Thursday, June 28, 2012

Friday Feedback: Alohas & Age-Authentic Voice

yep, i spent time making
myself a big, fat lei.
So, today, we're going to do something a little bit different on Friday Feedback.

Pay attention. Read the rules! ;)
Oh, and first, grab yourself a pineapple, a coconut, and a pretty little lei.

Here, I'll wait for you. . .

Okay, ready?

A few weeks ago on Wednesday's Teachers Write! Q & A, a camper asked:

"How do you know if your characters sound right for their ages? My characters are pretty geeky ...
but I’ve been told they don’t sound like teens because they don’t use lots of slang
and because one character talks formally all the time."*

Good question! How indeed?!?

Yeah, yeah, Margo has lived in
Hawaii and has a REAL lei.
Rub it in.
I decided to invite
(a/k/a unwittingly wrangle in)
today's lovely guest author,
Margo "Leipua'ala" Sorenson,
to tackle this topic,

because who better than Margo --

who writes everything from picture books
to MG to YA,

including her upcoming tween adventure/mystery 
Island Danger --

to talk about age-authentic voice and characterization?

The truth is this is an issue that we -- as adult authors of kid, tween and teen fiction -- all struggle with at times: how to conjure an authentic teen voice, when for some of us that age is at least a few *cough, cough,* long years behind us.

Margo offers some advice on how to do this:

"As many authors have said during this wonderful TeachersWrite virtual camp, one of the keys to writing authentic characters is eavesdropping. I know, your mother would be appalled!  Listen in (ever so politely, of course!) to conversations around you. Really hear the cadence, the thought-centers, the inflections, the vocabulary choices, and particularly watch the body language.  When I volunteer weekly at the local Boys and Girls Club for “homework help” (aka controlled chaos), I overhear every age from 2nd graders through high schoolers, and, as you can well imagine, there is really a difference!  Third-grader Maile in my recent picture book, ALOHA FOR CAROL ANN, acts and speaks so differently from Kekoa, the __-year-old** Hawaiian tough in my forthcoming mystery, ISLAND DANGER.  When it’s time to write, I actually squeeze my eyes shut and put myself right where my character is and mimic the body language first. It’s similar to acting, where you inhabit someone else’s skin.  Somehow, at least for me, that is essential to the process of letting the voice of the character flow, and then the conversation begins…"

** nice try, Margo, but I deleted Kekoa's age as, in a minute, our readers are going to be guessing his age in excerpt #2 below. ;)

Of course, the other key is to find yourself some honest, objective readers if you can get 'em, especially of the 'tween and teen variety, not only because they're the target age, but because they can be brutally (cruel and) honest, and that's what you need sometimes.

So, let's have some fun (or, humiliation, as the case may be).          For this week's Friday Feedback we'll dispense with the usual rules (still a 3 -5 para limit, though, please!) and do some guessing about our characters' ages.

*Please remember that doing these exercises here, as we do, from small snippets out of context ,is OF COURSE different than attempting critiques within the context of a complete manuscript. But, we can still have some fun (I hope!), offer each other some food for thought, and be at least a little useful. :)*

So, feel free to give "age-related" feedback on either of Margo's excerpts or on mine below.

How old do the characters read?

What made you feel this way?

Then post your own excerpt in the comments for the same.

And, since Margo is here today, to all of you a big, warm mahalo, and a sunny aloha!

Margo, Excerpt #1: from WIP titled Alex in Translation
Next, we hit the butcher shop – that was a whole other story --“Is that really horse?” Carrie asked, pointing in the butcher’s case at a sign that had a silhouette of a horse next to the word “cavallo.” “Grosser than gross!”

Behind me, I heard a smothered laugh and turned around to see a really good-looking guy, holding a basket. Were there any ugly guys in Positano? I wondered.

He was wearing a blue polo shirt and nice slacks and deck shoes and his dark hair fell across his forehead, but not so far that I missed his hazel eyes. My breath left my body.

“The American signorina has a problem with our food?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Uh, no, not really,” I said quickly. “She’s just not used to it.” I had a hard time putting a coherent sentence together as long as I was looking at him.

“And you?” he asked the obvious question. “You are used to it?” He sounded disbelieving.

