Wednesday, March 11, 2009

#3 1000 Words

TITLE: Wolves in Walls
GENRE: Fantasy




With the first light of dawn, a young girl crawled over a section of the long wall that separated the town from the surrounding woods. She dropped herself to the ground easily, and landed on her feet in a manner that bespoke some experience at this. The girl made her way with stealth and purpose. She kept to the shadows as she walked. The blue scarf covering her soft brown hair might conceal her identity, but she could not risk an early riser seeing her through a window. If someone saw a young girl walking alone in the morning, there would certainly be questions. Even if no one guessed her identity, people looking into things would be dangerous.

She reached her mother’s house by sunrise and crawled quietly through her bedroom window. The front door would have made too much noise for this hour of the morning. At least the thunk from her rather graceless fall from her window to her bedroom floor was not a resounding one. She enjoyed the creep of the sun’s glow over the wall momentarily before she shut her bedroom shutters tight. Any indication that she was awake at such as early hour could induce suspicion. Everything about her needed to seem normal.

Sinking into the chair before her mirror, she uncovered her hair and laid the scarf on the table. Then, rolling back her sleeves of her brown dress, she began to apply the balm from the green jar to her new host of cuts and scrapes. After her arms, she did her legs. Then her feet. Her hands were last. The balm stung her limbs, but the sting was infinitely better than scarring or infection. Especially the scarring. That would invite questions that had no answer. Or, at least, no answer she could give.

She removed the brown dress and hung it on a peg on her white wall. There were grass and leaves on the hem. She would clean it later. She pulled on a clean, green dress, and rebraided her hair. Checking herself in the mirror, she now so a neat and tidy young woman that no one would guess she had seen her bed the past night. She paused for a moment at the thought, and then she made her way into the kitchen. Putting a kettle on the fire for tea, she began to prepare breakfast.



*****



Weaver Alexandra woke to the scents of baking bread and frying bacon. She smiled. ‘She’s home,’ she thought. Comforted by that knowledge, she sat up in bed and ran her fingers through her long, brown hair. She got up from her bed and began to dress for the day. Breakfast was waiting.

In the cozy kitchen, Weaver Alexandra found her daughter pouring water from the kettle into the teapot. On such mornings, Luna was always the first in the kitchen. The kitchen had walls of a warm brown color and a large stone hearth where they did all of their cooking. The kitchen was really the center of the home, and that was the way they liked it. The air outside had retained its night’s chill, however the kitchen had been heated nicely by the cooking fire.

“Hello Luna,” Weave Alexandra said, “how was your night?” There were two plates of food set on the kitchen table. Luna gently set the hot teapot on the table, carefully so as not to spill. Weaver Alexandra glanced at the still closed windows, but made no move to open them. Instead, she examined the fire to ensure that it was not going to go out soon.

Luna looked up and grinned at Weaver Alexandra, “Good morning, Mama. My night was as well as could be expected. I trust yours was good.” She passed her mother a steaming cup of black tea and added a dollop of honey to her own cup. The tea was hot and quite strong.

“As well as could be expected, my dear,” said Weaver Alexandra, bringing a warm cup of tea to her lips. The words they used were the same they used every one of such mornings; the words had become as much of a ritual as any other part of this day. She set the mug gently on the table and walked over to Luna. Gently, she smoothed Luna’s hair, a few shades darker than her own. Luna had her father’s hair. Taking Luna’s face in her hands, she gently examined her face. Ascertaining for herself Luna’s well being, she gently kissed her daughter’s forehead.

“Really, I’m fine, Mama,” Luna muttered. Weaver Alexandra nodded, and released her daughter. She paused a moment before asking the inevitable question. She asked it every time. “The town is still abed?” she asked quietly. Luna sighed. She didn’t like this question, even if she knew that it was coming, even if she knew that it was an important question. It was an unhappy reminder. Stepping back, Luna walked over to the kitchen window, which was still shuttered from the night.

Luna nodded, “Yes, Mama, once again we rise before the town.” She flung open the wooden shutters of the window, allowing the fresh morning light into the cozy kitchen. She inhaled the cool air deeply and felt a little sad. She always felt sad on mornings like this one. She did not quite know why. She heard her mother eat her breakfast but remained at the window without touching her own food. She was not particularly hungry. Rising from her breakfast and clearing her place, Weaver Alexandra seemed to guess the bent of Luna’s thoughts.

