Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mysteries For Danielle Svetcov #1


One wintery night in the woods, a baby is wrenched from the arms of a teenage girl. Searching for the infant in a town of depravity and secrets, young car salesman Bucky Ontario unearths more than he bargained for.

Wayberry, Oklahoma, December 1956

The girl tore through the dark woods to save her baby.

Ignoring her bleeding feet, she raced until she slipped on loose leaves and crashed headlong into a shrub, dropping the newborn. Stunned, she lay still in the biting cold and heard her father yelling and crashing through the brush behind her. She snatched up the wailing baby and pressed leaves against its mouth.

And she raced again, undergrowth tearing at her bare legs. She broke through onto the road leading to the highway. Hesitated, turned, and threw herself across the open stretch and into the brush. She found herself in thick, thorny blackberry bushes. Came out onto a narrow path that she knew would lead back around to her hiding place in the burnt-out hollow of an oak tree.

Weakening now, she sucked in air with a loud, rasping noise. Muscles aching, legs wobbling. She heard her father fighting through the blackberry bushes and flung herself forward with her remaining strength.

She reached the oak and scrambled inside. Pulled up her T-shirt, pressed her baby’s mouth, encrusted with leaves and dirt, to her nipple, and tried to quiet her own breathing. Minutes later, her heart still pounding, she heard the crunching sound of footsteps approach, then stop.

“Come on out, I know you’re in there.” His voice softened. “I’ve never harmed you.”

“You’ll hurt my baby.” She peered through tangled branches into the starry sky. Then blackness swept across like a curtain. Hands reached in and wrenched the infant from her grasp.

“No,” she screamed, scrambling from the tree, clawing at her father’s shirt, reaching for her baby held above his head.

“There shall be no sinful memory, my daughter.”


  1. Comments on logline: You need to connect Bucky to this baby. Why is HE searching for him? Why does it matter if he succeeds? Also, the "unearths more than he bargained for" is cliche and tells us nothing. We need real obstacles.

    Good luck!

  2. Overall, I like this and I'd read more. I'm really, really hoping the father just gave the baby away. Please, no dead babies!

    My problem with the beginning is that we're in the mother's POV, but you don't call her by name. I assume from the title that you want some mystery about the identities, but doing that while they're actually on the page feels a little gimmicky, withholding information the characters have solely for the sake of mystery. That leads me to think you may want to drop this section (it feels like a prologue anyway, so maybe you could do without it?) and start somewhere else.

    If you do keep this part, I think I need to be sure she's trying to be quiet and hide from her father in the tree, so she shouldn't speak directly to him. Maybe that line could be a whisper or even a thought?

  3. I don't read mysteries! Therefore, all my comments will most likely be useless.

    But I do agree with Abbe that this feels a bit prologue-y to me (having read the logline and assuming the real story starts with Bucky's search). But I have a specific dislike for prologues, so that might just be my bias showing.

    I would ditch the telling first line. Everything that follows shows us that.

    There was something about her bare feet and her bare legs that made me think she was naked right up until you mentioned her t-shirt.

    I'm being critical today... but it's a slight bit overly dramatic for me. I mean, it's supposed to be a very harrowing, intense scene, yes, but I got sort of distracted by the frequency of the harrowing, intense language ("tore through the darkness, "wailing baby," "threw herself across," "sucked in air with a loud, rasping...," etc.)

    The trouble with so much dramatic language is that too much of it makes all of it a little less effective. You have to choose your moments. For example, I might like slightly fewer references to how much the forest is attacking her and an expansion of those silent moments in the tree, waiting to see if her father discovers her.

    The father's last line didn't see to match the voice of his first.

    I also agree that these people need names--unless she never named the baby.

    (Did I mention I don't read mystery? I might be objecting to things that are perfectly fine in the genre.)

  4. In logline "town of depravity and secrets" only sounds sexy to a writer. It's just too vague and indulgent.

    With this being your first page I think you will turn off alot of readers once they hit the line "She snatched up the wailing baby and pressed leaves against its mouth." Just something to think about.

  5. It is very dramatic and excruciating in the horror it conjures up for any feeling person. The pace is unrelenting and I think it is effective. I do not know if this is prologue or chap 1 but I have no problem with prologues - in fact I think they are absolutely necessary in some stories - Titanic, Harry Potter, The Exorcist, etc etc... However, I do agree with the above commenter than the mother shoving leaves and dirt to her newborn is enough to make you put down the book. The child is in danger and at this point, that danger is the mother. I mean, what human would do that to an infant? You need to change that.

  6. You lost me at, 'she pressed leaves against the babies mouth!' Too sinister! Too much against what she's trying to do. Paints a very dark image!