“I used to live here,” I said.

“Really?” he answered. “An American? And now you are back.”

“Just for a visit,” I said. “I live in California -- in the U.S. now. I don’t live here anymore.” Did I sound too quick to affirm where I lived now – and that was so not Italy?

“I see,” he said, and his expression shut right down. I must have said something wrong.

Margo: excerpt #2 from Island Danger

 "You no tell da cops on my ohana," he threatened, gesturing back toward the homeless campsite.  "O' I bus' yo' face."

            "No," Todd said.  "No, I won't."  He tightened his mouth.  An idea glimmered in the back of his brain.  Well, why not.  A bargain was a bargain, and he had to keep trying to fake Kekoa out.  "You quit hassling me and my soccer team at the park, then," he demanded. Would it work?

            Kekoa spat onto the path. "Whatevahs," he snorted.  Todd let out his breath slowly as Kekoa continued striding down the path toward the park, shoving aside branches and bushes in his way.  He almost shivered in relief.

Gae, Excerpt - from Upcoming YA from Algonquin

     “Anyway, enough about me and my stupid, morbid life.” I roll toward her and prop up on my elbow. “Tell me about you and Bradley.”
     She drops her foot, and points the other one. Her legs are perfect like everything else about her. “What’s to tell? He’s a guy,” she says, but her lips crack into a smile.
I feel a stitch in my heart, but ignore it, because I really want to know. “Come on, ‘Zette, details. I swear I won’t be jealous.”
She rolls her eyes. “Total lie. And there’s really nothing to tell. But, either way, I understand.”
“So, then tell me, please?”
              “What do you want to know?”
“Everything.” I sit up and look out over the ocean. The sky is the brightest blue with puffs of white patches drifting by. “Okay, for starters, does he kiss good?”
“Lie back down. You’re blocking my sun.”
               “Really good,” she says. “Really, really good. You happy?”
She laughs. “Yes. Of course. Tongue. Absolutely.”

Gae, Excerpt 2: from WIP titled Jack Keroac is Dead to Me

(this is a WIP I haven't worked on in quite a while, but am going to go back to. . .)

For a while, we stood there on the dock, side by side, watching and thinking like that, but then, suddenly, Max turned to me. “Do you ever wonder what it would feel like to just jump, Jailbait? Dive off the edge and let your body fall? Be done with things, all nice and easy?” He turned back toward the water, held his arms out like wings, leaned forward and inhaled. I grabbed on to the back of his jacket and he laughed. “I’m not going to do it, sweetheart, and if you hold on like that, I’d only take you with me.
My heart was pounding, and I gave him a look, so he stepped back from the edge and wrapped both his arms around me, and rocked us together in the moonlight. After a few minutes he said, “I forgot, I have something for you, hang on.”
He rummaged in his pockets and pulled out a folded white square of tissue paper. “I got you this. It’s not much.” I looked at him, stunned, and unwrapped it. Inside was a small gold ring with a butterfly with blue gemstones the exact blue of a Morpho’s wings. I slipped it on my finger and it fit perfectly. I blinked back tears. I couldn’t believe he’d done that for me.
“It’s beautiful, Max, thank you.”
He nodded and reached inside his jacket for something else. I waited, wondering what other surprises he had in store. But this time he pulled out a silver flask.       
“Just a little tonight. Everyone is, okay?”    
And there it was again, that thing Max did that could make me so happy and so scared at the same time. I took a deep breath and thought of Aubrey and how annoying it was that she was so afraid of everything. Maybe I was being like that now. Maybe just one night, I could step out of bounds, trust Max, and let it to not be such a big deal.
“Okay,” I said. “Gimme.”

gae & Margo :)

* p.s. I thought the Teachers Write camper who started everything here had actually done a good job making her characters sound authentic and age-appropriate. So there's that, too, that sometimes our readers are wrong. Or, at least, our readers can disagree.

**p.p.s. Hey all, Gae popping on to add a quick note: Margo is having trouble from her end with the reply button, so her comments will be at the bottom with your user names intro'ing them. Look for them there. Also, we will reveal the ages of our characters in our excerpts at the end of the day. Aloha. And happy Friday!