19 comments:

Shannon said...

Thanks for putting your 1000 words up for review!

I like the title, and the opening is interesting and nicely written overall. I did have a couple of things that struck me.

* In the beginning Luna seems stealthy and quiet, but then the sentence "...the thunk from her rather graceless fall..." struck me as odd, especially since I got the feeling this was something she had done often. At first I thought it was because she was concerned about waking others in the house but in the second part that was clearly not the case.

*In the fourth paragraph, the sentence "Checking herself in the mirror..." doesn't read right; maybe replace "so" with 'saw'? and remove "she" after guess and add 'not' or 'hadn't' before "seen".

* The name 'Weaver Alexandra' was repeated a lot in a short space and was a little distracting to me, but others may not agree :)

*In some parts the exchange between mom and daughter seemed slowed by too many or too detailed everyday activities (e.g., "The tea was hot and quite strong." - unless relevant later, this does not add and only slows the pacing in my opinion.) You have some good actions here, i'd simply consider cutting down and selecting the most pertinant or visual/impacting.

Good job and I hope some of this helped. Best of luck!

Eric said...

This is an interesting beginning. The story is very mysterious, nicely done if thats the intent. The repetition of the mom's name does seem to interrupt the flow, so I'd have to agree with Shannon on this. The "morning" conversation between the two also seems a bit slow and clumsy, despite the idea that they do this all the time. My guess is that you're leading somewhere with this in order to begin the story, so if thats the aim then maybe its not so bad after all. The title is definitely catchy, so don't change it is my advice.

The Screaming Guppy said...

I’m also a fan of the title. Of course, being that the main characters name is Luna, I’m expecting werewolves.

I find this to be a semi-interesting start. I like the sneaking around, makes you wonder about things early. However, the second half doesn’t do much for me at all, and I have a number of small issues with the writing style throughout. Here are my thoughts/suggestions:

“At least the thunk from her rather graceless fall from her window to her bedroom floor was not a resounding one.” <-- Nice line. To me, this establishes some quirks about her character in a very subtle way.

“She removed the brown dress and hung it on a peg on her white wall.” <-- On the other hand, not a fan of this. It just seems too simple to me. No flare, nothing special. I think you can do better.

The first section is from Luna’s POV. Then you break with **** and change to her mother. Which is fine, but you seem to bounce around between the two people in the second section. If you’re going to stick with Luna’s head, ditch the **** and just keep the narrative going. If you want to jump to her mother, give us a reason and give us more insight from inside her mothers head.

“She smiled. ‘She’s home,’ she thought.” <-- So…does her mom know she goes out at night? If so, this is confusing. Luna spends a lot of time concealing her absence. If its not hidden from her mother as well, I think you need to establish that.

In the cozy kitchen, Weaver Alexandra found her daughter pouring water from the kettle into the teapot. On such mornings, Luna was always the first in the kitchen. The kitchen had walls of a warm brown color and a large stone hearth where they did all of their cooking. The kitchen was really the center of the home, and that was the way they liked it. The air outside had retained its night’s chill, however the kitchen had been heated nicely by the cooking fire.” <-- I know it's hard to work around a word that is very specific, like kitchen. But you have “the kitchen” all over the place in this sentence. It’s repetitive and makes the paragraph very bland.

“Hello Luna,” Weaver Alexandra said <-- small typo here. Which brings another question up: why do we need Weaver Alexandra? It’s awkward. I think you only need it once.

“The words they used were the same they used every one of such mornings; the words had become as much of a ritual as any other part of this day.” <-- This whole dialogue exchange sounds very awkward to me. I think if you read it out loud, you can find a better way to say it. I know this is fantasy, but I think you can simplify this dialogue and not lose the flavor of your world.

“She set the mug gently on the table and walked over to Luna. Gently, she smoothed Luna’s hair, a few shades darker than her own. Luna had her father’s hair. Taking Luna’s face in her hands, she gently examined her face. Ascertaining for herself Luna’s well being, she gently kissed her daughter’s forehead." <-- Watch out for stuff like this. And the last sentence of this paragraph doesn’t make sense to me.

