Wednesday, December 16, 2009

31 Drop the Needle

TITLE: Cry Wolf
GENRE: Middle Grade

This is currently the beginning, but I’m not sure if I should keep it. This contest comes at a handy time for me.

The curse rolled through the village, blanketing it as effectively as the fog that floated up from the nearby cliffs. Like the fog, it left the people bewildered and lost. They tried to protect their children. They placed guards around the forest edge. But children are curious by nature, and they can’t be watched every second of every day. Eventually, one or more would wander into the woods, never to be seen again.

The villagers blamed it on the wolves. They heard them howling in the night. The eerie sound sent chills down the spine, even in the heat of summer. They felt the wolves watching. Sometimes, the wolves didn’t even try to pretend they weren’t watching. A beautiful she-wolf had been spotted several times. Her proud head would appear suddenly around the curve of a large rock, or above a bush. For a moment her golden eyes would meet the weaker eyes of man, and then she would be gone, like the ghost of a thought.

Yes, it had to be the wolves. They were stealing the children. The villagers didn’t understand it. They had once lived peaceably together. But that changed the day the young gypsy woman appeared. No one knew where she came from, but she wasn’t one of them. When they caught her reading their children’s palms, and offering to tell their fortunes, they labeled her a witch. A witch can come in handy at times, it’s true, but no one wants a witch too near their children.


  1. I didn't feel the danger in this, more eerie than dangerous. I also felt that if this is the begining of a story, I'd like it to be more present. I want to know who is telling this story a bit sooner. Granted, you may intro your main character in the very next sentence, but I think he/she could come in a bit earlier so that it's not all in a distant narative. I like the premise because I love wolves and then creepy stuff just makes it better! Good luck with it. :-)

  2. I think straight narration is never as suspenseful as actual action. Could you rewrite this and describe a child who wanders in the wood disappearing? Don't show how but just have that child lost and scared and wandering. I think that would make a great hook at the beginning of your novel.

  3. Yes, there is a bit too much telling in this opening to make it suspenseful. If you mean to set the mood as a spooky one, try giving us a character to feel for. The witch, or one of the missing children.

    From your first sentence, you have given us an event-- the curse coming through the village, as if it is happening in the immediate present (despite your use of past tense). But as you go on, it becomes more apparent that this event is ongoing, using words like, "it left the people" and "eventually", that denote some time has passed since the curse rolled in. This is followed by a whole lot of telling.

    If the start of the story actually happens some time after the "curse" comes, start by telling us how long it has plagued the town, if you still want to go for a story-telling opening, but unless you introduce a character (actually introduce them, not simply mention their existence) I would advise against it.

    Sorry to tear this apart, but if this is your opening, it must be more powerful than it currently is.

    Good luck on the rewrite.

  4. Ditto what the previous commenters have said. I don't have a sense of one person in danger other than the gypsy/witch, and that is only an abstraction, not an event you are describing. You consider showing the POV of one of the children being taken as your beginning.

  5. OK, I'm going to look at this as an opening rather than a straight danger scene. I liked it. I like the first sentence but by the time we got to the third, you were starting to lose me. Its feeling too removed, too much backstory all at once.

    I was curious about the gypsy girl/witch. Can you get us into her perspecive after that first intro line- ....the day the young gypsy woman appeared. Or in the perspetive of someone who was there that day? Because I also didn't quite get her connection with the wolves.

    I want to get that connection. I want to know what's happening just get me there a little quicker.

    There's a few nit picky tightening points-cut some thats- as the fog floating up from.

    Also cut some woulds- one or more wandered into

    The sound sent chills down the spine (we know its eerie)

    and then she'd be gone.

    Just a few hints to move us faster into the present because I really think its going to be good.

  6. I love the idea and the tone. It seems to me like this is the opening of a story? I didn't sense danger, but it does give off an eerie feeling.
    It seems to be a bit too much back story to keep me interested beyond the third paragraph. Perhaps a child is missing right now and the narrator could describe the wolves howling at present and say he/she or someone in the village thinks it's the wolves. Maybe even throw in some dialog.
    I could picture the narrator standing in the village, looking out to the dark woods as a wolf howls and a passing villager whispers, "It's them you know. They did it, took that little girl."

    Something more immediate would really bring this out.
    Good luck!

  7. I agree with what others have said. I think you need to focus a little bit more. We seem to have three antagonists here - the curse, the wolves and the witch. I loved the image you started with, the curse rolling through like a fog. The villagers blame the wolves - for the curse, or the missing children? (or both?). But then, it all started when the gypsy came to town. I'm confused.

    I love that last sentence, though.

    Good luck!

  8. You've been beaten up a bit on this one. But I like it. You obviously have a gift for telling a story. And that's what I want to suggest, just as an idea, that would maybe help you get a little more immediacy into the beginning. If you don't like this suggestion, just ignore it, but I think it may be an option you haven't considered.

    What if...

    You change the beginning, ever so slightly... Like so...

    The old man leaned back in his chair and stirred the logs in the fireplace, sending a fountain of golden sparks up the chimney. He leaned back in his chair and continued his story...

    (Then keep the first paragraph as is, except add quotation marks.)

    Insert: "What happened to the children, Papa?"

    (Second paragraph, with quotation marks.)

    Then the quotation marks disappear and the narrator takes over from there.

    Just a thought that would bring it closer to the reader. We have a setting for the reader to visualize, i.e., an old man sitting in front of the fire in whatever type of house, cabin, shack, the reader wants to imagine. We have a wide-eyed boy/girl listening attentively, enjoying the warmth of the hearth. Naturally, it's dark outside, chilly. Perhaps the sound of a wolf howling in the distance. Maybe a full moon.

    Just my thoughts. And don't get discouraged, because I think it could turn into something really good.

  9. Focus in on the children. The curse is too obscure. I'm not sure what kind of curse it is or how it can roll in and then too soon you are describing fog. I didn't even get, until the third paragraph, that children missing was "the curse." I just figured the curse was affecting them in some odd way. I'm not sure where it's headed--whose POV, if it's about wolves, witches, a curse, a village, what century, part of the world. I think you need to come in tighter. Hope that helps!

  10. I really liked this. I think it’s great. It was as if the narrator was one of the characters, telling a new arrival to the village about the curse and the missing children. It put me in mind of Quint in the Jaws movie, the way he told the tale of the Great White shark.

    I agree with Michael, if you have a character telling the tale, it would definitely work for me. I see the new arrival, sitting on the edge of her seat as the old man smokes his pipe and tells the tale. I loved it. It gave me the creeps. Keep going with it and good luck.