  1. I'm up so late, this post is already up! Which means I get to comment first, yay!

    I often think about writing and if it sounds true to kids I know that are the same age as the character so this is totally important to get right.

    For Margo's WIP #1 - I would say the MC is 17-18 because it sounds like she's in charge of this younger kiddo - AND in Italy, so I think she has to be old enough to be on her own in Italy with a younger sibling/charge.

    For Margo's WIP #2 - I would say the MC is 10-11 because he sounds unsure of himself. He plays on a soccer team and he realizes he can try to cut a deal with this guy, but he also isn't confident it's going to work.

    For Gae's WIP #1 - I would say the MC is 17-18 because of the flirtiness between the two characters and talk of tongue! (I'm so glad I don't have daughters...) But maybe I'm thinking too innocently of teens...they could definitely be younger....15-16? I lose!

    For Gae's WIP #2 - This feels older to me, I'm thinking more 18-19 because Max just sounds like a way older guy plus there's the drinking. (Again, it's so hard for me to think of younger kids drinking!)


    Misty looks up as I approach. “There you are! Where have you been? We’ve barely seen you all night.” She pushes Sarah’s hand out of the way, saying, “Here. Let me try.”

    “I just put Olivia to bed. I have to find Scott. Please, tell me he's still here.”

    Misty yanks at Ev’s zipper and then, exasperated, tugs her unexpectedly towards the light of the fire. Ev takes a wobbly step as Misty pulls her.

    Sarah nudges me with her elbow. “He came! I’m so happy for you.”

    “I know, is he still here?”

    Misty grunts, “I think…wait, yes! I got it!” She raises her hands in the air in celebration.

    “Finally!” Ev's pulls her zipper up to her chest, raises the hood over her head and then stuffs her hands into the pockets of her hoodie.

    I grab Misty and Sarah by the elbows and demand, “Focus girls. Scott. Did he leave yet?”


    Super rough (I always say that...) and I've posted parts of this WIP here before but I don't think I've ever specifically said exactly what age this MC is. Thanks for reading!

    1. Okay, I'm getting the older sense because the narrator has just "put Olivia to bed," so I'm guessing that's a younger sister, delaying her from coming to what seems like a bonfire. I'd place them in high school, probably around 16. I say that because it seems like the narrator drove herself, but the voices don't seem much older than 16, and I can't really pinpoint why. The "Focus girls." almost makes me feel like the narrator is older than the others, but if it is established elsewhere that this group of friends refers to each other as "girls," then that would be okay. Even though it's not as fair gender-wise, I think "Focus, guys" would probably be a more natural thing for a peer to say.

    2. I'm going with 15 -16. I love these girls! :)

  2. Hooray! I'm really glad we're tackling this, because I have a WIP where I'm struggling a bit to get the ideas I want across but still remain age-authentic. Anyway, that's for later. First...

    Margo #1: I'm feeling like this narrator is somewhere in high school, and I'd say it's all in the diction. Words like "coherent" and "affirmed," words that have simpler alternatives, show me that this is an older character with a stronger vocabulary. I'm getting the sense that Carrie is younger, though, mostly by her "grosser than gross" statement and the way the narrator talks about her.

    Margo #2: Kekoa...this is tough, because most of the narration we get is Todd's, but I guess I'd put Kekoa somewhere around junior high. Perhaps a little older than Todd, who feels like he's sixth grade or so--definitely perceptive, but not sure what he's getting into.

    Gae #1: I'm thinking somewhere around 16 for both of them, mostly because of the banter. This isn't a junior high relationship; it feels like these two are in charge of their own transportation and are relatively independent. Of course, there are other factors that go into that, but I think I'm going to go with "around 16."

    Gae #2: I'm thinking older for this one. For some reason, the "sweetheart" throws me. I guess I just think of that as something more timeless and not slang-ish at all, so it seems a little out of place for younger kids. I'd go with 17-18. It's possible, though, that Max is older and the narrator a little younger? I could see her being 16 and him 18, maybe.

    Okay, now on to the aforementioned WIP!

