Posted in WriterInMotion 2020

#WriterInMotion 2020 – Week 3

This week was really tough for me. Not because of the critiques or the story, I just had a really hard time at work, and the last thing I had energy for was being creative. But even through the hell that was my life for the last 6 days, I managed to find a few minutes here or there where I could actually sit down and write.

My wonderful critique partners Kay S Beckett and Nicole Vane gave me the best feedback ever. It was a nice mix of positives and improvements, and I really tried to take what they said and bring to life the best story I could, hidden under my own self edits. They helped show me some places I was severely lacking, and other places where I was making a comical amount of repetition. I’m so happy with having them, and I think I did this story justice.

My story last week came in at exactly 1000 words, and there were so many comments similar to “if you have the words, build on this description”, and when everything was all said and done, I was closer to 1100 than 1000. So began the cutting, and rewording, and condensing, to make everything come in at a nice, under budget, 995 words. There’s so much more I want to be able to say in this story, and hopefully with the editor critiques coming up next week, and no word limit, I’ll get to stretch those word counts again and make this story fully what I’m seeing in my head.

I love the 1k word limit, but goodness, some cuts feel like the best of a bad choice, where everything is important. But even with all the cuts, the additions I made have definitely made this a stronger story. It’s more in line with my original vision, has more description, and drops all pretenses of being MG. My character might be in middle school somewhere, but that doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s all about how much anxiety and dread I can evoke in the reader at this point. Full on horror, and it’s awesome!

It’s Watching

“You need to get off Twitter, see reality for a change.”

My twin brother Jack’s words echoed through my head as I watched the sun set slowly behind the mountains in the distance. They sky was filled with deep blues and purples, but the colors struck fear, not comfort. I needed to get back to camp, I’m not even sure when I left…or why. I hated the outdoors. Those colors meant it was almost nighttime. I was alone in the woods, and was officially lost. Nightime was my worst enemy.

Every minute closer to total darkness, I could feel my heartbeat race faster and faster. The sense of dread told me that I’d be spending the night in the woods. Alone. The forest, once too hot for comfort, was now cold enough to see my breath. The change felt instant. That’s when I noticed how quiet the forest had gotten. No wind rustling leaves, or crickets chirping, nothing indicating that the forest was full of life. It was silent.

I started to wander aimlessly. With no idea where to go, no path to follow, I decided my best course of action was down. Just keep going down. Stoping briefly to drink some water, I said a silent thank you to Jack for packing the bottle. I only took a few small sips, not knowing how long I’d need to make the water last.

The silence was unsettling, unnatural.

“Hello?” I tried yelling out. My voice cracked with nerves, but I still managed to make it loud enough that something should have moved. Instead, the sound just died, like it didn’t go anywhere.

“ANYONE?” I screamed. Again, nothing made a sound. My voice was as silent as the forest around me.

Mist covered the whole forest, obscuring the moonlight, and making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of me. Jack, planning ahead again, had also packed a flashlight. Did he know I’d get lost? I didn’t remember how I got out here. With a flicker, the light came on, cutting through the mist like a warm knife through butter. But it only brought more dread. In front of me was a pair of deep red eyes. I couldn’t see what they were attached to, but they looked like something out of an old painting of demons.

Freezing in place, I felt my stomach drop like I was on a roller coaster. As quickly as the eyes were there, they were gone. Was my mind playing tricks on me? The air became cold again, and my hair stood up on the back of my neck. The eyes were gone, but I could still feel them watching.

I turned and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t hear anything, but whatever was out there was following, no matter where ran. Heavy, labored breaths told me I needed had to slow down. I tried to believe that the chilled air, and the eyes, and the silence weren’t real.

Looking up to see where I was, I found myself in the middle of a clearing, with no trees for at least a hundred yards in any direction. When did I end up in a clearing? I thought. Right next to me, I saw what looked like an abandoned campsite.

“This looks like where we camped…”

Four logs, a long since burnt pile of ashes, and empty cans of soda. “Dr. Pepper, just like Jack likes,” I thought as I inspected the area.

“Mackenzie?” A soft, deep, voice behind me said. Turning to see who was there, I couldn’t find anyone.

“Don’t sit down Mackenzie.” The voice came again, this time from all around. In front of me, a young man who looked like he was just a few years older than Jack appeared. Brown hair and a bag that looked exactly like mine. Rainbow pin and everything. His sunken eyes looked at me, with an expression filled with sorrow.

“What?” was all I could get out.

“The forest knows you’re here, Mackenzie. You’re not safe. You have to keep moving. If you stop, the forest will catch you, and never let go,” the young man said with a sense of urgency. I headed towards the edge of the clearing, pausing only to take one last look at the old campsite. I didn’t see anyone there anymore. Did I imagine that man who reminded me of Jack? Following his advice, I started off again, back into the woods.

Moving like my life depended on it, I tried to be careful about things like tree roots or rocks that would cause me to trip. However, the mist kept me from seeing the small cliff. Without enough time to stop, I fell and landed with a loud thud and the sound of a crack coming from my arm.

I tried to scream out, but the sound disappeared. Laying on the ground, I saw my breath freezing infront of my face.

“Keep moving Mackenzie, or the forest will find you, and keep you. Forever.”

Before I could process the words, the red eyes appeared in front of me. I was trapped. A cliff behind me, the eyes in front. I had nowhere to go. Without any options, I stood up, pain screaming in my arm. Feeling the pounding of my heart, I took a quick deep breath, gathered my courage, and charged. The eyes were red, and evil. I knew for certain that I was done for. If the forest wanted me, it’d have to take me fighting. Screaming, I ran straight for them.


Breaking through the tangle of branches where the eyes were, I stopped running to get my bearings. No eyes in front of me, or behind. Instead, I was in a large clearing, complete with the same four logs, a campfire, and Jack holding a Dr. Pepper. Holding my arm in pain, I ran towards Jack. I had found my way back. Somehow.

Posted in WriterInMotion 2020

#WriterInMotion 2020 – Week 1

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!

It’s Watching

“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.