Monday, September 17, 2012

6 1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Fyfe Rev 2

Author: Rebecca Fyfe
Genre: Middle Grade
Title: The Necklace

I rummaged through the attic. A musty smell came from the boxes I was searching through, making my nose tingle. I really just wanted to go watch some tv, but I needed to find some things to sell at the school charity auction. The school was trying to raise money for a local no-kill animal shelter. My grandmother had left a lot of junk up here, but I was hoping I’d find some things worthy of the auction. I missed Grams, but, I reminded myself, this was for a good cause.

I sneezed as some of the dust from moving things around drifted into my nose. My allergies were going to be plaguing me for weeks after this. I moved a box full of dresses to the side to go through later. Jackpot! I thought, looking at the label on the box below that read “jewelry.” I couldn't remember ever seeing my grams without jewelry. She always seemed to be draped in glittery necklaces and bracelets.

I opened the lid and started pulling out tissue-wrapped jewelry. The first thing unwrapped was a shiny, black ring. The next thing I unwrapped was a charm bracelet. It had five charms on it, a high-heeled shoe, a lucky four-leaf clover, a coin, a heart, and a star. Admiring it for a moment, I added it to the pile of things to go to the school auction.

The third thing I unwrapped from within the box was a silver necklace. The necklace itself was a twisted rope chain and the pendant on the necklace was unusual. It was a five-pointed star, and in the center was a round stone. The stone was almost white but it shimmered and sparkled with different colors. I was surprised that it was in such good condition after spending so many years in the box up in this attic. With most of the other jewelry I had found so far, they were in desperate need of polishing. But this looked like it had just been polished and shined.

The shimmery stone mesmerized me, and I couldn’t help but put it on. I don’t know what came over me; I rarely wear jewelry, but something about this necklace whispered to me. Once I had put it around my neck and closed the clasp, I realized it felt oddly comforting. I left it there and continued sorting through the rest of the jewelry in the box. I’d have to check with my mom to make sure I didn’t give away anything she wanted to keep, but by the end of my work in the attic, I had a nice pile of things for the charity auction.

Heading down the stairs, wiping the dust from my hands on the legs of my jeans, I found my mom in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Mom, I’ve got a bunch of stuff for the charity auction at school. I need you to look through it and make sure I’m not giving away anything you don’t want me to, okay?”

“Sure, hon,” her mom said, "I can't look through it right now though. I've got some reports to finish writing tonight." She gave me a weak smile and I was certain just then I heard her say “I don’t want to disappoint her, but I don’t know how I’m going to find the time with all of the work I have to do.” I was looking right at her while she’d been saying it, and I could swear she hadn’t moved her lips. Strange. Was my mom practicing ventriloquism?

“Mom, did you say something?”

“No, Sandra. Go get cleaned up. Dinner is almost ready,” my mom replied, and then, with mom not saying a word, I heard mom’s voice saying, “You are such a mess from playing around in the attic. Surely, you didn’t plan on eating dinner with those dirty hands?"

"It's really dusty in there." I defended myself. "It's not my fault I got so dirty."

"Pardon?" My mom had a little crinkle in her forehead as she looked at me. Did I just respond to something she thought? I felt a tingle on my chest and looked down to find the necklace glowing.

As I washed my hands, I looked at myself in the mirror. The necklace was definitely glowing. But the glow was fading. I wrapped my hand around it, without even thinking of what I was doing and it felt warm in my hand. I felt a surge of curiousity about the necklace, but before I could think more about it, mom called out to me.

"Sandra, hurry up! Your dinner's going to get cold!"

Dinner was great, but I couldn’t stop wondering about the necklace. Where had my grams found it? How did it glow? Or was I just imagining its glow and that strange warmth coming from it when I held it? Had I really heard my mom’s thoughts? And if so, what did the necklace have to do with it?

Jasper, my family’s dog, a huge Burmese Mountain dog, started barking loudly, interrupting dinner. That usually meant that someone was at the door. Sure enough, the doorbell rang. None of this was a surprise to me, but the boy’s voice that I could hear beneath Jasper’s barking made me start questioning my sanity. The voice was saying “Someone’s at the door! Someone’s at the door!” over and over. It took a few minutes before I realized that the voice was actually Jasper! I was hearing Jasper’s thoughts! How was this possible?

I knew that it was the necklace. It had to be! I looked down at the necklace hanging around my neck and that subtle glow was visible again. How was the necklace doing this? I could hear my dog’s thoughts. Could I hear the thoughts of other animals too? While my mom went to answer the door and my dad and brother were busy talking about other things, I covertly unclasped the necklace from around my neck and slipped it into my pocket. I didn’t want to hear anyone else’s thoughts right now because the whole thing was freaking me out. Where had Grams found this necklace? Had Grams known it was magical?

"May I be excused?" I looked at dad. "I have some homework to finish."

"You're done?" My dad made a goofy, surprised face at me, "I can't believe you want to leave the table while there are still tacos to be eaten!"
"Very funny, Dad."

Dad smiled. "Go, do your homework. Your brother and I can take care of the rest of this food." He rubbed his hands together in pretend glee. I couldn't help smiling back.