    “Oakley, what’s this all about?” I don’t answer right away, wanting—needing—to get further from the house before I spill my secret to Jonah and plunge into the unknown. “You said you needed to talk, right? Well I’m here, so tell me. Dave’s picking me up in half an hour; I don’t have all day.” He looks at his phone while we walk, anxious to be done with his big brother duty and go off with his friends.
    “You can’t tell Mom and Dad, okay? This isn’t that sort of thing. I need you to keep this a secret. I also need you to listen and not say anything until I’m done.”
    “Okay, fine, whatever.” I give him my best stern look, the kind mom used to give us when we were playing too loudly when she was on the phone or when she knew we were lying about something. “I promise,” he adds, with some sincerity.

    ****(Okay, that part was kind of short, so I want to show her voice a little more. Here's another little snippet...)*****

    Hoping that Jonah is already on his way, I knock on Madeline’s door and wait for her to open it for me. I wait. And wait. It’s taking her forever. Probably just because I’m so anxious about her meeting Jonah, though. She’ll have to explain everything to him, and that won’t be fun. Deep breath, I tell myself. Everything is going to be just fine. I shift my weight and drum my fingers against my leg. Realizing that this is taking her much longer than usual, I decide to check Tamarack’s library and a few other places. When she isn’t there, I make my way downstairs.

    *****Hopefully that's enough to get an idea, and not too confusing content-wise!

    1. Megan, they're a bit confusing because there are people being referred to who are "off screen" -- a lot of characters in a short bit (Oakley, Jonah, Dave and Madeline), etc. but I think Jonah is 17-18 and I thought Oakley was a sophisticated 14. And I'm definitely intrigued! Want to know what Oakley's telling Jonah that her parents can't know! :)

  3. Jen, I'm with Gae on the ages, though I'm thinking that the character who says, "Focus," may be the same age they are, around 16. She wants to know where Scott is, and her urgency seems to make her 16, not a supercool 17 or 18.

  4. MDincher, if she'd not been with her brother and not made the comment about "big brother duty," I'd say she was 16. Because she seems definitely younger than he, since she needs his approval, and he seems about 17 -- I'm thinking 17 because of the phone and having a friend pick him up (18 is too supercool) -- she could be younger, possibly 15 or even 14, though she seems a mature 14 for the "look" she gives him and the feeling she has about the look.

  5. Jen and MDincher -- Whoops! My fingers typed faster than my brain was moving -- I meant to say I was with MDincher on Jen's characters' ages! And, welcome to the islands, everyone! Aloha for all! Let's hope we get more who want to plunge into the pool!

  6. Margo #1 14- or 15
    #2 10-12
    Gae #1 14-16
    #2 10-18

    I am a mother of 4 girls ranging in age from 7-17. I also teach 8th grade. Sometimes I am flabbergasted at what I hear!

    Here is a snip of my WIP:

    I moved to the chest press machine, sat down, and closed my eyes, ignoring the antics being waged for my benefit. As I let out a long breath and pushed the levers out, I felt a shadow fall across my body. My eyes flew open, and I saw the guy who winked at me standing right in front of me smiling! It dawned on me who he was. Trevor Teague, one of the hottest juniors, and the Wahoola Wildcats’ star receiver. I’d seen him at Jen’s a few times, but I'd never really been introduced.
    “Hi, I’m Trevor,” he said, “Aren’t you friends with Brice’s sister?”
    I nodded shocked that he remembered seeing me before and tried not to flinch at the sound of Brice’s name. In the background Trevor’s friends were shooting us sideways glances and snickering.
    “What’s your name again?”
    “Maggie,” I answered, and realized I was holding my breath. Sweat trickled down my back. I’d stopped in mid push, and my arms felt weak – along with other parts of me due to Trevor’s proximity.
    Trevor must have seen the slight shake of my arms because he touched the bar to help me move it back to the starting position. His eyes, brown with flecks of gold, met mine and locked. I couldn’t look away not that I’d really wanted to.
    “I haven’t seen you here before. Are you a new member?”
    I reminded myself to breath and answered, “No, I usually come earlier than this because I work most afternoons. I had a dentist appointment today, so I didn’t get here ‘til late.” I silently cursed myself for babbling! He must think I’m such a dork!

