Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Mini Challenge #3 - Setting

     The Monday Mini Challenge is a 5-minute writing exercise inspired in part by an excerpt of a middle-grade or young adult novel I've recently read. Use it as a warm-up, a procrastination device, or maybe (let's be hopeful) a springboard to a real, live writing project!
     I read David Almond's book, Skellig, a Printz Honor winner, years ago. In the story, ten-year-old Michael finds a creature-person crouched in the corner of his ramshackle garage. His discovery comes in the midst of some unsettling changes in Michael's life. He's moved into a new house and his sister's illness has turned his family's life upside down.
    The story's setting drew me in right away; it's magically atmospheric. As Michael crosses the threshold of the garage, Almond builds the tension when Michael 'switched the flashlight on, took a deep breath, and tiptoed straight inside'. On the verge of collapse, the garage is the perfect place for a creature like Skellig to be hiding. Before Michael discovers him, the reader is treated to a description of the place, thanks to the sweeping beam of Michael's flashlight:
     'Something little and black scuttled across the floor. The door creaked and cracked for a moment before it was still. Dust poured through the flashlight beam. Something scratched and scratched in the corner. I tiptoed further in and felt spiderwebs breaking on my brow. Everything was packed in tight - ancient furniture, kitchen units, rolled-up carpets, pipes and crates and planks. I kept ducking down under the hoses and ropes and duffel bags that hung from the roof. More cobwebs snapped on my clothes and skin. The floor was broken and crumbly. I opened a cupboard an inch, shined the flashlight in, and saw a million wood lice scattering away.'
     Don't you feel like you're peering over Michael's shoulder, feeling thankful he's going in first? I love the gloomy picture Almond has painted with words in that scene. So now it's your turn.
     If you've read my previous post, you'll know I love, love, love snow! If you're under, say, 16 (when you start to drive, you're perspective on snow shifts a bit), snow means sledding, snow forts, and hitting some poor unsuspecting buddy with a snowball. Let's use a snowy setting but make it not so cheery. Make it eerie! Write a scene in which two kids take us into a forgotten graveyard deep in the woods, and it has recently snowed. One of the graves has freshly-overturned dirt.
     Ready, set, go!


  1. Dawn, I've sworn off writing prompts for the moment, as I'm writing with intent for my vomit draft of my memoir — that's gross code for first draft. :) Thanks for stopping by and best of luck with the A to Z challenge. April will be a fun month.

  2. Fun assignment! And i just have to add that I LOVE Skellig - great book!

  3. I love that graveyard photo.

    Totally off the track, but isn't it interesting that a book with a 10-year-old protag got PRINTZ notice?

  4. Marcia - very interesting! When I took it off the shelf last month to read it again, I was surprised to see the award sticker on the cover. I'd forgotten how old the MC was.


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