  7. What I liked about this was that we jump into it an urgent situation and I'm instantly sympathetic for the mother and the child. The last line is nicely ominous and I want to know what happened here.

    I don't like the first line as it is constructed. The idea is good and I know what you meant, but 'tore' and 'to' is the problem for me here. It makes it sound like the girl is tearing the woods and that will somehow save the baby.

    With regard to silencing the baby, I expect a mother to press her to her chest or try to put her breast in her mouth, not use dirt and leaves.

    Overall, there's a little awkwardness to the writing, particularly when you switch to sentences that end and start abruptly such as 'muscles aching'. I would recommend sticking to normal grammatical sentences or using those only. Mixing the two approaches was inconsistent and confusing.

    I liked the tension and the situation and the logline intrigued me. Overall, nice job. Good luck with it.

  8. I find myself wanting a little more from the first paragraph.
    Maybe something like this: Sticks cracked under her feet as the girl raced through the dark woods. She needed to save her baby.
    I also cringed at the putting the leaves in the baby's mouth.
    But other than that, you've created an intriguing visual here.
    Good luck!

  9. I wasn't clear on who Bucky was and why he would search for this baby. Is he the father?
    I didn't like the leaves in the baby's mouth either. I kept thinking the baby was going to choke on them, but then I'm a mom we think about those things.
    You've created a great sense of urgency with your word choices. I'm intrigued and would read on. Well done.
    Good luck!

  10. I wanted to know who Bucky Ontario was but I think that will come. It is a pretty vivid scene but the leaves over a baby's mouth made me think mom is the real threat.

  11. I'm in agreement with several other commenters - no mother who loved her baby would shove dirt and leaves into its mouth, not even to keep it quiet. I would have stopped reading this at that point, both because the image is not believable and because the kind of mother who would do such a thing isn't someone I want to read about.

    If you remove that, this is still a strong scene. I would be careful about the father raising the baby above his head. If he kills the baby, the "rules" of good fiction say he has to die horribly himself. I'm assuming that happens, just making sure.

  12. Creepy. It needs work but the set-up is compelling. Cut out the adjectives (loose, biting, bleeding, bare, thorny, etc.) and let the scene, behavior and dialogue fill in the details those adjectives are trying too hard to share. And beware of sentences like "Weakening now, she sucked in air with a loud, rasping noise. Muscles aching, legs wobbling...." You're leaning heavily on the tired language of general desperation, when what we seek is her unique experience with desperation. Your last line is great.

  13. I usually only read YA stuff, so I might not be much help. I agree with a lot of the comments. The log line seemed intentionally vague, but rather than creating mystery it just created confusion. Also I'd change it so it's not so passive. I think you could easily say her father wrenched it from her- that is immediately more interesting plus uses active voice.
    The situation itself is very horrifying and gripping. As a father I can't imagine not being able to protect my baby. The writing gets in the way though. I agree with Danielle that there are too many adjectives. It seems like you're trying to hard to be verbose and paint a description, when often simple, short, understated facts make the pace quicker and up the tension. Details are important, but pick the details, make them real, and then get on with the story. I didn't think the leaves on the mouth was so strange. I got that she was trying to keep it quiet, but maybe a hand or a chest might be a little more natural (and less psycho). Although I like the visual of her bringing the baby's dirty-leaf filled face to nurse. Maybe I'm a sicko, but that said more about her desperation and the wrongness of the situation than anything else. Also, I agree with others who said they can't handle violence against children. I stopped reading Game of Thrones for just that reason. Of course there are plenty out there that do, so if this is a baby-slasher, good luck, but count me out.
    I'm assuming teen's father is also the father of the baby. Is this story about the girl and her father/lover? or is it about the detective uncovering a horrific crime? I think your log line should concentrate on one of the two. Having two perspectives in such a short snippet, you can't do justice to either side.
    Overall, you had some great emotion, a gripping situation, but the prose seemed awkward and melodramatic. Try not to be so vague about who's who and what's happening. If this is a prologue that is supposed to just give you an anonymous snapshot of a horrible event, then you shouldn't even say it's her father. It's all or nothing. Good luck with this!

  14. My comment is a bit late, so I hope you get to see it.

    Firstly, whenever I wanted a bit of silence from my own babies (eg, I was on the phone), I found that giving them a finger to suck on temporarily did the trick (and I note that you only wrote about pressing leaves against its mouth, not choking it with dirt and leaves as some commenters interpreted).

    Also, it might help you to note your overuse of phrases such as "she heard". This can be an indicator that some more internalisation is needed. Do a search for "heard" "see/seen" or "know/knew" in that snippet. Then try to reword without using those verbs so you show the reader what she heard or saw. Or ask yourself if the line was needed, and if not, drop it.