  7. Georgia, I'm with you on the "flabbergasted" on what you overhear! I'm thinking Maggie is perhaps a young 16. Her conversation and her inner monologue sound innocent and a bit inexperienced -- "hadn't been introduced," "cursed myself for babbling," but in the beginning she mentions the "antics being waged for my benefit," suggesting a more mature side to her character, and she does work after school, which also suggests she's 16 and responsible. What a fun scene at the gym! Will they find aloha together?

  8. (and I like your excerpt! Keep writing! :))

  9. Good Afternoon!

    Margo #1 - 14 years old (checking out the guys in an innocent manner; older vocabulary)
    Margo #2 - 12-13 years old (dialogue with character sounds pre-teen and 6th/7th grade vocabulary)
    Gae #1 - 14-15 years old (the dialogue is innocent but on the edge - kissing with tongue - I feel like the dialogue might not be as innocent with a junior or senior/16-18)
    Gae #2 - 17-18 years old (When taking a sip from a flask was a "big thing"; the dialogue does not contain vocabulary of a 17-18 kid, but the way the MC analyzes the situation definitely sounds like an experience, in years, teenager

    Thanks for sharing!
    Here is my excerpt:

    As I am approaching the door, I can see a blond haired girl through the draped window. I stop before the door to take one more look before I open it. I realize that she must be about my age and that she is really pretty. I hesitate to open the door because of my shyness, but I must open the door because I am sure she has seen me.

    “Hi! You must be Steven.” She says with a soft southern accent as I open the door.

    I don’t know what to say. I am tongue tied by her beauty. I stammer out, “Hi. I am Steven.”

    She looks at me waiting for me to say more, but I don’t know what else to say. I am sure that my face is beet red, and I feel perspiration forming on my forehead. What is wrong with me?

    She keeps smiling, unaware of my shyness, and says, “I am Kalie. I am Nurse Patty’s daughter. You met her last night.”

    I stand there without saying anything and she is just staring at me. I am willing myself to talk to her, but her blond hair, blue eyes, and unbelievable smile leaves me stunned.

    Thanks for letting me share!

    1. I'm thinking younger than 16. 14 or 15 maybe? I teach freshmen, and many of my boys are still so completely shy around girls, in just this way.

  10. Andy, I really like this moment! I'm thinking she is 17 and he might be 15 or 16, depending how much his shyness controls what he says and does. The fact that her beauty leaves him "stunned" leads me to think he's 16, since that's a mature vocabulary word. I wonder what happens next? Any aloha for them to share together?

    1. Andy, I'm going with 16 . . . and I like this little scene!

      I'd love to push you on revision to let his words and actions show his thoughts and shyness on their own -- which they ALREADY do!! -- rather than using the words realize and shyness to tell us. Maybe you just don't trust that you've done it well enough without them (?), but you have, watch (I'll just remove them):

      She must be about my age; she's really pretty. I hesitate to open the door, but I must manage because she sees me.

      “Hi! You must be Steven,” she says with a soft southern accent.

      I don’t know what to say. I'm tongue tied by her beauty. I stammer out, “Hi. I am Steven.”

      See, we know he realizes because of what happens/his reaction and we see all his shyness which comes through without you telling us by name because you wrote it well! :)

      Also want to know if there's a reason that you -- and several others -- so often use the full version of to be verbs, "I am" "she is" instead of "I'm?" and "she's" etc. "As I'm approaching the door..." "I'm tongue tied by her beauty." I've seen this a bunch in excerpts and wonder... is it a teachers' rules thing?

      Keep going! (I pick on you because I like you. Is that okay?)

    2. Is that okay? Absolutely! If I could have you sitting by my side when I am writing, I would be a better writer. I take your advice to heart and change what I feel will make my manuscript stronger in the long run (which is all of your suggestions). No pressure!:)

      As for too many words, I truly don't trust myself as a writer, and after working with 25 really strong student readers (both last year and this past year and really almost all of my 11 years), I feel like they need that little extra (I teach 6th graders) to help them navigate the plot. And for "I'm" and "she's", it is the teacher in me.

      Keep on picking on me - if you have not realized it yet, Friday Feedback is my favorite day of the week.:) Have a great rest of the weekend! Hopefully, you will get in a nice long swim!

    3. Had a great swim this a.m., Andy, thanks! About 1.6 miles round and have ditched the wetsuit for a long bathing suit (to keep the jellies from touching more than my hands). All good. So happy you like it here.

