Monday, November 28, 2011

7 1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Brunner Rev 3

Max BrunnerMiddle Grade FantasyEMBER-REVISION 3

Chapter I: The Spit Wad

A ball of wet paper slapped the side of John’s face. He caught himself before falling out of his chair but was powerless to stop the hot blood that flooded his cheeks. Dice and his friends exploded with laughter. Cold saliva ran down his cheek and John swallowed hard to keep his lunch inside his stomach. The spit wad had caused him enough embarrassment for one day. He took a deep breath and remembered they wouldn’t be laughing much longer.

“I can’t wait to see your face w-w-when-“ John paused. He was stuttering again. His cheeks burned even hotter.

Dice lowered his straw, “Can’t wait to what? You got something to say to me, f-f-f-freak?”

John clenched his fists but said nothing.

“Just what is so funny Mr. Menning?” asked their wrinkled teacher.

“Nothing, Ms. Jessup,” Dice replied as he fumbled to hide the straw shooter.

The woman marched toward him. “What is that you’re hiding over there? Craig, I want you to empty your pockets, right now.”

The bullies panicked and John couldn’t help but smile. Having Craig empty his pockets was a stroke of genius.

John leaned back, folded his arms, and made sure Dice could see him grinning. “Y-You’re not getting away with it this t-t-time,” he teased. Even stammering twice in one sentence couldn’t ruin this moment.

Then it happened. Again.

One of Dice’s friends jumped into Ms. Jessup’s path, babbling on about nothing, shifting his body to keep her from looking over his shoulder at Dice.

“I’ll take it.” It was Rebecca, the girl that sat in front of Dice. “Quick,” she whispered, “she won’t search me. Give me the straw.”

John’s smile disappeared, “Not you too, Becca. I thought w-we were f-f-friends.”

Dice smirked and slipped her the straw shooter into her hand.

“You think h-he’s your friend now?” John said. “He’s not. He’s just using you, like he uses everybody else.”

The evidence disappeared just before their teacher pushed past her jabbering obstacle. She scanned the innocent items the bullies had taken out of their pockets. “Is this it?” She sighed, “I have three more slides to go over and fifteen minutes to do it in, boys. We don’t have time for any more distractions, understand?”

John wiped the remaining the saliva from his face. “H-H-He shot a spit wad at me.”

She spun on her heels and locked John in her sights. “Now how would you know who shot that at you, Mr. Davy?” She asked, glaring at him through a pair of glasses that would be too small if her eyes weren’t so beady. “You haven’t done anything but keep your nose in that book since you came through that door. Just because you are my brightest student does not excuse you from participating in this classroom.”

She spun again, this time to Rebecca, “And don’t think you’ve pulled a fast one on me, my dear. You’ll be joining Craig in detention this afternoon.”

The students groaned and John was about to rejoice when Ms. Jessup snatched the paperback out of his hands. “Just what is so captivating that you cannot seem to pay attention to my presentations?”

Ms. Jessup held the book away from her face so her old eyes could read the title but before she could get the letters focused Dice chimed in. “Another crazy book about UFOs or something,” he said, inciting a giggle from his classmates.

“T-The Hutchison Effect,” John said.

“The Hutchison Effect? I’ve never even heard of it.”

John shifted in his seat before lifting his deep brown eyes. “It-it’s about the Hutchison Effect and the Bermuda Triangle and how—”

“The Bermuda Triangle?” Ms. Jessup snickered. “Preposterous. I’ve lived on this island in ‘the Triangle’ for more than 35 years. I’ve seen more storms here than you’ve had birthdays and I have never seen anything out of the ordinary. Your time in class is far too precious to be wasted on something like this.”

“My dad told me hundreds of ships and planes have disappeared in the Triangle and even Christopher Columbus saw strange lights when he sailed through here. My dad saw—“

“Mr. Davy,” She interrupted, “We do not have time for this nonsense. The Bermuda Triangle is no different from anywhere else in the world and anyone who says otherwise should have his or her head examined. The laws of science are the same here as they are everywhere else.” She held John’s book in the air and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “I have studied science my entire life and I can tell you these kinds of books do not contain fact. They do not teach; they entertain. This book is full of idiotic theories by people with too much time on their hands too lazy to get real jobs. Reading things like this is a waste of your time and a waste of good paper. John, you are too bright to believe in this hocus pocus.”

“It’s not hocus pocus. You’ll see,” John said under his breath.

“What was that?” Ms. Jessup replied.

“N-N-Nothing.” John said.

“Good. Now,” she said, “put that thing away and let’s get back to these slides and see if we can teach you some real science. I don’t know why on earth a bright boy like you would waste his time on such a ridiculous book.”

“Because he’s just as nu-nu-nu-nuts as his old man,” Dice chuckled and it seemed to John the whole class laughed with him.

Sefi wasn’t laughing, however. “Knock it off, Dice,” she said slamming her fist into her brother’s arm.

