PDA

View Full Version : The Witch Queen of Willow Falls



erinranning
March 9th, 2014, 02:09 AM
The Witch Queen of Willow Falls - fantasy mystery


Hi guys! The following is the opening for a book entitled The Witch Queen of Willow Falls, which is in the final edit. I'm concerned that chapter two contains far too much dialogue-based info-dump. Maybe I'm wrong - it's not easy to be objective. Would you mind taking a look for me please? I'd appreciate any help from the POV of you guys who also write.

this is one of only 3 chapters where the MC is 9 years old. In the rest she is 17. This will be older YA genre. Since that genre stretches into the adult market too, I decided to post here.

EDIT: Please do let me know in a comment if you tried to read this and got bored or confused. Those comments wouldn't necessarily be negative, since they help to highlight / avoid major problems! Thanks so much!

Of course, happy to read / help / critique for anyone else if you just let me know! (If I'm not already involved in the discussion comments)

--------------------------------


- One -



Lizzie Benedict had just turned nine years old when the most magnificent nightmare she could ever dream came to life before her eyes.

She had no idea what form the creature would take tonight, and so she lay concealed under a table in the corner of the living room. Cinnamon laced the air that floated in from the kitchen and the fire spat out flits of orange light - a warm illusion that kept the autumn air outside - but she saw nothing. The heat did little more than smother her in lies that she might somehow be safe.

Through the snapping flames her ears pinned on a sound from the back of the room:

-Creak-

It’s moving, she thought. Her hands shook so viciously that she had to press them hard into the gentle depths of the carpet. It didn’t change anything, didn’t ease the fear. Something’s wrong. This isn’t how the game goes.

Then she saw it.

Silently, its long toes pressed one by one into the shag rug, creeping towards her with a horrible, relentless momentum. The eerie glaze of a wall lamp warped its shadow and its fingers curled up as it shifted along in the dark.

Just a few feet away from her hiding place now, it let out a snort, perhaps to let its little prey know it was there – to give the girl a chance and up the thrill of the chase, or perhaps to draw her out.

Lizzie tried to stay quiet, but the longer she held her breath the more it longed to howl from her mouth. The creature brandished a grin, sparkling in the low light, with beautiful skin in the rich black of onyx stone. What are you tonight? Lizzie thought. You’re not a ghost, or a goblin. This isn’t what you’re supposed to be at all. She found herself feeling suddenly deeply uncomfortable, wishing for the game to end.

Her lungs shrank and begged for air, until the creature finally passed into the kitchen on its hunt, sniffing and peering into corners and crevices, scratching. When she felt enough distance between them, she slipped out from under the table and crept across the carpet while the creature scuffed around on the tiles just the other side of the kitchen door.

Lizzie pressed her feet down, careful not to make a sound. Long moments passed and soon her heart began to tear at the walls of her ribcage, hammering around her torso, blood bolting around her tiny veins.

Her pulse beat its drum in her ears so loudly that she barely picked up the sound of a tap of wood against her elbow. It registered just after sending a thud reverberating around the house. She swallowed hard - she had knocked into the banister rail.

In a frenzy, the creature scrabbled and slipped on the kitchen tiles.

It’s coming!

Lizzie jolted and raced up the stairs with the bounding beast snatching at her ankles.

Her toes slipped against the cotton of her little socks as she scratched at everything to pull herself upwards and out of reach. Each desperate lurch forwards did little more than maintain the precious few inches she had to her advantage. All thoughts drowned in panic at the hiss the onyx beast behind her, until the top of the stairs finally appeared.

She darted into the safety of her bedroom and slammed the door, sinking straight into the depths of her yellow duvet and wrapping herself in with only eyeholes to reveal her to the world. Yet still she felt the creature coming.

She peaked out from between her sheets to find that the door had not closed, but rather had come to an abrupt stop millimetres early. A slow, whistling creak reopened it in her direction to reveal that beautiful, brutal onyx-black skin, shining in the glare of another wall light. First came the creature’s fingers, easing and stretching around the doorframe, teasing their black nails against the wood. Then came the face as the door opened fully. Lizzie watched the creature reappear in front of her, menacing, magnificent, blocking her only escape. It was over - She had been caught.

Never before had she seen the creature look that way, and yet now it stood transformed from its usual ugliness to the gleaming shadow it was tonight. Even though the game was over, in that moment a sickening feeling rooted itself deep into Lizzie’s abdomen – something she had no hope of explaining. It was a genuine fear for her safety, not for now, but for the future.

Then the creature produced its enchanting smile.



