Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Makeover Time

WEDNESDAY MAKEOVER: First Day of Middle School

THE EXCERPT:

I walked through the double doors on my first day of middle school, cringing under the weight of my new backpack. My best friend since first grade, Chuck walked by my side for moral support. The halls were a mess. Kids were darting everywhere. Guys were shouting, girls were giggling, and locker doors were slamming. The floors had a shiny gloss on them from hard working janitors like my Dad--although my Dad worked at the middle school. My tennis shoes squeaked on the wax as I scuffed along. By the office, I saw Mandy Hollister and her preppy gang, and braced myself for the taunts about my weight that would soon follow. Fatso Frank, Pudge Boy, Blubber Butt, Lardo. I'd heard them all. To my appalled surprise, she glanced at me for a split second, flipped her auburn colored long hair behind her shoulder, and went back to talking. Nothing. After the whole summer, she was just gonna ignore me? I couldn't believe it, and told Chuck what I'd seen in a stunned voice. He couldn't believe it either.

MY COMMENTS:

I walked through the double doors on the first day of middle school, cringing under the weight of my new backpack. My best friend since first grade, Chuck walked by my side for moral support.
It's not totally clear whether the main character Frank is cringing because of fear or because of the weight of his backpack, although we assume it's because of fear because Chuck is there for moral support. It's the first day of school, so his backpack shouldn't have too much weight in it yet; omit "weight." There should be a comma after Chuck; the official term here is an appositive, which is defined as a phrase describing another noun (usually the proper noun/name is first, however, and the description second). Here it's best friend = Chuck, set off on both sides by a comma.
The halls were a mess. Kids were darting everywhere. Guys were shouting, girls were giggling, and locker doors were slamming. The floors had a shiny gloss on them from hard working janitors like my Dad--although my Dad worked at the middle school. My tennis shoes squeaked on the wax as I scuffed along.
Passive voice in the first two sentences here with the use of "were." Try to avoid this. More active verbs are needed, and the weak verbs could be omitted by rephrasing. Hard-working is hyphenated, since these are two adjectives describing dad that cannot be used by themselves; they are dependent upon each other. Dad is not capped unless you are using it as a proper noun (a name). If it's merely stating a relationship, as in my dad, my mother, my uncle, it is not capped. If you wanted dad capped, you'd omit the "my" and use it like his name/title: "…hard-working janitors like Dad--even though Dad worked at the middle school." Having the bit about the tennis shoes squeaking introduces sounds to the story, as does shouting, gigging, and slamming. This is a good thing, since sensory bits like this help ground the scene and make it more real.
By the office, I saw Mandy Hollister and her preppy gang, and braced myself for the taunts about my weight that would soon follow. Fatso Frank, Pudge Boy, Blubber Butt, Lardo. I'd heard them all. To my appalled surprise, she glanced at me for a split second, flipped her auburn colored long hair behind her shoulder, and went back to talking.
This whole passage is one quite lengthy paragraph, and it's too long for an opening-- especially for a middle grade readership. Break up the paragraphs. Some lines could have more emphasis if given a line of their own, even. The phrase "that would soon follow" sounds a bit too formal and could be changed. Auburn-colored should be hyphenated, but even better, omit colored. Auburn IS a color! Long auburn hair sounds better than auburn long hair, so the order of adjectives should be switched.
Nothing. After the whole summer, she was just gonna ignore me? I couldn't believe it, and told Chuck what I'd seen in a stunned voice. He couldn't believe it either.
An unnecessary distance is introduced here; the reader is TOLD that Frank has said something to Chuck, rather than being shown it. Likewise, SHOW that Chuck can't believe it--let's see the actual dialogue! With dialogue and accompanying action tags, you can also let the reader see more of Frank's and Chuck's personalities/character.

REWRITE:

I walked through the double doors on my first day of middle school, cringing under my new backpack. My best friend since first grade, Chuck, walked by my side for moral support. The halls were a mess. Kids darted everywhere. I heard guys shouting, girls giggling, and locker doors slamming. The floors had a shiny gloss on them from hard-working janitors like my dad--although my dad worked at the middle school. My tennis shoes squeaked on the wax as I scuffed along.

By the office, I saw Mandy Hollister and her preppy gang, and braced myself for the usual taunts about my weight. Fatso Frank, Pudge Boy, Blubber Butt, Lardo. I'd heard them all. To my appalled surprise, she glanced at me for a split second, flipped her long auburn hair behind her shoulder, and went back to talking.

Nothing.

After the whole summer, she was just gonna ignore me? I couldn't believe it.

"Hey," I said to Chuck in a stunned whisper. "Did you see that? Mandy just passed up a chance to harass me."

Chuck's eyes bulged behind his dark-rimmed glasses. "Dude! Did her brains dissolve over the summer, or what?"

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