Monday, September 24, 2012

4 1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Fyfe Rev 3

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

I rummaged through the attic. My nose tingled from the musty smell came from the boxes I was moving. I really just wanted to go watch some tv, but my mom asked me to find some things we could sell at the yard sale she planned for this weekend. The attic was full of my grandmother’s things. I missed Grams, and I hated the idea of selling her stuff, but mom had asked me to bring it all down.

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 bring down 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 lifted the box to bring it downstairs. As I picked it up, something slipped out from a small tear in the lower edge of the box. I gently reached down with one hand while balancing the box against my hip and picked up 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 up in this attic.

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, an oddly comforting feeling settled over me. Mom would never let me keep it, but I suddenly couldn’t bear to part with it. It was a piece of grams. I tucked it under my shirt and continued stacking boxes to carry downstairs.

Heading down the stairs, I thought I heard voices. My mom, dad and brother all seemed to be talking at once, each of them talking over each other. Their voices were somehow muffled though. Why weren’t they listening to each other? Strange.

Wiping the dust from my hands on the legs of my jeans, I found my mom in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Mom, I brought a bunch of stuff down from the attic for the yard sale. I need you to look through it and make sure you’re not giving away anything you don’t want to, okay?” I secretly hoped she’d change her mind about selling grams’ belongings.

“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 just hope we can make enough off of the stuff in the attic.” I was looking right at her while she’d been saying it, and I could swear she hadn’t moved her lips. Odd. 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? A tingle pricked along my chest. I 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 a warm heat spread over my hand. A surge of curiosity about the necklace filled me, but before I could think more about it, mom called out to me.

"Sandra, hurry up! Your dinner's getting cold!"

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 soft male 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 it dawned on me that the voice was actually Jasper! I was hearing Jasper’s thoughts! How was this possible?

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 back 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? The yard sale isn’t going to get us enough money."

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. I wanted to hit him. It wasn’t his fault; he was just doing his job, but the burn of anger worked its way through me and I needed to hit something. Then another thought hit me; this is why my mom wanted to sell off grams’ things.


  1. The story is coming along well. I noticed you took out a lot of the superfluous details that slowed the pacing and did not move the story forward. I like how you tied the yard sale of her Gram’s things as a way for her mother to pay her debts. I also like Sandra’s emotional conflict at having to give away her grandmother’s possessions. Did Sandra ever see her Grandmother wear this necklace? Was it her favorite? I think if you connected the necklace to a memory of her Grandmother wearing it, it would make the reader more sympathetic to Sandra. You already do this to a degree, but I would like to see more of a dilemma. If she knows her mom needs the money or these people are going to come after her, will she be more willing to part with it? Just a thought.

    You can tighten the structure of your sentences and make them more active. “The stone was almost white but it shimmered and sparkled with different colors.” This can be changed to “The white stone shimmered and sparkled with different colors.” A key to an active voice is to eliminate the word “was” in your sentences and any “ing” ending. This will vary your sentence structure and word choices. Your writing will immediately become stronger. Shorter sentences bring more tension to the story. Longer sentences allow the reader to relax. You can use that to your advantage when you write.

    There is a lot more telling than showing. There are many instances where you combine the internal dialogue and a physical reaction. Give one or the other, and trust that the reader will figure out the rest. Define words like “thoughts,” or “voices”.
    What kind of “thoughts gong through her head?” What kind of voices? Defining this will engage the reader and develop the character’s personality more.

    This has come a long way. Good job.

  2. Oh yes I really like your changes at the beginning with her mom needing to sell the stuff in a garage sale. That connects everything really well. I especially loved this part: "Mom would never let me keep it, but I suddenly couldn’t bear to part with it. It was a piece of grams."

    But double-check "grams" sometimes you capitalize it, sometimes you don't.

    Your third paragraph has three "was" sentences in a row, easy to fix.

    I also think with a little playing with what you have in that first paragraph you could come up with a really fun first sentence, instead of just plain old rummaging through attic.

    But again I really like what you've done with this and definitely want to read more!

  3. Rebecca,

    I agree with Cici. This has come a long way. In regards to the telling, I also have to agree.

    Maybe something like this to start:

    I hesitated at the attic door. Dust covered everything, and as I walked in the dust flew.


    "Great, now my allergies will bother me all the rest of the night. Ah-choo!"

    I really just wanted to go watch some tv, but my mom asked me to find some things we could sell at the yard sale she planned for this weekend. The attic was full of my grandmother’s things. I missed Grams, and I hated the idea of selling her stuff, but mom had asked me to bring it all down.

    I moved a box full of dresses to the side to bring down later.

    "Jackpot!" I picked up the box labeled jewelry. "Grams was always seemed to be draped in glittery necklaces and bracelets."

    The shorter paragraphs break up your description and don't look so intimidating to young readers. I also like the idea of your MC speaking her thoughts out loud. I think these small changes throughout would make a big difference.

    The dialog you have put in so far moves the reader along quicker in your story.

    Good luck with your writing.


  4. Hi, Nancy here. I'm so sorry I'm late with my responses. My house flooded last week and it's been crazy!

    I really think you're pulling this together very nicely. I know you want to build up to the discovery of the necklace's powers, so how about opening with tension from another direction. Look at some of your favorite books and you'll see they usually have a killer first line. How about this?

    "It's hard to get ready for a yard sale when you're afraid you're going to lose your house. My parents thought they were hiding the truth from me, but I had figured it out."

    That way, your reader can worry about that while you're building up to finding the magical necklace. And the reader can think, "Oooh, how is this necklace going to help her family?" So the reader is engaged.

    Good work! I've had a great time working with you on your story!



Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)