“Luna nodded, “Yes, Mama, once again we rise before the town.” She flung open the wooden shutters of the window, allowing the fresh morning light into the cozy kitchen. She inhaled the cool air deeply and felt a little sad. She always felt sad on mornings like this one. She did not quite know why. She heard her mother eat her breakfast but remained at the window without touching her own food. She was not particularly hungry. Rising from her breakfast and clearing her place, Weaver Alexandra seemed to guess the bent of Luna’s thoughts.” <-- POV shift in mid paragraph. How does Luna know her mother is guessing her thoughts when she’s not even looking at her?


Overall, not a bad start, but I don’t see anything overly interesting or unique here. I’m confused about what’s going on, but that could very well be answered in the next few pages. The writing needs some work, however, before I would consider reading on. The style isn’t working for me. Sorry!

Good luck.

Peter said...

While this was interesting, there seems to be a lot of 'telling' (ie: 'The girl made her way with stealth and purpose' This should be shown, not told, to fully draw in the reader). A lot of this narration is telling in that way, leaving a gulf and distance between the characters and the reader.

I also found it odd that she dropped to the ground from the wall around the town with ease but couldn't manage her own window.

On a side note, the large blocks of text for each paragraph, which wouldn't have the single space between them when printed, are very 'heavy' and could stand to be broken up, with less narration after every piece of dialogue, especially when both Luna and Weaver Alexandra (a pretty and interesting name that shouldn't be repeated so often) are speaking in the same paragraph (which should be broken out anyway).

Also, in the dialogue, 'Mama' works occasionally, not always; same with 'Luna'; most people rarely say the name of the person they're speaking to, it reads 'unnaturally' most of the time.

Also, if this is really a 'werewolf' novel (which I'm just guessing based on few facts) 'with the first light of dawn' and the name 'Luna' might be a touch cliche...

Last comment for now: in 1000 words five of them are the word 'gently' including 4 times in 5 sentences in one paragraph. While adverbs are unnecessary a lot of the time, using the same word repeatedly is really unnecessary.

I, too, love the title, it's very evocative and feel as though, with editing, this has promise. There's an enchanting rhythm weaving it's way through the narrative that you could draw out and tighten up to really capture the reader.

Sheila said...

Nice title, too bad Neil Gaiman already used it (don't you hate it when that happens?)

I like the scene you started with here, the girl sneaking back inside. It raises interesting story questions about what she was doing and why it's a secret. I think you tend to overwrite, though - trust your readers to get it - she's doing something stealthy.

You seem to describe things bit by bit. She did this, then she did that, then she did that. It's very clinical and makes for slightly boring reading. There's also a bit of repetition in your word choice, as others have pointed out with the word "gently," but there were other places, too. And in the last paragraph, nearly every sentence starts with "She."

I agree with the others about "Weaver Alexandra."

Good luck, I think you have a good start, it just needs some tightening to make it more compelling.

DrunkenRaine said...

I liked it well enough, though I do wonder about the POV shift in the middle of the chapter. It works, but there needs to be a purpose for it (other than allowing a bit of breathing time between events).

As said before, you need more white space. Most of the paragraphs are 5-6 sentences in length and, while that is good every once and awhile, I suggest 3-4 sentences per paragraph.

One thing that did bother me though was the line that ended with "landed on her feet in a manner that bespoke some experience at this." That seems an odd comment when you're in the character's POV. I do like that you keep her name anonymous until the POV shift, but I have the feeling of observing her from afar rather than being in her head.

celestialgldfsh said...

I think The Screaming Guppy and the others hit on the major points I wanted to make: overuse of adverbs, the repetitive use of the mother's name (and misspelling), the telling versus showing, the potential cliches.

It's a good start, but it still feels rough. I just wasn't pulled into the story quite yet.

ldpauling said...

I agree with all the wonderful advice you've gotten so far, so I'm not going to repeat.

I just wanted to comment on the conversation between Luna and her mother. I don't understand why they have the same exact conversation every morning, using the same exact words. And the words seemed very formal and odd. Almost, like two people that are forced to lived together but really don't like each other. As a reader, what they said only confused me, instead of creating the desire to find out what happens. I think in this case more needs to be revealed in a show not tell way. The secrecy and her needing to appear normal wasn't enough for me.

Have fun rewriting and creating a wonderful story!

Kat said...

I like the title, I'm assuming werewolves with the Fantasy genre and the name Luna.

The first paragraph is well written, but I assumed she was leaving town, and going into the woods, not the other way around. The last part "people looking into things would be dangerous" doesn't read that well.

