Monday, September 5, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages Workshop - September Entry #5

Kimberly C. Stickrath
Middle-Grade Fantasy

The green, misty hills of Bink had humped around like a parade of green soldiers guarding the flowered floor of the central plain when Funny-Foot finally flopped down to rest his face.

Funny-Foot's feet were like little rockers, and when he walked he always kept rolling and rocking back and forth. When Funny-Foot walked far, his face always hurt, because he would almost fall upon his face every time. Even though he was usually able to keep himself from falling all the way down, he imagined how much it would hurt his face if it knocked into the ground. His imagination made his face hurt almost as much as a real bump, and that was why when he sat down, he was sitting to rest his face as much as to catch his breath…and why he chose to sit down when he got well into the Country of Bink. (Of course, his legs and feet were very tired, but his poor face was just as sore as it could be, from just imagining all those bumps.) Funny-Foot wished he could have ridden to Bink in a pambanouche, but that was against the law. (A pambanouche is the kind of carriage generally used in the Bink Country: they were light, cheerful buggies, drawn by a pair of three-legged donkeys. It was very important that the donkeys had only three legs, for it is always the forth leg of a donkey that makes it go along all jerky and bumpy.)

“Oh, there are so many things against the law,” moaned poor Funny-Foot, daubing liniment on his face with his handkerchief. The liniment made his sore face feel a little better, but it didn’t quite do the trick. Funny-Foot decided to lie down and put his face in the cool grey grass and his face felt better still. He thought about all of the laws of Bink, and that made him cry, and the tears cooled off his face even more. That was why he did not see the Detective coming. He was so busy crying, with his face down in the grass, that he'd been caught for ten full minutes before he even knew it.

Maybe he wouldn't have known it even then if the Detective hadn't sneezed. However, when the Detective sneezed, his sneeze was so big and so hard that it blew Funny-Foot's cap right off his head. When Funny-Foot rolled over to see where the sneeze got loose from, he discovered that the big, heavy Detective was looking him all over with a big magnifying glass. The Detective squinted with his sharp eye to find suspicious marks on Funny-Foot. From the Detective’s growly looking face, Funny-Foot could tell that he was just Suspicious All Over.

It made Funny-Foot terribly nervous to know he was Suspicious All Over, so he had to wriggle a lot. The Detective put his heavy foot on Funny-Foot to hold him still, and squinted through his magnifying glass for even more suspicious marks. Poor Funny-Foot quit wriggling then, for he thought he might be making the suspicious marks jiggle and jump around and every time he moved. He was afraid that the scowly Detective might think he saw a new one, rather than only an old mark that had wriggled to another place.

“Gurrump,” growled the Detective, “Where did you hide the money?”

“Please, Mr. Detective,” moaned Funny-Foot, “I didn't steal any money.”

“Hurruuff! Glupp! Where did you bury the body, then?” grumbled the Detective, who preferred to talk in muttered coughs and half-sneezes.

“But, please, sir!” pleaded Funny-Foot, “I never never killed anybody! Did...did somebody get killed and robbed? Do they need some help?”

“I don't know," admitted the Detective. "But if anybody did get killed and robbed, YOU obviously did it!”

“But, please,” whimpered Funny-Foot, “I only just now came to the Country of Bink- Honest I did-”

The big Detective grabbed one of Funny-Foot's feet and examined it through his magnifying glass.

“Hurrumph, glubb,” said he. “So you did- I see the soap- sand of the Gibby Country on your shoes and the stain of the vinegar grass that grows in the Pickle Hills. Whuzzz! Zoff! HAH! GURUF! This mud on your toe comes from Korkabottel! It is the second layer of Hifful mud, peculiar only to the northeast corner of the Country of Korkabottel. Therefore, you came from Korkabottel!”

“Yes, sir.” admitted Funny-Foot, “My home is in Korkabottel and it has a pink roof. And I came to Bink today on business.”

“HAH!” cried the Detective, “You confess! Well, I'll put you in the Jug right away. You'll get twenty years for this!”

“But -.but, please,” choked Funny-Foot.

“Shut, up!” roared the Detective. “I have your confession and that's all I need. And your sentence should be hard labor for life! The very idea of a Korkabottelarian coming to the Country of Bink! On business! Just think of it! Why, you miserable scoundrel, you desperate criminal, you! You ought to be hung! Heck, if it were up to me, you’d be hung twice on general principle!”

Poor Funny-Foot dared not say any more. The Detective put big, heavy handcuffs on his wrists and they started towards the nearest Jug. Funny-Foot could not walk fast enough to suit the Detective. When the Detective saw a Binkarian driving two three- legged donkeys hitched to a pambanouche, he forced the person to stop and haul him and his prisoner to the Jug. Funny-Foot’s wish had been granted, and that was the first ride Funny-Foot had had in a pambanouche for years and years.

The Jug was a real jug. Every town in Bink used a great Jug that for a jail. It looked like a giant vinegar jug sitting in the public square, with a gigantic cork in it.

Funny-Foot had to walk up the steps outside until he got up to the neck of the Jug. This was very difficult for poor Funny-Foot to do, because of his queer feet, but he managed it somehow by hanging onto the railing and pulling himself up by hand. (Still, every time he pulled forward, he very nearly fell all the way back down the steps.)

