Open Pen

The Dragon in the Mini: An Open Pen Critique

Currently, this is the only submission in the Open Pen queue, so if you were planning on submitting a piece for critique, now would be a great time to do it!

This week for Open Pen we have a fantasy short story from Chelsea who blogs over at An Ordinary Pen. This story is a fun mixture of dragons with normal, modern sibling relationships, and Chelsea wrote it for a flash fiction challenge, so it is a quick read.

Chelsea is looking to improve her characters and plot, but since she hopes to enter it in a short story competition, she is also looking for grammar editing if anyone feels inclined. And as always, even short, simple comments help, and I know that Chelsea really appreciates you taking the time to read her story and comment.

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.

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The Dragon in the Mini by Chelsea R. H.

When my elder sister, Freya, suggested we go for a drive and have a coffee together, I raised my eyebrows and folded my arms.
“We’ve lived together for, what, seventeen years? And you suddenly feel like getting to know me?”
“Stop being such a teenager,” Freya replied, rolling her eyes. I was tempted to point out that eye rolling was a predominantly teenaged activity, but I resisted the temptation.
“Fine,” I replied, “But we’ve gotta be back before eight so that I can catch the final episode of Sherlock. I’m not missing out on Sherlock just so I can sit and watch you drink coffee.”
“Whatever,” was Freya’s reply.
Several minutes later we were in Freya’s ’70 model green Mini, rattling along the highway from our home. About ten minutes, she suddenly zipped onto a side road.
“Since we’re making a day out of it,” She told me nonchalantly, “We might as well take the scenic route.”
My dad was a fan of “taking the scenic route” and that usually ended us up lost. I should have taken control right then and there, demanded that we turn around and go on the highway or something. But I didn’t. I just sat there, determined to be grouchy and glared out the front windscreen.
At first everything was fine. I mean, other than Freya trying to absolute best to get me to talk to her about deep and meaningful things.
“Do you have a boyfriend yet, Sunny?” she asked me cheerfully, tapping her fingers on the dashboard in time with the Ed Sheeran song playing.
“Nope.”
“How’s school?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“Do you do anything interesting?”
“Probably not.” I paused for a minute, watching the gum trees flash past and a bird neatly dodge the windscreen. “What about you? Have you been doing anything interesting?”
Freya considered this, still tapping out a tattoo on her steering wheel. “Probably not.” She finally answered.
“You hesitated.” I said, crossing my arms.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Freya demanded.
“Well, you’re lying. You have been doing something interesting.”
Freya exhaled sharply and stopped tapping, “How would I know what you think is interesting?”
“I don’t know.”
Silence blanketed us for a long while and despite myself, I began to enjoy the trip, though I would never have admitted that to Freya. I found myself staring out the window, admiring the sleek white trunks of the eucalyptus, the never-ending fields beyond those of dusty yellow, dotted with sheep or cattle, the deep blue of the sky, the birds playing through the trees. It’s kinda nice out here. I decided.
My attention was drawn back to the car by a funny squeaking sound, like the noise baby magpies make. Another sound followed it, something that sounded like claws scratching across metal.
I glanced quickly at Freya, who didn’t seem to have heard anything.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“What’s what?” Freya replied. Had her face coloured slightly?
“Didn’t you just hear it? Like, a squeaking sound from your car?”
“Ah…. well, you know…you know my car, it makes funny sounds.”
I raised my eyebrows. Freya was definitely blushing that time. She turned the radio up and was just about to start singing, off-key, to an Icehouse song when there came a sputtering from the engine of the Mini.
There was another squawking, and the whole Mini shuddered.
The car coasted to an ominous halt just inside the boundaries of a tiny country town, beside the only concrete footpath in the whole place. Freya clambered out of the car, muttering under her breath. “Okay? What now?” she asked, maybe talking to the world in general, maybe talking to me, it was hard to tell.
“Pop the bonnet,” I advised, “Then you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.”
