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View Full Version : The Really Bad Pirate (Children's short story opening)



erusson
July 2nd, 2014, 02:25 PM
This is just the first 400 words of a story I've been meaning to write for a while. Hopefully you guys will be able to give me some constructive criticism :) Here goes:

Aboard the pirate ship was chaos. Captain "Bloodthirsty" Booth was sick from head-butting too many landlubbers, and the quartermaster (who normally gave the orders when the Captain didn't feel like it) had been thrown overboard the night before.
Booth had shut himself away to let the crew get on with it, but the crew quickly realised they didn't know how to get on with it without Booth telling them what to do.
One pirate, who was more sensible than the others, decided to take charge.
'We need to give everyone a job,' he told them. 'Who wants to navigate?' No one put their hand up. The sensible pirate faltered but carried on. 'Well, who wants to inspect the barrels?' Nothing again. 'What about steering?'
It went on like this until the sensible pirate asked who wanted to fire the cannons. At last he saw some hands. In fact, he saw everyone's hands and hooks go up.
'You can't all fire the cannons,' he said, and so he just gave out the jobs, ignoring the grumbles when people didn't get what they wanted. Eventually he looked at the cannons and thought, Who will look after them properly?
After all, they couldn't have them going off all day long just because the rest of the silly crew wanted to play.
He scanned the crowd for someone who didn't have a job yet, and his one good eye found a pirate who was trying to hide himself away, looking hard at the floor.
'Jim Lad,' the sensible pirate said calmly. 'How'd you like to look after the cannons?'
'Oh, no,' chorused the crew. 'Not Jim Lad!'
Jim Lad didn't have a hook for a hand or even a peg leg. He had never picked up a fallen penny, let alone found buried treasure. His parrot didn't talk - in fact, it had flown away in disgust after realising Jim Lad was so useless.
Right now, he was looking at the sensible pirate with the same horrified look as everyone else.
'M- m- me?' he asked weakly. 'Really?'
Manning the cannons was a tricky job. Usually the Master Gunner took care of it, but the Captain had chucked him overboard too. Jim Lad was sure he would be following him the minute he tried and failed to fire a cannon.
The sensible pirate had mistaken his nerves for surprise and delight. He came over and clapped Jim Lad on the back. Jim Lad winced - the sensible pirate had been less sensible that time, because he had forgotten to use his hand instead of his hook.

patskywriter
July 2nd, 2014, 05:12 PM
Um, I don't know. Some people say that starting a story in the middle is a good idea, but I don't know if that advice works for children's stories. I'm not sure if they have enough life experience to be able to drop into a story like we can. I'm no kid, but I started reading your story and wandered off after the first few sentences. Could you try giving the sense that you're starting from the "beginning"? Give it a go and see if that works.

By the way, what age group are you writing for? You want to make sure that your vocabulary matches the age range of your readership.

Courtbot
August 1st, 2014, 02:55 AM
I liked the story once you introduced the sensible pirate, but I agree that the beginning is a bit slow. I don't think starting in the middle is the problem, I think that the problem is that the ship doesn't feel chaotic. It might be better to say something along the lines of 'The pirate captain had just fallen overboard and the ship was about to sink' or something exciting like that to give weight to the situation.

ak2190
September 7th, 2014, 07:55 AM
The first sentence doesn't quite sit right with me. Perhaps rewording it to say "Chaos ruled aboard the pirate ship" will help. It sounds less passive that way. Also, sprinkle in a bit more chaos. Throw more people overboard, have a few fighting, add some more general disorder for the responsible pirate to settle down.

Jamboree
September 18th, 2014, 09:42 PM
My initial response to the first line was to think that a fight was taking place or the ship was sinking. The line pulls the reader straight into the story to find that the ship isn't in that much chaos at all but there is more disorder and problems.
I think that the sensible pirate needs a name. Referring to him as 'the sensible pirate' is rather vague and long winded having to read it each time. If you give him a name and mention then that he's a sensible pirate but refer to his name from then on would seem better in my opinion. Periodically you could confirm that the pirate is sensible but saying it so often slowly loses the effect of him being the only sensible pirate.
With Jim Lad I can imagine his personality very well. That area of description is excellent. But I don't imagine him as a pirate but more of a cabin boy or similar. Perhaps some physical details of his appearance would overcome this, even if he doesn't look like the typical pirate.
I do love a good pirate story though so I would like to hear more.
Shiver me timbers! (Couldn't resist it)

RedOblivion
September 20th, 2014, 11:48 PM
As someone stated, the line about chaos feels a bit forced. With this line, I feel expected to believe there's some kind of fighting or general nutcasery going on here. The following bit about the other pirates deciding who does what feels conflicting with this. Also, what age group are you aiming this towards? Some of the writing does feel good for an older audience, but there feels to be too much fluff and is a tad too wordy. Younger audiences I imagine prefer simple, to the point actions and words. Of course, I'm talking younger in the age gaps that watch Power Rangers, Dora, things like that. If that's not what you're going for, well, that's fine.

