Monday, September 3, 2012

7 1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Fyfe

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

Sandra rummaged through the attic. It smelled musty in there, and she really just wanted to go watch some tv, but she needed to find some things she could sell at the school charity auction. They were trying to raise money for a local no-kill animal shelter. Sandra’s grandmother had left a lot of junk up here, but Sandra was hoping she’d find some things worthy of the auction.

She sneezed as some of the dust from her moving things around drifted into her nose. Her allergies were going to be plaguing her for weeks after this. She moved a box full of dresses to the side to go through later. Jackpot! she thought as the saw the label on the box below. It read “jewelery.” There has to be something worthwhile in here!

She opened the lid and started unwrapping the tissue from around the contents. The first thing unwrapped was an onyx ring. Sandra had no idea if it was sterling silver or just silver-plated, but, knowing her grandma, it was probably sterling silver. The next thing she unwrapped was a charm bracelet. Again, it was probably sterling silver. It had five charms on it, a high-heeled shoe, a lucky four-leaf clover, a coin, a heart, and a star. Sandra liked it, but she wanted to help the charity so she added it to the pile of things to go to the school auction.

The third thing she 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. Sandra thought that maybe it was an opal, but she 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 she had found so far, she could tell that they needed polishing. But this looked like it had just been polished and shined. It looked like it was new and just bought at the store.

The opal mesmerized Sandra, and she felt as though she couldn’t help but put it on. Once she had put it around her neck and closed the clasp, she realized it felt oddly comforting. She left it there and continued sorting through the rest of the jewelry in the box. She’d have to check with her mom to make sure she didn’t give away anything her mom wanted to keep, but by the end of her work in the attic, she felt as though she had done well.

She went down the stairs and found her mom in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Hi, Mom,” she said, “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, but then Sandra heard her say “Great! Another thing to add to my long to-do list!” in a sarcastic voice. The problem with hearing this is that Sandra had been looking right at her while she’d been saying it, and she hadn’t moved her lips or acted as though she was speaking at all. She hadn’t actually said anything, yet Sandra had definitely heard something.

“Mom, did you say something?” she asked.

“No, honey. Go get cleaned up. Dinner is almost ready,” her mom replied, and then, with her mom not saying a word, she heard her mom’s voice saying, “You are such a mess from playing around in the attic!”

Sandra thought about what was happening for a few minutes but then decided that she must be imagining it. That’s when she noticed that the necklace was glowing. She walked into the bathroom to wash her hands and looked at herself in the mirror. The necklace was definitely glowing. But the glow was fading. She wrapped her hand around it, without even thinking of what she was doing and it felt warm in her hand. She was very curious about the necklace, but she decided to just go and enjoy her dinner with her family and think about the necklace and its strangeness later.

Dinner was really tasty. Her mom had made tacos and Sandra loved tacos. It was one of her favorite meals, but no matter how much she enjoyed her dinner, Sandra couldn’t stop wondering about the necklace. Where had her grandmother found it? How did it glow? Or was Sandra just imagining its glow and that strange warmth coming from it when she held it? Had she really heard her mom’s thoughts? And if so, what did the necklace have to do with it?

Jasper, her 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 surprised Sandra, but what did surprise her was the fact that, along with Jasper’s barking, she heard another voice, like a little boy’s voice, saying, “Someone’s at the door! Someone’s at the door!” over and over. It took a few minutes before she realized that the voice was Jasper! She was actually hearing Jasper’s thoughts! How was this possible?

Sandra suddenly knew that it was the necklace. It had to be! She looked down at the necklace hanging around her neck and that subtle glow was visible again. How was the necklace doing this? She could hear her dog’s thoughts. Could she hear the thoughts of other animals too? While her mom went to answer the door and her dad and brother were busy talking about other things, Sandra covertly unclasped the necklace from around her neck and slipped it into her pocket. She didn’t want to hear anyone else’s thoughts right now because the whole thing was freaking her out. She’d try and figure out more about the necklace and what was happening later, when she’d gone to her room for the night.


  1. Very fun and interesting! I really want to know what happens next. I'd like to know a little more about Sandra at the beginning though, how old she is, a little about what she looks like. Good start!

  2. I like the idea of the magic necklace. How old is Sandra? She is awful knowledgeable about gems. I also want to know more about her. What about her relationship with her mother? Not sure if I like that what she hears her mom thinking is so negative.

