View Full Version : The Witch Queen of Willow Falls - fantasy mystery

March 9th, 2014, 10:06 AM
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:


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.


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.”

Apple Ice
March 9th, 2014, 12:02 PM
Double Post

Apple Ice
March 9th, 2014, 12:29 PM
My post didn't seem to appear properly so I'll post it again.

Hello Erin.

I have to say you set up so much in this piece and it really feels like a beginning to an epic fantasy story. All fantasy stories need information dumps at some point but you've done well to get a lot of it out of the way early in an engaging and concise manner. I can see this world coming vibrantly to life as you progress through the story. There are a few things I wasn't sure about:

When you say her lungs scream for air I thought she actually screamed and was confused when the creature didn't attack her but realised you meant her lungs desperately needed air. Perhaps change the word scream.

When she's running up the stairs you say "snapping at her tail, snatching at her heels. " I think just using the final part of the sentence is better. I was under the impression she actually had a tail at one point, seeing as it's fantasy. Also, they both mean the same thing, so one of them will do.
I think this chapter goes on too long. You could end the chapter at the end of the chase scene, not letting the reader know it's her sister, that way they have been hooked and read the next chapter to see what happens. Then you can have the conversational info dump chapter which is required.

All in all though a vibrant, rich beginning and I think you could do well with this. Will be interested in reading more if you post more up.

Also, as a side-note, I like to try and predict what is going to happen later on. I'm guessing Allie dies at some point and this inspires Lizzie?

March 9th, 2014, 08:44 PM
Hi Mr Apple Ice! Could that be your real name? Or do you have another?

I'm glad you think it works! It was just that the more I ran with it, the more the little girl just seemed to ask more questions. I guess that's how little girls are though, and I do try to let characters come out on the page how I think they would behave if they were real.

Both of the word choices you bring up were possible jarring points from my POV so I'm glad you mention it. I don't want the reader stopping to consider word choices and losing the flow of the story. Thanks!

Where would you split the chapters? It's a great idea that hadn't come to mind! I think after the following stand-alone line:

Then the creature produced its enchanting smile.

I'd probably change the word enchanting to something more sinister to maintain the suspense through to the next chapter. The other choice was 2 paragraphs earlier, after it says the game was over and she'd been caught.

Once again, I'm glad it worked for you. In payback for your help: Yes, poor Allie will bite the dust as a direct result of lizzie's venturing outside of the town, eight years later. This is about 10-15% of the way in and serves to inject a lot of mystery and a lot of drive in Lizzie to protagonise the story forward. The opening sequence was originally the mother playing the game with Lizzie and I changed it to enhance the lead-up to Allie's demise. So, how did you know?

Apple Ice
March 9th, 2014, 09:08 PM
Haha, yes, I was christened Apple and just happened to have a funky last name, fortunate, aye?

Yes, she comes across as a perfectly realistic 8 year old girl in story and her inquisitiveness helps that. Ah, yes that's a good line to end it on. I was thinking earlier you may need to re-write it a bit for a natural split (rhyming critique there, ha) but the line you suggest works fine. Yes, perhaps but it is her sister in the end so if Allie does have an enchanting smile it's best to keep it. You do mention the creature is beautiful so the smile can be enchanting as well. But yeah, either of the cut off point you've suggested would work.
Ah right, I thought something like that might happen. Because Allie was the one who warned her it seemed fitting she should be the one to pay for Lizzie's dismissive actions. Also, it seems to be an occurring theme in fantasy novels in particular that the wise and loving sibling/friend/relative should die. This may be something to consider if you want to make sure it's less predictable. Although I am a 20 year old and so I'm just outside of your target audience and I'm always guessing anyway so it may not be a problem. Don't want you to panic at all, it could have just been a lucky guess on my part.

March 9th, 2014, 10:08 PM
Well done! I don't have a massive problem with including a fairly well-trodden trope in there, since this is my first novel and I want teens to identify me with the genre, although predictability is always a bad sign. My creatures use their own, slightly different take on mythology such as the witch being made of onyx and crystal etc. Above all, the story's about little more than a girl who's life is subject to rules and can't help but break them - let's face it, that isn't an original concept in the least. I'm just aiming for a well told bit of fun if i can pull that off! But we'll see what the editor says and it can always be changed after that.

I'm thinking that leaving it as a trope isn't the worst offence, primarily because it doesn't come as the major plot event / gearshift at the end of act one (it only comes in at about 10% through). The gearshift that drives act 2 is much more fun than that ;). Losing Allie is an event designed mostly to drive the sympath-o-meter in Lizzie's direction and develop slowly into the emotion that drives her as a protagonist to take the bait of the plot event at the end of act one.

