Seekerville Challenge - My story with critique.

I participated in a Seekerville writing challenge this week and received a critique from author, Ruth Logan Hearne.

She gave us a writing prompt and asked us to add a few more paragraphs.  Here's the prompt...

Her feet refused to move. The old mansion gazed back at her, challenging her to step forward.
photo courtesy  Ayla87, rgbstock.com
She couldn't. Maybe wouldn't. In any case, she'd been wrong to come here, wrong to think anything had changed, wrong to imagine anything but heartache behind those doors. She turned, willing her feet to obey, but the sound of a door latch paused her.
The house was empty. Wasn't it? Unless the letter writer had been mistaken, unless...
She turned back, not wanting to see, but needing to know. And the moment she did, she recognized her undoing.

Here's what I added...

“Abby?” Luke Snyder bounded down the steps and jogged across the yard, stopping just inches in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered, “Welcome home, Abby, I’ve missed you.”

She felt the familiar rush of emotions. Feelings she thought she had squelched with leaving Woodsfield, but there they were, rising up in her throat, choking her words. She untangled herself from his embrace. “L-luke, what are you doing here?”

He turned to look at the house. “I bought the old place,” he said. His tone was light, but she could hear the tension in his voice. “I’m fixing her up. You want to have a look?”

“Bought it?” she muttered, unable to wrap her mind around the idea. Luke knew what had happened here. He had been the one who had found her hiding under the bed. The one who had coaxed her out of her hiding place and walked her out of the house. How could he possibly want to live in this nightmare that was once her home?

She was wrong to have come here. No matter what her sister’s letter had said, she couldn’t do it. Facing her fears had never been her way of handling things. Avoidance had always been her safe-haven.

She had run from her past, from this house and from Luke ten years ago and she was ready to do it again.

“I have to go.” She turned to put the key in the door of her Volvo parked at the curb. Luke reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, then turned her to face him. Lifting her chin, he forced her to look him in the eye. His voice was soft, “Abby, you can do this. We’ll do it together.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. Together. That’s the way Abby had always imagined her life - she and Luke together, but too much had happened. Too much sorrow, too much betrayal. She dropped her gaze and shook her head, “I can’t, Luke.”

“You have to stay, Abby,” He said, lifting her chin again until she looked him in the eye. "There’s something you don’t know about what happened that day.”

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Here's the story again with changes suggested by Ruthy...


Abby?” Luke Snyder bounded down the steps and jogged across the yard, stopping just inches in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered, “Welcome home, Abby, I’ve missed you.”

She felt the familiar rush of emotions. Feelings she thought she had squelched with leaving Woodsfield, but there they were, rising up in her throat, choking her words.





Ruthy note: Jan, nice sense of immediacy! He’s bounding and jogging, she’s feeling a ‘rush of emotions… Very nice!


I might suggest changing “She felt” to something less passive like: “Emotions rushed her.” Or “Emotions engulfed her”… or “Emotions she’d long ago dismissed rushed back, waves she’d squelched when she left Woodsfield…etc.”

She untangled herself from his embrace. “L-luke, what are you doing here?”

He turned to look at the house. “I bought the old place,” he said. His tone was light, but she could hear the tension in his voice. “I’m fixing her up. You want to have a look?”

“Bought it?” she muttered, unable to wrap her mind around the idea. Luke knew what had happened here. He had been the one who had found her hiding under the bed. The one who had coaxed her out of her hiding place and walked her out of the house. How could he possibly want to live in this nightmare that was once her home?

She was wrong to have come here. No matter what her sister’s letter had said, she couldn’t do it. Facing her fears had never been her way of handling things. Avoidance had always been her safe-haven.


Ruthy note: We have an instant feeling of an old rescue, a dark moment in a young girl’s life. Jan, I’d change the “had never been” or the “had always been”, they’re too close together.


She had run from her past, from this house and from Luke ten years ago and she was ready to do it again.

“I have to go.” She turned to put the key in the door of her Volvo parked at the curb.

Luke reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, then turned her to face him. Lifting her chin, he forced her to look him in the eye. His voice was soft, “Abby, you can do this. We’ll do it together.”

Tears welled up in her eyes.

Ruthy note: I'd lose "up".

Together. That’s the way Abby had always imagined her life - she and Luke together, but too much had happened. Too much sorrow, too much betrayal.

She dropped her gaze and shook her head, “I can’t, Luke.”

“You have to stay, Abby,” He said, lifting her chin again until she looked him in the eye.

"There’s something you don’t know about what happened that day.”

Oh, very nice ending! I would suggest not lifting the chin twice, going for another way to draw her attention.

The other suggestion I would make is to re-word some of the repetitive phrasing. If we use it too often, we lose some of that impact.

I’d re-work some of the past tense phrasing to keep the past less distanced from these pivotal moments. (I’m not sure what I just said, but it sounded real smart-like!)

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Whew! I was afraid she would just rip this apart. She’s that good! But I’m happy with the changes she made and think they make the story read much better.

Thanks, Ruthie, for your input. It’s not every day a beginning fiction writer can score a free critique from a multi-published author. I appreciate you.

If you're an aspiring fiction writer, you ought to be hanging out at Seekerville. Lots of fun, friendliness and these folks are always willing to extend a helping hand.


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(Copyright© 2012 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

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