Jim Lad is written well. Already I have a feel for him as being a seemingly simpering fool, but it could change. The captain needs a bit more personality and life. So far I only know he enjoys throwing people overboard and he's sick from headbutting. Other than that, the usual cleanup of punctuation errors.

ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord
October 28th, 2014, 07:23 AM
By the way, what age group are you writing for? You want to make sure that your vocabulary matches the age range of your readership.
I actually think the vocabulary range you used was appropriate, especially if this story is aimed at kids over seven (at least in my experience, they are actually a lot smarter than people expect). The only problem is that the title is a little too oversimplified. Perhaps you could think of a more creative and ear-catching title.

thepancreas11
October 30th, 2014, 08:08 PM
I don't write young adult novels. I commend anyone that tries, even. You definitely have the voice down and I think a proper interesting tone.

My two additions would be to show and not tell, I.e. Actually describing the chaos rather than calling it chaotic and also spending a little more time on purpose? What should we take away here?

Ajoy
February 21st, 2015, 04:14 AM
Because this is for children, I think you may want to consider clarity. I don't think it is impossible to jump into the middle of the story, but you may want to make the characters more clear. There were a lot of characters introduced very quickly, causing a bit of confusion for me. I had to do a bit of rereading to get a sense of who everyone was.

When I reached the part about the Master Gunner being thrown overboard too I had to go back and reread the beginning to figure out who else had been thrown over. Even then, it wasn't fully clear to me that the captain had been the one to do the throwing.

I feel like the character POV is a bit unclear, making it hard to get a bearing as well. At first, it feels like we are following the captain, then the sensible pirate, then Jim Lad (it even goes into his feelings on the matter). This quick shifting is a bit jarring.

I teach 4th-6th graders, and I write many of the short stories they read/analyze. I find that they can make inferences, but need just the right amount of information to do it. Otherwise, they jump to some really odd conclusions, or give up on the piece entirely. It is sometimes amazing to me, the misunderstandings they can have in reading a piece that is not direct or clear enough.

I do think with some ironing out, the humor of the piece would go over very well for the age group.

MillennialWriter
February 22nd, 2015, 07:10 AM
For me, I understood the plot well, even if the pace is quite fast. Maybe children 10 years and above maybe able to understand it, but I am not sure of the much younger age group. They might have to reread the whole story to get it. The way I see it, if I am not mistaken, is that you wanted to keep it as short as possible because a young audience can get bored easily. This is totally understandable.

however, you may have to shorten some sentences because they come run-on. Kids might get lost in reading.

For example, "He scanned the crowd for someone who didn't have a job yet, and his one good eye found a pirate who was trying to hide himself away, looking hard at the floor." It can be revised as, "He scanned the crowd who did not have a job yet. Then his one good eye found a pirate who was trying to hide himself away. The young lad was looking hard at the floor."

Just My 2 cents. Cheers.

Warm Hands Cold Heart
April 3rd, 2015, 12:11 AM
I think you have a really great concept here. Kids love Pirates and parents and teachers love working together and cooperation, which is the direction this feels like it is heading. I am imagining this as being aimed at young children, probably as a read-aloud book. As a Pre-K teacher who reads a lot of books aloud, I had a few suggestions.

Make sure the wording is very clear, as a lot of people pointed out the first line is confusing. I would stumble over that reading it aloud the first time.
Give us more clear pictures, don't just say the pirate ship was chaotic, give me examples that are funny. If this book can be funny it will be a winner. Along the lines of being funny, funny names would be great. Kids would love that. Instead of calling him the sensible pirate, give me a funny name I can emphasize when I read it, like Sigmund the Sensible. More dialogue would really help too, kids love it when you do funny voices, I can' t do funny voices without dialogue.

Maybe you are not picturing this as book to be read aloud and I have misunderstood the age group you are going after, but I you are targeting 4-10 year olds those are my suggestions for now. Great Start.