She brushed her dark, pink-streaked hair away from her eyes to steal a glance at John. He caught her eyes for an instant but immediately turned away.

Ms. Jessup carried on with the rest of her slides and as his tormentors began again, John let out a quiet sigh. He was totally alone. It was like he had a disease and everyone was afraid if they came too close he would infect them. No one seemed to understand him. What made John feel even worse was that no one even tried anymore.

When the program ended for the day the children quickly crowded the exit, eager to leave the school behind them.

John stayed in his seat. If he left now Dice and his goons would be there to meet him, more eager than ever to lay their hands on him.

The room was nearly empty when Sefi walked over to his desk. “Sorry about the spit wad. Dice can be a real jerk sometimes.”

John didn’t respond. He frowned at the cover of his textbook, waiting for her to leave. All he wanted was to be left alone. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially Dice’s sister.

The boy winced as she slammed her palm onto his desk, her skull-covered bracelets rattling menacingly.

“You know why he pushes you around?” she huffed. “Because he knows you won’t push back.”

Sefi stood in silence waiting for the boy to reply. When no answer came, she pushed his book to the floor and stormed out of the room.


  1. I like that the bully and the accomplice girl both got busted: it makes the teacher seem sharper, and makes her an equal opportunity hardass. Makes it feel more realistic, and potentially feeds conflict -- basically, they have more reason to resent John. I think there's definitely more menace in this version, and more foreshadowing. Good job.

  2. Hi Max,

    I was cringing at first when I thought the teacher had been hoodwinked, but when you had her put both of them in timeout, you had me cheering. Well done!

    You've got a fast-paced read here, very well balanced with dialogue and action. You've done a good job fleshing out your characters better, especially Ms. Jessup and John. This version is much improved.

    You've also got my interest with the Bermuda Triangle setting and mystery. You've threaded in hints of that mystery more, and I'm curious to see what happens and what John and his dad have planned.

    One little nit-picky -- instead of the couple of references to "the bullies," I'd keep that action focused on John and Dice, so I'd just say Dice rather than "the bullies." It makes it more personal, though you can definitely have Dice's friends snickering in the background and helping him out as you've done.

    Oh, also in this version, I think you've lost the bit about Dice not wanting to be called Craig, so that switch of names was confusing.

    Again, I do like what you've done with Ms. Jessup! Often, it's just a twist of action or dialogue that's needed to make a character fully come alive.

    I wish you the best of luck with this!

  3. I haven't got much to add to the above other than how much putting DIce and the girl who helps him into detention improves both the teacher and John. Suddenly, he isn't quite such a victim and the teacher becomes a much more sympathetic character. Makes me wonder if she doth protest too much about the 'ridiculous book'...

    Dept of Nitpickery: I still think the line about 'you think he's your friend now?' doesn't quite work work - would the character John really say such a thing, however much you might want him to? I often find myself having to cut some of my favourite lines because they're turning certain characters ever so slightly into sock-puppets for things *I* would want to say.

  4. Good job with the revision. All of the characters seem to have more dimension now and were more believable. Also liked that the teacher caught the kids who were picking on John. Very satisfying! She's not quite so nasty in this one, and I think her dialogue is more realistic than it was before.

    Had a POV issue with this line:

    When the program ended for the day the children quickly crowded the exit, eager to leave the school behind them.

    It hit me as an obvious jump to the narrator's POV rather than John's. It's not likely that John would think of the other kids as "children," because kids that age see themselves as older than they actually are.

    Good job. : ) Write on!

  5. LITTLE LIT, the brainchild of comics master Art Spiegelman, was created to fill a void in comics: There is nothing out there anymore for kids. He looked around himself and saw talent brimming over the surface, but no one creating for the people who made comics popular in the first place. On the back, it says, "COMICS -- They're not just for grown-ups anymore!" The oversize hardcover is a collection of seventeen artists -- some comics creators, some illustrators, some children's book authors -- for this book of fairy tales.

  6. 'you think he's your friend now?' -- is still a bit of a disconnect. If you're going to run with it, try something along the lines of:

    "Do you think that just because you're taking the heat for him, he'll start leaving you alone?" Show a reaction from Rebecca, like the words cut. I would also have Dice snap at her under his breath as they head out, so she knows her attempt didn't really net her any brownie points from him because he still got caught.

  7. I must say, I'm really impressed with this revision. Even though it's MG, I might even read it. :) I thought that Dice and Rebecca getting caught was funny.

    Also, John keeps getting better and better. I actually like him now. He's a little coward-ish, but I can stand that b/c there are hints that he's going to grow.

    The only problem, which I've pointed out three times so far, is that you don't introduce Sefi at all. You just bring her in all of a sudden. She deserves just a couple words. Like "Sefi, a girl in his class" or "Sefi, Dice's sister," etc... Without that, the line "Sefi wasn't laughing" doesn't really have any effect.

    All in all, though, this is much improved from your previous revisions, and I really enjoyed reading it. Best of luck!


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