Monday, June 7, 2010


by Lupe Fernandez

The two paragraphs below come from a new story, fresh from my mind, tingling my fingers, pounding on the keyboard, and blazing on this screen. Not even my trusty colleagues here at Pen & Ink have read this. Sorry ladies. But you, dear readers, can be the first. I invite you to critique this paragraph, this manuscript draft 0.00. You know the rules of the revision road. Be merciless. Spare not my feelings. All comments will be posted, except for the spammer who keeps writing posts in Chinese characters.

And now………..

On your Mark…..

Get Set………….


Title: The Adventures of Calaveras Cal: Boy Skeleton

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Logline: A boy skeleton, an outcast among humans on the planet Andalusia, sneaks aboard an treasure-seeking rocket expedition to a mysterious new world, and risks his life among a hostile crew to learn his true identity.

First Paragraph:

The boy skeleton rummaged through the garbage mound outside the city of Andalusia after sunset. The small, spindly figure picked his way between burnt piles of fuel tanks, torn gaskets, and charred bulkheads where jets of flame spurted. He had memorized the location of all hidden gas pockets of rotting organics. The gantry lights from the space port down by the sea blazed like stars. The boy skeleton drew back his hood and admired the view: black space, the sounding ocean and the sparkling city. Then a bright ball of orange erupted at one of the gantries. The whole garbage mound and hillside were lit up by the blazing white light. Engine thunder rumbled. The ground shook with a mighty rumble. A slender, golden rocket lifted off from the space port, pitching over the sea for orbit insertion around the planet. If the boy skeleton had eyes, he would cry. Rocket launchings always made him want to cry…if he had tears. The only other reason to cry would be learning his real name.

Or this First Paragraph:

The monster of the trash heaps comes out at night. He has many names: Los Huesos del Diablo (Bones of the Devil), El Fantasma Blanca (The White Ghost) or El Calavera Que Risa (The Laughing Skull). I have to go so I come out here. I wish I was brave like the explorers down at Andalusia space port. They’re not afraid of anything. But you won’t get me in one of those giant golden ships. I’m staying right here on the hills. It stinks, but sometimes I find some good scraps. Wait. What’s that noise? Laughing. A dark shape leaps over the discarded exhaust tubes and fuel tanks. It’s getting closer. Got to run. I trip and fall. Clatter of junk slides down the mound, rising twinkling dust. It’s him. The monster! The ground trembles. A rocket roars overhead on a pillar of fire. I’m gonna die!
“Hi.” The monster, bones clack clack, towers over me.“Do you know my name?”
“You….your….Cal…” I wet myself. My teeth ache. I point at it. “Calaveras…Cala…”
“Cal?” The Bones of the Devil puts its hand on its chin. “Calaveras Cal? I like that.”


  1. So, a most interesting premise. I'm curious to see how Calaveras Cal fairs in his future adventures. If your target audience are middle school kids, I would stick with the second paragraph, it has that intense edge that the kids these days crave, although personally, I think the first paragraph would be good for getting people to sympathize with the protagonist. Whatever your aim, I can't wait to see the result.
    I also can't help but wonder, did the secret incident involving the "Quetzel" in any way inspire this latest tale?

  2. Dear Reader,
    Thanks for your astute assessment. Calaveras Cal was inspired by listening to old radio serials, the Los Angeles Public Library, and the artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.
    I, Exposed

  3. I like the first paragraph. It dragged me right into the scene and I was curious about this most unusual protagonist.

  4. Thank you Ms. O'Brien.
    Score is now 1 to 1.
    Who will break the tie?
    Come on, folks, don't be shy.
    Score Keeper

  5. The second first paragraph is funny but confusing. I'm with Tricia. The first first paragraph is first best and totally engaging. Would love to read the rest :)

  6. I think the first is better developed, however, I think the second, uh, first paragraph is direction you probably want to take it. It has the right voice, but the action is too much too soon after the brief intro. I see that you want to start right in the middle of the action, which is great, but it either needs to build up to his encounter with Cal so we can get emotionally invested in the narrator, or start with him running from the skeleton boy, and fill us in later on why he was there in the garbage and why he's afraid to go up in a rocket.

  7. Thank you, Ms. Jaggia and That Guy. Pen & Ink Management appreciates your fearless suggestions.

    Our trench coat writer says, "The 3rd person paragraph is a homage to Ray Bradbury. The 1st person paragraph was written for an intimate pov, and in case the Bradbury homage stunk."

    Score is 3 to 1 in favor of the 3rd Person Paragraph. However, in the immortal words of that great baseball sage, "It ain't over, 'til it's over."

    Vowel Voyeur

  8. I like the second paragraph. For one, I love the Spanish names. I feel like I'm going to be hearing about a legend that's real, but then I do get confused by the "boy skeleton" thing. Is he a skinny boy? Is he a ghost? Is he a ghost embodied in a moving mass of bones? I want to know how it works. If he is a poor boy in a dump adjacent to a rocket launch and he wishes he could get on that rocket, all the better. Tons of room for emotional drama here. Very cool.

  9. Thank you Ms. Walker,
    You comments will be tabulated.
    Score 3 to 2.

  10. I dither deliciously between the two paragraphs and cannot reach a conclusion. Perhaps it is the leftover anesthesia

  11. Dear 佩怡,
    Are you a nut?

    Dear Ms. Berger,
    Thank you for your indecision.

    Senor Propofol


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