- Two -

A giggle slipped out from Lizzie’s lips: It was a smile she had no fear of, for she found herself face to face with her eldest sister, who could not resist the little girl’s infectious laugh. She wiggled her slim fingers, her skin and finger nails painted a crude black and the magic of pretence in her eyes as they shone down towards the excited lump of yellow duvet that was Lizzie.

Lizzie’s sister searched under the sheets and tickled her until she kicked her little legs in the air. Then she pulled the duvet back down and tapped the girl’s nose, sitting down on the bed.

“You look so pretty like that, Allie,” said Lizzie.

“I’m covered in black make-up, doofus.” Allison replied and laughed. “I look like a chimney sweep.”

“What was that creature tonight? It was the best one you’ve ever been.”

Allison grinned. “Oh, her. You wouldn’t want to know that, she’s nothing special.”

“Allie!” said the little girl, sitting bolt upright and letting the duvet fall around her waist.

Allison burst out laughing. “You love these stories too much. You’re an addict.”

“What’s an addict? And who was she, the creature? Tell me!”

“She’s the reason that little girls like you aren’t allowed to leave Willow Falls. The reason none of us are. She’s the ruler of everything magical in the forest outside the town, both good and evil, and you better hope you never meet her. Her name is the Witch Queen.”

“What’s she like?” asked the little girl beaming up, eyes wide. “Tell me about the creatures in the forest.”

“We’ve already played that game.” The beautiful grin spread back across Allison’s face. “Now go to sleep. And dream about fairies or something, not monsters. I’ll tell you the rest another night.”

“I can’t sleep now! I need to know.” Lizzie leaned forward and placed her hands on her sister’s knee, eyes flared on a (chemistry, word that means highly reactive) mixture of intrigue and desperation.

Allison laughed and shook her head. “It doesn’t matter whether I make it up now or tomorrow, it still won’t be true.”

“Please tell me,” Lizzie said.

Allison made a mock huff. “Oh, ok.” She smiled. “Where did we get up to last time?”

“You said there are all sorts of creatures out there!” said Lizzie, pulling her face into a grimace and then giggling. “Animals with beautiful black fur like the Witch Queen’s skin and terrible magic! You need to tell me everything so they don’t come and get me.” She said, eyes wide.

“Emotional blackmail? You’re perfectly safe in here, midget, don’t worry. Nothing can climb over the town’s fence. But you should never go outside it for any reason.”

“Yes!” said Lizzie, irises gleaming. “But what about the Shades? The other creatures, who can fly! Terrible enemies of the Witch Queen and her creatures. Why don’t they fly over the fences and come in?”

“Because it’s a story, dipstick. If there really were creatures that could fly of course they would come over. So they can’t be real, can they?” Allison started to tickle her again. “And Shades are not terrible creatures in the story, not like the witch and her monsters.” She smiled and wiggled her fingers again. “They are ugly though!”

Lizzie pulled her face in return and laughed. “Tell me where they came from.”

“Where what came from? The monsters that aren’t real? You’re such a silly billy.”

“Yes, but I have to know.”

“Nobody knows where they came from, not even them. Maybe they used to be people, like us. They sometimes even pretend to look like us to trick us into leaving the town. That’s why we never go outside.”

“So how do we know they aren’t already inside with us?”

“Because nothing can cross the fence. It’s magic.” Allison beamed down again with a little smile.

“What’s so special about her, Allie, the Witch Queen?”

Allison looked out of the window for a moment, across the canopy of woodland that lead to the outer fence of the town, at the cast of white moonlight on the forest that spanned the horizon far in the distance. Her head quickly span back and her gaze fixed on her little sister’s eyes with a new energy. “Out there,” she said. “In the forest outside of Willow Falls. She comes to the centre of a large clearing right at the beginning of winter, with a collection of her dark sentries that mark the perimeter, protecting her. Those guards take the form of people, but they can also become awful creatures with their black fur, slick like tar.”

Lizzie leaned in as far as she could from her sitting position. “What does she look like, the Queen?” she said, barely breathing.

“She wears a long, silken dress, brown like the autumn and black like the night. Her skin is made of black crystal.” Allison furrowed her eyebrows and thought for a moment. “And over her hair she wears a headdress made of charred wood and spider webs, just like the staff that she carries in her right hand. Around her neck is a necklace of autumn leaves, all different colours.”

“Is she ugly, Allie? All bad creatures are ugly, right?”

“No! Not at all. She’s the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen, with shining silver eyes. That’s how she gets you: with her beauty and her magic. That’s why you can never go out there.”

“What does she do in the forest? In the clearing? Why does she go there?”

“She only goes at the very beginning of winter, on Halloween night, and collects all of her guards together, ordering them to hunt the Shades, her demon enemies with wine-red eyes and grey skin. And wings.”

The door of the bedroom opened in that moment and light poured in from the hallway.

