Kass skips home from church beside her big sister Helena, thinking about the piece she sang with the Kinderchor, “Die güldne Sonne,” and soaking in the light of the golden sun which reaches down between the tall brick buildings all the way to where Kass is. Kass lifts her face to the sun and sings, “Ein herzerquickendes, Liebliches Licht....”
“Hush!” Helena snaps. Helena seems to think that because she is twelve and Kass is only eight she gets to tell Kass what to do all the time. “Look where you’re going!”
Kass looks back at the buckled brick sidewalk in time to avoid a clump of horse manure. “You didn’t say hush when I sang with the Kinderchor this morning,” she points out. “It can’t be bad to sing Bach, or Frau Geist wouldn’t tell us to do it.”
“In church! Not on the street!”
“Pastor Baum says we have to be the same people in church and on the street. You shouldn’t contradict Pastor Baum.”
“Do you want to be like Großmutter Kassell?” Helena snaps.
Kass shuts her mouth. Of course she doesn’t want that. That’s what she’s afraid of when she wakes from nightmares, when the shadows swell up and whisper to her.
Helena smiles triumphantly. Papa being too poor to bury their grandmother, leaving her to mummify in the attic, was the best gift a big sister could hope for.
Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Khazar-khum
Not clear which girl sang with the Kinderchor. Normally I assume "she" refers to the most recently mentioned female. You could just leave out "beside her big sister Helena," as her presence is soon revealed.
I don't think you need " all the way to where Kass is." If she's soaking it in, it obviously reaches her.
Foreign words that aren't commonly used in English should be italicized, as you did with the song, but not with Kinderchor, or (later on) Großmutter.
As we're in Massachusetts and speaking English (mostly), you could go with children's choir (or just choir) and grandmother, if only to make things easier on your readers (assuming you expect to have readers who don't speak German).
The song title and lyrics make sense to be in German, but considering the ages of the girls, I'm wondering what age your audience is. If it's a children's book, you don't want kids finding all these foreign words in paragraph 1 and saying, "Screw this, I'll just reread Harry Potter." A conversation about something other than Bach's music could just as easily culminate with the line “Do you want to be like Großmutter Kassell?”
I tried to comment before but it didn't go through--trying again.
Author here: Thank you for this. I hadn't realized until I read your feedback that it wasn't clear who sang in the Kinderchor--now the problem is obvious; I'll fix that and take out the unnecessary bits of information. (Also change Helena snapping twice....)
I am still thinking on the foreign-language issue. I think this is a book for adults with a narrator who begins as a child and grows up considerably over the course of the book. The fact that several languages are spoken on the streets of Guerdon, and that most people don't understand all of them, becomes quite important later in the novel. (I'll send a query in as soon as I get it into shape.)
I'm just wondering what happened to Grobmutter Kassell that's so terrifying. And what that has to do with singing in the street. I assume you make that clear.
I guessed what kinderchor meant due to context and familiarity with both "kinder" and "choir." As long as the book is for adults this isn't a big deal. Most adults can make some assumptions like that.
I understood from the context what kinderchor meant. This was also helpful because I immediately said, "Oh, we're dealing with Germans here." Perhaps you could translate the lyrics of the song into English, however? And maybe only share them if they have actual significance in the story (for example, as foreshadowing).
I feel like there's a bit too much description: "golden sun," "tall brick buildings." All in one single, overly long sentence. This, together with the song title and lyrics in German in the next sentence, slows down the reading of the first paragraph and doesn't really capture us. These words could describe so many buildings and so many time periods, they don't really bring to life what is special about your setting and your time period.
I don't mean to be overly critical, your story sounds promising.
Ston3h3ng3, Großmutter Kassel is insane--one of the minor signs of that is a tendency to disregard the usual rules of etiquette; paranoia and a tendency to see frightening things that nobody else sees are more serious problems. Kass' family has some reason to suspect that she has the same problem. Kass herself has some reason to suspect that she has the same problem, but she;s not sure which of her disagreements with her sister stem from that and which ones have her on firmer ground. The next couple of pages make that clear, I think--I hope.
Anon, thanks for pointing out excessive detail. I tend to start with way too much and pull most of it out; plainly some more pulling is needed here.
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