When I said "a more sinister word" in place of "enchanting" I was only looking for a shift in connotation, something ambiguous. "Bewitching" comes to mind an would maintain the image of the bad character up to the beginning of chapter two when I made the decision to change perspective. I don't like it as a vocab choice - I would need another option - but you get where I'm going with it.

Thanks for all your help, Apple.

Are you related to Steve Jobs by chance?

Apple Ice
March 9th, 2014, 11:21 PM
Exactly, it's not the end of your world. As long as you pull it off well it will be fine and from what I've seen you're more than capable. It's alright, happy to help. Let me know if you want me to have a look at more of the story.

If I was I don't think I would be trying to get rich through writing. Maybe I will look in to my family tree, what a stroke of luck that would be if I was.

March 10th, 2014, 04:41 AM
Hey Erin,

I just read through it and have a few concerns. The beginning was pretty strong and suspenseful, but once they started talking either I am confused or you have some continuity errors.

Allison grinned. “Oh, her. You wouldn’t want to know that, she’s nothing special.” was said toward the beginning of the conversation. Later Lizzie asks
“What’s so special about her, Allie, the Witch Queen?” Perhaps you meant for Allison to be sarcastic or just being playful but I'm not sure a 9 year old would pick up on that and since I can't hear her tone I wasn't sure either.

This line confused me:

Lizzie leaned in as far as she could from her sitting position. “What does she look like, the Queen?” she said, barely breathing. Wasn't her sister already dressed as the Witch Queen so she would already know what she looks like, or did I miss read something?

Also came across a couple word choice issues:
Dipstick doesn't come off as a playful insult between sisters, it just sounds mean. Maybe dummy instead? Or reuse dork?

Allison laughed out loud. just sounds odd to me. Feels like a text message. Allison burst out laughing. Would probably be less jarring in this lol world.

As just general notes I would suggest less descriptors on your conversations. It seems like every line someone is looking somewhere or doing something which interrupts the flow of what is being said. I would also reduce the number of times she is warned not to go into the woods. I am sure you were just trying to make a point but point was made and they were still talking about it. It also makes it really obvious that she is going to go to the woods and something bad will happen because she didn't listen. (Which is apparently the death of her sister from what you said in other posts)

Sorry if I sounded overly nitpicky, wasn't trying to be. Hope it was helpful at least, and good luck :)

March 10th, 2014, 12:31 PM
Hi Zeynith! Thank you for coming into the dicussion and letting me know your thoughts on it all!

I'm glad the first part was a success for you. As for the second, I have my own reservations about it as seen in the description and the comments above. No opinion is too nitpicky for me, really, but dealing with the big issues is paramount. I'm a big believer that neither any of us, nor anything we create is ever really perfect, so the more we tighten up the details, the more of a positive effect it shines onto any remaining imperfections.

My POV was this: we've already seen Allison's representation of the witch through the eyes of Lizzie and we know she describes it through close first person as a "magnificent nightmare" / "beautiful". We also know how imposing and terrifying it was for her to come face-to-face with it and how much she appears to love the dress-up game. I was thinking that would make the case that Allison's reaction ("she's not that special") was a clear case of teasing. We can see how much Lizzie loves all this stuff (i hope) and Allie knows it. I also wanted to get across the impression that, although Allie plays around, she loves telling the stories to see Lizzie's reaction and the teasing serves the same purpose. It's supposed to be an ideal symbiotic relationship that bonds the two sisters more closely than with the others.

I'm not sure how to better communicate the message that Allie's just teasing her. If you have any ideas, let me know. Of course, without the cardinal sin of: "Oh, her. She's nothing special," Allie teased. That, to me, would mean I'd had to resort to a sledgehammer to get my point across and would make me a very poor writer.

I take all your points - they're important questions, especially the connotations of little word choices such as "dipstick" and how harsh it could mean to different readers! All of that affects their relationship, but they are sisters after all and Allie's already overly sympathetic as sisters go, in my opinion. I think she needs an injection of impatience in a later scene tbh (maybe when Lizzie becomes a teen and loses her childlike charm), to make her more genuine as a character.

As for the question of knowing what the witch queen would look like, there is a major issue with that. The idea is that the character is played by Allie, dressed (as mentioned) in crude black make-up. She clearly doesn't have the resources to fully dress as the witch, complete with onyx crystal skin, an "autumn brown" silk dress and a headdress made of charred wood and spiderweb, and so the opening chase is highly dependent on stepping into Lizzie's magical imagination through the close first-person POV. The major issue to me is: How did Lizzie know to imagine her as having the skin of onyx stone during the chase, when Allie hadn't yet described her. The plotting explains this later, but not for another 350 pages or so.