“Allie, what are you doing in here? She’s supposed to be asleep,” said the shape in the doorway.

“Sorry. I’m going now, Mum.”

“What are you talking about?” said their mother, eyes narrowing a little.

“Nothing.”

Lizzie bolted up on her bed. “Monsters, mum. Allie was telling me about the Witch Queen who lives in the forest outside the town and why I can’t go out.”

Her mother’s eyes darted towards the older girl. “Allison, stop it. She’s barely nine years old. What does she need horror stories for? She needs to sleep.”

“Come on mum. It’s not scary, it’s magic.” She wiggled her fingers again and smiled at her little sister. “She knows it’s not true.”

“Go to bed Allison,” said their mother. She turned to Lizzie and began edging up to the bed. “Look, I know it’s not easy to think that there’s a whole world out there.” Their eyes locked. “I know it seems so boring being stuck in Willow Falls too, but there’s nothing more exciting outside. It’s just dangerous for someone as young as you, ok? Forests have wild animals in them. But we would never let them in here so forget about all these little stories and go to sleep, ok?”

“I don’t think I can sleep, mummy. My head hurts.”

Her mother’s face became tense all of a sudden. “Lizzie, show me your wrist.” She began to hunt under the bed covers, but Lizzie revealed her arm of her own accord. “You’re getting a migraine. Where’s your bracelet?” said her mother.

Lizzie scrunched up her face and huffed. “It broke. I’m sorry.”

Her mother’s face eased a little. “Where is it?”

Lizzie shifted up onto her knees and opened her bedside draw, searching out the broken jewellery and holding it out. It was a fairly plain little charm, made from coloured leather and little creamy-blue crystals banded together, with a magnetic clasp.

“Here,” said her mother, taking it from her and fashioning a make-shift knot.

“I’ll make another one for you, but in the meantime you must always wear it.” She slipped the charm around her daughter’s wrist and snapped the magnets together. “It’s the only thing that works for your headaches.”

Lizzie pulled her face in protest.

Their eyes met and searched each other for a moment. “Don’t you like it?” said her mother.

Lizzie noticed the concern in her mother and hesitated before speaking. “Yes. I do…” she said finally, looking away. Guilt spread through her little bones.

“I see,” said her mother. “Just keep the next one safe, ok? Unless you want to get sick again.”

“Why do I have to get migrades? No one else does.”

“They called migraines, sweetheart. But it isn’t anything serious. They’re a bit annoying, that’s all. Keep the bracelet on and you hardly get any. The magnets sort everything out, see? It’s easy.”

Lizzie huffed. She turned her head towards the window and stared out, exchanging a glance with the moon, which leaned in through the window and bathed her in its crystal glow. Soon her mother came to sit beside her on the bed.

“You know, these bracelets have a special magic all of their own.”

Lizzie swung around and peered at her mother “What?” she asked. “What does it do?”

Her mother smiled. “It protects you from bad things. Like the witch in the story. It would take away all her powers if she ever came near you.”

Lizzie’s mouth opened wide. “Why do I need to be protected from the Witch Queen mummy? Am I a Shade?”

The smile fell away from her mother’s face. “I wish you were sweetheart, I really do. In the story, the Shades can heal themselves. If you were one, you wouldn’t need a magic bracelet to make you better, would you? You’re sick Lizzie, and the same magic that protects you from bad things like the witch also makes you feel better.”

Lizzie looked up at her mother from her mound of yellow duvet and wondered whether to ask the question that was bouncing around her mind. She had to – it was far too exciting not to know. “Mummy? Will I ever be able to go outside Willow Falls, to see the Shades and the Witch Queen?”

Her mother’s face dropped again. “Maybe we shouldn’t play scary games before bedtime anymore,” she said and clicked off the main light, leaving a bedside lamp glowing.

“They don’t scare me. I want to meet them.”

Her mother stood for a few seconds, watching her daughter. “The rule still stands,” she said. “You don’t take a single step outside Willow Falls. Ever.”

A_Jones
March 14th, 2014, 04:01 PM
Ok, I am going to try and come back to this, but at the moment my eyes are tripping over your words. It would be fine if I just couldn't read your work, I would say so, but I am actually interested in your subject matter. I WANT to know what happens, but its just hard for me to get through it. Words should flow, and sometimes, every now and then, a word should startle your reader. You seem to have several startling words in one sentence rather than a flowing one. Think about it this way. Read your work out loud. If you run out of breath before the sentence is over, you need to put in a break. If your tongue trips over the words, you need to make if flow better.

"Silently, its long toes pressed one by one into the shag rug, creeping towards her with a horrible, relentless momentum."

this sentence has no subject matter. You need to fix that or take it out. The word 'its' is currently your subject matter which is fine, but if you are going to do that you need to change the visual of the word. Since your current visual is italics you need to de-italics it.