    Hearing the dog was interesting. Does she do more with him?

  3. Hi Rebecca,

    I love the idea of a necklace that can help its wearer to read thoughts, and I like the approach of having the opening pages deal with finding the necklace in the process of searching the attic for a charity auction. Your approach with the mom's thoughts works well, too, and I like that you are showing that the dog has thoughts, too. Does the necklace translate all thoughts to the language of the wearer? In other words, if Sandra was Italian, then the dog's thoughts would come out in Italian? Don't worry. We don't need to know that five pages into the story AT ALL, I'm just curious.

    Okay, back to these first five pages. Despite the long list of obvious positives and the fun premise, the opening feels a little telling too me, without quite the strength of voice that might be required to pull off the amount of telling. Consider, maybe, having a bit more of that opening set up in scene so that you can work in details about the auction through dialogue and work in more of Sandra's personality at the same time.

    I also felt that some of Sandra's dialogue, and the voice in general, could use a little tweaking to make sure it sounded appropriately "kid-like." There are some minor logic issues, too. Why does the dog sound like a little boy unless it's a puppy? How does Sandra not recognize sterling silver -- and really, does she know enough to care if it is sterling or just silver? -- yet she recognizes onyx and opal. Similarly, her reaction to the revelations seemed a little too logical and calm. Why wouldn't she just ask about the necklace, unless her Mom completely put her off and was unapproachable? You've already set up that the Mom is busy. So perhaps, instead of having tacos with the family (which I assume is the case, but you don't show us any of it) maybe her mom had to run out and left Sandra on her own with a plate of tacos -- there are some missed opportunities in these five pages to add a bit of humor or emotion here, too. I'd love to see more of Sandra's personality and get better into what kind of a kid she is, how old, what she looks like, what she cares about, and what she wants.

    Bottom line, show us more and tell us less. We don't need the step-by-step on what she finds in the attic. Pick the most important details, the most important character traits, the most important actions, incidents, and ideas that are going to springboard us into caring about your characters. Your story already has us hooked. Now hook us into Sandra!

    Looking forward to seeing what you do with this. :)


  4. Hi Rebecca,

    First off, I really like the premise of a story about a mind reading object. I think this is an ability that many children and adults would love to have, which is why I think this makes for an interesting story. Constructively, I wish you could get to the glowing necklace much sooner. You spend a lot of time establishing the fact she is searching in an attic and on the other jewelry she finds. Why not start off with her pulling this necklace out of the box and it’s glowing? And what if it’s something she wants to keep and she hides it from her mom because she doesn’t want to give it away or have it taken away from her because she is not old enough to keep it?

    There has to be some element of tension that makes her keep it a secret from her mom because in her head, there is no way her mom would let her keep this obviously expensive and very special necklace. Mention how her grandmother gave her gold earrings for her birthday and her mom is keeping them until she turns 16. Then when she goes downstairs, and her mom asks her if she found anything, she could casually bring up the other stuff and have her mom look through it, all the while keeping the necklace in her pocket.

    When she discovers that this necklace helps her read minds, then imagine how much more tension you will introduce when she has to keep that a secret as well? Imagine a kid at Christmas who finds her presents early but can’t let on that she knows what her parents are giving her. So the conversations are going to be stilted and there is going to be an element of “I know something you don’t.” Her parents can pick up on it and wonder what is going on.

    I would rather you spend the time (instead of the whole attic scene) showing how much fun this girl has picking apart her parent’s minds and finding out what they really think about their neighbors, her aunts and uncles and each other and mostly her, too. I know a lot of kids would do that if they had a chance to hear what their parents really thought. I think that would be a fun scene in the story. It would also lay the groundwork when things get more complicated to show the reader that knowing what people are thinking isn’t all fun and games, especially if it relates to her. That is another element a kid can relate to if she finds out how her friends and peers think of her. Just a thought.

    Also, I wonder if this story would benefit if it were from a first person’s POV. I want to connect with this character and the way it is written now, I feel like something is missing. It would also allow you to get into how it makes her feel to “hear” her mom complain about the work she(the girl)puts her mom through. Does that make her feel guilty? Does she regret asking? I also thought her question to her mom was a little too mature for her age. A simple, “Hey, mom. I found this stuff. Can I take it to school?” would have been more along the lines of her age.

