Storm Magnet

‘That’s extraordinary!’ exclaimed Lizzie’s grandfather. He slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand, causing his round, metal-rimmed spectacles to jump down his nose. ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like it.’ His white, neatly trimmed moustache started to quiver with excitement.
‘Like what?’ asked Lizzie, who had been waiting patiently for her grandfather to finish her astrological birth chart.
‘Well, what we have here,’ he said, pointing at a large piece of paper spread out on the low coffee table in front of him, ‘is a picture of the solar system. It shows the positions of the sun, the moon and the planets at the very moment of your birth. These tell us something about your character – head strong and impulsive – which we know already don’t we?’ he chuckled, looking up at Lizzie with a gleam in his eye. ‘It also allows us to see into the future.’
‘How?’ said Lizzie, peering down at the drawing on the paper. It looked like a large wheel divided into twelve segments with a central hub and lots of coloured symbols and numbers everywhere.
‘I can choose any number of points in time in the future and map the position of the planets at that time on your chart. For example, I plotted your 13th birthday – which is tomorrow – to see if anything interesting showed up.’
‘And did it?’ asked Lizzie, suddenly warming to the idea of predicting the future.
‘It did indeed, and that’s why I’m so excited,’ said her grandfather animatedly. ‘In all the charts I’ve ever prepared I’ve never seen Jupiter is such a strange position relative to Aries in opposition to the moon. There’s also an interesting Sun/Ceres combination happening at exactly the same time. This can only mean one thing. A catastrophic natural event is heading this way and it looks like you are destined to stop it!’
‘Don’t believe a word of it!’ Lizzie’s mother shouted from the kitchen where she was preparing lunch. The delicious aroma of pea and ham soup and freshly-baked bread drifted into the living room. She had reluctantly agreed to her father preparing Lizzie’s birth chart and had been listening in on the conversation. She didn’t want her father filling Lizzie’s head full of nonsense.
‘The sequence of events starts on your birthday,’ he continued. ‘You won’t be alone, that’s for sure, which is just as well, because some sort of danger is indicated.’
‘Don’t scare her dad!’ Lizzie’s mum said.
‘I’m just reading what the chart is telling me,’ he replied.
‘I’m not frightened mum,’ said Lizzie. She was annoyed with her mother for being over-protective. I can’t help being an only child, she thought and a girl. It’s not my fault dad died before a little sister or brother came along.
‘Why do you insist on thinking I’m still a child? I’ll be a teenager soon and this is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever going to happen to me! You wouldn’t mollycoddle me so much if I was a boy!’
‘I’m just saying,’ her mother sighed. She was used to Lizzie’s sudden outbursts and had learned not to overreact to them.
‘Oh, and there is one other thing,’ her grandfather continued. ‘A few numbers keep cropping up on your chart, which suggests they are significant – thirteen, of course, which comes first, then eight, seven and lastly five.’
‘Do you think they’re related to how I’m supposed to stop whatever it is that’s coming?’ said Lizzie, looking into her grandfather’s bright blue eyes.
He returned her gaze. ‘You know I think they might be.’
Lizzie dragged her grandfather up from his chair by both hands and did a little jig.
‘I’m so excited! I’m so excited!’
‘That’s enough you two. Come and eat. I’m putting your lunch out,’ her mother yelled.***