Elvenswordsman
April 3rd, 2015, 01:30 AM
I'm sad this was a bumped post, as I thought it was brilliant! Reminded me of New Zealand.

passtheremote
June 12th, 2015, 11:11 PM
The story is good, however, I feel like a number of ones have said on here already, jumping into the middle of story, could well lose little kids, a bit back story on the captain throwing the people overboard, and head butting the landlubbers would be good.

Love the bit about jim lad, and getting the hook into his back

sirmirror
June 27th, 2015, 05:15 PM
Aboard the pirate ship was chaos.
This line needs a little rephrasing. Though it makes sense, considering it's a children's story proper straightforward usage is pretty important. You can consider getting rid of this line and starting off with 'Captain "Bloodthirsty" Booth...' as the next line is an even better start-off than this.

Captain "Bloodthirsty" Booth was sick from head-butting too many landlubbers, and the quartermaster (who normally gave the orders when the Captain didn't feel like it) had been thrown overboard the night before.
I felt the sentence was just a bit long. Also, why was the quartermaster thrown off? Try:
Captain "Bloodthirst Booth" was sick from head-butting too many landlubbers. He thought of the quartermaster as an old fool(fit in what description you want here-not too elaborate as I'm presuming the quartermaster is not a main character) and had thrown him overboard. Now, with the quartermaster gone, everyone was confused as he was the one who gave instructions when the captain didn't feel like it.

Booth had shut himself away to let the crew get on with it, but the crew quickly realised they didn't know how to get on with it without Booth telling them what to do.
Again, just a bit too long. Break it into 2 sentences.

Try some line breaks when direct speech appears:
'We need to give everyone a job,' he told them. 'Who wants to navigate?'
No one put their hand up.
The sensible pirate faltered but carried on. 'Well, who wants to inspect the barrels?'
Nothing again.
'What about steering?'

It went on like this until the sensible pirate asked who wanted to fire the cannons. At last he saw some hands. In fact, he saw everyone's hands and hooks go up.
'You can't all fire the cannons,' he said, and so he just gave out the jobs, ignoring the grumbles when people didn't get what they wanted.
Eventually, he looked at the cannons and thought, 'Who will look after them properly?'
After all, they couldn't have them going off all day long just because the rest of the silly crew wanted to play.
He scanned the crowd for someone who didn't have a job yet, and his one good eye found a pirate who was trying to hide himself away, looking hard at the floor.
^Too long a sentence.
'Jim Lad,' the sensible pirate said calmly. 'How'd you like to look after the cannons?'
'Oh, no,' chorused the crew. 'Not Jim Lad!'
Jim Lad didn't have a hook for a hand or even a peg leg. He had never picked up a fallen penny, let alone found buried treasure. His parrot didn't talk - in fact, it had flown away in disgust after realising Jim Lad was so useless.
Right now, he was looking at the sensible pirate with the same horrified look as everyone else.
'M- m- me?' he asked weakly. 'Really?'
Manning the cannons was a tricky job. Usually the Master Gunner took care of it, but Captain Booth had chucked him overboard too. Jim Lad was sure that he too would be sleeping with the fishes when he gave a shot at the cannons.(You can rephrase this in any other way, but the previous sentence was a bit unclear.)
The sensible pirate had mistaken his nerves for surprise and delight. He came over and clapped Jim Lad on the back. Jim Lad winced - the sensible pirate had been less sensible that time, because he had forgotten to use his hand instead of his hook.

But after all, it is your story and you can do anything with it. Just my opinion I shared! :)
And of course the pirate theme is pretty fun for children. The sensible pirate and Jim Lad seem to be some good characters in development.

Apex Predator
July 26th, 2015, 04:41 PM
Not bad :) Sounds like its got potential :)

Noelle
July 27th, 2017, 10:37 AM
I don't know what age the intended audience is, young I'd say, 4-7?
If the cover was of a pirate ship w/ pirates on it, you could write: Aboard a ship was chaos. (which is a cool line, in my opinion). And what if the captain was chaos (in name & temperament)?
I don't know, wouldn't the captain need to rely on the crews fear of him, and respect for him to not incite a mutiny? If he's got a headache from head butting crew members, and he's tossed his quartermaster overboard... I don't know. Why's this pirate sensible and not know the crew, that they're lazy, initiative, unmotivated. Their daily tasks would be heaving ropes, tighten, slacking, pushing that wheel - they'd have to know what they were doing. Jim Lads a little close to Treasure Island (risking comparison). Is he the bad pirate, the underdog who overcomes?
I taught in year six (10-11 yrs), and in an English class they were learning beginning, middle and end. I'd say they'd need that component/ structure