HH Com 132 (I have no idea what I did with 131)

Mom was going to kill him when she got back from the store.

Elliott Hippleforte sat back from the kitchen table and stared down at the size 4 sneaker that rested, glaringly empty, on the floor. His little brother’s foot had formerly filled it- attached, of course, to his little brother. Only seconds ago Toby had occupied that very spot, being as dirty and loud and as real as only little brothers can. The five-year-old boy had just exploded through the back door, one hand waving a trowel and the other closed tight, excitedly yelling for Elliott to come look at his find. But as he extended his grubby fist toward Elliott, mouth wide open in mid-holler, Toby suddenly just- wasn’t.

A tiny wisp of sour smoke rose up, smelling faintly like Toby’s feet. Elliott rose from his chair, his math homework forgotten. As soon as he picked up the sneaker an object rolled out into his palm. At first Elliott thought he held in his grasp one of Toby’s marble collection. They were always rolling underfoot no matter how many times Mom picked them up. He noticed that one side of the small sphere glinted a shining brown circle flecked with gold, giving it a strange illusion of depth. As Elliott looked closer, a disturbing thing happened.

The thing twitched. It rolled slightly in his palm. And it looked back.

He yelped and dropped the eye. It bounced twice, then rolled, coming to a stop in the middle of the floor. Elliott slowly backed up until the backs of his knees hit the chair and he sat down with a thump. What was that thing? And where on earth was Toby? Mom was not only not going to believe his story, but she was also going to seriously freak out.

He pictured his mother now- she had always been pretty, but lately she looked so tired. Earlier this afternoon his mother’s face had seemed even more weary and drawn than usual over her neon pink beautician smock. After a ten hour shift at The Curl Up and Dye Salon she had come in the front door, tiredly dropped another couple of bills onto the pile on her desk, tiredly asked the boys about their day, and tiredly- and fruitlessly- searched the freezer for something to cook for their supper. Then she had headed for the Piggly Wiggly. Dad was gone- he had left yesterday for another extended trip for work. Every summer and winter he left for two weeks to scour the European countryside for antiques to sell in his shop, Conrad’s Curiosity Emporium (Elliott’s mother referred to it as a junk shop, though never where Dad could hear). Elliott had overheard Mom and their neighbor, crazy old Mrs. Hossleberg, talking about the bi-annual trips over coffee just last week. Mom had told her that she thought they were completely un-necessary, that he didn’t bring home anything that couldn’t be found at a yard sale up the street, that Dad’s head tended to float along after any passing cloud while hers had to stay right here on the ground, along with all the responsibility. Of course, Mrs. Hossleberg had given her a wise look over those half-moon glasses she wore and a very Mrs. Hossleberg-like response: something having to do with fate and webs and following your own thread. She often said weird things like that- Mom said it was because she had Romanian blood flowing in her veins. Apparently her great-grandmother had been a gypsy. She certainly had a big enough collection of turbans to back that theory up, he reflected.

Anyway, he couldn’t add to Mom’s worries. Just this past year she had finally started trusting him to babysit Toby. And even that was only for short periods, like while she ran to the grocery store or the post office. Anything longer, she still asked Mrs. Hossleberg to look in on them. No, Toby had been his responsibility: Elliott would find him himself.

Hmm. Maybe he should call 911? He pictured himself trying to explain his brother’s disappearance to the operator: yes ma’am, he disappeared in thin air, right in front of me. Just left a sneaker and an eyeball, no, not one of his, thank goodness. No, scratch that idea. He sighed and wished Nicholas Sparkleberry, his best friend were here.

This is a first page. Start with a specific action or problem.

Example: Elliot's younger brother disappears in a puff of smoke in front of his eyes. Mom's at work; Dad's off carousing with Eurotrash; what's a lad to do. Can he keep them from noticing till he figures out where the soon-to-be-seriously-sib-smacked little pest is hiding.

Then give us what the dilemma is. Then the antagonist.

You might have a good story here but it needs to be whipped into shape.


Anonymous said...

No, not a hook. But generally good writing. I was interested.

The "Curl Up and Dye Salon", however, is an old, old, old joke. It took me right out of the otherwise engaging narrative.