Surprisingly, Freya followed my advice and popped the bonnet and then stared into it, like she might stare at a page of Latin. Then a look of horror flicked over her face. “Hey!” she hissed, plunging into her bonnet. “Hey you! Come back!”
I stared at her, “You feeling okay?”
Freya ignored me, grabbed at something inside the engine and then started back abruptly, sticking her finger in her mouth. “Burnd myfelf.” She mumbled, fingers in mouth.
I sat down on the pavement, pulling my knees up to my chin, and stared morosely at her. “Remember what I said about Sherlock!” I reminded her as she pulled out her phone.
“Drat Sherlock! There’s worse things to worry about!” Freya snapped back.
“What do you mean ‘drat Sherlock’?” I mumbled under my breath. “This was all your idea. It’s not my fault.”
Meanwhile, Freya was tapping a number into her phone. She ignored me, and dialed the number. “Hey…yeah, I know…yeah…” she frowned, “I didn’t mean to! I don’t go around just releasing—” she glanced sideways at me. “I have Sunny with me.”
Curiosity sparked by Freya’s weird conversation, I got up and peered into the Mini. In the depths of the gloom, I thought I saw something move there, like a flick of a lizard’s tail. I bent forward to get a better look, but Freya noticed and shooed me away before I could see it properly.
“I realise that!” she growled, “What can I do? The stupid creature’s blown up my engine and I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere. This wasn’t what I had planned!”
“Fine, fine, I’m coming!”
Freya snorted and hung up.
“You’ve got something in there,” I peered around her. “What is it?”
“None of your business.” Freya stepped in front of me.
“There’s something in there! It’s a lizard thing.” I narrowed my eyes, “You weren’t at Uni, were you?”
Freya squirmed. Then something small and brown shot from the engine and latched onto her hand. She squealed, then grabbed the creature and stuffed it into her jacket. But not before, I saw something which looked uncommonly like a tiny… dragon.
“What is that?”
Freya opened her mouth, shut it quickly, and then opened it again. “Its, uh, well. Yeah.” Her shoulders suddenly sagged. “No, I wasn’t at Uni.”
I frowned at this admission, “What were you doing then?”
Freya glanced around, then retrieved the little dragon from her pocket and held it out on her hand. “Hey, calm down, little fella,” She crooned to the dragon. “It’s okay, Benedict, Sunny won’t hurt you.”
“So, if you weren’t at Uni, what were you doing?”
Freya grinned sheepishly, then winced as Benedict bit her finger again. “I was studying fantastical creatures. That’s how I came across Benedict. He needed a mum, so I’m taking care of him.”
I peered down at Benedict, whose long tongue flicked out and licked his nose. He tilted his head and stared at me with his big eyes.
“He’s…cute.” I said finally. It should have surprised me that my sister had a dragon in her car, but it really didn’t. I’d always thought Freya might be related to a dragon. This simply proved my suspicion.
Freya smiled shyly, “You won’t tell Mum and Dad?”
I shook my head quickly, “No way! You’re suddenly a whole lot cooler than you were an hour ago.”
Freya blushed, “Thanks.” Then she rolled her eyes, “You’re only saying that because you want to hold him!”
I grinned back, “Nope, but…” I raised my eyebrows.
Benedict scampered onto my arm and Freya peered at her engine. “Well thanks a lot, for ruining my engine.” She muttered to him. “Hopefully, someone will get here soon and can take a look at this.” She blew hair out of her eyes. Then she turned to look at me and Benedict flapped back to her arm and crept into her jacket.
“I’m sorry about this, Sunny. I really hope we get out of here in time to catch Sherlock.” She said, actually sounding genuine
“Ah,” I waved my hand vaguely, “I don’t mind. I don’t even mind if I have to wait until it comes out on disc. This is the most fun I’ve had in ages!” I paused, “Thanks.”
Freya opened her mouth, probably to say something elegant and poetic, but she barked suddenly as Benedict emerged just long enough to bite her on the stomach.
“He’s—ow!—teething—ouch!”
I grinned, and then started to laugh. It was nice to laugh with my sister, laugh at my sister.
“Best day ever. You know, you’re okay.”

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7 thoughts on “The Dragon in the Mini: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. First, I love the Sherlock references! This is a really cute story and I enjoyed reading it. There’s just one thing I don’t understand: why does the main character have such a bad attitude about her sister? I know it’s flash fiction, but I feel this aspect needs more explanation. But it’s still a great story!

