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Thread: MG books that start with moving into an old house

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  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    MG books that start with moving into an old house

    I've written a MG fantasy whose opening chapter (based on the comments I got about it in the SYW section) needs a lot of work - particularly in including some tension.

    The MC (an 11-year-old girl) and her family are moving from America to England, because a distant relative left them an old house in a small town in an out-of-the-way part of England on the condition that they lived in it, which her parents agreed to (for various reasons). In the chapter, they arrive at the house, and meet the late relative's family solicitor, a stern fellow with a prosthetic right hand (he refuses to talk about how he lost it - let's just say that he has a secret past, along with a slight Scandinavian accent, and isn't fond of canids) who's there to greet them and deliver some advice about the place - and also notice one or two peculiar features about it (such as a family portrait dating back to around the time of the English Civil War of a girl who bears a strong resemblance to the MC).

    The reviewers pointed out that there wasn't enough tension or conflict in the chapter, which was a good point; the conflict doesn't (at present) get under way until the second chapter, when the MC, while exploring the woods nearby, inadvertently frees a Bogle (a mischievous shape-shifting trickster) who was imprisoned beneath a large stone; the book revolves around her goal of recapturing it (with the additional complication that the family solicitor is also after the Bogle - but his plans on what to do with it when he catches it strike the MC as too harsh, so that she's now seeking to catch the Bogle before he can). At the same time, the first chapter provided many important pieces of information (such as the family portrait, which is linked to the Bogle's past and how it responds to the MC), so I couldn't just cut it and start with the second chapter.

    So I've decided to start looking through MG books (preferably in the fantasy genre) which open with the MCs moving into an old house with a strange atmosphere, and see how they handled tension in the opening chapter. So far, I've looked through "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen" by Alan Garner (technically, the farmhouse where the MCs are staying isn't that weird, but it's in a countryside with a spooky atmosphere, as one of them notes in the first chapter), "Over Sea Under Stone" by Susan Cooper, and "The Spiderwick Chronicles". But I'd like a few more (preferably recent ones - "The Weirdstone of Brisingamen" was first published in 1960, for example), please. Does anyone have any recommendations?

    P.S. The MC's response to the move - she actually likes it, feels more at home in the old house in England than in their former home in the States, though she's unable to figure out why that is. (She is a bit surprised at the resemblance of the 17th century several-times-great-aunt to herself, but puts it down to mere family resemblance; a Sherlock Holmes buff, she compares it to "The Hound of the Baskervilles", where a resemblance between a family portrait dating to the 1600's and a "present-day" descendant was important to the story, if with some reservations - both characters in "Hound" were thoroughly villainous sorts.)
    Last edited by t0dd; 05-19-2019 at 04:43 AM.

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