Anonymous said...

725 words?

Well, then. I did like the first couple of paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

Um, DQ'ed for word count?

KingM said...

Yeah, I did a word count, too. I wondered if the author mixed up the query and the pages parts of the Crapometer.

Writing here isn't too bad, although there were a couple of times I had to double back on sentences during a quick read.

BernardL said...

This hook started out a lot like Stephen King's 'It' novel. It grabbed me until running on into 725 words (KY must have eaten the Snark word counter) and then it stopped being a hook. Interesting though...

LindaBudz said...

Addressing this as the first page ... I think it sounds like a terrific story, and you obviously know how to write. I like the humor, style, voice, etc.

But I think you're loading too much backstory too soon. The kid's little brother just disappeared right in front of his eyes, and a marble turned into an eyeball in the palm of his hand. Is he really going to stop to think about how tired his mom is? And how his dad is off looking for antiques? And how his mom calls it junk? etc., etc.

You can work that info in later, this needs to be more immediate. The sense of urgency is missing.

Good luck with it!!

Anonymous said...

At 725 words this should've been tossed (been there!).

Heaven forfend MS might be getting soft-hearted in the pitched battle o the HHC..

I suggest a soothing catnap, slices of cucumber on the eyes, then get back to the ruthlessness..


Miss Snark said...

geeze, it's way over the word count.
I wasn't even looking.
I am my own nitwit...YET AGAIN!

A Paperback Writer said...

Yup. I agree it's not a hook, but it was a pretty dang interesting bit of story. I've read far, far worse stuff in highly publicized middle-grade fiction. Author, follow the Snarkadvice and "whip it into shape," for there is hope to be had for this. (I know kids who'd read it now.)

December Quinn said...

I agree with Lindabudz. I think most kids would be having fits at seeing their little brothers disappear into thin air, leaving only a shoe and an eye. The fact Elliot didn't makes me think he's a sociopath.

Having said that, up until his mind strayed I was pretty hooked.

Even though you were waaaay over the word count.

skybluepinkrose said...

You have a good idea, but you're talking to yourself about it here, with all the backstory. This isn't a hook, a first page, or a scene, although your idea itself has hook power and your writing has promise. I wonder if you're simply too early in the writing process -- exploring your material -- to write a real hook for it yet. That's okay. Keep working!

Boo Boo said...

I just love this! I've read all of these so far and this is the only one I've commented on. Great idea. But I do think you should Start your hook out with the sentence that has the little brother bursting into the room with the trowel. Then skip both of those enormous paragraphs telling telling about the parents backstory. All that can be worked in later in a smooth way. Then finish off with your 911 paragraph. If this was on the back of a book without the backstory I would definatly read it. Good luck.

HawkOwl said...

Yeah, word count. And I thought the transition to backstory was really awkward. I stopped reading there. But that doesn't matter. I was loving the concept, and it looks like it probably needs some structural work but the writing is essentially sound. I'm all about it.

Inkwolf said...

It might have worked as a hook if you'd cut it after the "Mom was going to freak out" line. :p

Elements of this remind me of John Collier's famous story, Thus I Refute Beelzy...


Anonymous said...

I'm interested! But you need some technical work here (there's a comma error in the last line) and a serious look at how to keep the story moving.

Good luck!

cm allison said...

I agree with dropping the mind wandering about mom and dad so early in the story, but otherwise, GREAT start! I rarely read YA, but yoiu might hook me with this one!

Anonymous said...

I know this is a nitwit comment, but I can't resist:

No five-year-old (in the US at least) wears a size four sneaker. My 11 year old wears a four.

Xiqay said...

Hey anon, I had the same reaction about the size of the shoe.

But I think baby and little kid shoes are sized up to about size 13, and then they switch over to adult sizes which start at about 4.

So a five year old would be wearing a kids size 6 or 7 (or even 8)generally, unless he was very small.

Funny the details than can pull us up short.

Anonymous said...

My 5 year old son wears a size 12 sneaker. (They go up to 13 and then start over with 1)

newtimerhere said...

I, too, noticed the mis-match of shoe size and the boys age. I could be hooked with this one, reworked a bit. Please stay with it!