    Like

    1. Hey Amber, thanks for critiquing! I don’t have a particular reason why the main character dislikes Freya, I just noticed that a lot of sisters, in real life and in fiction (even in my own relationship with my little sister), don’t understand or care about their siblings as much as they really should and I wanted to break that stereotype. Anyway, I can work on that aspect. Thanks. 😀

      Like

  2. Chelsea,

    One, I noticed midway through that this is set in England, mainly due to the Sherlock reference, calling the hood the bonnet, and calling the mother “Mum”. I just thought you might want to know that.
    Two, you might want to just go through and proof read it several times before you submit it. There were some times you capitalized the dialog after you returned to it, like in this part, ““Fine,” I replied, “But we’ve gotta be back before eight…” The “But” should have been lowercase.
    “…rattling along the highway from our home. About ten minutes, she suddenly zipped onto a side road.” You should probably add an “After about ten minutes…” I had to re-read this sentence a bit.
    I don’t usually comment on grammar, but you asked for it, so I gave you a couple.
    Other than that, I really liked it. It is a really great flash story, for I didn’t really feel deprived when the story ended, but I felt like I was at just the right point when you ended it. It even has a happy ending, which is something I really like.
    Thanks for sharing it with us!

    ~Bethia

    Like

    1. Thanks for commenting Bethia!

      Actually, it’s set in Australia, which is where I live, but Sherlock is very popular in Australia and we use British spelling and words (like Mum, bonnet etc).

      Thanks for the grammar hints. Grammar is not my forte and I’m often unsure of where to put commas, periods and such. Thanks for pointing out the “After”, I hadn’t noticed that!

      I’m glad you enjoyed, 🙂

      Like

  3. Chelsea,
    Awesome story! So, here I go… I hope I didn’t go too detailed, haha…

    I definitely agree that the teenage sister should have more of a reason for her bad attitude toward her older sister.
    I suggest saying “older” or the age of the older sister, rather than “elder”, since elder doesn’t sound right.
    “to be grouchy and glared” should be “to be grouchy and glare”
    And “It’s kinda nice out here. I decided.” should have a comma, not a period.
    I love that you used similes for how the car sounded, but having two in a row seemed a little too much for me. Try another way of describing one of them, to have variety. 🙂
    “singing, off-key” shouldn’t have a comma after singing 🙂
    “Pop the bonnet,” I advised, –should have a period, not a comma, after advised, OR make the “Then…” that follows lower case
    “Meanwhile” is a word that should probably only be used in third person omniscient, not first person 🙂
    “she growled,” should have a period at the end, not a comma
    “Its, uh, well. Yeah.” — the “its” should be “it’s”
    “I frowned at this admission,” should have a period at the end, not a comma
    “She crooned at the dragon” should not be capitalized
    “He’s… cute.” I said finally. –should have a comma, not a period, after “cute”
    Freya smiled shyly, –should have a period, not a comma
    I shook my head quickly, — same ^
    Freya blushed, — same ^
    Then she rolled her eyes, — same ^
    I grinned back, — same ^
    I really hope we get out of here in time to catch Sherlock.” She said, actually sounding genuine — comma, not period, after “Sherlock,” also “She” should be lower case, and you just forgot the period after “genuine”
    “Ah,” I waved my hand vaguely, — periods should be in place of the commas
    I paused, — should have a period at the end, not a comma

    Okay, whew! I hope that’s not too overwhelming, but really, those are just tiny grammatical issues, the whole story is amazing! I love the ending sentence, so sweet. 🙂 Also I read a story about a tiny dragon in the modern world once, this sounds cool! 😀

    Like

    1. Thanks for your critique, I appreciate it so much!
      There was actually a brief explanation as to why they never really got on in the first draft (the little sister suffers from spoilt youngest child syndrome and the elder sister was the typical bossy type of sister.) but I had to remove quite a lot from the story in order for it to classify as flash fic.
      Thanks for all the little grammar points you’ve made, I’ll definitely make some changes, 🙂 those are the kind of edits I find difficult to make by myself.
      And I’m glad you enjoyed it, 🙂
      God bless

      Liked by 1 person

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