And then immediately afterword:

"The eerie glaze of a wall lamp warped its shadow and its fingers curled up as it shifted along in the dark."
You changed your tense from present to past. look out for that.

I personally think you should go back with my comments in mind and make some changes so that this is easier to read. I will try to read it again later. I do want to know what is going to happen. This is my kind of thrilling story.

A_Jones
March 14th, 2014, 04:03 PM
Ok, I am going to try and come back to this, but at the moment my eyes are tripping over your words. It would be fine if I just couldn't read your work, I would say so, but I am actually interested in your subject matter. I WANT to know what happens, but its just hard for me to get through it. Words should flow, and sometimes, every now and then, a word should startle your reader. You seem to have several startling words in one sentence rather than a flowing one. Think about it this way. Read your work out loud. If you run out of breath before the sentence is over, you need to put in a break. If your tongue trips over the words, you need to make if flow better.

"Silently, its long toes pressed one by one into the shag rug, creeping towards her with a horrible, relentless momentum."

this sentence has no subject matter. You need to fix that or take it out. The word 'its' is currently your subject matter which is fine, but if you are going to do that you need to change the visual of the word. Since your current visual is italics you need to de-italics it. I dont know really, I just feel like it is a little hard to understand.

I like the darkness, the feeling of terror creeping. I want to know a little bit more what lizzie is feeling. I love dark fantasy. The slight horrific feel. I will continue to chapter two later.

erinranning
March 14th, 2014, 06:59 PM
Hi!

Interesting. That's the first time I've heard that it's hard to read.

I don't think the majority of it is particularly startling. Suspenseful on the other hand - I hope so. The sentence you mention has since been edited to the following:

Silently, its long toes pressed one by one into the shag rug, creeping towards her.

The reason for this is that creeping already implies slowness and the words relentless and momentum weren't worth the word count.

I agree about the italics, but for some reason it doesn't let me take the off, even though it's possible with bold and underline. I can't answer that one. It's a shame you find it so difficult to read - other questions and issues have been raised on the other discussion board (fantasy/sci-fi) but never that one. On the contrary people hav asked for unnecessary adjectives to be cut etc to intensify the prose.

A_Jones
March 14th, 2014, 07:05 PM
Maybe thats my issue the unnecessary adjectives. Im just not sure about that one sentence. Maybe change its to the creature?

erinranning
March 14th, 2014, 07:12 PM
Yes, it needs another edit to cut the fat out, especially in scene two. I've been fairly verbose it seems. I've considered the change from "its" to "the creature's" in the following sentence, where the subject needs to be clarified so people don't think it's a shadow from the lamp shade or something. I'll look into both the possibilities. Thanks for taking the time!

A_Jones
March 14th, 2014, 07:45 PM
I do like it. I will read the second part soon.

charlierogue
June 17th, 2014, 06:14 PM
I tend to agree with A_Jones. The material seemed very interesting and I couldn't wait to find our what happened next. Unfortunately, I stumbled over some words. The sentences seemed to be a little complex and dense, when they didn't need to be.

"She darted into the safety of her bedroom and slammed the door, sinking straight into the depths of her yellow duvet and wrapping herself in with only eyeholes to reveal her to the world."

Ireally like the way this sentence captures the moment. But I think making it less dense would help the reader stick with it. Shorter, less complex sentences always seem to make it easier to read, for me at least.

All in all it was good. Thanks!

Peeety1241
September 28th, 2014, 01:06 PM
I really liked this story. Chapter 1 has a great flow. I didn't find I was tripping over sentences at all! But rather the sentences stopped being a line of words and painted an exciting picture. I feel chapter two is definitely an anti climax. After such a fast paced first chapter where you are nearly tearing the words off the page to see what happens next, chapter two suddenly feels like school, where the suspense is completely eliminated and there is a lot of information for you to process. I felt like I got through the first chapter in two seconds flat it was that exciting but I gave up on the second chapter about halfway through. It's a great story however and I would love to read more I just think the pace in the first and second chapter are polar opposites. I hope this helps.

Firemajic
September 29th, 2014, 01:06 PM
I really am enthralled and intrigued. This has a complex story line that hooked me. For instance--what is the REAL need for the bracelet, why is she never supposed to leave Willow Falls, is there a hidden message in the stories her older sister is telling her, and what is the cause of the subtle tension between mother and older daughter, and what are they trying to protect the child from...Now there was a few things that tripped me up[very small things], but A_Jones has already discussed them with you. I have not read chapter 2 yet, but am looking forward to reading this later. This was a pleasure to read, and captured me from the delightful first line....Peace...Jul