  11. Margo #1: 16
    Margo #2: 11
    Gae #1: 17
    Gae #2: The nickname "Jailbait" would imply the MC is under 18, so I'm going with around 16 (possibly 15, almost 16). I think Max is 19ish.

    This is from the beginning of Ch 2 of my current WIP:

    I’m putting away the milk and other groceries when I notice a note on the counter. It is written in the unmistakable serial killer handwriting of my brother: Chris called. Hell call back. I immediately notice that Jamie left out the apostrophe, making He’ll look like Hell. I briefly wonder if he did that on purpose. He was devious like that.

    Chris called. Chris. Who is Chris? I wonder out loud.

    “Some d-bag who called looking for you.”

    “Jamie! You are such a rude dog! Could you be a little more specific? A few more details besides, ‘Chris called. Hell call back’ would be nice. Oh, and apostrophes are kind of important.” I stress the word “kind,” but I know the concept is totally lost on him. I am sometimes mortified to think I share the same genes with this guy.

    “He said something about being friends with Tommy. Who’s Tommy?”

    “Alice’s boyfriend. Duh,” I look at him, asking incredulously, “how could you not know that?”

    “Alice has a boyfriend?” he pauses as if he has to ponder the possibility. “She’s always over here. I didn’t figure she had a boyfriend, that’s all.”

    “Tom works a lot, so Alice is over here a lot. What do you care anyway?”

    “I don’t. You asked. I answered. You get the milk?”

    “You stood here and watched me put it away, moron” I say, rolling my eyes at him.

    “Move out of the way then. I’m hungry and I want a bowl of cereal.”

    “Certainly, your highness,” I said to him in the most sarcastic tone I could muster. I rolled my eyes at him for good measure. “We all know the world revolves around you and your stomach.”

    1. I'm in the 15 -16 range too with the brother the older of the two - so could be 14+ and 17?

      Micki, you are hilarious! I'd read anything you write, because you're too damned funny. :)

      On a side note -- watch your tenses -- present to start, past in last para.

      Keep going!


    2. "serial killer handwriting of my brother" . Love the image! I have to say, I thought the opposite of Gae. I pictured the narrator as being 16 or 17 and the brother as 14 or 15. I think part of it is the mention of the friend who has the boyfriend who is always working.

    3. You make a good point, Natalee! I think it was the d-bag reference that first made me think of the brother as older... Or I may have sort of confused it from the earlier excerpt with the older brother and sister. The brother in Micki's could be younger... Hmm, guess we'll hear soon! I may want to change my answer tho! ;)

  12. mdfryhover -- love her attitude! I'm thinking she's a precocious 15 or she's 16 and very sure of herself, in that she's not afraid of confrontation. What a sense of humor!

  13. Here's the first few paragraphs of my new work in progress. What do you think?

    Tori and Seth were watching the adventure of a lifetime unfold in front of them. On the large flat-screen TV in Seth’s living room the good guys were about to prevail. Tori’s heart was beating as fast as a bullet train speeding across the tracks at its ultimate speed. She was gripping Seth’s arm as if they were the good guys and he was about to win the war against evil with her by his side. She glanced over to see if Seth was as engrossed in the movie’s climax as she was. But instead of a mirror-image of the movie reflecting from his blue eyes, she saw a rainbow-like reflection within them. She followed his transfixed gaze to see what was causing the psychedelic reflection.
    “Tori, do you hear that?” whispered Seth, as he got up from the couch.
    “Hear what?” Tori whispered back, as her eyes finally found the location that had Seth
    mesmerized. It was the bookcase against the back wall of the living room. Except that the bookcase didn’t look like the bookcase at all. It was as if someone had grabbed onto the middle of it and was twisting it around. There was a large swirl of colors like a circular rainbow in the middle, with a beautiful, glowing white glare around the outside. It reminded her of the spin-art she used to make at summer camp down at the town park. She would place a piece of white paper on a spinning wheel and drop paint onto it. The wheel would spin the paper around so fast, that it mixed the colors together as it made circles with the paint. Tori always felt that spin-art with its swirl of colors looked really cool on paper. But seeing it in front of her in Seth’s bookcase was really pretty freaky.
    “Wh-wh-what is th-that?” Tori continued to whisper, as she jumped off the couch as fast as she could. She ran over and hid behind Seth, grabbed his shirt and tried to back them both out of the living room. But instead of backing out with Tori, Seth walked slowly toward the out-of-control bookcase, forcing Tori to sprint into the hallway. Tori blew her bangs out of her eyes and peeked around the wall to watch Seth. He continued to walk toward the bookcase and then back away from it. He walked toward it again and back away from it again. He was covering his ears, as if he was hearing something really loud, but Tori didn’t hear anything at all. All Tori could think about was getting the two of them out of there and QUICK!

