Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thanks to Dennis for this writing excerpt, which is targeted for middle-grade kids (ages 8-12).

THE EXCERPT:

Ol' Coon

In the still of the forest, ya can hear some heavy breath'n and some feet sprint'n as fast as they would carry them. Behind the tall skinny figure is a lumber'n bear with her cubs close behind. The old man, with his long grey hair flyin' past his shoulders, looks fer a quick escape. His small brown steely eyes spots a good size tree, but the bear is gett'n on his heels.

He can almost feel her breath on his neck.

Just as mama bear growls and starts her final lurch, the lanky ol' man jumps fer his life and clings to the trunk of the tree. With his long grey beard down to his belly button, he shimmies up that tree like he were a squirrel or somethin'.

Mama bear shakes at that tree fer awhile then finally trails off with her cubs into the nearby bushes.

Between his three yellow crooked teeth on top and two on the bottom, he yells at the bear, "Hey ya momma, ya chicken or somet'n? Come back an' fight like a bear!" Then he laughs his way down the tree.

Yep, it's another beautiful day in the backwoods of the Rockies. The ol' man walks in the midst of bright red and yellow leafed elder trees and through the lush green meadow, back to his rickety old log house .

The man weren't nuttin' but an ol' raccoon trapper named Ed. No one knows his last name, and no one cares to know.

MY COMMENTS:

It's good to start with action, especially for readers of this age. One slight caution to beginning with action such as this, however, is that the reader doesn't yet know who the main character is before all the action starts. It can therefore be a little harder to follow. Still, this beginning is catchy and has a nice folksy and conversational flavor.

While the authentic and phonetic spellings lend to the folksy, backwoods tone, these things can make a story difficult to read--especially for readers of this age group. It is usually recommended that dialect NOT be exactly duplicated, but rather suggested by idioms or turns of phrases. This is especially true for words with apostrophes, such as the dropped g's at the end of words; these things are wearying for the reader after a while. For flavor's sake, the poor grammar could be kept. It would read about the same if you used proper spelling and kept the g's:

In the still of the forest, you can hear some heavy breathing and some feet sprinting as fast as they would carry them. Behind the tall skinny figure is a lumbering bear with her cubs close behind. The old man, with his long grey hair flying past his shoulders, looks for a quick escape. His small brown steely eyes spots a good-size tree, but the bear is getting on his heels.

He can almost feel her breath on his neck.

Just as mama bear growls and starts her final lurch, the lanky old man jumps for his life and clings to the trunk of the tree. With his long grey beard down to his belly button, he shimmies up that tree like he were a squirrel or something.

Mama bear shakes at that tree for awhile, then finally trails off with her cubs into the nearby bushes.

Between his three yellow crooked teeth on top and two on the bottom, he yells at the bear, "Hey ya momma, ya chicken or something? Come back and fight like a bear!" Then he laughs his way down the tree.

Yep, it's another beautiful day in the backwoods of the Rockies. The old man walks in the midst of bright red and yellow-leafed elder trees and through the lush green meadow, back to his rickety old log house .

The man weren't nothing but an old raccoon trapper named Ed. No one knows his last name, and no one cares to know.

As far as small things to tidy up, for clarity a comma would be good after "shakes at that tree for awhile," and good-size and yellow-leafed would be hyphenated, as shown in the rewrite. The word "midst" seems more poetic than folksy in tone; a word such as "middle" might match the general tone better (or just say he walks BY the trees).
The word "then" appears twice, rather close together, which by the way is a common word overused in action scenes. Near the end, "old" is repeated twice close together; the first one could be omitted and you'd still have "rickety log house," which would be descriptive enough. Also, there is a bit of confusion of the "thems" in the first sentence, whether they refer to the feet or the man.

The character of Ed, or "Ol' Coon" is a lively one, and I think kids would have fun reading about him.

2 comments:

  1. nice excerpt..good critique of it too.
    Nice work
    Lyn

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good advice, Carol! It's so hard to find the right balance between starting with action and making the reader connect with the MC enough to care what happens!

    Martina

    ReplyDelete

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