Thank you so much for your remarks on the descriptors and warnings I'll make some changes there. I haven't yet added all five senses to this scene completely or fully set the stage with all the key sensory focus points. The fire is one, but the kitchen smells can be expanded and more sound and touch needs to come in to really ground the reader and root him/her in. Maybe some of this sensory input can be used to replace all the little movements. I know I'm particularly bad for putting in too much eye movement/contact reference, which becomes repetitive!

I'll reduce the number of warnings, but I make no attempt to hide the fact that she's going to venture out past that gate any chance she gets. it's in her character from the outset and she talks about it repeatedly for the first 10% of the book. I may just make Allie disappear out in the woods, rather than die. I don't know if that will ease me down the trope-scale a little, but it will put a time-scale on Lizzie to find out what's going on.

Thanks Zeynith! You're input has been invaluable and I appreciate it so much!

March 10th, 2014, 02:21 PM
Hey again. Glad it was somewhat helpful. I agree with you about never achieving perfection, I am working on my own book and no matter what when I read it I can always find something to tweak.

I was pretty sure Allie was teasing her just not 100% (and admittedly was pretty tired when I read it) but I really don't think using the word is bad writing. It tells you a lot about the demeanor of the person speaking and gives a very clear image of the exchange.

As a girl with a younger sister I still believe dipstick is too harsh. My sister and I make fun of each other all the time, but neither of us has ever called the other a dipstick. End point. I promise I will not bring it up again.

I think the issue I was having with her being dressed up as the queen and Lizzie not knowing what she looked like was that she had imagined it so clearly before that I thought Allie's costume was a lot better then it actually was. Maybe if you just went into more detail explaining what she was actually wearing it would clear a lot of that up.

I agree you should not remove all the warnings. It is an important plot point otherwise the reader will have no reason to think it is actually dangerous since all the threats listed so far were made up by her sister, though it sounds like they might be entirely fictional either. If you decide to have Allie disappear instead of die you might still want to give the impression she was killed, unless searching for her becomes one of the main character's goals. Sounds like that would require a massive rewrite thought if you have already written over 350 pages :P

March 10th, 2014, 06:28 PM
just out of interest (if you don't mind me asking of course!), are you in the target readership (13-17)? You sound like you're older than that.

I'm just thinking it might be worth a 2/3 day rewrite (after 16 months so far) to soften the trope and up the tension by putting Lizzie against the clock to find her sister. Her mum disappears in scene three, so I thought it might be interesting to have the rest of her family disappear one by one. It might be worth considering :S

I push a few points and clear up those details we discussed. Thank you so much for your help!

March 13th, 2014, 03:50 PM
Great hook. If I'm guessing right by the characters here, you're going for Young Adult Fantasy, right? Well, then that first bit is perfect. I mean, it's all about action. Action, action, we want action (can't believe I just quoted a cheer from my high school, but I guess it's pertinent, isn't it?). Once you clean up some of that prose, that first section should be eye-gluing. I'm thrilled that a new writer like you could come up with such a good plot-line too. Happy to see some creativity from the WF younglings (of which, I am one, really).

However, you've gussied this up a bit too much. You're writing from the perspective of some children, but you're throwing around words like onyx and duvet. It just doesn't fit with the voice you're building. Then you use words that aren't quite in the right place. How exactly do you brandish a smile? I've never seen anyone do that before. Be very careful what verbs you use. It's not about how complicated you can make the verbiage, it's about how well you can convey a voice and tell a story.

I'd like to see you revise the prose so that the story comes out better.

March 13th, 2014, 08:01 PM
Hi! Thank you very much for taking the time to read and comment!

I'd just like to ask something if I may:

What are you refering to when you say I need to clean up the prose? Are there any examples? Do you mean grammatically or are you refering only to word choice?

My take is this:

When I wrote "brandished a grin" I chose the word deliberately in an attempt to invoke a feeling that perhaps there was something inherently dangerous contained within the creature's smile, as though it were a weapon, used to charm and lure in victims, or a direct mirroring of its wicked intentions.

The word wasn't chosen because it's flashy, but rather exactly because, as you mention, it wouldn't normally be used with something as typically innocent as a smile. A similar argument could be made for a "gleaming shadow" which, while if taken literally wouldn't make sense, is refering not to a shadow but a very dark variety of crystal.

Then again, it's not always easy to pull off such risky images and I guess in this case it didn't work, but that was the idea.