On my way to my room, I noticed the voices at the door. Curiosity about who was at the door overcame me. I slipped the necklace back on and tucked it under my shirt. Tiptoeing into the hallway, I kept out of sight of my mom and the guest at the door.

"You're late with the money, and, if you don't pay up, my next visit will be to start collecting your possessions." That’s what the guy at the door said, but I heard what he was thinking. "I hate this job. Why don't people just pay their bills on time and avoid having to go through this?"

"I'll be caught up by Monday," mom told the man, but she was thinking, "How am I going to get that much money by Monday?"

It was good thing no one could hear my thoughts, because the debt collector at the door would not be happy with the thoughts about him going through my head just then.


  1. Hi Rebecca,

    This is great! I know you didn’t have a lot of time to work on this because as you know, we are making revisions practically at gunpoint, but this revision really closes the emotional distance between the reader and the girl. The change of POV gave her more of a voice and more of an attitude. “She always seemed to be draped in glittery necklaces and bracelets.” Great sentence.

    I would stay away from the word “felt”. I noticed it is used quite a bit. “it felt warm in my hand” could be changed to “the cool metal warmed my hand” or “it warmed my hand.”

    There are a lot places you can pick up the pace a little bit and tighten just a tad more. I still think you don’t have to go into too much detail about the unwrapping of the jewelry because it slows the pacing. This is also my way of telling you that I want to read more about the debt collectors and you need to cut some of the top part out so I can see more of what is going to happen next! j/k Just a thought.

    I think I would work on adding more of that kid voice that is starting to come out and condensing some of the details and use the more important ones. I really like what you have done and want to see more.

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    The beginning seems a bit slow to me still. I'm wondering:

    She is in a hurry-forgot to do this earlier-tears through tissue paper quickly and puts all the jewelry in a pile. Thinks she is done and the box is empty. Surveys the pile and just lists what she sees there: a ring, a charm bracelet, etc. Starts to throw the box to the side, but something slides across the bottom of it. Then she finds the necklace. Maybe when she puts it on in the attic, she hears some of the thoughts of people in the house before she goes downstairs. That way she is prepared when she hears her mother's thoughts.

    Also: you mention at the end that she is glad no one can hear her thoughts, but what if they can?

    This has come a long way from the first draft.

  3. Rebecca,

    You've done a great job on this revision!

    I agree with Ccarpinello's comments. I was trying to think on how you could reword the beginning to help with the tension.

    ...I sneezed as some of the dust from moving things around drifted into my nose

    I'd almost want to see this instead of telling us. I wonder if you should have her mother interrupt her sooner? Or have Sandra think she is because she 'hears' her mother's voice.

    Or even have the 'visitor' show up and have that confrontation sooner. As it is it doesn't have the original punch as your last revision.

    Also I want to see some emotional reactions to Sandra finding the jewelry and also realizing she can 'hear' others.

    This has come a long way from the first draft. I'm curious on who the stranger is and how the jewelry plays into it all.

  4. Hi Rebecca,

    So much stronger! Nice job. This really is an engaging premise. I agree completely with all the previous comments. Pacing, too much telling, and tension are still things that are holding you back from really knocking the premise out of the park, but I think for me the motivation is still the big issue--her motivation and her mother's motivation.

    There are her grandmother's things, right? Has her mother been through them? It's okay for her just to go up there without permission and rummage through them? Or wouldn't she say something to her mother first? This seemingly small fact tells us a lot about the family dynamic, so think through how it would have occurred in real time.

    When did she find out about the auction? Is she a procrastinator and she's in a hurry now (see earlier comment, which was brillant!) Or maybe instead of being in a hurry to watch TV she's hiding up in the attic because there is someone in the house?
    Why doesn't she have any of her own stuff to put in?
    Would she ask her mom for permission to go in the attic? (If so, then the conversation later changes to more of an "I think I did find some stuff for the auction, but you still have to look through it" vibe instead of the way you have it now.

    Obviously, those are just a few sample questions. I'd love to see you spend more time on things like that though, and you'll have room for that if you elimate filter words like "felt", "smelled", "making" and cut down on the telling.

    Great job though. This is just getting stronger and stronger.



  5. These are all great comments. I agree that the beginning is a little slow. What about if her mother has told her that they have to have a yard sale and she wants to start going through the things in the attic? And Sandra is upset because hey, this is her family's stuff. So she goes up there to see if there are things her mom will let her keep. She's drawn to the necklace and puts it on...and hides it under her top so her mom won't see that she's dipping into the merchandise.

    Her mom is snappish, which hurts her feelings, and then the collector comes and it all snaps into place. Her mom wants to sell their belongs to try to pay off some bills. They're in trouble.

    What do you think? This will lend a bit more tension to the opening and explain the less-than-happy conversation with her mom. I don't mean to rewrite your story for you; it just came to me.

    I thought you did a great job of revising!


  6. I like some of the ideas offered by the other commenters. What you have is a good first five pages, but I still think you could play around with different ideas to make it really pop. The first scene in the attic just isn't dramatic enough for the first two pages, whereas the rest of it is because something really odd is going on. So somehow you have to get into the drama sooner.


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