"shut her shutters" sounds funny, maybe "closed her shutters" instead. But I did wonder why she was closing the blinds. Maybe it is different in the fantasy world you have here, but I do not think it is suspicious for someone to be awake in their home at sunrise. Open shutters do not seem abnormal to me.

The sentence that starts with "Checking herself in the mirror," stops making sense after that.

I agree with another comment, Weaver Alexandra is repeated too often in this small space, and once you use 'Weave' instead of 'Weaver'.

You also use phrases like "On such mornings," and "every one of such mornings," which isn't very clear because we don't yet know what makes these mornings special. What is it about mornings such as these? I'm assuming it's the morning after Luna stays out all night.

Overall I like your writing. It's well written, and mostly clear, except for a few little bits. I'm interested enough to keep reading.

Megs said...

*** Haven't read any of the other comments, so sorry if I'm repeating anything or missing something.

Honestly speaking here... I'm not sure about this...

The first part was interesting, but the nothing came out of it. It felt like a teaser, when I really wished you'd stay in that point of view (Luna's, right?) instead of switching to the mom in bed.

This could also use a little tightening up.

Good luck!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I must admit I wasn't drawn into the story like the others critters. I found it slow with no sense of urgency. That might be a weakness derived from my main reading passion: YA novels.

I'm going to focus on the weaknesses I found because others have pointed out your strengths. Please don't think I couldn't find anything nice to say. But I wanted to do this quickly before I disappear to make dinner.

In the first sentence of the first paragraph, she crawled. In the first sentence of the second paragraph, she crawled, again.

There was a lot of then then then action going, but I had no sense of how she was feeling. Nor did I develop any connection to the young girl that would make me care about her. I'm assuming she's not the MC otherwise this would probably be a YA fantasy.

I also found there were a lot of passive sentences. Passive sentences = naptime for me.

When you write a sentence like 'stepping back, Luna walked over to the kitchen window,' you are implying these two actions are occurring at the same time (See Self-Editing for Fiction Writers). So was she walking backwards to the window? Always ask yourself: can my character physically do these two actions at the same time, and does it make sense?

Otherwise the story does sound like it could be interesting. Thanks for sharing it with us. You are much braver than me *wink*.

Writeaholic said...

There is real potential in this submission, and I would read on to see what is going on. However, there are a few awkward places where a bit of tidying up would improve this a great deal. You frequently use the past participle, which I understand is used to alter the sentence structure, but it doesn't work as effectively as it could. For example,

Sinking into the chair before her mirror, she uncovered her hair

Then, rolling back her sleeves of her brown dress, she began to apply the balm

Instead of describing the action, why not have her respond to the feel of the chair after such a long and arduous night? I imagine it would feel so good to rest -- use her experience of the chair rather than just describing her actions objectively. It would bring me closer into the character and make me connect with her more.

e.g. The thick cushions of the overstuffed chair surrounded her, soothing her aching muscles while she uncovered her hair...

You spend a lot of time describing her applying balm but it is unnecessary unless this is some kind of magical action -- just have her apply the balm, and then show how it soothes her skin, maybe tell us about the scent of it, the way it tingled, etc. You are describing actions rather than her experiences and thus I get a really distant feel to the POV.

Also, you use "Weaver Alexandra" several times. I wonder if "Alexandra" isn't sufficient.

I think a bit less description of mundane things and a bit more of a hint at the larger story would draw me in further. As it is, I would probably hesitate to read on without more of a hint of something bigger than these two.

Good luck!

Lori said...

I noticed a couple of problems with voice and POV in this section.

1) Voice--both sections have a POV character, but you're not fulling getting into their heads. For example, the first section is from Luna's POV, right? Would Luna really refer to herself as "The girl?" And would Alexandra really refer to herself by a title?

2) POV--in Alexandra's scene, all of a sudden, at the end, Luna's thoughts/impressions pop in. It's head-hopping POV, and really distracts from the flow of narrative and disrupts you character building, IMHO. I'd recommend using physical scene breaks (***) before switching POVs to alert your reader as to what you're doing.

3) Also, I think you're missing a word here: she now so a neat and tidy young woman


Best of luck!

Sheri said...

You have got an interesting story developing here. It leaves me with questions about Luna and her life.

There are some good suggestions that have been written already...the only thing
I would suggest in the first section of the story is that you use Luna's name to personalize it more. I would say the opposite in the second part of the story when referring to Weaver Alexandra...her name could be used more sparingly.