    I think this story has so much to offer. I don’t know the whole story but I think establishing an emotional connection with the reader is something I would like to see more of. You can have a lot of fun with this topic but I feel like this could highlight a kid’s insecurities when they truly know what their friend’s and parents are thinking. She could actually make herself sick over it. I know I would be a nervous wreck. Lol

    I would continue reading this story. Good luck!

  5. Hi, Rebecca! I love stories about magical objects, so this story is right up my alley. I'm intrigued and I can't wait to find out what happens to Sandra next. I agree that I wanted to know a bit more about Sandra, and it would be good to move a little faster into discovering the necklace. Be careful not to repeat phrases such as when she wonders if her mother says anything, and then she asks her aloud. This will slow your pace, and you want to keep your readers turning the pages!

    Another thing I think you might want to consider is adding an element of tension. Sandra definitely doesn't like hearing her mother's negative thoughts. What about using that as a greater source of tension? For example, maybe they have had some problems between themselves in the past and Sandra thought they had resolved them. But when she hears her mother's thoughts, she realizes that things are still very tense between them.

    Maybe Sandra's hopeful that if they donate things to the charity auction, the people in town will stop focusing on the fact that Sandra and her mom are very poor.

    Maybe she's going through her grandmother's things and it hurts her heart that her mom wants to get rid of them. And when Sandra goes to discuss the necklace with her mother, she hears her mom thinking how she can't wait to erase all trace of Grandma. Starting out your story in the middle of tension will add energy to the discover that the necklace is magical. Does that make sense?

    If you go that route, you can link the instances of telepathy to this main problem. For example, what if when she goes to talk to her mom, she hears her mom thinking that they aren't going to be able to have Sandra's favorite tacos very often because they have to go on food stamps? And when the doorbell rings, the dog reacts as if someone unwelcome is at the door--a bill collector, or maybe it's a friend of her mom's coming over to comfort her mom because she just lost her job?

    Another way you could add tension is if Sandra has longed for something and not yet gotten it--or wants to get rid of something she already has. That she has a problem or a desire when the story begins. That way, the reader will be cheering her on as the story opens.

    These are just some ideas about ways to add some tension to the story at the beginning. I can't wait to see what you come up with! Great job!


  6. While in part I agree with other's comments, I also really like Sandra's voice and the way you are telling her story. It reminded me of Fablehaven - one of my favorites!

    A few things you could trim to pick up the pace: "There has to be something worthwhile in here!" - you don't need this because Sandra already has already expressed this with "Jackpot!"

    Considering dropping the details about the first two items being sterling silver and instead emphasize that they are tarnished, so that as soon as she uncovers the untarnished necklace, she knows there's something special/odd about this one.

    "She was very curious about the necklace, but she decided to just go and enjoy her dinner with her family and think about the necklace and its strangeness later." This doesn't seem realistic at all - what kid would just go enjoy dinner (if it is her favorite) and "think about it later"? (And yet, if she is really so practical, you could have fun with that too, but you'd have to play it up and almost make her have an *extreme* practical nature. Also, you used "decided" twice in this paragraph, and both decisions drain tension from the scene rather than adding to it.

    Another example that drains tension instead of ramping it up is "She’d try and figure out more about the necklace and what was happening later, when she’d gone to her room for the night." Don't keep putting things off until later. Readers don't want to wait till later, unless there is a good reason to force them to wait - in other words some opposing characters/events (though it sounds like the person at the door might be one such event, we didn't get to read far enough to find out... but if you trim your first five pages we'll get to see who is at the door sooner)

  7. This one does remind me a little of Fablehaven. I do like the whole attic finds. Add some mysterious jewelry that is probably magical and you got me.

    The one thing I did notice is there is a lot of telling at the beginning. I'd almost suggest showing her first finding the necklace or other jewelry with an emotional reaction then go on with the other finds. Also is she hesitant to share them? Try to hide them?

    I think this will increase the tension in this story.

    Using more dialogue can also up the tension of your story. Maybe her mother or someone else in the family 'notices' the necklace still on her neck? Did she put it away? I love the passive agressive comment from her mother. I can't help but wonder where that is coming from.

    You have some very intriguing things going on here with a dusty attic and what looks like magical jewelry. I love the feedback you've gotten so far and agree. I love Nancy's suggestion on telepathy too.

    Can't see where you go with this!


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