Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drop the Needle #3

GENRE: Middle Grade Paranormal Adventure

Thelma and Alexander are on a quest to free Thelma's father from an ancient curse. The journey brings them to an isolated cottage in the New England woods where they meet the villain who has orchestrated all this trouble.

The room inside was bare with the exception of an empty fireplace and one small table in the middle of the room. It looked unnervingly familiar to Thelma. The floors were very old – she could tell by the wooden floorboards, each the width of a tree trunk. On the table was a single burning candle, the source of light.

“Hello?” Alexander echoed.

“I don’t think anybody’s home,” she said.

“I don’t think anybody has been home in a long time.” Alex scanned the dilapidated space, thick cobwebs in each corner.

“Well, someone lit a candle –” Thelma froze as soon as the words left her mouth. She knew exactly where she had seen a table like that before. It was the table where she sat with Annabelle. She couldn’t mistake it. And the candle – it was the same candle, too.

“It’s him. He’s here,” Thelma whispered, the words like ice on her tongue.

Suddenly the candle extinguished with a hiss, and the door slammed shut behind them. They both stood very still, trying not even to breathe. Any warmth in the October air seemed utterly absent. A slow noise of creaking floorboards rose from the far room. Alex reached down and grasped Thelma’s hand with all of his might.

Thelma’s eyes were trained on the blackened doorway that led into the far part of the house. She tried to make out shapes in the darkness, but her eyes kept playing tricks on her, forcing her to squint and blink. Finally, quietly, a long birch cane swung into view and hit the floorboards with a sharp thwack.


  1. oooh, creepy creepy.
    Nice moment. Quick, not over-dramatic, but still shows her reaction to the discovery.

  2. I love the tension you created in this scene! One minor tweak might be to say "Alexander's voice echoed"

  3. I don't read a lot of middle grade books, so take these comments accordingly. This felt older to me. Maybe it was the suspense and fear of the characters, or the more mature wording (i.e., dilapidated), but I got a more YA feel than MG.

    The line about the floors being old seemed disconnected; I didn't know how the width of the boards told her they were old. And then, in the last line, the word "quietly" was at odds with the "thwack." I understood that the cane swung quietly, but to have the opposite sound in the same sentence jarred me. I'm not sure you need "Finally" or "quietly" in that sentence. And if she's squinting into the darkness, how does the cane come into view, much less be identified as birch of any length?

    I don't mean to nit-pick here. These were just things that kept pulling me out of the excerpt.

    The lead up and suspense was strong, which is why I questioned the target audience. I was left wanting to know who this villain is and what he's going to do.

  4. Oooh, I love a creepy cabin in the woods! I think the pacing here is especially well done. The setting is great -- just specific enough to give us a good mental image while letting us also imagine our very own creeptastic abandoned cottage. And your heroine and companion seem plucky and curious. I love that though Thelma's afraid, she stubbornly tries to keep herself calm in the last paragraph.

    There a re a few moments where the prose is a tiny bit clunky: "It was the table where she sat with Annabelle," "Suddenly the candle extinguished with a hiss." Since this is middle grade, I would try to streamline and simplify even further, but in general I think this is great and would read on! I want to know what happens!

  5. Nice job!

    You described the scene so well, I thought I was there!

    My only comment is "eyes were trained." What about "eyes were glued" or "she stared at?"

  6. I agree that this is creepy, but I feel you could tighten the writing quite a bit and make it more so. I'm not trying to be overly critical, but shorter sentences help to sometimes make things more suspenseful.

    The beginning paragraph contains quite a few "was" "were" sections. You can rewrite it without them, which will make it stronger.

    Also, as is, I think the fireplace and the table are both in the center of the room. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think you need a comma after the fireplace. And for me, it would be even creepier if the door slammed first and then the candle fizzed out. That's just my taste, I realize.

    I would keep reading, though, to discover who this villain is and what is going to happen next.