Keep writing!

lindacassidylewis said...

I don’t want to repeat the comments you’ve already received, so I’ll just say I agree you have POV and repetition problems.

One problem sentence could easily be corrected: Checking herself in the mirror, she now SAW a neat and tidy young woman that no one would guess she had NOT seen her bed the past night.

I was confused about the shutters. Luna is careful to shut them when she arrives home because it would be suspicious for them to be open, but then not so much later she throws open the kitchen shutters. Is this some sort of ritual Luna has to perform on “such mornings”?
I don’t read fantasy as a rule, so I can’t comment on whether your story idea is clich├ęd, but I think with just a little tweaking, you will have an intriguing opening. Happy editing!

acpaul said...

An intriguing title and start, but too distant. Like the name, like the sneaking, but we're not in Luna's head and we should be. Let us feel the scrape of rough wood as she goes over the wall. Let us smell the woodsmoke, and see the first beams of dawn making the dust motes dance. There's a lot of potential here for you to grasp and use to drag us into the scene.


Typo issue:

>>>Checking herself in the mirror, she [was?] now so a neat and tidy young woman that no one would guess she had [not?] seen her bed the past night.<<<

Weaver Alexandra. Is Weaver a title or a name? Couldn't tell, but you overuse it in any case. Call her this once, the first time, then 'mother' or 'Alex' or 'Alexandra' so that the two seem more like family than strangers.

Again, so much potential, so distant a voice. You have the same unfortunate love for adverbs that I have... use your find function and start removing them. You waste too many of your opening words on 'gently' as others have pointed out.

All that being said, if you could fix the voice, you'd have something interesting here, and I'd read on to see why the mc was out in the woods all night.

Ann E. Bryson said...

The first paragraph reminded me a lot of the YA fantasy Series: The Land of Elyon.

I'm drawn in because of the mystery that you've developed. What's going on with the sleeping town? Why does she sneak out at night? etc. I want to know more. I also like that the mother seems to know that Luna's sneaking out, but Luna doesn't know she knows...

Typo: "no one would guess she had seen her bed..." hadn't seen?
Also, in the third paragraph after the break you say "Weave Alexandra" instead of Weaver. I found the repetition of the mother's name to be too frequent.

I thought some of the descriptions were too much. Describing the colors of everything from her dresses to her hair to the kitchen walls. Why would she wear a blue (I'm thinking bright blue) scarf if she was trying to be sneaky?

Overall, I enjoyed reading and I'd probably read on.

Good luck!

Bill Cokas said...

Wondering about this line: "no one would guess she had seen her bed the past night." But she hadn't seen her bed, right? Is this what you mean to say?

Why does her mother think "she's home" when she wakes up? Isn't she always home--as far as she knows?

"On such mornings, Luna was always the first in the kitchen"--such mornings as what?

Having a little trouble with the POV of the second section. Starts out as Weaver Alexandra, then switches back and forth.

Not quite sure where/when this is, or how old Luna is, but I like the language--it fits the undetermined setting. I'm guessing it's not contemporary, nor in
America. I like the conflict in the first section, but it seems to lose a little steam in the second section. Obviously, she's keeping a secret from her mother, but I don't get a sense of any urgency or stakes. I know it's only 1000 words, but I would hope this would come in the first chapter. What does Luna have to lose if her mother finds out about her nocturnal activity? Or the rest of the town, for that matter?

Again, I like the overall tone and voice of the narrator; it suits the story well. There is a little too much "observation" and detached fact-presenting in the second section (the tea was strong, etc.). If you can shore up this section from someone's POV, I think it would draw us in more.

Lastly, you put "fantasy," but for what age? All ages? YA? Middle grade? It would help to know as a reader.

Good luck!

Craven said...

A thousand words and I'm not hooked.

In the beginning, I wondered why we were kept so distant from the little nameless girl. I figured you were trying to build suspense. But then we go to a breakfast scene, and not an important breakfast, just breakfast.

The prose is lovely, but it seemed we weren't going anywhere. Nothing is at stake yet. There is no conflict - yet. Maybe the book needs to start a little closer to the action. You only have so long to bring a reader in.

In a bookstore, I'll give a book one page to set the hook. In that page, I want to see good writing (you've got that), stakes or peril, and a sense of momentum.