’s first page (yay!!!), an MG fairy tale retelling of Hansel and Gretel. My comments will be in purple and do please add yours in the comments.

I picked the ripe, red apples from the tree I had so carefully tended, hoping it would help us through the upcoming season. My summer had been filled with planning for the winter ahead. Hansel said I was a pessimist, a worrier, but he was wrong. I was a realist.

Hansel was a dreamer. A lot of telling so far - just saying...

Usually I found his can-do attitude annoying, but not that day. The sun shone through the branches as I picked apples and placed them, one by one, in the basket. Soon the leaves would fall, the very air would freeze and snow would cover the forest. But right then it was warm, there were apples to eat, and if my little brother wanted to believe he could fix everything then who was I to tell him he couldn't?

“How many apples are there?” Hansel asked, shading his eyes from the sun as he looked up at me from where he sat in the grass.

“Enough to last us awhile,” I told him.

“Enough to sell some?” I recognized the barely-concealed excitement in his voice. He was scheming.

I laughed. “Who would want to buy our apples? Everyone has apple trees; they don’t need to buy ours.”

“But not everyone can make applesauce like you, Gretel,” he said enthusiastically, his brown eyes twinkling. “You make the best applesauce, everyone thinks so. Maybe you could sell some, enough to buy some wheat, or maybe even a hen.”

So, I didn't find anything wrong with this first page, that is, no problems with tense or grammar or anything like that. But it didn't feel like MG (not that I'm an expert!); the voice felt old and for a first page there isn't much happening, just apple picking. I know when writing YA one has to immediately capture the reader's attention and I would think that this would be even more important when writing MG. I also wonder about the age of the narrator because she (I assume this is Gretel) sounds like a much older sibling. I would suggest giving Gretel more voice appropriate to her age (which was...12? 13?) and since there seems to be some concern about food have this worry come through in her voice. I'd also try to have something happen, something that will make the readers worry about Hansel and Gretel. Maybe the stepmother is overseeing the apple-picking and making sure they don't eat any, or maybe she's watching from the window. Something to add tension to this first scene and make those kids turn the page.    

Of course, I have to add again I am not a big reader of MG so I hope those who do will chime in and make some suggestions to help Rachel with her first page. And a big thanks to Rachel for submitting :) 


Huntress said...

I'd leave off the first paragraphs of 'tell' and start with the dialogue. Let the characters give the background to the reader.

Of course then you risk falling into the 'Bob' syndrome, the 'Hey Bob, what do you think about this weather? It's been so cold for months and we might starve if we don't get some food soon."

Put yourself into the characters' minds and you'll avoid that problem also.

Patchi said...

I agree with Marcy. I'm missing the urgency. Maybe if it sowed the night before (too early in the season), Gretel would be more worried about the apples and their stocks for the winter.

I also think the it might be better to focus on the relationship between the siblings and get their age across sooner.

Good luck!

Patchi said...


Stephen Tremp said...

I like to begin a new book with a few paragraphs of telling or showing something, then introduce dialogue at least by the top of the second page. I find it a bit confusing to begin a book with dialogue.

Charity Bradford said...

I actually liked all of it, but then again, I like to set up the scene before I dive in. :)

I agree that it didn't sound 100% MG, but I think the tension level is about right for MG. Everything is lighter in that genre than what I think most of us here at UB are used to reading. I liked Marcy's idea of having the step-mom brooding/lurking nearby though.

All in all, I liked this very much.

mshatch said...

That's an excellent point, Charity. Thanks for bring it up as I do not read a lot of MG so am not the best person to crit it.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Thanks for the help everyone! The step-mother does make an appearance on the next page. :) Perhaps I should bump it up. I like the idea of an early snow, too, thanks Patchi!

Charity Bradford said...

I don't read a ton of MG because it isn't tense enough, LOL. This piece seems likes it right on the edge and not sure which way it wants to go, but it's very close in my mind.