It was the morning of Lizzie Chamber’s thirteen birthday.
‘Let’s explore the Skyway,’ she had suggested to Josh, her science buddy from school, ‘but don’t tell Mum. She worries about me all the time and will be much happier thinking I’m at the Science Museum.’ Lizzie’s mum had warned her off wandering round The Skyway, even in a twosome. Its maze of tunnels, walkways and bridges not only connected most of the tall office blocks in the city, but also hosted many of the seedier activities in town.
‘Bye Mum!’
‘Bye sweetie! Make sure you’re home for dinner. There’s a special surprise waiting for you! And stick together you two!’
‘We will.’
Lizzie and Josh shared a fascination in how the world worked, fuelled by their science teacher, Dr Galloway or Dr Galaxy as they nick-named him because he loved everything to do with space. He would give their class weekly updates on what was happening on the International Space Station orbiting the earth.
‘There are people circling the earth four hundred kilometres above our heads,’ he would say, ‘in a structure about the size of a six-bedroom house. Imagine how exciting that must be!’
Dr Galloway’s pairing of Lizzie and Josh for science lessons had been inspired. Lizzie’s impulsive nature perfectly complemented Josh’s more measured approach to understanding the universe. Whereas Lizzie tended to view things as black or white with a sprinkling of silver, a rainbow of explanations coloured Josh’s reasoning.
Lizzie had fallen under Dr Galloway’s spell when it came to appreciating the significance of numbers in the universe. He was always talking numbers.
‘Did you know there are six people from different countries living and working in the Space Station, which travels at five miles per second, orbiting the Earth every ninety minutes,’ he’d say. ‘Eight miles of wire connect the electrical power system and fifty-two computers control the systems on the Space Station.’
He had really captured her imagination when he had told their class about the Golden Ratio, a number equal to 1.618. She was fascinated by the fact that the same number appears throughout nature, in art and even in the iPod and the human face. Lizzie felt she had glimpsed the magic in numbers.

7 thoughts on “Storm Magnet

  1. gongli2000 says:

    I think you should just leave out the whole astrology thing with the grandfather. It doesn’t seem to me to serve any purpose. Just start with the part after “Lets explore skyway…”
    If the girl is so interested in science wouldn’t she be disdainful of astrology?
    I like it that she is excited by the golden ratio. I would read this book Seems to be the right style and tone for a children’s book.

    • karengrikitis says:

      Thanks for the feedback – much appreciated. In my first draft I started the story at the beginning of the 2nd scene (as you suggest) but I felt the opening wasn’t dynamic enough so reversed the intro. Maybe I’ll change it again! The birth chart gives Lizzie the motivation/reason to explore the Skyway. The revelation that there she has to save the city from a disaster is meant to be the inciting incident, which I was advised by a professional editor to include in the first chapter. In the rest of the chapter (not submitted here as more than the requisite word count) the reader learns that Lizzie doesn’t really believe in astrology or numerology but is intrigued to find out if there is any truth in these pseudo sciences.

  2. NobHobbit says:

    I liked the astrology part at the beginning. 🙂 It was interesting, and there was a fun back-and-forth with Lizzie’s mom telling her not to believe it. I think kids might enjoy it, too, and I thought you explained it well enough without being too explanatory. Just enough but not too much.

    I like the story that it seems we have going here, and your mc is an engaging girl. I say I like the story – which I do, very much; the writing is good, the scene is fun and interesting, there’s a Quest To Save The World coming up! – but then, crash. All of a sudden, we’re somewhere else, with someone else, at a time that I don’t know how it relates to what we’ve just read. Is this afterwards? Before? It reads like a flashback with the “She had suggested”. But I have no idea how this has anything to do with Grandpa and the Astrology Chart. We were just about to have lunch, and now all of the sudden, I’m jerked to some uncertain morning. What happened to Grandpa?

    Also, you stop all the action to explain a bunch of stuff. Absolutely nothing happens in this next bit aside from her saying goodbye to her mother. And me, the reader, is about to put the book down, because I don’t care that her mom thinks the skyway is dangerous – all moms think that about fun stuff 😉 – I want to know about the natural disaster that’s coming and how Josh and Lizzie are going to get to it and stop it. I don’t even care about the numbers, right now, even though those facts are very interesting ones. Save them for later on, and dribble them in a few at a time. And unless he’s vitally important for some other reason, I don’t care about Dr. Galloway or how inspired he was to pair Josh and Lizzie etc.

    My suggestion – take this with a grain of salt, because I have no idea what comes next – is to cut most or all of this next part. If exploring the skyway is what is supposed to lead to the ‘natural disaster tomorrow that only Lizzie can stop’ or (I assume it is?), start with them entering it, and keep the story in the action and in the present. Something like:

    — The next morning, Lizzie’s thirteenth birthday, she met her friend Josh outside SomeBuilding. Her mom thought they were going to the science museum, but Lizzie wanted to explore the skyway. The endless maze of walkways, tunnels and bridges had fascinated her since she was howeverold.

