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red writing hood prompt — advancing the plot

May 10, 2012

As I type this, Austin is being pummeled by a torrential rainstorm.  To avoid losing power and/or being electrocuted (does that actually happen?), I suppose I’d better make this snappy.

Today, I’m linking up with Write On Edge, participating in the group’s weekly Red Writing Hood prompt exercise.  Below are the directions given by WOE:

Whether dialogue heavy or rich in description, every scene should serve the story; whether it is from flash fiction, a short story, your memoir, or an epic serial novel, every scene must advance the narrative in some fashion. If it doesn’t, it’s not holding its weight in words. Consider that as you head into your writing this week.

And now the prompt:

For this week, I’m offering you this opening line:

“Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”

The line above is the first line of a well-known novel. Did you recognize it without Googling?

[Incidentally, I did not recognize the line without Googling.]

Below, please find my response.  I welcome your feedback, suggestions, and critique.


Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.  Drawing closer, Bright realized it was the quilt of fog which had obscured them — these weren’t specters — and their sudden presence pumped her legs with adrenaline.  She ran faster toward the two, each step carrying her inches closer to home.

Home.  The word felt like a lifetime gone.  Now, her temples throbbing and her blood thick from dehydration, she couldn’t be sure how long she’d been in these woods.  As she ran, the two figures sharpening with the closing distance, she imagined her homecoming; to Kent, to Glenlake.  She imagined her stepfather greeting her in the newspaper-littered foyer, his eyes papery in the corners and shot through with red, his shirt crumpled from late nights and protracted phone calls, his cuticles bitten raw.  Aunt Laura would be there, too, gold bracelets clicking up her arms as she trapped Bright in her embrace.  “We are so glad you’re home,” Aunt Laura would sigh into Bright’s ear, crying quietly.  “We haven’t closed our eyes since you went away.”

And what about school, Bright wondered? What had the kids at school made of her absence?  Had they counted her as a casualty or a runaway?  Had they thought of her at all?  Bright was acutely aware that, while she never thought she cared about being missed, she relished a singular daydream.  Imagining Kent, Aunt Laura, her teachers, her classmates… imagining their thoughts trained on her absence, their prayers aimed at her safe return; picturing them hanging urgently-lettered signs on the community mailboxes around Glenlake (would they?), she was mortified to admit even to herself that this felt good.  She liked the fantasy of their regret.

Considering this, Bright realized she was now ten steps away from the moonlit men. In an instant, she also realized that they were not two men, after all.  One was, stout and black-haired, and one was a girl who looked to be about her age.  As she neared them, she tried to get their attention.

“Hey!”  Her voice was strangled, dry from lack of use.

“Hey!” she tried again, “Could you please — I need some help… hey.”  Each word weighed a hundred pounds, stuck in her flaming throat.  She tried to raise her arms for emphasis, noting that the man and the girl just stared at her in silence.

Whether caused by fog or dehydration, she couldn’t be sure, but Bright couldn’t keep either face in focus.  Each shifted and bloated, frightening her.  She stopped running.

“Please help me,” she muttered one last time, right before the world went dark.


I’m pretty sure my world might go dark soon, too, in this phenomenal storm.  I hope you have all the rain you need, adrenaline for days, and people who will miss you if you leave.  Thanks for taking a moment to read my work, and thanks, always, for showing up.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2012 7:10 am

    Wow! What is going to happen next? You could take this story anywhere! Good job!

    • May 13, 2012 8:45 am

      Thanks so much, Tina. I’m glad you found the piece suspenseful — this is exactly what I was hoping for :). Looking forward to stopping by your blog to see what you’ve written lately, as well!

  2. May 11, 2012 8:18 am

    Could it be a dream? It morphs through thoughts and feelings and images as if it might be a nightmare. I like the eyes, papery at the corners and shot with red, and the gold bangles, the idea of being trapped in an embrace. Strong words that add vital detail 🙂

    • May 13, 2012 8:45 am

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I was trying to create a confused/hallucinatory/dreamlike mood, so I’m glad that you felt as if it worked. I so appreciate your words, and look forward to stopping by your blog to see what you’ve written this week. Best wishes to you.

  3. May 11, 2012 8:35 am

    Wow – this is really interesting and I agree, you could take it anywhere from here. My favorite line was “she liked the fantasy of their regret”.
    Visiting from Write on Edge linkup….

    • May 13, 2012 8:43 am

      Dawn, thanks so much for stopping by and offering feedback. I so appreciate it, and I look forward to swinging by your blog and reading what you’ve written this week!

  4. May 11, 2012 11:33 am

    Okay, you’re good. No really, your descriptions are creative yet believable. Like, “quilt of fog,” or “their presence pumped her legs.” What will happen next? I too thought maybe it’s a dream, but maybe she’s in real trouble with the way she describes “home.”

    • May 13, 2012 8:40 am

      Lindy, I so appreciate your feedback — thank you. I’ve been using the RWH prompts to push me along in a larger piece I’m working on, so every bit of feedback is so helpful to me. I am so grateful you’ve stopped by, and I look forward to reading what you’ve written this week.

  5. May 11, 2012 1:40 pm

    This could go a million places from (completely mundane to totally out-there fantasy!), and I love her internal monologue, especially when she admits she’s enjoyed fantasizing about her classmates concern’ — such an honest response.

    • May 13, 2012 8:39 am

      Thank you, Cameron. I was on the fence about including the bit about wanting her classmates to worry about her. Since this is a teenage character, though, I thought it worked. Your feedback is so helpful, and I look forward to stopping by to see what you’ve written this week. Thanks!

  6. May 11, 2012 2:30 pm

    I like the confusion you create yet I’m able to follow it well. Nice job.

    • May 13, 2012 8:38 am

      Thank you. I’m happy to hear that the confusion worked for you — the mood I’m trying to create is one of mental confusion bordering on hallucination, so your feedback is really helpful. I look forward to stopping by and reading what you’ve written this week, too!

  7. May 11, 2012 3:14 pm

    LOVE! Really can’t say more than that. This was positively brilliant and you had me in full, hook, line and sinker! Well played!

    • May 13, 2012 8:36 am

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Shelton — having read your skillful work, I particularly appreciate it! Looking forward to stopping by to see what you’ve written lately.

  8. May 11, 2012 11:20 pm

    I really liked this. I liked the mood and, like Cam, the internal monologue. You portrayed her youth well.

    • May 13, 2012 8:35 am

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Cheryl. I’ve been using the RWH prompts to push along my progress on a large writing project, so your comments are really helpful. I look forward to visiting your blog and reading your work, too!

  9. May 12, 2012 12:01 pm

    Very nice, I was on the edge of my seat at the end.

  10. May 14, 2012 3:59 pm

    Well done! I think you did an excellent job of conveying the story – but more importantly – the backstory! It was so well-woven into your story, not a hitch at all! I always admire when a writer can pull this off seemingly effortlessly in a narrative!

    • May 16, 2012 6:51 pm

      Thank you so much, Barbara. I so appreciate your feedback. I look forward to visiting your blog and reading what you’ve been writing!

  11. May 15, 2012 3:09 pm

    This was really, really good. Everything from her heart pumping rush to the inner monologue rung true to a girl lost. I wasn’t sure if it was a fantasy, a dream, a lost in the woods sort of story, but that was part of what I liked. I could make it anything.

    • May 16, 2012 6:52 pm

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Mandy. I really appreciate your having taken the time to read my work, and I look forward to reading what you’ve been working on, also! Take care.

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