The prompt has been revealed, reactions have gone up on blogs around twitter, and we’ve made it to the first official post of #WriterInMotion 2020, the rough draft. Really, this rough draft is what this project is all about. To display the growth of the work that spawns from the prompt. I’m incredibly excited about this piece, and to see how it grows. But first, some thoughts.
You’ll notice immediately that I took the prompt to a near literal level, with a setting in a forest. But it’s not just a setting, it evolves into something much deeper, something sinister. I really love to write MG stories, but I’m not actually sure this one falls into that category. I have in my head the idea of who Mackenzie is, but (at least in this draft), I’m not sure there’s anything that actually says “Hey! I’m a MG story!”. In fact, I may have gone too far off the deep end of horror. In my defense, I spent all weekend watching horror movies to get in the headspace for writing this. So I may have overdid it a little, but I still love it anyways.
With that in mind, I’m not married to the idea of it being MG, but I will try and squeeze some more elements in, in future drafts. There’s also a ton of other work to be done. I haven’t decided if I need another character, one on this journey with Mackenzie. So that’s a goal this week. I need to dig into who Mackenzie is, learn about her, and take that info to the reader. Right now it feels like she’s just a name on a paper, in a situation. I also really need to figure out what motivations the antagonist has. That may not end up on paper because it’s horror and sometimes that’s just how evil things are. But for my own sake, it’ll help build a better story.
I think that if I can bring out more of Mackenzie’s personality, it’ll find its way squarely into MG ground. For now though, that’s up in the air! Last year at this time I was sure I was sitting on a pile of hot garbage. This time, I feel like I’m in a much better spot. There’s some major details that still need to be worked out, but I can see the promise in this piece. I can see how much it can grow and become something more. Because of that, I’m super excited to share this with you, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed drafting it!
“You need to get off Twitter, see reality for a change.”
Those were the words that brought me out to the cliff I was perched on, watching as the sun slowly set behind a mountain in the distance. I knew I was supposed to get back earlier in the day, but I got turned around somehow. Of course, there wasn’t any phones allowed on this trip either. There was no sign of a campfire from my view high above the valley, which meant I had no direction. I was officially lost.
The chill of the air begin to sink in as the realization hit that I wasn’t going to find camp tonight. Shivers ran down my arms thinking about the warm fire, what my parents were thinking, or my brother Jack. He’d say “Mackenzie, how’d you get lost? You hate the outdoors.”
I knew I had to act fast or I’d be lost forever. I gave one last glance at the forest below, turned, and started walking. There wasn’t really a path that I was following, but at some point I started seeing branches that sorta looked like they were pointing me back towards camp. I had to have been following them for a good 20 minutes without even realizing I was doing it.
I stopped to get some water, thankfully my brother had let me borrow his backpack with a water pouch in it. I didn’t have to stop, it gave me moment to stop and listen to the sounds of the forest. It was strangely quiet. There wasn’t any animals rustling, or crickets chirping. It was absolutely silent.
“Hello?” I yelled out into the vast quietness. Not a single animal called out to let me know it was there. It almost sounded like my voice moved a foot or two in front of me, and just stopped. “Anyone?” I screamed out as loud as I could. No birds moved, not a single sound came back to me.
At this point, the sun was completely down, the only light was from the stars. Of course we would end up camping on night without any moonlight to help. I pulled out the flashlight I had in my backpack. With a flicker, the light came on, and shot through the forest, illuminating a single pair of eyes in front of me.
I froze, staring at where the eyes were, but now there was nothing there. Was my mind playing tricks on me? The hair on the back of my neck stood up as a cold wind blew past me, drawing my focus away from the eyes. When was the last time I’d felt any movement of the air? It was like the sound, there was just nothing.
I turned and ran from where the eyes were, as fast as I could. I didn’t hear anything, but could still feel the presence of whatever was out there watching me, no matter how fast or far I ran. After a few minutes, I couldn’t run any further, and had to stop and catch my breath. I focused on my breathing in hopes that I was imagining the chilled air, and the eyes, and the silence.
After my breathing returned to a semi normal state, I looked around at where I was. I had found myself in the middle of a clearing, with no trees for at least a hundred yards in any direction. There was however a tree stump just a few feet away. I went to set my things down on it, and saw that it wasn’t just a single stump. I counted 6 stumps, all lined up in a circle. They were surrounding what looked like the remnants of a fire long extinguished.
“Mackenzie?” A soft voice behind me said. I spun around to see who was there, but there wasn’t anyone. I had to be losing my mind. Not only was there no one there, but even if there were, they wouldn’t know my name.
“Sit down Mackenzie.”
The voice came from behind me again. Still, no one there. Before I realized what was happening, I found myself sitting down. In front of me sat a man who looked like he was in his 20s. He had on a backpack that looked just like mine, and the expression on his face screamed sorrow.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“The forest knows you’re here, Mackenzie. You’re not safe. You have to keep moving. It doesn’t matter where, but if you stop, the forest will never let you go,” the young man said with absolute certainty.
I didn’t have time to question it, I grabbed my bag and ran. I got to the edge of the clearing, taking one last look at the campsite. There was no one there anymore. I don’t know who that man was, or how he knew my name. But something inside me screamed I needed to follow his advice.
I started off into the forest running like my life depended on it. For all I knew, it did. I ran so fast I didn’t see the small cliff, and fell. I landed with a loud thud on the ground, and the cracking of sticks beneath me. But those sounds almost instantly vanished. I was in pain, and the forest was going to catch me.
“Keep moving Mackenzie, or the forest will find you, and keep you. Forever.”
I heard the words, but before I could process them, the eyes appeared. I was trapped. A cliff behind me, the eyes in front. I had no choice. I stood up, screaming from the pain shooting through my shoulder from the fall. I charged at the eyes. They were big, and yellow, and I knew for certain that I was done for. But I charged, preparing for impact with whatever creature owned the eyes. They were mere feet away now, I shut my eyes and screamed as I ran straight for them.
I stopped moving, opened my eyes, and saw Jack, the campfire, my parents. I turned to see where the eyes had been, but all that was there was the woods behind me. I had found my way back to my family. Somehow.