The Detective pulled the huge cork with a block and tackle and dumped Funny-Foot into the Jug. Funny-Foot fell to the bottom. He might have broken his legs, only there was always a big pile of straw on the floor of the Jugs. It was like jumping into a haymow, but Funny-Foot had never been Jugged before and did not know there was straw to land on. While Funny-Foot wasn’t actually physically hurt from dropping that far, it did frighten him terribly. His imagination imagined how much it would have hurt to hit the bottom, so he was shaky and jittery for several minutes. When Funny-Foot caught his breath, and realized that he wasn't really as dead as he thought he should have been, he looked around and found two tiny windows where air came in. Peeping out, he saw the big Detective examining the Bink person who had the pambanouche.

The Bink person sat real still and quiet and scared – like a bunny trying to hide from a hawk’s sharp eyes -- until the Detective had looked all over him with the big magnifying glass. Then the Detective walked around to look at the license plate at the rear of the pambanouche carriage. He roared and pointed at something on the license plate. The poor Bink person was arrested


  1. Hi Kimberly,

    This is an enjoyable storytelling voice, reminiscent in some ways of classic literature like Winnie the Pooh and Kipling. Lots of great, original elements. The Jug, the detective, the papanouche, the three-legged donkeys--all so cool! I especially love the Funny Foot and the way his face hurts more from thinking about falling on it than it does from actual falls.

    However, I do have a few questions.

    1) Could you handle the Funny Foot description and introduction a little more quickly and efficiently? Kids no longer have, unfortunately, the attention span that they did for the classics, so I worry that what is fascinating to me might not hold their attention quite as much.

    2) The introduction of Laws comes a little suddenly, so is there a more obvious (and jeopardy-filled-nail-bitingly-spine-tingling) way to introduce this? Could you have the Funny Foot pause to rest beside a sign on the border of Bink perhaps, one which talks about the laws in a your great, dry humor and lets us know that pretty much anything in Bink could be against the law?

    3) Can you give us a reason why the Funny Foot has to cross into Bink? This might be especially effective once we know the laws are so restrictive.

    4) Can you describe the Detective and the Bink person for us? Give us more details, and give us a better sense of what Bink is like as well? I love that first sentence, but leaving the immediacy of that description to go into "always" mode weakens the image for the reader and by the time we get back to the story in real time, the description has faded.

    5) Again, I love the story-telling voice, but are there places where you could show the action more effectively? For example, "This was very difficult for poor Funny-Foot to do, because of his queer feet, but he managed it somehow by hanging onto the railing and pulling himself up by hand. (Still, every time he pulled forward, he very nearly fell all the way back down the steps.)" Could you build the drama more into the action rather than front-loading it with the statement?

    6) Similarly, do statements like "He might have broken his legs, only there was always a big pile of straw on the floor of the Jugs." weaken the suspense for the reader? How would losing a little of the storytelling in favor of creating a closer bond between the reader and Funny Foot pay off? Letting us discover that there is straw at the bottom only after Funny Foot feels like he's been falling a long time and is positive his feet will be broken and never be right again, just like his great uncle XXXX who had to spend the rest of his life rocking in a chair (or whatever much more brilliant bit of characterization than mine you can throw in here).

    You've got an amazing imagination, and this is such a cool world. I'm fascinated to see what you will do in the rev.


  2. Whoa. I can honestly say that's the most original piece of writing I've read in a very long time. I think what you're doing here is the kind of thing that will need to find just the "right" person that gets it. It's not the typical industry standard, not to say that's a bad or even good thing. It just is.

    I'm not even sure I'm the right person to give you feedback. But I will approach it as though I were reading it with my kids. I want more description I believe. At least of our MC, because this world is so very different. It's certainly fun, but I also wonder if the audience is younger than most MG are nowadays...

    I feel like the story itself is hiding a bit behind all the fantastic elements and commentaries. What IS the story exactly? Is it that FF has to accomplish something important but the detective has gotten in his way? Can you state the goal? Can we feel a bit more of FF's trepidation at the hands of the detective? Does he have experience with such detectives? Is what he's done actually against one of the rules? Or is it just the detective's craziness? Some questions are good to keep us reading, but too many make it difficult to get into.

    I'll look forward to your revision.

  3. Your voice is fun and unusual. I love it. The story, for me, started somewhere around the third paragraph. Then it started to flow. Most of the stuff you tell in the first couple of paragraphs is shown in the rest of the chapter. Awesome job.

  4. This was very interesting - reminded me of Alice in Wonderland and I think it would be a blast to read aloud with a child.

    You had some great imagery - I loved the first line, the image of the big Detective with his magnifying glass, the Jug that's a jug. Great!

    Some thoughts:

    With the Detective, I would tone down the "Hurrumph"s, etc. I think just one or two would be as effective, Likewise, you don't need to include the line "who preferred to talk in muttered coughs and half-sneezes" since you've already done a great job showing that.

    For some of the the Funny-Foot descriptions, try to do more "show, not tell." For instance rather than tell us it's difficult for him to climb the jug, make us laugh or wince (or something) as you show us what it's like for him.

  5. I love the word-play in this! Right away it puts the reader in a state of whimsy. Anything fantastical could happen.

    What distracted me a bit were new words, places, terms given right up front. Perhaps they could be introduced a bit more gradually so that the reader can savor and absorb them at the same time.

    The concept has me wondering what different directions it could take.

  6. Hi Kimberly,
    Sorry this is so late. I've been out of town and you're probably already working on your revision, but i felt I needed to send my comments.
    You have a beautiful poetic feel to your writing. I love the rhythm and whimsy. I still was confused after reading a couple of times even though I loved the words. What was humping around? I didn't start getting into the story until the detective caught him and you put in the description of where he came from.I enjoyed your details, but with so much information, you gave away some of the tension that could have happened. Great ideas and very original.


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