On the subject of such words as "onyx", Allie is 16 here. I could make that clearer. I could also include (yet another) question from Lizzie about the meaning of it and Allie could say she read it in the story book (which appears later, since it's a recognised legend in the Willow Falls world). That would all work if I took the word out from chapter one where everything comes solely through Lizzie's eyes.

All that argued for, I'm very glad that you found the opening intriguing. Thank you! :)

March 13th, 2014, 08:23 PM
When I say clean up the prose, I'm talking word choice (or occasionally sentence choice). I advise reading your prose out loud because there are some parts that I'm sure you'll find aren't quite the way you meant them to be. That's what I do whenever I write.

See, I don't like "gleaming shadow" either. There's being ironic, and then there's being kitschy. I'm all for the metaphor, trust me, I over use them, but these aren't conveying emotions. They're not evoking anything. Brandishing a smile would mean something close to attacking her with it, if you were going to use the phrase. Gleaming shadow...well, that just doesn't make any sense. Things like onyx...still not sure that belongs here. If you were describing someone's quantum armor or there countertops, I'd agree, but it just doesn't belong in a story passing from one person to another, especially when they're both young. Stuff like that sounds forced, like you're trying to make your story read more intellectually. Plus, I'm not a fan of putting a qualifier on the color black. It's the one color that just is. There are not really different shades of black. Onyx black is pitch black is dark black is light black. White might also be in that category.

I really do find this to be exciting, but consider that there are alternatives to using big vocabulary. I find the most intelligent stories are often the ones that can use the simplest words to tell the most complex stories, or the ones that use big words without making them stick out like this.

March 13th, 2014, 09:03 PM
I agree that "brandished a grin" is a risky metaphor, but I thought "brandish" related more closely to being poised to use a weapon than attacking with it. It's still a stretch in that smiles are not weapons and if I've failed to carry over some of the more menacing characteristics of a weapon then it doesn't work. After all, a charming smile is at best an enticement to lure victims, never the danger itself so perhaps the metaphor is inappropriate.

As for a "gleaming shadow": it doesn't seem to be the metaphor that's causing the problem from your POV. If I'm right in stating that, I'd agree. A witch in the dark could easily take on the characteristics of a shadow. It seems to be the oxymoron, but if she's made of crystal and carries some of the menacing characteristics of a shadow I still don't see why it wouldn't work, but I'm de-sensitised to all of the language use in this story.

I disagree on variants of black. I'm not refering to the shade or even the colour, but rather the reflective quality when I say onyx. pitch black's lack of light would surely make it matte. I added them together to make sure any teen readers not familiar with the stone would get it. All of this seems to strike you as pretentious if I'm reading correctly so if there are any other types of stone that you know of that would also suit and yet are more accessible as teen vocab, please let me know!

And, of course, I'll look into changing those wordings. It's better not to take the risk, even if it does work for some readers, which I'm not even sure of. If it comes across as jarring or pretentious then I'll take it out. It might be as easy as changing "gleaming shadow" into "gleaming amongst the shadows".

March 15th, 2014, 02:02 PM
There is a part where you say that the character's eyes are flaring up and immediately explain the word choice in parentheses. If you have to explain a description then it's not the right description.

Also, I would expect a nine-year-old sufferer of migraines to be capable of pronouncing the word. My four year old can and she uses it sarcastically. (She'll put her hand to her head and say, quite clearly, "you're giving me a migraine"). I have known some sick kids in my day and, without fail, by the time they're six or seven they can pronounce their illnesses and explain them to others--though often in a way that's more simple.

That said other than the chapter break suggested earlier I found the writing taut, exciting, and interesting.

March 15th, 2014, 03:58 PM
Thanks for the heads-up on kids in that kind of situation! I don't know any kids with an illness, myself. I appreciate anything that helps me ground the characters very much!

The bracketed description is actually a note to myself to find a word that fits that general definition. It's not to explain the previous word but rather to include another.

I edited in the new chapter break after the suggestion because I thought it would hold suspense and shorten the opening. Would you say it's better without?

I'm looking into ways of reducing the length of chapter two by pacing the flow of exposition about the outside world, saving half of it for Lizzie to find in a story / local legends book later, thereby also avoiding so much reliance on speaking to reveal plot / world.

I appreciate you taking the time to read amsawtell :)

March 25th, 2014, 09:22 AM
Sorry it took so long to respond. Haven't been on the site in awhile. No I would not be in your target demographic but I wasn't in Harry Potter's either and I read that :P

Having her family disappearing on her could definitely help with tension. Gives you a lot of unknowns to work with as well versus someone just dying, so if you are willing to put in the time to change it I would say go for it. :)