    1. Kim, you've created quite a scene, here, with your psychedelic bookcase! Because they're watching a movie and are intent on the action and not each other, I'm thinking they are about 12. Just as a note, you may want to look at the simile about her heart; it seems to slow the scene a bit for me, and your verbs by themselves do the trick. Tori's desire to get out of there seems to mark her as a tween. What is that bookcase going to do, I wonder?

    2. Kim, welcome to Friday Feedback! I see you found it. :) I agree with Margo on the MG age of 12 or 13? I love that psychedelic bookcase too and the spin art imagery (and since it's so familiar, you might not need so much info on it!) also agree with the heart simile -- I must admit, I'm not a fan of similes (although I'm sure I use them on occasion) and believe in the "less is more" rule. As such, and since you're new here (I think?) and since it's getting close to the end of the day and I'm in the mood, I'll do a superspeed flash edit and am curious what you think. Won't change any words, just tenses and/or omit some:

      Tori and Seth were watching the adventure of a lifetime unfold in front of them. On the large flat-screen TV in Seth’s living room the good guys were about to prevail. Tori’s heart beat as fast as a bullet train. She gripped Seth’s arm as if they were the good guys and he was about to win the war against evil with her by his side. She glanced over to see if Seth was as engrossed in the movie’s climax as she was. But instead of the movie reflecting from his blue eyes, she saw a psychedelic reflection within them. She followed his transfixed gaze to see what was causing it.
      “Tori, do you hear that?” whispered Seth, as he got up from the couch.
      “Hear what?” Tori whispered back, her eyes finding the location that had Seth
      mesmerized. It was the bookcase against the back wall of the living room. Except that the bookcase didn’t look like the bookcase at all. It was as if someone had grabbed the middle, and was twisting it around. There was a large swirl of colors in the middle, with a glowing white glare around the outside. It reminded her of the spin-art she used to make at summer camp down at the town park. She'd place a piece of white paper on a spinning wheel and drop paint onto it. The wheel would spin the paper so fast, the colors would blur into a rainbow. Tori always felt that spin-art with its swirl of colors looked really cool on paper. But seeing it in front of her in Seth’s bookcase was really pretty freaky.
      “Wh-wh-what is th-that?” Tori whispered, as she jumped off the couch as fast as she could. She ran over and hid behind Seth, grabbed his shirt and tried to back them both out of the living room. But instead, Seth walked slowly toward it, forcing Tori to sprint into the hallway. Tori blew her bangs from her eyes and peeked around the wall to watch Seth. He contined to advance then retreat from the bookcase, covering his ears, as if he was hearing something really loud, but Tori didn’t hear anything at all. All Tori could think about was getting the two of them out of there and QUICK!

      Meh, quick, but the point is to make it pop a bit more by removing some words. ? yes, no, maybe so? - gae

    3. Thank you, Margo! Gae, yes, I found you, and I'm so glad I did! Thank you so much for the quick edit! I see what you mean about my adding words I don't need. I love what you did to the work, just be removing a few words and letting my verbs speak for themselves. Thanks!!!

  14. Margo #1: I think the narrator is an older teen or an young woman. She is noting the guy and is concerned about his impression of her in a way that older teens or young women might. Carrie sounds like a teen around the same age or a bit younger.

    Margo #2: I'd say that Todd is probably 14 or 15. It sounds like they play soccer in the park without the supervision of adults- Kekoa is harassing them and Todd is trying to address that. Kekoa could be the same age, but could also be an adult. It's hard to tell.