    “Where should we go first?” Lizzie asked, staring at sky-bridge they stood beneath. “Do you think there are eight miles of wires up there?”

    Josh and Lizzie’s science teacher had recently told them there were eight miles of electrical wires in the Space Station, and Lizzie’s imagination had been caught by the number. —

    I also noticed some writing habits that I think you’ll be better off changing.

    One minor one is commas to set off proper names – which ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ are when used in this way. So – ‘Don’t scare her dad!’ Lizzie’s mum said. – needs a comma after ‘her’. “Don’t scare her, dad!” Otherwise, you are saying ‘Don’t scare Lizzie’s dad!’ 🙂
    Same with the “I’m not frightened, mum” that follows.

    And I see you doing a lot of explaining what you’re also showing us, which slows things down and assumes your reader isn’t smart enough to get it the first time.

    She had reluctantly agreed to her father preparing Lizzie’s birth chart and had been listening in on the conversation. She didn’t want her father filling Lizzie’s head full of nonsense.
    — That she is reluctant, that she is listening to the conversation, that she thinks this is nonsense – this is all conveyed by the fact that she contributes to the conversation and what she says. You don’t need to say it also.

    She was annoyed with her mother for being over-protective.
    — Again, this is shown by Lizzie’s actions and words. Don’t tell us what you’ve just shown.

    She was used to Lizzie’s sudden outbursts and had learned not to overreact to them.
    — And this, while it may not be shown overtly in the story, isn’t really necessary. Obviously, she didn’t over-react, and we can assume that she’s used to her daughter’s behavioral tics, since they’ve presumably been living together since Lizzie was born.

    Best,
    Chelle

  3. Anonymous says:

    I actually liked that astrology bit early on. I found the dialogue between your MC and the grandfather compelling enough to keep reading, but once I hit the Skyway paragraph, I felt like the writing started to drag. I would probably cut out a lot of the teacher flashbacks (There are people circling the earth four hundred kilometres above our heads,’ he would say, ‘in a structure about the size…// ‘Did you know there are six people from different countries living and working in the Space Station, which travels at five miles per second, orbiting the Earth every ninety minutes,’ he’d say. ‘Eight miles…// He had really captured her imagination when he had told their class about the Golden Ratio, a number equal to 1.618). I think the reader would get the gist of the teacher’s enthusiasm just with one example. Also, some of the dialogue tags like he would say/ her mother yelled, etc sound a bit awkward when placed all the way at the end of sentence. You might want to rearrange it a bit.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for your feedback. I wish you could read the whole book – then everything would fall into place much better for you as a reader. Simply having the end of the chapter might put the 2nd scene into perspective. Your comments are most welcome all the same.

  4. Jen says:

    I really like this story. I would definitely keep reading. it flows well and I got through it easily. strong writing. I like the image I get of the bond/relationship between lizzie and grandfather, and the dynamic with mom. Happy writing!

    Here’s a few random thoughts that struck me:
    -use of the word “warming’ to the idea of predicting the future….doesn’t seem to be the right word. perhaps a word that reflects more of an excited feeling – intrigued, enticed, etc.

    -She had reluctantly agreed to her father preparing Lizzie’s birth chart and had been listening in on the conversation. – seems awkward, consider rewording. maybe ….her father’s preparation of….

    -phrase “full of non-sense” – not very original/unique.

    -I can’t help being an only child, she thought and a girl. – awkward

    – It’s not my fault dad died before a little sister or brother came along. – would a 12 year old think the phrase “came along”?

    -need a period after Dr

    -Whereas Lizzie tended to view things as black or white with a sprinkling of silver, a rainbow of explanations coloured Josh’s reasoning. – nice sentence!

    -Earth every ninety minutes,’ he’d say. ‘Eight miles of wire connect the electrical – no need for the “He’d say”, I would omit.

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