Monday, December 17, 2012

Hangover Round 1 Entry #36

TITLE: The Tree House Mother
GENRE: Adult Literary

After the near death of her youngest son, Andie’s mother abandons her family to live in a child’s tree house. Failing to rescue her mother, Andie betrays a friend, putting her in peril. Every situation she faces for the next 20 years of her life is an outcome of the angst of her terrible decision. 

My mother wore her concentration in a pucker incised between her brows. She stirred a second batch of eggs in the frying pan and read, not a recipe book, but a text about plant propagation. I was only nine, but the daughter of parents in the gardening business knew about propagation and cross pollination and all kinds of botanical management. I could teach the course better than my fifth grade teacher. The eggs were brown at peaks and edges like burned lace, but we liked them that way. Crisp as we bit.

“Those eggs is enough for me,” Mitchell said. At four his appetite was leviathan, his self confidence grander.

Mom didn’t look up. “Better start raising chickens, John.”

Daddy snorted. He pushed oranges through the juicer, added a lemon and two tangerines. “Maybe ostriches. I hear their eggs are the size of watermelons.” He grinned at my brother, white teeth shining against his tan. It was easy to see our dad in his oldest son.

Mitchell whooped and leapt off his chair to bend over, touching his head to the floor. “Hey, Paulie, this is what ostriches do.”

Paul clapped at his big brother, whose rear was in the air, head sweeping the linoleum. I placed Paul’s bowl of eggs in front of him and he ate with his fingers. I tried to put his fork in his hand but he shoved it away, toddler impatience with social graces. It clattered on the floor, a lingering percussion of complaints.


  1. The imagery here is captivating, so original and immediate. I am drawn into the scene quickly and easily. It is funny and the language is tight.
    I'm surprised this did not get chosen for the Baker's Dozen. The logline does not pull me in like the first 250 words do, and I wonder if the sense of humor and tight language could be brought into that more.
    I am certainly no expert on loglines but the first sentence leads me to believe the story is about the mother, the second about betrayal doesn't seem to follow--why betray someone because you can't rescue another? I'm sure the answer is within, but I somehow need the connection or segue. The last line feels tired--like the laundry list of bad decisions is neverending, and I don't think that the epic feel of that reflects the really zesty language and spark the first page conveys. That's all. I would rewrite the logline (as I would and should rewrite mine I'm sure), but I love the first page!

    1. Thank you, Pam, you made my day when suggesting that this entry should have made the Baker’s Dozen. And maybe it would have, had this been the actual entry. My original BD entry was a prologue. Authoress wrote a list of reasons why many entries were not chosen, and chief among them was the prologue that doesn’t establish sympathy for the protagonist. When she said that we could change our Hangover entries, as long as other parameters were met, I opted to do that, especially since I’d already re-written that part of the book anyway. So maybe I’m getting closer to a good first page.
      As for the logline: at least 18 attempts and I’m still not there. One of the most difficult things about loglines is that the advice is to write as if it’s a TV Guide blurb for a show. Not especially helpful for books. At this point I’m ready to select a bunch of words and throw them down a flight of steps, then piece them together in that random order and call it a logline. Which is your entry?

    2. Heartfelt, I'm so glad I made your day. I really enjoy your writing. I feel the same way about loglines (I never even heard of them until 2 months ago, and now the sound of the word even irks me! My entry is #44 and your suggestions were very helpful. I'll likely incorporate all of them. Thank you.

  2. The logline seems a little out of synch. Like it could be better focused on the protagonist and her problems/goals.

    I like the first page, though the voice is a little abrupt for me at times. Like you missed words that are necessary for leading from the first half of a sentence to the second. (Or from one sentence to the next.) I wouldn't suggest getting rid of that abruptness altogether, but maybe toning it back just a little.

  3. Your logline confused me. I had to read it several times to figure out the relation between the youngest son, Andie's mother, etc. Also, as someone else mentions, it sounds like the mother will be the POV character. You might just open with something like "After her mother abandons her family to move into a child's tree house, Andie..."

    I'm unclear what Andie's stakes are. She betrays a friend, but what is her goal, her conflict, what will happen if she fails?

    Your first page was very well written. Good luck!

  4. Loved the writing in the first 250, but I also was confused by the logline. I'm not sure who is placed in peril after Andie's betrayal: Andie, her friend, or her mother? You really set the scene nicely, and the dialogue provides the reader with a good feel for the characters from the very start. I would definitely keep reading.

  5. Thank you, Everyone, for taking time to read and critique my work. Your advice is taken into consideration as I continue to revise my work and hopefully create a book worth publishing.

  6. I really liked the writing and dialogue here. Nice job! My main issue was that I felt unmoored in this passage. That is, I had no sense of where the narrator was in relation to everything going on around her. It's not until the last paragraph that the narrator makes an appearance by placing eggs in front of Paul. Just a quick description of where she is seated or what she is doing would help ground the reader I think. Good luck with this.

  7. There are so many beautiful images on this first page, and I find the writing and the sense of being in the scene very strong.
    I would like to get a better feel for Andie, though. After the 250 words I have much clearer pictures of her parents and Mitchell, than of her. Andie uses many adult words and phrases, but whether it's because everything is told after the 20 years referred to in the logline, or she simply is wise kid, is not clear from this piece. If this is told after the 20 years, then perhaps you could draw the reader in by inducing a sense of foreboding and creating some tension in the opening.
    I agree with some of the above comments, that the logline is not completely clear. Try turning it around so the focus is on Andie from the beginning, and the stakes for Andie in the 20 years of situations are also clear. It's so difficult to get everything in right in the few words of the logline, but I was also confused by the sentence "Failing to..." Does she put her mother or her friend in peril? And how does she fail her mother? By not preventing her from moving to the tree house? But if she's 9--or even some years older--should she then be held responsible?
    I'm definitely intrigued by where this story is going.
    Good luck! We'll get there some day.

  8. You have a very poetic feel to your writing, which is lovely and beautiful. Unfortunately, this opening scene just isn't that interesting. It's a family - quirky and odd, but still, just a family - sitting down to have breakfast. We haven't even been introduced to the MC. I need more action, more reason to care about whoever the MC is. Give me a reason to turn the page.

    As for the logline - it is muddled and confusing. Leah Peterson has a brilliant guide to help write your logline on her blog ( and another great source is

    Both offer slightly different but harmonious advice and a sort of madlib to build your logline. There are examples for you to mimic as well. Give it a try and see what you come up with. Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Samantha, for the logline info. I will definitely look up those blogs. And thank you for the comments. Others have written similar, that I must intro the protagonist immediately. Already working on that. The best thing about this kind of opportunity, Hangover, is that it gives us useful crits that we can apply to WIP.