    Gae #1: I'd say, because of the talk of being good at kissing, etc. that the girls are 15-16, maybe 17.

    Gae #2: The use of "jailbait" immediately leads me to think that she is under 18, probably 16-17 and Max is at least 19, maybe 20.

    Here is a bit of my writing. I feel like I'm still casting about, trying to figure out my characters, but I do feel like I'm getting closer:

    Cooper gave a soft nicker and Elias looked to his left. A frown crossed his face as a tall rider on a grey gelding cantered into the clearing. Cooper nickered louder and the grey answered.

    “Checking up on me?” Elias asked as the horse and rider neared him.

    Pete Thatcher did a quick evaluation of his little brother before answering. He didn’t especially like what he saw. The teenager looked thin and drawn. “You don’t look so good, Eli. You sure you should be out here alone?”

    Elias turned away from his brother in disgust. “I couldn’t stand it, cooped up in the cabin anymore.”

    “Does Dad know you’re out here?”

    The teenager tightened Cooper’s reigns and the horse side stepped, sensing his young master’s discomfort. Elias hung his head. “He’s gone over to Lake Jennifer to do some repair work for Old Aaron.”

    Pete chuckled. “He left early and plans to be back late. You know he’ll skin you alive if he catches you. You’re not supposed to be out for another week.”

    “You’re not going to rat me out, are ya?” Elias raised pleading blue eyes to his older brother. “Come on, Pete, be a pal.”

    Pete laughed, the mischievous twinkle in his green eyes couldn’t hide his concern, but did help to alleviate some of Eli’s fear. “I’ll go back with you, Squirt” He said, “But I”m not making any promises.” 

    Eli’s hopeful look fell into a scowl. “I’m not a baby anymore, you know.” His tough act was broken by a yawn that he quickly tried to hide.

    Pete shook his head at his stubborn little brother. “Let’s get you home.” The brothers turned their mounts and chucked them into an easy walk toward the Thatcher cabin.

    “How’d you find me, anyway?” Cody asked.

    “Just out for a ride.” Pete shrugged his shoulders, keeping his focus on the trail ahead of them.

    Elias looked sideways at his older brother. Pete was in uniform, head to toe. The boy nodded, a knowing look on his face. “Just out for a ride.”


    “While on duty? Way up here?”

    “I was worried about you.” Pete looked sheepishly at Elias. “No one answered at the cabin. I was pretty sure you’d be at the meadow.”

 Elias grinned and nodded. As much as he hated being treated like a little kid, he was delighted that Pete cared enough to come looking for him.

  15. Wow, Natalee, first of all what a great job you do with the logistics and feeling of those boys on their horses and the brotherly affection and looking out for one another. Impressed! I'm guessing the boys are 12-13 and 15-16, but it feels a bit like these boys could be more mature than their ages because of the setting and their independence. At any rate, I like it! I got confused with Cody, though. Is he a new character or is it a typo?

    1. Whoops. That was a typo. I changed the character's name from Cody to Elias. Thought I caught them all with the "Find and Replace". Guess I missed one!

    2. Elias is 14, Pete 25. Elias lives in the mountains with his Dad; he's pretty smart and independent and mature for his age. Glad you like it :)

  16. I'll let Margo come back and speak for herself, but my characters are: Excerpt 1: 15, about to turn 16; and Excerpt 2: MC also about to turn 16 (girl) and Max, 18.


  17. Natalee, I'm with Gae on the ages of your characters, and I also liked the subtext of caring for each other that you show so well through their dialogue. Speaking of showing, I'm thinking you could let them speak for themselves, since they do that so well, and leave out the summations of their feelings in the narrative. You've done a really nice job of letting them speak for themselves!
    As far as my characters' ages go, Natalee, you were spot-on! Excerpt 1: 12, 16, and 19; excerpt 2: Todd is 14 and Kekoa 15!
    Gae. This has been lots of fun-- and many mahalos to all who stopped by to share their wonderful writing and feedback. Mahalo nui loa, Gae, for doing this and for all ypu do for TeachersWrite!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Margo. I work with cutting back the summations. That is actually a good thing for me to be aware of.

      This was fun! Thanks for hosting, Gae!

  18. Huge thank you to Margo for playing here with us!