Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hone Your Skills Blogfest

So, in hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to sign up for three blogfests threes days in a row. However, I did want to do this one to challenge myself. Boy, have I been challenged. The goal was to write a 750-1000 word short story and post it for critique. And, I must confess, I don't actually have an entry ready at the moment. I started out pretty well, I think, but have been totally stuck as to how to develop and resolve the initial situation I created in so few words. I am a loquacious person. This was my very first short story attempt. I've failed miserably.

But instead of just saying "Sorry, guys, I've got nothing" I figured I would post my beginning (only 258 words) and look for some advice from more experienced short story writer as to how to continue it without making it either too complicated and long or too simple and unsatisfying. Hopefully I can still learn something from this experience and improve for the future.

Let me begin by stating that my first goal was to write a story with the feel of myth and fairy tale and my second goal was to write about an enchanted forest and the discovery of how its enchantment works. But I've been having trouble coming up with ideas I like for the last part so I just stalled. Anyway, here it is, complete without even a working title. (Sigh.)

The Forest of Liashyl was known, in the tradition of the people of the little village of Fantl, as a place of both evil and enchantment. There were times when those who ventured beneath the forest’s trees returned with faces shining and lived blessed lives ever after. There were other times when the trees were wroth and tragedy befell the villagers. Now a child was dead and as his mother’s keening wail rose on the morning wind, the villagers new another time of evil was at hand.
    The child’s father walked away from the funeral gathering toward the forest. He stood at the threshold letting his anger wash over him, feeling it war with the hatred of the trees, but afraid to go farther. The sun was sinking below the distant mountains when a voice, thin and strange, rose from the darkness of the wood.
    “Vaters, Vaters, what do you fear?” the voice asked. “Do you fear a few stunted trees? They are not your enemy. Come inside and meet the real power that controls your destiny.”
    “What kind of power would steal the soul of a child? There is nothing but evil here and I will not be claimed by it,” Vaters answered, his voice a bitter whisper. Mocking laughter floated on the air as the wind rose around the distraught father. Vaters clenched his woolen cap in his hands and tried to hold his ground, but the wind was stronger than he. It swept his feet from the ground and pushed him, stumbling, into the trees.
So any advice, suggestions, ideas? I could use anything, really. I'd still like to finish it. Thanks in advance. 


  1. Your concept was really intriguing and got me reading. I didn't like that you started with backstory about the forest. You can start with Vater, standing beside the open grave, and we hear about the forest from him. Also if was not clear if the child died in the forest? To continue, you could explore what Vater experiences in there, maybe he meets the spirit of the forest, who tries to entice him, or threaten him, or both? All the best.

  2. Well, obviously Vaters is going to have to fight for his life. He's been thrown in amongst the trees and they are in a killing mood. Maybe you could set up a scenario where the father can fight for his life and somehow reclaim his son's life as well? Or at the very least, save the village from any more needless deaths. The voice has a teasing voice, so maybe the entity behind it likes to play games.

  3. Sarah, thanks for participating. Even though you didn't finish, I think you have an intriguing idea here. Sometimes the story is too big for flash, but it might fit into the short story category easily(up to 7,500words in some circles). I feel like you have a great start with the fairy tale/myth feeling.

    Myne and LG have good ideas. You can start by the grave and put the backstory stuff into dialogue. That will help the reader get to know Vaters personality along with what he fears as well as let us know the dangerous mood of the forest.

    The teasing voice of the woods is wonderful, so I like LG's idea to have Vaters need to win a "game" or two. You just have to decide why the forest is angry and what Vaters will have to do to appease them.

    Good luck!

  4. Hmmm. Interesting. I think that the opening paragraph is necessary to create the myth/fairy tale feeling. I don't think 4 sentences worth of exposition is too much. As an author, I can't say I want to cater to the trend for instant gratification and constant sensory overload.

    I still have to figure out what kind of power is there in the forest. I'm just not sure what direction I want to go... a benevolent but misunderstood power that doesn't think or behave like humans or a more sinister and mischievous power.

  5. Your story starts out telling instead of showing which is probably OK because of the genre but I agree with Myne I want to be dumped into the story. Love the wool cap gripped in the mans hand. I felt that lent a picture of homespun peasants. Hope that helps. Glad you shared.

  6. Well, first I want to say I love this! It's a great beginning and I can actually imagine it being longer than flash fiction.

    Maybe you could start the piece with the 2nd para instead of the first, and put the 2nd a bit later. That would get around the 'telling not showing' thing.

    I would anticipate that he will go into the forest and find out something super creepy, maybe he'll fall into the centre of the earth or something :)

    This story strikes me as somehow mythic, and I like that.

    At first I thought the dialogue of the trees was gonna be like a poem - rhyming and stuff. Which could have added to the creepy factor :)

  7. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for participating. I think you have a great attitude for trying to learn, and I'm glad you shared the beginning. :)

    I also really enjoyed this. I must admit that I'm torn about the beginning. While I hear what you're saying about wanting to keep the fairy tale mood, I think you can keep the mood without relying on the exposition. Exposition works sometimes as an introduction, but to do so, I don't think it's a good idea to rely solely on "be" verbs. Of all of those four sentences, each is was/were. It's the smack of telling. If you can tweak the paragraph to use more active verbs ("the forest had stolen a child's life" for example), you might not get such a strong chorus asking you to move it.

    I also see this being a battle of Vaters against the forest spirit. Of course, the fact that many of us have felt it moving this direction makes me worry that such a direction might be cliche. If you do that, there would need to be a significant twist. Maybe the spirit manifests itself in the form of the dead child, and then asks the father to fight it. I don't know. That's off the cuff.

    But whatever you do with it, especially in trying to keep a fairy tale mood, be sure to avoid the typical ending of the easy triumph of good over evil.

    Thanks for sharing. The voice definitely feels fairy tale-ish. You've definitely done a good job with it so far. I hope you can keep up your progress. Good luck!

  8. First, you've REALLY captured the fairy tale voice: great job! The story spins out like it's being told at by the fireside.

    If you told us whether the child is male or female, you would avoid having to repeat the phrase "the child", which might help the narrative flow better.

    How did the child die? Are the parents aware of the manner of death, or is that part of why Vater must go into the forest?

    There's certainly a yarn here waiting to be spun: I hope you continue this story! I would love to see Vater begin by seeking vengeance but end up being healed by the woods and perhaps entering a whole new existence.

    Great job!


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